I’d like to welcome Brickley Jules to the blog today. I’ve known Brickley for years, and it’s one of those friendships where I can’t remember where we met (probably Twitter) because she’s been a friend since I started writing. She has a new release coming out that I was happy to edit for her last year. With so little time, every launch is a victory, and I’m happy to be a part of her launch and the rebranding of her series. I asked Brickley a few questions about writing and publishing around such a busy schedule. Thanks for tuning in!
You published Her Unexpected Life in 2016. How has indie publishing changed since then? Anything stand out to you as better? Worse?
The two publishing entities [CreateSpace and KDP] I used in the past have combined meaning I only have one place to go to get my work out to the public which is easier. But I’m a creature of habit so I’m not as fond of the changes as others might be.
More books are published than ever before. Can you share what you plan to do in terms of marketing after your launches?
I plan to do some more research on marketing to stay up to date and I’m going to utilize every free source of marketing I can.
Facebook for example has many different free options like Facebook Live, Groups, Author Pages, Cover pictures and videos, and Events. These can be used together to do Release Parties and Anniversary Release Parties etc.
Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google, and several other social media outlets can be utilized to get the word out for free about my releases without costing a thing.
If you could go back to 2016 and tell yourself one thing that you know now, what would it be?
If you get burnt out writing, editing, or after your computer crashes step away for a bit but don’t completely quit. Don’t allow yourself to make and use excuses to justify not working on your book or educating yourself on your craft. Take a break, pick up a friend’s novel, and do some relaxing studying.
Brickley Jules is a pen name. Do you have any tips for an author thinking about publishing using one? How did you choose yours?
Brickley Jules to me has a science fiction feel and the original manuscript, Out of the Blue, I was intending on publishing, was a spicy mermaid romance but it has overall arc problems, plot holes, and needed a lot of work so I didn’t publish it. I had already done all the leg work though of establishing Brickley Jules on social media so instead of starting over with another pen name that fits my Women’s Fiction book, Her Unexpected Life, I stuck with Brickley. I do think Brickley Jules works with my erotic motorcycle romance, Vested in Her.
My advice would be to look at other works in your genre and see what vibe the names give off. Maybe do some research on the matter but ultimately you have the choice to use whatever name you want to.
A long time ago we were talking about publishing and how difficult it is when you don’t know what you don’t know. How have you gone about filling in those knowledge gaps?
I have a great group of writer friends who have helped me fill in the gaps and lots of other great writers have published blog posts on their experiences along their writing journey I read those. Otherwise I’m a trial and error girl.
You have a family and work full time. How do you carve out writing time?
It’s hard to find extra time but recently I busted up my ankle and had eight weeks to work on finishing the revamping of the interior vibe of Her Unexpected Life and updating its cover.
I also took some time to work on something new for my readers. More to come on that later.
Normally I have to carry my laptop around in my mom taxi and work on my books while my daughters are at their practices.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Brickley!
She recently revamped her book, Her Unexpected Life, and is publishing the next in series, Her Ordinary Life. You can find both of these and her erotic Motorcycle Romance, Vested in Her on all your favorite retailers!
I don’t know about you, but to me, these past two months flew by! March can be the crappiest time of year in Minnesota, but if we can get through the month without a blizzard, that would be wonderful. Spring lands on March 20th, and we have daylight savings this month, too, on the 14th, when we go back to lighter mornings and darker evenings, for a while.
My goals for March are mostly the same as every other month. Work hard on my books, try not to stress too much about things I can’t control, wait for it to warm up. I don’t have much going on in my life where I measure time by an upcoming event. Life slips away while I work, write, spend time with my family and friends. I wonder if I feel some discontent because my characters talked about this not long ago. “Do you ever think, this is all there is?” she asks. And sometimes that’s me. Is this it? Would I be happy if it were? What am I working toward? They say happiness isn’t a destination, it’s a journey, but you still have to know where you’re going. All those who wander are not lost, but you still decided to put your foot on that path and take the first step, right?
I guess I’m just a little reflective because of the past couple months. I’ve had a hard time transitioning from work to working from home, my cat, even though he’s on medication, still won’t let us sleep, and I’ve been dealing with a sensitive health issue. There is good news on that front, and I’m on an antibiotic now. I hope I can start feeling better. I’ve been dealing with this for eight weeks. Please don’t ever let a doctor tell you you’re okay if you feel like you’re not. The third doctor I saw finally found the problem (hopefully) and I would be dealing with something potentially dangerous if I had given up. Plus, I have a mammogram scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday), so I am taking my health seriously from here on out. While I won’t turn this blog into a health and diet diary, I am on a mission to lose a little weight, and I hope now with warming temps on the horizon that will be easier.
On that note, what else have I been thinking about lately?
We can’t please everyone. No one knows that better than an author. A while back, I signed up for Derek Murphy’s newsletter and in one post he talks a little bit about his new book Book Craft. It turns out the book that I like very much a lot of people don’t. It’s difficult when you put your heart and soul into something only to be told it’s not good enough. We do that all the time when we publish and always, without fail, there will be someone who has to say that they don’t like it. Sometimes they’ll pick it apart bit by bit–the review is longer than the book itself! That’s why authors are told not to respond to reviews. It’s not worth it. If you want to read the blog post where he talks about his book, look here. While he had a pragmatic approach to looking at the bad reviews, it still makes me feel bad he’s going through this.
So, yeah, we can’t please everyone, and we’ll only hurt ourselves trying. All of you know about the kerfuffle with a certain author I had over the weekend. I don’t go for click bait, nor do I want to stir the pot like Jerry Springer or Perez Hilton. I don’t need the drama for the views, prefering to give my readers useful information. This isn’t a gossip blog. I want to share my experiences with writing, publishing, and marketing, my opinions on what’s going in with the industry. I’m not going to change what I like to write about because I make one or two people unhappy.
That being said, I’ve come to realize that there is a dark side to indie publishing, and it’s not just the bookstuffers trying to make an extra buck in KU, or the authors using ghostwriters who plagiarize. When I decided to publish my books, I had no idea this other side existed, and now that I know it does, I’m going to stay as far away from it as possible. It shouldn’t have surprised me there’s a dark side because there’s a dark side to anything. I’ve heard about the dark web, and the dark side of Twitter where only the accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers are allowed to go. When authors start making millions of dollars a year publishing books, they are elevated to a stratosphere many of us can only dream of, and with software like Publisher Rocket, that information is available to us with just a few clicks of a mouse. (And I’m beginning to think that’s information we shouldn’t have.) Where authors have the power to tear down another author out of fear, jealousy, or spite. Where an author can destroy another author’s career simply by siccing their fans onto that author’s Goodreads profile and trashing her books.
I entered this industry thinking everyone is kind to everyone else, but I guess when you’re making millions and your livelihood is at stake, you’ll do anything to protect it. We hear all the time that people will say if they find some kind of success that they won’t let it change them, but of course we change. We may just change for the better, when some people change for the worse.
Like a lot of my blog posts, I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this. I beta read, I edit, I format for others when they can’t afford to do it for themselves. I give back and I don’t keep score. I would like to think success won’t change me–if I find it. Entitlement is nasty, and this pandemic brought out the bad side in more than a few people. I’m blessed with what I have and I’m saying I’m sorry to everyone who reads this blog that something I wrote was taken the wrong way and my post was dragged unnecessarily through the mud. It’s not what I want for my blog, or the readers who loyally come back every week to see what I have to say.
We can’t please everyone, we can only control our response and move on the best we can. I have a lot of things to look forward to, and I hope you do too!
Happy Spring, everyone! Until next time!
She flicks a glance at me. “Do you ever wonder if this is all there is?”
“What do you mean?” I shift in my seat, suddenly uncomfortable.
“Like, this is it. Work. Dates with people who don’t mean anything to you. Won’t mean anything more. Can’t, really, because they’ll never understand you. More work. A party here and there. It all feels so, I don’t want to say useless, but I want my life to go somewhere. You know?”
“You mean you don’t want your life to be one big party?” I can’t keep the bitterness out of my voice, and she catches it, loud and clear.
She turns in her seat and meets my eyes, her irises blazing in the firelight. “You think all of us have let you down.”
Christ. Talk about not beating around the bush.
“Yeah, yeah, I do.”
“I can see why you would think that, but don’t you also think that we’re allowed to go our own way?”
It was brought to my attention that I insulted a fellow romance author, something I would never, ever do intentionally! I’d like to give TL Swan an apology for mentioning a review for one of her books in my plagiarism post from a few days ago. In the review, a reader speculated that TL Swan used a ghostwriter, and I want to apologize to TL for including that reference in my post. In a private message, she assured me she does not use ghostwriters. While I didn’t accuse her of using one, I should never have included the review in my post, and I apologize to her for that.
I suppose I have been a little free on this blog, maybe a little too transparent with my thoughts. As public figures, we must always watch what we put out into the world. I know a friend of mine was complaining not long ago because he likes to post his political affiliations and opinions. A lot of people don’t agree with him, and on a public forum, it’s easy to feel the mob mentality aimed at you. Cancel culture is real, and we think that expressing our opinion won’t bother anyone–until you tick off too many people and they turn on you at the same time. Cyberbullying is a real thing. Mental health is a real thing. People use the internet, hiding behind an avatar or whatever, to say what they want to say without regard to people’s feelings and the consequences that can be involved.
I’m not a reporter; I’m not seeking the truth. I like to express my opinions on here, on my personal blog, about what’s happening in the indie community. My blog is my outlet when I need a break from writing fiction.
When you see something online that you don’t agree with, you can just keep scrolling. There is no need to comment, no need to call out that person. And if you feel like you just can’t keep your opinion to yourself, you can be respectful about it. You don’t have to be a bully. I’m not online to make enemies. I’m not out to destroy reputations, and believe me, I don’t have the clout to do that anyway. I’m here writing my books hoping to one day make a living, just like everyone else. And I blog about current indie publishing events, like thousands of other indies online.
At any rate, if you see my blog posts decrease, just know that I’m still here, wondering where to go next. My place in the romance community is important to me, my place in the indie community is important to me. I don’t want to lose either of those things, and I’ll adjust my actions accordingly.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
During the past couple of days I’ve been plotting the novel that is going to be my reader magnet for my newsletter. A reader magnet, or a “cookie” as some refer to it like Tammi Labrecque and David Gaughran, (though I think David borrowed it from her as they’re friends) is something free to entice readers to sign up for your newsletter. Authors give away a whole gamut of things from little short stories to full-length novels. Something Zoe York said in an interview on a podcast I listened to a long time ago (I forgot which one, I’m sorry) said that as an author who writes novels, giving away a story that is less than novel-length doesn’t make sense, and I took that advice to heart. It would be more time/cost effective to write a novella, since I could probably write 20k in just a few days, but I don’t write novellas, nor do I sell them, so skimping on my reader magnet doesn’t make much sense.
But, as I write my novel, I’m going to have a hard time parting with it. As an author, I give away books all the time. I do a Freebooksy now and then, and if someone approaches me and says they can’t afford to buy a book, I’ll send the PDF at no charge. That doesn’t happen very often, and I only had one taker when I offered up Wherever He Goes in an exchange for a possible review. Writing a reader magnet for the sole purpose of attaching it to a newsletter sign up will be a different mindset altogether, though I know it needs to be done. Giving a book away in a newsletter is almost the standard these days, and you’re missing out on a newsletter-building opportunity if that’s something you’re not doing.
It’s frustrating, in a way, that indie authors have trained readers to give away their email addresses for a free book, and you sometimes will get only freebie-seekers when you do that. Curating a list of readers who are interested in your work and sign up to stay on top of what you’re doing can be time-consuming and one of the (many) reasons I haven’t bothered with a newsletter yet.
That’s why I decided to write a full-length novel and write it to be the best book it can be. I want readers to have a taste of what they’ll get when they read my future work.
The plotting is almost done, though I am missing a couple of the big things I need to make the book move. I always have something huge in the middle of the book to prevent saggy middle, and always the BIG BAD that breaks them up (momentarily) toward the end. I have their backstories ironed out for the most part and I had to do a lot of name research to name the male MC because I have a habit of reusing names.
I also had to figure out where the novel was going to take place–all my books, even the ones I wrote in 3rd person past, are set in Minnesota, usually a fake city so I don’t have to worry about details. I make the city how I want it, and no one can complain. A good setting can actually become a protagonist/antagonist in its own right. A long series that comes to mind is Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold, a fictional town in California with a mayor who appears to be able to do a little magic through some not-quite-believable coincidences. I chose a fictitious resort on a lake in Minnesota, and I’m using the Arrowwood Resort Hotel and Conference Center as my muse. It’s not that far from me, in true, physical distance, but I’ve never been there. Here’s a picture from http://www.planetware.com from the Arrowwood website:
This resort will have everything the characters need to occupy themselves, and hopefully get into a little trouble, too. With a spa, pool, waterpark, marina, and much more, there’s no lack of things my characters can do. Because we’re talking about a billionaire family, they’ll own the resort, naturally.
I’ve been doing the preliminary work for this book–but doing so taking some advice from Suzy K. Quinn and Elana Johnson. I’ve worked out the potential cover, the tropes, the tagline, and the subgenre. Keeping in line with the “Package is the Promise” idea, this is the working cover for I suppose what will appear on Bookfunnel (though I haven’t gotten that far in the research stages yet).
The plot is about what you would expect–he’s best friends with her brother and when she was in her teens, he made fun of her for her looks. She never forgot it, and now when they meet up ten years later, he’s a bit surprised at just how far she’s come. This is a fine line to walk because he has to love her for who she is or he’ll get skewered in the reviews for being shallow. That means I have to make sure they spend a lot of time together so he can get to know the type of person she is. They don’t work together. I had to think of away he wouldn’t know she changed. So she doesn’t work for the family company–she set out on her own to make a reputation for herself on her own merits. He’ll come to eventually respect her for that, but at the beginning of the book he hates she’s not working for the family. There are a lot of layers and I’m really excited to start writing this book.
Still not 100% sure if I’ll use my initials for my pen name. I’ve been told to use my real name and brand the books differently from my 3rd person stuff, and I’ve been told to find something romantic that is in line with the authors who write billionaire romance. Chances are pretty good that the readers who like my billionaire stuff won’t move over to my 3rd person books, and that’s okay–that the whole point of the pivot. I don’t want to distance myself too far from the real me, otherwise I’ll have a difficult time being authentic in my newsletter and other social media platforms. I don’t want to hide behind a pen name, but I want to make it clear these books are different. We’ll see what happens.
Writing a cookie and starting up a newsletter is an exciting (and long-coming) thing for me. I’m excited to see where it takes me.
Happy Monday! I hope you all are having a terrific start to your week!
I don’t have much to share with you this week–I’m only going to be talking about a few things that I’ve enjoyed in the past few days and catch you up with what I’ve been doing.
First of all, I want to thank all my subscribers who come back week after week to consume and participate in the content. Last week I made it to 500 followers, and WordPress gave me this cute little congratulations.
Blogging is a slow road and sometimes it feels like you’re blogging to no one and without thanks. Building your SEO and reputation is long, arduous work, but I love blogging. It gives me a break from the novel-writing part of my brain, and I enjoy dipping into the publishing part of being a writer/author. I like sharing my ups and downs, mistakes and the (few) things I’ve done right. I hope to continue my blog and offer useful and relevant content in the years to come. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you find all the information I post on here useful and relatable.
I finished my WIP last week, the second book of the second series I’m writing in first person present. Since finishing to now blogging about it, not only have I finished it, I’ve given it two editing sweeps. To be honest, I’m not sure what my publishing plan is, or how fast I’m going to release any of the eight books I’ve written this and last year and are now just sitting on my laptop. They all need to be edited to some extent, so they aren’t exactly ready. The first thing I want to do, though, is take a break from this series and write my reader magnet for my newsletter. While I write my newsletter, I’m going to learn how MailerLite, Bookfunnel, and StoryOrigin work. I’ll keep you posted on the blog. My reader magnet will only be available for newsletter signups, and I’d like to have a few subscribers before I start launching books. I have a glimmer of an idea for it, but I have to plot it out and write it. Soft deadlines are good for me, so I want to finish it by the middle of April. I’m giving myself some extra time because I’ll be learning a whole bunch of stuff and well, I don’t even know what my characters’ names are yet, so I better get brainstorming!
Last week, I listened to a really great author interview on the 6 figure author podcast. Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea interviewed Elana Johnson. I might have heard her name here and there, but to be honest, I didn’t know who exactly she was before the interview, now I want to gobble up all her content! One of the things that really stuck out to me was when she said, “The package is the promise, and you have to deliver on the promise.” What she meant is, you need a good cover and blurb that is genre-relevant, and then what is inside the cover matches reader expectations of that genre. Not a lot of authors talk about craft because they’re worried about stepping on toes, etc. And to be fair, it’s difficult to tell an author her books need more work. I’ve only said that to a couple people in my whole life and only because they asked for advice. A writer never really stops learning, but I like how Elana phrased it. The package is the promise. And the promise is you’ve written a great story. Besides being a bestselling author, she also writes nonfiction, and I’ll be reading her books soon. To look at the first book in her nonfiction series, click here. And here’s the interview if you want to give a listen.
That advice is similar to what I’m learning in Suzy K. Quinn’s Self Publishing Formula class, How to Write a Bestseller. I wish I could outline everything I’ve been learning, but that wouldn’t be fair to Suzy, who’s making an income off the class and would be disrespectful to the time she put into creating the class, and it wouldn’t be fair to me, really, who’s paid for it. But I will say, she starts the class by encouraging you to think about the book’s package. The genre, the cover/vibe, who your audience is. Create a tagline, and put together what the book will be when it’s finished. That’s not so far off from Elana saying, your book’s package is your promise to your reader. With this reader magnet, I’m going to create the package first before I begin writing it. I suppose you could say that creating the package is the fun part, but having everything in place will keep the book on the straight and narrow and give me an ending point to look forward to. I can’t wait to start!
In other news, I got the first book in my series back from my paid beta reader. I only went over the overview she sent me. (She liked it!) I haven’t gone into her track changes yet since I’m not ready to start editing that book, but I’m excited to see the things she liked and the parts of the book where she thought I could use a little more plumping. The few things she did touch on I agreed with, but I didn’t want to edit it too much more without feedback. I feel editing too much without feedback wastes time because I can’t see all the mistakes myself. So I’m making progress! I feel like I’m hoarding a secret and I can’t tell anybody what I’m doing until I’m ready.
On a more personal note, I asked to go back to work vs. working from home, and they told me no. I think now working from home has more to do with cost-saving measures rather than protecting us from COVID, and while I wasn’t surprised they said no, I was disappointed. This means if I do have some anxiety because of the cut-off feeling I have not going in to work, I’ll have to figure out a different way to alleviate that anxiety. I’m not feeling too much of it lately–having another day off during the week has helped and I don’t feel so stressed with getting my words in every week. As far as my butt pain goes from sitting on a hard chair, I’m standing up more during my shifts and it’s fading. Anything I’ve read about pelvic pain that has nothing to do with an infection (which I don’t have–remember I’ve been to the doctor twice to make sure) says that it can take up to 12 weeks for the pain to go away. I’ve been taking Aleve, too, and sitting on an ice pack when I do sit and it’s making a difference. BUT if I’m not feeling better by the end of the month, I’ll schedule another appointment. You just never know.
For Amazon ads check in, I’ve spent under 8 dollars this month, and I’ve grossed in royalties almost 50. (Net, around $42.00). I’ll have to think about what I want to do with these books. I still get a lot of my royalties from KU but if I’m not going to write in 3rd person past anymore (or not anytime soon) I may put them wide. I’m not sure. I don’t feel like I have the energy to market them wide and I may just leave them in KU. I don’t know. It’s the age old question of what’s best for your business and leaving all your eggs in one basket vs. multiple streams of income. It’s a tough choice. At least this month I’m in the black, and it’s still nice to see that people are reading all four of the Rocky Point Wedding books. That read through is always nice, and the validation you wrote a strong series can keep you motivated to write more. Soon it will be the one year anniversary of book one and I think it will be time to make up a boxed set. Luckily Velllum is good with that, and it won’t take me long at all.
My friend and fellow author Sarah Krewis is planning a Facebook live on her author page on the first of March. She’s giving away a paperback copy of my book, Wherever He Goes. Follow her page here and mark on your calendar to join in! Thanks, Sarah!
I guess that’s all the news I have for this week. I’ll be drifting a little bit as I plot out my reader magnet. I always feel hazy when I’m not actively writing–but since I don’t have a team and prefer to stay hands on with most aspects of the publishing and marketing side of things, there will always be times between books when I’m doing admin and production stuff. I enjoy it all, but I do get antsy when I’m not writing.
Have a good week everyone, and thanks for reading!
A few other people confirm she did it. It’s difficult to give attribution to who posted first, but with the plagiarizing software out there, it’s easy for others to confirm it, like Claire Ryan who created her own software to help out. If you want to look at this thread, click here.
“As some of you may know, there’s been an issue with me and another author. I’ve been accused of plagiarism among other things. I wasn’t sure if I should even make a post but I wanted to share with my readers what’s been going on. On Sunday morning I was woken up by my PA over an alarming post she had seen. I immediately went to check my DMs, which were flooded with hateful messages, including one from the author who was accusing me. I immediately reached out to her and we had talked on the phone. I’m not one who checks my messages—in fact, I rarely do. I didn’t believe this would escalate as quickly as it did. What should’ve been a day of me enjoying my release party and spending the day with my family quickly turned sour. I understand that this shouldn’t have happened and I’ll be doing everything to make the appropriate changes. I can assure you I’ve never had the chance to read this author’s books so all of this is just a huge misunderstanding. I’m in the middle of rectifying this misunderstanding. Given the circumstances of the allegations, and after much thought, I have decided to unpublish the version that contains ANY similarities in wording or phrases to this author’s work. A new version will be put up soon after. I sincerely apologize for any misunderstandings and anyone that was potentially hurt. Being that this is a product with my name on it and I should be aware of every piece, every word, and every phrase that goes in, this is a decision I don’t take lightly, but do believe is necessary. I understand that this shouldn’t have happened and I’ll be doing everything to make the appropriate changes. Up until today, I’ve always stayed quiet about my personal life. I am a very private person and I don’t like bringing what’s going on in my personal life to my work life, which is the book community. I have a son, a family, which will always be my priority. 2020 affected us all in many ways and I was no exception to the hardships. I was able to get through some of the toughest emotional times I’ve ever gone through by having a few good friends along with my family by my side.The one part I will speak on is the witch hunt that has started. In the past forty-eight hours, I’ve contemplated leaving this community more so than I ever have before. The part that alarms me about this situation the most is the witch hunt that has started. The nasty messages I’ve received, the lies and stories that have been twisted, and the disgusting racial slurs and messages I’ve received. Yes, I am Mexican and I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I speak two languages, I’m proud of my heritage and my family. I won’t allow anyone to drag my family down. I won’t allow others to bully me into being ashamed of my race, ever. I could sit here and share all the messages that I’ve received but what good would that do? It will only fan the flames and create a bigger situation. It has become the standard for authors to share every tidbit of their lives with their readers, while I respect that, that’s not who I am. I like to keep my personal life separate. If you’re expecting that from me, you’ll be disappointed. I will share with you all what I find to be important. I reserve the right to share personal information to those who are closest to me. If you’re expecting a perfect author, then I’m not for you. I make mistakes daily. I lose my temper, I cuss more than I should, I shut down when I’m hurt, and you know what? That’s okay because I’m human and flawed. I’ve never portrayed to be anything other than a flawed human being. I don’t participate in drama or bullying posts. I’m always offline and I’m usually the last to know what’s going on with this community, and frankly, I enjoy being that way. There’s too much going on for me to add more things to my plate. I’m not here to do a he-said-she-said post. I won’t post screenshots, I won’t discuss what transpired on the phone call I had with the author. That will stay between me, my team, and my family—at least on my end. If you want to leave my group or not read my books anymore, I understand and respect your decision. I apologize for this misunderstanding. If you need me, please feel free to reach out to my PA. She’ll continue to answer any messages via email or Messenger. I’ll be offline until further notice.”
This makes the plagiarizing scandal that happened last year when someone stole work from Nora Roberts among others feel very close. I never heard the outcome of what happened to Cristiane Serruya. Nora Roberts blogged about taking her to court and donating the proceeds, but Nora’s had other things on her plate in the past few months, namely the scandal when her first book in her trilogy ended on a cliffhanger and her poor readers who have to wait a year for the next book, and more recently, when Alyssa Milano was cast as the lead in a movie based off one of Nora’s books. Apparently, Alyssa is too political and maybe leaning too far to the left for some of Nora’s readers to be happy with the casting. It wouldn’t surprise me if Nora pushed that plagiarizing lawsuit onto her attorneys and forgot about it.
In any case, it seems like history will repeat itself this year, only we’ll swap Cristiane with S.M. Soto and Nora Roberts for Sylvia Day.
As a romance writer and reader, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that a romance author would do this to their readers. If you’re a real romance author, you want to nurture your readers, turn them into true fans. That doesn’t include duping them with books that have been ghostwritten, or filling your books full of another author’s work.
In the comments of the various Facebook posts authors and readers agreed that if you can’t write, don’t be a writer. Meaning, if you can’t write your own books, don’t publish. In the words of Kristine Kathryn Rusch, among others, there are easier ways to make money. The only thing though,I can’t think of anything that a normal person can do that can bring in the amount a fantastic-selling romance book can bring in per month.
Because sales rank and book price are public information, it’s aggravating to indie authors to see other authors raking in the bucks. Industry leaders can say, well, a book is #5 in the Kindle store, and at this price, they’re making this much per month. Maybe there is a thing about too much information being a bad thing. I quickly looked up S. M. Soto before the scandal spread too widely, and one of her books was set to bring in over $5,000 this month. Just one of her books, in just one month. The money is out there, and many authors are on a quest to find it–by ethical means or not.
It wasn’t hard for me to find places to hire ghostwriters. A search on Craigslist brought up a few local options, and also Upwork yielded some results. Fiverr brought up the most viable options, and I’m sure that’s where a lot of writers who want to use ghostwriters look first.
I don’t know what S. M. Soto’s personal life is like, or why she would hire a ghostwriter. I know in romance there’s a constant urgency to go go go and write more more more, a trap that I’ve fallen into myself resulting in some anxiety that I’ve been dealing with this past month and a half. Maybe she just needed a break and hoped that hiring a ghostwriter would give her a chance to breathe. We all need a break now and then, but when you’ve cultivated a following and they expect you to produce, I would imagine that can get pretty stressful. Romance readers are voracious, reading hundreds of books a year, especially in KU. If you’re courting that kind of reader, the pressure is serious to produce that level of content.
This won’t be the last we see of plagiarism. S. M. Soto wasn’t unique. Nora Roberts has taken other authors to court for plagiarizing her work, and in the indie space, authors (using the term loosely) like Chance Carter and Faleena Hopkins have been accused of hiring ghostwriters too. They were even associated with an underground group that sold already-published manuscripts.
I could never put my name on someone else’s work, a whole manuscript or even purchasing a plot. Which I didn’t know was a thing until only recently when someone in one of my Facebook groups was talking about it. I have to admit, plotting is hard. Trying to come up with characters, their backstories, conflict, stakes, and everything else is difficult. Not only do your characters need to grow and change, their backstories need to hold them back from what is happening in present time. Purchasing all that feels like cheating too, but there are freelancers who do it and sell off the outlines and there are authors who buy them and quickly write the book because the hard part is already done.
My problem is, my books have little pieces of me in them, and readers will eventually know they’re being duped by a ghostwriter because your books will lack sincerity and authenticity.
I think S.M. Soto even knew that when she wrote her FB post defending herself: she doesn’t get personal. But I can’t think of anything more personal than writing a book. That’s the real reason why authors want to sell books. Because when a book sells, and readers enjoy it, identify with the characters and their hardships, they are identifying with you, the author.
When we publish a book, we are putting pieces of ourselves out into the world, and that’s scary. We can talk about royalties and hitting the top ten, and those are things to aim for, but nothing means as much to us as a reader who loves our work and takes the time to say so either in a review or an email. Maybe you can’t pay rent with a good review, but there are other ways to get paid.
Tell me what you think about ghostwriting! Would you hire one? Let me know!
PS: WordPress ate half this blog post, or maybe my internet dropped and it stopped autosaving. At any rate, I think the first version definitely sounded better, but I tried to finish it up to the best of my ability even though I was pissier than hell. Haha! Have a great weekend, everyone!
Anyone who has followed the blog knows I’m switching gears and moving from 3rd person past contemporary romance to 1st person present billionaire romance in an attempt to write more toward what’s selling right now. The change was easier than I thought it would be–this coming from a self-declared hater of 1st person present novels.
I made the change thinking readers would be easier to find. I wouldn’t say that switching to billionaire romance was trying to catch a trend because billionaire romance has been around since 2011 when EL James made Christian Grey a household name. Billionaire romance has been in the spotlight for over a decade, and only now according to Alex Newton of K-lytics, is reader demand for the subgenre tapering off. (It seems due to COVID every romance writer has decided to move to billionaire romance–I can’t blame them for doing what I did–and the market is, unfortunately, saturated.)
Lately I’ve been putting my KU subscription to good use and reading some of the top billionaire romances on Kindle. With a sinking heart I’ve come to the sad realization that my books don’t sound like them. For one, my characters are at least a decade older. My Stella and Zane series I have on the back burner are more with what’s selling now–he’s 31 through most of the series and she’s 27–which is still about five years older than the average for the female MC. In this new series I’m working on, the characters in the first book are a lot older than the average I’ve come across: Colt is 37 and Elayna is 35. Not only are they older, they act like it.
If you’re reading billionaire romance, it stands to reason there’s going to be a billionaire in there somewhere, probably the male MC, and you’d hope he’s smarter than the average toaster. The heroine will be unlike any woman’s he’s ever met before. He’s captivated by her vulnerability and her fresh outlook of the world. At least, that’s what you would think picking up a book like that. In the books I’m reading now–we barely read the hero’s POV, it’s mostly the heroine, and she’s immature, makes terrible choices, and overall is unlikeable.
I read these female characters and wonder why a man with his resources and good looks would choose a woman who throws temper tantrums and is irrational to the point where you wish her parents would have spanked her as a child for being so insolent. Of course, that turns into the hero’s job–making her grow the fuck up.
Maybe it’s my age, maybe I just don’t have the patience for characters that aren’t likable, maybe I’ve already raised my children and don’t care for characters half my age, but it makes me worried because my characters do not fit in. And I wonder what I’m going to do with that.
Did these authors do market research? Are they writing heroines they know readers adore? I look at a book’s profile on Goodreads and it has over a thousand reviews and most of them are positive. What is carrying this book? The sex scenes? The sexy billionaire? The cover? Are the readers that much younger than me they identify with the heroine and her constantly snarky attitude? There’s so much eye-rolling going on that my own eyes get sore just reading it.
The problem is, even if I had read these books before I started writing, I’m not sure I’m capable of writing such immature characters. My characters act grown up because I want them to be. Because I am. They’re professionals. They’re tackling life’s problems while also navigating falling in love. Yeah, some of their problems are more over the top than mine will ever be (corporate espionage! murder! kidnapping!) but if I wanted to write quiet stories I would have stuck to my small town romances.
I keep going back to Ana and Christian. Yes, she was young when they met–just graduated from college, and the scene where she gets drunk and throws up all over Christian’s shoes is on par with the books I’m reading now. But she grew up and it didn’t take her that long, either. She found a job in her field. When Christian took her into “his world” she didn’t embarrass him. Of course, I didn’t read the books–my take is from the movies, and that could make the world of difference, too. I read the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day, and while Eva made some mistakes, her mother, married to a multi-millioniare herself, was there to guide her into Gideon’s world. Eva didn’t want to embarrass Gideon, she wanted to be an asset. The women I’ve been reading are so against wanting their men for their money (a popular trope in billionaire romance–the heroine isn’t impressed by the money) that they forget he’s more than his bank account. He has a reputation to uphold. He’s human–with feelings.
Trying to write to market, I completely missed the mark. A lot of authors are against writing to market, and you might be saying, so what if I did miss what I was aiming for? You can only truly say that if you honestly don’t care if people read your books. I’ve published for four years and fought tooth and nail for every reader. I’ll always fight to find new readers, but being able to get picked up by the Amazon wave and riding it for a while would be nice, too.
So what am I going to do with a book or series that isn’t quite right? Publish it anyway. Write my reader magnet with the same sophisticated characters that I’ll always write in the voice and style I’ve honed for the past four years and hope the readers who sign up for my newsletter to grab that freebie like my style and stick around to purchase books going forward.
It’s all any author can do–hope that readers like their style enough to stick around.
It’s tough to pick apart another author’s work–and it’s why I don’t leave book reviews, negative or otherwise. I could list every stupid thing I hate about the book I’m reading now, but what would that get me? Besides, I’m obviously an outlier, and all that tells me, and all that should tell you, is that when you’re reading an author you don’t like, you aren’t their target audience. The authors on the top 50 of billionaire romance–they don’t care I don’t like their books. They’re doing just fine without me.
I’m glad I’m doing market research–it will help me when I’m ready to publish and I can create a list of adjectives that will describe my books. Mature. Elegant. Professional. Down to earth. Intelligent. I don’t know about you, but I find intelligence extremely sexy.
I just need to find readers who think that, too.
If you want to know more about selling books not written to market, Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea recently recorded two podcast episodes about that very thing, and you can listen to them here.
I just wanted to say hello to everyone and give you all a quick heads up with what I’m doing this month. I will definitely finish the second book in my series by my soft deadline of Valentine’s Day. I’m at 66k right now and while I aim for 90k with these first person books, I’m at the point in the story where it will end how it will end. I have the rest of the book planned out and it shouldn’t take me long to finish it up.
After I finish, I’m going to learn MailerLite through their Academy. I’ve said enough about it on the blog, so I’m finally going to get that up and going, and while I do that I’m going to write a reader magnet to give away. That definitely won’t be a 90k novel, but it will be longer than a novella, complete and a standalone, and in the first person present/billionaire subgenre that I have decided to write in for the foreseeable future. I’m also taking Suzy K Quinn’s How to Write a Bestseller through Mark Dawson’s SPF University, and I’m going to write this reader magnet using the things I learn in her classes.
So I do have a few things coming this month, some of the “I don’t wanna” variety than really looking forward to doing them. The reader magnet will be fun, and I invite anyone to slap me if I even THINK about writing it to sell. I need something to giveaway. That’s a given. And the book before the one I’m writing now was supposed to be that magnet. It turned into a six-book series instead. Not good. There are authors who write a magnet to give away for newsletter subscribers and sell it too, but I’ve heard you can grab more emails if you are exclusively giving it away. On the other hand, all you grab then is the freebie seekers. On the other hand, I plan to put my books into KU and a lot of readers do feel that reading with KU is free, so I guess I’ll just have to take my chances and see what I get.
All I know for sure is:
I need a newsletter.
I need a reader magnet.
Nurturing my list will be my main priority next to writing books.
2021 is the year to learn from my . . . I wouldn’t call the last four years of publishing a mistake, but I haven’t done things correctly, and the time to start that is now.
Also this month I’ve been dealing with a little anxiety. I don’t know where it’s coming from–other than the fact I’ve been trying to work too many hours at my job and still write as much as I always have. Due to some financial things going on, I had to go from part- to full-time last November. I’m fortunate in that I have been able to cut back my work hours just a little bit, and I hope that helps. I also have been sitting on a chair that is not made for sitting for so long and needless to say, it’s made my, ah, bottom a little sore. I think my anxiety latched on to that too, and I’ve been to the clinic a couple times for an ailment I simply don’t have. I need to stand up more during my working hours, that’s about it–and probably find a better chair to sit on.
Anyway, so I’ve decided to try a little counseling, and I made a tele-visit appointment with a counselor for the end of the month. I have a lot to talk through–working from home has been an adjustment–and a few other things. I don’t think one session is going to help me, but it’s a start in the right direction. I also need to take my health more seriously–I need to schedule a checkup soon for my girlie bits. I’m not a spring chicken any more, and my mom passed away when she was only ten years older than I am now. It’s not a pleasant feeling thinking about that. I’m going to try to be more proactive about my health in the coming months if it’s going to trigger my anxiety. I also try to do things with my sister and I walk with a friend every now and then (we wear masks) so I’m not completely cut off from the world because I’m working from home.
The main thing I need to remember is writing is fun, and while I still need to think of my writing as a business, I’m not going to want to do it for the long haul if I can’t enjoy it, too. I need to take a deep breath. Things will be okay.
The one thing we say most about independent publishing is it has completely taken away the gatekeepers. You can publish anything you want, whenever you want, all you need is a properly (sometimes not!) formatted file and a good cover (sometimes not!). We all know that there are lot of good books that are indie-published every day. We also know there are a lot that aren’t.
I left another FB group the other day. The conversation turned so stressful that I was in a bad headspace all day. It’s hard to shake things off when people attack you for what you believe. What was it I said? I said some indie writers are good enough not to need the whole buffet of editing: development edit, copy edit, line edit, and a proofreader. That’s all I said, and I still stand by that. An author who is on book 30 is not going to need the time and attention an author is going to need publishing her debut novel. They simply aren’t. The craft is there, the skill is there, the experience is there. Two editors took my words the wrong way, or they were just spoiling for a fight, and tore into me.
Of course the conversation turned more ugly when price became a topic because everyone in the industry knows that editing is the most expensive part of publishing–especially if you do need the whole smorgasbord before you put your book out there–and the editors were defensive. I’ve never said an editor shouldn’t be paid what he or she is worth. I’d never devalue an editor’s work like that. You’re paying for a skill that they’ve (hopefully) honed for years. An excellent editor can take your lump of coal book and turn it into a diamond, I get that. On the other hand, not everyone can afford it, and they didn’t seem to understand that.
I agree with the belief that you shouldn’t publish until your book has been edited, at least by SOMEONE, but it’s also discriminatory to say that no one should publish at all if you can’t afford it. That’s gatekeeping all over again.
I didn’t point out in my exit rant that the people saying this were affluent white people who have the disposable cash to hire an editor. I’m white too, but I’m poor. I can’t afford a $2,000 development edit. I simply can’t. That’s three and a half months of rent. I do the best I can with the resources I have, and I will never let anyone insult me for it.
One of the big questions that come up when discussing editing fees is, why do editors cost so much? It’s not because each individual editor is trying to rip you off (though some are better than others, so ALWAYS ask for a sample and make educated choices). There’s an association that offers guidelines as to how much freelance editors should charge their clients. Editors/beta readers like Kimberly Hunt, the paid beta reader I referred to in my feedback blog last week, adheres by this association, and you can look at the pricing structure the Editorial Freelancers Association recommends. She, and many other editors, are charging the standard. Some editors who freelance on the side may charge more depending on where you’ve found them. Professional editors found on Reedsy, for example, are more than I can afford. On the flip side, there are writers and authors who want to start editing and charge a lot less because they are just getting their business going. It would be up to you whether you want to pay less. An editing sweep by a new editor will be better than no editing, but always make informed choices. Don’t just sign with her because you can afford her. And on the flip side of THAT, I wouldn’t pay a new editor the industry standard unless they can provide testimonials and proof that their skills are worth it.
Indie publishing has opened up a whole new world for scammers, and some of them don’t know they’re doing it. (Like the freelance book cover designer who will charge you 50 dollars for ten minutes of time in Canva. They think they’re running a business. I think they’re ripping you off.)
What can you do if you can’t afford an editor?
The obvious thing is to learn your craft inside and out. Learning your craft is a good first step in the editing process. It’s a lot easier to edit a good first draft than it is to tackle a draft that you know has plot holes, flat characters, and verb tense changes throughout. Hone your writing skills.
Then find feedback where you can, and like I said in the feedback blog from last week, listen to that feedback, or you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
And lastly, learn how to self-edit. Put the book in a drawer for a month or two, write something else, then come back to it with fresh eyes.
You can teach yourself to self-edit, and there are a lot of resources out there that will help. You can take editing classes, definitely edit for others (that’s why I do it for free for my friends because it helps me improve) or my favorite (and probably cheaper) way to learn how to edit is reading self-editing books.
You also should have a firm grasp on grammar and punctuation. No matter who reads your book, be it a paid beta reader or one of the authors you networked with who said they would give you feedback, make it easier for them to read you by knowing your grammar and punctuation. If you choose to pay a proofreader or a line editor, it will be cheaper if they don’t have so much to wade though.
I have all these books; I’ve read all these books. Self-editing is a different skill than learning and practicing how to write good books, but I think they go hand in hand.
I’m glad I left that group, but I wish I would have asked those snobby women what they do to help the indie publishing industry if they so despise what come out of it. Do they beta read for free? Do they edit pro bono twice a year? How are they making a difference? Complaining about the state of indie publishing is only being part of the problem not part of the solution.
I try to help when I can. Maybe my edits aren’t as good as someone with a real editing degree, but I have a Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing, and I educate myself all the time. I hope that the authors I’ve edited for have gone away with a better book.
Saying an author shouldn’t publish without a professional edit is shortsighted to say the least. Authors are going to publish without an editor no matter what anyone says because they don’t have the disposable income to afford it. Hell, I’ve read some traditionally published books that have read like they haven’t been edited, either. (See my crabby review of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date novel.) It’s up to the author to learn what they need to learn if they can’t afford an editor and aren’t willing to sell plasma like Jami Albright to hire one.
Readers will always be the new gatekeepers. You, as an author, need to do what you can to keep your readers happy. In the end it doesn’t matter how you go about doing it, only that you do. And if you don’t, your reviews and sales rank will be proof that you’ll need to start doing better. It will be up to you as to how.