Hi, everyone! I know I usually post on Mondays, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been struggling with finding things to blog about lately. I go through that sometimes. I feel like anything I have to say has already been said a million times by someone else, and especially when it comes to writing and publishing, I don’t have much new to share.
I did decide to take a Twitter break, and if you follow me, you can either friend me on FB, or like my FB author page and we can touch base that way. I just couldn’t take the negativity anymore, and it was bringing out my own negativity toward other people. Twitter as a whole is very emotional, and I just can’t handle how sensitive (and insensitive) people can be and when they lash out because of it. I’m not a fragile flower, but geez, there are only so many times I can be “put in my place” without feeling it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like a whole lot of people are writing over there anyway, and it’s not such a great place to find supportive writers who want you to succeed. Last week, I made a graphic and congratulated an author on her release, and she never bothered to retweet it. I think that was the start of me being so discouraged I just wanted to leave. If you can’t support me supporting you, then why are you on there?
I didn’t delete my profile or deactivate my account, but I did pin a “see you next year” tweet to my profile and I deleted the app off my phone. I logged out on my laptop to remind myself when I go on there just to go on there that I’m trying to break the habit. I’m sure it’s one of those things where I’ll go through withdrawal for a few days and after it’s over I’ll feel better.
I blogged about doing large print for The Years Between Us, and I got the proof in the mail the other day. It looks great! I approved the proof and I didn’t have any problems with KDP flagging it as duplicate content. I may do some other books as time allows, though Amazon has stopped putting Large Print as a buying option on the book’s product page. So even though I know there are visually impaired people who would appreciate a Large Print book, I have to weigh time versus return on investment. In the scheme of things, doing the Large Print didn’t take very long, so I could do most of my backlist in the next year or so if I did one per month. We’ll see how it goes. I buy all my own ISBNs, and I have to keep in mind that expense as well. With the way Ingram has been glitching lately and not accepting Vellum files, this book is only available on Amazon, and I didn’t check the box for expanded distribution. I’m impressed that I could price it at 14.99 and still make a couple dollars. In expanded distribuion, I would have made fifty-six cents.
I’m still editing my series, and I suppose that’s going to be something you’ll hear from me for the next little while. I get discouraged when I think about needing to figure out newsletter stuff. I’ve looked around StoryOrigin, and I don’t think I’m going to be using it for right now. I feel like authors forget that cultivating a newsletter list is more than just getting people to sign up for it. You’re supposed to be collecting emails from readers who are going to be fans of your work and support you. I may get the newsletter stuff figured out so I can encourage them to sign up in the backs of my books and aim for as many organic signups as possible. I don’t want to lure readers with a free book to sign up. I know that’s the thing to do, but freebie seekers will cost money eventually because you’ll pay for them to be on your list but they won’t buy when you send out email blasts about a new release.
You guys, I know the rules, but I’m tired of playing this game. I just wanna write and make money doing it. Yep.
Well, I don’t have much else. I did Bryan Cohen’s ad profit challenge, but he didn’t offer anything new from what he showed us in his last challenge. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more of those, though I have met some nice people doing them.
I’m always on the look out for new non-fiction to read, but I haven’t been reading much since I’ve started working from home. It’s a lot easier to get words down now that I am, and I’m reading less. Which is probably why I’m all dried up when it comes to blogging. That said, I’m still listening to podcasts, and the Six Figure Authors podcast has Sara Rosett on this week. She wrote a non-fiction book about writing a series. Since that is one thing I’ve managed to make myself bend for (I prefer standalones) I figure anything that could make the process more tolerable (and profitable!) I need to look into. I ordered How to Write a Series, and I will tell you how I like it. I didn’t realize there is also a workbook that goes with it until I accidentally clicked on it trying to grab the link for you all. Check them out!
If you want to listen to her interview on the podcast, you can find it here:
I’m sorry I didn’t post on Monday! There hasn’t been a lot going on and I didn’t have any updates. I finished the last book in my series, and I’ve already read through it, fixing typos and deleting repetition. Since then I’ve started at the beginning, and I’m in the middle of my second editing pass of book one. I can tell I was still getting to know my characters and getting used to writing in first person present. Hopefully I won’t have to do this much editing for the other books. As I said in a different blog post, I’m not going to edit the hell out of these. I want to clean them up, but I don’t want my writing to sound cardboard, either. It’s a balancing act, for sure.
Just to see how easy it is to make a Large Print version of my books, I did The Years Between Us, and I ordered a proof that should be here Saturday. Vellum has a crazy easy way to change your file into large print (just check the box!) and adjusting the spine to my cover in Canva was pretty easy too. The only thing I’m worried about now is that someone in one of the FB groups I’m in said Amazon blocked her Large Print book because the content was too similar to another book she published. Of course it’s similar, its the same one! While there are a lot of authors who have successfully published large print versions of their books, I’m worried now that when I look over my proof and approve it, Amazon’s quality content team will reject it. I buy my own ISBNs from Bowker, and this person uses the free ISBNs from KDP print, so I’m hoping that my own ISBN will help. She’s appealing their decision to block her book, and I hope I don’t have to go through the same process. It’s tough because I’ve heard that Amazon is just swamped and to get any real help can take days if not weeks.
I’m doing Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Profit Challenge, though right now he’s going over information that I’ve heard many times before in his other challenges. He always puts new information into every challenge, so it’s worth it to take the time to watch all his videos, even if they feel repetitious. His FB group is very busy (with 11k members!) and I scroll through it a lot more than I should. It’s interesting to see how freaked out people get about putting up an ad and then not seeing impressions or getting any clicks. If you’re doing the challenge, or even if you’re not and you’re not seeing any activity on your ads dashboard, you have to remember a couple things:
Ads sometimes never turn on. Your dashboard may say they are delivering, but they never do deliver impressions or clicks. You can turn them off if you want, but there’s no harm in keeping them going. They aren’t costing you money, and you never know if one day they’ll start to deliver.
Make sure if you’re running category ads or automatic placement ads your categories are relevant to your book. What people don’t understand is Amazon won’t show your ad no matter how much you bid if they don’t find your book relevant to the audience you’ve chosen. You can add new categories to your book (besides the two that you chose when you published) by emailing KDP or Author Central and asking. This also means if your book is a new release and you don’t have any also-boughts associated with your book yet, it may take a while for Amazon to understand what kind of book you’re selling.
Sales have dropped for everyone. People are dismissing the election, COVID, and the holidays that are coming up. You know, people only read when they feel like reading. Run all the ads you want, but if people are busy, stressed out, or have other books in their TBR piles, your sales are going to slow down (I’m looking at you, Sept 2020 book-dump).
Your book isn’t the best out there. As I’ve said in the past, 2,000 books are published every month since COVID has come along and obliterated life as we know it. You may think your book is special and that people can’t wait to get their hands on it, but come on. You have to be realistic. You’re fighting against a tsunami of books, a handful of ads isn’t going to cut through all that noise. Be patient, create more ads, make sure your metadata is relevant to your book, and try to get some reviews.
I can sound a little callous, but all I can do is shake my head at the frenzied posts people write after they’ve created an ad. We all want our books to sell, but sometimes we forget that we are selling books, and the most important thing is the story. There was even one person who started the challenge, and then she was like, “Do you have to have a book published to do this?” Ummm. Yes? Otherwise what you running ads to?
I can understand being excited to market your books, but you gotta keep in mind you have to have a product people want to buy or your marketing efforts will be for nothing.
I really don’t have much else. I try not to get too involved with the FB groups. I’m slowly realizing that a lot of people ask for advice, but they are not in the mindset to take that advice. They’re going to go their own way no matter what you, or anyone else, tells them. They already have it in their head that they’re going to do what they are going to do, and that’s it. You can point out their cover isn’t good, or won’t fit in with the genre, you can tell them the blurb they spent hours working on still isn’t good enough, you can tell them anything, but if they aren’t ready to accept what you’re telling them, it’s a dead end and a waste of time for you. It goes against my nature to give up on people because I’m a helper, but I’ve wasted a lot of time in the past helping people who didn’t really want it, and the only loser in those scenarios was me. People definitely need to learn from their own mistakes, and that might mean losing out on sales and wasting money on ads because they were too attached to their cover to change it. Not my circus, not my monkeys.
The weeks are flying by, and I didn’t have anything to write about last Monday, and I have no idea if I’ll have anything to share this Monday. I think a lot of people now are just trying to get through the election and the end of the year. If you have a question or want my thoughts on anything, give me a comment and I’ll blog about it. I’ll do what I can to help!
Life is full of minor inconveniences. There’s even a hashtag for that–#firstworldproblems. What bothers us would make people in other countries shake their heads. I’m not talking about coronavirus now, though mask-wearing may be up there for some people who would prefer not for, um, reasons. But despite how petty and immature we can be about things that inconvenience us, when they keep coming, it can seem like life is trying its best to get you down.
I’ve had a few of those inconveniences, and I’m waiting for life to possibly get back to normal. I could be waiting for a long time, but trying to make lemonade out of lemons, or trying to find the silver lining, is getting to be a little tiring. My little inconveniences range from having maintenance in our bathroom fixing the caulking in the tub and repainting, to having to shower at my ex-husband’s while said paint and caulking dry, to being told, just a few minutes ago, that we can’t let water go down the drains in our apartment because it will make the guy’s bathroom downstairs flood. Of course he called maintenance, but the last time this happened they had to dig up pipes the front yard. So no telling when we’ll get to run our water. On the plus side, I’m clean, so there is that.
Other inconveniences range from my mouth is still hurting, and likely will for months to come as there isn’t an end to my dental work in the foreseeable future, (either they’ll finish or I’ll run out of money. Who knows?) to me being able to work from home but my cat making a meal of the ethernet cable laying on the floor. I did get permission to buy a new cord in the event this one is destroyed by tiny cat teeth, but then I’ll buy a longer one and attach it to the ceiling instead of letting lay on the floor.
Small inconveniences that add up to me being generally crabby about life right now, but make me feel like a petty snot because hello? fires everywhere. And they aren’t little, either.
In other news, I’m 26k into the last book of my series. I’m really excited to get these books all wrapped up, and it’s no secret that I am very excited to start something else. That will have to wait a bit but I can distract myself by looking more into newsletters. I created an email for my website and I signed up for MailerLite. I haven’t watched any of the tutorials to figure out how to set up a welcome email, but I should at least get that sorted so I can include a sign up link to the back of the books I’ll be editing soon. I need to figure out a reader magnet too, and look into how Story Origin works for building newsletter signups and joining promotions. I suppose I could be doing that instead of watching the old Jurassic Park films, but I feel such a kinship to Sam Neill and his crooked bottom teeth.
I’ve had to stop my ads for now. I spent 400 dollars in the month of August but made 500 (for all you math nerds that means I came in ahead by 100 dollars instead of breaking even like I normally do). Because of the way Amazon bills you for ad spent vs. the way they pay you for royalties, my ad spend money is in the hole, and I can’t afford more until that money is replaced. They pay out every sixty days, so I won’t be able to start more ads until the end of October or early November. Right now I’m still making a little very day, mostly in read-through of my series, so I’m not crying too much. I’ll start ads up again after Halloween and play up the Christmas aspect of my books, or at the very least, that they take place in the winter.
I guess that’s all I have for this Thursday. Tomorrow after I log off from work I’ll clean the bathroom and get that put together again. I hope I hear from the property management when it comes to being able to use water again. I mean, we can use the water, just not let anything go down the drain, and I’m assuming that means we can’t flush the toilet, either. We weren’t told by property management we can’t, but this has happened before, so I know all too well what is going on with the poor guy downstairs. I hope they can fix it quickly!
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and if you’ve had a crappy week, things pick up for you!
Happy Wednesday! I usually post on Thursdays when I have a little something I want to share, but today I’m writing about some time sensitive material, so posting today instead.
We have five more days of this month, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve always been a Fall girl, and this year, especially, I can’t wait for cooler temperatures and rainy afternoons while the wind whips the leaves from the trees. I don’t even have to dread all the snow we’re predicted to get this year as I got a new vehicle, and hopefully it will take to the snowdrifts better than my crappy little Neon ever did.
Due to COVID-related issues, my trip I was going to take this week has been canceled, and that gave me time to write I didn’t think I’d have. I got 5,000 words written yesterday and I’ll be at 70k soon. I’m aiming for 90k, but since this really is just one long story, if I reach a good ending point, I’ll stop and pick up in the last book of the series. It’s coming along, though some of the planning has dragged a little bit as I’m more pantsing this book than plotting, and I can’t sit down and write until I know what I need. That means a lot of daydreaming or free writing to figure out where my story is going and how to get it there. On the bright side, I know what I need to finish this book, so I should have it done in the next week or so.
As far as what’s going on in the news, I may be the last to report this, but a couple weeks ago, Amazon Ads have starting reporting page reads in your ads dashboard. That means if your book is in KU you can see if that ad is bringing in page reads. Now, that’s not a sure-fire way of knowing if your ad is profitable, since page reads can come from more places than just an ad. Amazon reporting isn’t the greatest, and we’re encouraged to use the KDP Reports instead of depending on your ads dashboard. But I think a lot of us were just happy that Amazon seems to be trying to make things better for us in terms of working with them. I get that we have a love hate relationship with the big giant, but I tell myself that self-publishing wouldn’t be possible with the creation of the Kindle. I mean, who’s to say if a different company wouldn’t have picked up the reigns, but had that happened, who knows what the indie publishing space would look like now. Better? Worse? Less opportunities? More? It’s nice they listen to our feedback, and I appreciate the opportunities Amazon has given us.
Anyway, if you run Amazon ads, KENP reads are another way of showing you if your ads are profitable.
Here’s a screenshot of one of my well-performing ads:
The ad for All of Nothing at the bottom of this picture does pretty good. The total KENP for the ad is 10,205 and that equals into about 23 books. (Divide KENP page reads by the number of KENP pages your book has, and that information can be found under promote and advertise on your bookshelf for your book).
If you’re interested in trying Amazon ads, watch this video with Janet Margo, Craig Martelle, and Mark Dawson. She used to work at Amazon and has some great tips for authors. Also, it’s quite amusing to watch Mark Dawson in the background smoking a cigar and drinking. LOL
In other news with Amazon Ads, they are expanding, and they added Canada and Australia this week! I did put up some Canadian ones to test the waters since I’m in Minnesota near the Canadian border (and some of my books are set along that area as well). We’ll see how it goes. I need to watch them carefully as I don’t know if the bids are the same as in the US. I’m sure the Amazon Ad Profit Challenge Bryan Cohen is going to host in October will have some tips regarding the new countries we can advertise in. It sucks that each country has their own ad dashboard, and you have to remember to calculate all the different spend totals when figuring out if you’re still ahead, which is the most important thing when all is said and done.
I’m a member of an Amazon Ads FB group and when I asked for ideas on blog posts lots of people wanted to know about marketing.
In an email that Bryan Cohen sent out to us (if you’re on his newsletter list) he teamed up with Alex Newton of K-lytics to host a webinar about genre research and he said:
Whether you want to believe it or not, meeting reader expectations is the best way to sell a lot of books. That means knowing your genre. Worrying about how to market your book after you’ve already spent six months to a year writing it isn’t the best time to wonder where your readers are. Just my two cents, especially considering I’m on book 5 of a 6 book series that isn’t *quite* like any of the longer billionaire series I’ve read. But I do agree we have write what we like, too, or we’re trapped writing books we don’t want solely for the paycheck. I hope I hit the mark with the tropes and the characters, and where I didn’t, readers can still enjoy what I did with the plot or overlook the parts they dislike.
If you want to sign up for the webinar, you can do it here: https://k-lytics.lpages.co/webinar-bpf/ It plays Thursday, August 27th, but there is always a replay if you can’t watch it live. I’m working tomorrow, so I’ll be watching the replay when they release it.
I think that’s all friends! I hope you all have a terrific weekend, and don’t forget to sign up for that giveaway! Read Meka’s interview, too! I asked her a lot of questions about her self-publishing journey!
I was supposed to be flying to Georgia today to help my fiancé drive up from the Savannah area. I had a tooth start hurting, and because of my unwillingness to wait for a root canal, I’m getting it pulled. I was supposed to go Wednesday, but they had a cancellation and I’m going in at 3:00 today. Needless to say, I’m a bit nervous and because alcohol is a blood thinner, I can’t take a few nips before I head in. I don’t have much dental anxiety, but I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be a little scared to get a tooth pulled out of their head. I’m only happy he said he could do it and didn’t need to refer me to an oral surgeon. The sooner the better. The bright spot is, I can run errands afterward because my mask will hide the big wad of gauze I’ll have shoved into the back of my mouth. There is, my dear readers, always a silver lining!
As for my trip, I rescheduled for next Monday, August 24th. Pray all goes well because between the two of us (me and my fiancé) we have horrible luck. Case in point: who would have predicted he’d need to move in the middle of a pandemic. That’s something we didn’t need.
I am still writing, and last night after I transcribed the bit I was able to write at work I’m up to 45k for book 5 in my series. It’s going well–I still love the characters and the plot is coming along. This mystery/thriller stuff isn’t my cup of tea though. All the breadcrumbing and making sure if a character says something, (dun dun dun) someone, somewhere, follows up. I have a few subplots weaving through this book and keeping them straight is tougher than making sure my earbud cords don’t tangle. But it’s interesting to note that my skills are improving writing-wise, and I may not have been able to write a plot like this two years ago. It makes me think about a book I had to abandon about 3 years ago because like this series, there’s a bit of a mystery I just couldn’t figure out, no matter how much brainstorming I did. Now if I look at the notes, I wonder if I could fit together the pieces. I wasn’t ready to write that book. It could be after writing this series I will be.
I read My Dark Vanessa over the weekend, and if you haven’t read it, you should! I read that book faster than almost any book I’ve every dug into, even faster than when I started Daisy Jones and the Six and couldn’t put that down until I was done.
I just ordered Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer, and I have Butterfly in Frost to read next by Sylvia Day. I am trying to make more of an effort to read first person present books while I write it in, and I wish I didn’t have such a hard time reading on my Kindle. I could get good use out of my KU subscription reading all the top 100 romance books on Amazon to keep up with what my fellow authors are doing.
Anyway, my ads are still doing well. I’m up 100 dollars this month so far! It’s a little scary thinking of all the money I’m spending, and I wish that Amazon would bill me at the same time they pay out royalties. It wouldn’t look like it hurts so much then. But surprisingly, or not, my biggest seller is The Years Between Us, after I redid the cover. I can’t express how important a cover is. Even if you think your cover is good, if it’s not selling your book, don’t be afraid to change it!
I will always be grateful that I have the flexibility as an indie to change things that aren’t working, and the humbleness to admit that the choices I’ve made may not always be the right ones. People can get so stuck with their choices thinking that once a choice is made there is no other way, but that kind of thinking keeps you from broadening your horizons and maybe finding a different path that really works.
As far as anything else goes, my daughter is starting 9th grade next month, and things are still up in the air. She chose to do the hybrid plan instead of all online, and I supported that. She didn’t do so well at the end of last year. She may be an introvert, but we all crave human contact. So this week I’ll be taking her to get her hair done and doing a bit of school shopping for some new clothes and school supplies. So I suppose it worked out that I had to postpone my trip, but I do miss him and I’m excited for the changes that will happen once we’re finally in the same town!
I’m watching the replay of the marketing webinar Jane Friedman put on last week. I linked it to you in last week’s blog post. She has a lot to say on marketing for both traditionally published authors and indies, and the very first thing she said was you have to make sure your cover, blurb, and the product as a whole are good. After you put your book for sale, your book is no longer just a book, but a product. I joined an Amazon Ads Facebook group after Bryan Cohen’s Ads Challenge finished, and lots of people forget that you need a good product. All the time I see, I’m tweaking my ads all over the place but I’m not getting any sales. So I take a look at their books and I can see right away. Poor cover, or the blurb is a big block of text. Maybe they have a genre mashup and they don’t have the correct categories chosen, and who knows what they’re using for keywords. I’m not saying I have it all together. My cover for TYBU is a good example. But, if you’re going to ask for advice, at least listen to what someone has to tell you. They could be right on point, even if it means more work for you.
I suppose that’s all I have for now. I try to give my readers some kind of value or tip, but while I still listen to a lot of podcasts and I’m in the middle of that webinar, I haven’t discovered anything to pass on. Bryan does have his next ads profit challenge starting in October, but God, for some reason that just seems so far away right now. And with David (please, God) finally here, I may not sign up for it. It’s going to take a bit to get him settled in and I’ll still be working and doing as much writing as I can to finish up these last two books before all the plot flies out of my head and I don’t know what I’m writing anymore. Sounds silly, but I don’t keep notes. I’m writing these back to back to back and all the details of every little thing are in my head. Maybe not the best way, but it’s my process nonetheless.
I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead, and if you want to know how my dental appointment goes today, let me know and I’ll post a comment. Tell me something yucky you have to do this week!
Every industry has their buzzwords. Some come and stick around forever, some go in the blink of an eye, some are adopted because they’re trendy, some because an industry leader comes out with a book or a TED talk and they introduce the word and everyone starts using it to sound cool.
If you’re clued in to the independent-publishing industry, you might have heard a new buzzword within those circles:
In a webinar with Mark Dawson and Janet Margot, Janet used the word several times while talking about Amazon Ads. This isn’t the webinar I’m referring to, as that replay has expired, but this is something similar with Janet, Mark, and Craig Martelle in a video they did for the 20booksto50k group.
Bryan Cohen also adopted the word in the new Amazon Ads profit challenge I’m participating in right now.
And David Gaughran, in an interview on the Six Figure Author podcast, bandied the word about as well.
It’s a good word. I try to keep my blog posts on this writing/publishing/marketing blog relevant to the audience I’m cultivating. Not many of my readers would appreciate it if all of a sudden I started blogging about the benefits of going barefoot, or why I love living in the Midwest. One too many and my subscribers would start dropping off.
But why is the word suddenly everywhere and how does it pertain to our books?
It starts with the book itself — maybe before you begin to write it. The tropes should be relevant to your genre. The elements such as world building, magical systems, setting, and character arcs should be relevant. I love this quote by someone in one of my Facebook groups:
No one likes to hear genre advice. People write whatever they want without regard to where their book would be placed on a bookshelf because for us indies, there rarely is a real bookshelf for us in a bookstore. But as I take ads course after ads course, the lack of genre bites a lot of people in the butt. They can’t find relevant categories in which to place their books. After you’ve written it, published it, and thrown money at it, it’s a little late to realize that, yeah?
Book cover needs to be relevant to the genre. Such as in romance. As an example, if the couple has all their clothes on, that could indicate the book is sweet romance instead of steamy. If your couple is fully-clothed but they have more sex than bunnies, you run the risk of angering a lot of readers and that could come through in poor reviews.
When you publish and you enter the seven keywords into your metadata (you can use more than that, separate them with a semicolon), those need to be relevant so Amazon knows what your book is about and they can properly steer the right readers toward it. (Trust me, they want to sell your book just as much as you do.)
The categories you choose should be relevant to your book. That makes it easier is for readers when they search books they’re in the mood for. Some scammers will place their books in far-off categories because it takes only a couple of sales to reach bestseller status. If I were to place All of Nothing in say, a self-help category, or gardening, because Jax happens to buy Raven a plant, would that help sales? Possibly gardeners read romance, but placing a book in a category that’s not relevant will eventually do more harm than good, and could make Amazon mad at you.
If you do all that, your book will be relevant to the audience you want to read your book and your ads will be a lot more successful when you’re advertising to the right readers.
If the keywords (for Amazon) and target audience (for Facebook) you choose for ads are relevant, clicks will be cheaper and sales will be higher. If you don’t set up your ads so they are shown to the right readers, it’s like Coke showing ads to a diabetic. It wastes add dollars and wastes both parties’ time. The sugary beverage isn’t relevant to a person who can’t drink it.
This isn’t new information and I know plenty of writers buck the system, and that’s fine. I find it amusing when authors taking ad classes say their book can fit into several genres and they don’t know which categories to choose for their ads. Your book can’t be all things to all readers. The more you drill down who your reader is, the easier time you’ll have marketing your book.
Make a list of relevant comp authors. Those authors are your squad. Those books would sit next to yours at the bookstore. Their readers are your readers.
I have an AS degree in Human Resources, and HR professionals love buzzwords so it was fun for me to all of a sudden hear this word tossed around over and over again in the indie community. It’s a new way of saying what we already know:
What are your thoughts on relevancy? How have you made your book relevant to your genre? How can you fix it if you haven’t? Change your keywords in KDP? Swap out covers? Maybe add a subtitle? Make a list of comp authors and titles for ads?
Well, it’s July and saying the world is crumbling around us is an understatement to say the least. COVID-19 is going crazy, we have a president who doesn’t seem to care, and the whole thing is really scary. My fiancé was supposed to move up from Georgia this summer, but he can’t if he can’t get a job up here. He has something steady where he’s at, and we’re thinking he won’t move until this coronavirus stuff is under control. And who knows how long that will take? I try not to be political on this blog–there are authors who will say anything they want and if you don’t like it, deal with it. I’ve never been that kind of author to treat my social media that way. It’s always more fun to share pictures of baby skunks anyway. But this COVID stuff is . . . people are dying, people don’t have jobs, people don’t know where their next rent payment is coming from. It’s terrifying, and it feels almost petty to go on and talk about books. But I keep trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. When all this is over (and “over” means different things for different people) I don’t want to look back and realize that I didn’t get anything done. I’m trying to press through the best way I know how, and that’s keeping my mindset in the publishing game.
Why isn’t my book selling?
This question bothers me so much because it’s usually obvious. There’s someone on Twitter and he constantly laments that no one is buying his book. But his book doesn’t meet industry standards. The trim size is wrong, his book doesn’t have a professional cover–to the point the book’s title and his author name aren’t even on it! The insides are a mess. I don’t understand this because I have told him what he needs to do to fix it, and he says it’s his first book and didn’t expect anything from it. THEN STOP TRYING TO SELL IT. He seems to have plenty of people on Twitter who would be willing to help him, for free, even, if he would just ask for a little help. His tweets are a bore. Put in the work, or don’t bother.
But I like it this way.
I ran into someone else in a FB group who said she doesn’t full-justify her paperbacks because she doesn’t like how it looks. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that since first of all, it shouldn’t matter what you like or don’t like–full-justification is industry standard for a paperback. When an indie won’t follow industry standards (like the person on Twitter up above as well) it makes them look petty and immature. Are you really running your business while being so trite? And then we still wonder why there are people who won’t buy indie. It’s rather ridiculous to me that a person chooses to go indie for the creative freedom, and that’s what they’re going to do with it. I’ve read lots of indie books and their paperback books look AMAZING. Why not strive for that instead of cutting corners then complaining about it? Just a thought.
In other news, because this isn’t going to be a bitch session, I’m 35k into the 4th book of my series. I was scared to start this book, and I took me a week to hunker in, do some outlining, and actually start. But now that I have, it’s going well, and as always, I didn’t need to worry about word count. I usually do, but first person takes up a lot of room, if you know what I mean, and it’s a lot easier to meet word count. I understand the appeal of indies writing first person. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s not complicated. I’ve even gotten some feedback that says my first person sounds better than my third person books. What? I’m flattered, and I like writing in it, but I started this first person stuff on a whim and I’m not sure if it’s what I want to keep writing. It’s interesting, though.
June Amazon Ads
I turned my ads off on June 26th because I was in the red four dollars. I wanted to see if I could catch up with page reads and I did:
My ad spend was $79.85. I am selling some books, which is fun, but you can see that most of my royalties are from KU, which is fine; that’s why I’m in the program.
And I have to say, changing out the cover to The Years Between Us was probably the smartest thing I ever did. I never would be selling so many books with the old cover. Just a lesson to never be so set in your ways or what you think should be working when it’s easy to try something else.
I’m interested in seeing that people are reading the last book in my series, so I decided to look at my KU read-through for A Rocky Point Wedding for the month of June.
For His Frozen Heart, the first in the series had 1,557 pages read.
His Frozen Dreams had 361.
Her Frozen Memories had 355, and Her Frozen Promises had 5.
Lots of people have told me that it’s too soon to decide if the series is a wash. Especially since the last book has only been out a month, and I haven’t done much promo for the series as a whole. But while I was finishing it up, I knew books one and two weren’t as strong as books three and four, and that’s such a bummer. I’ve heard it’s common, though. As you get to know your characters the writing is deeper and richer and the plots get a little more involved since the readers know the characters better and you are more comfortable as a writer to draw them into the conflict. It’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind if I write another series. The first person one feels different and I can’t explain how. Maybe because the first three books follow the same couple and I don’t have to worry about introducing new characters.
Anyway, if you’re going to fumble along, you can expect to scrape your knees.
I think I’ll end here and get some writing in. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend ahead!
So if any of you follow Mark Dawson or you’re concerned about marketing strategies, or you were thinking about taking an ads course, or if you’re in any writing groups at all on Facebook, you know that Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course closed last week. Whenever Mark opens up his course, I have a huge case of the nerves. Why? Because everyone raves about this course. How helpful it is. How it’s a lifetime pass to ads and all your questions and all of the answers until you die. You can’t be an author and learn how to sell your books without it. After hearing it’s God’s gift to sales, you’ll run out and sign up, right? Well, the next time it opens is in the winter, and you’ll need that time to save up the fee, because you know why I haven’t signed up? It’s $849.00. You read that correctly. It’s almost a $1,000. And if you take the cheapest payment plan, it does cost over $1,000 dollars payable over two years’ time.
You know how indies say, “I can’t afford a cover, or a professional edit, etc, etc, etc, because I’ll never earn my money back?” Yeah. That. How many books would I have to sell to earn back $849? That’s the whole point of the ads course, right? To learn how to make that kind of money? Sure.
So how about this one? In Mark’s SPF University, there’s a course on how to write a bestseller by Suzy K. Quinn. People have raved over this, and I’m always wanting to work on the craft part of being an author. Some would say working on craft is the most important part of being a writer because it always starts with a good book. But her class is a whopping $297.00. People say they learn so much from that class. But hey, that’s two car payments for me. Or half a month’s rent.
And I’m not picking on Mark Dawson. John Truby also has a writing class. He gave a intro talk about it at the 20booksto50k conference in November last year. And you can watch it here.
And that’s just classes. We haven’t talked tools yet.
Bookbrush. A platinum yearly fee with them is $250.00. Canva. A yearly membership with them is $120.00 a year. But if you compare the two, you get quite a lot more with Bookbrush, as you should since it’s double the cost. There there’s Vellum, and if you don’t have a Mac you have to run it through Macincloud, and if you do want a Mac, well, everyone knows how much they cost.
Never mind paying for clicks on Amazon Advertising, and the same goes for running Facebook ads and Bookbub ads. (Don’t bother with running ads on a platform you don’t understand. You might as well give me your money. I’ll use it to buy promos.)
Can we add newsletter providers too?
Oh, I forgot about website hosting and a domain name. Maybe a business upgrade on WordPress.
A yearly subscription to Microsoft Office 365.
Forgot coffee. And booze. Are you even a writer if you’re not drinking something like a fish?
Let’s just say that indies have a lot of resources and not all of them cheap, ah, budget-friendly.
How much does it cost to be a writer? Well, nothing. I mean, literally 0 dollars. It takes no money to be a writer. Maybe two dollars. Grab a pen and notebook from the dollar store. Or scrounge your kids’ school supplies for things they didn’t use after everything moved to online learning because of COVID-19.
There’s a joke in the running world that running is the most expensive free sport there is. Shoes, race fees, GPS watches, the rest of the gear. The list is almost as long as what a writer needs to be an author. Being an author is the most expensive free thing you can do right? Tell that to my $150.00/pair Brooks running shoes so I don’t get tendonitis in my ankles.
But how much money does it really take to invest in your business?
The problem is, not anyone is going to know but you.
I had a friend step back from writing. She’s focusing on her family. That’s great; she has to do what’s best for her. And while she’s never said she won’t come back into the writing/indie space, what she did invest in will just sit while she decides what she wants to do. She bought a Mac, she purchased Vellum. She bought a yearly subscription to Canva Pro. Granted, that can run out, but I don’t know how much of her paid year will go to waste while she’s not using it. She purchased her domain name for a blog she took down. I gave her a free developmental edit of her book, so there’s something, but she paid for a cover for a book that will sink in the Amazon store because she won’t be promoting it (and by promoting it, I really mean writing the next book) while she takes a break.
So how much money should you spend? Start small. I pay for Word. I don’t use a writing software like Scrivner. But you don’t have to purchase Word, either, though the .docx is compatible with Vellum and other conversion websites as well as KDP. There are free options like Open Office or Google Docs.
There are some things indie professionals say you can’t skimp on like a professional edit, or a decent book cover. And that’s true. You don’t have anything if you don’t have a good book. That’s why there’re craft classes out there. But you don’t have to pay $300.00 for a class. There are a ton of craft books, and all you need is to invest some time into reading them. In fact, there are a lot of free resources on YouTube if you learn better listening to a speaker. Brian Sanderson has a set of lectures on Youtube people say are really good, and you can get started here. And over the years John Truby has spoken about craft and you can watch those YouTube videos for free. I’ve shared several talks I’ve enjoyed from the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. The group puts those on YouTube for free too. Chris Fox’s channel is valuable, as is David Gaughran’s new channel.
I suggest narrowing down what you need at the moment you need it. If you only have one book out, probably you don’t need an $800.00 ads course. If you only have one book chances are working on craft would suit where you are in your career a lot better than learning an ad platform or any kind of marketing strategy.
I have fear of missing out, and a lot of writers I know do too. It’s tough not to want the newest brightest thing. Especially when all your groups on Facebook are raving about it. I can’t afford Mark Dawson’s class, and if you can’t either, there’s no point in feeling bad about it. It is what it is. I’ve learned a lot taking Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenges, and he doesn’t push you to pay for his class. I break even with my ads, and that’s okay. I’m not losing money and I’m picking up new readers. At this stage in my career, that’s a win for me.
Having all the tools and technology won’t make you a writer and I have a feeling that was what my friend was aiming for. She was collecting the tools of the trade, but in two years wrote only 60,000 words. For some indies, that’s a word total per month.
Think about what your goals are, what you want out of your career and when you want them. My fiancé bought me a Mac and purchased Vellum for me. I format a lot of books, and pay my fiancé’s kindness forward and will format free for others. Like I said, I pay for Word. It’s my main (umm, only) writing software and I use it every day. I pay for Canva. I bought Publisher Rocket because I do experiment with ads (and right now those small ads are my main source of sales). I’m ashamed to say I threw $40.00 at something I don’t even know what it is or how it will help me. All I know is she said it was her final offer because she wasn’t going to sell it anymore, and I swallowed it hook, line, and, sinker. Some kind of author toolbox website that I probably will never be able to find because I was too busy throwing money at her to pay attention to what I was buying.
It happens, and probably more frequently than we want to admit. The panic sucks. The fear of missing out on something that will make us a bestseller. And we especially panic when we think everyone else but us has the magic bullet.
A good rule of thumb is to exhaust all the free possibilities before going to paid. Newsetter providers have tutorials. So do lots of people on YouTube wanting to help you. Podcasts have been a great way to learn things, and I like to multi-task. Listen while you’re doing chores, or running errands, or taking a walk. I use my phone to take notes if they mention something of interest I don’t want to forget.
No matter how you learn what you learn, probably the one thing you’re going to need to invest is time, and in a lot of cases, that time is better spent writing.
Minnesota has been going through a heatwave, and I’ve never been more glad than when I emailed our property management last week and had them look at our air conditioner. The maintenance man cleaned it out and now we hold steady at about 71F in our apartment. I don’t mind the heat, and I’ll go walk in it or run errands without bitching, but only if I can find some relief when I’m tired of baking my brains out. Trying to sleep when your bedroom is 85F is tough. And trying to write without any sleep is tougher yet. Am I right? First world problems at their finest, I suppose.
I had a scare last week when a new brand of coffee made me sick to my stomach, and I mean, SICK. I drink a lot of coffee, and for a handful of days I felt so terrible I thought I had stomach cancer. Luckily I put two and two together and after I switched back to an old brand, I felt a lot better. I’ve also started wearing my splints again. I wear my elbow compression sleeves off and on to keep the nerves in my elbows in check, but I forgot about my wrist splints, and wearing those again have helped my pain, too. For a little bit, between my back pain and my stomach issues, I was feeling pretty miserable. But I’m back up to 98%, and as a friend said, after you hit 40, 98% is about as well as you can hope for. I know I’ll always have carpal tunnel issues, and like anyone else with a chronic health problem, it’s easy to get lost in a mini pity-party. But I took a walk yesterday and a cyclist zoomed past me on the trail. This guy had a prosthetic arm that attached at his shoulder, and it shut me up real quick. I’m sure he’d trade a bit of carpal tunnel pain to have his body whole, and it’s always a gentle reminder to be thankful for what you have.
Back to the writing part of it.
In writing news, I finished the second read-through of the last book in my first person trilogy. I’m so happy with this trilogy, and the writing went very smoothly. Now I’m worried about how the second trilogy is going to go, but I want to start writing the first book soon. While I write, I’m going to go ahead and format the first three (and hahahaha, do their covers) and order the proofs. There’s no rush to get these done. While I was going to do a pen name for these books, I’ve decided that yes, I won’t publish under Vania Rheault, but I don’t want to distance myself using a whole different name like I was thinking about. So I’ll publish these under VM Rheault. It won’t be a secret I wrote these, but I do want to keep them separated from my 3rd person books. I’m thinking more about my brand this time around and every book under VM Rheault will be a lot more consistent with feel and sub-genre than my other books. Not sure if this will help sales, but I’ve been sniffing around my FB groups learning, and it’s time to apply what I’ve picked up and see if it helps me too.
Last month, I ran a handful of ads to my Tower City Romance Trilogy Box Set and I got a few nibbles but no sales, so I shut the ads off. It included the sequel novella I wrote a couple months ago when I re-edited the trilogy, but because I didn’t sell any of the box set, I published the novella separately this morning. There’s no point in keeping it exclusive material for a set that’s not selling. I can throw some low-bid ads at the first book and see if anything happens. I have it set up as a paperback too, but the cover needs tweaking. I’ll do that later this week, I suppose, though I doubt anyone is going to want to buy the paperback. It won’t be worth the price. It’s a substantial novella as far as they go (29,500 words), but it was still too slim to put text on the spine (at least, KDP couldn’t center it correctly and I finally just took it off rather than fight with the uploading system on KDP and the PDF). But it will be available, so I guess it doesn’t matter in the end.
This morning I also set up a freebooksy for book one of my Rocky Point Wedding series. I was thinking about doing a Christmas in July type thing, so I was able to tailor the ad copy in that general direction. Whether it will hit or miss remains to be seen, but I have that set up for the middle of July and my free promo days are already set up on Amazon. I actually did okay buying a freekbooksy a couple years ago for the first book in my Tower City Romance trilogy. I made back the cost of the promo and then some in KU page reads, and I can’t remember how many downloads my book got, but I made it quite high (in the top ten) in the free steamy contemporary romance category. I’m hoping I do better this time around with an extra book and better writing. I haven’t calculated read through for my series yet, since the last book has only been out two weeks, but people are buying it, so I’m hoping this series has better read-through potential. I just checked because I was curious, and I noticed that the last book in my series wasn’t enrolled in KU. Sigh. I can only blame myself for not checking, and I hate to think what that has done to potential page reads when the first three are in KU and the last wasn’t. Everything else is, but at least I figured it out before the promo went live next month. Live and learn, folks. Live and learn.
I’m still looking into starting my newsletter. I’ve decided to go with MailChimp since Jane Friedman and Mark Dawson use it. That was probably one of the hardest decisions because there are so many newsletter providers out there and they all have their own sets of pros and cons. But if heavy-hitters like Jane and Mark use MailChimp, then it should be good enough for me. I did have a newsletter set up with them a couple years ago, but I never sent out anything, not even to myself as a tryout. I wasn’t as research-savvy as I am now though, and I’ll be watching plenty of tutorials on how to set up a newsletter effectively. And I’ll probably need to blow off the dust on my author email account. I’m not worried about content, just the over all learning the platform and setting things up so my emails are sent smoothly. Everything is a learning process. I’ll also be typing out a novelette that I wrote at work over the course of a few weeks, and though it’s got kind of an ambiguous ending, I’m considering using it as a reader magnet. I have to type it out though first–20 handwritten pages front and back. I think that equals about 15,000 words give or take. Not terrible, and written in first person present, so it’s a lead-in to my pen name. Now I’ll have to look into group promos to build my list but that’s more research and a post for another day.
How is everyone doing? Getting stuff done writing-wise? This is a great tip from my friends Petyon and Scarlett on Twitter:
I would definitely encourage you to follow these lovely ladies on Twitter! Until next time, everyone. 🙂
Because I have nothing else to talk about, let’s see how my ads did for the month of May. Right now I’m running ads for four books: All of Nothing, Wherever He Goes, The Years Between Us, and His Frozen Heart. I actually came in ahead last month, making about $60.00 after ad spend. That’s not terrible–breaking even for me so more than acceptable at this point–and I’m aware that it’s more than what some people are making on their books right now.
Before I get into the numbers, I’ll tell you that my daily ad budget is always $5.00, and that my bid per click is always between .25-.35. I never EVER go with Amazon’s suggested bid. I know click bid can depend heavily on genre, and everyone always says how competitive romance is. But I’m not willing to up my bid on the off chance that it will make me more money. Right now all I’m concerned with is tweaking my covers, blurbs, and look inside so that my books are profitable, and my lower bid per click is working. I get impressions and I get clicks and that’s more than enough for now. There is plenty to worry about without hoping Amazon’s suggested bid won’t blow your grocery budget for the month.
My ad spend for the month of May:
Don’t let the spend versus sales fool you. If your books are in KU, the sales don’t include KU page reads. Sales are readers who buy the ebook/paperback. And in this case, I didn’t sell any paperbacks.
Here are the royalties:
Using the royalties estimator from the KDP reports dashboard is the easiest way to look at your royalties. Some people use BookReport, a Google Chrome extension, but I haven’t put Chrome on my Mac.
I took screenshots of the royalties vs. ads for each book individually. I don’t normally look at that–so long as I’m not wasting money, I don’t mind which book is making more than the others. You can see All of Nothing made the most–and also spent the most. Wherever He Goes is the unpopular one of the group, and maybe a new blurb could help. But I’ve already rewritten it, and at this point I’m done going back.
My numbers might not add up 100% just because I do make a couple cents here and there on other books, but these are the main four I run ads for. You can see that All of Nothing is the leader in sales. Sales for that book allows me to lose money on ads for the others. Is that smart? Probably not–all your ads should run in the black, but I’m just playing around and experimenting.
I’m happy to see that The Years Between Us is doing better with the new cover and blurb. People are actually reading it and in the past few days I have been selling the ebook; people aren’t only reading it in KU. I wish they’d buy the paperback because the new cover looks gorgeous in print.
Anyway, so that’s how I’ve done for the month of May. So far for June I’m in the black, but just by a few dollars. I may not be making a ton of money, but I’m picking up new readers, and that feels good. The last book in my series launched at the end of May, so I don’t have any reports yet on how my read-through is for the four books. I think next month I may plan a Christmas-in-July promotion and buy a BargainBooksy promo and see if I put His Frozen Heart on sale for .99 if I can get some read-through for that series. I’ll be playing around with ads for the next little while because I won’t have anything coming out for a few months.
What I know I learned from Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenge that he does every once in a while. He gives out such useful information, and he’s even usually around to answer questions. I can’t say enough good things about the guy, and I really encourage you to sign up for his challenge in July. It makes a big difference if you know how to use an ad platform before plunking down the money on experimentation. Trust me, there’s a lot to experiment with (like ad copy) without worrying about wasting money on ad spend because you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to sign up for the challenge next month, you can find Bryan’s sign up link here. I don’t get anything if you sign up. I learned a lot from his classes and homework, and I know you will too!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re all having a wonderful June so far!