I met Sami-Jo through a friend and through the years of writing we’ve stayed in touch. I asked her if she would be willing to answer some questions as her publishing journey has been a little twisty, and I always like to pick the brains of people who have had different experiences than me. I hope you enjoy her interview and sign up for her newsletter to stay in touch with her and her publishing journey!
You’ve been published by small presses up until now. Can you explain the pros and cons that go with publishing with a small press?
The absolute best part of having a publisher behind you is that they’re using their own money. Sounds shallow, but while writing can be pure magic, publishing is a whole other mangy beast that incurs a lot of costs for multiple editors, book cover design, formatting, and anything that includes a dollar sign to put out the best possible product.
The downside is that someone else has their grip on your work. They usually get the lion’s share of any profit, you’re bound by their publishing schedule (though it’s quicker than traditional publishing) when all you want to do is hit PUBLISH, and the author is still expected to do their own marketing. Oh! And they can go under at any moment. A plague amongst many small presses since the publisher is sometimes no more than a single person or two with some loyal people to work out all the kinks. When you’re in your groove and suddenly the publisher disappears, your books become homeless. It can be heartbreaking.
You’re looking at self-publishing for the first time. What do you think the biggest challenge of that will be?
Not knowing just how much I don’t know about the process is super daunting. There’s so much to learn if you want to do it right and make an impact right from day one. And, come on, who doesn’t want an amazing launch that catapults your book to the top of some fancy best-seller lists? It’s the dream, but it means more work and since I have a newly minted two-year old, spare time is in short supply. I have to-do lists coming out of my ears.
The series you’re working on will have several books in it by the time you’re done. Do you have any tips for how a writer can put together and publish a large project like that?
I never intended to write a series, but it’s the small things that can make you want to shave your head. Is this word usually capitalized? Does this character already know such-and-such about this character? Was this character’s eyes green or brown? It’s never-ending. A series bible can help by making extensive notes about things such as special words and how they’re used or spelled, having handy character bios including all physical attributes and important events, but be prepared to search back for things when needed. After multiple drafts and rounds of editing, some details are branded in your brain, but do yourself a favor, assume you won’t remember it all, and write it down.
Since you’ve been writing and publishing, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
That you can’t read and reread a contract before signing enough. Not a happy lesson, but an important one. When you’ve spent years on a project and plan on putting it in someone else’s hands, it’s takes an enormous amount of trust. And whether you know the people behind the label or not, publishing is a business and should be treating like one.
I think, during these times in particular, it’s difficult to stay motivated and on track. With a husband and a little one, along with a part-time job, how do you stay motivated to write?
I think the motivation comes for wanting something for myself. I loved writing before having my daughter and it took far too long to get back in front of my laptop, especially after losing my office to her nursery. Writing and publishing is something I enjoy. Being motivated and having the time to utilize that motivation is not always aligned and I repeatedly have to give myself a kick in the ass to get things done when the timing lines up. Motivation is not a one-time deal, it takes daily effort and prioritizing.
You’ve done everything from blogging on your website to vlogging on YouTube. What is your favorite social media platform and why? And can you give us some tips on how to find time for that in a busy schedule?
I tend to use Facebook the most. Some hate it, but I firmly believe that all social media platforms are as good as you cultivate them to be. Your domain, your control. I wouldn’t be published at all if it wasn’t for the writing relationships made on Facebook. If you can figure out your ideal reader, create content with them in mind, and try and have some fun while doing it, you’re golden. Social media is more to connect with people and, if they are readers, they may follow you and your titles based off how they feel about you as a person. These days, the author is as much the product as their book is. Create a bunch of things on a free day or weekend and then schedule their posts along the week or month when you know you won’t have time. There’s lots of programs that can do that for you.
In closing, what’s on your plate for the rest of 2022? And do you have the next couple of years mapped out?
My plan is muddy, but I can vaguely see it somewhere in there. Not ironclad, but my hope is to learn a few more (a million more) things about self-publishing, devise a re-release schedule for the 4 already published books in the Soul Seer Chronicles series while finishing up book 5 and tackling book 6 (They ALL need new covers). Also, to work on another series I haven’t announced yet. Oh, and developing my newsletter subscribers, marketing materials, and update my website. Phew. It’s fine. I’m fine. I can do this. The biggest drive is just to get my books back out there. Not being a published author right now actually feels odd and I’m not a fan. Though, being in control of my titles is super empowering and I am looking forward to reintroducing them to people all over again.
I, unfortunately, don’t have a lot going on for this post today. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, so there’s nothing to update you there. I’ve never needed the motivation or the camaraderie. I did NaNo one year about 5 years ago, and after a ton of editing, that book turned into Don’t Run Away, the first in my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Since then I’ve never needed to “get serious” or use it as a month to “start over.” I’m actually kind of glad I don’t depend on NaNo to get words down. What do people do the rest of the year? Anyway, I actually have a blog post about why I never participate, and you can read it here, if you want.
I am, however, 56,000 words into my new novel, and more than likely it will be a duet. My FMC has a sister who is introduced to my MMC’s business partner. It stands to reason they’ll have their own story, even though I don’t have a plot for them. I’m excited for the possibility of a duet since that is something I haven’t tackled, but at the same time, I don’t want to write it. Why would I force myself to write something that hasn’t grabbed me? Mostly because of reader expectations. When you have two secondary characters and they meet and there’re sparks, readers are going to want to know what happens. Can I rewrite what I have so there are no sparks, yes, but it felt natural they were attracted to each other. From one writer to another, you know what happens when characters go off and do their own thing. It’s difficult to rein them in and they end up doing what they want to do, much to our disappointment and disapproval. I like my two side characters, and I hope a nice juicy plot ends up in my lap by the time I’m done with this book.
My favorite meme when it comes to character vs. plot:
You might be tempted to tell me to do what I want, regardless of what readers will want after reading this book. That is the indie author refrain after all. I’m an indie, I’m going to do what I want to do, but the funny thing is, the indies on Twitter who say that the loudest also lament about how low their sales are. I could do what I want and let this be another standalone, or I could put my brain to work, think up a few things for these characters, and give my readers what I know they’ll want after they read this book.
Managing reader expectations is important. When they pick up your book based off an ad because you targeted a similar author, and they see your cover, your blurb, the title, they are going to expect certain things. The novel’s content will nudge them to expect certain things. If you’re writing about a group of friends, chances are each friend is going to have her own book–especially if your novel is tagged a Book One, and you indicate it’s part of a series. Your readers will expect that. Writing Book One and then never writing another book–I’ve seen authors do that. They might as well not even have published for all the good that did. So, if I set up for my characters to have their own book, then I should give them their own book. I nag about this topic too much, but Nora Phoenix has a great blog post about this very thing, and you can take a look at it here.
As an extra tidbit, even word count can make a reader happy or disappoint them. You should be well-read in the genre you’re writing, should know the tropes, general feel, and how long the books usually are. A great way to see how long a book is is to use this website Wordcounters. There you can look up a book or better yet, an author, and get an idea of their average book length. Some of the top billionaire romances right now range from 80-110k words per book. Some are longer, but very very few are shorter. The authors I looked up also have their books in KU, so I’m going to guess that a lot of them write with that in mind. Romance can go all over the place, but a lot of the novellas I see now are written to fit between books as extra content, and the main books are full-length novels. All of you know that I’ve been trying to write a reader magnet for my newsletter, and it would be great if I could write a shorter book for that. I’m trying, but first person takes up a lot of room, and my shortest book I’ve written since changing POVs is 74k, my longest, 97k. I still don’t know what I’m doing, but maybe one day I’ll figure it out. I need a plot for a 50k novel I can write in week, please and thank you.
My giveaway I’m hosting for Nina Romano’s interview ends Wednesday, the 10th of November. You can read her interview and enter to win this gift basket full of fall goodies and a beautiful paperback copy of her book, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. I’ll ship anywhere in the United States and I’ll brave the post office to ship to Canada.
I got to know Nina on Twitter, and when she asked if I would interview her for my blog, I was all in! I’m so excited to share this interview with you! I hope you find something valuable in the interview I did with Nina. Thanks for reading!
You’ve been writing and publishing for many years. Do you have any advice for anauthor just starting out?
When I was starting to publish, I used to submit poems and short stories, nonfiction pieces every Friday. That was the day of the week I stopped writing and did the “business” end of writing. So pick a day to submit and make sure you send your writing out somewhere. This also can be a query to an agent, editor, or small publisher.
How do you keep the energy and momentum going over such a long period of time?
Each writing project brings with it a different set of problems to solve and research to be done because I mostly write historical fiction. It’s these various unresolved complications that spark interest.
I must say, I read a great deal of fiction, and when I read a well-executed novel, this, too, will boost my momentum and energy. With each new novel I write, I try to obtain a higher level of commitment to the piece in hopes that it’ll be more unique and render a better one than my last. I’m not in competition with anyone but Nina Romano.
We always say writing and publishing is a marathon, not a sprint, but what does that mean to you?
It’s the long haul dedication to excel, and with everything I write, I find challenges which in the short term equal the sprint and might be accomplished rather quickly. However, it’s the persistence to meet each task with the accrued knowledge from past experiences which aid in finalizing a new more difficult piece of writing. I never make it easy on myself—what would be the purpose of that?
Your books have won various awards, and I think that’s something a lot of authors, indieand traditionally published, hope for. Congratulations! I think what every author wouldlike to know, myself included, is does winning an award help with sales, or do you findit’s a personal achievement?
Thank you, Vania. I can’t really say that winning awards or making it to a finalist category in a contest helps with marketing books. I can attest to one thing—it’s a lovely satisfaction to know you have a winner or at least a mighty strong contender. It gives you confidence to continue to attempt achieving a degree of excellence.
I’ll bet there are many people writing today who just want to write—uncaring of prizes, awards, commendations. But the world we live in doesn’t afford us the luxury to do just that. It’s a competitive world, so we must endeavor, struggle, and strive to do our best. A finalist or first place win in a particular category is merely someone’s pat on the back saying, you’ve succeeded. But it’s a lovely accomplishment and we must celebrate all the accolades we can garner. It especially helps to remember these on a dark day when you receive a negative review!
You are published by various publishing houses and presses. Can you tell us a little bitabout what went into submitting and them ultimately publishing your books?
This is a loaded question—I could write an entire thesis on it. At one point I had an agent. To secure that agent I wrote eighty-four query letters. We went our separate ways, but I always knew I wanted a traditional publisher. For years, every Friday I would send out poems, short stories, nonfictions pieces, articles, blogs, parts of novels to literary journals, small magazines, and blog sites—in print and online. It’s relatively easy to publish individual poems and stories. When I had enough poems and a theme, I put them together and made collections—how? I began to write poems or revise them to fit the theme, which I then submitted to publishers. I did the same with stories. I submitted five poetry collections and one story collection to small, independent publishers, and they were accepted and published.
When it came to novels, I did things differently. Some of my novels grew out of short stories that I had published. I took back the novel, Lemon Blossoms, from the agent, and it became the second book of my Wayfarer Trilogy. I worked backwards and wrote the prequel to that novel: The Secret Language of Women. It took me nine years to get that manuscript into the shape I wanted. I then submitted the manuscript to three small, independent, traditional publishers. I received a letter after a week from Turner Publishing saying they wanted to publish the book. I then sent them Lemon Blossoms, which was accepted, and I was under contract with them to write the third book of the trilogy, In America, which was a great challenge because I had to do it in one year.
Can you give our readers any tips on successfully submitting a manuscript?
Make sure the manuscript is in the best possible shape it can be before submitting—that means completely edited and flawless with regards to research. I had many readers for all of my books—some critiqued for me and others only read. You can never have too many pairs of eyes on a manuscript before you decide to submit it. If a writer doesn’t have good readers, they should pay a professional editor.
Never assume or think that because an editor or a publisher asks for a partial or the entire novel that it will be accepted. It’s an exhilarating feeling, but by no means is it the gold ring on the carousel ride. At one time, I had eight agents reading one of my novels—not one took me as their client.
Don’t get discouraged. I could paper all the walls of an entire bathroom suite with rejections. A rejection is only one person’s subjective opinion. Read the rejection for any positive points to see if you can correct a flaw in the writing. Then, repackage the piece and submit it elsewhere.
I was told years ago that you have to have twelve to twenty submissions circulating in order to get picked up. Never waste time waiting for a single response from an agent or publisher. SEND! SUBMIT! REPACKAGE! MAIL OUT! And keep on doing it till someone sees the kernel of gold in your writing.
I am by nature a tenacious individual. I worked hard in school, but never quit and have four university degrees to prove it. I worked hard at writing and never quit, and that’s what every writer who wants to publish should do: work hard. Today, things are easy—you can self-publish. Amazon has a plethora of self-published books. Do they have merit? I can’t guarantee that. The old saying is: “Everyone has a story,” but that doesn’t mean everyone can write a story. My mentor John Dufresne used to say—if you can do or be anything else but to be a writer—do it. I took many writing workshops and seminars, attended numerous writing conferences, readings, author presentations and writing panel discussions. Writing is hard and not all succeed at it. But what is success, anyway?
Success for me is the thrill of someone reading one my novels. I’m doubly thrilled if it had for the reader an aspect of universality and hit a core with them and they wrote a positive review. My books haven’t made the BEST SELLERS list of the NY Times and they may never. Are the books of intrinsic value? Do they merit being translated into other languages—I believe so. Are they novels I’m proud to say that I’ve penned? You bet they are! And are they books that could be turned into a screenplay and be made into a movie? Yes, if someone with inclination and imagination decided to, that’s also a possibility. Writing abounds in a world of possibilities—it’s what you make of it. So my advice is this: persevere. Be persistent. Never give in or give up.
There is so much that goes into writing, publishing, and marketing. What do you find tobe the most challenging?
Marketing. Without a doubt. You can spend a fortune on a publicist—which I did and it didn’t pay off! I lost the advance payment of two novels! I say: don’t bother. You can take out advertisements that are costly but won’t be worth it—in fact, you can lose your knickers and won’t even break even. You can spend hours on social media and it’ll amount to the same thing—zero sales. And what’s worse it’ll be time taken away from your writing, or finding other ways to sell books.
What works? Word of mouth! And for me, personal contact with people almost always pays off. I’ve taught seminars and workshops at writing conferences, attended book fairs, given readings, presentations, and appeared on panel discussions. For me to garner sales is when I have a connection with people. Put me in front of an audience, a classroom full of eager future writers, or a group of readers and something clicks—I’m a people person and I don’t have an introverted bone in my body.
You’re re-releasing The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley. Can you tell us why you decided to make changes and if someone is thinking to re-release a book what they can expect and what to look out for?
I had originally wanted to publish this book with my new publisher Speaking Volumes, LLC.
Unfortunately, their acceptance came right after I’d already signed a contract with a small, independent publisher. The contract ran for three years and then I had the option of taking back the rights, which I did. I resubmitted the manuscript to SV. Why did I do it? The first publisher only wanted one book, whereas Speaking Volumes wanted a trilogy. In my mind, that’s a no brainer! Done deal!
But that’s my experience. Everyone else will have a different spin on why they would switch publishers, or re-write and release a book. I did a great many edits on this book, but it happens that sometimes when you fix something, another problem will arise. I hope the end product will be a finer one then was first published. I know one thing for absolute positive certain—the cover is a knockout and I’m hoping that readers will think the material contained therein is also!
I try to tailor my questions to the authors I’m interviewing, and I noticed you have givenquite a few interviews! Can you give our readers any tips on approaching a blog orwebsite and asking them to promote you and your novels?
I have been asked to write guest blogs and do many interviews, which are always fun and help give an author visibility. Some even help promote books, and although I’d like to say that sales improve, there are never any guarantees.
I’ve even approached people directly, like this interview with you, Vania. I asked you if you’d be interested in interviewing me. My advice is be polite and straightforward, and don’t take a “no” personally. If the answer is negative—just try someone else.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to the conversation before we wrap up?
I want to thank you, Vania, for these provocative questions and your valuable time. I very much enjoy talking about writing and books—so this was a great pleasure. My hope is that a writer who reads these questions and answers gains some personal insight they can put to good, practical use.
Thank you, Nina! That was amazing! I’m sure everyone who reads this will find something useful that they can use for their own writing and publishing careers. I love it when we can support and help each other!
Read on for Nina’s author bio and all her social media links:
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. A world traveler and lover of history, she lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has taught English and Literature as an Adjunct Professor at St. Thomas University, Miami, and has facilitated numerous Creative Writing and Poetry Workshops at Writing Conferences throughout the States.
Romano has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has had five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks published traditionally with independent publishers. She co-authored a nonfiction book: Writing in a Changing World, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.
Her Western Historical Romance, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is a semifinalist for the Laramie Book Awards.
Her novel, Dark Eyes, an historical thriller set in Soviet Russia, is forthcoming in 2022 from Speaking Volumes, LLC.
With the way Twitter is now–the platform showing you likes and responses of people you don’t follow–you can interact with someone long before realizing you don’t follow them or vice versa. It was this way with Barbara. I interacted with her a bit here and there, saw her name pop up on my feed a lot, but didn’t realize until she followed me that I wasn’t following her. She’s been a pleasure to get to know and has been writing and publishing for many years now. She’s a strong supporter of the indie community, and she’s a part of the huge #writingcommunity and #amwriting communities on Twitter.
I was excited when she said she would answer some questions. I love hearing about other authors’ experiences, and I feel that we can all learn a little something either through the mistakes they’ve made, or how they were able to make something work for them. I hope you can find some of your own takeaways from this interview! Thanks for joining us!
You’ve been publishing for a while now. It looks like you released your first books in 2017. Did you write and publish before that, and how did you get into writing?
First of all, I want to thank you for inviting me to this interview!
I started this journey in 2002, which is when I wrote my first novel, “My Love is Deep”. Life happened, and I set it aside until 2015 when my husband encouraged me to publish it. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that self-publishing was an option, so I lost a lot of money by having it printed at a printing house and selling it locally through Facebook. I have always loved telling stories. I earned an A + in high school on a short story I wrote set in the 1930s. My teacher even made me read the story out loud and you can imagine how harrowing that was for a shy teen girl. I knew then that I would someday write a novel.
The indie publishing industry changes so quickly. How is publishing different now than when you first started, and do you think it’s better or worse?
As I mentioned above, I didn’t even know self-publishing existed. After losing $3000 out of pocket, someone finally told me about CreateSpace (now KDP). I honestly don’t know if it’s any different now than it was a few years ago. Self-publishing makes it far too easy for anyone to publish, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. What should come first, without a shadow of the doubt, is the story. That’s all that ever mattered to me. I am grateful that I have the outlet that allows me to share my work with the world, but far too often, I see stories published that are lacking in some way which tells me the author published too quickly, or without regard for the actual story.
You publish wide, meaning on all platforms. How did you make the choice to publish wide instead of enrolling your books in Kindle Unlimited?
Again, I didn’t know Kindle Unlimited with an option until later in the game. Now that I’m aware it exists, I still choose to publish “wide”. To me, exposure is everything.
You have a strong Twitter following. Do you think a strong writer’s platform helps you sell books? Where else do you like to hang out online?
Twitter is where I sell 90% of my books. You often read tweets from others saying that follower count doesn’t matter. I disagree. The more eyes on my books, the better. I dream big, and if I’m going to be honest here, I want to be a household name. I want my books read across the globe. It’s only logical that a strong following will get one there faster. I started at zero followers like everyone else. Did my sales increase along with my Twitter following? Yes, it’s obvious that they would. I don’t spend a lot of “leisurely” time online. My days are hectic, and extremely busy. When I have some time, I dive into reading!
In one tweet on Twitter you jokingly said your marketing manager (your husband) told you that you needed to crank up your marketing strategy a notch. Kidding aside, how do you market your books? And in conjunction with that, do you think being wide helps marketing or makes it more difficult?
Marketing is a necessary evil and my least favourite part of being an Indie author. However, I market mostly on social media (Twitter being my favourite platform). I am also a member of BookBub, AllAuthor, Goodreads, and several other sites that feature Indie Author’s such as Patric Morgan’s Indie Book Store. In the past, I have agreed to radio interviews, television interviews, and print media interviews. I often tell authors that they must do “everything they can” to get themselves and their books “out there”. It is part of the job description to market yourself. I do believe publishing wide helps a great deal with this. You can find me on Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, etc.
You write articles for www.writerspayitforward.com. Is writing non-fiction something you’ll always keep doing? Do you plan to write a non-fiction book someday?
I have always written opinion pieces. Two decades ago, I had my own column in the local Urban Weekly and I have worked for two city bi-monthly glossies. Today, I write guest blog posts partially for the exposure, (Think: Google search), and partially because I want to help my fellow authors on their journey.
Your bio says you’re a multi-genre author. What is your favorite genre to write? What is a genre you don’t think you’ll ever try?
Even though I started with Romantic Suspense, my favourite genre to write is Horror (including Paranormal Romance). There is something hauntingly beautiful about the dark and mysterious side of life. I’m currently working on my next horror. Despite the genre, however, there will always be love in my books. I think the only genre I will never try to write is Science Fiction. (I do write Time Travel.) I can’t imagine creating a whole world that revolves around Sci-Fi and I’m in awe of my fellow authors who can.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made since you’ve first started publishing?
Not starting sooner! Along with that, I’ll repeat what I said in my first answer – printing my first three books at a printing house.
If you could give a new author one piece of advice, what would it be?
Confidence is the key to great writing. Be bold, be brave, be different. Cherish your own voice and what makes you unique. There will only ever be one Stephen King, and frankly, I don’t want to be Stephen King. I want to be Barbara Avon.
Thank you so much Barbara, for taking the time to answer my questions! It’s always fun to get a glimpse at what other authors do as they are writing, publishing, and marketing their books.
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!
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!
Hello everyone! Thank you so much for joining me on this fabulous Monday! Today I interviewed romance author Meka James. She’s been publishing since 2014 and has lots of experience in the industry. Grab a cup of coffee and listen in as she tells us about her experiences with indie publishing and dipping her toes in the water of traditional publishing!
You have furbabies, real babies, and a husband. How do you find time to write books and keep up with a blog, too?
**Well, my real babies are older. My youngest is 10, that means they are way more self-sufficient which leaves me time. Plus they are at the age where mom isn’t as “cool” to hang out with. (sad face LOL). As for the husband, he works during the day which also means I have time on my hands. The furbabies sleep 95% of the day. hahaha
You’re a part of the #turtlewriters on Twitter. What are the benefits to writing and publishing slowly? Are there any negatives?
**Taking your time benefits because it’s less stressful. I’m slow and a pantser so I need to let the story form as I’m writing it. It works for me, but everyone’s process is different. The biggest downside would be just keeping relevant. We all know the struggles to find (and keep) readers so the longer you go between releases, the more chances you have in people losing interest in your writing.
You’re a hybrid author, meaning you are both traditionally published and self-published. How did you decide to go this route? Will you look for a book deal in the future?
**I started out team Indie. When I began writing it was always my first choice. I joined up with a group of ladies on Twitter in maybe 2013/2014 and at the time I was the only one in the group not in the query trenches. So one year I decided to do a what the hell, and see what it was all about. I wrote the story Being Neighborly with the intent to sub it to Carina for their dirty bits line. Anything Once (Limitless Publishing) I wrote with the intent to just randomly sub it places never stressing too much if it didn’t get picked up because as I said, going Indie was always the option for me with any book. I do have ideas of subbing again but only to help with some of the cost associated with self-publishing. Between covers and editing, it gets pricey as you know, so letting a press handle that would be nice.
You genre-hop and write everything from twisted fairytales to erotica. How does this affect your marketing and establishing a brand?
**hahaha I’m supposed to have a brand? LOL no but in all seriousness I write what I feel like. I mean the one thing that stays consistent is that the stories will be character based and steamy. I do feel like I’m coming into my own now and have a direction. I stick with contemporary and play with tropes. I like to think my characters all end up being down to earth with problems and situations readers can relate to. That I *hope* will be my brand.
You’ve played with Amazon ads and have participated in Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Ad Profit Challenge, something I’ve written about here on the blog. How was your experience? Do you have any quick do’s and don’ts for our readers?
**Well, Bryan’s great. He hands out the information in easy to understand ways. I appreciate that. However, I’m nowhere near fully understanding how it all works and how to make what I sell actually sell! LOL I guess my best advice is to stick with it. Keep trying. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and that goes with learning the marketing aspects as well as the writing.
You attended RWA in 2019 in NYC. Can you give our readers some advice on what to expect at a huge conference like that and how to maximize your time and funds? I hope one day we can attend them in person again!
**Oh boy! First, expect to be overwhelmed. Seriously, if you’re not a crowd/people person you need to be ready for the onslaught. It’s a lot. The old RWA offered up a lot of classes, some that conflicted, so plan (not my strong suit) so you can know what you want to attend. Also, don’t go too starry eyed over all the free books at the signings. Seriously I did that at my first convention in Denver and ended up having to pay a weight overage fee on my bag. LOL Don’t be me. But have fun. Yes you’re there to network, but also just enjoy the time. Don’t let it be stressful and think you have to be doing something every minute. Downtime is important.
You’re involved in an anthology! Congratulations! That’s so cool, and the proceeds go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund which is doubly cool. Besides giving back, how is being in an anthology beneficial to your writer platform and career?
**This will be my first anthology and I’m hoping that it will get my name out there to more readers. That is always the goal, to find new people that may enjoy my work. By teaming up with 28 (I think) other authors, that’s a lot of potential for new readers to read me and hopefully go buy through my backlist.
Did you borrow a book from your already-published collection, or did you write something new?
**The story in the anthology is new. It’s a short only about 6k in length.
That’s great! I’ll be sure to look for it! You’ve just released two novellas related to the novella published by Carina. How did your launches go? I know every time I publish a book I make a new mistake. When it comes to launches what would you do differently? What worked well?
**Same. Honestly with each release I feel like I’m starting from scratch. The only thing I do consistently is post teasers on social media. I have gotten away from a lot of paid promotions for launches. I mean I’ve had some success with blog tours, and I still like them to help get reviews, but sometimes it can be hit or miss. So far I don’t know that I’ve done anything particularly well during a launch. They’ve all had the same sort of lukewarm reception, but I keep chugging along. At this point, I do what I’m comfortable with which is mostly the teasers. I know a lot of people don’t think social media sells books, but for me it does.
What’s next for you in the next six months? What are you working on now?
**I am currently working on my first *planned* series that I’m hoping to publish next year. They are a small town romance that follows three friends, all now in their forties who are falling in love. Like with my Desert Rose novellas, each will have a trope featured. Book 1: Second Chance Book 2: May/December Book 3: Enemies-to-lovers. I’m also hoping to put out another novella by the end of the year, but that is mostly me being way too confident in my slow writing self. LOL But it goes back to the relevancy thing. My last book was published in May, the idea I won’t have another until 2021 is a little nerve-wracking, but sometimes it is what it is.
I did that, too. I released a standalone novel in May of 2019, then didn’t have anything until January of 2020, and I’ll be doing something similar–I won’t have anything to release until probably next year but like you said, it is what it is.
Thanks for taking the time, Meka! Good luck with your new series!
After I gave Meka her questions, she blogged about her experience with AUDIO! I didn’t want to bother her with more questions, but you can read about her experience on her blog. Click on the picture and pick up some tips to see if audio is right for you!
The first thing I did is redo the cover. It went from this:
I would say that’s an improvement. I don’t have the proof yet, and I suppose writing a blog post about the cover without the proof seems to be a bit too forward thinking, but that’s okay. I can post it when I get it. I know the title doesn’t seem to be centered, but uploading it into KDP Print proved to be one over-correction after another. The title may very well be too much to the left, but what’s what the proof is for.
At any rate, covers can go through a lot of revisions and just all around bad ideas before an epiphany is realized and you think of what you wanted to do all along, or you stumble upon the perfect couple at 2am when you shouldn’t have been awake anyway.
The first cover I came up with looked like this:
No one liked it. I put it on the Indie Book Cover FB group for feedback and while no one had anything BAD to say, no one liked it, either, and everyone agreed to take out A NOVEL at the bottom. I think I came up with a nice tagline to put in its place.
It left me a bit stymied because it has a grittier feel than what I had before, and gritty and kind of mean, more alpha, bad boy, asshole was what I was going for.
But I’m glad I posted it and listened to the feedback because one poster said she bought a premade using the same guy. She even gave me the name of the site. It’s a closed group, so out of respect I won’t post the cover, but I’ll give you the website and you can take a peek yourself if you want to see the cover she bought.
I played around with it some, putting into play some of the advice I received from the group; doing something different with the tint, but overall, I guess I felt it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do after all, I gave up for a little while.
That wasn’t even all that bad . . . but that’s okay. Trying out new things until you stumble upon something else that could be better is part of the creative process.
A lot of what goes through my head when I look at photos is, what is the steam level? That was one of the things I was aiming to up on this cover: fully clothed models weren’t depicting what my books were about. Where can I put my the title? Where can I put my name? With my limited skills, what can I do to it to make it stand out? This is important because my skills are LIMITED. I can only do so much in GIMP, and I need to know if the picture is decent as is, and if it’s not, what needs to change? A cluttered background? Can I get rid of that zooming in? The color? How real are the models. Do they look too model-y, or too human? A nice medium is what I shoot for. I probably looked at this couple while looking for others and I passed them by. Until almost a fully-formed cover with these two popped into my head, and I was able to create almost a perfect cover in half a hour.
I used what little skills I have in GIMP to fade the top and the bottom and using a few tips I learned from my friend Aila’s blog post about Canva, I was able to make the rest there.
Next week I’ll take you through how I rewrote the blurb and my process for doing it!
Plus, on Monday, I’m doing an author interview with my friend, Tom, whom I met at the Sell More Books Show Summit! His debut book will be live Monday, and I’m so happy to be part of his launch! Look for an awesome interview with him, and a $25 Amazon ecard giveaway, too!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying your week! I haven’t made much progress on my 3rd book in my series, as these days off this week just have flown by (plus the weather is gorgeous and I’ve been spending time outside!) but I still plan to have it done by the weekend. 12-15,000 words left. We will see! Wish me luck. 🙂
Dave was kind enough to let me interview him for today’s blog to celebrate his new release! Enjoy the interview and we hope you learn something from his rocky path to publication. Because, you know, nothing can go smoothly.
I’ve known you for a long time, though I can’t remember who introduced us, but for those new in the writing community, tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been writing since around 2002 – I picked it up when my wife and I moved back to Alaska from Maryland. I actually did a bit of writing when I was in High School, but I was mostly interested in video game storylines at the time. In any case, back in 2002, I was out of work and was sketching up ideas for a video game, but lacked the technical skills for game development, but story writing was something that seemed more attainable. I dabbled for ages, taking large breaks to build a house, learn how to make furniture, work briefly as a college teacher, and other various hobbies. Then in 2014 (I think?), I had a moment on my morning commute. It was one of those days that only an Alaskan commute can give you – loads of golden light spilling over the tops of snow-capped mountains. The moment amounted to: What the heck are you doing? Either you do this or you don’t do it. I concluded that I was entirely too stupid to know when I couldn’t do a thing, so I decided I was going to double-down and get serious about it. I finished the book I had been working on for about 10 years and later that summer started my second, Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, which was the one just published on the 5th of June.
This was one of the most informative experiences I’ve had yet with the business. On the whole, it was good in that the system was easy to use making the technical bits of the process manageable. That said, I would never recommend this avenue to most writers. You have to have a following of readers or supporters first. If I were a ‘personality’ with fans, I might have made the goal, but I didn’t have that. I’m a new author from the perspective of readers even now after having done rather a lot of self-improvement and several (unpublished) books under my belt. I think it’s hard to convince readers to buy a book from an unknown that won’t be ready for weeks or months. The other part of the experience was just how much other writers tried to help.
In a blog post from a couple years ago, you said the book was going nowhere and ultimately, you chose to self-publish. It seems like this wasn’t as easy decision for you. How did you finally decide to publish your novel on your own? (To read that blog post of Dave’s, click here.)
Honestly, that post was from a pretty negative place. I’d queried 30 or 40 agents and failed the crowd-funding even after tons of help from other writers. At the time, I really wanted to get an agent and go traditional. I was hoping that I might be that rare unicorn who manages to become a full-time writer. I think this book was the first step realizing that it’s not going to happen. Anyhow, fast-forward to last fall. I decided that I wanted to self-publish the Dark Queen of Darkness. This was mostly because I’d realized that an agent won’t pick up my work, and in even if s/he did AND I got a publishing deal, I’ve got a full-time job that actually pays the bills and I couldn’t meet their deadlines or expectations. I need to keep things on my schedule and my time, so self-publishing suddenly was the only viable route. This spring, after working with an editor, and meeting with a cover designer, I started looking at nuts and bolts bits of publishing, I realized I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing. Even with all of the advice and what-not, I still don’t really ‘get it’. I decided, around that time, that I’d quietly release an already finished book in order to learn how to operate all of the software, navigate the platforms, and generally understand how all of these things work. The whole point of publishing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was to ensure a smooth launch for the Dark Queen of Darkness.
There is a lot to learn. Even after six books, I always make a mistake when I publish. Every time. It’s infuriating, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Luckily there is a lot of help out there, and you’ve been part of the online writing community for a long time now. Did you find they were a help to you during the publishing process? Did the networking pay off?
The writing community has been a huge help. Everyone I’ve engaged with has had something helpful to say or offered their time to read/comment or otherwise help me do a better job at the craft. Not to mention hours of encouragement. I think I pointed out your amazing help on cover design. I’d never have been able to work that out on my own. Actually, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have even tried to self-publish without the confidence I got copying your notes. So, yes, the networking has paid off and given me the confidence I completely lack on my own. If it weren’t for the writers on Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, I’d probably have given up.
Yeah, I don’t think the moderator of that group liked my how-to tutorial. She shut down comments not long after I posted the entire thing. To be fair, I should have posted on the other FB page they have for the how-to stuff for cover design, and not the feedback page. But I hoped it helped a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have known. Anyway, this is your first book! What would you say was the hardest part about the publishing process?
I’ve got a whole bunch of ‘hardest parts’ I could go on for days. I was very nearly in ugly man-tears mid-day Tuesday over it. By far, though, trying to get all of the accounts set up and stuff uploaded. I still don’t have my book uploaded to Ingram Spark yet, because it won’t save the title and I haven’t got the foggiest clue as to why. Runners-up include: paperback layout (InDesign is spendy for me, and Vellum doesn’t work on my computer). The third is the business side. I’m still absolutely mystified about what royalty plan I should be taking. I got spooked by 70%, so went with 35% because if I’m making less money it must mean I’ve got less liability? I don’t even know. Those are just the starting points.
Definitely take the 70%. What Amazon allows you to take depends on how much you’re pricing your book for. Grab whatever you can!
Indies talk a lot about going wide. Is your book in the Kindle Unlimited program? Or did you choose to publish on other platforms like Nook and Apple Books?
I plan to go wide, but it’s going to be step-by-step so I can figure it out. When I do The Dark Queen book, I’m hoping that all of the pieces will be in place and it’ll go relatively smoothly across all platforms at once so I don’t have any terrible delays. Essentially, the goal is to add a second book to an existing platform rather than try to get it all set-up and hope I don’t experience any unexpected snags on launch day.
A) How did you come to that decision?
The decision on Kindle Unlimited is based on the hugely restrictive nature of KU. Plus, it’s possible to be completely banned from Amazon’s platform if you violate their TOS, which is a lot more restrictive in KU. After I saw Adam Dreece’s situation a few years back, I don’t know if you remember that, but I concluded that it just wasn’t worth it. Plus it leaves me with questions on stuff like: Can I sell locally at book fairs and things? What’s more, I’m not really sure it’s any more lucrative for someone who isn’t particularly prolific.
I remember Adam’s situation; it happened to a couple other big-time authors around that time, too. That would be scary–especially if you’ve grown to rely on that income. Joanna Penn encourages first time authors to learn Amazon first and then after the dust settles, so to speak, learn the other platforms. Which makes sense. Adam Croft endorses going wide from the get-go. They are two different animals, for sure, but depending on the kind of publishing schedule you have to stick with because of personal obligations, learning Amazon first may be an easier task.
B) If you’re wide, what aggregator did you use, and how was that experience?
I haven’t set up with an Aggregator. This is 100% because still totally new to this and just learned about that right now. Even then, I’m a bit of a control freak and would likely prefer to release per-platform on my own, where possible –at least at first. I don’t know much about Kobo, but B&N is trying to put together a system similar to Amazon for authors. I’ll use Ingram Spark to publish the books outside of Amazon’s platforms and they seem to have services that’ll get me there. I’ll likely change my mind after I research aggregators more and start to understand all of this better.
There is a lot to learn. Some would argue that Barnes and Noble is sinking, and fast. It’s probably one of the reasons why authors stick with Amazon. I have good feelings about Kobo, and you should go direct with them so you have access to their promotions tab. You have to email them for it, but you can only access it if you go through them directly. I use Draft to Digital for places like Apple Books, and yeah, Nook. They upload my book to a few places I’ve never heard of, as well. IngramSpark will publish your ebook too, if you can get them to work for you.
You released the paperback after the ebook. What was the reason for that?
In a nutshell: Impatience. I hadn’t planned on saying much or letting folks know it was out there until everything was ready and I could see it myself. It seems that every time I press a new button in this world, I learn something, new, profound, and sometimes expensive. I’m the sort of person that has to do a thing before I can really learn it, and getting things all ‘set up’ but un-launched is like a task waiting for a problem that will take 2 weeks to sort out. The paperback is ready, I just haven’t seen the proof yet. I was having trouble with the gutters, so I’m not convinced the printed copy will turn out – plus I’m concerned about the cover quality. When I hit the button to publish, I was really thinking that once it’s available on Amazon, I have something to point to in setting things up for Goodreads and the Amazon author page. Plus, I thought it might help a bit in getting Ingram Spark going. There are so many things to do in launching a book and this is all my first time.
You mentioned once you thought self-publishing would be expensive. Was this true in your experience? How did you save money? What was the biggest expenditure in the process?
My experience is that it can go both ways. Wine Bottles and Broomsticks cost a couple of hundred dollars when all costs are taken into account, before advertising. I didn’t get an editor, and I did my own cover. I’m not convinced this was the right decision. Dark Queen of Darkness has been very expensive so far. The dollar figure is likely to be a few thousand to get professional editing, cover, layout, and other things. I’m 95% certain I’ll never make that money all the way back.
Do you have any plans to market?
Yes, but not until I get everything in place. I want to do some testing with Amazon promotions and advertising on other platforms. When I launch Dark Queen of Darkness, I’ll do local events as well and will try to launch with a bit more fanfare than a retweeted post from my wife. I want to see what sort of return on investment might be reasonable.
I understand. I’ve gotten grief for pushing publish and walking away. But the community on Twitter is fabulous–there is so much support there. Every seems genuinely happy for you and cheering for your success. I usually tweet out a little something, but as you write more and publish more, you’ll find you need to break out of writer social media and find that reader social media. Easier said than done!
Thank you for chatting with me! If you have any issues with anything, let me know how I can help!