Writing is a Bitter Business

I was talking to a friend the other day about blogging. I enjoy her blog posts and I asked her why she doesn’t blog more. She said, “I think I sound bitter.” I thought about that, and while I didn’t think that was true, I realized she had a point.

Writing is a bitter business.

When I say writing, I mean all aspects of it. Finding the time to write, the building of your writer’s platform, publishing, and finding readers.

Why is writing a bitter business?

Let’s explore:

  1. Writing is hard.
    No one appreciates what you go through on a daily basis. Writing words is hard, and lonely. And no one can make you do the work. It’s not like going to a real job where you get paid every two weeks, and you can get fired for not showing up. Sometimes it takes months to earn royalties; sometimes it takes years. Sometimes the only payment you receive for your writing is your own sense of of accomplishment. If that isn’t enough for you, how do you keep going? What makes you turn on your laptop or open that notebook or open that Google Docs app on your phone day after day after day? Besides raising children and being a faceless trash collector, I can’t think of a more thankless job.
  2. There’s no pay.
    I touched on this a bit in number one. Not only is writing hard, you’re not getting paid. I’m not getting paid for writing this blog post. I’m not getting paid for the books that are on sale on Amazon right now. I don’t get paid to tweet, update my Facebook author page, or write a long description to go with a photo on Instagram. If you feel bitter because money isn’t flowing to you, you need to think about what you can do about that.
    Do you not have books for sale? That should be your main priority. Do you offer helpful, evergreen content on your blog? Maybe sign up for Ko-fi and ask for consumers of your work to tip you for it, or start a Patreon account. The problem is, when you’re new and just starting out, getting paid is hard. No one knows who you are. But to be fair–this happens in every profession. They are called interns.

    intern joke

    taken from pinterest

    And they work for free. Sometimes if the internship is a part of their university curriculum, they PAY to intern for credit toward their diploma. I pay to blog. I pay for my domain name, and I’ve upgraded my WordPress plan.
    I’m doing the opposite of getting paid, and probably so are you.

  3. No one cares.
    This is a big one, and the one that trips up my friend. In a sea of writers and free content, no one cares what you’re doing. I feel this myself when I release a new book. I press Publish and get on with my day. There is no big cover reveal, there’s no blog tour, there’s no FB author page takeover or FB party. There are a couple reasons why I do this. One, I’m building a back list; I’m always writing the next book. And two, I know on certain platforms like Twitter, that’s not where my readers are, and announcing it won’t do anything for me. Sure, there might be a couple of people who will congratulate me, and that’s nice. But anyone cultivating their social media accounts hoping for sales will come away bitter. So I publish and keep writing.
  4. You feel like you’re screaming into the void.
    Let’s be real–that’s what blogging is at first. You blog to no one. You have zero followers, and when you check your analytics, you have zero visits.
    But that happens to absolutely everyone who starts a new blog. Everyone. It’s made even worse when you don’t have a solid social media presence to announce your blog on. Blogging is hard for writers. Do we blog for other writers? Do we blog for our readers? How do we do that if we don’t have a book out yet? What do we blog about that hasn’t been said a million times? You put in a couple of hours writing, making graphics in Canva, push Publish . . . all for nothing. It’s very easy to become bitter. To read my thoughts on starting a blog, look here.
  5. You don’t have support at home.
    Your significant other says you’re not making money, so you’re better off investing your time somewhere else. Like at a real job. Your kids want you to play. Your husband won’t help with chores. No one wants to walk the dog or scoop litter. You get accused of wasting time online when you’re trying to build a social media platform and/or write through a sticky scene in your story. Laundry needs to be done. You feel like a trout swimming upstream and some days you feel like there’s no point in fighting all this resistance.
    The problem with this is everyone needs their own life outside of who other people perceive them to be. You’re more than just a partner, a mom, a dad, a daughter or a son. People can’t see you writing, or rather, they can’t see the results. When you relax in the bath, you’re taking an hour to yourself. When you go for a run, you are doing something for your health. When you spend an hour doing almost anything else, people can see that. Appreciate it. Why is writing different? You spend an hour in front of the computer for months, sometimes years, and you walk away with your hands empty. Never mind that during that time you might have published two books digitally on Amazon. It still looks like you’ve wasted all that time. And if you don’t have sales, it’s easy to agree with the crabby husband who wants you to get a job, already. Yeah, it feels like all that work was for nothing, and bitterness takes hold.
  6. There are too many of us.
    Holy cow–the writing community has exploded on Twitter in the past couple of months. There are more writers online than lice on a kid’s head during an outbreak at school. It’s easy to feel invisible. What’s worse is we all want the same thing. We want agents and book deals and readers. And it hurts when we see other writers

    candle quote

    picturequotes.com

    earn those things. (I do say earn, because querying is hard work!) We’re told over and over again there’s only so much shelf space at the bookstore, there are only so many agents, so many publishers. While Writer Twitter is supportive, no one can deny there’s a current of competitiveness underneath the goodwill. We’re competing against each other. The saying is true–lighting someone else’s candle won’t put out your own flame–but it’s hard to watch someone get what you want. Especially if you are really trying your best.


What can we do to shake the bitterness?

  1. Define your success.
    What does success mean to you? For some people that simply means finishing a book. For others, it’s pushing the Publish button. Still for others, it’s their first five-star review. The thing with success is you need to be realistic. We all know EL James didn’t become famous over night, nor did Hugh Howey. We all start somewhere, so you need to start small and celebrate the small successes, no matter how tiny they are. That might mean buying a bottle of Prosecco for your first ten blog followers, or going out for a night of dinner and dancing with friends when you finish the first draft of your book.
  2. What do you want from social media?
    I know a few people with a love/hate relationship with Twitter, and I understand the struggle. I do. You put all this time in engaging with other people, tweeting, connecting, networking–and for what? That depends on why you’re on there. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. It will show in your lack of engagement and lackluster content. If you don’t like Twitter, focus on a Facebook Author page or cultivate a following on Instagram. Because the fact is, you may hate social media, but even if you do the bare minimum and only have a website for an author landing page, you still need somewhere to announce you have one. This is especially true if you’re not publishing and you don’t have back matter in a book to use to direct your readers to your website or newsletter sign up.
    So what do you want from your social media platform? Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers. A Facebook Author page can give your readers a place to find you. Start a Facebook reader’s GROUP and form a book club or place to talk about books. If you live in a cool place like my friend who lives in Hawaii, or you have lots of pets–whatever you think will interest an audience–if you’re more visual, maybe post pictures on Instagram. But the sooner you realize that social media is more for being social and networking than selling whatever you’re peddling, you may form a truce with start to enjoy yourself. I like Twitter. I keep up care about other peoplewith industry news that way. A ton of agents and book bloggers hang out on Twitter. If you ever plan to query, befriending agents and creating a professional connection can’t steer you wrong. Social media is about caring about other people. Think of the 80/20 rule. 80% of your content needs to be about other people. If you care about other people, other people will care about you.
  3. Realize that writing is a long game.
    No one got famous overnight for writing. It just feels like they did. That debut that turns into a blockbuster is few and far between and usually has a team of people behind the launch. This year will be my third year in indie publishing. I don’t make much in sales. I only have 226 people subscribed to my blog. I have barely 100 likes on my FB author page. I have 14.7 followers on Twitter, but when I tweet something I’m lucky if I can get five likes. I could get bitter about it, but why?

    In fact, in a delicious piece of irony, on Twitter I asked writers what made them bitter about the writing/publishing industry. No one answered.

    I love to write and all of the stuff I mentioned would just be a bonus. But I’ll get there. Three years might seem like a long time for someone who wants instant gratification, but guess what? Publishing doesn’t work that way. I’m still a baby in this industry and I’m smart enough to realize it. If you’ve been writing for a year with nothing to show for it, realize this is common. People have wildly exaggerated expectations when it comes to self-publishing and while 12 years ago it could have made you rich like Amanda Hocking, it’s not true anymore. There are too many of us and times have changed. It doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel, but it does mean you have to change your way of thinking.
    If it helps, think of the intern. She might be an intern now, but in ten years she could be CEO of the company. But she’ll never make it that far if she quits.
    Or lets all those coffee runs make her bitter.

  4. Remember this is about craft.
    Sure, those people who are selling crappy books might have a sales bump every once in a while, but are they are selling to new people all the time, or are they cultivating a loyal readership with well-written stories and lovable characters? It’s easy to get caught up in the other stuff–Facebook, blogging, Twitter likes, but the fact is, none of that matters if you aren’t working on your craft. Build a foundation on good stories.
  5. People may be cheering for you without telling you.
    You could have fans without knowing it! People who want to see you succeed. They follow your blog, look for your tweets. They’re disappointed when you don’t update your author page on Facebook. You can’t assume you’re in this alone, because that probably isn’t true. Snowstorms begin with a single snowflake. Your core readership will begin with one reader. Don’t disappoint her by being bitter.

In closing, I know it’s hard. I’m right there with you. I entered All of Nothing into the RITAs, and it didn’t advance. I tried not to be bitter. Especially since I think All of Nothing is my strongest book so far. And especially since I compared it to the books I had to judge as part of my entry, and especially when I read the list of finalists.

This isn’t anything a writer wants to admit. We should all be supporting each other and be happy for one another. And I’m delighted for the finalists. But I wish I had been one.

women helping women

It doesn’t mean I’ll never have the chance to enter again, and that doesn’t mean I won’t advance in a different contest some day.

But if I let my bitterness win out, then no, there will never be other contests in my future, or other books, either. So I need to keep my focus on why I write.

Because I love it. Simple as that.

And that may not be the case for you. There’s no judgment here. If you can’t write without the support of a loved one, if you can’t blog because no one has subscribed to it, if you don’t want to finish your book because when you tweet about it no one encourages you, then don’t.

Writing isn’t for everyone. Circle back around in a couple of years when circumstances in your life change. Circle back around when your priorities have shifted. Circle back around when you’re ready to put in the time and the work.

Writing is between you and your readers. That’s it.

And there’s nothing bitter about that.

bitterness

Who are your readers?

I have to admit, I get a lot of blog ideas from Twitter. It’s a great place to “eavesdrop” on people who complain talk about agents, querying, reviews, and writing in general.

Unwisely, I stuck my nose into a thread, and while she was polite in response, I could tell my opinion wasn’t welcome.

The thread was talking about silly things people have said about your work. The reason I stuck my nose in was what the person had told her wasn’t all that silly. I’ll write a separate blog post about that, but it did make me think–who is your reader?

who is your reader

You don’t want everyone to read your book, or you’ll end up with reviews like: “I didn’t like this book. It all it had was romance in it, and I hate romance novels” when you write contemporary romance. Or someone who reads your horror who prefers sci-fi. You want people who like your genre to read your books.

So who are you writing for? Knowing this information is helpful in a lot of ways:

  1. It will help you buy/target ads. When you have a person and their lifestyle in mind, it’s easier to target ads.
  2. You’ll know where your readers hang out online, and in real-life. My trilogy is about characters who run (the sport). I could set up a table at a women’s run expo. When I bought my cat to the vet, there was a self-published book about adopting animals sitting on a table in the waiting area. How did I know it was self-published? It had the KDP Print stamp on the back page. Depending on the author and his or her marketing tactics, that book could be sitting in every vet’s office in the city.
  3. You’ll write better. Know who your audience is, and you can tailor your books just for them. Yes, this is the evil writing to market, but if you have your reader in mind, not only do you have a built in audience–you’re assuring future sales of your work.
  4. It helps with networking. Romance writers are the most generous writers out there. They love to share information and support. The RWA is fantastic. Knowing what genre you’re writing in can help you find your online support group.

I was thinking then, who is MY reader?

To figure that out, you need to know what you’re writing.

I write contemporary romance books. My books contain real-life problems. My characters aren’t always rich, and if they are, I make sure their lives are miserable in other ways.

My characters worry about paying bills, affording the mortgage. They have ex-spouses. They find themselves in trouble of their own making, sometimes they are at the mercy of others. Their lives are hard. But I hope I write my characters as likable, lovable, people. People you grow to care about–people you would want to be friends with in real life.

They also fall in love, even if they don’t want to. Even if they think they don’t deserve it. Even if being together forever is going to take a helluva lot of work. They did the work, they grew, they learned from mistakes, and their lives are better for it. They live happily ever after.

My books may contain a glimmer of a mystery, but nothing that would put them in the romantic suspense category. My books don’t contain magical elements the way a lot of Nora Roberts’s books do. My books usually contain someone who is bitter and jealous and likes to make others miserable. I do realize that’s a trope I’ve used often, and it’s in the back of my mind when I write more books I need to lean on other plot conventions going forward.

My characters are usually in their thirties. They struggle with finding a partner. Their biological clocks are ticking. They’re getting married. Holding real jobs, making car payments.

I probably won’t stay too far from this type of book.

A bare “man chest” on one of my covers would look out of place. My characters have sex, but they lack the “dangerous edge” that those books seem to contain. No sexual rules are broken, no one is tied up as prisoner. Sex is used to express feelings, falling in love. I know the types of books that need a dangerous man on the front of their covers, and my books are not them.

This is all very helpful because now I can pin down who wants to read my books.


My reader is probably someone like me. (I’m hoping you write the kinds of books you enjoy reading, and I hope you read in the genre you enjoy writing.)

I’m in my early forties, but my characters are usually in their thirties. I do this for a couple reasons: Because of my age, I don’t care to read about younger characters so I don’t write them. And I think it gives me a little flexibility when it comes to my readership. So I think my base readership is, maybe,  25-55 years old. I wouldn’t go any younger than twenty-five. My subject matter wouldn’t interest a young adult. That’s what YA and NA is for, and all the “dangerous man chest” books I was talking about earlier seem to have a younger heroine, so maybe those types of books have a younger (18-25 year old) readership.

Having a picture in mind of the woman who reads my books, let’s call her Jane.

jane, my reader

Jane is 25-55. She might have children. She probably does. She has a day job. Maybe it’s a bit stressful. She could be an office manager, or a professional, like an HR director or a nurse. Maybe she’s a stay at home mom. She appreciates a light read–something she doesn’t have to think too hard about to enjoy. When does she read?

  • Maybe half an hour before bed.
  • During her kids’ nap times.
  • Maybe in the tub if she can get a few minutes to herself.
  • Maybe while her kids watch TV, or her husband takes them to grandma’s for the afternoon.

She doesn’t have much time to herself–she brings a Kindle to her son’s dance practice, and to her daughter’s soccer games. She likes a cup of coffee to sip on and a cat in her lap while she reads. She owns a mini-van or SUV. Her husband works a lot. Or maybe she’s divorced. A lot of women in their thirties and forties are these days. That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy reading about a meet-cute in the pick up line at school.

She might feel unattractive or frumpy (kids will do that to you).  She wants to work out but she doesn’t have time. A trip to the salon is a luxury for her time-wise. Maybe she likes her Kindle for the cheaper books. Or her life could be a bit happier–her parents live near her, which means she has plenty of help with her kids. She loves her job. She and her husband still get along.

Where does Jane hang out online? She shops on Amazon, of course.  Maybe she buys her kids’ clothes, and things for herself at Kohls.com. As for social media, she’s on Facebook, because who isn’t? She posts pictures of her kids, and maybe she’s joined a mom’s group or two. I don’t think she’s on Instagram, but I could be wrong. I think she’s more interested in Pinterest right now, for recipes and craft ideas for the kids. Maybe that’s her way of looking for hair styles. If her kids are small, she might hang out on websites like BabyCenter.

Lots of different kinds of women live different kinds of lives, and I don’t want to make assumptions just how my reader lives because I’m only limiting myself if I do that. The only real assumption I can make is the busier she is, the less likely she has time to read, but then I’m not aiming my ads at her, and she wouldn’t be interested if she saw them.

Anyway, Jane likes to read. She reads three or four books a month.

Now that you have your reader in mind, how do they sync up with your books? How would I target an ad with what I know about my reader?

I could target her with these keywords and groups:

  • coffee drinker
  • pet owner
  • mother, step-mother
  • mini-van driver, or SUV
  • Divorced (I include both groups since my characters have been divorced and are looking for a second chance at love)
  • Happily married
  • likes bubble baths
  • likes to drink wine
  • loves chocolate

What books would she read that are similar to yours? Target those authors and their readers. Though if you target Nora Roberts and well-known authors like her, your bid to make your ad seen is going to have to be very high–so think of some mid-list, not-so-well-known authors in your genre who are moving books. (Ad targeting and how to do it is a different blog post, and I’m not experienced enough to do that for you. There are lots of authors out there who will share their experiences such as Michael Cooper and Mark Dawson.)

My books have a tone like Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, Brenda Novak. Maybe Jennifer Crusie, but hers are more funny and on the chick-lit side of things than mine are. Still, her readers may be willing to cross over to my books. I read Jennifer Crusie, but that doesn’t mean all I read is chick-lit.

This is a good reason to stop into a bookstore. Locate the shelf where your books would be and write down the authors your book would be neighbors with. Especially the authors you’ve never heard before.

If you don’t know where your book would be shelved–that’s a problem. Look at general fiction, or literary fiction, and do your best.

Their readers are your readers. Those are paperbacks–and lots of popular authors are indie and offer e-book only. That’s fine–Google the top Amazon 100 in your genre. Again, find books similar to yours.

Knowing who your reader is helps you write the books they enjoy reading. I KNOW you’re supposed to love what you’re writing, but if you can’t find anyone who will enjoy reading it, what’s the point of writing it? Self-satisfaction only goes so far. (Yes, my mind went there!)

Writing to Market

And knowing what your reader likes, dislikes, what she wears, where she works out, can help you target your ideal audience when you’re ready to target ads.

It’s always a surprise to me how many people write books with no audience in mind.

It’s imperative you know who your reader is or you can’t find them to advertise to them.

Create a character like Jane. Figure out her likes and dislikes.

That’s a great place to start!

PS

This is just a small end note:

Did you see anywhere where I said my reader is also a writer? Is Jane writing her own book right now? Does she go to writing conferences, or attend a writer’s group? Do I know Jane from the #writerscommunity on Twitter?

No.

No, I do not.

Do you know why? Because my readers are not part of the writing community. Yes, I read romance, and yes, I am part of the writing community on Twitter. But if I were to market my books as if my readers were nowhere but part of the writing community online, I wouldn’t have very many readers. I represent a minuscule amount of people like me, and people like me who will read your book will not make your career.

And, maybe more importantly, I don’t WANT my readers to be writers. Writers are picky and hard to please. Do you know how I know? Because I read like that. And I don’t want my books to be read the way I read.

And neither should you.

writers are not readers

I appreciate my friends who take the time to read my books. But I learned a long time ago that my readers are not on Twitter. If you can have a light bulb moment like that, marketing your book will suddenly become a lot easier.

look beyond twitter for readers

Who are your readers?

 

Thanks for reading!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

When Friends Turn into Business Partners . . . Sometimes it doesn’t work out

friends to business parnters blog post

I’ve never met a community so full of people willing to help. I’ve met authors who will share anything and everything. How they use ads, how they write blurbs and the resources that taught them how. They share their favorite blogs, podcasts, promo sites, non-fiction books. There are even authors who will share how much they make in sales.

So many authors are helpful and generous. (And if you run into one who won’t share anything, well, keep an eye out. I’ve found those people are users, and you won’t get anything in return for the information you share with them.)

I’ve made a few friends on Twitter. Some are better friends than anyone I’ve met in real life. Some have come and gone. Some needed so much hand-holding it was physically draining to be friends with them. Some acted like their work was the only thing worth discussing, and I’ve faded away because I believe friendship should work both ways.

I’ve had some small successes as an author, and I like to share, too. It’s a horrible feeling to be snubbed when sharing something you’re proud of.

friends or enemies

But there are those who stick around–you feel a kinship, support goes both ways, and you settle into an online routine of touching base, reading each other’s blogs, retweeting news and book cover reveals, and helping with book launches.

Inevitably this will lead to your friendship moving more into a business relationship.

You’ll be asked to edit for someone or do a cover. Maybe she needs a critique partner or he needs a beta reader. It could even be as simple as doing an author interview for a blog.

Friendships can easily blur into business and while the transition feels easy and breezy, if you don’t treat that relationship with the respect it deserves, not only are you risking your business relationship with that person, your friendship will be broken as well.

The culprit of all this is the nonchalance and the cavalier attitude of writers. They aren’t treating their business with the respect it deserves, so they see no harm in treating you the same way.

I treat my books as a business. I always have and I always will. When I do something for you, I do it in a decent amount of time, and to the best of my ability. And that’s always what I’ve done.

business peers

But I haven’t always been treated with the same courtesy.

I paid someone to edit for me, and one day she told me she was editing my book while she was having her hair done at the salon. I guess it was too much to ask that she edit my book in a quiet place where she could focus. I paid another, and she waited months before even starting to edit my book. I have patience–I have two children, three cats, and an ex-husband. I have patience. But when you pay someone for a service, even if she’s a friend, you expect them to treat you with professionalism.

Those people were my friends. Circumstances being what they were at the time . . . they aren’t anymore.

What’s funny is recently one of them asked me for a favor. I guess it wasn’t so funny when I didn’t respond.

Most of the time I can separate friendship from business. (I treat my Twitter account as part of my business, and I rarely unfollow anyone for crappy behavior. Most times the only thing that will earn you an unfollow is if you do it to me first.) And I can stay in touch with someone friendship-wise even if we don’t/didn’t work together so well in the business aspect of things.

I edited for someone, and that didn’t work out like I had expected. We’re still friends because I expressed how I felt, and she apologized. I don’t hold grudges, but just like anyone else, I remember how people treat me.

When you treat someone like crap, you’re burning bridges, plain and simple. The author so quick to help you? They may not be so quick to pull through for you next time.

So what can you do to keep your friendships intact if it moves into business territory?

  1. Set boundaries and expectations.
    Before work exchanges hands, hammer out what expectations are. Does she expect to get paid? Is she doing it for free? Are you sure? Is there an expectation you’re going to help her down the road? Is there a deadline? Can your friend meet it? If she can’t, can you change it? If you’re too rigid with what you need, it’s better for your friend to pass. Which brings me to:
  2. Don’t be angry if your friend can’t meet your needs.
    A lot of indie business is trade and favors. Money doesn’t always exchange hands. That’s common when indies operate in the red–especially when just starting out. You may feel desperate because if this particular friend can’t help you, who will? People who know what they are doing, and willing to do it for free or on the cheap are few. If you need her, it’s YOUR job to bend, not hers. If you can’t, understand where she’s coming from, take a deep breath, and move on. While writing is a business, it will always come in secondary to children, jobs that pay the bills, and maybe even an evening of self-care if she’s had a bad day. If your needs are more important than that, hire out and pay for the priority. Your friend helping you isn’t a right–it’s a privilege.
  3. Keep communication open.
    Maybe you think she’s not working fast enough. Or you haven’t heard from her in a couple of days. Or worse yet, you haven’t heard from her, yet she’s posting on social media. It’s easy to go from simmering to boiling if you expect her to be working on your project but she’s posting a new blog post every day. It’s easy to get annoyed–trust me, I know. Maybe she already had them scheduled, and she IS working on your stuff. You won’t know unless you ask. If you need constant reassurance like daily updates, request it before you give her the project. That way you can remind her you asked.
  4. Keep social media in mind.
    When I edited for my friend, she never stopped posting her publication date. She was building buzz–I get that. But her manuscript needed work, and the more she posted and the more I edited, the angrier I became until eventually I felt like I was doing it for nothing. So remember–you are friends and she can see what you tweet, post on your Facebook author page, blog, and anything snarky by way of a bitchy meme on Instagram. But the same goes for her. If she’s tweeting she’s editing a pile of garbage, or the person she’s editing for is dumber than a box of rocks . . . you may need to rethink if you want her working on your project. A good friend doesn’t necessarily translate into a good business partner. (I would rethink my friendship with anyone who would put something like that out into the world, anyway.)
  5. Know when to quit.
    Ideally, you want to work things out before this step. If you can’t, the next best thing is to back out before your business relationship destroys your friendship. Be clear why you don’t want to work with him anymore. Try not to let hurt feelings muddy the water. He may have hurt your feelings, but that is only as a bi-product of unprofessional behavior that may not have been intentional. And don’t flip out if he has to back out on you. Maybe it has nothing to do with professionalism. His private issues are none of your business unless he wants to divulge them. That depends on how good of friends you are. But if it is due to not being able to work together, learn from the experience and move on. Having a truthful “We make better friends than business partners” talk can salvage a friendship. Don’t be defensive.

Not all friendships cum business relationships are going to fail. I’ve heard of several people who have worked together for years. There relationships are based on respect and a mutual admiration of each other’s work.

It’s up to you how much you can take–and it’s up to your friend what her limits are if you’re the one behaving badly. Publishing is scary and stressful, but alienating people who want to help you makes it more so. And it won’t do your career any good if someone labels you as difficult to work with. You may be passed up for opportunities and you won’t even realize it.

stressed out

If you’re the one slighted, do your best to move on. If that means you’re no longer talking to that person, so be it. Publishing IS stressful, writing, emotionally draining. You need to protect your mental health, too.

Friendships can come and go, but it’s difficult to repair a business connection.

Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’ll have to circle back.


To be clear, I didn’t mention any of my experiences to throw my friends and acquaintances under the bus. I mentioned them to demonstrate I know how it feels to be treated in a manner that is hurtful and unprofessional. I have other examples of people using my generous nature against me–to the point of a friend of mine saying I should stop helping people.

I couldn’t do that, though. For every one person who ignores what I offer, five people appreciate any information I can give them. Be it my favorite stock photo sites, or a reminder that KDP Print offers templates to format the interiors of paperback books.

For every one person who ignores my edits, another person’s writing is brought to the next level.

I’ll probably never stop helping people. I enjoy it too much. But neither am I a doormat, and if you treat me poorly, that’s on you, not me.

If you treat anyone without respect and kindness, you need to look inside yourself and figure out why. But the secret is no one has to be friends with you, no one has to do business with you, and one day you may very well find yourself alone.

being helpful

If you enjoy helping and being part of the writing community, don’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel. There are lots of people out there who need help–and one day you’ll find yourself in a group of friends you can trust to help you in return.

That’s what the writing community is all about.

photos taken from pixabay or canva. graphics made in canva.com

jared and leah for end of blog posts

What do you do when you publish a bad book? 5 Ideas.

Writing tools_ What can you do when you publish a bad book_

As indies, this is bound to happen. Hell, if you’re traditionally published, this can happen too. See my blog post on The Wedding Date.  (Spoiler Alert, I wasn’t impressed.)

As indies, we rush to put out content. Maybe it wasn’t edited the way it should have been, or maybe you didn’t catch a plot hole before you hit Publish. Maybe there’s more telling in there than you thought, or maybe you had some head hopping and you didn’t know you were doing it.

No matter what the issue is, you’re getting bad reviews. People don’t like your book. If you have more than one book out, maybe you feel like it’s not a big deal. But the problem is, if a reader happens along that book–they may not give you another chance to redeem yourself.

bad star reviews

So, what can you do?

  • First, admit your book still needs work. I see lots of people in denial over this. They don’t want to see the truth that their book was published before it was ready. It’s a scary and sad thing to admit. It’s especially heartbreaking when you thought it WAS ready, like The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. I had beta readers. I had an editor. It was as good as I could do at the time. But, now, after writing so many more words and getting better, it wasn’t that great. This can happen to anyone.
  • You can fix it. 
    This presents its own issues with ISBN numbers, and other little things like feeling like you’re ripping off the people who have already purchased it. Time is also a factor because depending on how big of a mess your book is, it could take a few months to rewrite, get it edited again, reformat it, and maybe redo the paperback cover if the number of pages changed. Fixing your book is almost as time-consuming as the launch.
    There is also the ethical question of is it right? Like I said, will you feel like you’re cheating the readers who have paid for your book? What if those reads resulted in bad reviews? Fixing it won’t make those bad reviews go away, and the only thing you can do is add to your blurb on your selling page that your book has been re-edited. This isn’t such a problem if not many people have bought your book, or you caught your mistakes before you started to promote it. This is the ideal scenario, but then you have to ask yourself if you’re going to pull it while you fix it, or hope that no one buys it while it’s in edits.
  • You can unpublish it.
    If your book really sucks, like, it should be hidden in a box under your bed with the dust bunnies and not the plot bunnies, then you can take it down. If you published a paperback, your book will always be there. Goodreads won’t take your books down. Bad books can linger, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I don’t recommend unpublishing. At some point you believed in your book enough to publish it. So deal with the consequences and learn from your mistakes.
  • You can write more books and hope you bury it. 
    If you don’t promote it at all, and never talk about it, there’s a good chance you can bury it. I’ve heard the stat bandied about that 50,000 books are published every month. That’s a lot of books, and it’s not so hard to think that if you never, ever, talk about your book, people will forget you wrote it. In fact, (and I know this to be true) you can soft launch quite a few books and no one will ever know you’re a writer if you don’t say anything.
  • You can leave it alone and start a pen name. 
    Starting over is hard. It means new social media. It means new business cards, new email. It means starting from ground zero. And maybe that’s your thing. Maybe that’s what it takes to feel better, have a fresh start. Lots of people write under different pen names. They abandon series that aren’t working. They want to write in different genres. They have no problem leaving the past behind. They have the time to make a new pen name work–and actually write under that pen name. I listen to  lot of podcasts, and this seems to be quite common. Letting the chips fall where they may and never looking back.
    This certainly is a viable option. If I ever get around to editing my fantasy books, I’ll release those under a pen name. That doesn’t mean I’ll be letting go of my contemporary romance name (which is my real name) but sometimes taking on a different name is smart. Can you do it every time you make a mistake with a book? Probably not. You won’t get anywhere. It’s hard enough as it is to make it under one name consistently putting out quality content. If you keep changing up your names because you keep making mistakes, that’s just wasting time. Time you may not have. As Mark Lefebvre says in The 7 Ps of Publishing, the golden age of Kindle is over. You can’t make a living publishing a couple of books. Making any kind of profit from your writing takes dedication and commitment. It takes consistency and quality work. You have to ask yourself, is the time it takes to let go of that book and start over worth it? Or is it better to take a month and edit the old book, and make it the book it should have been in the first place?


choice

The great thing about being an indie is choice. You have the freedom to do whatever you think is right for your business. And, if presented these choices you feel your book isn’t that bad after all? That is up to you. Promote it. See where it goes. In the scheme of 50,000 books a month, your book really may not be that bad. That’s your choice an author. Take the risk.

This same advice holds true for the authors who are not just publishing but querying. If you’re getting rejection after rejection, or the feedback indicates that your book just isn’t up to par, you have to decide if you want to keep hammering away, fix it, or if you want to put it aside and write something new.

It never ceases to amaze me how many first time authors think their book is wonderful. I was one of them. I learned better, and you will too. It’s what you do with that knowledge that will shape the rest of your career.


A long time ago I  listened to a podcast where the author talked about revamping his series because it wasn’t selling. I was new the indie scene, and I thought that just sounded so wrong. Unfortunately, redoing and rebranding books is an old practice and not just for indies. Traditionally published books have done that for their authors for years. I wrote a pretty in-depth blog post about it, and you can read it here. 

What are your thoughts on redoing books? Worth the time? Or is it better just to forget? Do you still promote your book even though you know it can be better?

For more opinions on what you can do with a bad book check out these links:

https://chrismcmullen.com/2013/09/25/unpublishing-republishing-and-updating-your-book/

https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/04/28/changing-book-titles/

https://selfpublishingadvice.org/why-i-unpublished-my-back-catalog/

Book launches, book anniversaries and other musings about three years of hard work.

This morning I was reading a blog post my by friend, Sarah. It’s her book baby’s birthday today, and she’s celebrating her book turning one! And while I admit I’ve never celebrated a book’s birthday–hell, I rarely announce a launch–her blog post encouraged me to take a look back at my publishing milestones.

I don’t have my publishing dates memorized or anything like that, so I’ll need to go on to Amazon and take a look:


Under lock and key

I thought The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book I published, but according to the dates, I actually published Under Lock and Key a week before on July 7th, 2016. It’s a novelette that I wrote from a writing prompt a dear friend of mind, Liz, tweeted one day. I haven’t read it for a long time, and no doubt it needs another edit. When I go wide, I’ll put it everywhere for free. It’s gotten some so-so reviews, but I can’t expect anything too great as it was the first thing I published.

 


the_corner_of_1700_h_cover_for_kindle

A week later, I published The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. This is a trainwreck of a book, as first books are wont to be. The original cover was horrible, and even with a beta reader and an editor, it still wasn’t up to par. Recently I went through one of my old paperbacks and edited both novellas, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever put them in. Even the “new” cover needs work,  but my mantra has always been “always look forward.” Having a sub-par book for sale doesn’t make me want to celebrate, however. So I may try to find time one day to fix it up.

 


I was still in novella mode when I decided to try my hand at erotica, and I wrote six novellas back to back for a total of (approximately) 155,000 words. I wrote all of them at once, hired an editor and published them together. Summer Secrets is about a group of friends who have sex, party, fight, and make up at a small lakeside resort during their summer vacation. For what they are, I’m actually quite proud of these; I had found my voice, and the interconnecting plots stand even without the sex.

Summer Secrets was a lot of work, but they made me a better writer. While I won’t be writing any more erotica, I don’t have any regrets taking the time to write these. They were published in August, 2017. I guess I didn’t realize I took a whole year to write them, edit them, format them, and do the covers, but at 155,000 words, I guess that’s not so bad, either. I redid the covers not long ago, and reformatted the insides using Vellum. I was even able to add the embellishments I tried for the first time around. They are pretty, and it’s too bad they aren’t in a genre I want to write anymore. I don’t consider them part of my backlist, but I won’t bury them the way I kind of blur over 1700 when asked about my backlist.

The covers look better, and the paperback covers look a lot nicer. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, and I think it shows.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

summer secrets new cover 4-6

 

summer secrets chapter starts


I had Don’t Run Away done while I was doing these, and I can’t even say when exactly I fixed it up and decided to make it a trilogy.  I published the first on November 17th, 2017. I do remember while Summer Secrets was being edited, I wrote the second book of the trilogy. Later that became Chasing You which was published on December 14th, 2017. Running Scared was published in January of 2018. All I can say is when I look at those dates is holy crap. It helped I had Don’t Run Away done, and that was one tough book. It went through a lot of edits. I added POVs, took them out. Rewrote large sections. This was before I started listening to my novels as part of my editing routine, and I have no idea after the first one was beta read/edited, what I did with the others. I think by then I was confident in my own editing skills, but I doubt I was at the point I am today.

At any rate, they do okay, and during a Freebooksy ad, I gave away over 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away. That promo led to the first wave of readers whom I hadn’t met via social media (AKA strangers), and I’m happy to have done it. I also proved that even though it feels like a quilt, all patched together, the book was strong enough to get decent read-through to the others. If you want to read about my Freebooksy promo results, look here. If you want to read some of my reviews on Goodreads, look here.

The best lesson I learned from writing the trilogy is to MAKE THE FIRST BOOK STRONG TO ENSURE READ-THROUGH. It won’t matter how many books you have in a series if your first book won’t carry them.

I’ve redone the covers, though they aren’t a drastic change, and I reformatted the insides using Vellum.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I can tell you I was done with those characters by the time I finished Running Scared, and I didn’t think I’d ever do another series. I don’t want to say I was bored, because what would that say about my writing? But I will admit it’s nice to move on.

Wherever He Goes was published on June 1, 2018. It was the first stand alone novel I’d ever written–up to that point, even my novellas had been connected stories. I haven’t done much promo for that, though I did do a paid Bargainbooksy that didn’t do anything. Looking back at stats, I don’t even think the sales paid for the promo. If you want to look at my blog post about my results, look here.

There were a few firsts with this one: I had more beta readers, and I did the entire paperback cover in Canva. It looks amazing, and is still one of my favorite covers to date. I’ve had good feedback about the novel, and I enjoyed writing it. I need to do more promo for it, as I think it’s an enjoyable contemporary romance that should have more readers than it does.

Wherever He Goes (1)


All of Nothing, I feel, is my strongest book to date, and I believe in it so strongly, I entered it into the RWA RITA awards contest. It can more than hold its own against some of the traditionally published books out there, and when I did a Freebooksy promo for it, I gave away over 6,000 books. (If you want to read about those results, click here.) I love the way my ad for it looked in their newsletter, and bless them for making it the first book!

freebooksyadallofnothing

It didn’t place as high as Don’t Run Away on the free lists, simply because they are in separate categories. (Don’t Run Away is a sports romance.) But the book has more reviews than any other of my books. Published on October 16, 2018, it took me four and a half months to write it, edit it, format it, and release it. I had it beta read and proofed, and I’m very proud of how it turned out–from cover to cover.

All of Nothing Paperback Cover


The Years Between UsI don’t have any more published work out right now, though The Years Between Us is finished. I could have had it published already, but I’m working on a series that I won’t release until they are all done. I’ve been taking my time editing The Years Between Us, but at 74,000 words, it is a complete and finished novel. I don’t have the full cover completed, nor has it been fully edited, but I do plan to have it out into the world maybe by the end of March, or early April. There is no rush, as I don’t see my series being released until Christmas of this year. The first draft of the first book is finished, however, though I admit getting out of my recovery rut has been harder than I expected.


Anyway, so looking at those dates, seeing how hard I’ve worked . . . what have I learned through these two and a half years of publishing?

  1. Not many people care. Sure I may have a lot of followers on Twitter, may be a part of a lot of writing groups on Facebook, but unless your books are actually doing well, and you can prove it through sales, no one cares what you’re doing. Only a handful of my friends have patted my back, and that’s fine. My progress is for myself. I know I’m working hard, and I hope I can be an inspiration to others, whether my books are selling or not.
  2. You have to keep moving forward, or you’ll feel like you’re on a going down escalator trying run upstairs. With indie publishing, everyone is faster, quicker, doing more than you. Some are doing this in a legit way, and some are not. But for you, yourself, if you want to make any headway in the industry, always be moving forward. Don’t get caught in a rut because days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Just like my friend Sarah says in the blog post I linked to at the beginning, all of a sudden a year had gone by and she has nothing to show for it. 500 words a day over the course of 365 days in a year can net you 182,500 words in a year.
  3. Even when you’re doing the work, it will feel like you’re in quicksand. The harder you struggle, the faster you sink. I’ve done a lot of work these past couple of years, and if I kept track of my hours worked versus the time and expense, I would be negative in return on investment. You can’t let this get you down, or you’ll stop. Write for the joy of it first, so you always keep working at your dreams. And let success be a secondary motivator. My success will come–I’ll make sure it does. But I can’t guarantee when it will. All I know is if I stop working for it, I definitely won’t have it.
  4. It might be your baby, but after you publish it, it’s not your baby anymore. MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU. This reasoning is probably why I don’t celebrate my book birthdays. I don’t think of my books as babies. I think of them as products to be sold to help me make money. I do enjoy writing, or I wouldn’t do it. But I also want to make a profit so I can keep doing this, for the long-term. While I’ve stated I like my job, and yeah, my free time at work as helped me with my publishing speed, I would love to earn a living on my writing only. I can’t be precious with my work. I’m always learning about craft, always keeping up with the latest thing about publishing. Even if you’re persistent and want to keep comparing your books to babies, eventually you expect your children to go out into the world on their own and make their own money. Even real-life children grow up.

Thanks for sticking with me–this is probably one of the longest blog posts to date. I doubt I’ll do a recap again; as my backlist grows, it will just get too time consuming. But the look back was fun, and thank you again for joining me!

If you  want to read any of my books, you can check out my Amazon author page, here.

Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing have recently been added to Kobo, and you can find them here and here.

Thanks for reading!

The Wedding Party: An update

There hasn’t been much to report with my series so far, but I have been working on it, so what’s been going on?

  1. I had to change some names. Monica and Marnie, James and Jared. Too similar. I’ve never been one to care about names that much. If I like it, haven’t used it in a story before, and it feels right for the character I can see in my head, then I go for it. But sometimes I get stuck on a letter and I can’t let go. Monica has been changed to Rita, and James . . . well he was going to be an Andy, but I don’t like that as much as I did when I chose it. I need to break down and buy a baby name book already. I’m in Barnes and Noble enough. I just gotta remember to do it. Note to self: James is no longer James, but he’s not anything else right now either. Sigh.
  2. I needed a new town name. I came up with a cute town name I like, so I didn’t have to steal from Aila. See previous blog post for that backstory. I came up with Rocky Point, Minnesota. I don’t know if that exists, but doesn’t matter either way. I needed rocky point minnesota logoa name that fit what my perception of the town is, and I came up with something, I don’t know, I think in the shower. I made a logo for it, just for the heck of it. It’s a nod to the snow because I set the story in December. Will I put that logo anywhere? Probably not. Just something I did when I should have been transcribing.
  3. I have been writing, and I’m at 52,000 words. I know how the story goes from here; I just need to sit down and write it. I’m still battling a bit of a funk, especially today when I sat at the shop for 2 hours while an oil leak in my car was fixed. But the guys who work there are cute, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship. I’ve given myself until the end of the month to finish up. I usually meet my self-imposed deadlines. I’ve never had an issue with self-motivation. Especially when it’s something I enjoy doing. I have five pages to transcribe since I made good use of my time at work over the weekend. I’ll do that tomorrow, and hopefully put some new words down too.
  4. Character sheets. This could be a whole blog post about character sheets, but really, I write down what I need to remember in a notebook and call it good. Canva is fun to play with if you want to make a kind of template for character sheets. Print them out, fill them in with facts. I mean, who doesn’t want an excuse to buy more office supplies? Just remember, do you need a character sheet template, or should you be writing? If you have to ask, you probably should be writing. On the other hand, if creating something like that gives your mind a rest and fills your creative well, why not? This isn’t a template, but it’s a short one I created for Jared.

    Character sheet, jared


So that’s what I’ve been doing. I need to start making better use of my time. In a different blog post, I’ll fill you in on the progress I’ve made going wide. All the books I’ve chosen to pull out of KU have finished their 3 month time. I did leave 1700 in there and Summer Secrets, but I’ll pull them out so I don’t cause readers confusion. I don’t plan to put them anywhere else, as I don’t consider them part of my backlist, but I don’t want only some of my books to be in KU and not all.

Take care everyone! Spring will be here . . . one day!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

 

 

EL James has written another book! (And why does anyone care?)

e.l.-james-the-mister-livre

Photo taken from iD Boox. Click here for the article.

There was some big news in the book world last week: EL James has written another book!

50 shades

I heard about it in a few Facebook writing groups I’m in, and Publisher’s Weekly had to mention it in one of the newsletters I subscribe to.

The thing is, I don’t understand why anyone cares, and so passionately, it seems.

Well, I understand. Her 50 Shades of Grey took the romance community by storm and sold a record number of books. The trilogy was turned into movies, which, in turn, made E L James a household name and millionaire. It’s what any indie writer, or any writer, for that matter, dreams of.

el james books

She was a so-called “overnight success” (though her fanfiction of Twilight had been online for free for years prior) and the inventor of what is now called “Mommy porn.”

But why is it such big news that she’s writing again?

Even if you didn’t like 50 Shades of Grey, you have admire a woman who could write a few books that captivated so many people. Regardless of how well, or not well, they were written, James told a great story. If you want to read about what made her trilogy so intriguing, read The Bestseller Code. The authors of that book break down what James did (either purposely or by mistake) that made her books so un-put-down-able.

I didn’t read her books. I bought the trilogy a long time ago from a thrift store, and I flipped through the other two in a Target while my kids looked at toys. But I didn’t buy them.

I did, however LOVE the movies. I own them and rewatch them all the time. And yep, I paid to see them in the theatre. If the movies followed the storylines of the books at all, I can see where people would be intrigued.

But in terms of the indie community, I don’t understand the derision aimed at poor Mrs. James. I mean, if you’re going to roast her over an open flame for the bad writing, what are YOU doing to improve yours?

christian grey had his tools. do you have yours_

I’m glad that EL James has written another book. I’m glad she had the courage after being treated how she was by the writing community (proving once again that writers are not readers. READERS purchased her book, and it was the READERS who lined her bank account.) I’m glad she wasn’t intimidated by her own success.

I think this is an opportunity for writers to support other writers. What can we do to support other writers?

  1. Stop tearing each other down.
    EL James wasn’t fully responsible for her book being what it was. She was a first time author, and her publishing house could have supported the editing process more than it did. Instead they pushed out her book to make use of her popularity online. It paid off, but I’m not denying her book could have been edited better.
  2. Leave positive feedback. 
    Even the most horribly of written books can have positive things you can say about them. And if you feel you can’t be nice about anything, just don’t say anything at all. Sometimes silence really does speak louder than words.
  3. Don’t read outside the genre of your preference.
    The thing that made the most angry were the people who were dissing 50 Shades of Grey weren’t James’s target audience. 50 Shades was a New Adult, possibly Young Adult novel, and if you couldn’t appreciate the book for what it was–Anastasia Steele trying to find her place in the world while falling in love–then the book wasn’t for you to begin with.
  4. Learn from James’s mistakes.
    Instead of laughing at the kind of book 50 Shades is, take a look at what you didn’t like about it, and learn how to avoid those things in your own writing. Did she not pull off 1st person? Too many adverbs? Was her book too wordy? Were there plot holes? (The movies indicate there were.)
  5. But also realize she did SOMETHING right.
    She had to have, otherwise no matter how much marketing she had behind her, her books never would have taken off to the extent they did. What did she do right? She’s a good storyteller. Christian Grey was notably, romantically flawed. He was everything a reader wants in a romance novel hero.
  6. Be careful what you wish for.
    Success comes with people who will be jealous of you, and who will want to cut you down just for the fact you made it and they didn’t. To be ostracized for success isn’t something anyone wishes for. And while James seems to have had all the luck and success in this world, you want people to keep your books on their shelves–not donate them to a thrift store.
    This isn’t the kind of reading nook you want people to build with discarded copies of your books.

    50 shades fort

 

Congratulations to EL James on her release! Let me know if you plan to read it. 🙂

The Mister is on pre-order until April 16, 2019. If you want to preorder it, click here.

Thanks for reading!