Monday Musings

Preview in new tab

Happy Monday! laptop with red coffee mug, paperclips and scratch paper that says happy monday

Good morning, and Happy Monday! I think I’m always excited about Mondays because they are my Saturdays, and usually after a morning of errands and chores, I spend the rest of the day writing. I hope anyone who is facing a full workweek starts off with a productive day!

Lots going on in the indie community last week, most of it centered around Brandon Sanderson and his 24 million dollar Kickstarter. Now, most of what I’ve seen on Twitter has been derogatory at best and downright nasty at worst, and it’s really sad that there is so much jealousy when an author finds so much success. I would never speak ill of any writer who has taken the time to build an audience, nurture loyal fans, and deliver on the promises he makes to those fans. Some people on Twitter confused Kickstarter with GoFundMe, which is incorrect. GoFundMe is a site for donations only. Kickstarter is an investment website, and those people support others monetarily in exchange for product after that product has been manufactured. I’ve seen Kickstarters for more than only books–video game developers use it as do board game creators are two off the top of my head that I’ve seen. I got a little crabby with Twitter when I didn’t see one person offer him any kind of congratulations at all. Of course, that’s Twitter, and when I moved on to Facebook where Brandon is doing a lot of what my peers are trying to do, over there the tone changed to awe, support, and viewing what he’s done as motivation for their own careers.

The thing to remember about what Brandon Sanderson did is this: we all have the power to do it. Brandon has been nurturing his career for many many years, and he’s known for writing science fiction and fantasy. You can look at his career as a case study for your own, and see that he was consistent with genre, consistent with output (I’ve heard people say he’s quite prolific), and consistent with quality. If you want to get down on him for treating his books like a business, then go ahead, but there is something to be learned by his success. Maybe a 24 million dollar Kickstarter propels him into outlier status, but it’s nothing he hasn’t earned, and nothing that you can’t aspire to with hard work and dedication to your business and craft. While they aren’t doing 24 million dollar Kickstarters, every genre has its own powerhouse authors, and in the romance that industry that’s LJ Shen, Melanie Harlow, Ava Harrison, Willow Winters, Tijan, Lucy Score, Skye Warren and many others. Some, like Skye, even share what they’ve learned (she’s the founder of Romance Author Mastermind). One of the best author interviews I ever heard was with Melanie Harlow and James Blatch on the SPF podcast. I’ve mentioned her interview on the blog before, and you can listen to it here:

Brandon, too, shares his secrets on YouTube, and you can watch his classes here:

There is no one more generous than a successful writer. They’re always willing to tell you how they did it, but the fact is, it won’t matter to you if you don’t work on your own craft and be flexible enough to change things that aren’t working. Just the other day I saw someone on Twitter say, I ignore all book marketing advice. Okay. Do what you want to do, but the thing is, two months from now, she’ll be whining she’s not selling books.

If you want to read an interesting article about Brandon on Slate, you can look here:

How Angry Should Other Writers Be About Brandon Sanderson’s $22 Million Kickstarter?
Parsing the reactions to the sci-fi/fantasy author’s record-setting campaign.
BY LAURA MILLER


I finally received the email that Booksprout is raising their prices and that there will be no free option for a review plan. It’s unfortunate, and I’m still struggling to decide if I want to pay or not. The decision would be easier if the quality of reviews was better. Some of the reviews from there were just a five star with a three sentence summary of the book. Readers won’t glean anything from a review like that, and when they say that their review was given freely in exchange for a free book, it looks fishy and spammy as hell. I know it’s better for reviewers to say they were gifted the book in exchange for a review, but since there isn’t a free plan on Booksprout anymore, we’re essentially buying reviews, and we’ve always been told that’s not a good idea. Some others in different groups mentioned Voracious Readers Only but that’s also pay to play at $20/month. It may be better to concentrate on my newsletter and build up my subscribers than to invest 240 dollars a year in a review service. At least those readers will be mine and they’ll be happy forever as long as they keep enjoying my books. If you’re interested in the new pricing for Booksprout you can find it here.

I guess that’s all I have for this week. I’ve been formatting my guest blogger posts for next month, and I still have to get Sami Jo her interview questions. Hopefully I’ll work on that today. Right now I’m focused on getting my series edited one more time since I know what I’m looking for now.

Here’s a funny meme that brings to mind all the times I’ve gone through these books courtesy of @AneAbraham on Twitter:

meme in three parts: first part, cartoon man riding bike, holding a stick with text: finished editing manuscript for the last time. 

middle panel: guy shoving stick through the spokes of front tire with text: wait, that doesn't look right.

last panel: guy lying on the ground with the bike tipped over next tot him with the text: it's not ready yet!

But as they say, comparison is the thief of all joy, and I just finished reading a 75k word Billionaire dual first person POV and I noticed that author, too, like to use the words “take” or “taking.” When I searched my Kindle for the word, she used it over 200 times. Many more than I did in my novel that has 11k more words in it. Do I regret going over my books again after discovering this? Not really. I’m not “taking” them all out–sometimes the sentence just makes sense with it in there, but the sentences I am rewriting sound better, stronger. It’s unfortunate I thought to look though, as the book, according to Publisher Rocket, is set to make $7,000 this month. It just goes to show that what will bother you won’t bother other people, and to write the best book you can and not compare your work to others.

That is all I have for this week!

Comparison is the thief of joy. Text typed over pink and white flower petals.

Thursday Thoughts and an Author Update.

Today was an unexpectedly busy day: I had to bring my cat, Harley to the vet. I noticed she would go into the litter box but not do anything, and I suspected she was constipated, which turned out to be the case. $400.00 and an enema later, she’s shaky but going to the bathroom. She’s snoozing on the floor next to me right now where I can keep an eye on her. The vet sent us home with some stool softener and some fiber-rich food. I hope this does the trick as it was a costly trip for me, but who can put a price on love?

calico female cat hidden by white blanket with face poking out

Anyway, I’m not feeling much better than she is, having taken another dose of ibuprofen today which is not like me at all. My hysterectomy is all set for the 28th of March, and I dropped off my FMLA paperwork at the clinic this afternoon.

flat desk with laptop and sharpened orange pencils. Guest blogger text

I didn’t want to leave the blog unattended, and I set up some pretty cool guest bloggers for the month of April while I force myself to relax and recuperate (haha). Barbara Avon will be writing about being a multi-genre author, and I asked Vera Brook to write something about writing short stories and submitting them for publication. I’m also going to interview Sami Jo Cairns about her experiences with small presses and her thoughts on going indie with her series for the first time. Since I always do a giveaway with my author interviews, I probably won’t post that until the end of the month when I can get to the post office if need be to mail out a prize. So I’m really l excited for some fresh blood on the blog as well as some exciting topics I’ve never written about because those aren’t my experiences. I may look for one more person to help me with the remaining Monday of the month, but we’ll see. I don’t think I’ll be incapacitated to the extent I can’t write or blog, but I was hoping to also launch a book in April, but I honestly don’t see that happening right now.

I am going through my six book series again. During the last sweep, I thought I was fixing everything that needed to be fixed, but then I was listening to book 6 and I started catching all my crutch words I didn’t notice with the other five books (why am I like this?). While I caught some discrepancies last time, this final read-through is rewording sentences to get rid of them. The books as a whole will sound stronger, but this edit requires ingenuity on my part. My crutch words in these books: take/taken/taking/took and making. I’ve never had a problem with those words before, but since these are the first books I wrote after I switch to first person present, it was how I was writing while I figured out my voice I’m just now recognizing. I am VERY happy with the way the first book is sounding since realizing I needed to weed out those words, and I shouldn’t need to read them again after I’m done.

But this does put me in a quandary as I don’t work on more than one WIP at a time (I consider my series one project) so if my beta reader finishes my duet in the near future, I may not be in a position to work on any fixes he brings to my attention. Which sucks, but because I’m working with a huge story arc, I’m reluctant to edit another project and break my momentum. I can listen to these pretty fast though, and I think I’ll only be a month before and I can publish in May instead of April. I’m nothing if not patient, so this isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I started rereading my series again from book one.

I did get some nasty news though, and MailerLite is revamping their interface which is a terrible terrible terrible idea, because I had just finally gotten used to dealing with the old one. I haven’t even logged on to see the changes. I might have my reader magnet set up on BookFunnel, but when my my tax refund dropped into my account, instead of saving it, I made a rash and too-positive-thinking-for-my-own-good decision to upgrade my BookFunnel account so I can just share the BookFunnel link to my reader magnet and BookFunnel will collect email addresses for me. It decreases the number of clicks a person has to do to sign up for my newsletter, and since I paid extra for MailerLite integration, my life should be a little easier. But I still have to figure out all that stuff, how it works, yada, yada, yada, so I’m not going to be flat on my back watching Netflix and eating ice cream while my body is trying to figure out where my uterus went. I have a crap-ton of stuff to do, and if I take three or four weeks off work, I can put 40 hours a week into my second job. Of course, that’s not me scamming my FMLA. I have plenty of paid time off they’re going to be more than happy to use first, which is fine. I can’t afford to take time off without getting paid for it somehow.

In other crappy news, too, with BookSprout also revamping, I’ve heard in an FB group or two that they are doing away with their free plans. If you don’t know what BookSprout is, it’s a website where readers request arcs of books that need reviews. You can put your book up and ask for reviews and where you want the readers to post them. I tried it, didn’t get too much of a response for my books, but it’s one of those things that only work if you’re writing to-market commercial fiction. My 3rd person stuff was okay, but still, like finding readers in general, I didn’t stick to a subgenre and it made it difficult to hook readers and reviewers alike. Still, I was going to try again with my launch this spring. So far, the free plan is still available, but I’ve heard nothing about being grandfathered in while they roll out the new update.

When I added up what I spend on my business for my accountant, it made me a little sick inside. I know you have to spend money to make money, and as indie-publishing evolves and it’s more difficult to compete with other authors, you may find you have no choice but to invest in some of these tools. I got into it with someone on Twitter today who said Twitter sells books, and when I asked how many (because I don’t believe it does) he didn’t have anything to say. When you depend on only one thing for marketing, and I don’t even care if you choose Twitter, or FB ads, or Bookbub ads, or you like TikTok, you have to realize that your reach will be limited. In his book, Nicholas Erik outlines many ways to market your book. It’s a very informative, and you should grab a copy.

And if you can’t resist some drama, here’s the thread on Twitter I’m referring to.

Have a great weekend, everyone! See you Monday!

Five reasons why taking advice from writers about what readers like is a (really) bad idea.

Writing, marketing, and publishing advice is plentiful online. There’s excellent advice that can take your business to the next level, good advice, mediocre advice, very very bad advice, and some advice that is straight up, literally, illegal.

But when it comes to writers giving other writers advice about what readers want, I have found that, depending on where you get it, a lot of that advice isn’t to be trusted. Here are some reasons why it’s probably not a good idea to apply advice from other writers when you’re trying to write, publish, and market to readers–especially to readers who don’t write.

Writers don’t read like readers do. This is a big one. I hate seeing writing advice online. I hate it. I try to avoid it on this blog unless a pet peeve like my “got” issue (and not Game of Thrones) crawls too deeply under my skin and I have no choice but to speak up. Writers don’t read like readers do. How may times have you heard an author say, “I couldn’t get into the book. I was too busy dissecting/editing/proofing it to enjoy it.” A mom hiding from her toddler in the tub with her Kindle and a glass of wine isn’t going to critique your book. She wants a good story, characters to fall in love with, maybe some sexytimes, and if you give her that, she’s not going to care about small issues like whether or not you used the Oxford comma. She actually probably won’t even care how many times you use the word, “got” if the story is engaging and she cares about the fate of your characters. Give your readers a good story, and forget about the writing advice you see online. Keep changes between you, your beta readers and your editor.

A related thing I dislike is hearing writers say, “I read everything, and I write for readers who read everything, too.” The fact is, there are very few people who will read “everything” and writing and marketing to people who read “everything” is like throwing a handful of gravel into the wind. The pebbles scatter, and the force behind your throw is wasted, but throw ONE rock as hard as you can and watch it fly, right? You can’t write for everyone, you want to write for readers of a particular sub-genre. It will make it much easier to find readers because you already know what they like. Whale readers devour everything they can get their hands on in the sub-genre they prefer to read. They don’t stray much outside of their lanes, which is why writers are also counseled to stay in one lane–at least for a while.

Other writers may not have the same audience goals as you. We all want to find readers, but that doesn’t mean we have the same goals. I want to make a living with my writing. That may not be someone else’s goal. Maybe they want to sell only a handful of copies to say they are a published author. If we don’t have the same goals, we aren’t going to run our business the same way, or even think of our books as a business at all. That means anything from being a multi-genre author instead of niching down, not putting their books in KU when yours would do well there, or writing whatever they want when you would prefer to follow what’s selling in the market.

This goes hand-in-hand with writers who will give you plain old harmful advice. The other day on Twitter there was a writer who asked if she should separate her different genres with a different pen name. I can’t tell you how many authors told her not to bother and my jaw dropped. I wanted to explode, but I kept scrolling. Unless your genres are closely related, (billionaire romance/mafia, paranormal romance/speculative women’s fiction with romantic elements, mystery/thriller/domestic thrillers) you’ll do better if you separate your genres with pen names. It will make marketing easier, your also-boughts on Amazon won’t get messed up, and you can cultivate two sets of readers. It’s work though, and that’s why the thought of pen names turns off a lot of writers. Readers will appreciate the separation. Even if you don’t keep your identities a secret, they’ll appreciate knowing which name you write under that they like best. Writers say they want to take credit for all their hard work. You can still take credit–inside on the copyright page. So many people told me that I didn’t need to separate my 3rd person contemporary romances from my 1st person billionaire books. I wanted to because they have different tones, though the subject matter (my characters’ personal problems) is largely the same. I felt validated when Zoe York mentioned in a Clubhouse room that she separates her 3rd person from her 1st person. It just made sense to me all around, though readers probably can switch from reading 3rd to 1st easier than I can writing it.

Writers don’t read enough to know what’s going on in their genres and the industry as a whole. For every rule there is an exception, and there are probably a lot of writers who read regularly. I’m not one of them, and I should be. I should be gobbling up every billionaire romance out there. I did read some, when I decided to make my switch, but I didn’t, and still don’t, read enough. I’m willing to bet that if writers read more in their genre, they wouldn’t be giving the advice they do. They would know what readers want, what they look for, what they’re willing to pay for. They would know the book cover trends, what kind of blurbs capture a reader’s attention. Advice steeped in ignorance is not advice you want to take. I have bemoaned on this blog so many times about how a lot of indies don’t understand the industry, and if you don’t understand the industry, you don’t know what’s selling, or why it is. That’s important.

“I don’t read newsletters, so that’s why I’m not offering one.” This is, by far, the craziest thing I have ever heard. You are a writer. We’ve already ascertained you more than likely don’t read enough, so saying you’re not subscribed to any newsletters isn’t surprising, but it’s not a reason why you shouldn’t offer one to your readers. Readers are not like us. You need a way to communicate with them. I haven’t offered a newsletter in the five years I published under Vania Rheault, and it’s my biggest mistake. If you don’t offer a newsletter, your readers have no way of staying in touch with you. I gobble up non-fiction content and I’m subscribed to many newsletters from big indie names like Dave Chesson, Derek Murphy, David Gaughran, Jane Friedman, Ricardo Fayet from Reedsy. I also get newsletters from Kobo Writing life, Reedsy, BookBub and more. Their information about publishing is valuable, and I subscribe, and, more importantly read, to stay in the know. Your readers, if they enjoy your books, will want to sign up for your newsletter to stay up to date on what you’re doing. This does mean that if you offer a newsletter, you have to send one out on occasion. Content wasn’t the issue with me. I’ve managed to regularly blog for 6 years and rarely do I run out of something to say. I didn’t offer a newsletter because I’m lazy. I didn’t want to learn how to use MailerLite. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to create a landing page, how to set up an autoresponder, the technical issues of signing up for a professional email, blah blah blah. But, I finally did it. Now I’m five years behind. Don’t offer a newsletter because you haven’t subscribed to any. You’re not a reader. You’re a writer.

Stubborn indie writers are set in their ways and won’t change even if that behavior hinders finding readers. The two most stubborn groups of people in the world are runners who are injured and who should take a break from running to rest and heal…and indie writers. Taking advice from a writer who isn’t open to new ideas and bristles at constructive criticism is a terrible idea. Feedback and kind criticism are a necessity to grow in craft and in your business. I wish I could count how many times I see an agent say, NO PROLOGUES and a writer say, “I’m gonna write all the prologues” then cry when they can’t find an agent. Are you going to listen to someone who is intent to do it their own way damned the consequences, or are you going to listen to someone who knows what’s going on in the industry and is flexible enough to pivot and or try new things? (By the way, agents know the editors {who are the people who actually buy the books} who know readers and what they like. Just a thought.) As far as readers go, what’s expected in your genre? Fantasy uses prologues. Mystery/thrillers do too, often in the POV of the villain. If you want to write a prologue and your genre supports it (meaning your readers are used to them) write a prologue. If a prologue won’t enhance your story, maybe you don’t need it. I like epilogues. I like writing them, I like reading them, and they are often found in romance novels to tie up loose ends. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary writing an epilogue. Sometimes a story needs it, sometimes it doesn’t, but prologues and epilogues are not a hill you need to die on. What is best for YOU and your genre? Romances don’t do well with prologues. Readers want to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible. Introduce your heroine and hero ASAP. Writers have made too much of an issue about something that should be considered on a book by book, and genre by genre, basis.


Writers do their best to sabotage their own businesses–sometimes not thinking about their books as businesses at all is the first mistake they make. Everything you do should be geared toward finding and keeping readers. Writing what you want is only good advice if you know the genre you want to write in, the reader expectations of that genre, and if you enjoy writing that genre and those tropes readers expect. Many people have asked me if I feel boxed in writing billionaire romance, but I don’t. The same tropes (and yes, I structure my novels around tropes) apply to people who have money as to the characters who are broke. They handle problems differently, sure, but that’s fun, too. Make what you love to write meet in the middle with what readers want to read. You can’t listen to a writer who says a book cover doesn’t matter or tells you readers don’t read blurbs. Over on Twitter, I’ve heard it all, and it’s concerning because the writing community has thousands of members, and some of the information passed through those hashtags is harmful at best and toxic at worst. Think like a reader from start to finish and you’ll never go wrong with writing, publishing and marketing of your books.

Author Musings: Personal Update and Amazon’s Also-Boughts

Happy Thursday! Thursday’s aren’t so great for me because they’re actually my Mondays, and work has been super busy lately. But I have been able to get a lot of editing done on my days off and I might be able to publish a little sooner than the April release date I was aiming for. Anyway, so I missed my blog post for Monday–I was just so into editing last week I completely spaced on it. Not much is going on right now in the indie publishing world anyway, so probably a lot of my blog posts for the next little while will just be my writing updates as I finally publish after two years of not.

But I was perusing Twitter like I’m wont to do, and there have been many authors lamenting over their lack of sales, especially as the new year has rolled around, and lots of celebrating when they manage to cajole one of their followers into a purchase. I just want to caution anyone who begs for a sale by saying this: a sale isn’t just a sale.

When you’re an indie author going through a dry spell, you might not think that’s true. You celebrate every sale, and to an extent, you should. But on the other hand, if the readers who buy your book don’t regularly read in that genre (i. e. they bought your book as a favor or to do something nice or to “support” you) their sale isn’t helping you.

Amazon’s algorithms are stronger than we want to believe, and it’s IMPERATIVE that when you publish a book, Amazon knows exactly what genre it is and exactly who will read it. I’m sure you’ve all gotten those emails of recommended books. I’ve seen tweets from amused (and bemused) authors wondering why Amazon would email them about their own book. It’s really because you’re been looking at your own product page without using an incognito window and now Amazon thinks that’s the kind of book you’re interested in. This happens when you look up any of your friends’ books, too. I get emails for all kinds of books I would never actually buy–because I’m clicking on links from Twitter, looking at books mostly to see why the author is complaining they aren’t selling.

While this can be amusing, maybe even frustrating, it’s actually a demonstration of how you can use Amazon’s recommendation emails to your advantage. You want Amazon to email potential readers about your book, right? You do want Amazon to list and feature your book at the bottom of another author’s product page and encourage them to buy it because it’s similar to the book they’re already looking at?

This isn’t successfully done if you don’t train Amazon to understand who your book is for. When you receive an email about a book that doesn’t interest you, you simply delete. But what if Amazon emails you books you might actually like? You at least click over to the product page. I’ve purchased several non-fiction books this way because I’ve taught Amazon to know I love publishing industry books through my order history.

For example, I was looking at an author’s product page whom I know from Twitter, and the authors in the CUSTOMERS ALSO BOUGHT ITEMS BY section were all authors I recognized from Twitter. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Twitter authors were obviously supporting each other, but they all wrote in different genres. It’s obvious this author wasn’t finding readers in his genre. His friends were supporting him, and while that’s great, you can’t make a living like that, either.

So what can you do? In this case, a sale isn’t just a sale. A sale to the wrong reader can muddy your book’s sales history on Amazon and either Amazon will send emails to the wrong readers, or worse yet, not bother to promote you at all.

Amazon algorithms can help you sell books, but you have to help it help you.

How?

  1. Make sure your book’s categories are correct. You can add more than the two KDP allows you to choose when you publish if you email support
  2. Make sure your meta data is correct when you publish (the 7 spaces for keywords you fill in when you publish)
  3. Don’t promote to your #writingcommunity friends
  4. Run ads and target your category/comparison authors/comparison titles
  5. Use newsletter promos (choosing the right category) to attract new readers. David Gaughran has a great list here.

The more in alignment your book is to your genre, comp authors, and comp titles, the better chance you have of Amazon helping you sell your book.

If you want more information about also-boughts, David Gaughran has an in-depth blog post and you can read it here.

If you want to learn more about the Amazon algorithms, Reedsy has a great course they will email you for free. It will explain what the algorithm is and how you can make it work for you. You can sign up here.


I love keeping an eye on what’s going on in the industry, and I think another trend that’s coming is longer books. My first person books are naturally longer than my 3rd person, and when I made the switch, I was surprised I could consistently hit a 80-85k+ word count when before I was happy with 70-75k. But lately I’ve been seeing billionaire/bad boy/mafia romances coming in at 100k+ word counts. Are romance books getting longer? And if so, why? A lot of romance authors are in KU, and many romance authors also write in series which can up the word count because they are setting up the next book.

Will this affect my writing? Probably not. 85k is a sweet spot for me and unless I work harder at creating subplots, I think that word count works for the way I write my stories. It is interesting though, how it seems romances are getting longer and could be evidence that readers would prefer longer books over books half that size or even novellas. Longer books also give writers room to build that slow burn, and explore deeper and richer character arcs. I’ve read several books that are huge with including family and friends. When your characters explore relationships outside of their romance plot, that can also deepen your character arcs and add words. Ultimately, you do have to do what’s right for your book and the story you need to tell. But I’ve always been big with meeting reader expectations, and if a reader is expecting a 350 page book, and you give them half that, you could find yourself with unhappy reviews.

I think this kind of goes along with the pricing increase I’ve been seeing as well. A longer book does mean a higher paperback price due to printing and paper shortages, and indies are pricing their ebooks at 3.99, 4.99, 5.99, and even 6.99. If you’re going to price that high, you definitely want to give your readers what they are paying for. I, too, will probably raise my prices this year, though my marketing strategy isn’t focused on ebook sales (my books will be in KU) or paperback. I’ll leave my paperback prices as low as I possibly can make them and still earn a dollar a book. I love reading paperbacks, but unfortunately, I can’t afford 15.99 per paperback, even if I understand why authors need to price them that high.

If you want to check out the word counts of your favorite books, or keep an eye on what other authors in your genre are doing, you can use Word Counters, and you can find it here.


I’m going back and forth with writing a Christmas novel for this year, and it’s hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit three weeks after the fact. I can not offer one, and publish three books this year, or I can write it later this year. The problem with writing it later is that I’m going to spend the rest of 2022 getting my six book series ready to publish in 2023. I probably will need all year because these books still need a bit of an edit, formatting, covers, and a beta reader/proofer if I can find one who is willing to do it cheaply and be time efficient. (A big ask, I know.) I don’t want to stop my editing and production momentum to take a break writing something for Christmas. So either I do it after my duet is done and before I start editing my series, or I skip it all together. I have another standalone hanging around I could prepare and publish, but I don’t know how well a non-holiday book would do with a December release.

Anyway, that’s about all I have for an update. Monday, and I will get to a blog post, will be about BookFunnel, my reader magnet, and my experience with setting up my account.

Have a great weekend!

End of the Year Wrap Up! Goodbye, 2021!

I always look forward to the end of the year wrap up! I love looking back to all that I accomplished over the year and making a mental note of what I can do better during the next year.

Here’s a look at what I did during 2021:

Books/Novels/WIPS

Number of books published: 0
I didn’t publish anything this year. In fact, I haven’t published anything since February of 2020 when the last of my Rocky Point Wedding series released. And even as I was releasing those, I had been writing my first person books, so in my head, I had essentially already moved on. I am planning to release in the spring of 2022, but we’ll see how that goes. I had every intention of publishing this year, but I got too caught up in writing to take the time to do any production or marketing of anything I’ve done.

Number of books written: 6.5
I’m 57k into the second book of the duet I plan to release in the spring, so I can’t count it as a full book I’ve written this year. I won’t finish it before December is over, but that’s fine. I’ve written approximately 560,000 words this year (which is 30,000 less than last year, ha!) and here is the list of couples and the month I started their book:
Finn and Juliet (book two of a series I haven’t completed. I wrote Colton and Elayna, book one, in November/December of 2020) January 2021
Fox and Posey (Faking Forever, standalone) April 2021 This book is loaded into KDP and all I need to do is hit publish
Dominic and Jemma (standalone) May 2021
Brady and Allie (My Biggest Mistake, standalone) July 2021 This book is also complete and loaded into KDP
Sam and Lily (standalone) August 2021
Rick and Devyn (Book one of Cedar Hill Duet) October 2021
Beau and Talia (Book two of Cedar Hill Duet) November 2021; will finish January 2022

I have a small gap between Finn and Juliet and Fox and Posey because this year I had a health thing with my girly parts. I’ve blogged about that a little bit–no one wants to hear about my health issues–but I can’t believe I’ve been dealing with consequences from using the wrong dryer sheets for 12 months. I had a reaction to Snuggle (and I only realized that was what it was after hours of reading through women’s online health forums) which gave me Bacterial Vaginosis, and I am still dealing with unbalanced vaginal pH even though my infection is gone. Suffering from that, getting it diagnosed, and trying to figure out treatment and a cure took up a bit of time (and headspace), but, let me tell you, I am very proud of myself for writing through it and not giving in to the crappy mindset dealing with this has put me in. Am I feeling better now? Yes and no. I’m feeling better than I did at the beginning of the year but not completely. I am in a better place mentally because at least I know what I’m dealing with and doing what I can to get back to normal. For three months I didn’t understand what was going on because I had no idea dryer sheets could do that. I’m hoping my body can right itself, and that 2022 will be better for me than just selling books.


I haven’t stopped running ads to my backlist. Even though I won’t write 3rd person again in the foreseeable future, running low cost-per-click ads doesn’t hurt as long as I keep an eye on them and don’t lose money.

Here are my stats for ads and royalties:

I didn’t quite make $1,000 this year, but what I did make was a surprise considering I haven’t published anything for a while, and I don’t promote that often. Ignore the 34 books. I have 10, but I have a couple of boxed sets, too.

As for Amazon ads, this is my year to date, and I’m actually pretty impressed that I made more than I spent in ads.

I stopped babysitting them, mainly because for a little while, Amazon didn’t mind the covers to my Rocky Point Wedding Series, and later they deemed them against their guidelines and my ads were suspended. That, as you can imagine, was a big disappointment, but by then, I was writing my 1st person billionaire stuff and I didn’t bother changing the covers. It was a huge lesson to keep Amazon’s guidelines in the back of your mind when designing your cover or hiring out. I was looking at premades not long ago, and some of the “billionaire” stock photo models were holding alcoholic drinks. (Rich guys sure like their aged whiskey, haha!) But those covers would never pass Amazon’s restrictions and you end up paying for a cover you can’t use to run ads. Anyway, so I stopped running a lot of ads to my books, which, in turn, didn’t translate well into sales. But, you live and learn and change your covers.

I spent another $25.00 on a promo when I created a boxed set to my Rocky Point series and ran it at the beginning of November. I didn’t earn the fee back. I did, but not on the boxed set, only sales overall, so I considered it a fail.

I used three free days for my Rocky Point boxed set just last weekend and gave away 41 boxed sets. Nothing to write home about, but I didn’t buy a promo for them. I usually grab a spot in a Freebooksy newsletter to promote my freebies, but I didn’t care enough, and I’ll be looking forward to something new in 2022.

That’s it for my books (and my health).

Website/Blog Stats

I blog every Monday and most Thursdays and since I’ve fallen into a schedule, I’m seeing growth little by little every year.

taken from my WordPress stats

A few days ago, WordPress just congratulated me on 6 years of blogging, and I can’t believe so much time has gone by. I truly enjoy blogging about my writing, publishing, and marketing experiences.

As you can see, even staying on topic and blogging consistently my growth is slow. Right now, I think I get about 30-50 visitors a day, and gain 1-2 new blog followers every time I post.

One thing I have learned this year is to have a goal to work toward, or you’re just ambling through the brush. I don’t have a plan for this blog except that I’ll keep writing and trying to help you all through the weeds of publishing and marketing by writing about my mistakes and what has worked for me. I have no plans to try to monetize it with ads or affiliate links. Writing a non-fiction book about indie publishing doesn’t interest me, nor does starting a podcast. I like blogging because if i don’t feel like writing fiction, I can come here and blog about whatever, and I’m still writing and keeping my fingers in the pie.

Probably one of the strangest things I’ve come across since publishing is how little indies care about what’s happening in the industry. It’s difficult (and time-consuming) to listen to podcasts, read other blog posts, and join in webinars, but I don’t understand how authors expect to make it in this business if they don’t know what’s happening. Maybe I’m the only one who enjoys it? I have no idea, but you can be sure I’ll always keep you posted!

What are my 2022 plans?

I will release next year. I said it this year, but I have to get over my fear of releasing to no one. I’m going to move forward with the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the past few years, and even if it takes another five, I’ll be in a better place in 2027 than I am right now. Nothing is a waste. You can’t succeed unless you fail, but as Jo Lallo said in an episode of the Six Figure Authors podcast, there is no greater reason for burnout than working hard without achieving some success.

One of the best podcast episodes I heard this year was when they talked about what they would do starting fresh if they had the knowledge they have now. It was really eye-opening and helped me plan out the next two years of releases. You can listen to it here:

Maybe they’ll give you some tips on how you can run your book business in 2022.


I’m not going to go into what I’m planning for next year. I’ve blogged about it quite a bit, and things change. What I have in place now might not work, but I am trying to make a writing and publishing schedule I can stick to without sucking the joy out of what I like to do most: write.

Probably the biggest lesson I learned about myself this year is that while I want to write for readers and start making money, I am afraid of turning something I love into something I have to do to pay bills. That might not happen, and even if I found moderate success, I like my day job and probably would never quit. There’s no point in worrying about something like that, but as I read books about writing and publishing systems, schedules, and all the talk about planners (HB90 is a popular one this year, y’all), it’s a concern that’s in the back of my mind I can’t quite pry loose. I guess we’ll see where this crazy business takes me.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s, and I’ll see you back here in 2022!

Until next time!

Buzzword: Consistency

When you follow any type of industry, Human Resources, Business, Publishing, lots of buzzwords get thrown around. They’re trendy you know? No one does more “reaching out” or “approaching” than an HR rep. Every profession has their own language, and it’s been interesting to me to hear some of what publishing’s words and phrases are. (A while back I did a post on relevancy, and you can read it here.)

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about consistency. In HR, consistency means a lot of things. As an employee, one of the biggest ones you probably appreciate is when management treats everyone the same. Transgressions are punished equally, it doesn’t matter who the employee is. One of the best (or worst) examples of inconsistency I’ve seen in the workplace is preferential treatment given to smokers. They need their smoke breaks and are allotted time others aren’t to be away from their desks. I’ve seen employees come and go because of inconsistent training, inconsistent treatment, inconsistent guidelines, and inconsistent pay. (Ever work for a company where a new hire makes more than someone who’s been there for years because they didn’t adjust the pay of the other employees? Sucks, right?)

In indie publishing, consistency is almost a naughty word, but if you think about your life outside of writing and publishing, I can’t think of an instance where consistency is bad. Your body likes it when you go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. It appreciates it when you consistently feed it nutritious food and consistently exercise. Sometimes consistency can be a matter of health: who reading this needs to take medication at the same time every day? Who goes to the doctor every month? Every six months? The dentist? And you visit the same doctor right? You have a family practitioner you’ve developed a rapport with, someone who knows your medical history.

Here are other instances where consistency is good:

*You pay your rent/mortgage on the first of every month, you renew your lease at the same time every year.
*You go to work and leave at the same time every day.
*Probably you park in the same parking spot, too.
*Your work pays you at the same times every month. Wouldn’t it suck for you if they decided to pay you whenever they wanted?
*You train your pets to expect food at the same time every day. They don’t appreciate it when you forget.
*You pick up your kids from school at the same time very day. They don’t appreciate it when you forget, either. (Haha!)
*You bring your car in for an oil change every three months because you can’t afford the potential repairs if you don’t.

There are so many more ways in which consistency helps you or when/where you depend on it. In fact, we love consistency and routine so much that we fight change. (Who ignores their computer and phone updates?) We hate it, we can’t cope with it, and it causes us anxiety. There’s a reason why we say, “Jump before you’re pushed”– because we need the control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation.

So why then is consistency such a nasty word when we apply it to our books and our book business?

For one, I think we fear it will stifle our creativity. When we hear the advice to “stay in our own lane” or to “niche down and find a subgenre you like and stay there” we automatically think we won’t be able to be as creative, but that is actually the opposite of how our brains respond. Humans find freedom in boundaries. Take little kids–they thrive on schedules. They need to know what is happening because they find safety in routine. They have a difficult time coping being shuttled from parent to parent in a divorce, and not knowing where they’re going to sleep from one night to the next causes them anxiety and fear. Routine for children and adults is conducive to good mental health.

You can apply that to what you write. If you choose a niche instead of being a multi-genre author, your readers will have an easier time finding something in your catalogue to enjoy (hopefully everything!). I can use myself as an example. Under Vania Rheault, I wrote in all the subgenres: billionaire, age gap, small town. I thought I was writing “contemporary romance” but publishing has changed and while I was writing that, I was technically genre hopping and it didn’t help with sales. I had a difficult time marketing. I decided to write billionaire under VM Rheault, and I have been writing and hoarding books for the past two years. I’ve written 13 books plus the one I’m writing now. That might not be much, not when we’re talking about a career, but I already have plans for four more books to round out a series I’m not done with, and I’m rereading the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day and making notes to write another long billionaire series.

Rather than think that I’ll eventually run out of things to write about billionaires, I think the opposite. I can take any trope I want and make it a challenge. How can I take this trope, apply it to the billionaire subgenre and write a book or series readers of that subgenre will fall in love with? Giving yourself too much freedom can actually cause writer’s block. We wonder how prolific writers can write so fast, and it’s because they thrive with the boundaries they write in.

Covers are the same. You need your cover to convey your genre and fit in with the other books in that genre. I didn’t understand that, and in romance, steam level also dictates how much clothing a couple on the cover is wearing. Amazon’s new guidelines haven’t helped with this and has made covering our books that Amazon will approve for ads a little more trickier. Billionaires are pretty easy–you have a suave, handsome man in a suit, or a bad boy in a black and white photo glaring into the camera. Readers are used to what they want, and if you’re too different, they’ll think they won’t like what you have to offer. Do you ever see packaging for a favorite product change? The first thing they do is put on the front in bold letters NEW LOOK! SAME GREAT TASTE! They don’t want to scare you off when they decide to rebrand. We are automatically repelled by the change, and companies know that.

Being that there is no room on a book cover to comfort potential readers and assure them that even though your cover is different there is still a story in there they will enjoy, just give the audience you’re trying to reach what they’re used to. Why fight it when the cover is only a small thing to compromise on. You want readers right? Yeah, you do.

Be consistent with a publishing schedule. This is a big one with me, and something I struggled with. The indie authors I know who are making it publish on certain days every month, every year. I would like to publish three-four books a year, though I’m not 100% sure what those days and months will be. I want readers to know, for example, in April I’ll have a book out, and then July, and then October, and then December if I happen to have something for Christmas. I know a lot of indies have an issue with this because they write when they have time to write and publish when the book is done. Then they do it over and over again without any real schedule. It can take a couple of years to figure out how fast you can write a novel, how fast your editor will give it back to you (if you have one), how fast you can put those changes in, how fast it will take you to secure a cover. We don’t like to think of books as products, but there is a “production” process very book goes through before it’s ready to be sold. In Elana Johnson’s book, Writing and Releasing Rapidly, she encourages you to figure this out. It takes me six weeks to write a 80k word novel, but because I don’t have a “team” to help me, I do a lot of the editing/proofing myself and that takes time. Going through stock photos and playing with how the cover will look takes more time than ordering a premade or hiring a designer. Formatting might not take that long with Vellum, but it’s still time you have to put aside.

If all that sounds crazy and unattainable because you have little kids and a day job, of course you won’t be releasing ten books a year, unless you write novellas and you can write one in two weeks. It’s a process to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are and work with them instead of letting them work against you. Begin how you wish to continue. Under-promise and over-deliver, so during good years if you can crank out an extra novel, your readers will be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed because you overtaxed yourself and can’t meet a deadline.

Be consistent in the length of your novels. We don’t talk about length of a novel very often. If you’re in KU you are paid by the page read, and obviously the longer the book is, the more you’re paid. Some authors write with this in mind, and only offer full-length novels. I don’t write novellas. Not only for that reason, but because I can’t plot a novella. I always have too much going on, and when you’re writing in 1st person, I have found (for me, at least) that it takes up a lot more space on the page. Readers like to know what they’re getting. They don’t want to pay $3.99 for a novella when they think they are buying a full-length novel. That’s not to say you can’t disperse a novella here and there as extra content, for example extra content between books in a series. Plenty of authors do that, but I think it would be very difficult to find a readership when you write full-length novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories. Write a consistent word count so your readers don’t have to guess what they’re buying when you release a new “book.”


Consistency is anything but boring. In a world where chaos reigns, consistency is a comfort. If you can change your mindset and give consistency a chance instead of eschewing it because you think you’ll be bored, you may be pleasantly surprised. I love writing billionaire. They are people too, and they suffer the same problems everyone else does. Do they have different ways of solving problems? Sure, but all of my characters, (and most I’ve read by other authors, too) learn that money can’t buy happiness, and by the end of the book would happily throw their fortunes away for true love.

Maybe this makes sense and it will encourage you to take a look at your business in a new way. Maybe you think I’m full of crap and you’ll continue to write and publish whatever whenever you want, but the next time the road you take to work is closed and you’re forced to take a detour, think about how you feel, how utterly inconvenienced you feel. Suddenly your morning routine is gone and the rest of your day is messed up. Your readers like consistency, they like knowing exactly what they are paying for when you release a new book.

I mean, this whole blog post is only my opinion, though I do have a list of resources below that back me up. If you’re writing whatever and publishing whenever, and you don’t have a problem with the results that brings your business, don’t change; this blog post isn’t for you. But if you’ve been publishing for a while and not finding the results you want, it never hurts to take stock and figure out where you can do better.

That’s what I did, and I will let you know how it works for me!

Until next time!


Resources:

Finding that middle ground between your daily routine and new opportunities will get you the best of both worlds and make for a happy, fulfilling life

Do You Need More Restrictions on Your Writing?

The Paralyzing Effect of Freedom

The Psychology of Limitations: How and Why Constraints Can Make You More Creative

Advertising Your Book–Categories, Targets, and Comp Authors

I was browsing through my social media writing groups the other day, and someone said something so profound that it has stuck with me ever since reading it. You know I’m a big fan of writing to market, a true believer in the idea that if you want to write a book that people want to read, write a book like the ones people are already reading.

We resist that idea because no one wants to write what someone else is writing or has already written, even going so far as to say they don’t want to write the same tropes because they have already been done before. This isn’t a blog post about that, per se, but along the same lines, I suppose.

When we write a book and publish it, that’s only half the work, something we don’t find out until the book sinks like a stone in the rankings because no one knows it exists. We might tweet about it, put it up on Facebook somewhere, create some pretty graphics and post on Instagram, or try our hand at some videos via TikTok, the new kid on the block. That bumps us up a little bit, but eventually we’ll run out of new people because free social media only goes so far (ask anyone who relies on Twitter for sales to tell you how far free social media can really take you).

So we turn to paid advertising, and what that author said blew my mind–write what you can advertise.

Just that simple thing. Write what you can advertise.

What does that mean, exactly? Can’t we advertise any book?

Yes. But can we advertise any book to success? Not necessarily.

You can advertise any book, say on Amazon, but if Amazon doesn’t know where to put your book, they won’t show your ad and you’ll get zero impressions and no clicks. That makes genre and categories really important. When you create an ad on Amazon, you have a few ad type choices: you can do an auto ad and let Amazon do the work in figuring out who to show your ad to, you can run a category targeted ad, or you can use comparison authors and comparison titles as keywords. You can also target ASIN’s of books like yours, which I have heard works better, but I can’t tell you from my own experience that it does. I’ve done all four, and I didn’t realize until just now why, but All of Nothing is a billionaire romance and one of the reasons why it has always done so well when I ran an ad is because there is actually a billionaire category to choose from when creating a category ad on Amazon:

taken from Amazon Advertising ads platform

If I choose that, and my metadata matches, Amazon knows exactly who to show my ads to–readers who want to read a billionaire romance.

My age-gap romance, The Years Between Us, doesn’t have its own category, and choosing Contemporary Romance gets me impressions, and even clicks, but if someone isn’t in the mood to read age-gap, or doesn’t like it for whatever reason, I lose that sale. The same goes for Coming of Age, which I have listed The Years Between Us under, but even though it can be considered Coming of Age as my FMC is 18, readers may not like the age gap element of the novel.

taken from Amazon Advertising ads platform
taken from the Amazon ads dashboard
taken from the Amazon Ads platform

There’s a lot more competition using an umbrella category like contemporary romance.

You can always use comp authors and comp book titles as keywords, but if you’re writing a very niche genre (like age gap, haha), or mashing together more than two, you’ll have trouble targeting the correct authors because there aren’t that many. Targeting authors is something you can do on Amazon Ads, Facebook Ads (if the author is available in the list and I’ve heard from several people that list is arbitrary), and on BookBub. If you’re one of few writers in that genre, ads may not work. Not because your book isn’t good, but because the platform doesn’t know who to show your ads to or the audience isn’t large enough.

Does this man you can’t write what you want? No. Does this mean you can’t still advertise? No. But you may not get the results you want. You may waste money figuring that out or come to the conclusion that ads don’t work which won’t be true. I stopped using Coming of Age completely because I lost a lot of money on clicks and I should probably take that book out of that category as it doesn’t honestly represent the book.

I still advertise The Years Between Us but when I do, I use the Contemporary Romance category on Amazon to mixed results. Readers like my ad copy (He’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe . . . even if that means breaking her heart), they like the cover, but once they read the blurb and realize it’s an age gap romance, sometimes I lose them. Not always, but until I started keeping track of the ads for that book and pausing them when the spending overtook the sales, I lost money on the readers who decided that book wasn’t for them.

I’ve only dabbled with Facebook ads, and I don’t understand enough to give you any kind of guidance steeped in experience. I know that targeting books isn’t as zeroed-in as Amazon, which can be better and can be worse depending on your point of view. Facebook seems to have more flexibility allowing you to cast a wider net, but that flexibility can also cost you money if people are clicking on your ad and deciding your book isn’t for them after all. There are plenty of billionaire romance authors out there, even if you discounted EL James and Sylvia Day. The idea is to drill down as narrowly as you possibly can so the ads platform you’re using shows your ads to only those readers who would want to buy it. But not so narrow that you don’t have anyone in your audience! Creating a viable audience is probably the trickiest thing about Facebook Ads but I’m willing to keep trying because so many authors say that it works for them.

So what does this mean for writing to market and writing to ad platform? Already lots of indie authors balk at writing to market. They want to write what they want to write, as did I when I thought writing “Contemporary Romance” would be enough to build a career on rather than focusing on subgenre. Marketing and targeting those books was expensive and some books I couldn’t get to sell no matter what, like my road trip romance because Road Trip Romance isn’t a category, nor is Close Proximity, and besides Contemporary Romance there isn’t another category I can try. (I experimented with Romantic Action and Adventure, but my cover didn’t fit and I got some impressions, but no clicks.)

Taken from the Amazon Ads platform

I did everything I could from swapping out covers to rewriting the blurb more times than I could count and still, I just can’t sell it. My Tower City trilogy doesn’t sell either, because while there is a sports romance category on Amazon, my covers aren’t made to the sports romance subgenre, and it turns our long distance running isn’t sexy and no one is interested in it. Who. Knew.

taken from the Amazon Ads platform

The best thing you can do is a little research before you start writing. Who are your comp authors? Are they writing what you write? How is your writing different? Is it too different?

You can use bklnk.com (click author tools and use the cat finder) and find all the categories that a book similar to yours is listed under by searching the ISBN or ASIN. Then you can email Amazon and have those categories added to your book. That way you can run auto placement ads and Amazon will know where to place your ad. I asked around to see if there’s a list of categories available in the Amazon Ads platform, but unfortunately there isn’t one.

Nobody likes to be told what to write, but everyone likes to find readers. Make finding readers easier on yourself and do a little market research before you begin to write. I wish I would have known this before I started publishing. I love all the books I’ve written so far–they are some really good stories and I’m proud of them–but I truly do love writing billionaire, and I think I’ve found a niche I can have fun with for a long time. And also as importantly as enjoying the subgenre, I know there is a market for them and I’ll be able to advertise them.

What do you think? Is thinking about how to advertise your book taking it a little too far? Too limiting? Let me know what you think!

Thursday Thoughts and Personal Update

I think it was two weeks ago I blogged a list of the things I needed to accomplish in the short term to get the ball rolling on publishing some books. I am happy to say that I’ve managed to check of quite a few of those.

I proofed the proof for Faking Forever, put the changes into Vellum, generated new files and corrected the mistakes on the cover/full wrap–more on that. I created a Large Print edition and ordered a new proof of the regular print and the proof of the large print. Since I never used to utilize the back matter of my 3rd person books, it was strange to add a sign up link to my newsletter to the back matter of these. I should add a buy link to the next book as well, but I’ll have to go back and edit those as I have books available. For now the back matter only has one call to action, and that’s to sign up for my newsletter. Organic sign-ups are the best though, so I will be happy if I get any from that.

To ease some of the pressure of learning Bookfunnel and how to segregate lists in MailerLite, I decide to forego offering a reader magnet for the moment. I can write something quickly, maybe after Christmas, but I was putting too much pressure on myself when really what I want to do for right now is publish a couple standalones and start getting my pen name out there. I don’t know how Bookfunnel works, and I need to figure that out and spend more time in the MailerLite dashboard to figure out who goes where when they sign up for what. It will help when I get some signups, and then I can see what happens. I don’t want anyone not to be offered a free book because I don’t know what I’m doing. Needless to say, I decided to sell the book I’d decided to use as a reader magnet, but once I get the ball rolling and familiarize myself with my newsletter I’ll write something else. It was a blow, but at the same time a ball of anxiety loosened in my chest. I know offering a reader magnet is the best way to entice people to sign up, and I will get to that eventually, but for now. I just want to focus on getting some books ready to publish.

I also formatted My Biggest Mistake and did the cover. I have another blog post coming about this, but I asked for feedback on the blurb in my various FB writing groups. Here is the cover for this ugly duckling standalone, and the interior I formatted with Vellum:

Probably I’m not going to be able to use a dark-haired sad guy looking down again, since he looks similar to the cover to Faking Forever:

Initially I had my name at the top, above his head, but since I’m trying to keep more of an idea of branding for my books and not having to go back and redo anything, I moved my name to the bottom. I think it looks nicer. The proofs I have coming will have my name at the top, but I won’t need to order proofs again for such a small change.

I have seen other photos of the two men, and they are two different gentlemen (with some stock photos, you never know), but I’ll have to keep this in the back of my mind and go for a different look for my next few books. That should be easy to do since after I proof the proof to My Biggest Mistake, I’ll be starting to (finally) edit and get my series ready that I wrote last year during the lockdown. I am really excited to take a look at those books with fresh eyes, and it will be a challenge to do six covers, a trilogy for Zane and Stella and a trilogy for Zarah and Gage, but have them all feel similar since the story reaches over all six books. I should do the smart thing and hire out, but I like the control, and with so many scammers out there, trust is hard to come by.

This week I’ve been taking a break–it’s hard not be writing anything, but the proof for My Biggest Mistake will come Saturday, and after that I’ll be jumping into a few months of non-stop work. I’m trying to enjoy the time off, but not actively writing anything, especially since I know what I want to write next, (and it isn’t a reader magnet) is a bit strange. I’ve been reading a domestic thriller I bought a few months ago and I need to format and do a cover for the box set of my wedding series. I think that is the biggest item on my list I haven’t crossed off yet. It’s not hard–just moving Vellum files over to create a large one, but it’s busy work. I need to make a mug of coffee one evening, put on some music and get it done. I don’t want to wait too long–the Christmas books are already starting to pop, and I think I could get some good KU page reads and sales, especially if I sell it at .99 from October until December.

They’re all in KU singly, but I haven’t gotten many reads on them in the past few months. In fact, I’ve stopped looking at my sales dashboard, and only keep an eye on my ads to the extent that they are breaking even. I was going to try to find a different couple for the front so I can run some ads to the box set, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. I tried looking for a different pose of the couple on the first book, but they are all in bed, or doing dopey things like being sad at a pregnancy test result. I could zoom in on their faces to take the “lying down” element out of it and see if that works, but as they are positioned right now, Amazon won’t let my ads go through, and it’s been very hurtful for the series as a whole.

That might actually work. It would be an easy fix to upload new ebook covers for books without having to change too much if the new cover could get through Amazon’s cover guidelines. All I can do is try to submit and see what happens. It would be nice to be able to advertise these this winter. I can add zooming in on their faces to my to-do list.

As far as health news goes, my infection is gone, but an ultrasound revealed an ovarian cyst that is making me feel not so great. So I have a follow up next month to see what’s going on with that. I’m not in pain, just a sense of discomfort most days and some bloating. I’m getting old though, so I suppose it’s to be expected.

I guess that’s all for now. Things are moving along, though this week slowly. It will be nice when things pick up. I didn’t want to start writing a book. Then I would be suck for six weeks while I finished it. I’m trying to convince myself that having a week off isn’t a bad thing, and today all I’ve done is take a walk and write this blog post.

Later I’ll be creating author interview questions for Nina Romano, and there will be a giveaway…I’m thinking for fall… so stay tuned for that in coming weeks.

Thanks for checking in! Have a great rest of your week!

Monday Musings: Is Publishing Your Book like Letting a Bird Fly Free?

Happy Monday! This week is off to a great start! I finished my book yesterday, all 97,000 words of her. I know that will change in edits, and I’ll jump right into the first read through today! My characters have changed a little from the beginning to the end, and I want to clean up the discrepancies while they’re fresh in my head. After that I’ll let it sit, and go to work on the ugly duckling trope I got back from my beta reader/editor a couple weeks ago. While I jump into those edits I’ll get my MailerLite newsletter stuff up and going. It might take a couple of days to figure things out, but as Andrea Pearson says on the 6 Figure Author Podcast, once I take the time, I never have to do it again. Will I jump into a new book? Guys, I have 11 books on my laptop right now–all in various states of editing–from nearly-ready-to-publish to just-finished-yesterday. They include a six-book series I wrote last year during COVID, three standalones, and two books that will belong to another six-book series. Needless to say, all the standalones I’ve written, I’ve written with the intention of using one as a reader magnet, otherwise I never would have taken a break with the second series I’d started. But I NEED to start publishing these, so I’m going to try really really hard not to start writing another book, at least for a little while.


Taken from Jane’s website.

What else has been going on? There are a lot of webinars coming up in the following weeks, and one I’m really excited about is one hosted by Jane Friedman and Elizabeth Sims on writing dialogue. I love craft classes just as much as I love marketing classes and I’m looking forward to it. If you want to check it out, look here.


I came across this opinion the other day, and it kind of flummoxed me that a) someone could feel this way and 2) no one told her there are things you can do for your book and your business that won’t make you feel like you pressed publish and then walked away.

I’m an indie publisher, and never once have I felt like when I published a book it was like opening a bird’s cage and letting the little bird fly away, never to be seen again. Though I suppose that’s how it can feel to some authors when their book sinks in the charts and they don’t know what to do about it. My books may not be successful, and that’s my fault and my fault alone. Today I tweeted that you can learn just a good of a lesson from making a mistake as you can from making a choice that will bring you success. I know why my books aren’t doing well, and that’s why I’m starting a pen name and hoping to apply what I’ve learned these past five years into another five that are more successful.

What can this person do to make sure that when/if she ever self-publishes her book, it won’t feel like she’s letting a bird fly out her window? Here’s what I would tell her, and this is what I plan to do too.

Make sure your cover/blurb/title convey the genre you’ve written in, and make sure your story follows the genre guidelines that readers will expect when they pick up your book. This is more than just “writing to market.” If your book hits it out of the park with genre/plot/characters, readers of that genre will recommend your book to other readers. It all starts with the story and nothing else will get you word of mouth than a compelling story and characters your readers will care about.

Start a newsletter and put the link for sign ups in the back of your book. This was a big fail for me, and who knows where my career would be right now if I had started it years ago. Even if I had decided to go in an opposite direction, I could have asked my readers if they wanted to follow me in the new direction. Some may have, some might not have, but it’s better than starting at zero like I am right now.

Write the next book. Nothing sells your book like writing the next book. Don’t take a break (unless your burnt out, then take a vacation and celebrate all your hard work) and jump right into writing the next book, or if you’re like me and you’re stockpiling, get the next book ready to publish. I have found that rapid releasing doesn’t do much if you don’t already have readers hungry for your books. Until I find a fanbase, I probably won’t rapid release anymore. But writing the next book, or getting the next book ready, will keep your mind off your launch and it’s a much better use of your time than refreshing your sales dashboard every ten minutes.

Run promotions. I understand if you’re traditionally published this may not be something you can do or even something you’ll want to pay for with your own money (though rumor has it this is what your advance is for). You’ve given control to your publisher and what they will pay for is anyone’s guess. But if you’re an indie author, you can mark your book down to .99 or offer free days and buy promotion slots through Written Word Media like BargainBooksy or Freebooksy, or other promotional sites like Robin Reads and Ereader News Today. You can “stack” them (booking them at the same time) for a strong launch, or you can space them out and keep sales steady. Whatever you plan to do, booking promo sites is nothing like letting that bird go.

Learn ads. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can run low-budget, low-cost per click ads. While I don’t plan to write more 3rd person past contemporary romance anytime soon, I still run low-budget ads to my books. Without those ads I would sell nothing. Nothing. The two or three books I sell a day because of those ads are more than some authors sell in weeks because they don’t want to take a small risk to see what those ads can do for their book(s). If you’re confident in your cover/blurb/title/story, your ad spend will not be a waste.

Just to show you that I’m not spending a ton of money on ads here are my stats for June (as of the 23rd): I have ten ads going, a couple for each standalone and the one Amazon approved for His Frozen Heart. (That was a fluke and anytime I’ve tried to create more they always suspend them because of the cover.)

To date my royalties are:

I’ve made 7 dollars this month, but that’s 7 dollars more than I would have without ads and I’m finding readers. Maybe they’ll leave a review. Maybe they’ll tell a friend. Maybe the paperbacks I sold on the 21st will be passed around and a lot of people will read them. I could run more ads and I should refresh my ads with new keywords, but being that I won’t have a new title out under that name, I’ll just leave my ads how they are. That being said, if you’re actively promoting and writing, there’s no reason why you can’t learn an ad platofrm and see what happens. There are a lot of free resources out there and it won’t break the bank to do some testing. You never know. Your book could take off and your royalties will far exceed the cost of the ads. Which is the main goal anyway.

I don’t understand the mentality that once you publish your book is out of your hands. There are all sorts of things you can do to bring readers in. They may cost a little money, and some ideas, like starting a newsletter is a time investment as well. It’s why I’ve put off doing certain things–because the writing is always the fun part to me, and doing anything else is like going to the dentist. It’s a time suck but necessary evil.


Thank you for all the kind feedback regarding the Canva paperback wrap post I did last week. So many people found it helpful! If you know someone who could use the information, pass it along! I love to help!

I think that is all I’m going to post about for now. My carpal tunnel has flared up a bit, so a writing break will be welcome. I haven’t been sleeping well, either. Let’s say say three cats are two cats too many, but they are part of the family so there’s nothing I can do but take naps when I can.

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday, and let me know how you’re doing!

Until next time!

Author Interview: Barbara Avon

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.

If you want to keep up to date on what Barb has in store for her readers, sign up for her newsletter, and bookmark her website. Thanks again for joining us today!


Follow Barbara on Amazon | Goodreads | BookBub | Twitter

Thanks for reading!