Monday update and thoughts on marketing and being an indie author

I’m writing this very late, Sunday night, in fact, because I spent all weekend putting in the edits to book four of my series. It took me a little longer than I thought it would just because I was starting to make changes that I didn’t enter into my proof. I guess since this is such a large project, it won’t be a simple wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-press-publish-and-hope-for-the-best type thing. You might say that no book should be like that, but if you’ve never written, edited, and packaged 540,000 words, it does feel just a little more serious than writing a 20k word novella and hitting publish the second you type “the end” at the end of the book. I’ve never had a problem editing and publishing with no regret, but I think, no matter how many times I go over these, they may never feel good enough, never feel ready. This will probably be the biggest project I’ll ever write, and while I know from the bottom of my heart I will never reach perfection, I’ll probably always have a little regret I didn’t do more. So for now, the plan is to edit the proofs for books five and six, put those edits in, tweak the covers because I think they could be better, and order more proofs. Then I’ll sit on them and read them all through again in February and pray to God I feel like they are good enough because I want book one ready to go by March 1st. By then the series will be two and a half years old. It’s time.


I got into another discussion the other day about the stigma of indie publishing. I really hate those conversations, but honestly, I think people use it as an excuse as to why their books don’t sell.

There are so many ways to publish now, and who can even accurately define what indie publishing is? There are huge independent publishers like Graywolf Press who are so successful that maybe authors don’t consider them independent anymore. Then we have publishers that are legit like Bookouture and Belt Publishing. Then we have the companies that aren’t vanity presses, but they aren’t exactly publishers, either, like BookBaby, Bublish, Lulu, and She Writes Press (Brooke Warner is great–you should check them out.) Then we have the smaller presses that pop up, and maybe they’re legit, maybe they aren’t. I mean, if you know how to edit, create a cover, or format a book, almost anyone can consider themselves a publisher. I’ve helped plenty of authors put together their books, but I would never consider myself a small press, nor would I want to. Then we have the vanity presses that walk the line of what’s legitimate and what’s not (like Austin McAuley, iUniverse, and Author Solutions). So when you think about the million different ways to publish, how can anyone say that readers don’t read indie? How in the heck are they even supposed to know?

I get cranky when I hear the theory there is still stigma against indie publishing, and my argument is that no reader is going to go out of their way to search who published your book. You know how a reader knows if your book is indie? If the cover is bad, if it’s not edited properly (by yourself or someone else), if the formatting is poor. That all screams unprofessionalism, and yes, self-publishing. All a reader wants is a good story in a nice package because they forked over their hard-earned cash to read your work. If you can’t give them quality, then you have no business publishing, and if you do publish, you have no right to be angry with poor reviews or returns. There are plenty of big-time indie authors who started out small, and yes, as they made more money their teams grew and some even go on to publish other people like Michele Anderle and his publishing company through LMBPN, and to me, that just blurs the line even more. Don’t push your failure on to other people. If my books don’t sell, it’s 100% my fault, not because I’m indie. WTF is wrong with people? (This is a rhetorical question, and I’m laughing.)


So, you know I went ahead and listed my book with Booksprout. I was hesitant because of the poor quality of reviews last time and since they did their overhaul, I was hoping for a better outcome. A couple reviews have come in, and it seems for the most part they’re at least reading the book. I got one sweet review and it’s always nice when a stranger can validate you’re putting out a good book:

I dislike for the cheapest plan reviewers have to include in the review that they received the book on Booksprout in exchange for a review. It seems dirty and just a little skeezy but there are plenty of review services so paying for a review I guess isn’t the end of the world. But when you give away 25 review copies, and all 25 have that at the bottom, and all the reviews are five stars, it doesn’t look honest or sincere and if a reader comes by and happens to see that, a review won’t make a bit of difference to them.

So you have to weigh the options here of publishing without reviews, which I did for my duet. I guess there’s not a right answer either way.


I really don’t have much else this week. I’ve been so busy proofing my proofs that between that and working, I don’t have much time for anything else. I thought briefly of doing NaNo in November, but I’m going to be way too busy getting my trilogy read to publish in January. I may not even be writing new stuff until next year which is sad, but I need to get my back list going. Sales for my duet have been so-so. I get a lot of impressions, but no clicks, which at first glance means my covers aren’t doing well. It could also mean my categories and targets are off, but I know they aren’t because I put a lot of time into my 7 keyword fields when I published and I emailed KDP and added more categories. Those are all on target. I knew but didn’t want to admit, through feedback on FB that the men chose weren’t sexy enough for covers. I just liked the look of them and went against my own advice which is to bend when you can because nothing is more important than doing what you need to do for your books to sell. Now that they’re on KDP in ebook, paperback, and soon hardcover, and I uploaded them to IngramSpark, changing them out won’t be easy. I’m going to wait for a while and see what happens, but learning from this, I do realize the covers for my trilogy I was playing around with won’t work. I need stronger, sexier men, even if they’ve been used on covers before. If you don’t know what my duet covers look like, here they are:

I still love them, but again, time will tell if they’ll do the job.

That’s all I have! Until next week!

Author Update (Yep, Again)

I wish I had more to write about this week, but the problem is, I just haven’t been into listening to podcasts or reading the non-fiction books that have accumulated in my TBR pile. If it’s not happening on Twitter then I probably don’t know much about it which is sad, but the state of my life at the moment.

King’s Crossing
I’m knee deep editing my King’s Crossing series and it’s slow going because all the “takes” and “makes” I thought I managed to get rid of before I formatted them and ordered the proofs. Well, I didn’t do as good as job as I thought. I probably got tired, and I can’t blame myself because holy God, there are a lot. If I didn’t have that to worry about, I think these books would actually sound pretty good. No typos, at least, still getting rid of some repetitive words, but after editing the first two books of my trilogy, I can definitely tell these are the first books I wrote writing in first person. I fell into a bad rhythm and editing it out, even after several passes, has been a lot of work. Still, seeing them in book form has been very helpful, and I’m confident after this final pass, they will be good enough to publish. I’m only on book two, and there are a lot of sentences I marked that I have to rewrite, but the story is good. The consistency (so far) is solid, and I’m very happy with that. I’m also happy with the logo I created using a DepositPhotos vector I found:

Made with a vector from DepositPhotos in Canva

The “Book One” changes obviously, but after several failed attempts to create a logo with an X myself, I was so happy to have stumbled upon an X with a crown already made. I seriously love it!

Booksprout
I went ahead and put Rescue Me on Booksprout. I did it over Labor Day weekend, which probably wasn’t the best time, but so far I’ve given away 24 out of the 25 copies they make available. The paperback is already on Amazon, no sales, of course, but that’s okay. I’ll put the ebook up on October 1 like I planned and hope there will be a few reviews when I do. I’ll offer a few copies to my newsletter, though last month I had 7 people unsubscribe. I don’t know yet if they are good subscribers or not. From what I’ve heard, the open rate is decent (40%) but I ran a giveaway and only one person entered. After hosting giveaways on here with little participation, that’s actually not surprising, but it’s too bad because it’s a really great prize! What I need to do is think about running my ad on Facebook again for my reader magnet and see if I can’t get some more subscribers, and also look into Bookfunnel promos since I’m already paying for that. If you want a copy of Rescue Me, a one-night stand, steamy billionaire romance with an HEA, then grab a copy. It’s offered through Bookfunnel and I limited it to the first 20 people who download. You don’t have to give me your email. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/z92k8x1a92. Here’s the blurb. I got a little help from S. J. Cairns, and I think it sounds pretty good:

Sam
When my wife passed away, I buried my life with her.
For two years, I lived like I was already dead.
Until one night, when I meet Lily. Lying in her arms, I’m reminded of what hope feels like.
But sometimes what could have been is stronger than what could be, and I have a difficult time letting my wife’s memory go.
As I get to know Lily, I realize it isn’t only my past standing in our way, and what I’ll have to do to stop hers from destroying her future may very well destroy mine instead.

Lily
Billionaire Samuel Sharpe is beaten down and weary, and when we meet in a hotel bar, there’s no way I can say no when he asks me upstairs.
After a violent divorce, I’m struggling to find a fresh start, and a one night stand with the man who would turn out to be my boss isn’t part of the plan.
My ex-husband broke me, and until I met Sam, I didn’t think anyone could put me back together again.
I should have known my past wouldn’t leave me alone, and I can’t ask Sam to rescue me.
Compared to his wife’s memory, I’m not worth saving.

Hardbacks
With some persuading, I created hardcover versions for the two books in my duet. It didn’t take that long, and with some help from JP Garland, I was able to position the elements on the cover correctly, as the template is a bit different. I’ll write about it in full when I get my proof copies so I can post a picture. I placed the order today and it said they won’t come until the beginning of October, but I won’t forget.

IngramSpark
I approved my duet paperbacks on IngramSpark this morning. It took a little back and forth on the second book with the cover as they kept saying my spine was wrapping onto the front, but when I adjusted it, it still wasn’t correct. I overcorrected then they said my spine was too narrow, but that seemed to knock me out of a loop and when I moved my elements back to where they were before, the cover was accepted. I don’t use the Expanded Distribution option on KDP as I feel IngramSpark is more professional if I want to have my books in bookstores or if one day I ever drudge up the courage to ask the indie bookstore in downtown Fargo to carry my books. I’m always amused when authors bring in their author copies from Amazon, like they don’t understand that Amazon is every bookstore’s competitor and booksellers really don’t want the KDP POD stamp in the backs of the books they’re selling. It’s just proof to me that indies need to keep an eye on their own business and do things the professional way so they look like they know what they’re doing. Publishing is a business, after all, and booksellers don’t have to waste time with an indie who isn’t professional. There are plenty of authors who are.


That really is about all. Since my mind is a one-way track, I’ll be focusing on proofing the proofs of my series. I won’t be able to think about anything else until that’s done, but with as quickly as it’s going, I should be able to have them finished by the middle of October. Entering in the fixes takes longer than reading the proofs because for some reason, seeing a sentence that needs to be rewritten…i can’t wrap my mind around writing it in a different way. It’s just roadblock I need to overcome because of course there’s a different way to rewrite a sentence. There’s a million different ways to rewrite a sentence. After that’s completed, I will put all my attention on my trilogy because I want to get those out in January, and I have to still finalize covers and write my blurbs. With all that going on, I’m itching to get back to writing, but depending on how all the above goes, I may not be writing new material until next year. It’s just how my mind works. I’ve decided to go with it instead of fighting it. Besides, I like getting one project done and moving to the next. I feel more productive than having three or four things going on at once.

I hope you all have a good week! There’s not much of 2022 left. Do you have any goals you want to reach before then?

Until next time!

Booksprout Review Service

 

book sprout logo

We all need reviews, and finding a platform that can deliver for a low cost or free is like a goldmine to an author. Reviews are social proof our books are good. They show potential readers that others have enjoyed it. They help us create ads either by being able to pull out the review itself for a graphic, or using keywords in all the reviews for our ad keywords.

For an example, here’s the graphic I made in Canva for Bookbub:

bookbub don't run away ad fourth try

There’s a lot of controversy around reviews. Some indie writers/readers insist on leaving poor reviews when reading books to “warn” other readers what a piece of crap it is.

I’d written blog posts about that before, and it’s one reason why I don’t promo my books on Twitter. Writer Twitter is full of people who think they write better than you and they are not shy letting you know about it.

There is even a review of Don’t Run Away by someone I gave a free copy to with a Starbucks gift card. I was getting rid of author copies that had a significant typo in it. Two years later her review pops up on Goodreads. Three stars, and her review starts “This normally isn’t my genre…”

I know they say that a mix of reviews is actually better for your book, but those kinds of reviews I can do without.

You’re probably in the same situation I am. You need reviews beyond family and friends, and the odd Twitter person who wants more than anything to say something bad about your book.

Real, helpful reviews are hard to come by. A reader’s first thought usually isn’t to leave a review of a book unless they were blown away. All they care about is what they’re going to read next.

I’m a member of quite a few groups on Facebook, and one group was talking about Booksprout. I always thought Booksprout was a tool to deliver books and arcs to readers from a list you provided, but Booksprout actually provides their own reader list. You can give away up to twenty arcs with the free option, fifty with one tier option, or unlimited with the second tier option.

booksprout pricing plans

Anyway, 20 out of 20 arcs were claimed for Don’t Run Away in 13 of 20 arcs were claimed for The Years Between Us.

You can choose how long to give your readers to read the book before a review is due, and I gave my readers a couple of months, just to be realistic. Then the reviews near that date started rolling in. Around this time, I was having huge doubts about being wide, and I gave my readers a few extra days to leave a review before deleting the arcs. I put my books back into KU because the quality of the reviews wasn’t worth waiting for. Meaning, I didn’t get all twenty for Don’t Run Away, and I didn’t get all thirteen for The Years Between Us.

The reviewers who did review my books gave them favorable stars, and maybe that’s all that matters to you. But the actual review was just a quick summary of the book. And I don’t mean one or two reviewers did that—most of them did it. At the end of each review was the sentence, “I was given a free copy of this book through books proud in exchange for an honest review.”

Here’s a sample:

booksprout review one

I mean, that’s not a bad thing. Honest transparency. But too many of those on all your books make you look like you’re buying reviews—which is exactly what you’re doing, free service or not.

I didn’t keep an eye on my reviews, and this one popped at me while taking screenshots:

booksprout review two

There are people on there who read the books, it seems, not just skim them. And I thank this reviewer from the bottom of my heart to see she got what I was trying to do with The Years Between Us. 

But overall, the quality of the reviews may not matter to you. If your book has zero you’re trying to gain some traction, you might think a review is a review, even a cardboard-sounding one. And that would be your choice.

I’m not against using Booksprout in the future. Put your arc out there ahead of time, have reviewers leave the review on the day the paperback comes out, wait a week for the reviews to populate, delete your arcs from Booksprout, and then announce your Kindle version is live. You’ll already have reviews for your book. (Thank you to Jami Albright for this release tip. One I’m going to try for the first book in my new series coming this winter.)

I don’t know if you really need to pull your arcs, but I prefer not to give Amazon a reason to give me the stinkeye.

If you have a book that doesn’t have many, if any reviews, give Booksprout a try. You never know if it will work for you.


What are some other ways to get reviews?

  1. Write a good book first. Most readers prefer to review good books. Give them thought-provoking material, or give them a good laugh, or information that will change their lives. The product always comes first.
  2. Ask. Authors are terrible at asking. Put a request in your back matter. If you enjoyed this book, please leave a review. That’s it. Don’t squish it in there with other calls to action. If you want reviews, ask, and leave it at that.
  3. If you have the cash, use a service like NetGalley. Make sure the services reputable otherwise you’re wasting money. You can take a look at my review of the Happy Book Reviews service here.
  4. Create an arc team. This can take some time, but it might be worth it in the long run. Start a Facebook group of readers in your genre and ask them to review your book when it comes out. Building a team can take a long time and lot of work.
  5. Start a newsletter. Build a newsletter following. Your fans will be the first in line to buy and review your book.

Not all reviews are created equal. I have more reviews on Goodreads than I do on Amazon. Maybe readers are more comfortable leaving reviews there, or maybe that’s their preferred platform because they feel they can be more honest. (Or just leaving a star review, something Amazon won’t let reviewers do.) Whatever the reason, a review is a review, so we should celebrate when our readers take the time to tell us what they think.

Let me know your experience with Booksprout, or if you think you’ll give it a try!


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