Thursday Thoughts, Kindle Vella, and where I am right now.

I feel like I’m running on a treadmill. I’m making progress toward my health, mental and physical, overall, but hell if I’m going anywhere. That’s how this phase of my writing is going.

It’s tough feeling like you’re not going anywhere.

I’m finished listening to the first book I’m going to release–a 1st person billionaire. There is still a lot to do before I can even get my hands on a copy of the proof, and I’ll create a checklist for you all as I get them done. This book doesn’t have a title yet, something so simple that is going to give me hives. I’ve made plenty of mistakes naming my books, and now that I’ve learned so much in the past four years of writing and publishing, there’s a lot of pressure to apply all that I’ve learned. I’ll still make mistakes, but cover, title, blurb, metadata, keywords, pricing, and everything else that goes into putting the book up for sale, those areas don’t give you a lot of leeway for error. Anyone can tell you who has had to make changes to an already published book, it’s just easier in the long run to get it all right so you can enjoy the launch rather than worry about having to fix the interior or change a typo on the cover. Yeah, that is a lot of added pressure, but slow down and don’t panic, and it will be okay.


There’s been a lot of talk about Kindle Vella, and this can cause its own kind of FOMO and anxiety. To be honest, I never cared about Kindle Vella, and once I heard someone break it down, it really didn’t entice me to want to try it. What she said is this: Writing episodic fiction is more than just sitting down and splitting up a novel at mini-cliffhanger-type scene breaks. Writing episodic fiction is a skill, in work you can see for yourself such as writing soap operas, telanovelas, and podcast fiction. You have to write with intent. You have to know the story you want to write and how to write it. I have no knowledge of writing episodic fiction, nor do I want to learn simply to try a new platform where I may or may not find success. I know how to write books, that’s it. Short stories, novellas, novels, and episodic fiction all have their own rhythms and nuances, their own reader expectations. Once I heard her say this, it made so much sense that I was glad I didn’t let myself get swept away in the hype.

If you do want to try Kindle Vella, or want to learn more about it, look here:

What is Kindle Vella? And Should You Join as an Author? (Reedsy Blog)
Amazon Kindle Vella for Serialized Stories Launches in the US
Kindle Vella Authors Facebook Group

As with any piece of writing, if you don’t write it correctly, with skill and talent, keeping reader expectation in mind (why are readers reading your work, what do they want to get out of it), you won’t go far. That’s true for anything from blog posts to articles on Medium, to submitting to a literary journal, to writing a book. Rather than jumping on the next big thing, ask yourself if your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to find any success. If you don’t have time to learn how to write episodic fiction, but you can crank out a novel in six weeks, ask yourself which is a better use of your time. You may decide after you break it down that it’s not right for you after all.


I wasn’t able to go to Georgia this week. My SO caught COVID and I had to cancel my trip. He’s doing okay, a little tired, a little achy, but I wasn’t able to go. In a small way, I was relieved. I don’t like flying. It’s not the flying so much as how so many people lately have had poor experiences with the airlines. Canceled flights, sitting on the runway for hours on end only to taxi back to the airport. It’s terrible, and I’m not sure if things will get any better. I never had a good experience flying before COVID (the Fargo, ND airport has never been able to get me to my layover on time) and it seems the pandemic made dealing with airlines that much more troublesome. We’ll figure something else out–he may come visit me in October. I’m just thankful he’ll make a full recovery after a few days of sleep.

So I’ll keep plugging away at my books, setting them up and seeing how I can optimize my launches. Making my books the best they can be, looking forward to fall, and trying to enjoy life on the hamster wheel.

Until next time!

Are Editors the Next Gatekeepers? Some people want them to be.

The one thing we say most about independent publishing is it has completely taken away the gatekeepers. You can publish anything you want, whenever you want, all you need is a properly (sometimes not!) formatted file and a good cover (sometimes not!). We all know that there are lot of good books that are indie-published every day. We also know there are a lot that aren’t.

I left another FB group the other day. The conversation turned so stressful that I was in a bad headspace all day. It’s hard to shake things off when people attack you for what you believe. What was it I said? I said some indie writers are good enough not to need the whole buffet of editing: development edit, copy edit, line edit, and a proofreader. That’s all I said, and I still stand by that. An author who is on book 30 is not going to need the time and attention an author is going to need publishing her debut novel. They simply aren’t. The craft is there, the skill is there, the experience is there. Two editors took my words the wrong way, or they were just spoiling for a fight, and tore into me.

Of course the conversation turned more ugly when price became a topic because everyone in the industry knows that editing is the most expensive part of publishing–especially if you do need the whole smorgasbord before you put your book out there–and the editors were defensive. I’ve never said an editor shouldn’t be paid what he or she is worth. I’d never devalue an editor’s work like that. You’re paying for a skill that they’ve (hopefully) honed for years. An excellent editor can take your lump of coal book and turn it into a diamond, I get that. On the other hand, not everyone can afford it, and they didn’t seem to understand that.

I agree with the belief that you shouldn’t publish until your book has been edited, at least by SOMEONE, but it’s also discriminatory to say that no one should publish at all if you can’t afford it. That’s gatekeeping all over again.

I didn’t point out in my exit rant that the people saying this were affluent white people who have the disposable cash to hire an editor. I’m white too, but I’m poor. I can’t afford a $2,000 development edit. I simply can’t. That’s three and a half months of rent. I do the best I can with the resources I have, and I will never let anyone insult me for it.

One of the big questions that come up when discussing editing fees is, why do editors cost so much? It’s not because each individual editor is trying to rip you off (though some are better than others, so ALWAYS ask for a sample and make educated choices). There’s an association that offers guidelines as to how much freelance editors should charge their clients. Editors/beta readers like Kimberly Hunt, the paid beta reader I referred to in my feedback blog last week, adheres by this association, and you can look at the pricing structure the Editorial Freelancers Association recommends. She, and many other editors, are charging the standard. Some editors who freelance on the side may charge more depending on where you’ve found them. Professional editors found on Reedsy, for example, are more than I can afford. On the flip side, there are writers and authors who want to start editing and charge a lot less because they are just getting their business going. It would be up to you whether you want to pay less. An editing sweep by a new editor will be better than no editing, but always make informed choices. Don’t just sign with her because you can afford her. And on the flip side of THAT, I wouldn’t pay a new editor the industry standard unless they can provide testimonials and proof that their skills are worth it.

Indie publishing has opened up a whole new world for scammers, and some of them don’t know they’re doing it. (Like the freelance book cover designer who will charge you 50 dollars for ten minutes of time in Canva. They think they’re running a business. I think they’re ripping you off.)

What can you do if you can’t afford an editor?

The obvious thing is to learn your craft inside and out. Learning your craft is a good first step in the editing process. It’s a lot easier to edit a good first draft than it is to tackle a draft that you know has plot holes, flat characters, and verb tense changes throughout. Hone your writing skills.

Then find feedback where you can, and like I said in the feedback blog from last week, listen to that feedback, or you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

And lastly, learn how to self-edit. Put the book in a drawer for a month or two, write something else, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

You can teach yourself to self-edit, and there are a lot of resources out there that will help. You can take editing classes, definitely edit for others (that’s why I do it for free for my friends because it helps me improve) or my favorite (and probably cheaper) way to learn how to edit is reading self-editing books.

Here are my go-tos:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Rennie Browne and Dave King

Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin

Cover to Cover: What First-Time Authors Need to Know about Editing (Read this book before you publish your book by Sandra Wendel (Hat tip to Jane Friedman for this find on her blog.)

You also should have a firm grasp on grammar and punctuation. No matter who reads your book, be it a paid beta reader or one of the authors you networked with who said they would give you feedback, make it easier for them to read you by knowing your grammar and punctuation. If you choose to pay a proofreader or a line editor, it will be cheaper if they don’t have so much to wade though.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

I have all these books; I’ve read all these books. Self-editing is a different skill than learning and practicing how to write good books, but I think they go hand in hand.

I’m glad I left that group, but I wish I would have asked those snobby women what they do to help the indie publishing industry if they so despise what come out of it. Do they beta read for free? Do they edit pro bono twice a year? How are they making a difference? Complaining about the state of indie publishing is only being part of the problem not part of the solution.

I try to help when I can. Maybe my edits aren’t as good as someone with a real editing degree, but I have a Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing, and I educate myself all the time. I hope that the authors I’ve edited for have gone away with a better book.

Saying an author shouldn’t publish without a professional edit is shortsighted to say the least. Authors are going to publish without an editor no matter what anyone says because they don’t have the disposable income to afford it. Hell, I’ve read some traditionally published books that have read like they haven’t been edited, either. (See my crabby review of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date novel.) It’s up to the author to learn what they need to learn if they can’t afford an editor and aren’t willing to sell plasma like Jami Albright to hire one.

Readers will always be the new gatekeepers. You, as an author, need to do what you can to keep your readers happy. In the end it doesn’t matter how you go about doing it, only that you do. And if you don’t, your reviews and sales rank will be proof that you’ll need to start doing better. It will be up to you as to how.


Got/Get: The laziest words.

I don’t write a lot on craft in this blog. I’ll share editing books I like and tell you over and over again that no matter what you do, ads, graphics, book promotion sites, what have you, if you’re not selling a good book, you’re not going to make it. I don’t mean a well-written book that doesn’t resonate with some readers. You’re not going to please everyone, and that’s just how it is. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to keep going in the past few years of writing. Certain people may not like my stories–I’ve never written a character people hate more than Jax in All of Nothing, but never in any review have I ever read of my work has anyone told me I’m a bad writer. So whether or not people don’t agree with my characters and all their flaws, at least I can hold my head up and know I’m a good writer.

I’m not sure where I was going with that?

Oh, so I don’t offer much craft advice. That really should come from your beta readers, your writing group, your editor. What you choose to take from those people is your own business, and as one editor I know says, “It’s always going to be their book.” So yeah, I don’t like craft advice very much, at least, not giving it.

Lately I’ve been reading more on my Kindle. I pay for a KU subscription and I signed up thinking that I would keep up with my comp authors that way. A lot of romance authors are in KU and it’s always a good thing to keep up with what’s selling. That was my intention anyway, but I paid for a few months of it before I charged up my Kindle and decided I was going to take advantage of my subscription. I read a lot of non-fiction and reading in KU is a lot cheaper than buying paperbacks.

Anyway, so I finished a mystery/thriller the other day. It’s written in first person present, which is why I chose to read it. I’m writing my own stuff in first person present and for me, it’s easier to keep in that POV and tense.

It didn’t take me long to get annoyed. This author really, I mean really, liked the words GOT/GET/GOTTEN. Not short for Game of Thrones, like we associate that word now, but the. . . I guess it’s a verb? . . . got. Gotten. Getting. Get.

She’s got an open black peacoat revealing black slacks and a gray blouse beneath.

When I got in last night, (character name) was in the middle of working on a story.

I need to get to that hospital.

While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she’s got nothing.

I don’t need to do anymore, and it didn’t take me long to find these. The author turns sloppier toward the end of book, like he was tired of writing it and wanted to finish it as quickly as possible.

Maybe it’s just me because that word has already been a pet peeve of mine, but it really turned me off. There are better verbs you can use, and they aren’t hard to reach for–She’s wearing an open black peacoat . . . Even as something simple as changing out GOT for HAS. While everyone else has pictures or knickknacks on their desk, she has nothing. Maybe it’s not any better, creatively speaking, but to me it reads a lot better.

He was able to comb through her devices after we got them from her parents.

It just sounds all around clunky and I’ve hammered it out of my writing. I know how easy it is to slip into easy language, and sometimes that’s all right. But the more you do it the more you can fall into “telling” a story rather than “showing” it. First person is particularly difficult because we’re writing someone’s thoughts, and people’s thoughts are messy and not particularly sophisticated.

And of course, I didn’t tag any dialogue because that’s how how speak. “To make it on time, we have to get going.” “We really gotta go now.” And if you’re speaking to kids, “We really gotta go NOW.”

I’m not blaming this author–I blame her editor for not catching it, or not caring enough to catch the repetitiveness of the word and asking the author to perhaps do a word search of her document and swap out the word where applicable. This wasn’t an indie published book, and unlike some indie where you’re not sure if an editor has gone over the book, this one has. It’s too bad because the word ruined a story I could have enjoyed.

In my own unfinished WIP (67k+) I used GOT 19 times. All but one time is in dialogue. In this particular conversation I used it to express character:

“You got balls, doll, but I guess you’d have to, to lie to so many people for so long. It’s not going to be that easy for you, either, once your secret comes out. What got you into that mess, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Murray Jameson, from an untitled WIP

I can search through that book and find GOT maybe every three pages, and I wanted send out a warning. Words like putting, getting, put, got–those are lazy words and you can do better. If you can’t pull the word you need out of your brain while you’re in the zone, I don’t blame you and you shouldn’t let it derail you. Keep going but make a note, maybe an actual note so you don’t forget, that you’ll need to do a sweep for that word in edits.

I don’t write literary fiction, and I’m not out to be the next Margaret Atwood, but I do want my books to read clean and give the reader a chance to immerse herself into my story. I don’t want sloppy grammar to pull her out.

I got into plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

So easily remedied: I found plenty of trouble after Hannah died.

I know we all have our voices, our own styles, and if you want to use GOT go ahead. There is a time and place for it, and I know that. But too much of a good thing can be bad.

And that is my craft post for the month.

“Got” a pet peeve that you’ve discovered in books? Let me know!


Thursday Musings: Working from home, new processes, and a new book!

Happy Thursday, everyone! We are all on pins and needles waiting for the election results. No matter who you voted for, I hope our president can make 2021 a great year for all of us!


Last week I finished another round of edits for my King’s Crossing Billionaire Series. I wish I could afford to send them off to an editor and wash my hands of them (except for putting in the edits afterward, of course) but I have no idea how a prolific author can afford an editor, even paying for simple proofreading, if the money isn’t coming in yet. I’ve snooped around for pricing, but man. Editors charge a lot. I totally get that, but scraping up the money for project after project, I don’t get how indies can afford it. I mean sure, I understand that eventually you’re going to make money, but if you’re not quite doing that yet, it’s tough to afford editing. Everyone says it’s an investment, and it really is, but you shouldn’t have to choose between putting out a quality book and paying for food. It’s tough. So I’ll be taking a break from those 6 books and come back to them after the New Year with fresh eyes. I”ll listen to them and make more changes and then go ahead and put them out.

Until then, I’ve started a standalone in first person present POV about a man who is tasked to marrying off his boss’s daughter for a share in his boss’s company. He falls in love with her instead, naturally, forfeiting his share of the company for love. Tentatively titled The Contract, it was supposed to be a reader magnet for my newsletter I wanted to get up and going this year. I’m 12,000 words into it already, (I started it Monday of this week) have most of the book outlined, and to be honest, I don’t want to give it away. I think it would be a great first book under my new name for the first person books I’m going to start writing. (I still go back and forth with what that will be. Some derivative of my real name is all I know.) This leaves me in a real jam because I should have my newsletter set up for the back matter of The Contract. I don’t need a reader magnet for organic signups like that, but I should have something which means writing something else in the near future. I just need something simple that will be a novella-length book that I won’t feel bad about giving away. Maybe I can pull something out of a plot generator and take six days to write 30,000 words of…something.


My new project would qualify me to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I’ve never needed the motivation to write quickly. I enjoy the work for what it is, and have enough support on Facebook in some of my groups. I don’t know how long The Contract will turn out to be, but it would be nice if I could hit the 80,000 word mark or so. We’ll see. I always stress about word count–it seems it’s part of my process.

Speaking of processes, starting a new project while working from home is different. When I used to go to work, I only had a notebook and pen, and being I was attached to my call station, I didn’t have any distractions. Working from home is a lot different environment, and sitting with a pad and pen here feels weird. I still need to outline–I’ll never be a good pantser. I need to know where the story is going or I would never be able to write as fast as I do. But not going into work doesn’t give me the downtime that was forced upon me, and I have to actively make time to daydream about my characters, brainstorm plots, and generally imagine the pieces of my book to put them together on paper. It’s definitely a new way of doing things.


I’ve had to pause all my ads because I’m eight dollars in the hole already this month. It would be nice if I could keep my series moving as it’s a winter wedding setting and takes place a couple weeks before Christmas, but this is a bad time of year and I don’t want to pump money into ads if no one is the mood to read. I see lots of that in my FB groups now–how everyone’s ads are dead, no one is buying and is there anything they can do? The answer is no. If there’s no demand, there’s no need for product. If people are worried about the election results, stressing if it’s safe to gather for Thanksgiving, and if the answer is yes, then doing the grocery shopping, Christmas shopping, and whatever else people are busy with this time of year, you can’t make them sit down and read your book. You’re better off forgetting ad maintenance for now and writing something new so you have a new release set up for when all this craziness is over. I know it’s a different story when you depend on your royalties, and I’m not there yet. But spending time tinkering with ads, trying to get them to deliver impressions and clicks is a waste of time.


That’s all I have for you on this Thursday’s author musings. I’m excited to be writing something fresh, and I don’t think it will take me long to get this book done. Hopefully I’m looking at a February release, and then over next spring and summer I can get my 6 book series out. I’m not so down in the dumps as I was a couple of blog posts ago. Life happens, and all you can do is roll with it.

Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading!


Editing: Can you edit too much?

As I look up wrapping up my six book series (I’m at 67k for book five) editing 540,000 words is weighing on my mind. It’s a daunting task. I edit my own books, which people tell me is quite a no-no, and I agree for first-time authors and writers still working on their craft. I use beta readers who hunt for typos and point out murky scenes and I take their opinions to heart and decide if what they say has any validation in my work. (It usually does.)

On the other hand, my betas are writers, too, not only readers, and writers don’t read like readers do. We are pickier, which may or not be a good thing. The problem is, the pickier you are, the more you’re going to nickel and dime your manuscript to death.

So how can you edit without sucking the life out of your story?

  1. Don’t write by committee. I have to thank Kristine Kathryn Rusch for this tip. While critique partners and writing groups can offer valuable tips and suggestions, the end product should always be yours. There is no “best” way to write. Readers read your work because they like your voice. Writing by committee is the fastest way to lose your voice. You simply can’t implement everyone’s suggestions, nor can you make your book “perfect.” There is no such thing. Your book could have a million endings, a million different twists. If what you have chosen gels (meaning no potholes, you have realized character acs, etc) there’s no reason to be swayed by someone else’s opinion if you like what you’ve already got.
  2. Too many cooks ruin the broth. Every beta reader is going to have an opinion and your mind can spin if you try to listen to everyone. Some people think the more beta readers the better, but all that does is give you more opinions to listen to. Maybe you like that. I have one or two trusted betas and that’s it. I wouldn’t even bother with that except it’s not a good idea to publish without another set of eyes just to be sure you’re not missing anything plot-wise.
  3. Too many editing sweeps and you’ll edit the flavor right out of the story. I did this with Wherever He Goes. I wanted my first standalone to sound good, but all I did was make the opening chapters sound bland. It’s difficult to trust your gut, especially if you haven’t been writing for a while and you know your voice and writing style still need a little work. Going over and over your work won’t make it better–it’s already written. Make that particular piece the best it can be with as few editing sweeps as possible and move on to something new.
  4. Trust your instincts. I have already made some changes with my first couple of books in the series that I don’t agree with based on beta suggestions, and I regret them now. In my next editing sweep I’ll put them back. The things she pointed out and I changed were based on her personal dislikes and I should never have listened to her. I liked what I had before I made changes.
  5. Choose beta readers in your genre. I think that was part of my problem with number four above. The person who disliked aspects of my book doesn’t read or write in my genre. Sometimes this can be valuable, but usually having a beta familiar with your genre can help with tropes etc. and tell you if you hit the nail on the head or missed the mark. (Usually if you are an extensive reader in your genre, you’ll know without being told.)
  6. If you’ve been writing for a while, you may not need an editor. Hear me out. You may only need a proofreader so you can publish a clean copy of your work. As you’re writing evolves, you’ll become more confident and you won’t second-guess yourself like I did with Wherever He Goes, or even when I listened to my beta reader with the first couple of books when deep down I didn’t want to.

In closing, I’m not going to go all crazy with the editing of these books. I don’t want to edit my voice out of them. I want my characters to sound like themselves and that is a real risk when you over-edit. You can edit the spirit right out of your characters so they sound like every other character you’ll ever write.

You don’t want to publish a first draft, but you don’t want your editing to take longer than the actual writing either. There’re a lot of stories out there. Go write them.


If you want to hear Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s talk, she spoke at the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. I think I might have referenced this video once before on the blog, but I’ll post it again if you’re curious.

Also, if you’re curious about a couple of good editing books, I just recommended these two to a friend on Twitter:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a fabulous book and it’s highly recommended by a lot of writers, agents, and editors. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Yourself/dp/0060545690/

Taken from Amazon

And a new editing book that just came on the scene not long ago by Tiffany Yates Martin called Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing is fabulous! I heard about it in one of the FB groups I’m in, and it is awesome! I recommend you check it out! https://www.amazon.com/Intuitive-Editing-Creative-Practical-Revising/dp/1950830020/

taken from Amazon

Thanks for stopping in! Until next time! 🙂


Pointing fingers: Who’s fault is a bad book?

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Taken from Stephenie’s website, stepheniemeyer.com

There was a lot of hoopla on writer Twitter last week when Stephenie Meyer announced that she would be finally releasing Midnight SunTwilight only from Edward’s point of view. Twelve years ago, halfway through writing it, someone leaked it, and heartbroken, Stephanie didn’t finish it letting the half-done manuscript sit on her website.

The vitriol on Writer Twitter started immediately. I even saw someone make a parody of the cover of Midnight Sun which features a pomegranate. In the parody, the designer used a peeled banana. It didn’t take me long to get sick of the scathing remarks.

Coincidence, or maybe not, I saw on Instagram that E L James is starting to write the last 50 Shades book from Christian’s point of view.

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 8.53.52 PM

And a few days ago, someone on Twitter posted a poll: Who is the worst best-selling author among Ken Follett, Nicholas Sparks, and Dan Brown. It was an unnecessary and meaningless post. I told her so, and we got into a little catfight until ultimately she told me to grow up. I found that funny because I wasn’t the one tearing down best-selling authors in public.

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 6.39.16 PM

But all this mud opinion slinging, all these disparaging remarks, begs a question: whose fault is a bad book?

It’s easy to pin in it on the author. Readers take passages from a book to make fun of it, they make gagging noises when reading the Look Inside of a book on Amazon, they live tweet their reactions to books hoping to start a mob of dislike. (Public Twitter shaming is big in YA, especially if the topic of racism/race is involved.)

Is it always the author’s fault when a bad book is published?

In the indie world, it sure is. Whether indies don’t hire an editor because they can’t afford it, or don’t think they need one, or they hire one then ignore everything that editor says because it’s “their book and they can do what they want,” when an indie self-publishes, everything from cover to cover is their responsibility.

Some say it’s not really fair. Finding resources, resources that are affordable and trustworthy, is hard. I totally get that and it’s why I’ve stopped reviewing indie books. Sometimes no matter how hard an author tries, their book isn’t going to be good enough. When it comes to Stephenie Meyer or E L James, their best obviously wasn’t good enough for some people, either.

Though, when an author gets picked up by an agent, when that agent sells work to a publishing house who employs several editors, when does the responsibility shift from author to publishing house? Is there no differentiation? When you publish a book, your name is on it. It belongs to you. You’re responsible for the outcome, good or bad, and I guess when you’re a reader, you don’t stop to consider that a “bad,” traditionally-published book has been looked at by probably close to five sets of eyes–one belonging to an agent who deemed it sellable in the first place. Twilight was actually found a slush pile by agent assistant at Writers House who passed it along to a senior agent, Jodie Reamer.

If you get picked up by an agent, and she sells it, and an editor edits it, the house publishes it and puts a few thousand dollars at marketing it, are you that remiss in thinking that your book is good or that you’re a decent writer? Agents are gatekeepers after all, and it’s why some writers still query and never self-publish even if they never find an agent. They need the validation. They need to be told their writing is good.

And all these musings beg another question: When an agent, editor, publishing house says an author is a great writer, but the readers say she is not, who is correct? The house who pays the author an advance, or the readers on Twitter who tweets live what a piece of shit it is?

Is it the author’s fault they believe the agent, the editor, and the publishing house? Of course not. Is it the author’s fault the editor skimped on edits and pushed the book out to meet reader demand and take advantage of social media momentum like in the case of 50 Shades of Grey? I don’t think so.

So why all the finger pointing at the author when the book is taken out of their hands?

I mean, do you think E L James’s editor pulled her aside and told her to join a writing critique group? Probably not. Erika didn’t have time anyway, she was too busy rolling in money and watching Jamie Dornan strip on set.

The thing is, as writers, we’re bound to get better. I read The Mister and it was definitely a change from 50 Shades. She got better. Now, we’ll probably never know if she took some creative writing classes or read some craft books, or if that time around her editor took more time with her and The Mister went through more rounds of edits than 50 Shades.

I tell indies on my blog and on Twitter all the time–it’s not your editor’s responsibility to teach you how to write. If you get a 1,000 dollar editing bill from a copy editor, you’d be better off investing in two English/creative writing classes. Which do you think is the better investment? The classes that could help you for your entire career, or the edits from one book?

If you’re an indie and your editor highlights every single sentence because of grammar, punctuation, or it simply doesn’t make sense, you need to take the future of your writing into your own hands. Not every writer is going to have an MFA, but if you don’t understand tension, conflict, stakes, plot, and character arcs, you best figure it out or you’re always going to have problems and your books will never sell.

That’s a big difference between bestselling authors who use too many adverbs and an indie who doesn’t know how to plot–story. Stephenie’s and Erika’s agents knew a good story when they read one, and so did their publishing houses, and most importantly, so did their readers.

Maybe it’s not fair of me to blame an indie for their weaknesses and not a traditionally published author. In the case of a “bad” book, though, it’s not an author’s fault if their agent and editor tell them that their book is good. Those people are supposed to be in the know–and they didn’t end up wrong–numbers of copies sold proves that.

As Grace Metalious said of her runaway bestseller Peyton Place, “If I’m a lousy writer, a hell of a lot of people have lousy taste.” A sentiment I’m sure E L James shares, and a sentiment that brings the literary versus commercial fiction argument full circle.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily

If books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are so offensive because of sparkling vampires, horny main characters, and typos so abundant that even the free version of Grammarly would meet its match, why do so many people read them? In one of my tweets to the writer with the poll, I told her she can read who she likes. No one is forcing her to read Nicholas Sparks.

There are a lot of ways a book can be “bad.” The story can be well-written but more boring than hell. The author may not know her grammar and punctuation, or subject-verb agreement, or maybe she has a crutch word issue like the girl from Tik Tok pointed out making fun of Stephenie’s use of the word “chuckled.” (An editing failure, in my opinion.)

We all aspire to write “good” well-written novels and we chafe when we do so (or we think we have) and we’re not recognized. That’s luck and what’s hitting the market at any particular time, and you’e not proving anything to anyone showing off sour grapes because an author you deemed “not worthy” has found that luck and niche in the market.

What can you do besides wasting time with useless polls?

Work on your craft. Read books that won’t offend your high-society taste. Query your heart out or learn marketing because, honey, that’s the only way your book will see the light of day.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily-2

So, who’s fault is a bad book? I suppose after such a long blog post hashing out the question, we can determine there are no bad books written, only bad matches between book and reader. The only difference is some readers are more vocal about their unhappiness and some aren’t.

I wish Writer Twitter weren’t so vocal about it. It’s not like a lot of those writers have anything to brag about. Sometimes I find the reader who complains the loudest is only making themselves feel better because their books fall into the same camp they’re trashing online.

I wish Stephenie all the success in the world with Midnight Sun. And I hope Erika’s critics never stop her from writing.

There are books out there for everyone. Read what you like and leave the rest of us alone.


Resources I used for this blog post:

The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers


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Another update, because, why not? And other musings of a #stayhome life

I had a blog post planned for today, and it’s even written out in my notebook. I need to type it up and get it out there, because it’s part of the 2020 predictions from Written Word Media. I would like to get that series finished up so I can blog about other things. Though, with this virus stuff going on, (and I don’t mean to make light of it at all; I know it’s affected many people) it feels almost strange to be carrying on in any normal sort of way.

silhouette-4233622_1920Even with my rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, write, write, write mentality I like to shove down people’s throats on this blog, I haven’t been doing much of that.

That’s not to say I haven’t been doing something. I was dismayed to find one day that some of my Vellum files for my books went missing. It’s not technically a big deal. I mean, I still had the .mobi files for Kindle the PDFs, but I didn’t like not having the actual files that upload into Vellum. So I took it upon myself to take the PDFs, convert them back into a Word docx and put them back into Vellum.

It’s just as convoluted as it sounds, and when you convert a PDF into a Word docx, the formatting isn’t 100% the same. And when you put that Word docx into Vellum, it gets messed up even more. So what I did (for my own peace of mind and my weird anxiety I get when I think about my books) I decided that while I was fixing the formatting in Vellum, I would give them a light edit and push them back into the world.

I’ve taken the last two weeks and I did All of Nothing, The Years Between Us, and Wherever He Goes. I guess because the formatting changed, or maybe I chose a different font for the text, who knows, I had to redo cover dimensions for All of Nothing and Wherever He Goes. That wasn’t too big a deal, since everything was saved in Canva and I had all my stock photos still saved there. Recreating them with a different canvas size didn’t take too much time, and I’m getting good enough that I didn’t bother ordering proofs before publishing them (something I used to do every time I made a change to the paperback).

It was actually kind of interesting to go back and read my books again, and I learned a couple things along the way:

1. I need to keep my baby name book with me. ALWAYS. I used the same names over and over again. There’s a Jared in Wherever He Goes, and there’s a Jared in my Wedding series. I reused the name Max, as well. Dismayed, I found I used Erik in All of Nothing, and there’s an Eric in Don’t Run Away. There’s an Elmer in Wherever He Goes, and an Elmer in the new trilogy I’m editing (I’ll change his name, for sure). You know, there are so many names available, I shouldn’t have reused the names at all. It’s not like I’m 60+ into my backlist and I’ve run out of choices. For consistency and scared I would do more harm than good, I didn’t change any of the names. Maybe in the future an Excel sheet will come in handy.

2. I use the same imagery. I’m consistent in imagery, and I guess that’s what people mean when they say they know a book’s author by the way it’s written. Though some of the metaphors and cliches change from book to book, it’s evident I like the sound of a certain way of comparing things.

In the mirror, I give myself one last look. The dress shows off just enough leg, my hair is a blonde mess of curls down my back, my eyes have just the right amount of shadow and eyeliner.

I’ll pass, if no one looks too closely.

After all, even imitation gold shines in the light.

This is an example of some of the language I like to use from book to book, and while it’s pretty, I need to make sure that I’m mixing up my imagery or my books will start to sound the same.

3. My themes are the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’ve been told that a consistent theme weaving your books together will help with marketing. My theme, so far, is when you fall in love with the right person, you can find your place, you can find your home. Of course, in romance you have to be careful that the woman isn’t losing herself in her man, that her world doesn’t revolve around him. So it’s important that you give your female main characters their own backstories and make sure they have their own arcs so they fall in love and find their place with their man on their own terms. All my female characters battle their own demons before allowing themselves to find happiness in a relationship. This is the way romance has evolved, but I don’t have any complaints. No one wants to read about a doormat who doesn’t have her own life outside of her love interest.


I could tell that when I was writing Wherever He Goes that I was a bit stiff at the beginning and I did take the chance to smooth out some sentences and make the scenes and paragraphs flow a little better. I didn’t hit my stride with that book until the middle, and I find it interesting because already by Wherever He Goes I had already written quite a few words. But that book was my first standalone after the my Tower City Trilogy and I guess I was getting used to new characters and plot.

I don’t know if I’m going to do every single book I’ve published. The box set file for my trilogy is still intact, so pulling those out and making the books single again to recover my Vellum files won’t take that long, and they won’t require proofing unless I want to go back and read them. I suppose I could since in the back of my mind I feel like those are mediocre offerings at best and I’m reluctant to advertise them. If I read through them and fix typos, etc, then maybe the time I invest doing that will come back to me since I’ll be more comfortable promoting them. That’s committing to a lot of work, and for now I’m going to do 1700. I don’t have the file for that cover anymore–that was way back when I was doing covers in Word, and Canva wasn’t available yet. So I want to revamp that and reformat the insides with Vellum. I’m excited to do that–and it won’t take me long. The whole book is barely 50k. I already edited an old paperback so I just need to add them in and make the interior pretty. It’s a romantic fantasy, and once I update the cover and keywords, it might actually make a few sales. It’s a cute little story, and even though it’s the first one I published, I’m still proud of it.

I think I even found a stock photo that might work:

depositphotos_321067012-stock-photo-young-elegant-couple-hugging-while

I know the font will play a big part of the cover, and to be honest, I totally fucked myself with the title. On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton is atrocious, and if I cared at all, I would unpublish and start over. But while it’s a sweet little thing, it doesn’t mean enough to me to completely revamp it. As they say, mistakes were made, so what’s the point of pretending they weren’t?

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing with my time. It’s amusing, at any rate, and it’s actually kind of heartening to know that I like what I write and I feel like though there were typos I had to take care of, my books are solid and I’ll have confidence in running ads to them in the coming years.

Tell me what you’ve been up to! Are you doing little things to keep your mind busy or have you been able to write?

Let me know!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 3

Hello writers and authors! This is the third blog post in this series that is exploring the findings in an author survey conducted by Written Word Media, the company that brings you Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy and other promotional tools.

You can read the intro to this blog series here and read the second part about how much time career authors spend writing here.

The third thing this survey found about these authors is that they invest in professional editing.

hand holding red pen over proofreading text

Editing can be costly and scary, but it’s much needed by every author.

Remember, emerging authors have six books in their catalog, have never made more than 60k in a year, and spend on average 18 hours a week writing.

60kers have 22 books in their catalog, and, on average, spend 28 hours a week writing.

100kers have 28 books in their catalog and spend, on average 32 hours a week writing.

As we can see by the graphic below that accompanied the original survey, all three kinds of authors use a professional editor the most. But when it comes to editing, new authors have it tough. We’re not making money yet, but we never will if we’re not selling a good product.

Marketing-Is-Hard-3-768x494

And while technology makes it easier than ever to find typos (thanks, Grammarly) technology makes it easier for readers to complain. When you read a book on a Kindle, for example, a reader can highlight a typo or mistake and report it.

Crazy, huh?

It stands to reason a well-edited book will earn you more money in the long run. But when you have no money, it’s hard to come up with the fees.

Not to mention, there are different types of editors, and you may not understand what kind you need, and the cost can add up if you need more than one kind.

If you’re a new writer, you may want to invest in a developmental editor. They’ll weigh in on character arcs, character development, plotting, and pacing. Readers aren’t going to like a book with flat characters and plot holes. Learning craft is hard, but you may only need to hire a developmental editor once to steer you on the right path for the rest of your writing career.

A line editor is different. They check facts (does your sun set in the west and rise in the east?), word usage, and syntax. They’ll correct you if you used the word sporadic when you meant erratic. If you’re not good with details, this kind of edit can help you a lot. I still use advice and tips I learned from the people who beta read and edited my earlier books. I used a lot of garbage words and learned how not to echo words in the same sentences and paragraphs.

Proofreading is a quick read through of the book as a last step for typos, missing words, etc. before publication. This is also the cheapest kind of editing.

If you can afford editing, make sure you ask for a sample first. The indie community is full of people charging for services they have no business providing because they don’t know what they’re doing. Be smart. Reedsy offers a list of professional editors, as well as Joanna Penn.

As for me, as I said above, early on I asked for lots of feedback and I took a lot of their advice. My first beta reader, Joshua Edward Smith, gave me invaluable advice that I still use (and I still laugh over some of my mistakes and his comments).

These days, against popular opinion, I do a lot of my own editing. I have nothing in my defense except that so far I’m not making a lot, and it’s hard to justify the expense. I do use beta readers, and they’ll look for typos for me after I run my manuscript through Grammarly.

2019-11-24You could argue I’m not making any money because my books aren’t edited properly. Maybe. But I’ll use this reasoning instead. Remember Alex Newton’s K-lytics report from one of my previous blog posts? I prefer to blame the saturation of the industry. Shh! I don’t spend much on marketing, so I would prefer to think people don’t know my books are out there.

Can you get by without an editor?

That depends on where your skills are with the craft, how much writing you do, how much feedback you listen to and apply. It depends if you can catch all your own typos, or if you know enough to use Grammarly effectively. (Not everything Grammarly flags needs to be fixed, so you can’t trust it blindly.) Usually the answer to those questions is no.

Would I advise a new author to publish without an editor? Nope. There’s no denying a book will sell better with a strong plot, three-dimensional characters, great grammar and punctuation than one without those things. And if you’re a new author, you’re unlikely to catch all those things on your own, or even know what to look for while editing.

You can building a writing career on a bad book, but it will take you longer than if you start strong.

What can you do?

  1. Join a writing group on FB and swap with someone in your genre. Just be careful and have a thick skin. Ideally, you’d want to form relationships with people in those groups before you ask. At least if you’re more than acquaintances they’ll hopefully be kind and actually be helpful. People can be cruel, and some just like to tear others down out of their own self-esteem issues, or they think they’re better than everyone else. You may need to pick through a few people before you find a good match. Twitter is also good if you search #betareader with maybe a hashtag of your genre. There’s been lot of activity on the #writingcommunity hashtag in the past six months or so. Just look for someone who will be willing to give you some real and useful feedback.
  2. Do what you can on your own when it comes to craft and grammar. The cleaner your manuscript when you hand it off, the less time an editor will have to spend on it, and that can cut down on costs. There are a lot of books out there that can help. Two of my most favorite books are James Scott Bell’s VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Sit down and read it just like you would any other book. Mignon is funny and very easy to understand. She didn’t write it like a reference book, and you’ll be amazed at what you didn’t know. Another good editing book that everyone at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference I attended a couple years ago said was a must have is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. How to Edit Yourself into Print. 
  3. Publish on WattPad for feedback. I don’t really condone this, as I feel that if you’re going to use the platform as a publishing site, putting up work only to take it down to publish it elsewhere might not sit well with your readers. On the other hand, I’ve heard from other writers that do this, and it seems to be an acceptable thing. If WattPad has turned into kind of a testing site for books and stories, then I’m not one to say anything. It’s something to consider at least, if you think a plot isn’t working, or you want general feedback overall.
  4. Keep an open mind. When you ask for feedback you need to keep an open mind. I hear some writers say they would never change their plot/characters/POV whatever based on feedback alone, yet they say they’re querying. A book being published without needing edits is almost unheard of, so if you’re querying without an open mind, you’ll never get published and you’re wasting everyone’s time. If you are honest and know that you’re not going to take people’s valid opinions into consideration, you’ll never grow as a writer. There is always room for improvement.

This wraps up the editing portion of the survey. Smart authors get their books edited/apply feedback, and the authors who don’t will deal with the consequences (ie, bad reviews and poor sales).

Next up, the survey asks about book covers and what the three levels of career authors do in that instance.

See you then!


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Editing The Rocky Point Wedding Series. Where I’m at cutting time and cutting the fat from my books.

These past two weeks have been not so much as hit and miss as totally miss when it comes to the blog. I apologize for that, but this week I’ll try to catch you up on what I’ve been doing!


a rocky point wedding social media graphicYou all know I’ve been writing my Rocky Point Wedding Series.

I tweeted the other day that I was finished the first sweep of editing Book One. I felt like I missed a few important things, so I’m in the middle of editing it again. I’ve lost another 200 words on top of the 2,000 that I lost the first time around, and my final word count for that book will be about 72,500. A far cry from the almost 75,000 words I ended it with, but I think it’s reading a lot better.


In the past my editing schedule has gone like this:

  • Edit on screen. Maybe I do this once, usually do it twice. Not sure. This is where I look for typos, but it’s also where I usually get a rid of a lot of filler that drags the story down. Of course, this is the place to do the biggest changes, and I usually lose a lot of words here.
  • Another sweep on the computer.
  • Print it out. This stage is where I added a lot of the words I took out the first time, only making it sound better. This is where I tackle some syntax issues as well. This is a time-consuming step because after editing on paper, you need to take the time to put them all in the computer file.
  • Have Word read it to me. This step is also very time-consuming, but in the past I felt it was worth it. You can hear how your book sounds, listen for clunky sentences, fix syntax issues and all get a feel for it spoken. I like this step because authors are putting their books into audio a lot more lately, and places like Find A Way Voices through Draft to Digital are scrambling for ways to make this affordable for every author. While Word’s robovoice isn’t 100%, you can still get an idea if a narrator is going to stumble over a paragraph with twenty sentences in it.
  • Then I would proof the paperback proof. This step is pretty awesome too, because your  book is a book then, and it’s easy to spot typos and words like peek, peak, and pique that aren’t caught during editing.

woman using laptop

Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

You might be saying that’s a hella lot of editing, and it is. You might also think a person could skip some of this if she hired someone, and you would be right again. I never have, and it’s not a secret I do all my own editing. Sometimes I catch stuff, sometimes I don’t, but I’ve read books that have been pro-edited that have had mistakes. We’re all human, and I do give myself a little slack.

But this kind of editing takes on a whole new meaning when you’re doing four books at the same time, or at least back to back. So I’ve decided to cut out a couple editing steps and I have a proofer lined up who will help me. I’ve decided to take out the printing step, because that’s just a lot of paper, and I’m debating on taking out the listening step. If I don’t, I have to figure out where I want to put it in my schedule. I don’t want to touch it after my proofer gets a hold of it. That’s just asking for trouble.

I don’t like skipping the proofing the proof part because it really is important to read through the book after you’ve gotten it. You catch more than spelling mistakes and typos. Even inconsistencies are easier to spot since you are reading your own book as a reader. How can you not when you’re holding it in your hands?

I went through all that because I did want to touch on one other thing in regards to editing. As you get better writing, plot construction, character arcs, and learning grammar and punctuation (or you should be! listen to your feedback!) your books won’t need as much editing. It feels WEIRD giving up an editing step or two, but as you write, your first drafts will be cleaner, and clinging to editing steps may just be a waste of time.

Be careful that you’re aren’t changing something just to change something. Change something to make it sound better, or you’re just wasting your time.

A great book to read on self-editing is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print Subsequent Edition by Renni Browne (Author), Dave King (Contributor). When I went to a writing conference in Santa Barbara a couple years ago, this book was recommended by nearly everyone.

Another good book that will help you edit is Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty. Even if you’re going to pay someone to edit or proofread for you, it’s always cheaper to do as much as you can by yourself, this includes knowing where commas go, what a comma splice is, how to correctly us a semi colon, that kind of thing. Little details like that are a KILLER on an editor’s time.


I was going to add a couple other topics to this, but I had no idea going through my editing process for these books would take so long. I’m at almost 1,000 words already, so I will say goodbye for now and fill you on in what I’ve been doing with Amazon Ads later on this week.

What kind of editing do you put your book through? Betas? Yeah. An editor? Proofreader? Nothing?  Let know!

 

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The “As you know, Bob . . .” Syndrome. What it is and why you should stop it.

as you know bob

I didn’t feel like being on social media last night, and I didn’t feel like writing more. It was a bit of a busy day, and I had felt off all day, too. I got in 2,000 words, and that was fine being I had done 5,000 the day before. Not all my days off can be high-output days, and I realize this as long as I keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with.

Anyway, I decided to hop on my Kindle and see what is out there by way of contemporary romance. Maybe find a another book to read, since I finished my last one, Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier.

I downloaded a sample of a romantic suspense, and like everything else indie these days in romance, this was written in first person present. But that wasn’t what bothered me. (Okay it did, but I already roared about that in a previous blog post.) What bothered me was that the first scene started as an “As you know, Bob” scene and it gave the book a horrible start.

What is an “As you know, Bob” scene? It’s a scene were characters are sharing information with each other that they already know, but they are talking to fill the reader in.

The dialogue in the scene I read sounded like a biography because one character was telling her best friend all about her boyfriend. This is so unrealistic and implausible. If they are best friends, share everything, and talk on a regular basis like the scene implied, the BFF would already know about her friend’s boyfriend. It was obvious the scene was written to introduce the reader to facts about the boyfriend, and it slowed everything down to a screeching halt. I managed three page “flips” before closing out the book and deleting the sample from my Kindle.

How do you avoid an “As you know, Bob” scene? Here are a few ideas.

  • Ask yourself if the characters already know the information they are talking about. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need the scene, or give them something different to talk about. Dialogue is designed for characters to pass new information on to each other, not go over things they both already know. As a writer how do you know you’re doing this? When you get lazy and your characters start saying things like, “You’re so forgetful! I’ve told you this a thousand times . . .” Or “I don’t know why I have to keep telling you this over and over again . . .” Sure, sometimes we do forget things in real life; sometimes we do need a little reminder here and there. But a girl’s best friend won’t need a refresher course in a current boyfriend.
  • Find a different way to introduce the character.
    It was obvious this scene was to introduce the boyfriend. But instead of a whole dialogue scene about said boyfriend, how about waiting until the boyfriend needs to show up? He’s going to be part of the story, the blurb said so, so why feed us backstory right then? Why write a scene that has a character saying “Well, you know my boyfriend is a multi-millionaire. He started his company from scratch in his mother’s basement and only two years later sold it to Facebook for a hundred million dollars. Now he’s partying all over town and treats me like a queen!” When you could wait and actually have the MC meet him:

    So this was Jasper Hargrove, the famous boyfriend. Self-made millionaire and creme de la creme of Manhattan society. Pictures in the tabloids didn’t do his face justice. He looked like he stepped out of a Hugo Boss photo shoot and smelled just as good.

    Feeding readers information in real time will always sound better.

  • Ask yourself if the information is even needed.
    What you think your readers should know and what your readers actually need to know are two different things. Sometimes the best information is no information. Let your readers fill in the gaps on their own. Do we need to know the boyfriend is a self-made millionaire, or that he created a start up living in his mother’s basement gorging on Doritos and Mountain Dew? Is it enough to say he’s a millionaire?  Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way.
  • If the information is needed, can your reader find out about it in a different way?
    Maybe the MC reads an article about him in the paper, or an industry magazine. Maybe she’s watching TV and a news clip comes up. You don’t need much. The scene that lasted three pages? That could have been condensed into a couple of lines.
  • Read the scene aloud or have Word read it to you and be honest. Does the conversation sound like crap? Does it sound unrealistic? Think of the characters and who they are. The scene might have worked if the friends were getting reacquainted after being apart for years and years. But even then, the boyfriend and the friend were going to be key players in the book. An info dump disguised as dialogue is still an info dump. If there’s not any new information being passed along to either character, if the scene isn’t offering anything new, if it isn’t moving the plot along, then get rid of it. It does take a lot of practice at successfully dropping backstory into a novel, but I’m finding less in this respect is always going to be more.

Thanks for reading!


Have never heard of “Well, you know Bob . . .” Syndrome? Here are a few more articles about it:

The Sneaky Secret Life of “As You Know, Bob…” by K.M. Weiland 

As You Know, Bob: Info dumping in dialogue by Erica Ellis

Do You Have “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome?–How Writers Can Butcher Dialogue & How to Fix It By Kristen Lamb


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