Results of my ad with Freebooksy

I figured with a few books out now, I should do a little marketing. I’ve been against it, claiming I needed a backlist before I started putting money into my career, but I thought since my trilogy was done, I could do a little promotion.

I’ve heard about various book marketing websites where you pay for exposure, and that’s what Freebooksy is. Essentially, you’re paying to advertise your book in their newsletter for one day. There are other promotions run by the people of Freebooksy if you don’t want to to go free with your book, but I did because 1) it didn’t bother me to give my book away and 2) I was hoping for a little read-through since the other two books were available.

My trilogy is enrolled in KDP Select, and I had never used any of my free days for any of my books before, so I went ahead and chose five days for my book to be free, then I went on Freebooksy and chose a day that I wanted my book in their newsletter. In the future, if I do this again, I’ll plan ahead to give myself time to promote the promotion.

A rep reached out to me, and she was very nice, but she wanted to put my book in the sweet category romance newsletter. I replied that it didn’t belong there as the book had four open door sex scenes. I’m not sure why she wanted to do that, unless she mistook my cover. Nikki and Dane do look cute together, but I didn’t choose to put a steamy couple on the cover because there is a fine line between contemporary romance with sex, and erotica. I didn’t want anyone mistaking my trilogy for erotica. I’ve written erotica, had my “taste” so to speak, and I’m more comfortable writing contemporary romance.

Anyway, this is what the ad looked like that went into their newsletter:

freebooksyad

You’re the one who writes the blurb, and I was afraid I didn’t spend enough time on it. You only get so many characters, and it’s difficult to try to convey what the book is about and still make it interesting in that short space.

My book was free from February 6th to the 10th. I started getting downloads even before my book went out in the newsletter. In total, while my book was free, I gave away 4,458. Between February 6th and today, February 15th, I have sold fifteen of Book 2 and six of Book 3, so you can see there was a small amount of buy-through (not necessarily read-through), and I lowered the prices of those books to .99 to go with the free promotion. Also, my page reads for Kindle Unlimited for all my titles went up from 0 to this:

page reads for KU

It’s not the best, of course, since even all those lines only represent $25.00 in sales. If you do the math, that’s a horrible ROI, at least, on paper.

Return on investment comes in many different forms, monetary being only one of them. I’m hoping now that I’ve given away so many books, people will remember my name, I’ll begin to foster some lifelong readers for future books.

My sales ranking did go up for a little bit, and I can give you a snapshot of those, though I didn’t take a picture every time my book moved up in ranks. And as everyone congratulated me, going up in rank in *free* books looks nice, but it’s not the same as going up in the paid lists.

awesome stats!3

These are the best stats the book got. I don’t know if it did much more than earn me a few bragging rights, but there it is.

Amazon did a nice thing, too and put my books together in an ad on my Author page.

tower city box set

You can’t buy them that way–I haven’t created the box set yet, and that is on my to-do list after I figure out my stupid cover for book three. (Yeah, still wrestling with it to get it exactly how I want it in paperback.)

If you were to ask me the best part about this whole promotion thing, I would have to say that it’s that people are starting to read my work. We all want people to read our stuff, but when they actually do, it’s nerve-wracking. So far I’ve been getting decent reviews. They’ve been saying my editing is solid, and there hasn’t been a complaint about formatting, which is a relief since I do all my own formatting myself.

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Overall, I would say the experience was a positive one.

If I were to give any advice to someone doing this I would say:

  1. Have more than one book out. I did prove that if you spend money advertising one book, you’re really advertising your whole backlist. Not many people bought books 2 and 3 who downloaded book 1, but it was enough I was happy they were available.
  2. Having a good cover is no joke. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when no one is looking at your books, but the minute you realize people are going to be choosing your book among a selection, suddenly you’re hoping it’s good enough. Be sure it is.
  3. Have a decent blurb. I shortened mine from what I wrote for Amazon, and I worried I didn’t spend enough time on it. Had I spent more time on it, maybe I could have gotten even more downloads.
  4. Have people willing to spread the word. I don’t know how many downloads came from my Twitter followers, or my followers willing to tweet about it. I don’t know how many downloads came from the people who liked my FB Author Page. I was also naughty and told everyone on my personal FB page that my book was free, and I know it’s against TOS to do that. I only did it once, on the day the newsletter went out. And I was lucky a few people shared that post.

I won’t be doing this again anytime soon, but it was fun to try something new and to get my feet wet. A little snowflake can cause an avalanche, and I’m hoping this is true in my case. But now that my trilogy is over and done, I need to relegate it to my backlist and move forward. I’m 31,000 words into a new WIP, and I can’t wait to share with you!

Happy writing Vania Margene

My Trilogy is Done! Tips and Tricks for Writing a Trilogy, Duet, Series

My Tower City Romance Trilogy is finished. After two years of working on off and on, it’s done, published.

 


I started Don’t Run Away as a NaNoWriMo project in 2015 but didn’t actually start editing it until the later winter/early spring of 2017. I had gotten caught up in my novella series, Summer Secrets, and while that was being edited in May of 2017, I wrote Chasing You. Then, after finishing it, I let that sit and started the file for Running Scared, the last in the series, on October 12, 2017. Writing it went quickly, as it was the last in the trilogy, and I knew how I wanted the story to go. Actually, Chasing You went just as quickly, but I had gotten bogged down with the production and release of Summer Secrets.

Anyway, writing the trilogy was both satisfactory and one big drag. Here’s why:

Why Writing a Series is Fun

  1. You love your characters and don’t have to let them go. I see this a lot in Writer Twitter. Writers are so enamored with their characters, rather than finish editing, then publishing/querying, they continually edit. They edit and rewrite so they don’t have to say goodbye, to end a story they’re in love with. Rather than edit your book to death, figure out a way to make it into a series. Then you never have to say goodbye, but you can move on to new plots.
  2. The plots create themselves. When you’re writing about your main characters, eventually your secondary characters are going to want their own stories. It’s inevitable, so don’t fight it. Give them their own books. You know you want to.
  3. You can dig deeper into the town/world they live in. There’s a lot more time to create their world. My Tower City Romance trilogy was set in a fictional town in Minnesota. It was fun to create the places they worked in, the university they’d gone to school at. City parks, where they lived, that kind of thing. In three books, I was able to explore that more than just in one.
  4. You can make more things happen. When you have more than one book, you can either make each book stand-alone with each issue being resolved by the end of the book, like I did, or you can have a problem/issue that needs to be solved, and you can take as long as you want to do it. As long as you eventually do. Each book needs to have a purpose, like each puzzle piece helps you build the whole puzzle.

 

Why Writing a Series Isn’t So Fun

  1. You get bored. If you’re bored, your reader is bored. We’ve all heard something along those lines. If the story drags out of your fingers, if it takes two hours two write two paragraphs, you’re not having any fun. And guess what, your readers won’t have any fun reading it. Even though each of my books centered on a different couple, the trilogy was about the same group of friends. By the time I had finished the third book, I was ready to move on. I had even planned five books in the series, but when I was writing the second book, I realized that I didn’t want to keep going after the third book, and I started tying up loose ends I had kept open for other books.
  2. I felt like I couldn’t publish as soon as I was done with a book. I published my books a month apart, but for the most part, they were all done when I started publishing them. Why did I do that? One, so that if someone found my first book, it wouldn’t be long before they could find all of them. Two, because I wanted to make sure I could fix inconsistencies. Three, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been told to publish with no longer than three months apart from one book to the next to stay on top of Amazon’s algorithms. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but I wasn’t comfortable waiting months between books. I’ve heard testimonies from other authors who have said dumping a series all at once gave them ultimate sales results. But no matter what my reasons were, it was tough to sit on finished books and not publish them.
  3. Finding photos for the covers was difficult. This probably wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone who pays for their covers design, or buys cover templates made for a series and can work with the designer for as many books as you choose to write. But I did my own covers, and I bought my stock art from CanStockPhoto.com. I needed all my photos to look similar so the covers looked like they belonged together. More books would have made this difficult and waiting to publish helped in this regard, too. It gave me time to find stock art and compare them to each other.
  4. You have other projects you want to write. I didn’t let myself get distracted by shiny new things. Lots of writers do, then they don’t finish anything. Or they publish one book in a series, write something else, then go back to the second book, etc. Readers won’t wait for you to finish messing around. If the like your first book, then they’ll want the second ASAP. In this era of binging TV shows on Netflix and Hulu, books are no different. Trad-pubbed authors have to wait. But indies don’t. Take advantage of that, finish your book, then get on to the next shiny thing.

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Series sell. That’s a fact that the Smashwords Survey proves, so whether you like writing them or not, you may want to work one or two or three into your writing plans. At any rate, I am working on a stand-alone, then I have a couple plots planned that could easily turn into duets. I like the thought of a duet–long enough readers can get a little more of that world, short enough that you, as a writer, don’t get bored.

Are you writing a series? What do you think?

Let me know!

Using Writing Resources

When people talk about writing and editing, they like to spout rules. Don’t use adverbs, don’t use speech tags, don’t start a scene with someone waking up, don’t end a scene with someone falling asleep. Don’t begin a book describing the weather.

Don’t, don’t, don’t.

All the rules are enough to drive a newbie writer to drink–if they weren’t already.

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But what people really mean when they make lists of rules that you must follow or else is–find a balance. Everything in moderation.

The problem is with this advice? It’s easier said than done.

Finding your balance, finding your happy place, finding your voice, takes many, many, many, words. Many words. Both reading them and writing them.

You can read editing books all day long, but they won’t help you if you’re not writing, and vice versa. The best way to better your writing is to read editing books, write, ask for feedback on your writing, and then do it all over again.

I’ve given several people my favorite editing and writing resources, but the thing with all these books and all that advice they contain is that you can’t follow all of it.

And you shouldn’t.

If you take everyone’s advice every time you try to write, you’ll never sound like you.

I once read a blog post and the writer was giving some writing advice–rules–and one of them was, never use was more than twice a page. Imagine trying to find your style, writing to find your voice, all the while attempting to eradicate was from your writing. Sometimes you effing need it. (The book I’m reading now averages four a page, by the way. And this is a traditionally published book by a well-known author. Sure, the sample is small; I only highlighted was throughout six pages, but still. The fact that she’s using the word is clear.)

Writing resources are good to have on hand. They can spark ideas, smooth over a sentence you’re having problems with. Help you write that scene you just couldn’t make gel no matter how many times you’ve attempted to rewrite it.

What I recommend is reading these books, marking the advice you know you need because your feedback has indicated it, or because as you’ve been writing you’ve developed a list of naughty words you need to replace or delete in your writing. Words newbie writers lean like, just, that, pretty, really, smiled, sighed, nodded, frowned, shrugged. And any other word or phrase you’ve latched onto without realizing it.

Unfortunately, sometimes you need help, and that is where the feedback from beta readers and your editor’s notes come in. Then you have to develop the skill to make the writing resource suggestions yours.

Stephen King said, if you have to use a word out of a thesaurus, it’s the wrong word.

stephen king, thesauras

I used to disagree with this one a lot because when I write, I use a thesaurus on a daily, maybe hourly basis. But what he meant is, and I’m just guessing here, don’t choose a word because it means what you need it to mean. Use the word that sounds like your character.

As you write, you’ll learn your style, find your voice, and you’ll develop the confidence you need to wave off the advice you don’t want to take.

But don’t be arrogant, about how great a writer you think you are because you could turn your nose up at some really great advice that could take your writing to the next level.

Some of my favorite writing resources include:

  1. The Writer’s Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann
    This book is wonderful! Lists upon lists of everything from things your character can do instead of nodding to suggestions on what to use instead of got. This book will also help you identify and delete filler words from your writing and help you show rather than tell by using descriptive words and strong verbs.
  2. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King
    This book has a little bit of everything–from to perfecting your dialogue to knowing when to break up your paragraphs, this is a must-have for writers if the natural ebb and flow of your writing (your voice) is still eluding you.
  3. Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan
    Need a first name? Need a last name? Don’t know what your MMC does for a living? This book contains a million ideas. It’s great to have on hand.
  4. Naughty Words for Nice Writers by Cara Bristol
    Tired of using the word cock? Need something classier than pussy? This book has it! Whether you’re writing an erotica book and all your scenes are starting to sound the same, or you want to add a small sex scene at the end of your contemporary romance book when they finally get together, this book will help you find just the right word!
  5. Thinking like a Romance Writer: The Sensual Writer’s Sourcebook of Words and Phrases  by Dahlia Evans
    Another lovely writing source full of descriptions and adjectives, this book will keep your characters’ romantic scenes from turning boring with the same old, same old phrasing.
  6. Self-editing on a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide  by Ashlyn Forge
    This is one of the first books I used to help myself start editing after an eye-opening round of beta-reading. She’ll help you cut filler words and stop your head hopping. This book is a must for a beginning writer who is making mistakes that tag him as a floundering new author–something you don’t want to read like if you’re querying.

There are many many books out there, some are good, some are not so good. Some are written by indies who don’t know what they’re doing, and some are written by bestselling authors themselves. But no matter who you read, or how many, writing resources do have a place in your writing learning curve. There isn’t anything I’ve read that hasn’t helped me.

What’s your favorite writing resource? Let me know!

 

Who Are You Writing For? Yourself or Your Readers? Be Honest.

There’s a lot of fear in a writer’s heart. Lots of it. Am I good/smart/brave/pretty/handsome/wistful/*insert adjective here* enough to be a writer? Am I writing books people want to read?

I see this all the time. The fear. The agony of publishing. The waiting on pins and needles for reviews to start coming in. If they do. Then we have to wonder, is a bad review better than no review? Bad reviews mean that someone read my book, right? Or *gulp* tried to.

I have to admit, I see this stuff and I go wwwwwhhhhhhyyyyyyy?

Why_

There shouldn’t have to be this crippling anxiety when you write and publish a book. Not if you do it right. What do I mean by right? Well, I have some ideas.

The first and foremost is be honest who you’re writing for. Are you writing for yourself? Because if you are, then you have no justification to piss and moan when someone doesn’t read your book or want to read your book. Because after all, you wrote it for yourself so what do you care if no one else is reading it? So, be honest. I find that with a lot of indie myths floating around out there that this isn’t so easy. Some of my favorite indie myths? Indie myths

  1. Build it and they will come.
    This is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Your book is not a sports stadium. (And even sports stadiums are built with specifications. Could you image a stadium built with no bathrooms because the owner didn’t want to pay to put them in?) No one is going to find you unless you push your book out there. Even publishing houses make you do most if not all of the marketing for your book yourself. If you’re an indie, this means contacting book bloggers, paying for ads, hosting events on your FB author page. Setting up your own signings at bookstores. How does this fit in with writing for yourself? You can write what you want all day long, but if you’re writing what no one wants to read, why bother?
  2. Writing to market is a cop-out.
    I love this one the most. Do you know what writing to market even means? My friend Holly put it like this: Writing to market isn’t being a sell-out. Writing to market is writing what people like to read. That’s it. It’s not any harder than that. So what does that entail significantly? Knowing your genre. What tropes are used? What kind of characters are in that genre? It can even come down to how many pages does a book in that genre typically have? Know the genre. It’s why your reader picked up your book in the first place.
  3. Experimenting is okay/write what you love/it’s your book.
    I agree up to a point. You have to experiment to find your voice. You have to love what you’re writing because this is your hobby, this is your passion, and if you hate it, you might as well go to work instead and hate it there and get paid for it, too. And it is your book. Absolutely. The choice of genre and POV is in your hands. But you have to stay within the confines of the genre you choose. I don’t know how many more times I can say it. And if, for God’s sake, you have to experiment with a medieval Zombie sex plot, no one is saying you have to publish the *insert derogatory adjective here* thing.
  4. And the worst indie myth of all:
    I DO WHAT I WANT
  5. I’m an indie and I can do/write/publish what I want.
    This is hurtful for so many reasons. One, because what you do affects all of us. You know that saying “one rotten apple poisons the barrel?” It’s true. Indie publishing already has a bad enough reputation, do we need to add to it by publishing whatever crap you decide to write? You hurt me, and I hurt you. And if you think I’m full of crap, think again. Another reason this hurts is because you are hurting yourself on a personal level. One crap book and your reputation is on the line. Readers remember you. Don’t think they don’t. I have a list of readers I don’t like, both indie and trad-pubbed, and you know what? I don’t buy their books. Easy-peasy.

So what does all this have to do with the fear I was talking about earlier? Well, I’m willing to guess and say, if you follow the rules (yep, I went there) and produce a good book, you may find that the idea of people reading your book won’t scare you as much as it did.

What are these blasphemous rules I speak of?

  1. Know the genre you’re writing in. When a publishing professional asks, If you were to put your book on a shelf in a bookstore, where would you put it? That’s a serious question. We all dream of being in a bookstore, and I don’t think that means being in the back room because the manager hasn’t got a fucking clue where to put your book. Follow the tropes and expectations of that genre.
  2. Get the thing edited. I don’t care by who. Just do it. You have a typo on the first page, and it can be something as simple as using a period in dialogue when it should have been a comma, you lost me. And probably about 100 other readers who were interested. They aren’t anymore.
    And if this is your first book and you have no idea what you’re doing? Get a developmental editor, too. Your plot needs to move, your characters need to grow. If you have trouble crafting a good plot (ie no plot holes) and your characters are flat out boring, don’t publish.
  3. Have a cover that matches your genre. Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many authors do what they want with no sense of what is going on in their genre. This could be because they don’t have a genre, and well, that sucks. No genre, no cover, no bookshelf space, no book. It takes two seconds to Google the hot 100 on Amazon in your genre. If your cover looks like a sweet romance, but you wrote erotica, you’ll piss off a lot of people. And you know that means? Bad reviews.
  4. Write a decent blurb.

If you do all these, and yeah, it takes work, time, and money, and you publish the best book you can, there is no reason why you should be scared people will read your book.

Let me tell you a little story.
A someone told me they were petrified people were going to find and read their book. This puzzled me, as they published the darn thing–they should want someone to read it. Naturally, I looked them up on Amazon. The cover was okay; it prepped me for a chick-lit plot with some naughty bits. Can’t beat comedy and sex. The blurb sucked, but well, writing them is hard, so I gave them a pass. Their author bio was written first person, a no-no, but well, I guess some people don’t know that. I used the look inside feature that Amazon has so graciously set up for us so we don’t waste money, and I found the book was a mess. Their cover didn’t match the serious tone of the book, the formatting was horrible, and it was evident from the first paragraph they didn’t have an editor. They’re scared people are going to find their book? They should be.

There are things you can do to control the quality of your book. Find an editor/critique partner/beta reader who will teach you things, not just blow smoke up your bum. Read craft books. Go to writing conferences and have your first pages critiqued. Read in your genre. For the love of God, choose a genre. It makes writing a lot easier, trust me. And after you hit publish, you did it. Own it.

And seriously. If you are writing for yourself, when you’re done, print it out and shove it under the bed. Maybe the monster under there can edit it for you.

Am I too harsh?

Tell me what you think!

Vania Blog Signature

What Draws a Person to Buy Your Book: A VERY Scientific Poll and Results

Your first pages do a lot of work for your book, and this blog post was going to talk all about it. This very scientific poll I ran on Twitter was going to lead the way. But it bought up way more than just first pages, and this post turned into an overall-type thing. I’ve always enjoyed knowing how others make decisions, and here’s a small idea of what attracts readers to your book.

twitter poll

What I found was that some people are really brutal with a book. You get the first sentence with some, others, maybe the first paragraph. That’s it–if your potential reader even gets that far.

If you have a typo anywhere, forget it. I have little patience for typos. I’m starting to feel quite agent-y about the whole book-buying thing. All it takes is one little nope, and I’m done.

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I would imagine though, that if an author knew how many readers s/he was losing due to a small error, it wouldn’t seem so cute.

The picture above was just a poll, but there were a lot of comments, too:

first lines twitter poll 7

This is a great thing to keep in mind. Your writing style won’t hit home with everyone. I dislike first person present. There is only one author I will read who writes that way. I’ve turned down beta requests and review requests because of this. I might as well be reading something like, right?

first lines twitter poll 5

Reviews were one aspect of the whole thing that I didn’t consider. Mainly because I don’t look at reviews unless it’s a non-fiction book. Taste is subjective, and unless the reviews say it’s poorly edited, I don’t think someone’s opinion would have much weight with me. And I would know if it’s poorly edited by reading the first couple paragraphs.

first lines twitter poll 3

Liking the blurb makes sense–if that is poorly written, there’s a good chance the book will be too. But blur-writing is a skill in itself, and you need to either pay someone who has the skill to do it or learn it yourself.

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Being swept away by a book is the best sign. If you’re reading on Amazon and you run out of the free sample and you want more . . . that’s the goal of every author right? Because it’s not such a long stretch from being sad the sample has run out to clicking the buy button.

first lines twitter poll 6

Some people give their books way too much of a chance–and I think this happens when someone has already bought the book and doesn’t want their money to go to waste. That’s one thing you have to watch out for when buying indie books from Writer Twitter. We’re all friends, but just because that person is a friend, that doesn’t mean what they’ve written is any good. It’s an unfortunate fact that some of your friends will publish crap. Be it because they can’t afford hire an editor, or didn’t want to take the time, didn’t take the time to have beta readers weigh in on their book, or because they don’t do anything in their non-writing time to get better, (reading craft books, reading other fiction) sometimes you just can’t trust the people you know are good writers (or know how to format correctly, either).

first lines twitter poll 4

While I was thinking of mainly indie books, Jamie brings up a good point. Trad-pubbed authors don’t control the book cover or the blurb. If you’re turned off by those two things, you won’t make it to the inside. Although, if you are trad-pubbed and have a little marketing power behind you, maybe a high number of good reviews or positive word of mouth would counteract a cover you don’t like and a blurb that sounds boring.

first lines twitter poll 2

Leanne brings up the book’s title, something else I didn’t think of, at least for this poll. I’ve lamented in the past about my title for On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton. I loved it then, not so much now. I don’t think the title has helped sales. *Laughs* But I bought the ISBN number for it so to retitle it I would have to trash the number, and that’s a waste of money. But anyway, to get back to Leanne, she likes the title and the cover.
If you want to laugh at some, look here.

first lines twitter poll 1

And last, but not least, Laurie likes the blurb as do most of us.

This poll surprised me, but it shouldn’t have because it’s a no-brainer to have a decent cover and a good blurb. But taste is subjective, and what you like for your own book may not be the best for your genre or your book’s content, so it’s always a good idea to research what is selling in your genre and try to fit in and stand out at the same time. Got it? Good. 😛

If you have a poor cover, some won’t bother with you at all. If you have poorly written-blurb, that’s probably a good indication the inside isn’t written well either, and potential readers will pass you by.

Publishing is a cutthroat industry; readers don’t have time for your poorly written book.

So, what makes a reader buy your book?

  1. A good cover. Something that fits within your genre.
  2. A good title.
  3. A good blurb. Hire someone. Learn how to do it and get honest feedback from people you trust.
  4.  Have awesome first pages.
  5. Format it correctly. Your book could have won the Pulitzer, but if you leave the automatic 8 pt. space between paragraphs, I’m not reading you. Simple as that.
  6. Decent reviews won’t hurt. At least one five star review so when you tweet the link to your book the five stars will pop in the tweet. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I rarely tweet my own books, but this is what it looks like:

never tweet my own books

Might not help if someone found your book on Amazon, but if you tweet it now and then, it can’t hurt.

This blog post was going to be about first pages, but I wanted to feature my Twitter poll, so I’ll write about first pages another day.

Thanks for reading, and tell me what you think!

Vania Blog Signature

 

 

 

Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Beta Readers and Editing

Indie Publishing Chats

Thanks for joining us for our second chat of this series. KT and I chatted about beta readers and editing. Enjoy!

Vania Margene Rheault
You’ve written Down to Sleep, and it’s been slightly edited and with a couple betas. What has been your biggest surprise so far?

KT Daxon
My biggest surprise so far has to be that my Betas were able to finish it without wanting to throw it across the room. They enjoyed it, and to me that is HUGE. On the self-publishing side of things, I think I was a bit thrown off about how difficult doing everything yourself can be.

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, that is a rude awakening for sure! And as you can tell by some indie books out there, not everyone gets it right.
What made you decide to beta? I’m thinking back to where I was at your stage of the game. I had written On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton and someone offered to beta for me. The feedback was less than thrilling. Then I had Jewel edit it for me. Those two people were the only eyes I had on it before I published.

KT Daxon
That’s another story I need to read …*scratches a note on my notepad*. I decided to Beta because someone told me I should. I didn’t think anyone would be interested, so I took a chance. Melissa and Shannon were wonderful. Both had different styles and gave me TONS of amazing feedback. My editor will be happy as she won’t be getting pure crap. Ha!
What are your thoughts on Betas? Pros? Cons?

Vania Margene Rheault
I say don’t let them have too much weight. If I had listened to my beta, half of 1700 would be missing. Just because they don’t like it doesn’t mean you need to take to heart everything they say. Do stay true to your work and vision because at the end of the day, it’s your book and no one else’s.
What is the next step for you?

KT Daxon
That’s some good advice to carry with me as I move forward. I let what other people think dictate a lot of aspects of my life. But, this was my story in 2013, and it’s still my story today. As for what’s next, I’m currently editing the Beta suggestions. Picking and choosing what I think needs changed. I’m hoping to be done by the start of the 2nd week of January, and I’m trying to decide if I want to do another round of Betas or just shoot it to the editor…thoughts? How many rounds of Beta advice should one take?

Vania Margene Rheault
Probably that’s not best coming from me–Don’t Run Away, Chasing You and Running Scared won’t have any. So I would say do as many as you feel is necessary.
In the near future here, you have a lot you’re going to need to know. How are you preparing for that next step?

KT Daxon
A stiff drink? Haha. Kidding … though the thought does sound appealing. I’ve made myself a sponge. I accept advice when it’s given and I utilize the veteran’s in the writing community, such as yourself, for help. I’m dedicating the first weekend of the New Year to research on all aspects of self-publishing. Cover design, formatting (which scares me btw lol), ISBN’s, whatever I need to learn to publish this book, I’m soaking it up every way I can.
Any tips on what to tackle first?

Vania Margene Rheault
I read a lot of books when I first decided to self-publish. One of the two I read right off the bat was APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.
APE
This was one was instrumental in getting the lay of the land, so to speak, and the other one I told you about was A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers: How to Print-on-Demand with CreateSpace & Make eBooks for Kindle & Other eReaders.publishing with amazon

While there is some outdated info in each, they both still have really important information in their own right.
The first one was given to me by someone who was taking publishing classes at our university in Moorhead. It was a textbook in their class.

KT Daxon
I intend to get the second one once payday hits. It looks like it’s an easy read.

Vania Margene Rheault
I would caution you though, and make sure you double-check advice. What works for someone may not work for you. I read up on how to do it all myself, and while 1700 didn’t come out the best, at least I can say I learned what *not* to do. Fortunately, you know people have gone through it so you should have more help than I did.

KT Daxon
That’s true. It’s good for anyone to remember that advice isn’t someone holding a gun to your head telling you to change things or else, it’s just suggestions … helpful suggestions.

Vania Margene Rheault
Right. And everyone has a suggestion. LOL Okay, we’ll wrap up this chat for tonight! Thanks for hanging out with me!

Thanks for hanging out with us! Here are a few other articles on beta readers:
Ultimate Guide: How To Work With Beta Readers

How many Beta Readers do you need?

WHEN NOT TO LISTEN TO YOUR BETA READER

beta readers
Just for fun, since I’m not doing chat anymore, I’m going to give away Better Critiquing for Better Writing: Use Writing Feedback to Craft Your Story, Refine Your Message and Become a Better Writer by Kelly Hart. Enter HERE.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next time when KT and I discuss ISBN numbers.

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Indie Book Reviews: My Unpopular Opinion

There’s been a lot of talk lately about writing indie book reviews. You know, it’s a kind thing to do, you’re giving the book a bump in the Amazon algorithms. You see it everywhere on Twitter: support an author, leave a review.

And I’ll be honest, when I jumped into the indie world, I read a lot of indie books. I was supporting my Twitter friends. But when you are just starting out, when you’re new to Writer Twitter, the thing that no one tells you is that there are bad books out there. Maybe I was naive, maybe I was just inexperienced. I was in awe of anyone who had published books. I hadn’t been exposed to the indie world, and I had no idea that a published book could be bad.

So I bought books, tweeted I was reading them, showed my support. The only problem was, some of them were good, some were okay, some were dumpster fires.

20-dumpster-fire.w1200.h630

Then I would have to write a review. I admit, I wrote a handful of 5-star reviews for books that were mediocre. (I realize that is a moral dilemma for some, and I have stopped doing it since it’s not fair to anyone). There was a lot of telling, or the characters were flat. Maybe a plot hole here and there.

After I bought two books in a row that I did not finish (DNF), I stopped buying indie completely. Because let’s face it, indie books are expensive. I buy paperback, and to get any kind of royalty, CreateSpace makes you price your book at a ridiculous price. So spending $17.99 on a book I won’t finish is a blow to my wallet.

But lately, the review talk is getting out of hand. While writing a positive review for a book that is well-written and well-edited is one thing, writing a negative review for a book that isn’t good is something else.

What makes a book bad?

Poor or complete lack of editing
The formatting is wonky, so wonky that it takes away from the reading experience
Flat characters
Plot holes
An all-around boring story

I’ve read my share, and if you read indie, you have too. I once read a book that had so many typos in it, I used it as a proofreading exercise (a quick run through Grammarly could have fixed 80% of those mistakes). I’ve read two books that I did not finish because the formatting was so terrible I couldn’t focus on the story. I read one book where nothing happened for three chapters. I was still waiting by chapter four and eventually toss the book aside.

Did I write bad reviews for any of those books? No, I didn’t. Did I reach out to those authors, my friends? No, I didn’t.

See, here’s the thing that you probably won’t agree with, but something that I live by:

When I pick up a book at Target, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, I’m picking up a traditionally published book. I’m reading a book that has been read several times by an agent, by several (and different kinds at that) editors. If the book is bad, say unlikeable characters, maybe a slight plot hole, or just a boring story, several people are to blame for the all the book lacks. I’m also reading that book as a readerI don’t know the author, probably. I’ll never interact with them. I can leave an honest review, and for a traditionally published book on GoodReads I have left, you know, two or three stars (which technically isn’t a bad review anyway).

When I read indie, I’m doing it because they are my friends, or I know them peripherally, or I thought it looked good and picked it up in a show of support. What do you get when you purchase an indie book?

Maybe something that hasn’t been edited all that great due to cost, resources, what have you. Most times editing is a favor, and it’s not always done by someone who knows how to edit.
A book that has a cover that was maybe done by the author to save a few bucks. I do my own covers, and I like to think they look decent. I know decent isn’t what we’re aiming for here, and I realize that if I wrote in any genre other than Romance, I would have to pay to have my covers done. Romance is the only genre you can get away with slapping a kissing couple on the front and adding the title and your name and be able to call it good.
A book that hasn’t been properly formatted. This has always bothered me because CreateSpace has free templates for you to download. And there are lovely templates you can purchase at a low cost you can use over and over again. Copy and paste your book into it, and you’re done. You’ve got your headers, footers, the pages where there should be numbers, and where they shouldn’t be. Gutters, margins. The templates aren’t perfect, and I’ve had to tweak mine, but even just using a template as a starting point will put you ahead of hundreds of authors who don’t know they exist or are too stubborn to use them. Pick up a trad-published book for God’s sake. Copy it. Page numbers, title, author name in the headers and footers. Full-justify the damn thing. Take out the auto spacing between paragraphs. A 200-page book shouldn’t be 600 pages. It costs money, for you and your customers, to print all that space. Stop it.

But you know what, a review is not the place to say all this. By the time the book is published, it’s too late. It’s not your job. You might say, well I have to warn other readers, or I’m giving my feedback.

When you read an indie, you are doing so as a writer, and that is not the same as reading a book as a reader. It’s not the same. When you read indie, you are peer-reviewing their books, and giving a poor review is a low blow. Reach out to them in a DM if you absolutely must, but be prepared for the backlash.

Look, there are a lot of readers out there, and eventually the book you want to “leave feedback on” will receive an honest review from someone the author doesn’t know. That’s an honest review, and maybe if your friend receives enough of them, they’ll pull the book and have it edited, or whatever.

reviews

This blog post is really long, and I haven’t even touched on the thing that makes me the maddest. I’ll write another blog post about it. But anyway, I don’t leave bad reviews for the simple fact that I am a nobody in the world of indie publishing. I don’t have thousands of sales, I don’t make six-figures. And when I do become an authority, I still won’t leave reviews. I’ll write blog posts like this.

Let’s try to save these books before they are published. Instead of reviewing, maybe offer to beta read, be a CP. Tweet informational articles about formatting. If you find services you like, tweet about it! Share when you find a paperback interior template that you LOVE. Share tips, tricks. A good editor that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Maybe you can get the information out there; even if you can help one person, it’s worth it.

It’s hell for an author to pull a book to fix it, and by then, their reputation may already be ruined. All it takes is one book for a reader to be turned off by an author, forever.

Let’s stop it before it starts. It can only help all of us.

no one heals themsevles by wouding another

Tell me if you leave bad reviews. Feel bad about it? Proud of yourself for being honest? Let me know!

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