Short Author Update and June Recap

There isn’t a whole lot going on right now. Working a little extra because my money is flying away faster than a snowflake in a blizzard, but everyone is experiencing a little financial crunch, so that’s nothing new. I’ve turned off both ads on Facebook, one for Captivated that was eating up money with no sales, and the other for my newsletter signup/reader magnet. That was a tough one to turn off, mostly because it was working. I have a newsletter list of 220 people–25 having unsubscribed since I started running the ad. But it was working, maybe too well, and it was eating up money through lots of clicks. I’ll turn it back on again when my bills are caught up.

Now that July is upon us, in two weeks I can put my pre-order up for the second book in my duet. Book one isn’t doing so hot, but that’s okay. I’ll figure out a promo next month and see what happens.

I’m 13k into the second book of my trilogy. Yesterday’s words were hard won, and when that happens, I need to close my laptop and do more plotting. When I start a book I have most of the major plot points figured out, but I’m having trouble with this book filling in the muscle to my skeleton as I have often compared my plotting process. So I have to drill down and remember and refine my characters’ stakes, motivations, and consequences and figure out some scenes. The writing will come easier then.

I’m also, for some reason, more sensitive to word count with these books. Book one ended up at 77k, which is fine. I’m panicking for no reason, really, but when I have a tough time getting the words out, thinking of the total word count is always quick in my mind. I can skim through what needs to happen and in my brain and I count 5k or so, which is ridiculous. Everything takes more space when writing everything out than it does thinking about what needs to happen next.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who worries about word count. Audrey has word count anxiety (https://audreydriscoll.com/2019/12/01/word-count-anxiety/) and Karena has some great tips on meeting word count–the outlining tip is the one I rely on most (https://www.spalmorum.com/how-to-stop-worrying-about-word-count-but-here-are-5-ways-of-hitting-your-word-count-goals-every-time/). Terry has a process that sounds a lot like mine–(https://terryodell.com/dont-obsess-about-word-count/), and some people, given that if you indie-pub, just write until the story’s done. Sarra Cannon, creator of the HB90 planning system, also has thoughts on word count that you can read here (https://heartbreathings.com/long-self-published-book/). It’s nice to know I’m not the only neurotic writer out there.

After today, I’m going to start an editing series for indies, and the first guest editor is Kimberly Hunt. Due to poor time management skills (not really, when I start writing a new book, that’s all I care about) I don’t have anymore lined up (but I have reached out to potential editors who were interested in doing the interview) and that is something I’ll be working on after finishing up here. Despite dragging my feet, I am looking forward to the series and helping indies through their answers to my questions polish their novels for submissions and publication. I’ll still be posting updates, but that will take up the rest of the rest of the summer if I’m lucky.

So, I am off to do some more writerly things, some of which may or may not involve wine, since it is a holiday. I hope all enjoy the day, make it productive, and have some fun.

Until next time!

May Recap and June Plans

Another month has come and gone, and I still feel like I’m trudging through quicksand, though, to be fair, I have gotten a lot done in the past couple of weeks. It’s more of a personal thing that I feel like I’m not making any progress when, in fact, I’ve made so much I’m freed up to write again. That I won’t have room in my publishing schedule until 2024 isn’t a concern, more of a blessing in disguise as I’m plotting out a new trilogy and having a difficult time. I feel like I may be broken since I haven’t written anything in months and the momentum I’ve had for the past two years is definitely gone. It is true, what they say, it’s better to have written as I have really enjoyed editing these books over the past few months, but I also like to write and I need to have at least a loose outline of all three books (for breadcrumb purposes) first before I can really dig into writing book one.

Despite a new diagnosis of a yeast infection (I swear, the fun never stops with me these days) I managed to format, write blurbs for, and create six covers for my King’s Crossing series. I’ve ordered proofs for them all, and here are the covers.

I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of these, but like I’ve mused in other blog posts, I may have been too far ahead of myself for these to stick. I’m hoping covers for billionaire books don’t do a complete 180, though illustrated covers are becoming more and more popular. I just don’t think that an illustrated cover would provide an accurate depiction of what I write about (high angst), so at least I don’t have to worry about that no matter how heavy the cover trends lean in that direction.

Last week, I spent more time than necessary (because they changed their platform since I’ve last used it) setting up a Facebook ad for Captivated by Her, which was released on the 1st. I don’t expect anything to come of it; I’m still getting my new pen name out there and unfortunately paying to do it. I have just a little under 200 on my newsletter subscriber list, and surprisingly, I’ve only lost four. I did go ahead and offer them an ARC of Captivated, but only 26 subscribers took me up on it. That’s fine, even if just one or two of them leave an honest review that they liked it, it will be a nice gauge into if my books will resonate with anyone. So for now, I’m running a very small budget FB ad to Captivated, turned my ad back on for my reader magnet to build my list, and I’m running a couple of Amazon ads that don’t have much traction yet. I didn’t think an ad to a preorder would, I just wanted the algorithms to pick me up.

I might buy a newsletter promo with ENT or Fussy Librarian for Captivated when Addicted to Her comes out in August. I don’t have a preorder for it because I’m reluctant to put something on preorder for that long. It would just sink on Amazon because nobody wants it, so I feel it’s better to wait and do what I did this time–put it on preorder for a week so I have a link and in that time I can run some ads to it so Amazon knows it exists. Am I doing this right? I have no idea. I won’t know for a long time if I’m going to make any money off these books, but underneath the need for financial validation, I sure had fun the past two years writing them all.

There is always TikTok. Apparently you need to be on there ASAP if you’re a romance writer, but honestly, I’d rather throw money at ads for now than learn how to work another platform. I still don’t have a complete grasp on MailerLite and all it can do (I have a course by Holly Darling I bought during a Black Friday sale that I haven’t taken yet, either), and if I wanted to put time into anything else, I need to learn how to participate in Bookfunnel promotions because I’m paying for the privilege.

For now, I’m just happy to be writing again, even if I’m having a bit of trouble plotting, but I’ll get back into it easy enough. I’m also trying to figure out what more I can offer on this blog. I’m going to look into an indie editor series because besides my author updates, there just isn’t a whole lot going on in indie publishing right now. TikTok is all the rage and I could experiment just for the sake of telling you about it, but with only one book out anyway, I feel it would be a waste of time. So, we’ll see what happens. I won’t stop writing, but I like being able to offer content that’s helpful. I guess I’ll be brainstorming more than just plot for the next little while.


What I’m loving right now:

When I sent a newsletter out hoping to prompt the readers who downloaded Captivated into leaving a review, I knew there was a way to create a link that would send the reader straight to the review page instead of just asking them to hunt for it on the book’s product page. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur usually has all the answers, and indeed, he has a YouTube video on how to create a review link, and also a blog post that explains it a bit better. This was a golden find for me and so helpful for your readers if you ever need to ask for reviews!

I hope you all have a fantastic week!

Author Interview: Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Author SJ Cairns

I met Sami-Jo through a friend and through the years of writing we’ve stayed in touch. I asked her if she would be willing to answer some questions as her publishing journey has been a little twisty, and I always like to pick the brains of people who have had different experiences than me. I hope you enjoy her interview and sign up for her newsletter to stay in touch with her and her publishing journey!


You’ve been published by small presses up until now. Can you explain the pros and cons that go with publishing with a small press?

  • The absolute best part of having a publisher behind you is that they’re using their own money. Sounds shallow, but while writing can be pure magic, publishing is a whole other mangy beast that incurs a lot of costs for multiple editors, book cover design, formatting, and anything that includes a dollar sign to put out the best possible product.

The downside is that someone else has their grip on your work. They usually get the lion’s share of any profit, you’re bound by their publishing schedule (though it’s quicker than traditional publishing) when all you want to do is hit PUBLISH, and the author is still expected to do their own marketing. Oh! And they can go under at any moment. A plague amongst many small presses since the publisher is sometimes no more than a single person or two with some loyal people to work out all the kinks. When you’re in your groove and suddenly the publisher disappears, your books become homeless. It can be heartbreaking.

You’re looking at self-publishing for the first time. What do you think the biggest challenge of that will be?

  • Not knowing just how much I don’t know about the process is super daunting. There’s so much to learn if you want to do it right and make an impact right from day one. And, come on, who doesn’t want an amazing launch that catapults your book to the top of some fancy best-seller lists? It’s the dream, but it means more work and since I have a newly minted two-year old, spare time is in short supply. I have to-do lists coming out of my ears.

The series you’re working on will have several books in it by the time you’re done. Do you have any tips for how a writer can put together and publish a large project like that?

  • I never intended to write a series, but it’s the small things that can make you want to shave your head. Is this word usually capitalized? Does this character already know such-and-such about this character? Was this character’s eyes green or brown? It’s never-ending. A series bible can help by making extensive notes about things such as special words and how they’re used or spelled, having handy character bios including all physical attributes and important events, but be prepared to search back for things when needed. After multiple drafts and rounds of editing, some details are branded in your brain, but do yourself a favor, assume you won’t remember it all, and write it down.

Since you’ve been writing and publishing, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

  • That you can’t read and reread a contract before signing enough. Not a happy lesson, but an important one. When you’ve spent years on a project and plan on putting it in someone else’s hands, it’s takes an enormous amount of trust. And whether you know the people behind the label or not, publishing is a business and should be treating like one.

I think, during these times in particular, it’s difficult to stay motivated and on track. With a husband and a little one, along with a part-time job, how do you stay motivated to write?

  • I think the motivation comes for wanting something for myself. I loved writing before having my daughter and it took far too long to get back in front of my laptop, especially after losing my office to her nursery. Writing and publishing is something I enjoy. Being motivated and having the time to utilize that motivation is not always aligned and I repeatedly have to give myself a kick in the ass to get things done when the timing lines up. Motivation is not a one-time deal, it takes daily effort and prioritizing.

You’ve done everything from blogging on your website to vlogging on YouTube. What is your favorite social media platform and why? And can you give us some tips on how to find time for that in a busy schedule?

  • I tend to use Facebook the most. Some hate it, but I firmly believe that all social media platforms are as good as you cultivate them to be. Your domain, your control. I wouldn’t be published at all if it wasn’t for the writing relationships made on Facebook. If you can figure out your ideal reader, create content with them in mind, and try and have some fun while doing it, you’re golden. Social media is more to connect with people and, if they are readers, they may follow you and your titles based off how they feel about you as a person. These days, the author is as much the product as their book is. Create a bunch of things on a free day or weekend and then schedule their posts along the week or month when you know you won’t have time. There’s lots of programs that can do that for you.

In closing, what’s on your plate for the rest of 2022? And do you have the next couple of years mapped out?

  • My plan is muddy, but I can vaguely see it somewhere in there. Not ironclad, but my hope is to learn a few more (a million more) things about self-publishing, devise a re-release schedule for the 4 already published books in the Soul Seer Chronicles series while finishing up book 5 and tackling book 6 (They ALL need new covers). Also, to work on another series I haven’t announced yet. Oh, and developing my newsletter subscribers, marketing materials, and update my website. Phew. It’s fine. I’m fine. I can do this. The biggest drive is just to get my books back out there. Not being a published author right now actually feels odd and I’m not a fan. Though, being in control of my titles is super empowering and I am looking forward to reintroducing them to people all over again.

Find SJ on her website: sjcairns.co
Sign up for her newsletter: sjcairns.com/newsletter-sign-up

Until next time!

Welcome Guest Blogger Women’s Fiction and Domestic Thriller Author Sarah Krewis

a stack of books. quote says: what i learned when i published my debut novel
Provided by Sarah

I want to thank Vania for allowing me to guest post on her blog today. Our friendship began a little over four years ago, I believe, and with it has come some pretty stellar conversations about the life of an indie author. Today I want to talk about a few tools necessary if you want to succeed in this business, based on personal experience. 

When I began writing my debut novel, four years before I published it the first time, I had no idea what I was doing. Through research, my love of reading, and a handful of supportive people on Twitter, I figured out the barebones of how to write and publish a novel. It still wasn’t enough. 

I was stupid and naive. I thought that because I had a cover made, I had someone edit the book, and someone else to format it too, that it was all I needed to publish my story. Sure, my book cover was really well done. But I was impatient. I didn’t have a clear vision for my story so I wasn’t able to work with the designer to get it how I wanted because I didn’t fully know what I wanted. My editor gave it a first glance edit and made constructive notes. I made changes that I thought needed to be made, then I was done. I thought one round of edits would be enough and I didn’t need to have anyone else look at the book. I had set a publishing date, made the announcement on social media, and was two steps ahead of anyone who’d graciously offered to help me. 

I imagine now, when I look back on that time, a clear picture of those who helped me, standing on a sidewalk. Shock and disappointment on their faces, watching the cloud of dust behind me as I flew straight for the finish line with my unfinished project that I was so sure was this great thing. Back then, I had a lot of support on social media. I felt important, accepted, and successful. 

Then, I published. And I fell flat on my face. 

It seemed like overnight I lost 95% of support from social media. I sold approximately 25 books that first day, which isn’t bad but most of those were family members. Then sales dropped off a few days until I had months with no sales. The friends that were still in my corner were concerned for me and I was lost in a darkness of shame and disappointment in myself. I had no backbone for the blows I endured during that time and I felt defeated. 

My first review was from a FB friend who hadn’t even bought or read the book. That 5-star review was posted on the day the book went on sale. Before there were any sales.  Then, family members finished reading the book a few weeks later and I got more 5-star reviews. A few friends who read the book gave 5-star reviews or 4 stars. I was so excited! 

After about six months, I finally sat down and read my book again as a reader. I couldn’t believe it. The book wasn’t a 5-star book. At. All. At best, if I’m being nice, I’d give it a three. Once we got settled into our new home, I began a new edit and commissioned a new cover. December 1st, 2019, I released the newly edited version of my debut novel, Broken Tomorrows

It’s still not a 5-star book. 

Over the last three years since I first published the novel, I have grown and learned as an author. I have attempted to mend some of the friendships that I lost, and I took a good look at how I reacted and how sensitive I came across to those who knew me. If they left a 5-star review because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings, that’s on me. I never want anyone to feel like they can’t be truthful with me because it’ll hurt my feelings. 

In 2020, I took six months and focused on myself. I reviewed my life since I joined this business of writing and I asked myself some really tough questions, like, is writing really what I want to do with my life? I also stripped Broken Tomorrows off Amazon and redid about 75% of the story with the intent of republishing a third time. How do I know I’ve grown? I took a step back and realized that I need to write something new and fresh. I need to walk away from my characters and meet new ones. I do have a plan for what I rewrote of Broken Tomorrows, but that will come in a couple of years after I’ve shared some other characters with my readers. 

Authors should never pick up the task of writing a book unless they are prepared for everything that goes into it. Here are five tools you MUST understand before you begin writing that book, tools that I learned the hard way are essential to the craft.  

Read Reviews with Caution: As authors, we aren’t supposed to read reviews as they aren’t really for us. They are for other readers to share if the book is worth buying. I can do a whole other blog post about my thoughts on reviews, but I’ll save that for another time. IF you find yourself peeking (believe me, it’s hard not to do), take them for what they are: Someone else’s opinion. Read it, process it, check it, and then move on. 

Get a Backbone: This was one of my biggest lessons I had to learn, and it’s not something that happens overnight. Sometimes we need to read bad reviews and get negative feedback to strengthen us. But we also need to be stronger than the sensitive versions of ourselves. How to do this? Don’t take everything so personal. If someone gives you a negative reaction, take the good you can learn from it and grow. 

Have a solid Writing Community: I went into this business thinking that everyone in the writing community were supportive and loving people. That’s not true. There’s a saying out there that says something like, “other writers aren’t our competition” but in reality, not everyone believes that. While I did eventually find a handful of really great writers who support each other, it’s rarer than you might think. Reach out to other authors in the genre you write and support them. Some of those people may give you support back, or some may use you because your support goes a long way. Know what to look for and at the end of the day, understand that when people say writing is a lonely business, it’s not a false statement. 

Own Save the Cat Writes a Novel: I wish I had this book back in 2014 when I first started drafting Broken Tomorrows during NaNoWriMo. It gives a clear breakdown on each scene that needs to be written and why. It’s the perfect guide for those who enjoy outlining their novels. I get nothing for recommending this book to you, I just really believe in it. You can find the book on Amazon by Author Jessica Brody. 

Invest in Yourself: I used to scoff when people would tell me to do this. I mean, when you don’t have the money for an editor or cover designer, you don’t have it. But, while you may not be able to afford that $1800 Developmental Edit, you can buy books that will teach you how to edit yourself. You can find a way to enroll in inexpensive courses online to teach you the craft. Groupon got me into a Write Academy course and a 6-month subscription to The Writer Magazine. There are deals out there you just need to look for them. Sell items that you don’t use anymore and start a Writing Fund. Network with other authors and reach out to University students. 

Vania knows a lot about making writing a business. If this is your first time on her blog, I recommend following her because she has a lot of useful advice based on personal experience. I’ve learned that you have to treat this like a business if you want to make it as a successfully published author. Don’t let these tips above discourage you from doing what you love, if writing is what you feel destined to do. Writing has a lot of tough moments, but when you are holding your bestseller in your hands, you’ll remember those tough moments as paying your dues for success.