Discussion with indie authors A.K. Ritchie and Jeanne Roland

I asked indie authors Jeanne Roland and A.K. Ritchie to chat with me about writing a second book, publishing, and marketing. I think it’s fun to pick the brains of my writer friends. You never know when someone will share something that will elevate your career to the next level. While I don’t think our conversation will turn your book into a best seller, sometimes it’s just helpful to know we’re all struggling. I thought we would chat for half an hour, I’d ask a few questions then we’d log off. We ended up talking for over two hours, and this is the bulk of our chat. I hope you find it entertaining if not useful. Thanks for pulling up a seat at our table. If you want to follow them or check out their books, their links are posted at the end. Enjoy!


Vania: A.K. Can we start with you? How long have you been writing and what made you decide you wanted to publish?

A.K.: Sure! I’ve been writing since I was five! My first book was dictated to my teacher and she turned it into printed books for us to create the pictures to go with the story. That’s when I was hooked! In terms of publishing, I’ve always wanted to! I don’t know where it began. I went to a publishing conference in 2019. It was for traditional publishing and while it sounded really interesting, there were a few things that turned me off traditional publishing. That’s when I decided to learn as much as I could about self-publishing. I was hooked.

Jeanne: Can I ask what turned you off trad publishing, if you remember?

A.K.: Oh, quite a few things. One, I listened to agents talking about how something as simple as a name would turn them off a manuscript. Two, they said it could take a year or even up to five years to get a book on the shelves. It was discouraging to hear.

Jeanne: Yes, don’t even get me started on names! That was the first thing that I was going to have to “change” to get mine published, and I get it. The name of my book doesn’t “work,” if one thinks of the book as a commodity. It won’t “sell.” But it’s the name of my book!

Vania: That seems to be a vibe even now from agents. They’re looking for books that require almost no work to get from your computer to the shelves.

A.K.: Yes! I understand they need to market, but to not even have someone read past the first page because of it is disheartening!

Jeanne: It’s probably a volume issue. An easy way to weed down the stack. I’m sorry I keep interrupting! I’m just very chatty. I’ll try to rein it in.

A.K.: That’s what they said, that there’s just too many to read them all.

Jeanne: I hate to say it, but I also think that agents are looking for authors to sell, not books to sell, too. Are you as an author someone or someone with a story or angle that lends itself to marketing? If not, forget it. There has to be a “story” behind the book, not just the book itself.

A.K.: Agreed!

Vania: Any angle, to get ahead, but I think indies do the same thing. Looking for the next biggest and best thing to somehow get ahead and find readers. A.K., that’s really cool that your teacher fed your passion. I hear so many people who have been shut down by their teachers. I’m glad she had a positive impact on your life! Jeanne, can you tell us a little about how you started writing and why you decided to publish?

Jeanne: Glad to hear that about teachers, too. Sure, here goes … I’ve always loved literature and language, I’ve studied a lot of it and done a lot of nonfiction writing. I write all the time for my job. But … even though I always wanted to write something creative, I thought I had to have something important to say, to write great literature, and that held me back from trying. My father was a professor of American history, and he died rather youngish. When he was terribly ill, he realized he’d always wanted to write something creative and hadn’t done it and then he tried a bit to do it while he was dying. That didn’t work, and I thought I don’t want that to happen to me. If I want to write, I should try. Around that time I read Hunger Games … and I thought, hmm. On the one hand, this is brilliant. I could never write something as brilliant and as well-plotted, but on a sentence level, sure, I could write that! And maybe I could just write something fun and escapist, the romantic escapes I myself enjoy reading. So about 12 years ago, I sat down and started writing Journeys, just as a daydream on paper, to entertain myself. I thought it was terrible and I put it aside then I came back to it a year or two later, sat down, and it just flowed out of me! That’s my story.

Vania: I guess I only have Twitter to gauge, but that seems to be a common quality among
writers–wanting to convey a deeper meaning with their writing. How did you marry wanting to write something deep and deciding to write something fun?

A.K.: That’s so great! I’m glad you came back to it! Sometimes you need to step back from a project to really see it for what it is. And I felt much the same. In my 20s I thought it had to be this massive novel that could “change the world” basically. That goal can be paralyzing.

Jeanne: I guess I matured enough to realize that I just love a good story, and that maybe the meaning comes through the writing, not the other way around.

Vania: I wonder if that’s why some authors look down on commercial fiction–they don’t think it’s deep enough or conveys enough feeling, yet, I think sometimes light and frothy is the perfect way to tackle darker themes.

Jeanne: I do a lot with ancient Greek literature, and it isn’t as moralizing or trying to send one message, and that’s why it is so compelling. It’s about exploring a situation and all its intricacies, and I’m certainly not saying I’m writing something like that, but I think particularly YA that is message-driven is just boring and dry. Don’t get me wrong. I think there are a lot of important things in my book, but they came in the back door.

A.K.: Yes. I think that applies to me too. I wrote a novel based on the music scene I loved and I turned into something more and focuses on healthy relationships, which hadn’t been my intention starting out. Haha.

Jeanne: Yes, I think themes develop in the writing!

Vania: If “lighter” books couldn’t talk about dark things, I think we’d all be in trouble. How could we write about anything worth reading?

Jeanne: For example, my heroine was kicked in the face by a mule and horribly scarred. It’s not “sexy,” and she appears to most to be ugly. That NEVER changes. No one ever finds her physically beautiful. But she is valued and even desired eventually for her character and actions. No “I think I’m not pretty but I am!” for me.

A.K.: I agree. I mean, there are definitely some books that don’t, but life has to be tough for everyone and fiction often reflects that.

Jeanne: And I think a great book doesn’t have to have messages. It can simply be a rip-roaring, well-written read. She also has dreams & goals and breaks herself trying to achieve them, and fails. I think it is so damaging, this lie that we can all get whatever we want if we just want it and work for it enough. That’s just not true! She adapts, and she has to get knocked down and get back up again.

Vania: I agree. I like exploring a person’s darker side. In one of The Years Between Us’ reviews, she says, how did anyone like this book? Everyone is nasty. Well, people can be! No one is perfect and there’s a million shades of gray when we talk about ethics and morality. A.K., you published your second book not long ago. How was that different from publishing your first?

A.K.: Yes! It’s hard to escape horrible people in real life too. Publishing my second book was way less stressful and much faster. Haha. Instead of being nervous to hit publish, I couldn’t wait to do it! Since I knew who I needed to hire and where to find these things, it was much smoother.

Vania: Did you run into any obstacles?

A.K.: I actually found it more difficult to find ARC readers for book two than my first one. As it wasn’t too long after my first book, I hadn’t established a pool of readers outside family and friends yet. I wanted ARC readers who were impartial. It didn’t result in the reviews I hoped for. Other than that, it was smooth.

Vania: That’s great!  Every time I publish, I seem to screw it up somehow. Jeanne, if I recall, you edit your own books? Do you use beta readers or ARC readers?

A.K.: I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty good at troubleshooting if you need help with something for any upcoming books 😊

Vania: A.K. for your next book, if you can afford the $9.00 fee, I suggest you put your book on Booksprout. It generated some good reviews for my standalone Rescue Me. I recommend it.

Jeanne: Yeah, I edit my own. I have one super good friend who reads my stuff and gives me advice/input as I write, and my sister and another friend or two have usually read my books before I publish them, but I do my own editing.

A.K.: Do you have a way of catching pesky typos that spell check and such doesn’t?

Jeanne: I should say that I actually had an agent for Journeys, who suggested some edits and did some proofreading. But I decided to self-publish rather than do what would have been necessary to get trad published, which was mostly to cut it waaay down, because it’s massively long.

Vania: Oh, that must be so helpful! Finding help is definitely one obstacle that we have to deal with. Especially since everything is pay to play now.

Jeanne: I wish I could help w/ the typos! But I’m sure there are many in my book b/c it is really long, but I have to rely on my handful of friends.

A.K.: Vania, do you self-edit as well?

Vania: I listen to my manuscripts before I upload them into KDP–you would be surprised at how much you find. Then I read the proof like I was a reader reading it for the first time, and I think that catches the rest. Yep! I do.

Jeanne: A word about editors, if I may …

A.K.: That’s great! I should start doing that as well.

Vania: I also edit on the side for other people, but they just pay what they can. Sliding-fee scale, I guess.

Jeanne: It isn’t because of either money or arrogance that I edit my own books … I’m sure I’d have caught more errors, etc. with a good one … but how in the world is a self-publisher supposed to know who is a good freelance editor? How are we supposed to trust someone else to edit our works? Any really really good editor is going to be massively expensive and/or not available to selfies. Some of the folks who offer their services … what are their credentials? Do they actually know grammar, even? There are so many people out there who scam indie authors. I trust my friends’ knowledge of grammar more than that of some people offering their services.

Vania: Oooooh, I know. Don’t get me started. Indie publishing has opened up a whole world to scammers who have no idea what they’re doing but are happy to charge you for it! Besides, some of it for me is arrogance. I write my books how I want them to be, and maybe suggestions could make them better, but maybe not?

Jeanne: Yes, this! You know, this idea that a book MUST have an editor … did Shakespeare have an editor? Aeschylus?

A.K.: I definitely agree with that. I picked an editor off Fiverr because it wasn’t expensive and I wanted someone who understood Canadian spellings. I really just wanted another set of eyes. I had no real way of knowing her credentials and while she did help with some things, it wasn’t the quality I hoped for.

Vania: Jeanne, was publishing your second book easier than the first?

Jeanne: It was sort of a unique situation, because it is a continuation of the story. You can read Journeys and end there, but you can’t really read the sequel without having read the first one which meant I knew I was going to have a small audience and there was little point doing any kind of launch … so I was SUPER stressed about putting it out. I was sure that I was going to be massively depressed. I thought no one would buy it and I’d be upset, but at the same time I thought, what if the people who read the first one and loved it are disappointed and hate it? I was really worried about that. Plus, I felt like I’d forgotten how to do it all. Vellum for formatting, uploading to KDP, getting the ISBNs. I’d only done it once, so I’d forgotten everything! It felt like I was supposed to know how to do my 2nd launch better, but I was worse at it, and I ended up super soft launching, no ARCS or advance copies at all, nothing.

A.K.: When you did launch it, did you find it brought any additional momentum to the first book?

Jeanne: All I did was announce it to my readers whose email addresses I had gathered, from asking them to ask for the 1st chapter of it at the end of the 1st book, a pretty short list. So this was the big surprise! YES! In fact, the moment that I put it up, the 1st one started getting interest again, particularly on KU.

A.K.: Amazing!

Jeanne: I had my biggest month of all time last month, b/c of that bump from the second one. 3x the number of KU reads. I think it “might” be because Amazon now lists them as 1 of 2 and 2 of 2, even though there are going to be 4 … so maybe KU readers think it’s a complete series. I feel bad about that, but besides that I say plainly in the blurb that there will be more, I’m not sure what to do about it. Yeah, I’ve started to think that all the effort I make means nothing. My book does ok when Amazon pushes it, for whatever reason then when they stop showing it, it dies. End of story.

A.K.: I don’t think you can change the number of books in the series unless you have pre-orders for them up at least. Mentioning in the blurb seems like a smart idea!

Jeanne: Yeah, I didn’t want people to think I was trying to fool them! But really, my books are Loooooong. If you get to the end of 2 of them, then probably you aren’t going to mind that there are more lol.

A.K.: Do either of you plot out and/or write your whole series before publishing the first?

Jeanne: So for me, I have the whole “main plot” plotted, I know how I’m going to tie up all the loose ends and all the main plot points, but it evolves, grows, and changes as I write. I like to think of it as knowing the destination and many of the big stops on the way, but leaving the exact route a little flexible. You? But mine are one continuous story, too, I should say that.

A.K.: I haven’t intentionally written in a series before, so I’m curious about other people’s processes!

Vania: Yeah, I couldn’t publish a series if I didn’t do that. Under this name I have a trilogy and a four-book series that I wrote, formatted, and did covers for all at once, and under my initials I did my duet at one time, and I’m releasing a trilogy in January with a week between books, and a co-worker is typo-hunting a six-book series that’s done. She’s reading the KDP proofs. I’m very afraid of consistency issues. My six-book series is all one story, too, and I’m afraid of how to market. Most of them end on cliffhangers and the only entry point to reading is book one.

Jeanne: I also have the issue that mine involves a big cast of characters, who keep doing things for x reason, which then seems to involve a y subplot! It’s hard! I’ve pretty much just been marketing book 1, b/c of that very reason.

Vania: I totally relate! My six books wasn’t supposed to be six books. It was supposed to be a trilogy, but then someone killed someone else, and bam! Three more books. LOL A.K, I would at least have a loose plot for most of the books, if only to be able to foreshadow to keep readers wanting the next book.

Jeanne: If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t publish the first one until I’d written them all, like you. In fact, I wasn’t planning to, but it’s a long story about how I ended up publishing Journeys. It grew out of depression over what happened w/ the agent, and the realization that I wasn’t willing to do what I had to do for her to sell it; even getting her was a result of something else, not of my making. Yes, I’m afraid that my 2 more books might be 3 more books … I have a few characters who WILL NOT behave! I’d wait myself until I was 100% done, if I were doing it over again, frankly.

A.K.: This is really interesting! Thank you for sharing this! The idea for my intentional series is forming. It’s intimidating a little. Haha.

Jeanne: I will say this, too. My books are super long. SUPER long. And that’s probably cost me some interest from readers, scared some off, sure – those who notice. BUT it’s mostly publishers who don’t want a long book. I think readers don’t care, as long as it is interesting and keeps their interest. Length is relative. A slow book that drags is longer than a long book that flies by!

Vania: Some people don’t have the patience, and that’s fine too. It’s not even impatience for me as it is I just need to be able to go back and change things if I have to. Being like this actually will keep me from doing anything longer than 4-6 books because how would I ever be able to save up 10+ books before I publish? A.K., you will never see me so scared as when I opened the file for book 4 knowing I needed to come up with 240k words to complete my series. I wondered how in the HELL I was going to do that. But I did. You just have to take a deep breath and not think about it too hard. Stay in THAT book, that moment, with those people, and it will all come together.

Jeanne: For me, it’s the stress of finishing. As chance would have it, those few who read my book 2 loved it more than the first one thought it was terrific. That’s great! But now I am SUPER STRESSED about not being able to follow that w/ a decent next book.

A.K.: When people are engrossed in the world they don’t want books to end! And yes, Vania, that’s a smart way of doing it. It seems like the most cohesive way too.

Vania: I agree. I don’t think they care either as long as the words have quality and it’s not all filler for page reads.

Jeanne: So this is all an argument for finishing before you publish!

A.K.: I wonder if it will always be like that, worried about not following what you’ve already done.

Jeanne: Yeah, I know that the next book just won’t be as good as the first two. That’s ok. But I worry about it being utter crap. I’d feel better if I’d written it all before publishing no. 1! What if I can’t pull it out of me AT ALL?!

A.K.: “About not living up to what you’ve already done” is what I meant.

Jeanne: Yea, so funny story. When I was writing the book in the first place, I wasn’t thinking about page numbers. I was writing for myself, single spaced, etc. It didn’t seem like it was longer than average …

Vania: Realllly, Jeanne? I’m always afraid my first book will be too weak to carry the rest.

Jeanne: I had no idea about word counts, etc. Then I found out. And I was like, hmmm. So I guess it’s too long! Everyone was shocked, too, b/c it’s a fast read. but it’s long. Well, if the first one is weak, then ppl won’t read it, no problem. But if they read the first one and loved it, then … there’s expectation. That’s what I’m worried about. Readers who love book 1, then thought 2 was even better … they are expecting 3 to be even better! But it is going to be so much worse, lol.

Vania: Yeah that’s a problem when you’ve already written them all!

A.K.: As a reader, even if the second or third book is weaker, it doesn’t stop me from committing to a series. I know what the author is capable of. And I’ll come back for more.

Jeanne: I’m hoping that will be the case for my little pool of readers. but there’s also something depressing about working on massively long books knowing that the number orf readers is just going to decrease over time, not grow, b/c you have to have read the others and some will stop the series. So it’s like you read all the time about people growing their fan base, but I feel like I am just shrinking it, lol. Let’s just say, if and when I ever finish this series, no more series for me! Standalones all the way, baby.

Vania: Yeah, but they grow their fanbase over multiple books and multiple series and multiple years. that’s why everyone says not to genre-hop.

Jeanne: Haha, considering that I have no genre, that won’t be a problem!

A.K.: I only planned on standalone, but a few people wanted more of my characters. It seems hard to avoid! I still try to write them as standalones in their own way.

Jeanne: That sounds like the ideal – a book that can stand alone, but then more for the hungry readers! Perfect.

Vania: That’s how most romances are. The couple has an HEA but there’s some kind of overreaching arch that finishes at the end of the series. I have to admit, I had a lot of fun writing the long story, but I’m really concerned with how it’s going to sell. A.K. do you have a book 3 in the works or are you writing something different? Is what you have a duet?

A.K.: I’m taking a step back from that series to work on something else. I didn’t intend to write a second book in that world so I need some time to figure out what needs to go next. There’s a large pool of characters so there’s potentially more.

Jeanne: Are you working on a different project, then?

A.K.: Right now just working on something random for NaNoWriMo to clear my head a bit. Yup! Just a standalone that may or may not be published in the future. Haha.

Vania: Weren’t you writing a Christmas thing? Is that it?

Jeanne: I’ve always been curious about NaNo but can’t do it.

Vania: I’ve never been that excited about it, though I’ve never needed the motivation or the camaraderie. I find that just by scrolling Twitter, though that may change.

A.K.: The Christmas story was supposed to be book 3 in the series but it wasn’t working out the way I wanted and I felt pressured to write it quickly. Decided after NaNoWriMo, when I’m in the Christmas spirit, I’ll make another attempt and maybe have a Christmas story for next year! I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for over 15 years. It was a good way to connect with writers back then! Not so necessary now, but I like the ceremony of it.

Jeanne: I’ll confess that I’ve been tempted to write some straight-up, short romance books under a different pen name, but my heart isn’t in it.

A.K.: For me, it seems to be the theme that makes it difficult to write. Haha no, I was writing a short story about a virus that took out the world and then… Covid happened. I love the end of the world fiction. Haha. It has to SAY something in that type of fiction. Not my forte.

Jeanne: Oh, man! I’m out, lol. I think I’ve already established that I have nothing to say.

Vania: Like, the characters have to learn something? Hahaha. I write romance. Out of the three of us, I’m pretty sure I’m the one who doesn’t say a damned thing 😛

A.K.: Hahaha. I love books that don’t say something.  Post-Apocalyptic fiction always seems to comment on the state of our current world. I don’t want to do a critique of our society. I think that’s why I don’t write it.

Jeanne: I don’t know. My series is about a 15-year-old (she’s probably 16 by now!), b/c I love this age – when you are still young enough for things to be firsts, when you are young enough to have big hopes & first loves, etc. I think I have some ideas of what it’s like to grow up. BUT …

A.K.: I prefer to write just about people coming together. That’s why I enjoy romance plots so much. The connection! ❤️

Jeanne: I don’t think my books are really very YA. So there’s a huge disconnect. I’m writing first person POV, present tense, about teens and there’s a TON of lusting after hot boys, but … it’s not really a young person’s book. All my readers pretty much are adult women. And I THOUGHT I was writing a romance, but lo and behold, it has to fit a very strict pattern to be that, and mine doesn’t fit it! So I don’t know what it is, lol.

A.K.: Romance does feel pretty rigid and my first doesn’t fit there either so I’m leaning into the women’s fiction label. As for your novel, there’s definitely a market for books about youth that can be enjoyed by adults. I always go back to YA books as comfort reading.

Jeanne: Yeah, I am calling it YA because I do think that it’s where adult women look for similar books (if there are any? Not sure there are!), and because there’s no sex in mine – just a lot of rather adult sensuality, but nothing that would satisfy most romance readers today, from what I can gather on Twitter!

A.K.: Makes sense! YA would give them the right expectation by the sounds of it. 😊

Jeanne: How about marketing? How do you guys do that? V, I know you do Amazon ads. Mine attempts at ‘zon ads all fail spectacularly, even though I think I’m doing them right. But my cover, title, and lack of clear genre mean that they don’t convert. Any other great ideas?

A.K.: This is likely Vania’s area. I haven’t gotten a grasp of it yet. However, I have found two awesome readers on TikTok. Haha.

Jeanne: Ah, are you conquering TikTok?

A.K.: I’m attempting TikTok. It’s not fruitful at this time. TikTok is very focused on spicy content. And the niche groups are harder to find (however not impossible, I hear).

Vania: Through trial and error, I’ve realized that Amazon Ads are very cover-dependent. (Who knew, right? 😵‍💫) I always show this as an example:

I had one cover for my age-gap romance, but it screamed women’s fiction. I was getting a ton of clicks because the cover was pretty, but once they read the blurb, they wanted nothing to do with it. I changed the cover and now at least when I get a click, I’ll sometimes get a sale. At least I’ve stopped wasting money.

Jeanne: That’s the problem for me. Besides that I don’t like the platform, mine just is not spicy.

A.K.: Ohhhhh. Yeah, those are totally different genres. Smart move!

Vania: But I don’t have enough books to scale. Under my name was sub-genre hopping, and now under my initials I don’t have enough books out to say either way. I make money off my ads, just not a lot.

Jeanne: Yeah, I think I had that same problem. At first I could get some clicks, but the cover looks more “grown up” historical fiction, and the blurb reads more juvenile lust fest, so the 2 don’t match up, so now Amazon just won’t show the ads. Why should it bother? Lol

Vania: I don’t wanna do TikTok. I have carpal tunnel, and the thought of being on my phone like that makes my skin crawl. I know there are ways of posting on my laptop, but ugh.

Jeanne: Hey, if you make money rather than lose it, you are ahead of the game!

Vania: To play with TikTok’s algos, don’t you also have to follow and comment on other people? That sounds like sensory overload to me.

A.K.: Making money from ads is great! My plan for the winter is learning Amazon ads. Yes, TikTok is all about engagement. You need to do a lot to get a little in return. As for marketing, I’m looking to redo the cover of my first novel. I think it’s holding me back. Just need to figure it out!

Jeanne: And to do it well, you have to be so purposeful. To be honest, I’m just not interested in being that purposeful about anything. It’s exhausting, and I’ve pretty much given up on the idea that I will ever actually be “successful.” I’m trying to get back to just having fun and enjoying it. The only thing I do wish is that I had more readers. I think my books are great, for the right people, and I think there are more ppl out there who would like them, so I would like to get them into those people’s hands. Same here. I KNOW my covers don’t help me. I just cannot figure out what they should be instead, and …

Vania: If Amazon doesn’t know where to put you, they will definitely bury you. On the bright side, if you run them and they do that, they don’t cost you any money LOL

Jeanne: I’ve been feeling perverse about it lately, like, “these are the covers, dammit! And I’ve gotten some ppl to read the book, even with unlike covers. My covers.” That’s so unhelpful to myself, but I’ve been feeling feisty. I’ll get over it!

A.K.: Covers are hard. I need outside opinions because I’m not certain of how to do visual expression.

Vania: I don’t want to use TikTok to sell my book. I want to use it because I enjoy being on it, you know? Posting mini book trailers all the time or “teasers” for the sole purpose of selling my book seems even more scammy than tweeting a link all the time.

A.K.: Hahahaha. TikTok is overwhelming that way. It feels scammy for sure.

Jeanne: Yeah, Amazon is definitely happy to bury me! Unpopular opinion here, but I have no issue spamming my book.

Vania: When I was doing my trilogy covers, I took it very personally. I wanted what I wanted, and I liked the models that chose the first time, and honestly, you just have to disconnect that part of yourself and say, I’ll put what I need to sell my books on them and be done. So I used some guys that have been used before and did a background that would blend in with other books, and I just hope it’s enough. I don’t mind buying ads, but when you’re on a social media platform and that’s all you use it for, or that’s all you go into it thinking that’s what you’re going to use it for, that’s hard for me. I have no interest in TikTok and that’s all it would be for me.

Jeanne: I know. And I’ve been *this* close to changing. But I don’t know what to change them to, or even if the covers are really the issue. Maybe it’s the blurb. Maybe it’s just the books – they are for a specific audience, and maybe that’s not a big audience anymore.

Vania: I do all my own covers, A.K. I’m happy to brainstorm with you anytime.

A.K.: For my second book, I had my friend read it and suggest a cover for me and I was like “thank you!” Because I never would have gotten there. Is it a marketable cover? Not sure, but I love it and it fits my book.

Jeanne: Oh yeah, I have no interest in TikTok. If my books were spicy, then sure. I’d pretty much have to, but then I’d have ready-made content and I’d be pretty sure eventually it would help me sell the books. As it is? I already find myself overselling the “sexiness” of my books, b/c that’s what people want, and there is a lot of lust and sensuality, but that’s not the essence of my books, and I feel sleazy afterward.

A.K.: Thank you, Vania!

Vania: Sex sells, but you can’t be too misleading either, or you’ll disappoint readers who are looking for that and then it’s not there.

A.K.: I like making videos sometimes, so I do it. TikTok though requires a schedule and a commitment, etc. I work full time so it’s not really possible.

Jeanne: To be honest, I hired someone to do my cover at the beginning. I was going to get a professional cover! Yay! And then I felt like even though it was supposedly super reputable and a great place for indies and yada yada yada, I felt like I got scammed. So I was still willing to pay again, but to whom? Who could I trust to give me a great cover and not rip off a defenseless nobody? That’s when I made my own.

A.K.: People get very upset if they go into a book they think is smutty and there’s no sex. I always tag mine #nospice on TikTok to avoid backlash. Haha. Yes, it’s hard to know who to pick!

Jeanne: Ah, yeah – mine’s YA so I think that should be at least clear that it’s not going to be smut! It’s probably a little spicy for YA, not b/c of what happens, but because of the adult sensibilities and sensuality, but hey. I had a reviewer call it “panty-melting PG,” lol.

A.K.: Some YA can get pretty spicy without crossing the line. Haha that’s an awesome review.

Jeanne: Yeah, also calls the MMC “Darcy on steroids” – love that, too.

A.K.: Sometimes reviewers know how to sum up our characters and plot better than we do. Haha. That’s great though.

Jeanne: For sure! Sometimes they remember what happened better than I do, too.

A.K.: Haha! I went to BookCon and apparently one author uses fan art or fan wikis to remember characters eye colours. I wish I could remember which author said that. Made me laugh.

Jeanne: Right now I’m doing an event on my author FB page that I’m calling “13 day of Journeys,” posting a series of posts w/ content and interactive stuff Journeys’ publication. It’s a lot of work but it’s very fun — just a really small little group of participants, but it’s great. That’s hilarious! I usually don’t mention my characters’ eye colors, so that’s helpful, ha!

A.K.: What? That’s so cool! Such an awesome idea.

Jeanne: Yeah, I wish I’d thought it out a little better so it had better content, but it’s been fun. If you’re bored and want to check it out to see what I’ve done, I put a hashtag on it so that ppl could mute it if it was too much for them & their feeds, but that also means you can search it. It’s #13daysofjourneys.

A.K.: I will!

Vania: I wish I was as creative as you, Jeanne! Even just what you tweet on Twitter is amazing!

Jeanne: It’s all pretty juvenile, but that’s me. If I have to be entirely professional about it all, what’s the point? I’ve already got a profession! Oh, gosh! Thanks! I think I have a really big advantage, and that’s that I don’t really have to care if I ever “make it” as a writer. I’m old, I have a full-time job. I’ve already accepted that I won’t support myself with it. So I can just have fun with it all. That’s very freeing. It means I don’t have to follow all of the “rules”.

Vania: If we can’t have fun writing, we might as well all stop. The second this becomes a chore, I’m out. I need to love what I’m doing, or I might as well get a second job. I could use the money LOL

Jeanne: Oh, sure–I could use money! But in fact I’m losing money on my book, so …!

A.K.: Yes! I would just like to work my day job a little less and write a little more. That’s my goal!

Vania: Are you guys winding down? We actually hit most of the questions unless you want to answer my last, and that is, what do you have planned for 2023 when it comes to your writing, publishing, and marketing? Seems so simple yet so far away, doesn’t it, A.K.?

Jeanne: Sure, I’ll answer. I have GOT to get book 3 out! I’ve already got readers who want it, and I want to finish it for myself, too. As for marketing, that’s the rub, isn’t it? It’s going to be a long time before I have a new book, and then it’s a number 3 in a continuous series, so … yeah, marketing is pretty dead for me. That’ll be interesting!

Vania: How long does it take you to write 600 pages?

A.K.: For 2023, I’m hoping to have at least one more book out in the world! I would like to learn more about marketing and the best way to reach ideal readers. It seems like a good next step with two books out. Looking forward to what 2023 holds for this journey. 😊

Jeanne: Ha ha! It’s all relative. That first book … when I came back to it and got on a roll, I wrote most of it in about 8 months or so …

A.K.: 600 in 8 months is wild! Awesome!

Jeanne: The second book (1273 KENP, so figure! It’s longer) took me a lot longer, b/c I didn’t have the same ability to stay in the flow and just write. It took me some years. And it all depends for me on the writer’s block/ inspiration. If I’m writing the right thing, then I can write fast. But if I’m not … if I’m thinking about it wrong or have the wrong things happening and I get stuck, well … I might never finish! This book 3 has been kicking my ass.

Vania: It’s the fortunate writer who actually has time for it.

Jeanne: Yeah, I have none. and it isn’t just time. It’s mental clarity/mental “time.” Last year was the worst of my whole life. It took all the momentum out of everything. It didn’t leave a lot of room for creativity. But I also care about these books. They don’t have to be great. Or masterpieces. Or anything. BUT it does matter to me that I can feel that I like them, love them, even, and that’s not always easy to achieve. Just writing down the words to tell the story isn’t enough for me for this series. I really need to feel like I’ve done a decent job of it, at least, and I’m not sure I can do that.

A.K.: Sometimes it’s hard to get that clarity. I have a lot of family things always on the go and it takes up a lot of my mental capacity. I try to squeeze it in, but it can sometimes be hard!

Jeanne: Yes, family and kiddos take up so much energy! And I’ve learned the hard way.

A.K.: For sure. I am child-free but I help my aging grandma and chronically ill mom. I’m lucky they’re more independent than children. But it’s still draining.

Jeanne: Writing when I’m not “feeling it” is detrimental. I end up with garbage on the page but after it gels for a while, it is hard for me to change. It’s like I’m a potter making a pot. While the clay is fresh, I can change it. But once it dries, it’s the pot. I can’t do anything but try to disguise the flaws with glaze. Oh yes! I’ve got an aging mother and I know how stressful that can be – even though she’s in a retirement apartment so I’m not doing the care myself.

A.K.: That makes sense! It’s good you know your limit or what you need at least. I, on the other hand, need to keep writing even if I don’t want to because getting out of a routine is bad for me. I just don’t force myself to write anything specific.

Vania: I am so sorry, A.K. that does sound like it would take a lot of time and energy. I’m sorry you’re going through that. I understand, Jeanne. I have never been a “write every day” kind of person. I need to want to write or else why bother. A.K. that’s why I blog–if I don’t feel like writing, at least I’m still putting words somewhere. it’s a different outlet for me that keeps my hand in.

A.K.: Good call! Well, I do have to head out! Have some pre-bed time things to take care of around the house. I just want to thank you, Vania, for facilitating this! It was wonderful learning about your processes and your writing lives! Also, for allowing me to share about my own. ❤️

Vania: Thanks for taking the time, A.K.! I appreciate it very much.  Have a wonderful night!

A.K.: It was lovely chatty with you both. Have a good night!

Jeanne: Thanks for hosting this, V! Great chatting w/ you guys.

Vania: You’re welcome! It was fun sharing what we’ve been working on and what we find frustrating about the business.  Maybe we can do this again sometime. Goodnight!


If you want check out Jeanne’s and A.K.’s books or follow them on social media, here are the links:

Jeanne: Her books are available on Amazon, on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Paperback. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09L6KZ8D7
And you can also like her author Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/jeannerolandwrites

A.K.: You can find her books on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/A-K-Ritchie/e/B09HJX6R6P
And check out her author website: www.akritchie.com

Compassion Fatigue. What is it, and how does it affect your marketing?

Lots going on over on Twitter last week. Elon Musk reluctantly took over causing a tsunami of emotions. A lot of people talked about leaving (and still are), only to follow up that thought with, where else is there to go? Twitter is a unique experience, offering bite-sized content and opportunities to respond to other people in 280 characters or less. If you’ve read any of my prior blog posts, you’ll know I spend a lot of time over there, but I don’t use it as a promotional tool. Plenty of people do, and what started popping up in my feed after Musk took over surprised me. More than one person said, “If I have to leave Twitter, there goes my writing career.” As an example:

This is actually a common refrain, people depending on Twitter and nothing else because it’s free, and as long as you tweet regularly so the algorithms remember who you are, you can nurture a decent reach. But no matter how far you reach, after a while you will run out of people who will want to buy your books. Maybe that saturation point will take a while, especially if you’re new and you put a lot of effort into building your account, but anyone with a huge account can tell you that Twitter doesn’t sell books in the number they wish it did.

Where does compassion fatigue come in? Let’s first take a look at what it is. I hadn’t heard of it until I was chatting with my friend Sami-Jo about this very topic which led to this blog post. According to WebMD compassion fatigue is:

Compassion fatigue is a term that describes the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others — often through experiences of stress or trauma. Compassion fatigue is often mistaken for burnout, which is a cumulative sense of fatigue or dissatisfaction.

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/signs-compassion-fatigue

When you think of Twitter and marketing, you think of posting promotional material like this:

made with Canva

Or maybe something not so fancy like this:

Add a link, and there you go. Something quick and cute that can reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people in a few minutes. I can see why Twitter would be people’s first choice. Free and easy, it gives off the illusion you’re marketing. I say only the illusion of marketing because to truly market and advertise your books, you need to show those ads to readers who read your genre and want to buy. Writer Twitter is full of writers, and while, yes, we are readers, we don’t read nearly as much as a reader who doesn’t write. Also, there is a mish-mash of genres on Twitter, and even if your promo reaches 1,000 of your followers, only 10 of those could read the genre you’re writing in.

So, let’s take this a little farther. You’re promoting your books, chatting with other authors, sell a handful, but not as many as you think you should because you spend A LOT OF TIME on Twitter (and buying indie books, but let’s not go there because a buy for a buy is icky and we don’t do that, right?). Time that could be better spent writing, if you’re honest with yourself. And this is where compassion fatigue comes into play. You start complaining about sales. Tweeting screenshots of your empty sales dashboard, moaning that a new release didn’t take off. Then some of your friends buy one of your books to cheer you up, and for that customer, you’ve reached your saturation limit. Then you do it again and again for every new release, and you get more bitter and more bitter because your friends aren’t going to buy every book you write. They can’t. They can’t afford $4.99 a book every time you release. They have their own careers and family obligations to see to, and let’s face it, $4.99 is a gallon of milk, right? They have kids they need to feed, and times right now are tough. You get angry your books aren’t selling because you need money too, they get sad and not a little upset because they’ve helped you and can’t anymore.

Complaining about sales when you use Twitter to find readers will only tell the people who have bought your books that their purchases weren’t enough.

When you complain on Twitter and you garner some sales from tweeting your empty sales dashboard, those sales turn into pity buys, and that is not a good sustainable marketing strategy.

So when someone says, I don’t have a writing career without Twitter, I’m baffled because yes, while it’s free, there are several other ways to promote your books. Relying on only one way is a fool’s game and one you won’t win. I’ve blogged a lot over the past couple of years on ways you can market your book that’s not Twitter, and those are: buy a promo from places like Free/Bargainbooksy, E-reader News Today, Robin’s Reads, Fussy Librarian, and more. Buying a slot in one of those reader newsletters will grab you more readers than hours of tweeting into the void. Write a reader magnet, set up a newsletter, and build your reader list through platforms like Bookfunnel and StoryOrigin. Learn how to use Amazon ads and run a couple of low cost-per-click ads. I would rather run ads and sell a couple of books a day than spend hours on Twitter begging people to buy my book. Publish consistently, and that means the number of books a year as well as not genre-hopping for a bit to build an audience for that genre.

I get that authors are afraid to sink money into their books, but ads and promos are only expensive if your book isn’t advertising ready and it doesn’t sell (after all, you’re supposed to make more than you spend. That’s the point of an ad.). I’ve seen people say, I bought a promo and didn’t earn my fee back. That’s a you problem, not a promo problem (and definitely not a Twitter problem). Likely, your cover wasn’t good enough, or the ad copy they ask you to write to go along with a picture of your cover wasn’t hooky enough. Maybe you were trying to promote a standalone when a lot of earning a fee back consists of read-through or the purchases of other books in the series.

The good news is, if you’re losing money on promos, you can adjust. Write something new. Replace your cover with something from GetCovers (their prices are very inexpensive compared to some that are out there). Workshop your blurb and change it on your Amazon product page. But out of anything you can do, stop complaining on Twitter. Your friends and followers aren’t responsible for your writing career. They can’t carry you. They want to write and sell their own books. After a while, they’ll get sick of seeing your promos and hearing you beg. They’ll mute you out of bitterness and a feeling of worthlessness that their support wasn’t good enough for you.

If Elon Musk shuts down Twitter either by fault or design, how fucked would you be? Would you consider your writing career destroyed, or would you simply adjust your sails and chart a different course? I’d miss some friends I’ve met on Twitter and don’t know how to contact any other way, and maybe I wouldn’t see as much traffic on my blog as I do now, but Twitter closing up shop would have zero affect on my book sales. That’s a good thing. If you depend on Twitter and you’re telling yourself you have nowhere else to go, you’ve trapped yourself there out of fear. Don’t do that. You are in control of your writing career, not Elon Musk. Figure things out for yourself because not everything is forever.

As for the tweet above? She did end up with a few pity buys, and maybe that’s the way publishing works for her, but it’s not the way it works for me, and I hope it’s not the way it works for you.

At some point I’ll probably get beat up for this blog post, and I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad or embarrass anyone. Writing and publishing for me is pretty much my whole world, and if I depended on one unsteady platform for my longevity, I would quit writing and funnel my passion into something else. It truly is a lonely road, and isolating yourself only makes it worse. There’s talk now that everyone will need to be verified on Twitter if they want their tweets scene, and the cost will be $8.00 a month. Why sink further into the pit if you plan on paying that? If Twitter isn’t working for you now, it won’t work for you then.

With the holidays coming up and a shaky economy, I wish all of you good luck writing and publishing and hope 2023 is your best year ever.

Monday Musings and an Author Update

I don’t even know where to start this week. As much as I absolutely love doing every little bit for each and every book, these projects feel like they take so much work to get from my head and onto Amazon’s website.

Last week I finished listening to the last book of my trilogy. I can pick up 99.9% of typos that way, and it makes for a pretty clean final draft. I need to keep a list of words I like to lean on while I’m writing, as I discovered the word “just” in my 3rd book and went back to the first and second and realized I abused it there too. All told among three books, I think I edited out about 300. Some make sense, some can be deleted without changing the sentence, and sometimes a better word can replace it. It wasn’t a huge task, but it added an extra hour to my editing on Wednesday. But, I know the books are better for it, so I can’t be too annoyed. Last Friday I was able to format them all, much to my delight, and over the weekend I was able to create my covers.

I’m not going with the covers I talked about in my last blog post. Honesty is always the best policy (with yourself and others, but especially with yourself), and they were just not a good fit for the billionaire subgenre. It sucks, because they’re pretty and I like them, but they aren’t going to do the job. What really tripped me up was looking for models who are older. I have one MC who is 45 and another who is almost 50, and while I’m not one to care if a model matches the description inside, I can’t portray young men on the covers when there are not young men inside. There are very few older men models on DepositPhotos (that are model quality, anyway, sorry guys), and I happened to use the most popular one on Rescue Me. Luckily, my next couple of books are finished cover-wise, so I won’t be scrolling through stock sites again anytime soon. DepositPhotos seems to be kind of picked over at this point, and that will be a dilemma I’ll need to face down the road. Covers are super agonizing, but I’m confident what I finally came up with will work. They are better suited, and they still have their heads. I suppose if that’s the only thing I can’t bend on, I’m not doing too bad.


The problem I have, and will always have, is doing what you want vs. what you need to do to sell books. Someone in one of my author groups on FB posted the other day and said the best thing about being an indie is not having to appeal to everybody. I read that, and I was so confused. Of course you don’t want to appeal to everybody, but you want to appeal to SOMEBODY, preferably readers in your genre, and you can’t do that if your cover looks like Photoshop and DepositPhoto had a baby. I write this blog and publish my books in the POV of a single mom with a full-time job that doesn’t pay very much. I get it. You’re broke, I’m broke, and paying out for everything is just not possible. I have never ever said you shouldn’t publish if you can’t afford things like covers and editing. But I was listening to a Clubhouse room not long ago and one of the speakers said this: You’re gonna pay. You’re gonna pay at the beginning when you hire out for an editor and cover designer and a formatter if you don’t know a kind soul who has Vellum, and if you don’t pay there, you’re going to pay with readers after you publish your book. You won’t have any. If you don’t have money to spend, you have to spend the time, and I can’t tell you how many premade sites I perused, how many current top 100 romance lists I looked at trying to gauge what I needed compared to the skills I have that yes, I have tried to cultivate over the course of the six years I’ve been publishing (but I am not an expert by any means).

It’s easy to believe what you hear. I got a lot of good feedback from those sunset/city covers I posted on Twitter, but Twitter writers are not my readers and while I appreciate the compliments, it doesn’t matter if they liked them or not. What matters is my readers like them enough to buy my book and read it. That’s all I want. That’s the cover’s only job. It isn’t about pride or what you like, and you can look for validation on Twitter until the cows come home, but when you buy a promo and you don’t get your money back, that’s the real validation. Giving away 4,000 copies of my first in series during a Freebooksy and paying for that fee the first day with KU page reads is a high that will never, ever get old.

Anyway, that seems to be a theme lately, the them vs us. Indie vs. readers, indie vs. traditional publishing. There is no versus if you do things the way things are meant to be done. There is no line, and I keep trying to figure out who is drawing it. If you’re standing on one side of that line, why? You have to identify with being an indie so hard that you’re willing to sacrifice readers for the control? Who is really in control when a reader sees your book, doesn’t like the cover, doesn’t like the title, doesn’t like your blurb and decides not to buy? Your control is an illusion. The control is with the reader who bought a different book.


Ooof, I’m done with this part of it. There are too many negative emotions online lately. Fear and doubt and desperation. No sales and launches that sink. 965 words of you can do better and your books and readers will thank you.

Besides the painful realization my covers needed a third revamp (no one saw my first try besides my friend Sami-Jo) the rest of what I have going on should be okay. Vellum is a dream and I formatted pretty quickly. I need some blurb feedback that I’ll seek out while I get some other stuff done, and all in all, I’m excited to publish these. I still have to adjust my author name on the hardcover of Rescue Me and approve it, but otherwise there’s nothing I need to backtrack for unless I want to load it into IngramSpark too, but I’m not in a hurry to publish my paperback there. If you’re looking for a freebie upload, you can sign up for their blog. They’ll let you know promo codes every so often, and this one popped in my email yesterday:

6 Figure Authors Podcast did a catch up episode that I was excited to see. I thought it was old until Lindsay (on Twitter) said it was new, and you can listen to it here.

That’s about all I have for this week. I’ve decided to work on completing my series that I started over COVID lockdown. I have two done, four more to go, and last night I was trying to think of why I stalled out when I realized it was because I decided I needed a reader magnet for a newsletter that was a long time in coming, and I stopped my series to write a novella. Three full-length books later I realized I can’t write a novella and ended up using the shortest of the three (76k words) as a freebie for my newsletter. Now it’s time to get back into finishing that series because I want to tackle a long series about one couple like Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. I’m not sure on plot, though Lindsay Buroker was talking about psychics some time ago, and that idea has been rattling around in my brain for a long time now trying to tie a psychic in with the billionaire subgenre. And at some point I have three standalones I want to write, so I’m glad I won’t be running out of material for the next little while. But as always, I’m getting ahead of myself, and maybe I’ll take a couple days off after my trilogy is uploaded to Amazon and my proofs ordered. I’m on track to publish in January providing nothing strange happens. I won’t be participating in NaNo this year, though I rarely do. This November I’ll be rereading the first two books and making plans for the other four. I don’t have their plots laid out yet, and I can only blame the planster life for that. I know who the characters are for the most part, but not much more.

Next week I can write about my second try with Booksrpout and catch you up on how my Amazon ads are doing and how my Facebook Ad is doing with my reader magnet and my newsletter sign up.

Have a good week!

The top 6 reasons listening to marketing advice is a pain in the A$$.

We all have marketing advice coming out our ears. I’m to the point where I don’t even care about marketing advice right now. I stopped listening to Clubhouse, I’m not an active participant in any Facebook group. All I’ve been doing is writing, writing, and more writing because let’s face it, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have product. But more than that, marketing won’t do anything if you don’t have the right product. So here are my top six reasons why listening to marketing advice is a pain the you know what.

You don’t have the same backlist as the person dispensing the advice.
Frontlist drives backlist. Right? Maybe you’ve never heard it phrased like that. Maybe you’ve heard “writing the next book is the best marketing for the current book.” I like frontlist drives backlist better because sometimes we think that after a book is so many months old it will stop selling. Maybe in traditional publishing circles this is true–when bookstores yank your paperbacks off the shelves, but we’re digital now, and books on the digital shelf don’t get old. So when you have someone who’s been publishing for a while saying that their newest release earned them lots of money–you don’t know if it’s from the current release or if their new book bumped up all the books in their catalog. Listening to someone talk about how they are promoting their 20th book might not do much for you if you’re planning a second. They are 100 steps ahead of you. Take notes if you want, but chances are good what they are saying won’t apply to you. I’ve been in that position, too. Listening to big indies is discouraging. Rather than listening, I go write.

You’re not in the same genre/subgenre/novel length/platform.
If you write thrillers, what a romance author is doing may not help that much. Maybe you’ll get some ideas because a lot of marketing is universal, but for example, lots of romance authors are on TikTok right now. Whether that is beneficial for you, you would have to do your research and figure it out before you waste time learning how to make the videos. Marketing for wide isn’t going to be the same if you’re in KU, just like listening to a webinar on how to market a historical saga isn’t going to do much for you if you’re a children’s book author. Marketing advice isn’t created equal and it helps to figure out what you’re selling before listening to advice. Even marketing for historical romance would be different than marketing mafia romance. If you write short stories, chance are marketing those will be different than if you’re writing long novels.

They have money–you don’t.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, I bought a Freebooksy, put my first in series for free, and watched the royalties roll in through page reads.” That sounds like the answer to anyone’s prayers, except, then you rush to Written Word Media and see a Freebooksy spot is $40 to $175. If you’re trying to promote a standalone, there’s no way you’ll get that money back paying to give away a free book. Amazon ads aren’t nearly as expensive (I have six ads going and have only spent 4 dollars this month so far) but if you don’t know how to put together a Facebook ad, they are happy to take your money and run leaving you with no clicks and no sales. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do for free anymore, all the begging going on right now on Twitter is proof of that. So it would be in your best interest to find a couple of nickels to rub together, make sure your book is advertising ready, and hope that you can find some traction with a low cost-per-click ad. If you’re afraid of losing money, do what you can with your product so that doesn’t happen. The person who DOES make their money back and then some on ads and promos has a product that people want and all they’re doing is helping readers find it.

They have a newsletter. You don’t.
Ever listen to a 6-figure indie author talk about their marketing campaigns? They give you all the sales numbers, all the rank, and someone asks them how they did it and they say…. “I emailed my newsletter and told them I had a new book out.” Where are the melting face emojis when you need them?

courtesy of Canva

Here they are. There is nothing so disheartening as thinking you are going to hear a nugget of information that will take your author career to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, you need a mailing list. That bomb she dropped is proof of that. Only, her list was six years in the making and you’re stuck on MailerLite tutorials on YouTube. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen and write down her advice for later. She built up her newsletter somehow and she probably has a lot of tips on how she did that. Gave away a reader magnet, joined in Bookfunnel promotions (or StoryOrigin), she networked with other authors and they featured her in theirs to get the ball rolling. But you have to understand that she’s six years ahead of you. I’ve heard Lucy Score has 140,000 subscribers on her email list. You may never, ever, get there, and her marketing strategies will not be yours.

They write and publish faster than you.
I remember when I settled in for a good marketing talk with a big indie author. I had a notebook, a pen, a cup of coffee, and I was going to absorb all the knowledge. She was talking about ads and promos and the usual, and then she got to how many books she released a year.

calico cat grimacing

That really sums how how I felt. There’s no way I could do that. I write fast–I can crank out four books a year with no help. No editor, no beta reader, no formatter, no one to do my covers, just me. But she multiplied that by four, and my heart sank. Obviously, their marketing techniques are going to be way different than yours. They can put a first in series for free, buy a promo, and get a ton of read-through from the get-go. They can run ads to several books and create boxed sets. What they can do in a year, you might be able to do in five, so you need to adjust accordingly. It doesn’t mean you won’t be successful, it just means you won’t be successful as quickly. When listening to marketing advice from prolific authors who are doing this as their day jobs, keep your expectations realistic. Save up advice that you might be able to use later, but realize that you can’t do anything without product first.

They could just be a better writer than you (for now).
No one likes to talk about craft. We don’t. It’s messy and subjective and it’s easy to start talking about rules and editing and first person vs. third person, and before you know it, you’re not talking to anybody anymore because everyone is ticked off about the Oxford Comma. But the fact is, good books sell. You can run ads and sell a bad book once, but you’ll never build an audience or a loyal readership off a crappy book. People work hard for their money and they don’t like to waste it. Time is precious and trying to read a book that isn’t well written is a drain when they could be reading something better, catching up with a show they’re behind on, or spending time with a significant other or their kids. You can’t be cavalier about asking people to spend time with you. People who have writing careers write good books. So if you’re discouraged because the authors you’re listening to are telling you that they don’t lose money on ads, and/or they have a huge newsletter, it’s because their books are good. Do you think this author has readers who are invested for the long haul?

I’m not making fun of anybody–he obviously has readers–I would do a lot for 458 reviews–but when 41% of them are one and two stars, you’re not offering content readers will come back for. Imagine how this book could have taken off if it had been well-written. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I don’t have to tell you the other two books aren’t doing well. The loss of potential is devastating to me. I can’t even imagine how he feels. Maybe he doesn’t even understand his own self-sabotage and is happy with the instant gratification.


It’s really difficult to listen to marketing advice. We all write such different books. Our genres will be different, our covers. Our willingness to put ourselves out there for the sake of networking. Our author voices and style will be different. Before you try to follow any advice, your books have to be marketable or any marketing you do will be for nothing.

This is why writing about marketing is hard. It’s why it’s difficult to listen to advice. And really, what no one talks about is how much marketing you have to do before you even write that book. We try to find customers for our product, when really, it’s a hell of a lot easier to find product for already existing customers. Finding your comparison authors makes it easy to find readers–their readers are your readers. We don’t like to study the market because we’d prefer to write what we want to write. The authors with the most longevity meet in the middle between what the market wants and what they love to write. It’s easy to do market research these days–Alex Newton of K-lytics takes the work right out of it, and you can watch a short trend report that he made this month for free here. https://k-lytics.com/kindle-e-book-market-trends-2022-september/

Read on for more resources and have a great week!


If you want to work on your craft, Tiffany Yates Martin has all her classes on sale for NaNoWriMo for $29.00/each. Check them out here! https://foxprinteditorial.teachable.com/


Monday update and thoughts on marketing and being an indie author

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

That’s all I have! Until next week!

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.