Is your book worth the blood, sweat, and tears, or is it time to move on?

We all want to feel like our books are worth reading. It’s why we write them, it’s why we publish them. It’s why we spend money on them with book covers, editing, and ad spend.

We want people to love our books.

But there comes a point in an author’s career when you look back and think that maybe that book isn’t worth any more time or money. It didn’t quite hit the mark with story/trope/character, or the cover is never going to be quite right, or you’ve changed the blurb so many times you wanna puke. No matter what you do to it, no matter how many ads you run, you just can’t get it to move.

And that happens. Even in the traditional publishing space. A publishing house throws hundreds of thousands of dollars at an author in form of an advance, and the house scrambles to push that book and make it a bestseller. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. An author who doesn’t earn out is screwed, but we can shake it off and go write something else.

I’ve complained about my books before, but I don’t sit and bitch and then do nothing. I’ve redone blurbs, I’ve redone covers. Heck, I’m using the #stayathome order to re-edit most of my books. I’ve found small inconsistencies and typos, even some small formatting issues. In some of my earlier works I’ve smoothed out telling, a lot of passive voice. They’ll be better. But better enough to start earning me money?

Probably not.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ads Challenge. In this challenge we learned how to bid, what our daily spend should/could be, where to find keywords. This challenge was great because he even taught us how to do some very simple ad copy, and this was so helpful. I hope whoever read that post took the challenge. It was worth the time, and it was FREE. Can’t get any better than that.

I did the challenge, and I’ll share my numbers with you in a minute. I chose All of Nothing, my strongest book, the book that I’ve sold the most of, and it did great. But I still came out on a loss. I ran a few ads to other books too, and I’ll give you my results on those, but for now, let’s take a look at All of Nothing.

At first I started the challenge with His Frozen Heart. First in series, it’s a no-brainer. I have book two out, book three is about to drop at the end of the month. Book four at the end of May. But in the middle of the challenge I changed tactics because something Bryan said resonated with me. He said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “Choose the book that sells the best.” You could have twenty books in your backlist and one is always going to sell better than the rest. Some books are just going to carry the others, and that’s the way it is. Especially if you sub-genre hop like I do.

Anyway, All of Nothing has outsold my other books by an extreme margin, and all I can think of is that it hits closer to home in terms of what’s selling right now in the romance genre (a little more grittier, a little more raw). That doesn’t mean I’m making money, but I’m selling books.

So, I changed gears and used Publisher Rocket for keywords for All of Nothing. (Folks, if you run Amazon ads and not using this magnificent piece of software, go get it right now. I’ve had it for a while, but never used it because I was using Bryan’s free way of gathering keywords. Free is fine, but in this instance, you get what you pay for.) About a year or so ago I changed the cover, six months later I redid the blurb. Those changes paid off, and now there’s nothing more that I can do to it to make it sell.

In the month of April I’ve spent $135.22 in ads and I’ve made $103.93.  I’m in the hole $32.00.

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My rank fluctuates between 15,000 and 12,000 in the Kindle Store. 12,xxx is the lowest (highest) ranking I have ever achieved. (Sorry, no screenshots. I check rank just to see if my ads are working.) But I am still in the hole. According to Bryan, I may not be in the hole forever–people borrow books and that makes your ranking go up, but don’t sit down to read right away and you don’t earn KU page revenue until they do. So while I lost money, maybe I really didn’t. There’s no way to really know. I can’t operate in the red to that extent, and I stopped my ads. Maybe the KU page reads will catch up to my ad spend and one day I’ll break even. Maybe not. All you can do is wait.

Obviously my book has the capacity to sell. And there are a few things I can do: bid lower. Not run so many ads. (I had about twenty going.)

Is it worth it to run ads to All of Nothing? Maybe. But the problem is, if they like Enemies to Lovers, or Bully Romance, or Billionaire Romance (those are the categories I used to search for keywords) then they have nowhere else to go in my backlist. None of my other books are like that. So they buy that book and move on to a different author.

The Years Between Us e-reader coverI run ads to The Years Between Us, too, and that was the book I was thinking about when I decided to write this blog post. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman trope. The problem with that is the indie industry has made that book naughty. When a reader in KU picks my “My Best Friend’s Dad” and there’s half-naked people on the cover, they know what they’re going to get. Lots of forbidden, naughty sex. Maybe even the heroine giving away her virginity, or at the very least, finally having sex with a “man” who knows what he’s doing. My book has that too, but it’s not gritty. I’ve tried running ads to it, and I’ve reworked the blurb. (I’ve blogged about this book in the past, and I’ve lost a lot of money in ad spend [about $70] before I changed the blurb.) Changing the blurb worked a little bit, and the cover is next. I don’t think the cover is working, but I ran some ads to it during this challenge too.

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Definitely not the loss that All of Nothing suffered, but I didn’t run nearly as many ads to it this time around because I’ve been burned before and I killed them when All of Nothing started operating at a loss. The last thing I can do is change the cover. It’s the only cover in my collection that doesn’t have a couple on it. After that, I’m just going to have to move on and admit that the book missed the mark.

It’s tough when you’ve written a book and it doesn’t sell no matter what you do to it. And in KU, like a friend and I were talking about last night, a reader could get to page 20 and not go any further because the book wasn’t what they expected it to be. 100 readers could do that, and in KU speak, that’s 2000 pages read. So you have no idea, really, if a book is being read cover to cover, unless the reader happens to leave a review.

The book I started the challenge with, His Frozen Heart, isn’t doing so well, either. And the poor reviews right out of the gate probably didn’t help it.

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I have twenty ads going for this book, and it’s dead in the water. I used Publisher Rocket for this book too, but it’s a Holiday Romance, Small Town, and people are looking forward to spring. If I want to market it after all the books in the series release, I could do a Christmas in July promo, or really push it hard this October when the holiday books start coming out. I didn’t plan very well for the release of these books, but I wanted to wait until I had them all done and edited. I’m not counting this series out yet, but I have a feeling these four books aren’t going to make much of a splash.

The problem isn’t just with the books though, it’s with me and how I’m operating my business.

I don’t have a newsletter going, and I don’t have any place for my readers to go to talk about books. I’ve blogged about that before. You need a place for the readers of your books to meet up and chat. And chat with you. There are plenty of people who say that they don’t want to start a newsletter because they themselves don’t open them. But listen, you’re in this as a writer, not a reader. Readers who only read, who are not part of the writing community, they LIKE hearing from you. The love the giveaways that are exclusive to them. They like the short stories that are especially for them. There’s a reason the theory 1,000 true fans exists. Because it works. All you need is 1,000 true fans who will read buy anything and everything you write and you are on your way to a real career.

Sticking with a sub-genre would help exponentially. All Billionaires, or all Small Town. I write what I wanna write, and lots of indies will stand on that hill until they die. But in this business, “Build it and they will come” doesn’t always work. When I first started writing, I thought Contemporary Romance was a thing. It’s only a thing if you’re trad-pubbed and already have an audience 20 years in the making.

You have wiggle room with plots, sure, even if you stick with a sub-genre. Maybe had I written The Years Between Us as also Small Town, that would have helped. But it’s placed in the city and Matthew is not a Billionaire, either. I could make him one, but he doesn’t live that lifestyle in the book, so it would mostly be a lie in the blurb the story couldn’t uphold. I don’t want to do that to my readers. Damn you Christian Grey and the expectations you created!

What will I do from here? I have a first person trilogy I need to work on after I’m done editing my backlist. I’m switching gears that way, and maybe that will help. I have no problem writing Billionaires, and my first person is more on target with what’s selling at the moment, but that might not always be true, either. I need to be smart, and I’ll create a newsletter to go along with that pen name.

It’s really tough, putting time and creative energy into a book only to find it’s not going to resonate with readers. We all want our babies to be loved. But at the end of the day, sometimes you have to realize the book missed the mark and move on. There are a ton of stories out there to write.

What do you think? Do you have a book you’re ready to give up on? Let me know!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all, even imitation gold shines in the light.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know!


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2020 Indie Publishing Predictions: Indie Authors and Marketing Collaboration

2020 indie publishing predictionsThe third 2020 prediction offered by Written Word Media is that authors will collaborate on marketing. I don’t think this is a prediction so much as it is them saying, indies will do more of it, or they will be forced to do more of it because it’s harder than ever before to get anywhere on your own.

This is where the evil networking comes in. A favorite marketing technique right now is newsletter swaps, but that comes with its own pitfalls. When you agree to recommend a book to your readers, you’re telling them, “I liked this book, and I think you’ll like it too.” You don’t want to lose trust of your readers because you swap with authors who may not be writing quality books. It takes time to read books by your fellow authors, and I would imagine it would be difficult for you to say, “I don’t want to swap with you. I don’t think your book is something my readers would enjoy.”

You also don’t want your book to be in a swap where the author has recommended a lot of books. Too many recommendations means fewer eyes on your book. Unfortunately, this advice is only good for authors who have a newsletter and you have hundreds to thousands of email sign-ups. Building a list takes a long time, and you may not be able to use this marketing technique for a few years.

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That number seems extraordinary if you don’t have a newsletter yet!

The article also suggests that group giveaways will be popular marketing technique. I can tell you as an emerging author with no email list or audience that posting or tweeting about a giveaway to no audience is a huge waste of time. Group giveaways only work if every author in that group already has an audience who likes their work. And those are the authors who don’t necessarily need to market – they already have a solid readership. They are just rewarding their readers for being fans.

If you’re an emerging author, you can always network, and maybe one day you can be invited into a giveaway with other authors doing better than you. I know from experience banding together with other emerging authors won’t do much.

With my series, I have the potential to put together a really cute gift box of Minnesota Untitled design-2items and include my books. I haven’t because anytime I try to give something away, I hear crickets. But that’s my fault. I haven’t cultivated an audience, I genre-hop under my contemporary romance umbrella, and I haven’t made connections with other romance writers. I don’t have a newsletter or reader group to announce my giveaway to. I could put together the cutest giveaway and no one will care. And that is the danger of emerging authors coming together. As an emerging author, you have to cultivate your own audience before you can market with others.

Another thing the article points out is that not everyone is trustworthy. In the era of scammers both on the publishing and author sides, you have to be careful who you work with. Everyone needs to do their share (time-wise and money-wise) and you have to market with authors who write good books or your book will be labeled terrible by association.

If you want any hope of being asked to collaborate in any way, your book has to be well-written, your cover must be spot on, and your blurb on point or no author will want to work with you.

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What can you do?

As an emerging author, don’t worry about this right now. Work on your own audience. Your loyal fans will be the most important thing to your writing career. Then start slow. Honestly recommend books you like without asking for anything in return. Build your relationship with your readers with trust and integrity. Keep writing and producing good books. All this marketing talk won’t matter if you don’t have good books in your back list and if you’re not producing regularly.

I’m at a place where I’d rather throw some money at ads than network, and that’s only half the problem. I’m an introvert and don’t like talking to people, but I believe that this prediction or some variation will eventually come true – especially since I’m writing romance. There’s huge potential in the romance genre for group projects, and I can’t let myself shy away from meeting people. I could let some really good opportunities pass me by.

This is one of my 2020 goals for myself – be more involved in my romance groups and start a newsletter. Have I done either? I’m researching newsletter aggregators and I have started to post more online. Not enough to help but it’s a start.

I’ve been busy writing books, and I’ll be releasing seven this year. But I do have to meet in the middle and find a balance among writing, marketing, and networking.

How do you feel about this prediction? Are you ready to collaborate with your fellow authors? Let me know, and thanks for reading!


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Indie Publishing Predictions for 2020: Audiobooks

If you read Mark Coker’s predictions back to back with Written Word Media’s, you’ll see they have two very different ideas about what audio is going to do this year for us indies. According to Mark Coker, audio for indies has come and gone. According to Written Word Media, audio will continue to grow and more indie authors will invest.

Which is it?

I guess the more important question is, do you have the money to care?

Audiobook creation is expensive, and there are a couple of things you need to weigh before choosing to spend thousands on an audiobook.

  1. Where? Amazons ACX will trap you in a seven-year contract, and you do not have control of your own pricing. Seven years is a long time. You can create an audiobook through ACX and opt out of exclusivity to Amazon, but your royalties are lower through Audible. Findaway Voices is another place for audiobook creation, but once again, if your audiobook is wide, you’re looking at lower royalties from Audible, though there are more places to sell audio than ever before.
  2. How much will it cost? Lots to consider here. How long is your book? I’ve heard you want to give listeners their bang for their buck. Credits on Audible will buy any book, so listeners are more inclined to spend their credits on longer books. But for indies, these are more expensive to produce. It makes no sense to pay a narrator to narrate your novella because production will be cheaper for you. Audible subscribers won’t waste a credit on it.
  3. Distribution and marketing. You decide to go wide with your audiobook and opt out of exclusivity with ACX (Audible). That’s cool, but if you’re strapped for cash and you were searching couch cushions to pay for your voice actor, you won’t have money to market your audiobook. If you can’t market it, no one will know about it. Kind a like your ebooks, huh?

Written Word Media predicts the audio market will grow. Mark Coker says the audio market will become saturated and indies just starting out have already missed the boat. What does that mean? Audio will likely remain out of your reach until you start making money on your e-books. If an average indie can’t make a regular income until they have 20+ books published, audio in the near future isn’t likely.

Finding a narrator who will do a royalty split with you instead of being paid upfront is getting harder and harder. As Bryan Cohen, on a recent episode of the Sell More Books

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Voice actors have their own audience and have to take care of their own reputations.                     Photo by The Teens Network Daytime Show Studios on Pexels.com

Show says, voice actors are becoming savvy. They know they won’t earn their time/money back if they do a royalty share and will only do work paid upfront. Voice actors have their own wallets and reputations to look out for. If your e-books aren’t selling, you’ll have a difficult time finding a reputable narrator to work with you.

What does this mean for an indie starting out? For audio, at least for now, we feel rushed because we are. If the audiobook industry is saturated now, what will it look like in 2025? There’s no way to know, but you’d be better off writing than worrying about trying to find a foothold you can’t afford.

What if you really want to get in on the action? You don’t have to be completely left out, but even if it doesn’t cost money, it will cost you some time. As an emerging author, you have to decide if it’s worth it, or if you’d be better off writing.

  1. Do live recordings. Go on Facebook or YouTube. Save the recordings and post to your social media and blog. True, you’re not going to make money with free recordings, but at this point you’re building your back list and audience and/or hoping for a newsletter subscribers. My son is listening to free Witcher readings on YouTube. Sometimes it’s not all about sales but exposure, which at this point is what you want.
  2. Create your own. Joanna Penn used to narrate her non-fiction in a closet. Winter jackets can create a soundproof room. But you’ll still have to figure out some kind of editing software because a listener isn’t going to want to hear you flubbing every other line. (By the way, ACX and other platforms have quality control. Even if you happen to have the patience to read your whole book aloud, that doesn’t mean it’s good enough for sale.) Narrate your book in chapters and put it on Patreon, or hope for traffic on your blog. You don’t have to be left out of the audio loop, but you’ll be going about it in a different way.
  3. Explore AI. Audiobook distributors don’t accept text to audio files right now, but that’s not to say you still can’t create an AI file. Be careful using text to voice software because sometimes they aren’t available for commercial use unless you pay their fee. I tried to find something to link up to this blog, but the voices  sounded bad, or the fee was too much to bother with, usually both. Maybe you’ll find something if you decide to go this route.
  4. If you want to offer different mediums, publish your books in Large Print and hardcover. Find someone with Vellum; Large Print is a formatting option with that software. Adjust your cover to a larger spine, and you’re done. KDP has a Large Print box you can select when publishing, and your book will be labeled that way on your book’s product page. Pretty simple to offer your book in a different way. If you buy your ISBN numbers, you can publish your book with a hardcover on IngramSpark. Not necessarily a HARDCOVER that requires you also design a jacket, though that is an option, but you can publish your books with a harder cover like a children’s book. You don’t have to offer audio to sell your books in different ways.

I haven’t done anything with audio yet. Anyone who knows me knows my favorite part of all this is the actual writing and anything that takes my attention away from it I have no use for. The pragmatic side of me knows I need to explore more ways to sell books, but my stubborn side says screw it. I can’t afford audio, and even if I could, my books aren’t selling well enough to warrant it. Maybe in my case, Mark Coker is right – I missed the audiobook opportunity. Or maybe something else will come along. At some point AI text to audio will be acceptable. Us poor indies can wait for that day.

In the meantime, keep writing. You can only have an audiobook if you have a book in the first place. When it comes to this prediction, keep your eyes on your own paper and don’t worry what other indies are doing. As an emerging author, you can only do what your situation allows you to do.

As for me, I don’t care. I can’t afford audio. I listen to my book through Word’s text to voice during my editing process so I know how it will sound spoken aloud if I can ever afford it. At least lay the groundwork for a successful audiobook in case the opportunity ever presents itself.

For more resources on audiobooks, Joanna Penn is coming out with Audio for Authors, it’s on preorder right now, and you can take a look at it here.

She is also interviewed by Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea on the 6 Figure Author podcast, and you can listen to it here.

If you’re interested in tips on how to vlog, or do live videos, in the past I’ve recommend Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss. She gives you lots of practical tips for looking and sounding good on camera.

Next we will explore Written Word Media’s second prediction – indie authors and organic reach.

See you then!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Wrap Up!

In this blog series we’ve been going through a survey by Written Word Media, and what it takes to be a career author. They surveyed authors who are emerging authors, authors who make 60k and authors who make 100k from their writing.

I went through their points as an emerging author who has six books in her library and I make less than $2,000 a year from my books. They went through how much authors spend in editing and covers. It’s no surprise that they found authors who put out quality books make more money.

They went through how they marketed, with easy and affordable promo sites heading the list.

They surveyed authors about being wide or exclusive and found it didn’t matter – authors still need to take time to build a readership no matter where they publish.

They also went into the time authors write, which not surprisingly, revealed at 60kers and 100kers spent the most time writing. In that blog post I tried to hammer in to the emerging authors that to make the leap from emerging author to 60ker, you still need to put in the writing work, no matter how many hours you put into your day job or how tired you are. Career money requires career time.


There are some variables as to why some authors make more than others, and the bonus material revealed some of these differences.

But first if you were curious about the amount of money an Emerging Author makes, take a look:

The difference between the emerging author and the 60ker. It’s quite a leap to be sure. If you’re single, you don’t need to make 60k to support yourself. At least in my area, you can get by okay on $30,000 a year. You’re not living in the lap of luxury, but a nice two-bedroom apartment with its own washer and dryer runs about $700/month. As an emerging author, even if I made an extra $300 a month, that’s a car payment on a newer car I desperately need. You can take a look at the graphic to check how much an emerging author makes.

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Now for some of the reasons why one author would make more than another:

  1. Audiobooks. While audio is on the rise and it’s easier than ever to hire a narrator and get your audiobook out into the world, there’s no point in spending the money if the e-book isn’t selling. It makes sense to invest in audio if your book takes off, but if it doesn’t, there’s no point in spending the money to make an audio version. So while audio is a great supplement for 60kers and 100kers, they were already selling books and the audio is a complement to their library. Also, when audio finally fits into your publishing plan, indies now have their shit together and release the paperback, ebook, and audio all at the same time.

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  2. Genre differences. I’m surprised they didn’t add this to the original survey because the genre you choose to write in is really important. As you can see by the graphics, authors made the most writing commercial fiction. Romance took the lead, and mystery, science fiction, and fantasy follow closely behind.

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    Children’s books are a hard sell as they depend heavily on print, bookstore and library sales.

    Young adult is broken into lots of sub genres like fantasy and romance, and broken down further into sub sub genres like coming of age, new adult, or college. I don’t see many indies right now writing plain YA like Five Feet Apart or The Fault in Our Stars. They tend to lean more toward dystopian or fantasy like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. At least, that’s what I get from seeing what others on Twitter are writing about. (Agents turned authors are the ones writing vanilla YA like Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments. Maybe because they have their fingers on the pulse of the market and they’ll write what sells. Who knows.) If you look at indie romance YA, they tend to lean toward paranormal or urban fantasy. Paranormal Academy is hot right now and that usually includes a younger MC. It’s difficult to completely separate the genres, especially since indies like to mash as many genres together as possible.

    And with Amazon allowing you to choose 10 categories for your books, there’s a lot of space to move around.

    We can all agree that while you can make money writing nonfiction, it’s a lot different than writing fiction and it takes a different set of skills to market it. Authors like Bryan Cohen who wrote How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis, Mark Leslie Lefebvre who wrote Killing it on Kobo, and Brian Meeks who wrote Mastering Amazon Descriptions, all have solid foothold in the indie community and pretty much have a built-in audience. They’ve been a part of the indie community for many many years, and they have the platform required to succeed.

    In my experience many indies who venture into non-fiction write creative nonfiction also called memoir. Let’s face it. Everyone’s life is hard. I could write a book about how I survived my divorce, but that wasn’t anything special. I just joined the 50% of other American couples who also have divorced. Hardly book worthy. Unless you have something super special to say, it will be difficult to be the next Michelle Obama.

    Most emerging authors have no platform, and that’s what you need to get a nonfiction book off the ground.

    When you’re an indie, it makes a difference what you choose to write, and, not only that, what you keep writing. Genre-hopping has never done an emerging author any favors, either, something I am finding out subgenre-hopping under my Coming soon!-2contemporary romance umbrella. From what I can see, the most successful indies stay within the same sub-genre like Aidy Award and her curvy girls or Alex Lidell’s academy books. Even Jami Albright writes romcoms and makes a killing with her Runaway Bride trope.

    Mystery, too, is seeing more segregation with subgenres, and authors who choose to write run-of-the-mill detectives might always want to stay with that, only moving the setting to other states, different police departments, and other tragic backstories.

    Indies do like to go their own way, though, and I like to write the stories I like to write as well. Hopefully we can all find a happy medium between writing what we want in writing what sells.

  3. The last point they went into was if the authors had a job outside of their writing. It’s not surprising emerging authors worked. Bills need to be paid somehow. The problem with needing to work is that sometimes your day job is so emotionally draining you don’t have any emotional energy left to write. I’m lucky that I can write and read at my job and that it isn’t emotionally draining. But I do trade that luxury with a lower wage and only because I have help paying bills can I continue to do so. I’m working hard to write as fast as I can to build my backlist so I can eventually hop from emerging author to 60ker. Eventually the sacrifices I’m making to put so much time into my writing will pay off. I’ll make sure it does.

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Even though they did add some additional data, they did leave out some other variables that I find are important in making an author successful.

  • Newsletter. The survey mentions newletter swaps saying that swaps aren’t an effective marketing tool. But that’s only swaps. Swapping implies an author has one to begin with, and I’m willing to bet there is a large gap between emerging authors who don’t have a newsletter and the 100kers that do.
  • The cost of ads. While the survey did go into how authors promoted their books, it’s not often authors reveal how much they’re spending on ads. If you make $50,000 a year but you’re spending $10,000 in ads you’re still doing well obviously, but the amount that author is claiming to have made is a bit deceiving. Bryan Cohen, when he does his mini ads courses, says any profit is good profit. At the core that is true. But if you have to babysit your ads so you make $2.00 for every $1.75 you spend, at some point you have to decide if you’d be better off writing. Ad creation takes time, especially when you need to take the time to write (or learn how to write) catchy ad copy. If you start a newsletter and add the link and call to action in the back of your books and pay for a promotion now and then, you may find that a bit easier, and a little less terrifying, than learning an ad platform and watching your ads like a hawk so overnight you suddenly aren’t $50 in the hole because people hated your blurb.
  • Writing in a series. I hate to keep harping on this, but this is also another component that the survey didn’t go into. Readers like series. They get invested in the outcome. They fall in love with the characters they follow through all the books. 60kers and 100kers know that and they capitalize on it. Emerging authors write what they want, and that isn’t always a series. But I would’ve liked the survey to ask its authors how many emerging authors versus how many 100kers write series. I doubt I would be surprised by the answer.
  • Frequent publishing. The survey didn’t go into how often authors publish. It stands to reason that the faster you put out books, the faster you can make money. But emerging authors have a hard time with timely output. They have their jobs. They are probably still learning craft and the critique partner/beta-reading stages they go through slow them down. Besides Jami Albright, I haven’t heard of an author who is not prolific making $60-$100,000 a year. And she admits she has to rely heavily on ads and other marketing techniques between releases. She knows her limits and embraces them. But you have to wonder if she could write more than one book a year, what that would do for her bottom line. I write as fast as I can, but I am not 100% confident in my ability. So the beta-reading stage slows me down as well, as does making sure of consistency and wanting no potholes in my stories. Maybe one day I won’t need so much reassurance. But I’d rather do it right the first time than pay for my haste with bad reviews.

In conclusion, the money is out there. There are different paths to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But whether anyone wants to admit it or not, some paths are easier than others. Write commercial genres. Publish quality work. Publish often. Start a newsletter. Use promos like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy to promote your work.

If you’re not doing these things, success may take longer to come. We all make mistakes and maybe telling your story the way you want to tell it is more important to you than money. That’s cool too, but be honest. Writing the story you want, with no editing, using a cover that’s not professional, and tweeting it out day after day won’t earn you any sales. So no whining when it doesn’t.


Thank you for joining me in this blog series where we broke down the Written Word Media Survey and the bonus material they later released. I hope the information given can steer you in the right direction to a productive and lucrative writing career.

Thanks for reading!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 7: Pricing

My Book

In this blog series, I’ve been going through results of a survey by Written Word Media conducted in September of 2019. In it, they surveyed Emerging Authors who make less than 60k a year and have 6 or less books in their catalog, 60kers who have 22 books in their catalog, and 100kers who have 28+ books in their catalog.

The last point in the survey is pricing.

In their findings, they discovered 20% of emerging authors have a book priced at $10.00 or more. I’ve come across this attitude many times, even from some of my writer friends. Their attitude is this: I spent a lot of time writing that book. I want to be compensated for it. The first book is always the hardest. Sometimes it takes the longest to write. But, unfortunately, a first book is usually the weakest of the collection as well.

Usually, after not selling a book for a while, or after more than a handful of people telling them that they’re crazy, those authors drop their prices to something a little more competitive. I mean, if you can sell an ebook for $9.99, would you rather sell one copy, or sell three copies at $2.99? The amount you earn is the same, but you have two more readers who may end up being lifelong fans.

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graphic taken by survey linked above

The survey also says that 50% of emerging authors think a free book is a good marketing technique, whereas 63% of 60kers and 100kers think giving away a free book is a good idea.

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graphic taken from survey linked above

Of course, that makes sense. The reasoning is the fewer books you have, the less likely you are to want to give them away.

Authors who are wide and have several series out are more likely to have a permafree first-in-series. If you’re exclusive with Amazon, if you want to do a free book, you can only do a promo with the free days KDP allots you.

Pricing low or free is helpful for a first in series, proving your first book is strong enough to entice your readers to read the rest.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that traditionally published books will have a higher ebook price because those publishers want you to buy the paperback or hardcover edition. Their whole business model is based on print. So if you’re looking at trad pubbed pricing, keep that in mind while pricing your book.

I would say the easiest way to price your book is to do what other successful indie authors in your genre are doing. A 100k word epic fantasy is going to be priced differently than a 25k word romance novella. Readers won’t show you any mercy, and they’ll be quick to give you a bad review if they feel like you’ve ripped them off.

What can you do?

  1. Price competitively. Do research and find the most popular price point in your genre, then stick with that.
  2. Realize readers don’t care what you went through while writing the book. They want a good read at a fair price.
  3. If you don’t want to give your book away, then don’t. No one’s forcing you. You may not like the idea of KU either, and that’s fine. Do what is best for you. It takes 24 hours for a price-change to take effect on KDP; you’re not bound to a decision.

As for what I do? I’ve learned giving my standalones away won’t do too much. The survey implied readers will read your other books, but that’s not always true. Especially a reader who has never read you before. They don’t feel a connection to you, or a loyalty to you yet.

Probably the most successful time I’ve ever gave my book away is when I used a free day in Select and paid for a Freebooksy. Because the book I gave away was the first in a trilogy, I made the promo fee back with KU reads over all three books. I broke even which is better than losing money, and I got some reviews out of it, too.

In truth, set a book or two at 2.99 or 3.99 depending on genre and word count, then go write more books. Worrying about the price of one book isn’t going to do you any favors, and paying to give one book away if it’s your only one doesn’t make sense.

Save the strategy for when you have a few more books in your library.

In the next blog post, I’ll wrap up this series, and we’ll explore the extra data WWM supplied after the survey came out.

See you then!


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A Rocky Point Wedding Series Update

Hello from chilly Minnesota! I’m glad I’m a writer with stuff to work on, otherwise I don’t know what I would do while I wait for the weather to warm up. According to weather.com, we’re not looking at higher (and by higher I mean, actually comfortable) weather until the end of March, but if the temperatures they’re predicting for that time of Spring holds true, I’ll be one happy camper. (Not literally. I hate camping.)

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Releasing this series is definitely giving me something to do.

I haven’t give you all an update for a while because I didn’t want to bore you, and I’m sure you all know I’ve been working diligently to get these done.

I just did the cover for book four. Books one and two are completely done. I’ve proofed the proofs, added the changes, tweaked the covers. Book three is almost done. I’m waiting for the second proof to come in the mail so I can look it over. None of the books are published yet, and I’m still wondering what kind of launch I want to have. Put them all on pre-order? Publish book one and put the others on pre-order? I’m not sure.

I do know I’m going to publish them three to four weeks a part and write like crazy on something else between releases. Whether I schedule those or drop them manually, I’m not sure yet. I don’t know if a pre-order will do me any good. I don’t have an audience, no one is really waiting for these. Book one isn’t going to create a huge splash, though I do plan to throw some money at it in some way, shape, or form. Since it is a series, and I have a little more faith in them than I do my trilogy (which is misguided, but it is what it is) I’m going to market these to an older audience and hope for page reads in KU.

Keywords for the Amazon ads will be important. I don’t want to target books written in first person. I don’t want to target books with young, coming of age/college-age heroines. My books have older characters (middle thirties) some of them dealing with divorces and second marriages. Some raising children as single parents. But I do have to find some middle-of-the-road comp authors because simply targeting Nora Roberts won’t work. Romance is competitive. I can’t spend a dollar a click to compete with other authors. So in the coming days I’ll be researching comp authors and putting together a list of authors and book titles to target in ads.

This is part of the reason why it’s important to be a voracious reader in your own genre. You need to know who you’re competing with. You need to know where your book fits in so you can target those readers.

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Ignore the cat hair on my bed. I know for book three I needed to zoom in more on the couple, and that was one of my tweaks besides correcting the typos I found while proofing the proof.

I did get some feed back from a FB Book Cover group and they did say that they like these. I’m always making sure (lesson learned) that my covers fit in with what’s currently out there. There are so many sub-genres now, and these are going to be categorized as small town romance along with the plain contemporary romance. Amazon will let you put your book into 10 categories, but you do you have to email or call them and ask.

I’ll be happy when these are done. I feel like I’ve been working on them forever, though it’s only been 13 months. A series is a pretty big undertaking–especially when you decide to hold them all until they’re done.

What am I going to work on next? I do have my first person stuff I need to finish for a spring release. I’ve been going over books one and two so I can write three and make sure I have all the loose ends tied up. This is more of a romantic suspense and as I edited I made a list of everything I needed to remember for the last book. These first person ones are a bit on the long side–the second one, after a first sweep of editing, is clocking in at a crazy 89k. It’s the longest book I’ve written.

It’s different writing in first person present, though I feel like I adapted my writing style to it without much trouble. The first book sounds a bit choppy, and while I was editing, part of that was smoothing out sentences and paragraphs to make them sound more conversational.

Otherwise, I don’t have much to report. My back/neck/arms are doing well. I’ve been having a string of really good days. But it does take a lot of maintenance on my part, checking in with my body to give it what it needs. I wear my elbow compression sleeves a lot, also my wrist splints. I don’t often wear them at the same time, though. I haven’t had to shovel much this winter, which has been a blessing as well, so I hope the weather continues to cooperate with me.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Written Word Media survey and dissecting that as a new author. I’d like to do more youtube videos about book covers, too, but it’s hard for me to find quiet time. I have to threaten the kids to leave me alone for an hour. They ignore me any other time, but when I want to record, they’re all up in my face. Goofballs.

I hope you have fun weekend plans! Catch you here next time!


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