Author Update: My Freebooksy results and knowing what you want

I’m only 19,400 words into my new WIP since starting it November 10th, and I’m having a difficult time getting into it. There are a couple of reasons, mainly I don’t know when I’ll publish it, and without that sense of urgency and anticipation, finding the motivation to write is difficult. I haven’t been wasting my time not writing–I read a book that some writers on Writer Twitter were bemoaning for the “stalkerish” tendencies of the male main character. I didn’t find it terrible, not in that way, but let’s just say, the book needed an editor and the possessiveness of the MMC was the least of that book’s problems.

I also reread Wherever He Goes, and talking about editing, that could use an edit. Not with any typos, though I did catch one “reign” where I meant “rein” and I had Kat driving West to make to Florida from Utah, but the instances of “had” when there didn’t need to be blew me away, and I think I probably should have edited it first before offering it for free and giving away 77 copies during my free promotion over the weekend. It’s a super cute book though, I still love the story very much, but if I ever wanted to go back and fix all those past perfect instances that don’t need to be there, I could also recover it with an illustrated cover that would be more fitting than what’s on it now. Back when I published it, illustrated covers weren’t popular, but it would be very fitting for the kind of plot it is. That is a project for another day, or maybe never as you can’t move forward if you keep looking back.


Speaking of looking back, I’ll give you the results I have for the Freebooksy deal I did on Thursday, November 17th. I took out a promo for that day, but I also extended my free days to the 18th and 19th. I don’t know why I decided to spend money on a Freebooksy for a pen name I’m not sure I’m going to write under anymore, except that I hadn’t ran a promo for those books in a long time, and I was just curious to see how they’d do. (Just a heads up–curiosity is not a good marketing strategy.) The problem with that mentality is, if you don’t have a plan or a desired outcome, it’s best not to spend the money. I’ll explain what I mean in a bit. The last time I did a Freebooksy on the first in my series, I earned my money back right away as it was a brand new series and I think I was still getting a lift from Amazon at the time. This time around, I gave away 2,583 copies of His Frozen Heart, the first in my four-book small-town holiday series. This is what the ad looked like in the Freebooksy newsletter:

I think the best it made in the free charts was number three in Contemporary Women’s Fiction.

I don’t think I even made the top 100 with the holiday category that I wanted, but to me, it doesn’t matter where I fell on the free categories, because anyone can give a book away (I am all about bank over rank). My read-through didn’t come as fast as before, but hundreds of readers could spend the next several weeks or even months getting through my books. I may eventually recoup the cost of my fee, but I spent 115.00 on that promo, and so far have only earned 69.00 this month, which isn’t fair because I had sales of my duet and Rescue Me before the free promo. BookReport did a good job of breaking the numbers down so far:

ASIN	Earnings 	Sales	Pages	Giveaways
Totals	$32.42	10	1,429	2,583
His Frozen Dreams: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$12.56	4	357	0Her Frozen Memories: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$8.67	3	108	0
Her Frozen Promises: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$8.10	3	1	0
His Frozen Heart: A Steamy, Small-Town Contemporary Romance	$3.08	0	963	2,583
Series Stats for the month of November
Standalone Stats for the month of November

So this brings me to what I really wanted to talk about today, and it’s this: always have a plan or some kind of vision of the ROI you want when you schedule a promo or run a sale. What is your reason why? Obviously, I had pie-in-the-sky hopes and dreams for this series and this promo, and I was hoping I’d make a lot of money. I have a couple of ideas why that didn’t happen but I should have given this promo a lot more thought before forking over the cash.

What did I hope to achieve giving my books away? If I wanted the exposure, what for? I don’t have plans to write under Vania Rheault anytime soon because those books are written in 3rd person and I’m not writing that anymore (and I don’t think indie contemporary romance in 3rd person is selling anymore either). Did I just want to see what would happen? Well, I’ve gotten half my fee back, so I can’t say it was an expensive experiment, but that money, if I really think about my plans for my releases coming up next year, could have been better spent. Did I just to give them one last hurrah before I turned my back on them for good? I love my books too much to do that, especially since I was just talking about re-editing Wherever He Goes and recovering it with an updated cover. So, for me, if I can’t answer those questions, I probably didn’t need to be spending money on a promo, “just for the hell of it.” It’s never a good idea, or a cost-effective idea, to throw spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks. More than like it won’t, and all you end up with is a mess.

I didn’t have a concrete idea of what I wanted to achieve with this promo, and because money, especially this time of year, is in short supply, I kind of regret the ill-thought out spontaneity of my decision. I don’t regret all the copies I gave away, but I’m not nurturing that pen name anymore, and finding new readers for a limited supply of titles doesn’t make any sense.

So, before forking over the cash for a promo, or for any kind of marketing, really, think about what you want to get out of it. There are different kinds of return on investment after all, not just sales, and it’s okay to spend money for something other than that if you know what you want. Exposure is fine, and in these times, we do have to pay for that. Sales, how many do you want? How many sales or page reads would you need to break even or to reach your goals? Read-through? Is your first book strong enough to carry the read-through you’re hoping for? How many sales of books 2, 3, 4, etc do you want? What would make you happy? How old is your book, and have you had any new releases lately? Could you use a cover update before spending money? What about a fresh edit? Did you check your blurb to make sure it’s the best it can be before you pay for anything?

I’m glad that over 2,000 people thought my books were good enough to download. At least that tells me my covers are still decent, and the blurbs are holding their own. It also tells me that a promo on one book can affect the others. I didn’t run promos on my standalones and didn’t promote them in any way besides telling my newsletter about the free books that weekend. I simply put them for free and hoped for the best. So that was actually a nice surprise.

What’s next for me? This week is American Thanksgiving, so I’m going to be busy. I don’t have anything going on today (Monday) but I have Tuesday evening dinner and a movie with my sister. Wednesday my sister is coming over and we’re going to Downtown Fargo to snoop around, Thursday I work, but Friday I’m cooking and my sister and my ex-husband are coming over for drunk Trivial Pursuit and turkey. There won’t be much writing happening this week, but I am still excited for the story, and though I haven’t bought the images yet, I think this will end up being the cover. It’s a departure from the billionaire stuff I’ve been doing, as this is a rockstar romance, but it’s still in first person, so I’m hoping that I’ll still find readers. I haven’t had a cover come together so fast (besides Rescue Me, which took me ten minutes and I loved it from the first mockup) and likely it will stay:

stock photo preview from 123rf.com, cover made in Canva

Not sure what I’ll do with it once I’m done–doing anything for the sake of doing it isn’t wise, and while I would love to just hit publish and walk away, that’s the fastest way for a book to sink. Plus, if this is really the guy I’m going with, likely Amazon Advertising will kill any attempt to run ads which means back to Facebook–but only after Christmas.

My second set of proofs for my trilogy are good, all the little things fixed, so those are still set to publish after the holidays. I opened up book one on Bookfunnel if you want to give it a peek. You don’t have to give me your email address to download it. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/ntb40bhai8

Besides that I’m just keeping on keeping on. My carpal tunnel has eased up since I’m not writing so much right now, but the girlie stuff that has been bothering me for the past couple of years still hasn’t abated no matter what I try. Some people have suggested that because of my age and hormones, yadda yadda that maybe that could be just something that will never go back to normal. That could be, but it’s a depressing thought. I’m not the only one dealing with something on a daily basis, but it’s a bummer to have to put up with something so annoying with no hope of cure or treatment.

I hope you have a good week, and a happy Thanksgiving if you’re in the US and you celebrate!

Marketing ideas for your books

We tend to confuse marketing and advertising when it comes to our books. Advertising is what you do when you’ve already written it and published it and you’re only looking for readers. That’s running ads, buying a promo, tweeting about it, or posting in FB groups. That’s not really marketing. That’s shoving your book under someone’s nose and hoping they like it enough to buy it.

Marketing encompasses a lot more than that, and it starts with your product, a fact many indie authors don’t like because they prefer writing the book of their heart and hoping someone likes it enough to read it. That’s fine; whatever floats your boat. And honestly, it’s what you should do when you first start out. But writing the book of your heart, or the books of your heart, won’t get you very far unless you can meet in the middle between what you want to write and what readers are looking for. As I’ve said in the past, authors who can meet in the middle find their longevity in this business. Or rather than compromising on every book, write something you love, then something you know will sell, and go back and forth. I was reading Bryan Cohen’s new Amazon Ads book Self-Publishing with Amazon Ads: The Author’s Guide to Lower Costs, Higher Royalties, and Greater Peace of Mind and in it he quoted John Cusack, who said something like, “I do one project for them and one project for me.” I can’t find attribution for that quote, but for the sake of this blog post, let’s go with it. That’s not what this blog post is about, as it is your choice what you want to write, but as Seth Godin said, and I quoted him not long ago, “Find products for your customer instead of trying to find customers for your product.”

(And if you’re interested, a really great talk by Kyla Stone is available here. She talks about writing to market, but she couldn’t get to where she is today if she wasn’t writing what she loved to write.)

I’ve spent six years publishing and learning from my mistakes. Here are some tips I picked up from other authors and what you can implement with your next books.

Make sure your series looks like a series.
If you look at any big indie’s backlist all their series look like they belong together. It doesn’t matter if they’re all standalones and readers don’t have to read them in order. If they fit together, create their covers so they look like they do. Not only does a reader glancing at your Amazon page know they belong in a series, they just look nicer when they’re all branded in the same way. That means a matching background, maybe, cover models who have the same vibe. Create a series logo and add that to the cover as another way to identify one series from the next. If you do your own covers but publish as you write, create all your covers at once. That way you’re not stuck with one cover that’s already out in the world you can’t duplicate. That shoves you into a corner you don’t want to be in. Book covers are more important than we want to believe, but trust me. Look at any of your comparison authors’ backlists and see for yourself how they brand their series. Also make sure if you’re going to run ads that they meet Amazon’s policies. I had to tweak my small town contemporary series because Amazon kept blocking my ads. I had to zoom in on their faces and it ruined the entire look. I’m much more careful now.

These are books under this name. It’s easy to see the trilogy belongs together, the three standalones and then the small town series. Amazon didn’t like they were in bed. Too bad. They did.

Write in a series, but also don’t tie things up –until the very last one.
Elana Johnson calls these loops. You can end each book with an HEA, but with the overall plot, don’t wrap things up! This encourages the reader to read through your entire series to see how things finally end. With my small town series, everyone is in town for a wedding, and there are wedding activities throughout. The last book ends with the couple’s ceremony. What’s fun, the couple getting married isn’t even one of the couples featured in the books. They are background characters that help with the subplot of each book. That’s it. That might be a flimsy piece of tape holding the books together, but it was a fun way for me to end the series–with the reason why everyone was together in the first place. When Elana talks about loops, she doesn’t mean ending books on a cliffhanger, though it is well within your right and another marketing strategy you can incorporate into your writing. Elana has a wonderful series for indie authors, and you can look at the books here. I’ve read them all, and this isn’t an affiliate link.

Use your back matter.
When you write in a series, and the books are available, your Kindle can help you out by prompting you to read the next one. That can be a boost, but also, you want to take matters into your own hands and add the link to the next book in the back matter of the one before it. If you don’t write in a series, add a different book. If a reader loves your book, they’ll want to read more from you, and you might as well make it easy for them. Too many calls to action may confuse a reader, so you don’t want pages and pages of back matter asking a reader to buy a million books, sign up for your newsletter, and follow you on Twitter and Facebook. Choose the one most important to you, add it immediately after the last word of your book while they are still experiencing that reader’s high, and ask them to buy your next book or sign up for your newsletter. I have also heard that graphics work wonders and adding the cover along with the link is a great way to prompt readers to buy.

Introduce your next book with a scene at the end of the previous book.
This is one I learned from the writers in my romance group on Facebook. Say your novel is about Travis and Amy, but the next book is going to be about Rafe and Emily. End Travis and Amy’s book with a short chapter/scene in Rafe’s POV to get them excited for the next book. I haven’t started doing this, but the writers in my group give it 10/10 stars, would recommend as a great way to get readers buying the next book. Also, if you’re writing romance, readers gravitate toward those hunky men, so if you can, write from his POV. I’m definitely doing this with the trilogy I’m publishing in January, and with the six books that are with my proofer now, the third book ends with an HEA for that couple, but I added a chapter from the heroine’s POV for the next three books. I suppose I could have done it from his POV, but hers felt more natural, and I hope it will be enough to get the readers invested in her story and how the series plays out. You can do this with any genre you write in–if he’s a detective, maybe he stumbles onto a new case, or maybe something serious happens in his personal life. Whatever the case may be, add something that will entice readers to click on the link you’re putting in the back.

Bonus scenes for newsletter subscribers only.
I haven’t started this up yet because 1) you have to write the bonus content 2) I don’t know my newsletter aggregator well enough to make something like this happen, and 3) with my newsletter signup link already in the back, I’m giving away a full-length novel. If you don’t have a reader magnet, writing a bonus scene that is only available if readers sign up for your newsletter is a great way to add to your list and hopefully, the more engaged your list is, the more readers you have.

Looking at your entire backlist as a whole–or what you’ll be writing in the future.
If you think of marketing as an umbrella for your entire career, then think of advertising on a book by book basis. Marketing involves all your books, who you are as an author, and what your message is. That’s why so many authors want a logo–but attach feelings, emotions, and what you’re giving your reader in your books to that logo so they think of those things when they see it. It’s why soda commercials are always happy. They want you to equate having a good time with drinking their product. What do you want your readers to get out of your books? If you’re a romance author, an HEA, for sure, but what else? Is your brand a damaged hero? Found family? If you write women’s fiction, do you want your readers to expect a woman on a journey, or maybe sisters repairing their relationship? Best friends who have grown apart only to be reunited for some reason? Of course, that sounds like all your books will be about the same thing, but that’s not really the case. What is your theme, what is your message you want your reader to get from your books?

Publish consistently.
Training your readers to expect a book at certain time will help you build buzz as your readers will get used to your schedule. Figure out a comfortable schedule and try to maintain it. Once every 3 months seems like a good practice if you can keep up with that as you’ll never fall off Amazon’s 90 cliff. Also, if you’re writing a series, keep in mind readers don’t like to wait and you’ll have your work cut out for you if you can only release one book a year. You might just have to be resigned to the fact you won’t get the number of readers you want until all the books are released.

It’s a bit older now, but Jamie Albright spoke at the 20books convention a few years ago. She shared some good tips if you can only write and release one book a year.

Tweeting incessantly about your books isn’t marketing. Doing research on your next book before you write it, figuring out your comp authors and comp titles, doing cover research, and writing a good blurb is marketing. Running ads and buying promos to that book once you’ve written it is advertising.

It took me a really long time to figure this out–ten failed books because I genre hopped and was only writing what came to me. I didn’t publish on a schedule, didn’t have a plan. I’m still not publishing on a schedule, though I am going to try to aim for one book a quarter after my COVID stockpile is out into the world.

I’m getting a hang of this marketing thing, but it’s nothing you can achieve over night. I spent five years making mistakes. I’ll spend the next five fixing them.

Thanks for reading!


If you want resources on planning your career, Zoe York has a wonderful series of books that talk about that. You can get them here. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75

Sara Rosette also has a wonderful book on how to write series, and you can find it here. https://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Structure-Troubleshooting-Marketing/dp/1950054322/

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 Musings and What I’m Liking Right Now

This is the last Monday of August, and I hope the month has treated you well. I got a lot done this month, including finishing the last book of my trilogy. It came in at a little over 80k and I’m pleased with how all the books turned out. They still need editing, but I’m on track to release them in January. I still don’t have a firm publishing schedule for them, maybe a week apart, but I do know that I’m not waiting between books like I did for my duet.

Sales of my duet have been slow, and no reviews on Amazon for either book as of yet. I’m running Amazon ads and actually just created a couple of fresh ones with a higher bid hoping to get more impressions and a few more clicks. I contacted the Librarian’s group on Goodreads and had my second book added to my pen name profile. The one thing I dislike about adding a subtitle to an ebook is that it looks like a different book from the paperback, and I have no idea why the paperback of Captivated was added but the ebook of Addicted was after that. It’s annoying, and though I don’t have any kind of OCD, I grind my teeth anyway.

Not that I should care, I guess, but it just looks funny to me. There have been discussions wondering if adding a keyword-stuffed subtitle is necessary or even helpful (though we all know that it’s against Amazon’s TOS) but there is still no arguing tropes in romance sell. It is getting to the point though where I have seen so many qualifiers attached to a blurb, I wonder if it does anything at all: A steamy small-town second chance standalone happily ever after with no cliffhangers full-length novel. Are readers that picky or are we just so marketing-focused we’re compelled to spell out every dirty detail before a reader buys? I don’t have the answer to that, but it’s interesting to think about nonetheless.

I finished proofing the proof of Rescue Me, and it’s all ready to go in KDP. I’m still on the fence if I should use Booksprout to find reviews–if I am, I should publish the paperback now so I have a link and ISBN as they ask that information when you set up your book for reviews. (At least they used to. I’m not sure if they still do–the platform went through an overhaul over the spring and I’m not familiar with it anymore.) There is no free plan for that service like there used to be, and the kinds of reviews I was getting almost doesn’t make it worth paying the $9.00 fee. I feel as though most readers use it as a vehicle of accessing free books and if they do leave a review it’s a synopsis of the book (if they’ve read it) or a copy and paste of the blurb (if they haven’t). Still not unsure, but a standalone would be a good book to try it out with, at least, so I’m still considering it. Here’s a little thing I made on Canva. I think my copywriting skills are getting better.

I have the large print version stuck in my KDP dashboard, but after going around and around with the large print version of Captivated, I’m not going to bother to try. It can just be stuck in there. I never did get an answer from anyone who answers Jeff Bezos’ email, so I’ve given up offering large print. I asked in the 20booksto50K group if anyone had a workaround, and the only thing that made sense to me was when someone said KDP doesn’t want you to have two paperback books available and if I was stubborn and wanted to offer large print, I would have to create a hardcover edition. Printing is already expensive enough as it is–a large print paperback costing about 16.99 to earn any royalties, and adding a hardcover on top of that isn’t worth it. I don’t give up on many things, but fighting with Amazon is one of them.


A tweet caught my eye this morning. Well, not this tweet as I answered her a couple of days ago when I saw it first, but I think the response I saw this morning was interesting.

I’m not 100% sure what he means–I asked for clarification but haven’t received a response as of writing this blog. To me, it can be taken two ways. 1) indies don’t know how to reach readers, which would be the natural assumption considering the original tweet, or 2) readers don’t like reading indie. When I first read the tweet, I thought that’s what he meant–that readers avoid indie for whatever reason. But then I read the tweet again after a couple cups of coffee, and he probably does mean indies don’t know how to reach readers. It’s interesting to me that he recognized it and lumped us all together and admitted it. I don’t know, I’m probably reading too much into it, it was just strange to see it in black and white. It’s also interesting to me because there is so much more to marketing your book and yourself as an author than just tweeting all the time. I’ve learned this creating my pen name and getting that going. Marketing begins with the products you want to sell so what is your product and what does it consist of?

*Genre/tropes
*Voice/writing style
*Cover
*Title
*Blurb
*How often you publish/how many books you have out and how many you plan to publish in the next year
*If you stick with one genre or if you genre-hop and/or sub-genre hop
*Metadata for your book such as categories and keywords

These are pretty important when you’re trying to market, and most authors don’t think about any of that until the book is published and they can’t find anyone interested in reading what they’ve written. If you don’t consider any of that, what you do after will be hit or miss. And what comes after that? Building a newsletter (though everyone says you should before you publish, and that’s a feat in and of itself) running ads, buying promotions in newsletters like Fussy Librarian and Ereader News Today. And after that, once you start to find some readers, you better be writing the next book or have one almost ready to go. That’s why indies don’t understand marketing. Marketing isn’t the same as advertising. https://www.outbrain.com/blog/marketing-vs-advertising-7-key-differences-you-need-to-know/

As far as the idea that readers don’t want to read indie–that’s a valid reason why there are some authors with no sales. They look indie. Their covers are only so-so and their books need editing. They only have one book out and it makes them look like a newbie (I am fully aware what my Amazon Author page looked like when I only had Captivated out and that’s why I’m going to publish my trilogy with little time between books). I don’t mean to insult indies. I am one, so why would I do that? But the less indie you look and your book sounds, the better your sales will be.

He answered me (real-time blogging is cool!) and I was actually kind of right on both counts:

I’m not going to argue with someone’s beliefs. I think in some way, shape, or form we all have to do a little marketing/advertising of our books. Tweeting isn’t going to get you very far.

Anyway, so that’s kind of what I’ve been thinking about today. I started my pen thinking years into the future. What my sub-genre would be, my voice/style of my books, the age of my characters and what that means for the ages of my readers. I research covers before I create mine, I try better to think of more relevant titles for my books–something I’m terrible at–but I know a title can make or break a book. Of course, I had to publish for five years before I figured out any of that, and I’ll have to publish for at least year before I know if that kind of preparation will pan out.

If you want to fall down the rabbit hole, I linked the picture of the original tweet to Twitter. I’m always interested to hear what others are saying about marketing and publishing.

September will be full of editing and playing with covers. I won’t start a new project until my trilogy is ready to go, but I do have loose plans what I want to write next. After tackling a trilogy, a standalone will be welcome. I had the idea when I was still writing in third person, but I think I can make it work in first just as well. There’s nothing stopping me from writing it in third and publishing it under my name and not my initials, but I rather like first person present and I might as well keep going with my pen name. We’ll see.


Oh, I forgot what I’m liking right now. Haha. Can’t be that great. Just kidding. When I have a bit of time, I’m going to listen to the roundtable talk moderated by Jane Friedman about the DOJ vs. PRH trial and what it means for authors and the book business. I didn’t follow the trial as it was happening, and if you didn’t either, but you’re curious, give it a listen.

Have a good week, everyone!

Until next time!

Author Update, What I Like Right Now, and Kindle Vella

I had a whole blog post set up about the comp title thing that happened on Twitter last week. I decided not to post it since there is just too many hard feelings surrounding those tweets, and I didn’t want to step into the middle of it. I just want to say that I think comps are important, that comparison titles and comparison authors are needed for BookBub, Facebook, and Amazon ads, which can play a vital role in indie marketing. While Allison, the woman who tweeted, was primarily talking about querying, comps have a place and can be hard to find if your book is unconventional. Many marginalized authors and writers chimed in (we all know how white the publishing industry is, and they should be loud about it, we all should), and being I’m a white cis/het woman myself, I don’t feel I add anything to the conversation. So if you’d like, and have the time, to fall into this rabbit hole, start here:


I’m doing pretty good for the writing part as of right now. This week I’ll put my second book in duet up for a very short preorder, just so that I can get my links, add some A+ content, and add the link for book two in the back matter of book one (I also have to fix a typo, so thanks to SJ Cairns for pointing that out). I should have this all up and going so the ebook will launch on August 1st. Then I have a standalone I’m going to release in October (not Halloween related, I only picked that date for timing), and if all goes well, I should have a trilogy to release in January. That hadn’t been my original plan, but I wanted to experiment and see what releasing all three books at once would do. If I can get a promo going for book one, the read-through might take off.

As you can imagine, that’s going to take some planning, and nothing I would have tried three years ago, but this is what I’m thinking about:

1. Covers.
I can’t have all my covers look the same all across the board. I have a six book series almost ready to go (I just need to read the proofs or find someone who will do it for me to check for consistency and typos.) Those covers are set in stone as I purchased all the stock photos, and I realized I was going to run into to some trouble with a trilogy. Each series/trilogy/duet should look the same to go along with your author brand, but different enough to set them apart from other series/trilogies/duets in your catalogue. Standalones are a little easier since you only need one stock photo and you’re done. A series/trilogy/duet need to work together, have a consistent vibe, and searching for stock photos while keeping in mind Amazon Advertising guidelines (because Amazon ads ARE a big part of my marketing plan) is tougher than it sounds. Hot men who haven’t been used a million times or showing more skin than Amazon ads will allow is actually quite a big ask and requires a lot of scrolling.
I also feel like these books are a little softer, and they are 10,000 words shorter per book that I usually write (so far, I have one of three left to write) so I thought maybe I didn’t need such edgy and dark covers. This is what I have so far, but I’m sure they’ll go through a few changes before I hit publish:

There’s a lot of reasons why I won’t go with all of them: Guys one and three look similar, and guy three with the smoke in his hand will disqualify him from ads (though I really like the look of him and he feels real in my head). Guy two doesn’t 100% fit, but he’s a lot of what I picture when I think about the character. I’m also a little worried they’re too plain, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, so while I’m writing, I’m also thinking about covers, which for me, since I do my own, is almost the hardest part of the whole thing.

2. New Marketing Tactic.
I haven’t tried this yet, so this will be somewhat of a test to see if it works. We all know to put a little teaser at the end of a book to excite the reader for the next book. But, I’ve read about some authors taking it a step further, and actually using the last CHAPTER of a book to introduce the character of the next book. I would imagine this works really well if you already have the books ready to go and can even add a buy-link to that last chapter. I’m going to try this and see how it works. If you don’t understand what I mean, this is an example: Book One is about Jack and Emma. I write in 1st Person Present Dual POV and alternate between them giving them (approximate) equal screen time. So before trying this marketing tactic, Book One would end with either Emma’s or Jack’s POV, maybe an epilogue to wrap things up (I don’t hate epilogues but don’t use them very often. In fact, I’ve started labeling them as the last chapter instead of calling it an epilogue.) But instead, Book One ends with a very short chapter in the next book’s character’s POV. In this case, since I’m always going to go with the male POV because it’s been studied that romance readers prefer, and look forward to, the next hero, that would be Raff. I’m excited to see if this works or if I’ll be accused of money-grabbing. The books are standalones, in the true sense there is no over-reaching arch the readers need to finish, so I’m not sure how it will be received. It will be a while before I can tell you, but you can be sure I’ll blog about it!

3. Overall Consistency/Relevancy.
I’ll need to create a logo for the trilogy, write up my blurbs, and write a list of the keywords I’m going to use when I upload my files into KDP. It’s a lot of work to do them all at once, but everything will be the same for each book. Relevancy is important when you want ads to work. Categories and key words should help Amazon point your book to readers who will want to read it. Amazon rewards relevancy and the more on-point your book is, the easier it is for Amazon to sell.
I’ve already done this a couple of times, so I’m hoping my process is a lbit more streamlined and it won’t take so long to put these books together.

4. Reviews.
Not paying for Booksprout was a big mistake. Captivated by Her still doesn’t have any reviews, though since I published it, I’ve sold around twenty-five books (some sales mostly page reads in KU) and I don’t have one review on Amazon. While I haven’t ran a promo for that book since book two isn’t out yet, exposure hasn’t been the best. Only a few Amazon ads have brought me the sales that I’ve had, and my lack of reviews, not even one, is disheartening. So I think for the first in this trilogy, I’m going to pay the $9.00 on Booksprout and put Give & Take up for review. You can publish the paperback and let the reviewers leave a review for that. Then once all your reviews have come in, (or not, just delist the book from Booksprout and hope the reviewers lagging will pull through) you can publish the ebook, and the reviews will appear for both versions. You don’t have to delist at all if you’re wide and your book isn’t in KU. It takes a little planning, a little looking ahead, but if you want to publish your ebook with reviews, you need to be organized. I don’t have an ARC team, and my newsletter is primarily made up of readers who signed up for my reader magnet. I’m not saying they aren’t quality subscribers, but I haven’t earned their trust for them to want to do anything for me at this point, even leaving a review.

Even though it is a lot of work, I’m excited to be publishing again.


I also have a lot of housekeeping to get taken care of once I’ve written book two and can take a short break. I need to publish Captivated by Her to IngramSpark and fix VM’s website. I have large print listed there because in the past, Amazon didn’t give me a hard time publishing them, but this time they did, and Captivated was blocked as duplicate content. So either I’m going to publish my large print with IngramSpark (if I can do it in a way that won’t tick off Amazon) or at the very least, set it up on my website so I can sell direct. I can order author copies through IngramSpark without publishing, and I can keep a few on hand for website orders. I have All of Nothing and The Years Between Us available in large print and I sell one every once in a while. I would like to offer large print because 1) I want to be accessible, and 2) I already wasted an ISBN on the ones I have under VM Rheault. Why Amazon gives us the choice to publish large print and then blocks it as duplicate content is confusing to me, but I don’t want to mess with Amazon and I won’t try again. I wish there were a live person to talk to that had the authority to unblock my book because it is a legitimate large print book that they shouldn’t have blocked in the first place, but the one rep I did talk to couldn’t do anything. They told me they would remove it from my dashboard but they haven’t, and no one did answer my email when I sent a complaint to Jeff Bezos’s email address. This is still in the back of my mind because I don’t like arbitrary rules telling me no. I’ll find a way around it, I’m just not sure yet. I would like to actually publish to reach as wide of an audience as possible, and maybe since you can publish paperbacks on Draft2Digital and you can choose where, I could skip Amazon if they’re going to make a stink. But I’m already publishing my regular print on IngramSpark for expanded distribution (they skip Amazon when they see the ISBN is already in use there), and I don’t want to use different distribution channels if I don’t have to. So, we’ll see. I haven’t asked in any of the Facebook groups yet, but when the time comes, I’ll ask a few questions.


What I’m loving right now.

Janet Margot used to work for the Amazon ads team, and she wrote a book about using Amazon Ads to advertise your books. She released only an ebook, but when Amazon sent me an email and asked I was still interested in that book (those work, people! Never count out the Amazon algorithms) I clicked on it and saw she finally created a paperback. I picked it up right away. More than just creating an ad, she talks you through cover, metadata, keywords, comp titles and authors, etc so you can make sure your book is advertising-ready before you create your first ad. Here’s Blaze with the book, and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Ads-Indie-Authors-How/dp/1737476118/


Kindle Vella

Kindle Vella is taking off, it seems, as I see more and more people publishing on that platform. My friend Dareth started up a blog, and her first post is about her experience with Kindle Vella. You can check it out here if you’re interested in publishing your own serial to the platform. https://www.darethpray.com/post/publishing-on-kindle-vella

If you’re interested in running a promo to your Kindle Vella link, Bookdoggy is one of few promo newsletters that will promote your Vella link. You can look at other services they have for authors, too. https://bookdoggy.com/for-authors/. I’ve never used them before, but if you have a few dollars to throw at a promo, it never hurts to try.

Other articles about Kindle Vella:

Kindle Vella: Description, Features, and Tips for Authors by Jason Hamilton on Kindlepreneur

What is Kindle Vella? And Should You Join as an Author? on the Reedsy Blog


That’s all I have for today. Summer is two-thirds over! Make the most of it!

Until next time!

Being an indie author means using what works for you, no matter the source.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. Not really a conversation I guess, because it’s long been established that we don’t see eye to eye on writing, publishing, and marketing, and that’s okay. Just looking at her back list and mine makes it clear we have different paths and different goals. She’s 100% indie, does her own thing when it comes to books, genres, writing craft, as well as covers and where she publishes her books. She’s happy, (I’m assuming she is as she has never told me otherwise) and wants to stay on that path.

I learned over the five years I’ve been writing and publishing romance is just because I want to do it the way I want to do it, it may not align with my business goals and what I want for my books. That’s an important distinction. Just because it’s the way I want to do it, it may not be the best way to make the dreams I have to come true. So, I’ve learned to niche down to a sub-genre and study what’s on the covers of the books doing well in that sub-genre. I create my covers not only with what I like (and what my skills will allow), but I also have to take into consideration what is selling, and what will meet Amazon’s guidelines when it comes to ads. Just because you’re indie doesn’t mean your books can’t look and read as professionally as they should, and this made me think: we can publish indie books while borrowing from the best of indie and trad worlds.

What do I mean?

Covers: Think like a trad author.
As an indie you can put whatever you want on your cover, but the fact is, after you publish, you aren’t competing with only indie authors. In fact, the line between indie and trad grows blurrier every day. Readers don’t care who publishes your book as long as they get a good read for a fair price. You’re in complete control of your cover, but once you start tweeting your book to generate interest, or you run any kind of ad, you’re going to compete against a lot of other authors. Authors who are traditionally published by the Big Four, authors who are published by a small press, authors who can afford to spend $500 dollars on a cover, authors who know a photo manipulation software backward and forward, and authors who put their cover together in the middle of the night high on caffeine using Microsoft Paint. This is an area where we can learn from traditional publishing. Create your cover to fit in with other books in your genre. People do judge books by their covers and who knows how many readers pass you by if your cover isn’t up to standards. Unfortunately, you may never know.

Blurbs: Think like an indie.
Up until recently, and I mean, like the past couple of years (which is recent when you’re talking about publishing) blurbs (plot teasers on the product page, not one-sentence praise from your peers) were written in third person present tense. It was just the way things were done, and there are still indie authors who write their blurbs this way, despite that their book is written in first person/present/past. It took me a long time to wrap my mind around a romance that was written in first person, and it took me actually writing a romance in first person dual POV for me to fall in love with it (no pun intended). While this was going on, the savvy authors started writing their blurbs in first person, using the voice of their characters. If you look back, the authors who started that and bucked the system were GENIUS. Blurbs have always been, and always will be, a marketing tool. Because it’s a trad thing to write your blurb in 3rd person present, there have been some people who are reluctant to move away from that (and I blogged about that too.) Personally, I think blurbs written in first person makes sense (and only applies to authors who write in first) and you can have a lot of fun writing your blurb that way. This is time for a good reminder that you should always research what other authors are doing in your genre and what reader expectations are. Writing your blurb in third could lose you readers, or make readers unhappy when they read a 3rd person blurb and expected a book written in 3rd person as well. There are some readers who detest first person books and go out of their way to avoid them. If you like to troll Twitter (and I mean scroll, not be a jerk) you can read some more thoughts on 3rd person vs. 1st person blurbs using these Twitter search results:
https://twitter.com/search?q=1st%20person%20blurbs&src=typed_query

Release schedules: Think like an indie.
Being an indie when it comes to how often you can publish and when can help you build an audience quickly. Trad authors are stuck to once a year, maybe twice if they’re with a small press with a flexible schedule. It seems Amazon imprints like Thomas and Mercer or Montlake allow their authors to publish a little faster, but all in all, authors who can release a book quarterly (3-4 a year) have a better chance at building an audience so why not use that to your advantage? It hurts to save up books, but if you’re a slow writer, why not? Write, edit, and package three, then write more as you release. this can start a publishing schedule that you can maintain and after a while, your growing audience will know when to look for a new release. In the time a trad author publishes three, an indie could publish nine to twelve, and that just means more money in your pocket.

Series: Think like an indie and trad author.
Indies are getting better at this, but I’ve seen some books in a series that don’t look like they’re a series because their covers don’t look the same and don’t have a similar vibe. Trad has always been great with series branding, using the same fonts, backgrounds, and characters. For instance, the first book in the Flowers in the Attic series was published way back in 1979.

photo taken from https://thebookmelon.weebly.com/blog/flowers-in-the-attic

Series branding is important, but these days in the era of fickle attention spans, a trad house may pull the plug before a series is complete because it’s not selling. Sometimes an author gets a chance to wrap up, but sometimes not. Readers get angry, but like my friend Dea pointed out on Twitter the other day, it’s not up to an author if they have a book deal whether or not to continue a series:

This is where being an indie can make all the difference. IF YOU’RE AN INDIE AND YOU’RE WRITING A SERIES, FINISH IT, OR AT LEAST WRAP IT UP! Readers don’t like being left hanging, and when you’re publishing your own books, there’s no reason not to finish. The release consistency subject above also comes into play here. If you’re going to make use of a cliffhanger, you better have the next book ready to go (hopefully on very short preorder), or you’ll get bad reviews like this one:

Use your freedom to your advantage and keep your readers informed. I was tweeting with this author, trying to figure out the best way to let her readers know so this didn’t happen again. Is posting a publishing schedule in the first book’s blurb the way to go? Perhaps this would be a good reason to use A+ content? I’m publishing a six-book series next year, and yes, I do use cliffhangers. But unlike the author above, they are all written and I will be releasing all six in one year. When I read the Crossfire series by Sylvia Day, she did give the characters a happily for now ending just for the fact she’s a trad author, knew her readers would have to wait a year between books, and wanted to give her readers a bit of closure until the next book came out. When you’re indie and you need time, maybe that is the better way to go. Personally, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I will never not have all my books written in a series before I publish. Just for the fact avoiding small plot-holes and consistency issues will always be reason enough for me to wait to publish while I write.

The overall look of your book: think like a trad author.

A lot of authors don’t know this, but there is a set of guidelines you can (should) follow when you publish. The Independent Book Publisher’s Association lists them on their website and covers everything from what you should have in your copyright page to reminding you that your interior should be full-justified. It’s amazing that you can be a life-long reader, but when it comes to assembling your own book, how a book should look flies right out of your head. I’ve seen books that are left-justified only, no page numbers, spaces between paragraphs (this is okay for non-fiction, but I’m referring to fiction books), double spaced, no front matter except a title page, nothing in the back, not even an About the Author page. There’s no reason you can’t put out a professional product. To find the list of guidelines, look here:
https://www.ibpa online.org/page/standardschecklist

While I understand the disgust thinking about traditional publishing can evoke in an indie, there are lessons trad can teach us. Your book should look professionally put together, even if you’ve done it all yourself. When you’re asking a reader to pay for your product, it’s up to you to make sure they are paying for quality. It doesn’t matter how you reach that standard, it’s only important that you do. If that means hiring out every step of the way, then that’s what it means. Some may only need an editor, some can edit their own work and do just fine. Some indies are a one-stop shop and do every single thing for themselves, or use $50 dollar premades to cover their books that go on to make thousands of dollars. As indies, we have so much flexibility, but don’t use that as an excuse to do what you want. Once you put your book out into the world, you want readers and you want readers who will recommend your book to others. You want people to take photos of your books in their gardens, next to their cats, at the beach, and they won’t do that if your book has a crappy cover on it.

You CAN have your cake and eat it too. Just maybe scrape a little frosting off it first.

Until next time!

Author Update: Emailing Jeff Bezos and what I’m working on now.

I’m writing a quick Thursday author update because on Monday I’m posting updated instructions on how to do a full wrap for a paperback in Canva. Both Canva and KDP made changes that have made my post from last year basically obsolete, and anyone who reads it now will be like, what? because the site where you can download your cover template has changed. So, you gotta stay with the times. (But no video as of yet. I know I promised, but making a video is nerve-wracking and I’m not excited to jump into it.)


I emailed Jeff Bezos’s email address this morning about my large print book. I submitted Captivated by Her in a large print edition, but KDP blocked it as duplicate content. I was a little pissy since I was able to publish two other large print books without an issue. So I wrote to his email address asking if large print was going to be blocked as duplicate content (which doesn’t make any sense to me anyway because it is) then why give us the option? There’s even a little box when you’re publishing asking if it’s large print. You can check it, and I assumed that publishing a regular print book along with a large print was a no-brainer. I guess not. In the email, I didn’t even ask them to unblock my book. I don’t care about that so much because I can publish them through IngramSpark (which is a hassle, but you do what you gotta do). I know on Amazon that can be hit and miss with availability, but it’s better than not publishing at all. I just wanted an explanation, and if they really don’t want us to publish large print, take the option away and force us to use IngramSpark. I hate seeing my blocked book on my dashboard, and I don’t want to do anything that will cause KDP to close my publishing account. I’ve always been on the up and up with them, and treat my books as a business. I just get mad when things don’t go how they should go. Anyway, I don’t expect a response. I’m sure Large Print books are not on their list of priorities, but at least i can say I tried.


I’m 30k into a new first book in a trilogy. I’ve got loose plots for all three books, and I’m having fun writing it. I was going to write the remaining four books in a different series I started last year, but the characters in this book wouldn’t leave me alone, so they’ll get slotted into my publishing schedule in 2024, and then I’ll have the other series to release in 2025. It’s a bit crazy that I’m that far ahead, but I don’t have to be.

The books I’ll publish between now (Captivated came out June 1st) and the beginning of 2024. I’ll release them 2 months apart.

I could release as quickly as I want, but there’s no point in turning on the faucet in a gush if there’s no one around to appreciate the water. I’ll slowly release while I gather email subscribers and hopefully readers. My launch (though I haven’t reached the 30 day cliff on Amazon yet) hasn’t done anything but with one book and it being half of a duet, I kept my expectations low. My plea to my newsletter subscribers who downloaded it as an ARC for a review went unanswered, and it doesn’t even have one to make the product page look nice. Maybe I should have gone with Booksprout after all. Oh well. We’ll see where I am next year at this time, though I don’t know if I’ll be doing much better. It takes so long now to build a readership, I may not be looking at any kind of momentum until 2024. But that’s par for the course in these times. I just have to work harder on building my list and learning how to take advantage of promos on Bookfunnel. Earning a reader’s trust takes time and lots of consistency. I’ll get there, I just hope I don’t burn out before I do.

My Facebook ad for my newsletter sign up is going well, and I have 218 subscribers. I’ll need to shut my ad off in a couple of days though since I’ll have reached a 100 dollar ad spend, and I don’t want to spend any more than that. I’m already paying for Bookfunnel, so I should explore that more. And I think I’ll turn off my FB ad for Captivated as well. I’m getting a few clicks but they are really expensive (26 cent a click), and my sales dashboard is a big goose egg for that book. I knew this was going to be an uphill battle, but I want to save a little money to push the book when the second comes out. Pacing in a book is important, but it’s also important when you’re blowing your budget. My Amazon ads are also dead in the water, probably because I’m not bidding high enough for them to be shown to anyone. For right now, I’m using Bryan Cohen’s method of a thirty cent click bid, and that is not enough for a romance genre, especially one as popular as billionaire. After I shut my Facebook ads off I can create a few more on Amazon with a higher bid and see if that helps. In the words of almost every professional marketer out there: Test, test, test!

That’s about all I have for today. I’m happy to be writing again, and I’ll be busy with this trilogy until the end of the year.

I hope you’re having a great month so far!

Monday Madness and Creating a Community Around Your Books

I had a huge post about how ticked off I was at Facebook for restricting my page and turning off the ad to my reader magnet (Bookfunnel link) because I wasn’t following community guidelines (with their bots and lack of communication, I still have no idea what I supposedly did), but during that 24 hours, I appealed and uploaded my photo ID like they requested, and they lifted the restriction on my page and turned my ad back on. It rendered the vent in my blog drafts completely useless, but I’d rather have a useless blog post than a restricted page. I need my page. I need to be able to run ads. So I will just say thank goodness that time was the only thing wasted.

I’m at 103 subscribers now, (squee!) and I’ve had 118 claims on my book so far (with 291 clicks, so a little less than half are taking action). Yes, I’m paying ($27.00 at the moment) and I think I’ll turn it off when I reach $50.00, maybe $40.00 depending on how things go). My click spend is only 9 cents which is pretty good as far as I can tell, but this was just a small thing to get the word out, and I’ll probably run another ad when Captivated by Her is live. Even though I have a tiny bit of money to play around with, I don’t want to blow through it too fast, and there are other ways to build my list without ads. Besides the welcome email they receive when they sign up, I haven’t sent out another, and I’m looking forward to that in the next week or so. I would like to send one before my release so they aren’t hit with a “buy my book” email as the second email they get from me.

But anyway, my anger wasn’t 100% warranted (I had no idea they would help me so fast), though when I set up my ads campaign at the beginning, it would have been nice if they’d asked me for my ID first. I’m running a business, using their business to help me, and I have no problem with providing them with what they need. I just wish they weren’t so heavy-handed with the way they do things.

In the meantime, I ordered two more proofs of Captivated by Her and Addicted to Her just to make sure the changes I made to the covers turned out okay. I flipped through both books and found just a couple of tiny things to change which required me to upload new interior files, too, but I think they are going to look as good as I can get them without going crazy. I should be able to put my pre-order up for book one sooner than I thought, though waiting for June sometime while my FB ad runs a little longer while I get as many newsletter signups as I can is also an option.

This ties in really well with what I’ve been thinking about lately. I don’t read a lot of romance–I’m busy writing it instead–but I realize that an author can’t be part of the {insert genre here} community unless you know what’s going on with your peers and in the industry. I realized this, and anyone who doesn’t know what kind of content they should put in their newsletter or on social media, realizes this, too. You can’t talk about or recommend other authors, other books, romance movies, or anything else if you aren’t consuming that content. If you don’t know what to post in your newsletter, you aren’t dialed in enough. A newsletter is for news. News about you and your books, for sure, but also news about what you’re reading, what you’re watching, information that you think your readers will appreciate because you’re building a community of friends around the genre you like to read and write.

I do this with this blog. If I didn’t keep up to date for my own personal knowledge, I would never have anything to share with you. I keep up to date because it helps me with my own publishing endeavors and then I pass along what I find useful to you.

There’s no reason not to be able to do this with fiction. When the second season of Bridgerton dropped on Netflix, every romance reader known to man, even if they didn’t read historical romance, stopped right in the middle of what they were doing and sat down and binged. Because you know what happened if you didn’t? You missed out on all of the conversations that sprang up on social media. You were in the dark. You didn’t understand the outrage caused by a more chaste season, and you couldn’t weigh in on what you thought about their on-screen chemistry.

Taken from: https://www.tvinsider.com/1041720/bridgerton-season-2-storms-to-the-top-of-streaming-rankings/

Another example of this is The Lost City, a movie that came out not long ago with Sandra Bullock. I couldn’t see it in the theatre because I was recuperating from my surgery (and my sister didn’t want to see it, but don’t tell her I told you).

I’ll have to wait and stream it when it’s available, and I’ll be so late to the party everyone will already be nursing a hangover by the time I crack open my first bottle of wine. Being late doesn’t matter so much, as you can always say… “OMG! I just saw… can you believe it?!” and get the conversational ball rolling that way.

Another example I have is when Netflix dropped 365, a movie, I guess, based off a steamy romance book. I should know this. This is my forte. The second I get my words in for the day, I should be gobbling this stuff up! I’m so late to this party, there’s already a part two!

There’s nothing more heady than being able to join in with a group of people who have the same likes you do and find friends to share those things with. (You know how a lot of authors say they find their beta readers and ARC reviewers through their reader groups? This is what I’m talking about. Your readers become more than your readers because you share the same interests and you grow close to each other over time.)

It probably won’t help when I say that building a platform is like making friends because to us introverts, making friends is the scariest thing in the world, and something we aren’t good at. It requires opening up a little bit, sharing things about ourselves, and there’s always a risk of rejection when we do that. On the other hand, maybe it’s not so scary if we can already approach people with things that we have in common. A lot of what making a friend entails is weeding through all the similarities and differences, and sometimes we find that the things that we don’t share in common outweigh what we do. Then the relationship fizzles out. When that happens, what’s the worst outcome? An unsubscribe? A potential reader won’t go on to buy your books? That’s okay. We don’t need fake friends in real life, and we don’t need to hang on to people who won’t read our books.

Trying to get a new pen name off the ground has required a lot of revelations and scrutiny into the past five years to see what I’ve been doing wrong, and figuring out what I’ve done right. That may be a different post. But anyway, how can you make friends through your newsletter and social media? More importantly, how can you make friends in your genre that will draw in readers who will stick with you throughout your career? What do you have to offer them? If you say not much, go read a book in your genre, go watch a movie you can recommend that has the same vibe as your book. See what happens.

Have a good week, everyone! Next week I’ll probably play with how to make a video and record doing one of my book covers. I’ve been getting a lot of requests on how to make a romance cover with only Canva and minimal skill, too. Here’s my latest one I did for the book I’m going to release in the fall. I may do a tutorial on how I did it.

Until next time!

Monday Musings and Author Update

Hi! It is so good to be back. It feels like forever since I’ve blogged, andI I thank my guest bloggers and my author interviewee for the the time they took out of their busy schedules to help me out while I recuperated from surgery. Four weeks post-op, I’m feeling better. I’m surprised, really, at how it knocked me off my feet and I was wondering if the surgery did what I wanted it to do. But four weeks isn’t that long, and I feel like over the weekend I turned a corner of sorts. Right now I’m just trying to take it easy and work as my body allows.

What am I working on now?

Despite being laid up, I finished listening to my 6 book series, again. Rewriting to “take” out the takes and makes, come and gives (two other words I found I like to use a lot) was worth it though it did set me back a few weeks. I did the same thing with my reader magnet and duet, and I just finished that up a few days ago. It seems I can’t merge my business brain with my creative brain, (which may spell trouble for me later on down the road) and I wasn’t able to set up my newsletter and get that going until I was done editing. But I do have my reader magnet set up in Bookfunnel, and I figured out how to integrate my Bookfunnel account with my Mailerlite account. When someone opts in to my newsletter after they download my book, they’ll receive a welcome and thank you email that I created as an autoresponder. It took a lot of figuring things out, but I was able to add two and two and actually get four (though I think it took me about four hours). A friend tested it for me as by then I had run out of email addresses to try, and it worked for her. But I’m going to ask a couple more people if they’ll test it for me before I start promoting it. All I have to say is, thank goodness for YouTube!

Now that that’s out of the way, I can start formatting my duet. I’ve been getting a little feedback from a couple people in an FB group about the blurbs, and Sami Jo (I did her author interview last week) and I have been trading back and forth. She gave me a couple suggestions, so at least the hard part of that is done. It’s looking like if I continue to feel better and nothing else comes up, I can put the first one on preorder sometime in June. I still need a couple of weeks to proof the paperback proofs, so I don’t want to rush. I need to put my first book on preorder for a week or so so I have time to claim my Amazon author page, my Goodreads author page, my Bookbub author page and start running some low cost Amazon ads. I don’t want to put the preorder up for longer than a week though, because preorders that don’t do anything can hurt you, and as a “new” author without one person waiting for my book, no one is going to preorder it. Dave Chesson has a great YouTube video explaining this, and you can watch it here:

Once I get all that done, it’s time for a break! Just kidding. I need to re-edit the fake fiancé standalone I’m going to release sometime in September or October, and once that’s done and the cover finalized (I think I’m going to swap it out though that will cause some extra work for me) I want to write a Christmas novel to release in November. I have some kind of an idea, a second chance trope, I think, but only a glimmer of a plot. So we’ll see what happens. That means four books this year squished together, but I’ll be releasing 6 in 2023 because I’m tired of looking at that series and just want it done. During that time I need to finish a series I started last year (2/6 done) and after THAT I think I can slow down and fall into a three books a year schedule since I can promote my backlist by then.

Craft Tip:

While I’ve been trying to recuperate I started watching the Marvel movies again. My sister and I watched them during lockdown when our movie theaters closed since I hadn’t seen them before and it gave us something to do. Since then, I’ve become obsessed with piecing together each movie into the whole. There is so much going on within each movie and the over-reaching arc of the entire plot. I have watched all the movies once, and my favorites ended up being the last two since I have a thing for post apoc, and l love when Scott pops out of the quantum realm not knowing what Thanos did. So the other night I watched Captain America and it struck me as Steve and Peggy were talking about finding the right dance partner, that the end scene of Endgame where Steve and Peggy are dancing circled back to that first movie and their conversation. I think that is a brilliant example of tying the beginning of a story to the end and wrapping things up. Much like my speech teacher told us to tie in the end of our speech to the thesis statement at the beginning, there’s a sense of closure when you reference the beginning in the end. I don’t know if I always do this, as I write romance and the ending is already laid out, but I’m going to keep this in mind going forward. If you haven’t watched the Marvel movies, I would give them a try if only to pick them apart story-wise. They drive me crazy, but in a good way.

What I’m loving right now:

I can’t say I’m really loving this, but the Six Figure Author podcast ended last week. I will miss them, but I’ve come to realize that you can listen to all the marketing advice out there but if you’re writing in a small niche or something “out of the box” you’ve already chosen a rough path for yourself. The book content needs to come first and then the marketing advice, and I’ve been working on the subgenre/story/tropes and studying the covers of the newest releases, so the technical part of marketing has kind of fallen to the wayside and when it comes to listening, I’m behind. Toward the end of the last podcast, each host gave their own advice and it was heartening to hear that they all thought that a new author could still make it in this business, though it may take longer than it would have ten years ago or even five years ago. Indies are getting savvy with content, covers, and blurbs and slapping something together isn’t going to work anymore, not if you want to compete. Quality is the number one factor when starting up an author career, and even if you think your book is up to par, it may not be. If you want to listen to their last podcast, you can do it here.

Another thing that I’ve been loving is this book, Titans Rising: Publishing in the 21st Century. The sub, subtitle says it’s about writing SFF and Horror, but the lessons can be applied to any genre. I’m half of the way through it, and while they do talk a lot about SSF and Horror, they also talk about the publishing industry as a whole, a conversation I’m always eager to listen in on.

That’s Blaze, and she’s rowdy.

By the way, I saw someone on Twitter charging 17 dollars for something like this. While her video was just a little longer and it had more elements, it’s not worth paying for. I made this in Canva in two minutes. You want one, I’ll do it for free. FFS.

That’s all I have for this week. Not much has changed in the past month, though I’m making progress. I’m excited to publish again and even more excited that I’m figuring out some of the technical stuff with my newsletter.

Enjoy your week, everyone!

Knowing when to pivot. (What does that mean?)

a picture of zoe york's three books about writing and marketing romance.  look here to buy:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75
To check out the series, look here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082CZDK75

I just finished Zoe York’s Publishing How To series, and I really enjoyed the books, her thoughts and experiences on publishing romance, goal setting for your author career, and so much more. She’s been writing and publishing for years now, is a full-time author, and has made a bestselling list or two.

What I’m about to say doesn’t have anything to do with these books–I’ll circle around to them–but lately I’ve realized that when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, you can consume all the marketing advice in the whole world, but you won’t get anywhere unless you have a good product, and more importantly, a good product people want to buy. That’s part of the reason why I haven’t purchased Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course (comes in at close to 1,000 dollars, and SPF offers it twice a year). If you don’t have the books to back up your ads, your ads aren’t going to do anything.

When I take a look at my publishing history, I was writing good books. I received the odd 1-2 stars most authors do, but on the whole, I’m writing good books. That’s important to me because I do most of the editing and production alone. But something was still off because over the past few years, I didn’t find any traction. One mistake was my newsletter, or lack of one, I should say, and the other was my lack of direction with the books themselves. (I also didn’t understand author brand, but that’s an old discussion we can have on another day.)

It was just this morning when a woman in a writing FB group was talking about this very thing. She was sub-genre hopping and couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t getting any traction. Maybe she’ll believe me, maybe she won’t, but I told her I had the same problems with my own books and decided to niche down.

desk with laptop, plant, and coffee.

be stubborn about your goals but flexible about your methods.

My issue with pivoting is that it took me a long time to realize I had to do it. Some writers who struggle may never understand that it’s not their marketing chops, or their covers, or their blurbs, but simply what they are writing in the first place. Depending on how fast you can write, that can take years. Years that can feel wasted because if you had been writing the right thing in the first place, you wouldn’t still be at ground zero wondering where it all went wrong. But that’s like a chicken and egg scenario–how do you know what’s right or wrong until you put it out there? And what are the metrics you’ve decided to pin that on? Sales? Reviews? I’m nowhere near making a full-time author’s salary–I checked my dashboard yesterday and made 2 cents. (That tells me someone borrowed the book in KU and opened it to make sure it borrowed properly, then went off to do something else. Or they read the first page, didn’t like it, and returned it. If I think to check back, I’ll see if that person read it or not, but that micro-level of caring is not in me and never will be.) Admittedly, those books are old now, and even dropping 10 cents a click in ad spend to those books is probably a waste of money because as we’ve determined, Amazon loves consistency and relevancy, and I won’t be writing any more of those books for the foreseeable future.

So what will make you decide that it’s time to pivot?

At the beginning of the post, I brought up Zoe’s book because in it she says knowing when to pivot and niche down is a personal choice, and it is. You have to look back at your books, where you are, and decide if it’s enough for you. I see indies making money. I want that, too. It’s not a driving force, but financial security is important to me, and who doesn’t want to get paid for doing what they love?

When we talk about pivoting, what does that even mean? It means taking a look at what you’ve been writing, looking at that lack of success those books are bringing in, and deciding to try something new. It can be as simple as what I did–turning from writing “Contemporary Romance” to Billionaire, or doing a full 360 and changing from Christian Romance to Horror. But then that begs the question too–will the pivot be in the right direction? I have no idea. I can’t even say if these new books will resonate with readers until I put them out. I THINK I’ve taken a step in the right direction: billionaire, first person POV. According to Alex Newton of K-Lytics, Billionaires are like vampires and will never die. So, that’s a good thing. But there are a lot of other things that can turn against me: writing style, the tropes I chose to write about, the issues (backstories) I’ve given my characters and decided to tackle in my writing. Changing from Contemporary Romance to Billionaire might not be the magic bullet I hope it is, and right now, I don’t have a plan C. I’m not even sure how long I’m going to give this pivot a go before I decide this writing business isn’t meant to be. I have enough books saved up to publish 4 a year for the next 3 years, so at least until then (because why not publish them since they’re written), but I’ve been skating financially since my divorce, piecemealing paying my bills with scraps of income from various places while giving my writing career a chance to do something, and I can’t do that indefinitely. As Kristine Kathryn Rusch says, there are easier ways to make money. Less stressful too, I bet.

desk with laptop plant and coffee

a pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision. eric ries

So, if you’ve been banging your head against your laptop trying to figure out why you’re just not seeing the success you want, maybe it’s time to pivot. What is selling right now that’s close to what you’re already writing so you don’t go out of your mind? I’m not saying be a slave to the market, or to trend, though I’ve seen Alex Newton’s indie reports, and trends don’t change nearly as quickly as we like to say they do. I’m saying find something different to write that’s hotter, more niche than what you’ve been writing and see if that works.

All those who wander are not lost, but sometimes you think you know where you’re going and end up not knowing where in the hell you are. That was me before looking at my backlist and choosing to write Billionaire. All of Nothing has made more than all my other books combined, so I feel this pivot was a good choice. Now all I have to do is publish, wait and see.

Fingers crossed.