“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.” How true is that statement?

Do whatever you want, and don't worry about what everyone else is into. 

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Woman in purple camisole sitting on red chair looking away from the camera.

You guys know I consume a lot of content. Not as much fiction as I should be for a romance author, but I live and breathe non-fiction, especially anything having to do with market trends and industry (both indie and trad) news. I have a fascination with learning, not only to pass things on to you, but because you don’t know what you don’t know, and I like knowing it all. Or trying to. Picking through the weeds is difficult and time consuming, and even today because I have to work, I’m missing out on Clubhouse rooms (and you all know how much I agonize over that).

Anyway, so on one of my off days, I was listening to a Clubhouse room and after an hour of extolling the virtues of TikTok, she says, “But you don’t have to do any of this if you don’t want to.” I would imagine some of us felt relief, because sure, you DON’T have to be on TikTok to sell books. It’s a relatively new platform and it’s not like books didn’t sell before it’s invention. But. After an hour of hearing how wonderful and fun it was, being told that it was voluntary punched me in the gut. After listening to testimonies about how worthwhile it was, how people did manage to sell books on there, her comment didn’t sound true. It sure as hell sounded like we needed to be on TikTok.

It made me think about what we can use in the business and what we really don’t need. These opinions are coming from a place where I wish I would have done some of these things and where I have tried some and think they have merit, where I found some tractions with sales, and what I know I’m missing out on because I didn’t do them. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

You don’t have to . . . be on social media . . . if you don’t want to. You really don’t have to be on social media if you don’t want to. Twitter is a time suck of negativity, IG is going down in flames as TikTok runs miles ahead. No one likes Facebook. But if you don’t like social media, what does an author have left to sell books? You need something. Anyone who pushes Publish and walks away knows you need something or no one will know where your book is. Probably the hardest lesson I learned in the past five years of publishing is that without a newsletter, without a reader group on on Facebook, if someone wanted to be a real fan of my books, I didn’t give them a chance to be. There is no where for them to meet up or chat with me. Sure, I’m on social media, but I’m not active and anyone who finds my author page will see my last post was from almost a year ago. Why would they hit the like button? It’s not like they would get anything out of it. So if you don’t like Facebook, you still need someplace for your fans to meet up. I get it. As a newbie author, maybe you’re thinking you won’t ever have fans, at least not for a long time. This could be true, but you don’t need to make it any harder for them than it has to be, either. If you don’t want to be on social media, you need to replace it with something. I didn’t have a social media presence or a newsletter and after a reader read my book, there was no way for them to connect with me, or me to connect with them to let them know of sales and/or new releases.

You don’t have to . . . start a newsletter . . . if you don’t want to. For years I didn’t start a newsletter. I didn’t want to take the time to learn. The thought of cranking out a book to offer as a reader magnet didn’t bother me (yes it does), but there is so much that goes into a newsletter, and it still makes my head spin. It’s easy to say, “Start a newsletter,” but it’s the behind the scenes that makes me bitter. Learning the platform, learning BookFunnel (because it’s the best way to distribute any bonus material and gather email signups), or StoryOrigin, seemed like a giant waste of time to me when all I wanted was to write books. If you have an active reader group on Facebook, you might be able to get away without a newsletter, though you’re planting seeds in someone else’s garden and everyone says not to do that. You could blog for readers, and Anne R. Allen even has a book about that very thing: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors. It may be a bit outdated, but her content advice should still be relevant. The only problem with directing a reader to your website is that you lose the control to connect with them. They choose to visit your website or read your blog. If you can snag their email, you can contact them whenever you want. True, they still have to open the email, but they voluntarily signed up, so that makes it more likely they will at least peek at what you have to say. Do you need to start a newsletter? Nope. But as an author who has been writing and publishing–steadily, I might add–with no readership after all this time, it’s my biggest regret.

You don’t have to . . . learn an ad platform . . . if you don’t want to. Like the other two things on the list so far, you don’t have to learn an ad platform, but you do have to have something to replace it, be that a newsletter or using promos such as Freebooksy, BargainBooksy, Ereader News Today, Fussy Librarian, etc. If you want to get the word out about your book, and you don’t want to be on social media, start a newsletter, or learn an ad platform, that doesn’t leave you a lot of marketing choices. Because I haven’t had a newsletter and I’m not active on social media, learning an ad platform and using the promo method are the two things I’ve used to find readers. Not a lot of readers, but more than if I hadn’t used anything at all.

You don’t have to . . . write in a series . . . if you don’t want to. From the minute I started writing and publishing, all I heard was write in a series. There’s a lot of wisdom to this. Read-through (KU page reads and sales of individual books) is great if your first book is strong and you don’t take too long between releases. You have more marketing choices if you write in a series (like box sets and offering the first book for free to get readers hooked), and ad spend isn’t so bad if you pay for a little higher click because essentially you’re not only advertising one book, but many books (as many books is in your series, obviously). So what’s the problem? Writing is hard. Publishing is hard (so much to learn!) and costly. If your book one isn’t strong enough and readers drop off, every book you write after book one is a waste of time. Instead of figuring out how to do covers for one book at a time, all of a sudden you’re thinking about series branding and formatting. If you’re a new author, that’s intimidating. Not to mention if you don’t have friends to lend a hand with beta reading, editing a series can be very costly. I never advise anyone to publish without at least one more set of eyes besides yours on the book (I don’t care who that is). Writing standalones has always been more enticing to me, and I can write them quickly. They’re more manageable, and publishing one book is a lot faster because I have this weird thing with writing an entire series before publishing it. (Which has come in handy this time around as I did find a small little something from book 2 to book 3 that affects book 5 that I can fix now.) What can you do if you like to write standalones too? 1) Use your back matter. Advertise another standalone in the back. Use a buy-link, add the cover. Some ad copy. 2) Don’t let too much time go by between releases, or don’t market heavily until you have a backlist. If readers love you (and you want them to, right?) they will read all that you have. If that’s only one book, they might love it, but then they have nowhere else to go. (And this is especially true if you don’t have a newsletter or a group they can join to hook up with you while you write the next book.) But this also brings me to….

You don’t have to . . . write in one (sub)genre . . . if you don’t want to. You don’t, but it will make things easier if you do. For a few books, anyway. Or if you really want to, it can be wise to separate genres by pen name, but it will slow your productivity, depending on how fast you can write. I decided to use a pen name for my billionaire romance though I think they could have fit in with my contemporary romance okay. I like the idea of starting over, of having one specific subgenre under one name. Of course you can write whatever you want under one name, but marketing might be a little harder and the chance of finding readers who will read it all are slim. What can you do if you want to genre hop? The best advice I’ve heard is to try to not stray too far. Contemporary romance is all-encompassing, and I thought I could write whatever I wanted. It wasn’t true. If I ever get tired of writing billionaire, I could probably get away with writing Mafia, as they have similar tones. Not that I have plans for that as I have never even read a Mafia romance. Admittedly I don’t know much about other genres like Fantasy. An author could maybe get away with mixing RomCom and Women’s Fiction, especially if the WF has humorous elements in it. Domestic Thrillers could pair well with Mystery or Thriller. It will help your cause if they have similar elements and similar covers, so the books your Amazon author page look cohesive.

I could probably do a lot more of these; there are plenty of “rules” in the indie publishing space. The fact is, you can do whatever you want, but that leads to the indisputable fact that you may not achieve the results you want as quickly as you want them. I’ve been publishing for five years. I don’t have the audience I want because I didn’t give them a way to hook up with me, or a space for them to hang out with each other. No readers means no sales. What kills me is I did it my way for a long time, when I was more than willing to do what I needed to do it right the first time. I just didn’t know what that was. It wasn’t TikTok, and while I’m curious about the platform, I’m still wondering just how worth it it is. The whole idea of anything is to do what you enjoy so you can keep up the consistency of that thing. I don’t like my FB author page. I don’t like Instagram. I don’t want to learn how to use TikTok when I can put that time to use and write bonus material, a reader magnet, learn BookFunnel, network with others, and read more in my genre (and while doing that, join a billionaire readers’ group to help me stay on top of the hottest trends).

It’s all where you want to spend your time, how fast you want to put books out, and what you enjoy doing. You don’t have to do anything. You’re an adult. What do you want to do, and will it move your book business forward? That’s a question only you can answer.


What am I loving this week?

Alext Newton of K-Lytics did a comprehensive romance report for the fall of 2021. Being that I love keeping up with the industry, I bought it for $37. You can find out more about it and purchase it for yourself by clicking here. It’s not an affiliate link. I love Alex and the work his team does, but we aren’t affiliated. 😛

Another thing I loved is the interview James Blatch did with romance author Melanie Harlow on the Self Publishing Formula Podcast. She had some great advice, and I really related to what she had to say. I love it. You can listen to it here.

That’s it for me today! Have a wonderful week everyone!

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts, Personal Updates, and what I need to finish by the end of the year

Last night I sat in on a wonderful Facebook Beginners Ads class by Mal Cooper. She was great! It was a bit of a surprise because of all the webinars and classes I’ve attended that use Zoom, I’ve always been a behind the scenes participant, but with Mal’s class, our cameras were on, and at the end she encouraged us to ask questions (something I did not do, letting my introvert insecurities get the best of me and now I need to email my question). I’d never participated in a Zoom class like that before, but it was fun and after a couple minutes of indecision, I turned my camera on. Luckily I had showered and done my hair and makeup for the day. I feel more productive when I do that, and these day with social media who knows when you’ll need to pop on somewhere and say hi. Anyway, I learned a lot and it was well worth the fee.

There are two more webinars scheduled for this week but I’ll be working and I’ll need to watch the replays. I could probably spend 24 hours a day consuming classes and information!

I’m stalled a bit with my latest novel. I thought of a couple of things that would make the book better, and I’ve paused writing to fix those. I liken changing a scene to pushing over a domino. It can change a lot more than just the scene and can affect the entire book. A lot of writing craft gurus say to keep going and not edit as you go along, but I prefer to have a pretty clean first draft when I’m finished so I do go back and edit and fix inconsistencies as they arise. I still can finish a book in a decent amount of time and I don’t need to get it all on the page in order to finish a book. Life being what it is, I haven’t been able to work on my book much this week at all, but I should have a quiet weekend and make some good headway and probably finish it next week some time. With my appointments for my girly bits and my son’s wound checkups and scheduled dental appointments for both kids, somehow September has grown quite busy. Still trying my best, but my best feels like trying to run a marathon in quicksand and the more I try to work, the more bogged down I get.

I work well with lists, and find I don’t feel so overwhelmed if I can write out what I need to do in the coming months. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Finish current WIP.
  2. Double check everything is how I want it in MailerLite for my newsletter landing page, welcome email, and unsubscribe page.
  3. Proof the proof of Faking Forever and make changes to the ebook and paperback interiors:
    a) add my newsletter sign up to the back matter
    b) add price to the back cover of paperback (check to see if I need a price increase for IngramSpark)*
    c) fix title name font size on spine
  4. Order another proof and check it over to be sure everything is the way I want it.
  5. Format the interior for My Biggest Mistake, (title not set in stone) the ugly duckling trope that is going to be my reader magnet.
  6. Create a cover for it, front and back because I’m going to upload it to KDP so I can proof a paperback proof of it. It can stay in KDP because after it grows stale as a reader magnet I’ll publish it.
  7. After I proof it and make sure there are no typos in it, create a Bookfunnel account and upload it. Ideally I would like to have 1,000 emails on my newsletter before I start to publish anything.
  8. And last, but not least, before November, create a box set of my Rocky Point Wedding series, and run a .99 promo on it for the holidays. I’ll probably do a couple of smaller promos like Ereader News Today or Robins Reads. I’ve never tried them before. I did a BargainBooksy through Written Word Media that didn’t do too well for a .99 promo of Wherever He Goes. Their FreeBooksy is always great, but not sure if I want to give away a complete 4-book boxed set. Even .99 is low, but my royalties will come from the page reads I’ll get in KU, so maybe I will do free. Not sure. The books are already over a year old and I don’t know if I’ll write anymore 3rd person books. I’m more than comfortable writing what I’m writing, but never say never.

*IngramSpark sent out an email saying they needed to up their pricing due to rising costs in the industry, and they are slowly going through everyone’s books to see if their pricing will stay on the positive after the price increase. If your book is set to go into negative royalties, they’re going to ask you to up your price. Which isn’t a big deal normally, but IngramSpark forces you to match your price to the cover if you put it on there, which I do, right above the ISBN box on the back. So if I have to raise the prices for any of my books, I’ll need to make the changes on the covers as well, and resubmit. I don’t care if my books make fewer royalties–I rarely sell paperbacks anyway–and if my books can stay in the black, I’ll leave my older books how they are and price higher any books I publish through them from now on. If you want to read their announcement, you can find it here.

It’s difficult to know what to do first. It makes sense to publish Faking Forever so I have a buy-link to put in the back of my reader magnet so when they finish reading a free book, there’s one available to purchase. On the other hand, publishing it without a newsletter in place to announce the launch and depending on paid newsletter mentions like BargainBooksy, ENT (Ereader News Today, Robins Reads, Fussy Librarian, etc) and ads may not be enough to give me a good launch as a new pen name without a backlist. Mal said something that I agreed with in the Facebook Ads class last night too, and she said it doesn’t make much sense to put a book that’s going to be in KU on preorder because KU subscribers will wait to read it anyway. I guess I’ll be trying to get newsletter signups and promoting my reader magnet without a book for sale, but I’ll have it all ready to go into KDP so when I do decide to publish it, all I’ll have to do is press publish and approve proof. The only good I can see of doing a preorder while you’re in KU is having the buy-link to post in places. Something to think about.

Probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in the past five years I’ve been publishing is for me, at least, it just is not working to publish as I get books done. There is no consistency in a publishing schedule when I’ve done that. There are a couple of indies who do well publishing as they finish books, but I think those are the exceptions that prove the rule. The indies who make consistent money are the ones who are a few books ahead in their schedules. It’s tough because I’ve talked about this before: you have to be okay with keeping books while you stock up, and then you have kind of a conveyor belt feel to the entire process. I don’t want to feel like that, but I also don’t need the pressure of writing and publishing a book every four months without a Plan B. I don’t know. All I know is that I need to get through some of my list and as I do hopefully I’ll find readers and starting an avalanche of readers, email subscribers, and releasing books won’t seem as daunting as it does right now.

What I’ve enjoyed this week:

The Six Figure Authors Podcast is back from their summer hiatus, and I enjoyed listening to their first episode! They talk about taking your writing from hobby to career level, and you can watch it here.

I also loved this episode of the Wish I’d Known Then podcast. Thomas Umstattd Jr. had a lot of interesting and possibly controversial things to say about treating your books like your business. There are so many writers and authors who don’t want to look at their books as a product to sell, but then when it comes to marketing, they don’t understand what to do. Give it a listen and tell me what you think. Do you agree with what he has to say?

Monday I’ll talk a little bit about writer’s block and why it seems I never suffer from it. Come back for those tips!

Until next time!

6 Things I Learned While Creating my Newsletter through MailerLite

I did it. You can finally stop hearing about it . . . after this post. I took the time to watch a few YouTube tutorials and set up the sign up for my newsletter. As with anything when you’re diving into things you don’t know, you learn as you go and sometimes that means taking a step back before you can move forward. Here are a few things I had to figure out during the process. I hope maybe I can save you some headaches. Please check the resources at the end of this post–I’ll direct you to what helped me set this up.

Attach your name/pen name to the correct website. Way back when I was thinking about my newsletter, I didn’t have a pen name on the horizon, or maybe I did, but didn’t understand the technical side of creating a newsletter. When you set up an account through MailerLite you can’t run your newsletter through Gmail, Yahoo, etc and they ask for an email connected to a website. I bought an email account through this website vaniamargene.com and when I did that they assigned my email address as vania (at) vaniamargene.com. I thought that was fine and never thought any more about it. (If I had it to do over again, I would have used vaniarheaultauthor or something like that. I don’t know what possessed me to use my middle name, but here we are.) But now since I did decide to to use a pen name, VM Rheault, I noticed that since my MailerLite account is attached to this website, my emails are going to show up like this in the from field: VR Rheault from vania (at) vaniamargene.com. That’s not such a big deal because I’m not hiding who I am–I couldn’t put on a different persona full time, and I didn’t want to distance myself too much from my books because I’m proud of them and billionaire romance isn’t that different from the contemporary romance I used to write. This would have been a big setback had I chosen a completely different pen name. So if you’re looking to set up a newsletter, make sure the website and business email you choose is going to be connected to the newsletter and everything will be one name.

Think about branding before starting your newsletter. I didn’t think this was a big deal either until watching a couple YouTube videos and learning just what a landing page is and how you can customize it. Brand is such a vague concept to us authors anyway, but when I say brand in this context, you’ve already got the font down you’ll want to use for your author name, maybe a tagline. You know the genre you’re going to be writing under this name, and the images you choose will reflect that. This is my landing page and thank you page after they’ve signed up:

How my sign up page looks on a desktop.
How my sign up page looks on a cell phone.
The thank you page.

Billionaire romance is usually set in a huge city with penthouses, limos, elegant events, private planes, etc. This is where it’s important to know your genre and what readers are going to expect. Any reader who consumes billionaire romance is going to to be familiar and recognize the big city lights. (There is even a Big City fiction category on Amazon.) I make up all my big cities mainly because I’ve never been to New York and I would never be able to set my books there with any degree of believable detail. I’ve been to Chicago a handful of times and of course, Minneapolis/St. Paul and I can write the vibe of a big city but as far as landmarks and restaurants and famous hotels, not so much. It’s easier for me to make up cities and then I can do what I want. Anyway, I had to make this graphic on the fly, but luckily I had already decided what font I wanted for my author name (and it will go on the my book covers) and it didn’t take much searching through Deposit Photos for an appropriate skyline. This skyline will look nice on bookmarks if I ever wanted to make them, or magnets, business cards. I didn’t by the extended license, so I can’t sell anything, but swag I make using this graphic to give away will fit right into my brand.

You don’t need a website. I thought you needed at least a page on a website for sign ups, but that’s what your landing page through MailerLite is for. Once you create a landing page for your sign up, they give you a link that you post around social media and in the back matter of your books. The only reason you would need a website is if you wanted to add a pop up box for newsletter sign ups. This is good news for me as I didn’t really want to start a new website for my pen name, but I did add a page to this website where I’ll list all my books as I start to publish. To give credit where credit is due, a while back, Liz Durano told me I didn’t need to start a new website and because I had no idea what a landing page was, I didn’t understand what she meant. Now I do. You don’t need to spend time or money setting up a website, though if you’re going to write a lot of books under your name it may be better in the long run to have one. Eventually I’ll end up creating a new website for my VM Rheault books, but I won’t do it solely to have a pop up box for a newsletter.

Chances are you won’t need the business plan for your website, either. When I thought I needed to add the MailerLite plugin to my website, I upgraded my WordPress site for a whopping $200.00/year. That’s a lot of money to me, but I would have paid it out for the sake of my business. Then after I paid, I got a cute little notice saying that they would take away the follow button that allows people to follow me through the WordPress Reader. I’m going to be blogging on this website over anything else I do (I don’t try to sell my books on here anymore, not that I tried to do that so much anyway) and I wanted to keep the button. After I realized I didn’t need to integrate MailerLite with my WordPress website for sign ups, paying that was even harder to swallow. I contacted WordPress customer service through chat and they refunded me and put me back on the plan I had before–they give you 14 days to change your mind. When I get around to making another website for my books, I won’t pay for a business plan then, either. I’m so used to being directed to a landing page for email sign ups, that I’m sure everyone else is, too.

After you have the sign up link, it hits home that you need a reader magnet. When I created my sign up and the thank you page and created my welcome email they’ll receive upon signing up, I realized that you don’t have anywhere to put the link if you’re not giving anything away and you’re not publishing at the moment. Of course, I’ve heard the sign ups you want come from the links in the backs of your books, known as organic sign ups–your true fans. But you only get those when you’re publishing, and I’m working on my books right now. So I have the link but nowhere to put it, and no, I’m not giving it to you because chances are 99% you don’t read billionaire romance and don’t need to sign up for my newsletter. I need to work on my welcome email a little bit more, too. Make sure it sounds how I want it to sound and details what my books will be about and what readers can expect from me down the road. That being said, I need a reader magnet so I can at least put my link up on a site like BookFunnel and maybe join a promo or two for sign ups. Advertising your newsletter looks a lot more attractive if you can give something away, though I know you can be adding freebie seekers to your list. Maybe though, if they read your reader magnet, you will make them a fan. You won’t know until until you know. And by that I mean you won’t know until you release a book readers are expected to pay for.

The writing community is not your reader. You’ll figure this out when you tweet your newsletter link or put it in a post on Instagram. Other writers don’t care about your newsletter–at least if you’re writing fiction. I have subscribed to several non-fiction newsletters that pertain to indie publishing from authors like David Gaughran and Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur, but hey, guess what, I have never read any fiction by those authors. (Some indies are surprised to learn they write fiction at all.) Just like I consume anything Joanna Penn does for the indie author community, but I have never read one of her thrillers she writes under J. F. Penn. The only newsletter sign up link I would share here is if I wanted to start collecting emails for a potential non-fiction book. I don’t think I have anything to offer in way of a how-to book that you can’t find other places and I’m content to blog about my mistakes and successes. You’ll save yourself a lot of weeding down the road if you only give out your sign up link to readers of your genre. You may not grow your list as fast as if you gave out the link to everyone, but most newsletter aggregators charge you based on the number of sign ups you have, and if you’re paying for people to be on your list who are not going to buy your books, they are dead weight and will cost you money.

This begs the question though as to where you can put it, and here are my ideas:
Your Amazon Author Page. You can put the link in your bio.
Your Goodreads bio if they allow it. I tried to Google it but didn’t find any information. Never know until you try.
Add it to your FB author page and/or reader group.
Run ads from your FB author page for sign ups. This will probably only work if you have a reader magnet to give away and want to throw a little money at building your list. (Some advise against this so research for your own conclusions.)
Your books’ back matter.
Promo sites like BookFunnel and StoryOrigin if you use those services to build your list.


I didn’t realize how much I would need to know and while I was setting up my newsletter, it was one step forward and two steps back. Luckily, as I said, I already had an idea as to what I wanted to do with branding, and I was familiar with expectations of the billionaire genre. It’s probably not that big of a deal, you can always go back and change anything, but part of building a brand is brand awareness and for some subscribers, your landing page and thank you page will be their first impression of you.

There are other things I’m still going to have to learn as I begin to collect email addresses. Some authors split their lists between readers who signed up organically and readers who signed up for a freebie. Some have split their lists many different ways, and I don’t know if I’ll do that or how to, at this point. Curating my list and offering them content will be a continual learning process–at least until I’ve done it for a while. But even after publishing for four years, I don’t think you ever can really learn it all. Probably the one thing I can say I did right from the get-go is research the newsletter providers. I’ve heard good things about MailerLite and so fair their platform has been easy to navigate. Unless for some reason down the road I can’t afford them, and have to switch, I will probably always stay with them.

It might have been premature to do this now when I don’t have a reader magnet or book coming out, but I think the hard part is over–starting is always the scariest part.


Resources

I watched a few YouTube videos, and I learned quickly that there are a lot of differences between the paid and the free versions of MailerLite. I’m working with the free right now and this tutorial was the best I found. She uses a free plan and starts from the beginning:

MailerLite has their own academy but the tutorial starts with a paid plan–that’s not so helpful.

If you’re worried about the content part of it, Tammi Labrecque’s Newsletter Ninja gives you plenty of ideas. I already had the book, but Liz also recommended it in one of the comments here on the blog. It’s nice to know when something is helpful to more than one person. Tammi also runs a newsletter FB group, and you can find it here.

I made my graphic using Deposit Photos and a website template on Canva. The font I used for my author name is Cinzel and Cinzel Decorative. They are free and you can download it free for commercial use here. (They come in the same zip file so don’t worry if you can’t find the decorative part of the font. It’s included when you download the font.)

Okay, this blog post is super long. I’m going to call it, and see you next time!

Reader Magnet Prep Work

A reader magnet is also known as a cookie to bribe, I mean, encourage readers to sign up for your newsletter.

During the past couple of days I’ve been plotting the novel that is going to be my reader magnet for my newsletter. A reader magnet, or a “cookie” as some refer to it like Tammi Labrecque and David Gaughran, (though I think David borrowed it from her as they’re friends) is something free to entice readers to sign up for your newsletter. Authors give away a whole gamut of things from little short stories to full-length novels. Something Zoe York said in an interview on a podcast I listened to a long time ago (I forgot which one, I’m sorry) said that as an author who writes novels, giving away a story that is less than novel-length doesn’t make sense, and I took that advice to heart. It would be more time/cost effective to write a novella, since I could probably write 20k in just a few days, but I don’t write novellas, nor do I sell them, so skimping on my reader magnet doesn’t make much sense.

But, as I write my novel, I’m going to have a hard time parting with it. As an author, I give away books all the time. I do a Freebooksy now and then, and if someone approaches me and says they can’t afford to buy a book, I’ll send the PDF at no charge. That doesn’t happen very often, and I only had one taker when I offered up Wherever He Goes in an exchange for a possible review. Writing a reader magnet for the sole purpose of attaching it to a newsletter sign up will be a different mindset altogether, though I know it needs to be done. Giving a book away in a newsletter is almost the standard these days, and you’re missing out on a newsletter-building opportunity if that’s something you’re not doing.

It’s frustrating, in a way, that indie authors have trained readers to give away their email addresses for a free book, and you sometimes will get only freebie-seekers when you do that. Curating a list of readers who are interested in your work and sign up to stay on top of what you’re doing can be time-consuming and one of the (many) reasons I haven’t bothered with a newsletter yet.

That’s why I decided to write a full-length novel and write it to be the best book it can be. I want readers to have a taste of what they’ll get when they read my future work.

The plotting is almost done, though I am missing a couple of the big things I need to make the book move. I always have something huge in the middle of the book to prevent saggy middle, and always the BIG BAD that breaks them up (momentarily) toward the end. I have their backstories ironed out for the most part and I had to do a lot of name research to name the male MC because I have a habit of reusing names.

I also had to figure out where the novel was going to take place–all my books, even the ones I wrote in 3rd person past, are set in Minnesota, usually a fake city so I don’t have to worry about details. I make the city how I want it, and no one can complain. A good setting can actually become a protagonist/antagonist in its own right. A long series that comes to mind is Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold, a fictional town in California with a mayor who appears to be able to do a little magic through some not-quite-believable coincidences. I chose a fictitious resort on a lake in Minnesota, and I’m using the Arrowwood Resort Hotel and Conference Center as my muse. It’s not that far from me, in true, physical distance, but I’ve never been there. Here’s a picture from http://www.planetware.com from the Arrowwood website:

This resort will have everything the characters need to occupy themselves, and hopefully get into a little trouble, too. With a spa, pool, waterpark, marina, and much more, there’s no lack of things my characters can do. Because we’re talking about a billionaire family, they’ll own the resort, naturally.

I’ve been doing the preliminary work for this book–but doing so taking some advice from Suzy K. Quinn and Elana Johnson. I’ve worked out the potential cover, the tropes, the tagline, and the subgenre. Keeping in line with the “Package is the Promise” idea, this is the working cover for I suppose what will appear on Bookfunnel (though I haven’t gotten that far in the research stages yet).

The plot is about what you would expect–he’s best friends with her brother and when she was in her teens, he made fun of her for her looks. She never forgot it, and now when they meet up ten years later, he’s a bit surprised at just how far she’s come. This is a fine line to walk because he has to love her for who she is or he’ll get skewered in the reviews for being shallow. That means I have to make sure they spend a lot of time together so he can get to know the type of person she is. They don’t work together. I had to think of away he wouldn’t know she changed. So she doesn’t work for the family company–she set out on her own to make a reputation for herself on her own merits. He’ll come to eventually respect her for that, but at the beginning of the book he hates she’s not working for the family. There are a lot of layers and I’m really excited to start writing this book.

Still not 100% sure if I’ll use my initials for my pen name. I’ve been told to use my real name and brand the books differently from my 3rd person stuff, and I’ve been told to find something romantic that is in line with the authors who write billionaire romance. Chances are pretty good that the readers who like my billionaire stuff won’t move over to my 3rd person books, and that’s okay–that the whole point of the pivot. I don’t want to distance myself too far from the real me, otherwise I’ll have a difficult time being authentic in my newsletter and other social media platforms. I don’t want to hide behind a pen name, but I want to make it clear these books are different. We’ll see what happens.

Writing a cookie and starting up a newsletter is an exciting (and long-coming) thing for me. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Thanks for reading!


February goals and what I’m doing this month.

I just wanted to say hello to everyone and give you all a quick heads up with what I’m doing this month. I will definitely finish the second book in my series by my soft deadline of Valentine’s Day. I’m at 66k right now and while I aim for 90k with these first person books, I’m at the point in the story where it will end how it will end. I have the rest of the book planned out and it shouldn’t take me long to finish it up.

After I finish, I’m going to learn MailerLite through their Academy. I’ve said enough about it on the blog, so I’m finally going to get that up and going, and while I do that I’m going to write a reader magnet to give away. That definitely won’t be a 90k novel, but it will be longer than a novella, complete and a standalone, and in the first person present/billionaire subgenre that I have decided to write in for the foreseeable future. I’m also taking Suzy K Quinn’s How to Write a Bestseller through Mark Dawson’s SPF University, and I’m going to write this reader magnet using the things I learn in her classes.

So I do have a few things coming this month, some of the “I don’t wanna” variety than really looking forward to doing them. The reader magnet will be fun, and I invite anyone to slap me if I even THINK about writing it to sell. I need something to giveaway. That’s a given. And the book before the one I’m writing now was supposed to be that magnet. It turned into a six-book series instead. Not good. There are authors who write a magnet to give away for newsletter subscribers and sell it too, but I’ve heard you can grab more emails if you are exclusively giving it away. On the other hand, all you grab then is the freebie seekers. On the other hand, I plan to put my books into KU and a lot of readers do feel that reading with KU is free, so I guess I’ll just have to take my chances and see what I get.

All I know for sure is:

  1. I need a newsletter.
  2. I need a reader magnet.
  3. Nurturing my list will be my main priority next to writing books.

2021 is the year to learn from my . . . I wouldn’t call the last four years of publishing a mistake, but I haven’t done things correctly, and the time to start that is now.

Also this month I’ve been dealing with a little anxiety. I don’t know where it’s coming from–other than the fact I’ve been trying to work too many hours at my job and still write as much as I always have. Due to some financial things going on, I had to go from part- to full-time last November. I’m fortunate in that I have been able to cut back my work hours just a little bit, and I hope that helps. I also have been sitting on a chair that is not made for sitting for so long and needless to say, it’s made my, ah, bottom a little sore. I think my anxiety latched on to that too, and I’ve been to the clinic a couple times for an ailment I simply don’t have. I need to stand up more during my working hours, that’s about it–and probably find a better chair to sit on.

Anyway, so I’ve decided to try a little counseling, and I made a tele-visit appointment with a counselor for the end of the month. I have a lot to talk through–working from home has been an adjustment–and a few other things. I don’t think one session is going to help me, but it’s a start in the right direction. I also need to take my health more seriously–I need to schedule a checkup soon for my girlie bits. I’m not a spring chicken any more, and my mom passed away when she was only ten years older than I am now. It’s not a pleasant feeling thinking about that. I’m going to try to be more proactive about my health in the coming months if it’s going to trigger my anxiety. I also try to do things with my sister and I walk with a friend every now and then (we wear masks) so I’m not completely cut off from the world because I’m working from home.

The main thing I need to remember is writing is fun, and while I still need to think of my writing as a business, I’m not going to want to do it for the long haul if I can’t enjoy it, too. I need to take a deep breath. Things will be okay.

How is your 2021 going? Let me know!


Thursday Musings, #firstworldproblems, and series update

Life is full of minor inconveniences. There’s even a hashtag for that–#firstworldproblems. What bothers us would make people in other countries shake their heads. I’m not talking about coronavirus now, though mask-wearing may be up there for some people who would prefer not for, um, reasons. But despite how petty and immature we can be about things that inconvenience us, when they keep coming, it can seem like life is trying its best to get you down.

I’ve had a few of those inconveniences, and I’m waiting for life to possibly get back to normal. I could be waiting for a long time, but trying to make lemonade out of lemons, or trying to find the silver lining, is getting to be a little tiring. My little inconveniences range from having maintenance in our bathroom fixing the caulking in the tub and repainting, to having to shower at my ex-husband’s while said paint and caulking dry, to being told, just a few minutes ago, that we can’t let water go down the drains in our apartment because it will make the guy’s bathroom downstairs flood. Of course he called maintenance, but the last time this happened they had to dig up pipes the front yard. So no telling when we’ll get to run our water. On the plus side, I’m clean, so there is that.

Other inconveniences range from my mouth is still hurting, and likely will for months to come as there isn’t an end to my dental work in the foreseeable future, (either they’ll finish or I’ll run out of money. Who knows?) to me being able to work from home but my cat making a meal of the ethernet cable laying on the floor. I did get permission to buy a new cord in the event this one is destroyed by tiny cat teeth, but then I’ll buy a longer one and attach it to the ceiling instead of letting lay on the floor.

Small inconveniences that add up to me being generally crabby about life right now, but make me feel like a petty snot because hello? fires everywhere. And they aren’t little, either.

In other news, I’m 26k into the last book of my series. I’m really excited to get these books all wrapped up, and it’s no secret that I am very excited to start something else. That will have to wait a bit but I can distract myself by looking more into newsletters. I created an email for my website and I signed up for MailerLite. I haven’t watched any of the tutorials to figure out how to set up a welcome email, but I should at least get that sorted so I can include a sign up link to the back of the books I’ll be editing soon. I need to figure out a reader magnet too, and look into how Story Origin works for building newsletter signups and joining promotions. I suppose I could be doing that instead of watching the old Jurassic Park films, but I feel such a kinship to Sam Neill and his crooked bottom teeth.


I’ve had to stop my ads for now. I spent 400 dollars in the month of August but made 500 (for all you math nerds that means I came in ahead by 100 dollars instead of breaking even like I normally do). Because of the way Amazon bills you for ad spent vs. the way they pay you for royalties, my ad spend money is in the hole, and I can’t afford more until that money is replaced. They pay out every sixty days, so I won’t be able to start more ads until the end of October or early November. Right now I’m still making a little very day, mostly in read-through of my series, so I’m not crying too much. I’ll start ads up again after Halloween and play up the Christmas aspect of my books, or at the very least, that they take place in the winter.

I guess that’s all I have for this Thursday. Tomorrow after I log off from work I’ll clean the bathroom and get that put together again. I hope I hear from the property management when it comes to being able to use water again. I mean, we can use the water, just not let anything go down the drain, and I’m assuming that means we can’t flush the toilet, either. We weren’t told by property management we can’t, but this has happened before, so I know all too well what is going on with the poor guy downstairs. I hope they can fix it quickly!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and if you’ve had a crappy week, things pick up for you!

Keep your chin up! Until next time!


Happy Thursday! Author musings, and holy cow, why is it so hot outside?

Minnesota has been going through a heatwave, and I’ve never been more glad than when I emailed our property management last week and had them look at our air conditioner. The maintenance man cleaned it out and now we hold steady at about 71F in our apartment. I don’t mind the heat, and I’ll go walk in it or run errands without bitching, but only if I can find some relief when I’m tired of baking my brains out. Trying to sleep when your bedroom is 85F is tough. And trying to write without any sleep is tougher yet. Am I right? First world problems at their finest, I suppose.

Health Issues.

I had a scare last week when a new brand of coffee made me sick to my stomach, and I mean, SICK. I drink a lot of coffee, and for a handful of days I felt so terrible I thought I had stomach cancer. Luckily I put two and two together and after I switched back to an old brand, I felt a lot better. I’ve also started wearing my splints again. I wear my elbow compression sleeves off and on to keep the nerves in my elbows in check, but I forgot about my wrist splints, and wearing those again have helped my pain, too. For a little bit, between my back pain and my stomach issues, I was feeling pretty miserable. But I’m back up to 98%, and as a friend said, after you hit 40, 98% is about as well as you can hope for. I know I’ll always have carpal tunnel issues, and like anyone else with a chronic health problem, it’s easy to get lost in a mini pity-party. But I took a walk yesterday and a cyclist zoomed past me on the trail. This guy had a prosthetic arm that attached at his shoulder, and it shut me up real quick. I’m sure he’d trade a bit of carpal tunnel pain to have his body whole, and it’s always a gentle reminder to be thankful for what you have.

Back to the writing part of it.

In writing news, I finished the second read-through of the last book in my first person trilogy. I’m so happy with this trilogy, and the writing went very smoothly. Now I’m worried about how the second trilogy is going to go, but I want to start writing the first book soon. While I write, I’m going to go ahead and format the first three (and hahahaha, do their covers) and order the proofs. There’s no rush to get these done. While I was going to do a pen name for these books, I’ve decided that yes, I won’t publish under Vania Rheault, but I don’t want to distance myself using a whole different name like I was thinking about. So I’ll publish these under VM Rheault. It won’t be a secret I wrote these, but I do want to keep them separated from my 3rd person books. I’m thinking more about my brand this time around and every book under VM Rheault will be a lot more consistent with feel and sub-genre than my other books. Not sure if this will help sales, but I’ve been sniffing around my FB groups learning, and it’s time to apply what I’ve picked up and see if it helps me too.

Last month, I ran a handful of ads to my Tower City Romance Trilogy Box Set and I got a few nibbles but no sales, so I shut the ads off. It included the sequel novella I wrote a couple months ago when I re-edited the trilogy, but because I didn’t sell any of the box set, I published the novella separately this morning. There’s no point in keeping it exclusive material for a set that’s not selling. I can throw some low-bid ads at the first book and see if anything happens. I have it set up as a paperback too, but the cover needs tweaking. I’ll do that later this week, I suppose, though I doubt anyone is going to want to buy the paperback. It won’t be worth the price. It’s a substantial novella as far as they go (29,500 words), but it was still too slim to put text on the spine (at least, KDP couldn’t center it correctly and I finally just took it off rather than fight with the uploading system on KDP and the PDF). But it will be available, so I guess it doesn’t matter in the end.

This morning I also set up a freebooksy for book one of my Rocky Point Wedding series. I was thinking about doing a Christmas in July type thing, so I was able to tailor the ad copy in that general direction. Whether it will hit or miss remains to be seen, but I have that set up for the middle of July and my free promo days are already set up on Amazon. I actually did okay buying a freekbooksy a couple years ago for the first book in my Tower City Romance trilogy. I made back the cost of the promo and then some in KU page reads, and I can’t remember how many downloads my book got, but I made it quite high (in the top ten) in the free steamy contemporary romance category. I’m hoping I do better this time around with an extra book and better writing. I haven’t calculated read through for my series yet, since the last book has only been out two weeks, but people are buying it, so I’m hoping this series has better read-through potential. I just checked because I was curious, and I noticed that the last book in my series wasn’t enrolled in KU. Sigh. I can only blame myself for not checking, and I hate to think what that has done to potential page reads when the first three are in KU and the last wasn’t. Everything else is, but at least I figured it out before the promo went live next month. Live and learn, folks. Live and learn.

Newsletters.

I’m still looking into starting my newsletter. I’ve decided to go with MailChimp since Jane Friedman and Mark Dawson use it. That was probably one of the hardest decisions because there are so many newsletter providers out there and they all have their own sets of pros and cons. But if heavy-hitters like Jane and Mark use MailChimp, then it should be good enough for me. I did have a newsletter set up with them a couple years ago, but I never sent out anything, not even to myself as a tryout. I wasn’t as research-savvy as I am now though, and I’ll be watching plenty of tutorials on how to set up a newsletter effectively. And I’ll probably need to blow off the dust on my author email account. I’m not worried about content, just the over all learning the platform and setting things up so my emails are sent smoothly. Everything is a learning process. I’ll also be typing out a novelette that I wrote at work over the course of a few weeks, and though it’s got kind of an ambiguous ending, I’m considering using it as a reader magnet. I have to type it out though first–20 handwritten pages front and back. I think that equals about 15,000 words give or take. Not terrible, and written in first person present, so it’s a lead-in to my pen name. Now I’ll have to look into group promos to build my list but that’s more research and a post for another day.


How is everyone doing? Getting stuff done writing-wise? This is a great tip from my friends Petyon and Scarlett on Twitter:

I would definitely encourage you to follow these lovely ladies on Twitter! Until next time, everyone. 🙂