Monday Musings: Thoughts on being an indie author, the RWA, and what I’m loving right now.

Being an Indie Author

Being so fully immersed in the indie community, I see a lot of support indie authors. I think it’s great, you know, who doesn’t want to be supported? But we also say this a lot: who publishes our books doesn’t define us or the quality of our craft. So can we have one without the other? Can’t we say we should support ALL authors–because what we’re doing is hard, no matter who publishes us.

I don’t mind being defined by the fact I’m an indie author. I never wanted the stress of querying, and I never considered a book deal to be anything but giving my rights away for pennies on the dollar. But, if I’m running my business correctly, I don’t feel I need any more support than any other author. Traditionally published authors rarely get much help from their publishers except for certain cases like they’re already a household name, or a book sold at auction and the publisher markets the heck out of that book and author because they want to earn their advance back and then some. If you read a book, do you review it? Are you more inclined if it’s an indie book with 5 reviews, or a trad book that already has 1,000? Maybe it’s a nitpicky thing to be thinking about on a Saturday morning, but I was scrolling through the WordPress reader before I set up this blog post, and because I follow a lot of indie authors, I saw this phrase this morning and it stuck out.

Do indie authors need any more support than any other author? I know a couple of authors who are published by small presses. Smaller than small, tiny, presses, and to be honest, I feel like they need more support than I do! Those presses don’t have the budget for marketing their authors, yet those authors, in essence, gave their rights away and now they don’t have access to their KDP dashboard to run ads. If they do run ads off of their Facebook author page, they are paying for ads for a small percentage of royalties. At least I know if I sink time and money into my books, it’s for me. It must be difficult to accept that if you spend time and money on your books and you’ve been published by a tiny press that you’re not only working for yourself, you’re working for them, too. I suppose it depends on what you’re willing to give up and what little you’re willing to receive in return. You can support me, but I’m thinking another author might need it more.


The RWA and Vivian Awards

I just erased about 600 words of what I thought about the RWA and the Vivian awards and all that’s going on with that organization. The more I thought about it, the more uneasy I felt, and I think I’m going to take the easy way out and not say anything. I’m glad my membership expired last year and I’m glad I didn’t renew. I had high hopes for the restructuring of the organization, and for what the new president could do. It seems like it’s going to be more of the same, and in a world where we’re all moving forward in every way possible, it’s not right for an organization who says they champion all writers to hang back. Inclusion can’t just be a concept. It has to be a way of life. I don’t ever want to be a member of an organization that can say it, but not mean it and prove it by their actions.


KDP and A+ Content

I’ve also been hearing a lot about A+ Content on KDP. I haven’t tried it yet, though I know with the impending releases I have coming soon, I’ll have to decide if I want to invest in the time it takes to make the graphics to put anything together. If you use a lot of graphics on social media, you may already have something you can repurpose, and if you pay for Canva Pro, resizing them to the pixels KDP requires is pretty easy. It sounds like an utter time suck to me. I like to play on Canva as much as the next person, but thinking about adding all that extra to my books’ sales pages gives me hives.

If you’re interested, Dave Chesson has a comprehensive blog post outlining its features, and I’m sure in the coming months now that the Kindle Vella sensation is pretty much over, we’ll be hearing more about it and if it’s working for other authors. For now, I can only assume that a good title, good cover, good blurb, and a fantastic look inside will get your further than spending time making graphics. On your book’s product page, you have to scroll to reach the extra content, and if your cover isn’t good or your blurb isn’t hooky enough, a reader isn’t going to spend time on your product page anyway. It all depends on where you want to spend your time. My creative brain would rather write, but my business brain knows there’s no point in writing if I can’t get readers to the words.


Book Marketing with Jane Friedman

taken from her website

Speaking of finding readers, if you are looking for new ways to market your book, I suggest you give Jane Friedman’s book marketing webinar a try. She knows the industry inside out and I’m sure she’ll have new insights as to what is working now and what you can avoid. It’s only 25 dollars and you get the replay if you can’t watch it live, the files she uses, and you can download the video if you want to be able to watch it again. I’ve taken several of her mini-webinars (as I call them) and there is so much value. Look here for the course description. Effective Book Marketing for Any Author (Even If You’re Starting From Scratch)


Billionaire Romance Stats by Alex Newton of K-Lytics

Screengrab taken from Alex’s K-lytic’s site.

If you’re looking at writing billionaire romance like I am, Alex Newton of K-Lytics did a report you can purchase for $37.00. The pre-recorded webinar talks about what is selling in the billionaire romance market, how hot the niche is, what book covers are selling, etc. It’s interesting information, and just knowing that I chose a subgenre that will never die (like vampires he says) gave me some security. He also analyzes different genres and subgenres and all of his mini-reports are chock-full of information. A great value! You can find the Billionaire Romance Report here.


That is all I have for today. I’m 18k into a new project while I get my blurb and cover together for the first book I’m going to release…I’m not sure when. I wanted to this year, and maybe I still will if I can figure out some kind of launch/release plan. Obviously I’m not going to hit it out of the park with one single standalone, but that one single standalone is going to be a foundation for a new pen name and I want to make sure every book I release from here on out counts. Pressing Publish and walking away did nothing (and I’m not quite sure why I thought it would), so I have to figure some things out. If that means waiting, that means waiting, but I’m not going to wait too long. I’d rather publish for a handful of readers than keep these books on my laptop for any more time. I will keep you posted!

Until next time!

Entering the RITAs. My full circle experience.

I’m not sure if I said anything about entering the RITAs, or the outcome of that contest.

The RITA award is a prestigious award given by the RWA (Romance Writers of America). I didn’t win, nor did I advance, and I did not attend the RWA conference this year that was held in New York City. I didn’t expect to win (though when you enter a contest, there’s a little bit of you that will hope you’ll at least advance.)  Anyway, I didn’t advance, didn’t win, and I didn’t expect to hear anything more about it.

All of Nothing ebook coverBut I received an unexpected email in my inbox today. The email contained my overall score of All of Nothing, something I didn’t know the RWA sent out.

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement, but when I thought about the score, and I mean, really thought about it (meaning, I put away my ego and my pride and honestly evaluated the kind of book All of Nothing is) the score made sense.

I knew a long time ago that All of Nothing didn’t advance to a finalist position. I figured since the contest is open to everyone who wanted to enter, traditional and indie, I had a slim to none chance. After all, when Kristin Higgins and Brenda Novak enter their books, you’re up against talent, several years in the industry, and name recognition. Heck, Nora Roberts has won 21 of them. I won’t disclose whose books I judged, but I will say I judged a big name, too.

I had thought, at least, even if my book didn’t advance, it had receive average scores.

It didn’t.

My book received a 4.33 out of a possible 10.

I don’t know how private the scoring is, so I won’t show you the email contents, but suffice to say, I didn’t make it into the top half, and I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t expect that one judge did not think my novel had a central love story, and a different judge didn’t think it concluded with an HEA. And that makes me wonder if she somehow missed the Epilogue, which clearly shows that they did have a happily ever after.

Anyway, so here’s what I learned entering the RITAs, how I felt, and what I will do differently if I should ever enter again.


What I learned:

  • Your book won’t resonate with everyone.
    You can use this as a way to shake off a bad book, (NO ONE is going to like a book full of plot holes and flat characters, so that reasoning only goes so far) but even a well-written book with amazing characters and the best plot twists known to man won’t appeal to everyone. This is okay, and as authors, something we all deal with. I know All of Nothing is dark. I know Jax is an asshole to the extreme. Maybe even too much. He doesn’t redeem himself until almost the end of the book, and that could have been too long for some readers. Even my reviews on Goodreads are split down the middle. Either readers are blown away or they hate it. There’s not a lot of middle ground in reviews, and I didn’t see any in my scores.
  • You’re forced to read, and that can put you off from the very beginning.
    The RWA has changed this policy for the next contest, but when I entered my book, you had to judge the preliminary round to submit. Being forced to read is akin to being in school and assigned War and Peace. Not everyone wants to read books they are told they must. Also, you were only able to opt out of one genre. My book was in the Contemporary Romance Long category, and it could have been readers didn’t like the genre. Maybe they preferred Romantic Comedy, or Romantic Suspense, or Paranormal. That’s not really an excuse, but it’s natural to not be excited about a genre you don’t care to read in the first place.
  • Have a professional cover.
    This might seem like a no-brainer, or something that you wouldn’t think of for a craft contest, but either way, I have a feeling that somehow the entire package is judged. When I judged and found the author’s name on the title page, you bet I looked on Amazon for the author and what else they had published, and who they were published by. I’m sure the judges did the same for me, and the overall look of my catalog and All of Nothing‘s cover maybe have influenced their feelings toward the book. This is a professional contest put on by a professional organization. Submit a book that is professional from cover to cover.

What I would do differently:

  • Enter something lighter.
    All of Nothing was dark, and it didn’t hit the right notes, obviously. Something lighter might fare better. When you’re reading at the end of the day, and you’re on a deadline to submit your scores, giving your reader something a little more light-hearted may be easier for them to enjoy. Is this playing the system? Nah. I can only think back to the books I particularly enjoyed while judging. I would also offer something with more . . . I don’t know. I don’t want to say chemistry because I think Jax and Raven had chemistry. But maybe a more steamier, sweeter, attraction? Not all of my heroes are jerks. But I would definitely try something not so dark.
  • In that vein, I would enter something shorter.
    All of Nothing was entered into the Contemporary Romance Long category. There’s nothing worse than being forced to read something you don’t like, and having so much of it. I would do the short category. Though I don’t tend to write novellas, so that category may always be out of my reach.
  • Take the contest more seriously.
    I’m a newbie writer. Without written feedback, I can only guess why my book didn’t resonate with readers. Had it been a debut, I would worry that my voice wasn’t strong enough. But I think my voice is strong–I’ve written enough words to find it, and I’ve received compliments on the book. In fact, a woman at my work read it. She’s a prolific reader, and she told me she enjoyed All of Nothing very much and that I was extremely talented. I didn’t know she read it, so I don’t think she said anything because she thought I was expecting it. She didn’t have to say anything at all. I went into that because I’m thinking it was the plot and characters the judges didn’t care for, and not the writing itself. (Which I feel is a very important distinction.) But, I have never worked with a developmental editor or a professional editor of any kind. And if I ever hope to advance in a contest like this, I may have to hire someone who knows the romance market, knows all the tropes involved, and can tell me if I’m on the right track with my writing. I have never queried, have never sent out any of my books on subs, so I don’t even have a line or two from an agent/editor saying I’m on the right track, either. All I have to go on is reviews from my books, and that’s not saying a whole lot because I haven’t put much into marketing preferring to use my time to write instead.

How I felt about the contest:

I don’t feel terrible about my score. You have to face rejection with a thick skin. Since All of Nothing I’ve written five more books. So maybe if my tone or voice missed the mark, at least I’m still working on my craft as it’s natural for every book to be a bit better than the last.

It was interesting being a part of the RITAs. I liked seeing how the process worked and the quality of books entered by my peers.

I may never enter again. Or I may enter a book I haven’t written yet. Something that takes my breath away. Who knows. I do know that if you’re going to compete with the best of the best, you have to take your craft seriously, and if you can do that year after year and get better year after year, then maybe, just maybe, one day, you’ll win.

Have a wonderful week!


Want to try your hand at a contest? Poets and Writers Magazine offers a long list of contests to enter. Everything from poetry to essays. Look here to find out more.

You don’t have to enter the RITAs to enter a contest hosted by the RWA. All the chapters offer some kind of contest, too, though they can be seasonal and not offered at the same time. For a list of contests and chapter events, look here.


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