Author Comparisonitis and leveling up.

Last week, there was a little kerfuffle online about Sky Warren’s RAM (Romance Author Mastermind) conference, and like a true gossip, I like nosing around and seeing what the issue is.

I’m not writing this to call anyone out or judge any author, in fact, quite the opposite. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I blog to the new author, the one stumbling around trying to find his way in the industry where there are EIGHT MILLION books on Amazon with thousands more added every day.

This is a screenshot taken from a free webinar by Alex Newton of K-lytics. I screen-grabbed it in May of 2021, so the numbers are a bit outdated–and probably worse today.

I’m transparent in that I’ve written a few books, published them on my own–edited them with the help of a couple of beta readers, formatted them with Vellum, did my own covers. I haven’t found any real success–not the kind we really want when we publish a book. (We can all say we don’t want to make money or be a bestseller, but if you’re putting your book on Amazon, you’re hoping for an outcome such as that and there’s no point in lying to yourself. It will only bog your business down.)

So when conversation turns to leveling up, ad spend in the thousands, and launching to number one in the Kindle store and staying there for weeks on end, we have to realize that a conversation like this is like the difference between a janitor-in-training on his first day, and the CEO of that building conducting a billion-dollar meeting. It just isn’t the same.

I feel like these conversations come up every year, despite the information being proprietary to those conferences. You have to be making enough to be invited to attend RAM, and I am a long way off. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the information that comes out of it, but in reality, I’m not in any position to take it, either. I wrote about that before in a different blog post–we’re all at different stages in our journey and what one 6- or 7-figure author can do is not the same as what I can do with the resources that I have. That doesn’t mean you can’t listen to them talk, or take notes, or tuck away what works for them for later use, but is it going to help you with what you need help with NOW? Probably not.

I think the conflict came with the latest episode of the 6 Figure Authors podcast when Andrea Pearson recapped what she learned attending RAM. You can listen here. (Usually they post it on YouTube, but this episode is not available there. You can also listen to it on your podcast app of choice.) Because I write romance, it’s interesting to hear what the big authors are doing in regards to their business, but I know I’m not there yet. I’m not even in the black most months, so I listen with curiosity, a huge grain of salt, and a wish in the back of my mind that one day these lessons will apply to me.

How can we listen and not compare ourselves to these authors? Here are some things I take into consideration:

Are you doing the minimum first? This is a big one for me because if you’re not doing the 101 stuff, you’re not ready for the 301 level coursework. You know exactly what I mean, too. Are you writing in a series? Are you sticking to one genre to find a readership? Have you started a newsletter? Is your book GOOD? That is something we lose sight of–your book needs to be GOOD. Well-written with on-point grammar and punctuation, good story/genre appropriate/following the expected tropes and reader expectations, good cover, good blurb. If you don’t have the core quality of your product down, you’re never going to level up, or be in a position where that’s possible. It’s the difference between the crappy Frostee Freeze and the huge, brightly-colored popular Dairy Queen. Where would you rather buy your chocolate-dipped cone? (No offense to the Frostee Freezes out there, but ours is located in the ghetto and looks like the movie set of a Lifetime murder movie.)

What are your business goals? Everyone talks about this–what do you want out of your book business? But the fact is, if you don’t know, nothing you consume will help you get there. Why do you write? What do you want to get out of your business? A bestseller? Hit the top ten in your category? Do you want to have a huge launch? How many books do you have? How many books will you have by the end of the year? Are you writing a series? How fast are you going to release them? How long are you willing to do this before you see any success? This is part of the 101 stuff I was talking about above.

Find information that will help you NOW. This is probably why I like listening to the presentations from the 20booksto50k conferences in November. They are very generous and post most of the speakers on YouTube. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, unlike the mastermind classes where you already have to be at a certain level to get anything out of it. There are a lot of resources out there for newbies–podcasts and blogs, free ads courses, etc. Figure out what you need help with in regards to where you are at the present time. Are you working on craft? Looking for an editor? Exploring doing your own cover? Preparing for a launch? If you haven’t released your first book, listening to someone talk about how they’re spending 10,000 dollars on ads every month won’t matter to you, and it shouldn’t get you down. There’s no way you would (or probably could) spend that launching your first book. You’d never get that money back. Ever. There are so many resources for someone just starting out. My favorite is David Gaughran’s free course, Starting From Zero.

If you’re going to compare, at least be smart about it. I think a lot of what people don’t understand when they hear authors spending so much on their ads is that first, the authors have been writing for years and have a huge backlist (not to mention a huge readership), and second, a lot of their ad spend comes from savings of royalties already made. When you’ve been at this for years, you have savings. You’ve invested your money into CDs or high-yield savings accounts. When your interest accrued every year is as much as someone working a part-time job, you can afford to put some of that back into your ads. If you want to compare yourself to another author and base that comparison in reality, look at their genre. Is it the same as yours? Look at your backlist and how long it will take you to get to the same place. How is their book quality compared to yours? I could market my books the exact same way Janie Crouch does–but my books will never be like hers. Even if I copied the covers, genre, and tropes, our author voices and styles will never match. This is what they mean by “Your mileage may vary.” You are not another author and you never will be. How can you achieve your own kind of success?

I love this recap thread by Zoe York on Twitter. She’s so down to earth and pushes you to do what’s best for you and your books while giving you the encouragement to see that anything is possible if you work hard and don’t give up.

As far as I can see, there is no reason to get angry if someone wants to recap a high-end conference or be bitter they did. It’s the same as buying a marketing book from an author who is killing it. You can grab morsels of information but the likelihood you’re going to be able to apply 100% of what you’re consuming to your business that very second is slim.

Personally, I know why my publishing career is at a standstill. I made poor choices I didn’t know where poor choices. I know now through trial and error and listening to what mid-list authors have done to achieve their success. That’s why I did a 360 with my writing and started writing first person billionaire instead of the 3rd person contemporary romance. Will it help? I don’t know. I don’t know of my writing will resonate with readers. I may not know for a couple of years, and that’s something I’ll have to be okay with. Not everyone will make money in this business and I’ll have more choices to make if I’m not one of them. For now, I’m enjoying the process and I’m having fun writing. I’m not going to be condescending and say that’s all that matters, because it’s not. I want monetary compensation for the time I’ve spent writing and producing my books. Otherwise I would publish them on Wattpad or my own website and call it good enough.

You’ll have to decide what matters to you.

Your mileage may vary.

Thanks for reading!

Happy Monday! Author updates and thinking about 2022

Happy Monday after US Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday and were able rest and relax over the weekend! I missed last Monday’s blog post. I was so swamped with getting my edits on my book done and overall burnout that I dropped the ball. I should have at least told you I would be skipping, but I hope to make it up to you all with the goodies I have to talk to you about for the rest of the year!

I did have something else I wanted to talk about today, but it’s getting pushed until next week because I need more time to write it, so I’m going to do a short author update and talk about goals for 2022.

I’m done with my third read-through of my kind-of Beauty and the Beast retelling. It veered from that as some stories do, and I won’t be using that description as a marketing ploy when it’s published. Anyway, I never usually edit books so quickly after finishing them–I’ve always been a huge fan of letting books breathe–but something about this book has hooked me. Maybe it’s because I finished it so quickly, or maybe because I didn’t want to leave the loose ends untied, but whatever it is, I’m finished reading and moving on to plotting book two. I don’t count drafts, but after this third read-through it sounds fantastic and unless book two requires that I make changes to book one, all it needs now is a proofread. I’ve been mulling over what I want book two to be about–mostly I need to wrap up the over-arching plot of book one. I didn’t intentionally not finish, but it just kind of worked out that way, and it’s fine. It’s giving me more room to figure it out, so I need to find a way for my female main character to do what the FMC in book one failed to do (though she tried her best). I was also thinking about tropes and naturally, as a much younger sister, there’s going to be an age gap that I didn’t count on, but won’t drill down on either. I was thinking about a secret baby, but an age-gap/secret baby is what I did for The Years Between Us and while this will be written in 1st person under my pen name, I dislike reusing plot devices. Their ages are set–there isn’t much I can do about that, but he might not knock her up after all. Brainstorming and coming up with backstories for my characters and how those affect their present stories is a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to sit with pen and paper and think about all the ways I can make their lives miserable.


I listened to a great room on Clubhouse last week during the Monday Marketing hour for my Level Up Romance group. The question they asked today was, what is one thing you’re going to work on for 2022?

That’s an interesting question to me, especially since I’ve started helping someone as an alpha reader/editor/critique partner. She’s been with small presses and is looking to indie publish. Today I asked her what she wanted for and from her books.

It’s such an important question because with so many books on Amazon and so many choices going wide on other platforms, publishing isn’t just about putting up a book and walking away. Publishing now requires a lot of thought as to where you want your career to go. How many books can you write/edit/publish a year? What is your genre? Where are your readers? KU? Wide? A lot of authors don’t understand that marketing begins while writing the book. If you can figure this out before you waste too much time, you’re ahead of the game. It took me five years to learn this.

What do I want to work on next year that will help me and my business? I’d like to expand my squad. Find beta readers that will consistently help me (I’m more than willing to help in return!). Maybe find an editor that I can afford–at least a proofreader so I can have that extra confidence I’m putting out a typo-free product. Possibly find a cover designer, because honestly, while I enjoy it, I’m tired of doing my own covers. (This part is actually a lie. I probably will never trust anyone to do my covers, but it would be nice to have help.) For the amount of books I’m going to have coming out in the next little while, it would be super not to have to do all the work for each and every one. But, networking and connecting with people who offer services is difficult and sometimes you have to waste spend money to realize that someone isn’t going to work out.

The paid beta reader I used a few months back didn’t give me enough feedback for what I paid. Maybe that was my fault because I didn’t know the questions I should ask, but after the lack of feedback, I know now (and that can be a blog post for a different day). So while her fee wasn’t a complete waste–I learned a lot about myself and what I need–it didn’t go toward what it could have, either, which is a bummer. I never talked to her about it, and that was another mistake, I just figured to leave well enough alone and to try someone else. That’s not a great way to build relationships–you should always be able to talk to the person you’re doing business with, and possibly I could hire her again only this time be clear with what I need because what she did give me was fine–it was what she didn’t that I had a problem with.


What am I loving right now?

There is so much information that I haven’t consumed yet–from the K-lytics reports that I’ve paid for and the free ones Alex made available, to all the 20booksto50k talks from the conference in Vegas earlier, that I am downing in content and I have many many many hours of watching and listening ahead of me.

If you want to start in on the conferences, I did watch Elana Johnson’s talk and she touched upon what she’s going to be working on in 2022. How she’s going to market all the books she’s going to be putting out, and doing it all without going crazy. She has a great sense of humor, too, so listening to her speak was a lot of fun. You can watch it here.

I’ll be sharing the ones I like best as I watch them.

Another thing I’m loving right now is the book, Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon by Mark McGurl. Hat tip to Jane Friedman for pointing out the New Yorker’s article about the book (follow her on Twitter for more insights into the publishing industry). You can read the article here. After I read the book, I’ll probably do a blog post about it. How Amazon has shaped, and is shaping, the publishing industry is fascinating to me, and how Amazon molds how indies write is really interesting, too. (And how some indies rebel against it.) For example, the idea of making the first 10% of your book the best it can be because that’s the amount of sample pages Amazon lets a reader skim to help them decide if they want to purchase your book. Another example is how Amazon pushes its own imprint books and how that dictates how readers find the books they want to read while perusing Amazon. Of course Amazon is going to push the books they publish, and being they are the biggest book retailer in the US, those books will do well with Amazon’s power behind them. How does that shape what’s trending, what’s popular, and how do indie authors respond to that with the books they write hoping to cash in on what is selling on the top 100 lists? I love reading about that kind of thing, so I will definitely check back in. If you want to take a look at the book yourself, you can find it here.

So, needless to say, I will be quite busy in 2022. It would be too much for me to hope that I can finish writing book two of this duet before Christmas being that I don’t even have a plot for it yet, but If I can get it finished by the end of the year and work out a few things, I would love to publish these as the first two books of my pen name in the spring. I’m doing that because unfortunately, and I have lamented about this in the past, you cannot build a readership on standalones. You can certainly publish standalones, but the real butter for your bread comes with read-through of a series. Any indie making it will tell you that. In fact, I was going to go ahead and rebel, and publish two standalones at the beginning of next year, but changed my mind after listening to Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea talk abut what they would do now if they were to start over knowing what they know now. Not one of them said they would publish a standalone, and while that was disheartening to hear, I also have to take their advice. Publishing a duet first is my compromise. Read-through to book two will be nice while I get a feel for my readers and they get a feel for me. I’ve said in the past I don’t write billionaire romance the way the other top 100 authors do. My characters are older and they hit upon issues that I haven’t found in a lot of the billionaire romances out there. So this will be me slowly testing the waters, and all I can do is see if it works. If you want to listen to that podcast where they talk about that, you can listen to it here:

I think that is all I have for now!

Until next time!

Happy Monday! Creating a Logo for a Series and short author update.

Good morning and happy Monday! If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope you’re getting all your words down so you can take a (much needed) break around Thanksgiving if you celebrate!

I’d like to congratulate Barbara Avon for winning the fall gift basket I gave away in association with Nina Romano’s fabulous interview we did! Incidentally, I interviewed Barb last spring, and you can read her interview here.


I don’t have much going on for myself. My daughter’s birthday is this week (on the 18th) and we’ll be heading out to dinner to celebrate her turning the big sixteen. It makes me feel old to have a daughter that age, though I’ll be turning 47 on the 28th, and that really isn’t that bad. I haven’t spoken about it for a long time, but I’m still dealing with some girly issues. It’s been a long year. Luckily, I haven’t let how I’m feeling get in the way of writing, and I hit 78k on my latest novel. A friend asked me if I’m ever going to publish them, or if I’ll just hoard my books like a dragon guards his gold, but one day I’ll publish something. After the holidays, at least. I probably will be publishing without a reader magnet, but that’s a choice I’ll be making because I haven’t written anything I want to give away.


What I wanted talk about today is logos for series. I’ve been seeing so many of them lately, and I like looking at them and how they’re associated with the books. There are a few reasons why you would want to make a logo for your series, but you’d have to think about branding and how your covers are going to look before you publish book one. Indies are terrible at looking ahead (I know–I was one of them) but all it takes is a little pre-planning to make your series shine. Why do a logo?

It will make the reader aware the books are in the same series. If you have deep backlist, a logo will help separate one series from another. I say help, because your logo shouldn’t be the only thing to tie your series together. Take, for instance, Ivy Smoak’s gorgeous covers for her Empire High series. (Check them out here!) They all look similar, with the same font, stock photo model, and overall vibe.

Screen grab taken from Amazon

Here is a close up of her logo for the series. It might be a little pixelated–all I could do is take a screenshot of it and blow it up, but you get the idea.

It’s great for marketing purposes. It probably doesn’t need to be said that having a logo identifier is great for branding and marketing purposes. How? That’s the million dollar question everyone asks. How do you market? How do you promote your brand?

The first thing I thought of when doing this blog post was swag. Bookmarks are the go-to for authors and many of us turn our book covers into bookmarks to give away at events, or even just to leave in places like coffee shops. You never know who is going to pick up a bookmark and then go on to look up your book because of the hunky stock photo guy or book cover you used. But, I’m also thinking of using Dave Chesson’s QR code creator (it’s FREE). With his QR code creator, not only can you add a logo to to the code, but you can make the code go right to your Amazon series page or your Amazon Author page.

This is a poor and quick attempt to show you what I mean:

Of course, you can do better than this. It’s a very poor attempt to show you that you can match the logo on your book’s cover to the logo you can put in the center of the QR code. This is a cover I made up for one of my books while I was goofing around with concepts. It turns out it’s going to be book one of a six book series, and I only have two written right now. I’ll get back to those after I get all these standalones out of my system. But for now we’ll use the fake cover as an example. I made the bookmark in Canva (search bookmarks and they will give you a variety of templates), but VistaPrint is another great place to make bookmarks. I’ve seen their quality and they are a great resource for swag.

Another thing you can do with a logo is put it on all your graphics. Even if you don’t use ads, you can make graphics for your FB author page, Twitter, and Instagram. Here is something I whipped up for this blog post using Canva with my fake cover and the logo.

It can be clever identifier to what the books are about. The BBB for my logo isn’t a great example, but the ballet slippers that author Vivian Wood used is. We know right away her trilogy is going to be about dancers of some kind.

Taken from

It is a funny coincidence that our cover models are the same man–such is life in the life of a romance author with limited stock photos.

But this brings me to a really great point about logos. A lot of logos you will make for your covers are just going to be elements that you hunt up yourself unless your cover designer also makes them for you. Going on depositphoto.com and searching for vectors is probably the best way to find something you’re looking for, and I found a similar pair of ballet slippers Vivian used for her cover:

All it would take is a little know-how with GIMP or Photoshop to strip this pair of their sepia background and color the shoes gold to fit in with her color scheme. Like anything else you do with your cover, it’s best to buy your elements. In fact, this article from The Cover Counts says DepositPhotos is the ONLY place you should buy logo elements because different stock sites have different terms of service and vectors may not be allowed to be used a part of a logo.

When we talk about logos, we’re not talking about trademarking it as part of your official brand, author brand, or book brand. It’s more a part of your cover like the font you use than it is some of real legal value. Just like the guy above we both used as a cover model, there’s nothing that says an author can’t like your logo so much they want it as part of their own series and copy it. Indies are a pretty good group of people though, and I don’t hear of thievery like this very often, especially in romance author circles. But because we’re all limited by stock choices out there, one can only hope that an author’s or cover designer’s creativity will keep them from having to copy someone else.

How do you make a logo? It would be tempting to go into Canva and search logos and and alter one to suit your needs, but you should make your own with elements you purchase (please stay away from pixabay, unsplash, pexels, and other free sites) and use fonts that you have purchased or you know are free for commercial use. I’ve been thinking about the logo I’m going to make for the duet I’m currently writing, and my King’s Crossing 6-book series will definitely need one.

Canva is the easiest way to try a design, using their free elements, and then when you think you might have what you need, look to DepositPhotos and buy what you can find that will fit.

Most authors have an author logo, too, and I made one for my pen name. For now I’ve been placing the on the backs of my books in the empty bottom left hand corner of the cover. The cityscape theme matches the stock photo I use on my newsletter signup, and If I rebrand the author page on Facebook I have now, or start a new one, the cityscape can be part of the header too.

You can have a lot of fun with a logo for a series, and it’s great way to tie your books and covers together, and with splashing it everywhere, maybe you can build some brand awareness!


I don’t have much else today. It’s going to be a busy week, and I’m going to try to get this book done before Thanksgiving so I can rest a few days during the holiday. I still don’t have a plot for book two, but I left a lot of loose ends in book one (not for the couple, they’ll have their HEA) but book two is definitely needed now, and all I have to to do is figure out how to do it.

I’ll think of something.

Until next time!

Thursday Thoughts and Brief Update

Can I say I don’t know what I’m doing? Because that would probably best describe the state of my mind and author business at the moment. How to successfully launch a book, figure out a publishing plan, and start a successful book business. I know all that takes time, trial and error, and a healthy dose of luck. I can’t do anything about the luck, but I feel like I’ve put in my time, and learned a lot through trial and error. So this is what I’ve got going on right now:

Two books loaded into KDP. All I have to do is press publish. That’s not exactly true as I want to redo the blurbs again. After reading Theodora Taylor’s 7 FIGURE FICTION: How to Use Universal Fantasy to SELL Your Books to ANYONE, I grabbed some great ideas for pulling out the meat of a book and adding it to the blurb. I think one of the mistakes I was making when writing the blurbs to Faking Forever and My Biggest Mistake was that I was writing a 1st person blurb like I was still writing a 3rd person blurb. 1st person and 3rd person blurbs have a different vibe. 1st person blurbs are more personal, told in the voice of the characters. My blurbs were still sounding flat in 1st person because I was following the 3rd person blurb style that I’d adapted after reading Bryan Cohen’s How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis: A Step-by-Step System for Enticing New Readers, Selling More Fiction, and Making Your Books Sound Good. I’m not saying his way is wrong–I loved the blurbs I’d written after reading his book, but all his examples are in 3rd person and I struggled to find a punchy way to write the blurb in the voice of my characters while trying to pull out what really mattered in the book. Theodora’s book really helped and I’m going to redo those and use her examples for other blurbs moving forward. She did a fun interview on the Six Figure Author Podcast, too, and you can watch it here:

Okay, so I have two books almost ready to go besides those tweaks, and right now I’m on a break editing my six book series. I read through the all again, and caught and fixed a few inconsistencies. I’m not going to rehash all that because I blogged about it on Monday and you can read it here. While I’m taking a break, I thought about editing another standalone. I have two that I could do: my brother’s-girlfriend-is-off-limits-trope, or the-one-night-stand-with-my-future-boss trope. The boyfriend one was the most likely candidate since I haven’t looked at it in a while and is 97k. The other one I’m excited about too, and I’ve gotten good feedback from a beta read, though the subject is a little touchy and I’m not sure how it’s going to go over with readers. It’s a little dark, but I’m hoping my readers can understand why he made the choices he made and not think too poorly of him. Those both need another editing sweep and listening to them both will take time. They need covers and blurbs and formatting and all that jazz, which means each book has at least another month a piece before they’re ready to publish.

Instead of working on those, I had another idea pop into my head and I’m writing kind of a beauty and the beast retelling, but I can’t even call it that anymore because he’s not grumpy, and she’s not trapped there–at least not in the way Belle was trapped in Beast’s castle. He’s scarred from an accident, she’s snowed in during a blizzard, and he has a ton of books but that’s where the similarities end. The idea pretty much came out of nowhere and I wanted to write it before I forgot it. I outlined what i knew of the story, but it wasn’t enough to keep it on the back burner and I’m 27k into it right now after only four days. I think I’ll hit about 80k with this one, maybe shorter, as not much is going on right now but them talking and falling in love and knowing that because of what they have going on they can’t be together after the blizzard stops (that’s not true, of course, all my books have an HEA). It’s fun, and I had to do a lot more research than I normally have to. There could be potential for another book with her sister and his business partner, but so far I would have the characters and no plot so we’ll have to see how that goes.

What I’m trying to do is line these up and figure out a publishing schedule where I can make the most of the work I’ve put into these books for the past two years. I didn’t have any business starting a new book, but I couldn’t resist, besides, it’s a good filler for the next couple months with the holidays.

As far as anything else goes, I have a promo with a new site I haven’t tried yet for my holiday box set I have selling for .99. The promo cost $25 so I should make that back KU reads at least if they have the reach they say they do. I’ll let you know how it goes and who it’s with if I have good results. For right now my ads were in the hole and I had to turn off one for The Years Between Us. It was eating up click money and no sales coming in. Those books are old and I don’t have anything new coming in 3rd person so I’ll keep the low bid ads running, but I don’t have much hope for those books anymore.

What am I loving right now?

I’m going to read through Elana Johnson’s nonfiction books. I’ve heard her speak enough that I think her books could be valuable. I’ve blogged in the past about how difficult it is to take information from top indies because they have so many more books, resources, money, connections than we do. I’m hoping that her books are geared toward anyone no matter where they are on their journey, and I can find some tips to help me as I start publishing next year. This is the link for book one in her non-fiction series if you want to check it out. Writing and Releasing Rapidly (Indie Inspiration for Self-Publishers Book 1)

Another thing I’m loving right now is Alex Newton of K-lytics has shared some info for romance writers for free this holiday season! This is taken from his Facebook page (I recommend you liking it on FB!).


I don’t have plans to release anything Christmassy, not anything new, anyway. My Rocky Point Wedding box set takes place in the winter around Christmas, but it’s not a solid Christmas story, or stories. It would be fun to play around with the idea and maybe next summer I can write a billionaire Christmas story for Christmas 2022 and see how it goes. BUT I love industry news, and if you love it too, here is the link to download his free report! FREE RESEARCH REPORT | CHRISTMAS ROMANCE

If you don’t write romance, Alex was an angel and did another report for Mystery, Thriller Suspense, and you can find it here. Christmas mysteries sound like cozies, but you just never know! I plan to watch it as well and see just want kind of mystery sells during the holidays.


That’s about all I have going on at the moment. Now that I’ve started a new book, that will be what I’ll focus on until it’s done. It would be nice to say I’m taking December off, but that will never happen. I honestly don’t know what I would do with myself, and as hard as I work on my books, I enjoy it, too.

Have a great weekend!

Are Editors the Next Gatekeepers? Some people want them to be.

The one thing we say most about independent publishing is it has completely taken away the gatekeepers. You can publish anything you want, whenever you want, all you need is a properly (sometimes not!) formatted file and a good cover (sometimes not!). We all know that there are lot of good books that are indie-published every day. We also know there are a lot that aren’t.

I left another FB group the other day. The conversation turned so stressful that I was in a bad headspace all day. It’s hard to shake things off when people attack you for what you believe. What was it I said? I said some indie writers are good enough not to need the whole buffet of editing: development edit, copy edit, line edit, and a proofreader. That’s all I said, and I still stand by that. An author who is on book 30 is not going to need the time and attention an author is going to need publishing her debut novel. They simply aren’t. The craft is there, the skill is there, the experience is there. Two editors took my words the wrong way, or they were just spoiling for a fight, and tore into me.

Of course the conversation turned more ugly when price became a topic because everyone in the industry knows that editing is the most expensive part of publishing–especially if you do need the whole smorgasbord before you put your book out there–and the editors were defensive. I’ve never said an editor shouldn’t be paid what he or she is worth. I’d never devalue an editor’s work like that. You’re paying for a skill that they’ve (hopefully) honed for years. An excellent editor can take your lump of coal book and turn it into a diamond, I get that. On the other hand, not everyone can afford it, and they didn’t seem to understand that.

I agree with the belief that you shouldn’t publish until your book has been edited, at least by SOMEONE, but it’s also discriminatory to say that no one should publish at all if you can’t afford it. That’s gatekeeping all over again.

I didn’t point out in my exit rant that the people saying this were affluent white people who have the disposable cash to hire an editor. I’m white too, but I’m poor. I can’t afford a $2,000 development edit. I simply can’t. That’s three and a half months of rent. I do the best I can with the resources I have, and I will never let anyone insult me for it.

One of the big questions that come up when discussing editing fees is, why do editors cost so much? It’s not because each individual editor is trying to rip you off (though some are better than others, so ALWAYS ask for a sample and make educated choices). There’s an association that offers guidelines as to how much freelance editors should charge their clients. Editors/beta readers like Kimberly Hunt, the paid beta reader I referred to in my feedback blog last week, adheres by this association, and you can look at the pricing structure the Editorial Freelancers Association recommends. She, and many other editors, are charging the standard. Some editors who freelance on the side may charge more depending on where you’ve found them. Professional editors found on Reedsy, for example, are more than I can afford. On the flip side, there are writers and authors who want to start editing and charge a lot less because they are just getting their business going. It would be up to you whether you want to pay less. An editing sweep by a new editor will be better than no editing, but always make informed choices. Don’t just sign with her because you can afford her. And on the flip side of THAT, I wouldn’t pay a new editor the industry standard unless they can provide testimonials and proof that their skills are worth it.

Indie publishing has opened up a whole new world for scammers, and some of them don’t know they’re doing it. (Like the freelance book cover designer who will charge you 50 dollars for ten minutes of time in Canva. They think they’re running a business. I think they’re ripping you off.)

What can you do if you can’t afford an editor?

The obvious thing is to learn your craft inside and out. Learning your craft is a good first step in the editing process. It’s a lot easier to edit a good first draft than it is to tackle a draft that you know has plot holes, flat characters, and verb tense changes throughout. Hone your writing skills.

Then find feedback where you can, and like I said in the feedback blog from last week, listen to that feedback, or you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

And lastly, learn how to self-edit. Put the book in a drawer for a month or two, write something else, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

You can teach yourself to self-edit, and there are a lot of resources out there that will help. You can take editing classes, definitely edit for others (that’s why I do it for free for my friends because it helps me improve) or my favorite (and probably cheaper) way to learn how to edit is reading self-editing books.

Here are my go-tos:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Rennie Browne and Dave King

Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin

Cover to Cover: What First-Time Authors Need to Know about Editing (Read this book before you publish your book by Sandra Wendel (Hat tip to Jane Friedman for this find on her blog.)

You also should have a firm grasp on grammar and punctuation. No matter who reads your book, be it a paid beta reader or one of the authors you networked with who said they would give you feedback, make it easier for them to read you by knowing your grammar and punctuation. If you choose to pay a proofreader or a line editor, it will be cheaper if they don’t have so much to wade though.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) by Mignon Fogarty

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

I have all these books; I’ve read all these books. Self-editing is a different skill than learning and practicing how to write good books, but I think they go hand in hand.

I’m glad I left that group, but I wish I would have asked those snobby women what they do to help the indie publishing industry if they so despise what come out of it. Do they beta read for free? Do they edit pro bono twice a year? How are they making a difference? Complaining about the state of indie publishing is only being part of the problem not part of the solution.

I try to help when I can. Maybe my edits aren’t as good as someone with a real editing degree, but I have a Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing, and I educate myself all the time. I hope that the authors I’ve edited for have gone away with a better book.

Saying an author shouldn’t publish without a professional edit is shortsighted to say the least. Authors are going to publish without an editor no matter what anyone says because they don’t have the disposable income to afford it. Hell, I’ve read some traditionally published books that have read like they haven’t been edited, either. (See my crabby review of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date novel.) It’s up to the author to learn what they need to learn if they can’t afford an editor and aren’t willing to sell plasma like Jami Albright to hire one.

Readers will always be the new gatekeepers. You, as an author, need to do what you can to keep your readers happy. In the end it doesn’t matter how you go about doing it, only that you do. And if you don’t, your reviews and sales rank will be proof that you’ll need to start doing better. It will be up to you as to how.


Moving my books to IngramSpark. So. Much. Fun.

going wide girl on tracks blog post

If you’ve been following my blogs about going wide, I’ve been filling you in on what a pain the butt it’s been to move stuff over.

With my ebooks situated where they need to be (except for Smashwords, and are they worth it? I tried to look for a link to give you guys, but nothing came up since 2016? I don’t now if that speaks to their relevancy or not and it will have keep for another post), I’ll explain just what is going on with Ingram and if they are worth the hassle.

As always, you need to think of your business plan. If you are wanting a store to carry your books, or you want to hold a book signing, you may find some places that will take your books on consignment (meaning you buy your own author copies and give them to the store and you get paid when a book sells). This isn’t such a bad thing. But if you’re wanting to plan a book signing at a Barnes and Noble and they ask you if your book is available in Ingram’s catalog so they can purchase copies at the discount, if your books aren’t in there, you’re going to have to say no, and that looks unprofessional.

Anyway, so I began the process of moving my books over. Read on to find some differences between KDP Print and IngramSpark, and you can decide if it’s worth doing it in both places.


kdp print logo

KDP Print is a dream. I love it. They still aren’t as good as CreateSpace used to be. They held your hand, walked you across the street, opened the door to Starbucks, and bought you a cafe mocha. But KDP Print is pretty good, too. No live people to help you anymore, but if you upload a decent cover file and formatted interior of your book, there’s nothing to worry about. It was the hand-holding CS used to give you that everyone counted on. They fixed things for you when you didn’t even know it! I know they fixed a couple covers for me without telling me and pushed my files through the review process. That was awesome, but also scary as hell because holy crap was it a surprise when “my way” didn’t work anymore.

That was almost three years ago, and if you want to look at my disastrous attempts at making covers way back when, look here for a good laugh. Since then I have found better ways of doing things, but even with all I’ve taught myself, the transition from KDP Print to IngramSpark wasn’t easy.

Big differences between KDP Print and IngramSpark

The Templates are Different

The biggest difference is the cover templates are different. This is only because the paper they use is different, making the spine thinner when IngramSpark prints them. This makes the templates just a little off on the spine.

Can you fit your KDP Print cover over an IngramSpark template? Yes, yes you can. But be prepared for your book from Ingram to not look exactly right. The text for All of Nothing on the back cover is off center a little, and it is for Wherever He Goes too. Not so much that you notice it right away . . . but just enough that it’s probably nothing you’d want to sell, or in large quantities like a book signing.

Here’s All of Nothing. Can you tell which is which? I did fix the spine on the one so it matches the front cover (that was part of my consistency stuff was talking about before).  And the prices on the back covers are updated, too.

 

 

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I make my covers in Canva and I don’t have a good way yet of using a KDP Print cover on an IngramSpark template. There are just enough differences to make your cover out of whack. I have heard of authors doing it without problems, so maybe give it a try if you don’t mind being out 3.00-7.00 dollars for a proof copy.

If you can’t see the difference–IngramSpark’s copy is on the right. The text on the back is to the left a bit, and the pink color is brighter. Besides that, the books were the same as far as I could tell. I’ll go back and fix the text on the back cover . . . some day.

I don’t own Photoshop and I don’t know GIMP well enough to build my covers from scratch using it. Besides, why would I learn when I can make beautiful covers in Canva? I’ll continue to experiment and report back. (It takes a lot of work to be this lazy, yo.)

ingram all of nothing template for blog post

This is what IngramSpark will send you when you download a template for your book.

5.5x8.5_Cream_290

This is what KDP Print sends you. Very different.

It takes time and bit of know-how to figure out how to use the PDF that IngramSpark gives you. If you hire a designer and tell them you are publishing to both platforms, they will give you two files. I asked in a Facebook indie book cover group, and it’s a good one to join if you want feedback on a cover or your blurb. There’s also Indie Book Cover Design Group 101 that focuses more on how to make covers rather than just giving you feedback. They are both closed groups, so you’ll have to ask to join, but they don’t seem discriminatory. I mean, the let me in. Just kidding. They are very friendly, and I suggest you join both.

Anyway, I have read where you can cover up the ISBN that Ingram gives you with the template and they will add it for you, wherever you leave room on the back cover. I added mine in GIMP. This is definitely the hardest and most time-consuming part of the process.

The proofing process isn’t the same.

IngramSpark will send you an eproof of the cover that looks exactly like what you sent them. They certainly do not give you the bleed lines that I have come to expect from KDP Print.

2019-04-16

If you scroll down in the PDF, they’ll show you the interior, as well. But this is the proof of the cover they sent me. Kinda looks like what I sent them. So. Thanks?

Here’s KDP Print’s online previewer:

2019-04-05 (2)

For someone who has never submitted before, knowing where the bleed lines are would be a big help. I think this is so much better than what IngramSpark gives you.

When you submit your files to Ingram, be very careful. I was used to the way KDP Print does things, and they urge you order a print proof to look over your book in person. With Ingram, my book was already in distribution, and when I ordered a copy of my book, I thought I was getting a proof, but it was really an author copy. This could be a very bad thing for a new author who was counting on being able to look at their book first.

I can take responsibility for not reading clearly (or more like, not understanding what I was reading, wherein, it’s still my fault I wasn’t asking questions) but IngramSpark does not make things very easy, either. After a quick chat with an Ingram rep, it appears there is an option to not put your book into distribution. I suppose this is their way of making the book available to you so you can purchase ARC copies before the book goes live. This is just one area where it pays to read read read. Don’t do this in a hurry, and if you don’t understand something, bring up the chat box ASAP and ask.

Price Changes Take More than 72 Hours (and we all know that KDP’s 72 hours is really like . . . 4).

With IngramSpark, if you change the price of your paperback and you have the price on the back cover, they have to match. If you change your paperback price and then redo your cover to reflect the change, your cover may be unapproved because the prices won’t match. Price changes used to take effect on the first of every month. I recently read an article that said they changed this to weekly. I didn’t know this, and the submission for my cover of Wherever He Goes stalled because the prices didn’t match. They did on my end, but not on theirs. You can get around this by not putting the prices on your book. It’s not really necessary, and it gives you more freedom to change your prices if need be. I changed mine because I wanted to remain consistent and have a plan. I hope to have a big back list, and I needed a system I was going to remember.

KDP Print doesn’t care what’s on your cover. You could have a US price of $199.99 and sell it for $7.99 and no one is going to say anything to you. I know because my prices were all over the place. Ingram taught me professionalism in consistency, so that is one thing I can thank them for.

What else can help?

  • Keep communication consistent. If you have a general question that isn’t answered in their FAQs, the chat box is great. But if they email you, they want you to email them back. I tried to chat regarding my price discrepancy, but the rep told me to answer the email they sent me so information stays with the same person. That’s good to know so you’re not wasting everyone’s time.
  • Take your time and read.
    I have a ton of patience, but I had five books to move over and for some reason, I wanted it done yesterday. Even if my friend would have helped me with the covers (she ended up having a family emergency), what I didn’t know would have given me (and her) problems, anyway. Though not having proofs beforehand would have sat easier with me, since she knows what she’s doing. I know I could have slowed down. I would have known better about the distribution process had I asked questions and read that part better. I had kind of a “f#ck it” attitude with them that I’m surprised I had. I’d heard so much about how working with them was difficult, I got myself all worked up and caused problems for myself I might not have had otherwise.
  • You might get color warnings.
    IngramSpark likes CMYK. GIMP likes RGB. And that’s fine. Photoshop uses CMYK. I received color warnings and was told that because my covers were in RGB they may not print correctly. With the five author copies that came from IngramSpark, none of the colors came out weird. Clicking the “I know my cover could print like crap” box didn’t hurt the quality of my books. But the warning is big and bright and red, and it scared me. Just remember that Print on Demand isn’t the best in quality with either IngramSpark or KDP Print, and printing errors can occur no matter which service you use.

 

I was lucky and did all this in the month of March when they were running a free promo for NaNo participants. I was able to upload all my files for free.  If you are going to (re)submit files, I would look for some kind of code otherwise fixing mistakes you didn’t know you were making will be costly. Look for promo codes to bypass the fees, or join the Independent Book Publishers Association. It states clearly that free title set up and revisions through IngramSpark are part of their benefit package. They offer a lot of other things too that are worth taking a look at. I’ve also heard that free title set up and revisions are free through The Alliance of Independent Authors, but their benefits package is not so clear, so you may want to email them and ask first.

I’ll keep offering all my books through Ingram. I want to perfect my cover process–the easier, the better. If you’re wondering why I never mentioned the interior of my books, I format using Vellum. Out of everything I do for my books, at least I know the formatting will come out looking good.

If you don’t think you’ll ever ask to have a local bookstore carry your book, or if you think you’ll never do a book signing, I can’t say for sure if Ingram is a benefit. I like to try things. Partly because I’m curious, partly because I’m stubborn, and partly because I like to pass information along.

But one thing is for sure–no matter who prints your book, it’s a thrill to hold it, isn’t it?


Still working on my Wedding Party Series!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

Going Wide: The Saga Continues

going wide is like riding a bike

Can these guys save me? No? I guess they have better things to do! (Photo taken from Pinterest)

 

I didn’t think going wide with my books would be such a pain in the neck. Granted, it was my error, and something I should have checked and double checked, but I didn’t, so here we are. It’s not such a big thing, but it does push back my plans. A lot.

I didn’t pull one of my books out of Select. I thought I had. I thought I had pulled them all out. But I didn’t. And it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was the last book in my trilogy. I guess I just checked the wrong book one too many times, and was I surprised when I went to make sure they were all out to see that Running Scared had been automatically renewed for another three months.

That means I can’t go wide with my trilogy until May. Fine. Whatever. I could have still gone wide with the other two books, but that would have looked weird. So I put the other two back in Select and I’m just going to keep a better eye on it this time.

What am I doing, then?

I put All of Nothing and Wherever He Goes on Kobo. That’s the best I can do right now. I don’t have OCD, but I do have a certain way I like to do things, and having bits and pieces of my books all over the place would definitely give me anxiety.

I wanted to try out the Kobo landscape anyway, and uploading books to publish was surprisingly easy. The uploading process was smooth, and the online viewer worked quickly. I admit, I used a Kobo-ready file from Vellum, so that might have helped a lot. But I just put in my info, my bank stuff, uploaded, and there you go. Of course, one nice thing about Kobo is that it is run by actual human beings. Which means my book won’t be ready in the standard 72 hours KDP gives you. Kobo is closed for a holiday on Monday, and I don’t anticipate my books being fully published until next week. While that might irritate some, I think it’s great.

But this also pushed back a giveaway I wanted to do, and I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just say I’m disappointed I had to do that. But when The Years Between Us is finally edited, I’ll put it both on Amazon and Kobo.

I’m not very interested in KU. While All of Nothing got a bit of traction from my Freebooksy giveaway, I need to explore more promos that don’t involve giving my book away–at least not to that extreme. I gave away over 6,000 copies. I want those to be sales.

think big start small

Next steps in going wide? Wait. Wait for my trilogy to drop out. Put up The Years Between Us on Amazon (but not KU) and Kobo. Try a new promo. Maybe do a Goodreads giveaway for it since I haven’t done that yet. Otherwise, yeah. Just wait, keep writing my series so I can rapid release that wide and see how sales go.


If you have questions about Kobo, they have a ton of resources.

Look on the Kobo Writing Life Blog for helpful articles and podcast episodes.

Killing it on Kobo by Mark Lefebvere. The creator of Kobo Writing Life, Mark knows the ins and outs of Kobo and how to maximize sales with your books.
Order his book on Amazon.
And Kobo, of course.

 

How Free is Self-Publishing?

It costs absolutely nothing to publish a book. Nothing.

free

There are free word processing programs like Google Docs. You can use a library’s internet and computer. Platforms like Draft2Digital and Amazon’s KDP will provide you with some kind of book identification number so you don’t have to buy ISBNs for your books.

All you need to do is write, make a cover in Canva using their free website, use a free for commercial use picture from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash, and you are a published author. All for free.

But when isn’t that a good idea?

Do you know Amazon has over 7 billion books in their Kindle store? And writers publish more every day.

So not only are you competing with everyone you know on Writer Twitter, you are competing with writers who are not on Twitter, big time indies who don’t have much time for social media. You’re competing with traditionally published authors, and those authors range from anywhere between The Big Five to tiny university presses.

You’re competing with writers from the US, Canada, (do you know how many writers I know who live in London, Ontario? A lot!) the UK, Australia, and many other countries.

Over 7 billion books.

Okay. What what is this blog post really about now that I’ve made you feel like crap?

Spending money.

Self-publishing is free.

Until it isn’t.

I do everything myself. For my trilogy, and Wherever He Goes, I wrote them, edited them. I formatted them and did the covers. The orangy hue on the third is my fault. I didn’t have the skill to fix it. It doesn’t look bad on screen, but the paperback could look better. That’s just the way it is, and I accept that.

What can you pay for when you self-publish?

  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Cover

Those are the three big ones. But we can go further:

  • Beta Readers/Critique Partners/Book Coaches/Book Doulas
  • Blurb writing
  • Reviews/Arc review services like NetGalley
  • Advertising, ie, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Promotions
  • ISBNs
  • Paperbacks for giveaways
  • Giveaway fees like on Goodreads

No one is saying you have to pay for all of that–or any of it.

It’s up to your discretion how much money you want to pump into your books.

See, this is the problem. No one wants to admit that they publish their books to sell them. Which leads an author not spending one dime on their books.

They are publishing for themselves. I repeat this over and over again like a broken record:

If you only publish for yourself you have no right to complain if your books do not sell.

But if you can admit you want people to pay to read your work then you have to take a hard look at your book.

Is the cover you made yourself doing the job?

Is your blurb up to snuff or is it confusing and off-putting?

Are there typos in the first few pages of the Look Inside?

If you can’t put out quality work yourself, then you’re going to need help.

It’s that simple.

And that difficult because saying you need help is a lot easier than being able to afford said help.

That being said, you can teach yourself how to do these things.

If you just shut down on me, it’s because you don’t want to take the time to learn. That’s okay. I wear clothes every day. That doesn’t mean I want to learn how to sew.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that you must find a happy medium between doing things for yourself and hiring out the help you need to make your book desirable to readers.

Because remember, readers have 7 billion choices.

Listen, my books aren’t pretty. Use the look Inside Feature for any of my books and you’ll see basic formatting. The embellishments are non-existent.

That’s fine. I taught myself enough to get by, and that’s good enough for me.

Readers aren’t going to care if you have fancy chapter headings if your story sucks.

So, being I’ve published a few things, I can suggest where you should put your money–if you have any, or where you should ask for favors from friends–if you have any. Just kidding!

  1. Editing. If you’re a newbie writer, this means a developmental edit as well as a line edit and proofing. Plot holes, flat characters. Developmental editing can be more of a job for a critique partner or someone from your writing group. Ask someone who reads your genre so they have a handle on the tropes and feel for the type of genre your book is in. Once you have a stellar story and a solid look inside sample, you need a good cover.
  2. Cover. Canva.com offers design classes. You need to train your eye and learn what makes a good cover. It can make or break your book. Plus, if you push your book in any way, ads, promos, giveaways, your cover will be the selling point. Look at your genre on Amazon. Look at templates. Try to duplicate them yourself in Canva. You may need to spring for a photo, but that’s not as expensive as you might think. I buy mine on canstockphoto.com for seven dollars apiece. Photos are even cheaper if you buy a credit package.

    A word of warning though. I write romance, and slapping some text onto a smiling couple is a lot different than making a cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. Fantasy, of any kind, requires a certain kind of cover. Negotiating a price with someone on Fiverr is a lot better than publishing a book that does not have an appropriate cover. Your sales will stop before they even start. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Sometimes you can find a pre-made template that’s cheap.

    Sometimes you can even find a photo on a photo site that is already doctored to how you need/want it to be. Set aside hours, days, if not weeks, to click through pictures. I’m barely 20,000 words into my next book and I’m already looking at photos.

  3. Formatting. Formatting for Kindle takes five minutes. All you need to do is set the options in Word so when you upload it into KDP it converts correctly. If you go wide and you use Draft2Digital, you don’t even have to do that. (Smashwords is a different story, and your Word file has to be formatted correctly or it won’t convert through their “meatgrinder” and they won’t publish your book.) Draft2Digital seems easier to work with, but I’m in KDP Select and haven’t used either of those services.

 

What is the cost of self-publishing? It can cost as much or as little as you want to put into it.

Someone opening a business always needs to invest. Paying for services is investing in your book business.

I used to think that I didn’t want to invest in my books because I may never get that money back. But that was incorrect thinking.

If my books are well-written, have a nice cover, and are formatted as to not turn anyone off from reading it, eventually, I will see that money returned to me by way of sales.

My books will be sold for years and years.  As I slowly make a name for myself, my sales will increase. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul, and I have patience.

I’ve put money toward my books by way of taking the time to learn how to do things for myself. I read lots of editing books. I read tons of blog posts about what makes a good cover. I’ve practiced making covers. I’ve learned to format my files. It took time. But time is money. I’ll eventually see dividends on the time I invested in my books.

time is money

It’s a personal choice.


This blog post begins a self-publishing series about how you can do most of these things by yourself if you want, and where to look if you don’t. I’ll give you the resources I used to learn and you can decide for yourself if it’s easier for you to hire out, or if you can’t afford it, where you can spend time learning things on your own.

Look for my next blog post about editing resources.

Thanks for reading!

 

Thoughts on the RWA

rwa header

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America. I like being part of a group of people with similar interests. I was especially proud to belong when they stepped up to bat during #cockygate. (For those interested in following along with the hashtag on Twitter, look here.) I feel it’s an organization that has my best interests at heart as a writer and author and wants to help me succeed. In fact, I’ve been a member for a while now, and I haven’t even started to explore all the resources they offer their members.

I was listening to the Sell More Books Show and they featured a blog post by Allison Brennan who left the RWA because she felt like the organization operated more for indie writers than traditionally published romance authors.

While I don’t have a problem with the RWA operating this way because I am an indie author, I did notice this, too, as I paged through the Romance Writers Report. I’ve read articles about marketing, discoverability. How to work with editors and book cover designers. These articles are written with the self-publishing author in mind (trad-pubbed authors don’t have to worry about editing their own books, or hiring their own cover designer). Even in the June issue I have on hand, some of the articles include:

  • Romance Law School is Now in Session: How to include law in your fiction in a realistic manner.
  • Fifty Ways to Show the Spark without the Heat
  • Proofreading Hats

I’m not saying traditionally published authors don’t need how-to articles like these, but I am saying that indie or new writers could find more value in them. I suppose a veteran writer could use the Fifty Ways article for writing prompts, or read the Romance Law School is Now in Session article for ideas on how to write a new series featuring a lawyer. But the Report also features ads, and they are geared to the indie writer–lots of editing, proofreading, and formatting ads no traditional published author is going to need.

So the question is, is this the right move for the RWA?

They want to support all their members, and if indie membership outweighs traditionally published author membership, then perhaps it is a good direction for them to take.

However, it feels like there are more organizations aimed at supporting indie writers than ever before. The Alliance for Independent Authors is very supportive offering an array of services from podcasts to a services directory where an author can find professional editors, cover designers, and formatting professionals. There are other organizations as well, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association.

There is support for us indies. So does Allison have a point? Where do traditionally published authors go for support if they find RWA lacking? Do they even need support? After all, they are where a lot of us hope to be someday. Is the RWA pushing them from the nest because they are ready to fly? Do traditionally published authors get enough writing and publishing support from their publishing houses and their agents? Where do they go for networking opportunities if they are slowly being ousted from the organization?

Allison does make a good point, too: if all the traditionally published authors leave the RWA because they don’t feel RWA has anything more to offer, what becomes of us who look up the traditionally-published authors? Who would judge the RWA contests? Who would be our mentors? Who would be our professional critique partners and our chapter leaders?

But let’s be honest, here, too. If the RWA wants to support writers, and by support, I mean, help them make (more) money, then self-publishing is a viable way to go. At least for romance. (If you want to read about indie romance authors dominating the self-publishing industry, click here.)

To me, it makes a lot of sense for RWA to shift. After all, the distinction between traditional and indie publishing is blurring more and more every day. And a lot of traditionally published authors are still the ones who do a lot for their books: marketing, platform building. Some authors have to set up blog tours, book signings, that kind of thing.

Being a traditionally published author today doesn’t even guarantee you’ll end up on a bookshelf. Maybe a virtual bookshelf, but the chances of seeing your book at Barnes and Noble shrink every day. I took a quick peek at Harlequin’s mail service, and if you subscribed to every line and subscribed to the maximum they mailed you in that line every month, you would receive 86 books a month. It isn’t possible that every book would find shelf space, even for just four weeks.

So what does it mean to be traditionally published? To pass the gatekeepers? Is this Allison’s main guff with RWA supporting indies? Perhaps she wants the RWA to nurture us to being published traditionally. But not one way is going to be the right way for everyone.

The publishing landscape is changing. Maybe Allison Brennan doesn’t want to see it. Maybe she sees indies as her competition, not her colleagues. Maybe she sees herself as better because she’s traditionally published. The problem is, that way of thinking divides indies from the traditionally published authors, and that’s just not the way things are anymore.

One day traditional publishing won’t give Allison what she needs, and then she’ll need the RWA to help her gain her footing in a constantly changing publishing landscape that she’s refused to acknowledge.

rwa missionRomance writers are all the same. We all want the same thing. To write quality books and make a reader swoon over a happily ever after. And the RWA supports that, no matter how those stories are published.

Issues like #cockygate affect all of us, and we all need an organization like RWA to have our backs.

I’m proud to belong.

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!