Results of my ad with Freebooksy

I figured with a few books out now, I should do a little marketing. I’ve been against it, claiming I needed a backlist before I started putting money into my career, but I thought since my trilogy was done, I could do a little promotion.

I’ve heard about various book marketing websites where you pay for exposure, and that’s what Freebooksy is. Essentially, you’re paying to advertise your book in their newsletter for one day. There are other promotions run by the people of Freebooksy if you don’t want to to go free with your book, but I did because 1) it didn’t bother me to give my book away and 2) I was hoping for a little read-through since the other two books were available.

My trilogy is enrolled in KDP Select, and I had never used any of my free days for any of my books before, so I went ahead and chose five days for my book to be free, then I went on Freebooksy and chose a day that I wanted my book in their newsletter. In the future, if I do this again, I’ll plan ahead to give myself time to promote the promotion.

A rep reached out to me, and she was very nice, but she wanted to put my book in the sweet category romance newsletter. I replied that it didn’t belong there as the book had four open door sex scenes. I’m not sure why she wanted to do that, unless she mistook my cover. Nikki and Dane do look cute together, but I didn’t choose to put a steamy couple on the cover because there is a fine line between contemporary romance with sex, and erotica. I didn’t want anyone mistaking my trilogy for erotica. I’ve written erotica, had my “taste” so to speak, and I’m more comfortable writing contemporary romance.

Anyway, this is what the ad looked like that went into their newsletter:

freebooksyad

You’re the one who writes the blurb, and I was afraid I didn’t spend enough time on it. You only get so many characters, and it’s difficult to try to convey what the book is about and still make it interesting in that short space.

My book was free from February 6th to the 10th. I started getting downloads even before my book went out in the newsletter. In total, while my book was free, I gave away 4,458. Between February 6th and today, February 15th, I have sold fifteen of Book 2 and six of Book 3, so you can see there was a small amount of buy-through (not necessarily read-through), and I lowered the prices of those books to .99 to go with the free promotion. Also, my page reads for Kindle Unlimited for all my titles went up from 0 to this:

page reads for KU

It’s not the best, of course, since even all those lines only represent $25.00 in sales. If you do the math, that’s a horrible ROI, at least, on paper.

Return on investment comes in many different forms, monetary being only one of them. I’m hoping now that I’ve given away so many books, people will remember my name, I’ll begin to foster some lifelong readers for future books.

My sales ranking did go up for a little bit, and I can give you a snapshot of those, though I didn’t take a picture every time my book moved up in ranks. And as everyone congratulated me, going up in rank in *free* books looks nice, but it’s not the same as going up in the paid lists.

awesome stats!3

These are the best stats the book got. I don’t know if it did much more than earn me a few bragging rights, but there it is.

Amazon did a nice thing, too and put my books together in an ad on my Author page.

tower city box set

You can’t buy them that way–I haven’t created the box set yet, and that is on my to-do list after I figure out my stupid cover for book three. (Yeah, still wrestling with it to get it exactly how I want it in paperback.)

If you were to ask me the best part about this whole promotion thing, I would have to say that it’s that people are starting to read my work. We all want people to read our stuff, but when they actually do, it’s nerve-wracking. So far I’ve been getting decent reviews. They’ve been saying my editing is solid, and there hasn’t been a complaint about formatting, which is a relief since I do all my own formatting myself.

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Overall, I would say the experience was a positive one.

If I were to give any advice to someone doing this I would say:

  1. Have more than one book out. I did prove that if you spend money advertising one book, you’re really advertising your whole backlist. Not many people bought books 2 and 3 who downloaded book 1, but it was enough I was happy they were available.
  2. Having a good cover is no joke. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when no one is looking at your books, but the minute you realize people are going to be choosing your book among a selection, suddenly you’re hoping it’s good enough. Be sure it is.
  3. Have a decent blurb. I shortened mine from what I wrote for Amazon, and I worried I didn’t spend enough time on it. Had I spent more time on it, maybe I could have gotten even more downloads.
  4. Have people willing to spread the word. I don’t know how many downloads came from my Twitter followers, or my followers willing to tweet about it. I don’t know how many downloads came from the people who liked my FB Author Page. I was also naughty and told everyone on my personal FB page that my book was free, and I know it’s against TOS to do that. I only did it once, on the day the newsletter went out. And I was lucky a few people shared that post.

I won’t be doing this again anytime soon, but it was fun to try something new and to get my feet wet. A little snowflake can cause an avalanche, and I’m hoping this is true in my case. But now that my trilogy is over and done, I need to relegate it to my backlist and move forward. I’m 31,000 words into a new WIP, and I can’t wait to share with you!

Happy writing Vania Margene

My Trilogy is Done! Tips and Tricks for Writing a Trilogy, Duet, Series

My Tower City Romance Trilogy is finished. After two years of working on off and on, it’s done, published.

 


I started Don’t Run Away as a NaNoWriMo project in 2015 but didn’t actually start editing it until the later winter/early spring of 2017. I had gotten caught up in my novella series, Summer Secrets, and while that was being edited in May of 2017, I wrote Chasing You. Then, after finishing it, I let that sit and started the file for Running Scared, the last in the series, on October 12, 2017. Writing it went quickly, as it was the last in the trilogy, and I knew how I wanted the story to go. Actually, Chasing You went just as quickly, but I had gotten bogged down with the production and release of Summer Secrets.

Anyway, writing the trilogy was both satisfactory and one big drag. Here’s why:

Why Writing a Series is Fun

  1. You love your characters and don’t have to let them go. I see this a lot in Writer Twitter. Writers are so enamored with their characters, rather than finish editing, then publishing/querying, they continually edit. They edit and rewrite so they don’t have to say goodbye, to end a story they’re in love with. Rather than edit your book to death, figure out a way to make it into a series. Then you never have to say goodbye, but you can move on to new plots.
  2. The plots create themselves. When you’re writing about your main characters, eventually your secondary characters are going to want their own stories. It’s inevitable, so don’t fight it. Give them their own books. You know you want to.
  3. You can dig deeper into the town/world they live in. There’s a lot more time to create their world. My Tower City Romance trilogy was set in a fictional town in Minnesota. It was fun to create the places they worked in, the university they’d gone to school at. City parks, where they lived, that kind of thing. In three books, I was able to explore that more than just in one.
  4. You can make more things happen. When you have more than one book, you can either make each book stand-alone with each issue being resolved by the end of the book, like I did, or you can have a problem/issue that needs to be solved, and you can take as long as you want to do it. As long as you eventually do. Each book needs to have a purpose, like each puzzle piece helps you build the whole puzzle.

 

Why Writing a Series Isn’t So Fun

  1. You get bored. If you’re bored, your reader is bored. We’ve all heard something along those lines. If the story drags out of your fingers, if it takes two hours two write two paragraphs, you’re not having any fun. And guess what, your readers won’t have any fun reading it. Even though each of my books centered on a different couple, the trilogy was about the same group of friends. By the time I had finished the third book, I was ready to move on. I had even planned five books in the series, but when I was writing the second book, I realized that I didn’t want to keep going after the third book, and I started tying up loose ends I had kept open for other books.
  2. I felt like I couldn’t publish as soon as I was done with a book. I published my books a month apart, but for the most part, they were all done when I started publishing them. Why did I do that? One, so that if someone found my first book, it wouldn’t be long before they could find all of them. Two, because I wanted to make sure I could fix inconsistencies. Three, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been told to publish with no longer than three months apart from one book to the next to stay on top of Amazon’s algorithms. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but I wasn’t comfortable waiting months between books. I’ve heard testimonies from other authors who have said dumping a series all at once gave them ultimate sales results. But no matter what my reasons were, it was tough to sit on finished books and not publish them.
  3. Finding photos for the covers was difficult. This probably wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone who pays for their covers design, or buys cover templates made for a series and can work with the designer for as many books as you choose to write. But I did my own covers, and I bought my stock art from CanStockPhoto.com. I needed all my photos to look similar so the covers looked like they belonged together. More books would have made this difficult and waiting to publish helped in this regard, too. It gave me time to find stock art and compare them to each other.
  4. You have other projects you want to write. I didn’t let myself get distracted by shiny new things. Lots of writers do, then they don’t finish anything. Or they publish one book in a series, write something else, then go back to the second book, etc. Readers won’t wait for you to finish messing around. If the like your first book, then they’ll want the second ASAP. In this era of binging TV shows on Netflix and Hulu, books are no different. Trad-pubbed authors have to wait. But indies don’t. Take advantage of that, finish your book, then get on to the next shiny thing.

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Series sell. That’s a fact that the Smashwords Survey proves, so whether you like writing them or not, you may want to work one or two or three into your writing plans. At any rate, I am working on a stand-alone, then I have a couple plots planned that could easily turn into duets. I like the thought of a duet–long enough readers can get a little more of that world, short enough that you, as a writer, don’t get bored.

Are you writing a series? What do you think?

Let me know!

Using Writing Resources

When people talk about writing and editing, they like to spout rules. Don’t use adverbs, don’t use speech tags, don’t start a scene with someone waking up, don’t end a scene with someone falling asleep. Don’t begin a book describing the weather.

Don’t, don’t, don’t.

All the rules are enough to drive a newbie writer to drink–if they weren’t already.

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But what people really mean when they make lists of rules that you must follow or else is–find a balance. Everything in moderation.

The problem is with this advice? It’s easier said than done.

Finding your balance, finding your happy place, finding your voice, takes many, many, many, words. Many words. Both reading them and writing them.

You can read editing books all day long, but they won’t help you if you’re not writing, and vice versa. The best way to better your writing is to read editing books, write, ask for feedback on your writing, and then do it all over again.

I’ve given several people my favorite editing and writing resources, but the thing with all these books and all that advice they contain is that you can’t follow all of it.

And you shouldn’t.

If you take everyone’s advice every time you try to write, you’ll never sound like you.

I once read a blog post and the writer was giving some writing advice–rules–and one of them was, never use was more than twice a page. Imagine trying to find your style, writing to find your voice, all the while attempting to eradicate was from your writing. Sometimes you effing need it. (The book I’m reading now averages four a page, by the way. And this is a traditionally published book by a well-known author. Sure, the sample is small; I only highlighted was throughout six pages, but still. The fact that she’s using the word is clear.)

Writing resources are good to have on hand. They can spark ideas, smooth over a sentence you’re having problems with. Help you write that scene you just couldn’t make gel no matter how many times you’ve attempted to rewrite it.

What I recommend is reading these books, marking the advice you know you need because your feedback has indicated it, or because as you’ve been writing you’ve developed a list of naughty words you need to replace or delete in your writing. Words newbie writers lean like, just, that, pretty, really, smiled, sighed, nodded, frowned, shrugged. And any other word or phrase you’ve latched onto without realizing it.

Unfortunately, sometimes you need help, and that is where the feedback from beta readers and your editor’s notes come in. Then you have to develop the skill to make the writing resource suggestions yours.

Stephen King said, if you have to use a word out of a thesaurus, it’s the wrong word.

stephen king, thesauras

I used to disagree with this one a lot because when I write, I use a thesaurus on a daily, maybe hourly basis. But what he meant is, and I’m just guessing here, don’t choose a word because it means what you need it to mean. Use the word that sounds like your character.

As you write, you’ll learn your style, find your voice, and you’ll develop the confidence you need to wave off the advice you don’t want to take.

But don’t be arrogant, about how great a writer you think you are because you could turn your nose up at some really great advice that could take your writing to the next level.

Some of my favorite writing resources include:

  1. The Writer’s Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann
    This book is wonderful! Lists upon lists of everything from things your character can do instead of nodding to suggestions on what to use instead of got. This book will also help you identify and delete filler words from your writing and help you show rather than tell by using descriptive words and strong verbs.
  2. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King
    This book has a little bit of everything–from to perfecting your dialogue to knowing when to break up your paragraphs, this is a must-have for writers if the natural ebb and flow of your writing (your voice) is still eluding you.
  3. Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan
    Need a first name? Need a last name? Don’t know what your MMC does for a living? This book contains a million ideas. It’s great to have on hand.
  4. Naughty Words for Nice Writers by Cara Bristol
    Tired of using the word cock? Need something classier than pussy? This book has it! Whether you’re writing an erotica book and all your scenes are starting to sound the same, or you want to add a small sex scene at the end of your contemporary romance book when they finally get together, this book will help you find just the right word!
  5. Thinking like a Romance Writer: The Sensual Writer’s Sourcebook of Words and Phrases  by Dahlia Evans
    Another lovely writing source full of descriptions and adjectives, this book will keep your characters’ romantic scenes from turning boring with the same old, same old phrasing.
  6. Self-editing on a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide  by Ashlyn Forge
    This is one of the first books I used to help myself start editing after an eye-opening round of beta-reading. She’ll help you cut filler words and stop your head hopping. This book is a must for a beginning writer who is making mistakes that tag him as a floundering new author–something you don’t want to read like if you’re querying.

There are many many books out there, some are good, some are not so good. Some are written by indies who don’t know what they’re doing, and some are written by bestselling authors themselves. But no matter who you read, or how many, writing resources do have a place in your writing learning curve. There isn’t anything I’ve read that hasn’t helped me.

What’s your favorite writing resource? Let me know!

 

Reusing Plot Devices: Good Idea, or the Devil of Plotting?

Plotting is hard. Thinking up things for your characters to do, the trouble they get into to make a story interesting, fast-paced, is a pain in the butt. Readers want things to happen; they want your characters moving. Characters who sit around are boring, and if they’re not talking about anything interesting, forget it.

hiking-1312226_1920Where are your characters going? How do you get them there?

Sometimes that’s where saggy middles come from. The beginning is exciting, lots of action, your characters are finding whatever trouble they’re going to get into for most of the book, be it fall in love with the wrong person, witness a murder, find a missing person, start a journey, whatever the case may be. The beginning of the book is always thrilling, full of promise, or at least, it should be.

And the end, oh the end! You know how it ends, the happy reunion of those two people in love, the satisfying conclusion to a journey, the missing child found. Endings can make a reader cry, close your book with a sigh and a smile, or throw the book (or Kindle, or tablet) across the room in frustration.

But the middle, the middle is difficult to write. You need scenes to move the story along, when you come up empty, it’s easy to reach for an old standby.

Plotting from A to Z is an art, a skill, a talent. Which is why so many books have been written on the subject.

And because plotting is so difficult at times, it’s easy to get caught up in what has worked for us in the past.

If you have a few books under your belt or saved on your memory stick, you probably have reused something, at some point. But is that a good idea?

Sometimes you have to. Take romances for instance. There are only so many plots to go around: boy meets girl, they break up, they reunite. Be it a case of mistaken identity, ending up in the wrong bed, best friends falling for each other, tropes are reused for a reason. That’s why they’re tropes. Same for mysteries. There’s always going to be the question of why, and how that question is answered.

And while all plots, to some extent, are recycled, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the small things that we do in our books that we do over and over again. Take for example the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich. I hate calling out authors, but to explain what I mean, it’s the easiest way. For those of you who have never read a Stephanie Plum novel, it’s about an untrained, unprofessional bounty hunter named Stephanie. She works with her police detective boyfriend and another (male) bounty hunter.

You can probably already see where I’m going with this. Love triangle.

And that is fine. It’s perfect. It’s another plot/trope/plot device that lots of writers use. Hell, I have.

But Stephanie, being untrained, can’t do her job correctly. And it’s funny. The first couple times she does something. But the 5th time her car blew up, it wasn’t so funny anymore.

And the love triangle thing works GREAT for the first few books, but when you’re reading book nineteen, you’re practically screaming, “Choose one of them already!”

It’s frustrating.

Not to mention that when Janet tries to be funny using these plot devices over and over again, we’re cheated out of a character’s emotional arc. You would think, in twenty-four books, that if Stephanie really wants to be a good bounty hunter, she’d go to school. Cop school, self-defense classes, at the very least. Gun safety, anyone? There isn’t any character growth, and that’s too bad. But Janet purposely did that so she can write about all these dumb things Stephanie does to make us laugh. And it works, for a long time. But Janet released book twenty-four, and it’s not working anymore. In fact, when did it stop working? I would say around book nineteen when I stopped reading the series.

So when should *you* reuse plot devices?

I ran one of my cool Twitter polls . . .

twitter poll

. . . and it does seem as if writers like using the same plot devices. I don’t know how many books these writers have out, if any, but in one of the comments Chuck said . . .

chuck plot devices

. . . and I agree. It may be easier to use a plot device because it fits, it doesn’t take a lot of work to incorporate it, but will your readers like reading the same thing over and over, or will they drop off because eventually, all your books will start to sound the same?

In the end, this is your call. Do all your characters eat chocolate cake? Do they all drive clunker cars? Do all your heroines at some point get lost, physically? Do all your heroes have the same tragic backstory?

In my own writing, I’ve been dealing with this. I think, oh, my characters reuniting on the beach would be beautiful . . . oh, wait. They did that in book two of my trilogy. Probably best not to end my new stand-alone that way.

I wanted my characters to find a cat or something, but my characters, yes in book two of my trilogy, found an abandoned dog at a state park. So, no homeless kittens in this new book.

It can be challenging to think of new material, but you can do it. Try a couple of these tips:

  1. Read in your genre, but outside your genre, too. You never know if a character’s situation will spark a whole new idea for you.
  2. Use writing prompts. Maybe a picture or a line of dialogue will land your characters their best/worst situation yet!
  3. Brainstorm. I love to brainstorm plots with people. Just because someone came up with an amazing idea, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. I’ve used ideas people have thrown out in these sessions, but of course, as you write and as you adapt the idea to your characters, things change. Never be afraid of using something someone has throw out there. In the writing process, you’ll make it yours.

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    Brainstorming can be a great way to come up with plot bunnies! 
  4. Listen to music. Maybe a lyric or the way that piece of music is played will spark an idea.
  5. Go for a walk and let your mind wander. Letting your mind think about whatever it wants is an incredible way for new ideas to pop into your head.

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Empty your mind; let it wander. Let your characters speak to you.

Anyway, be careful when reusing plot devices. You’re a creative–you’re a writer. You can think of something original. Keep delighting your reader with new ideas, new situations, and they’ll keep coming back to you and your books over and over again.

And maybe at book nineteen, they won’t drop off.

Tell me what you think!

Vania Blog Signature

Indie-publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Front and Back Matter

Indie Publishing Chats

The other day, I chatted with KT about front and back matter. Unfortunately, she received her edits back from her editor and is currently in the hellish throes of revising and editing. So while we intended to do these through her entire publishing journey, she realized putting in her edits would take more time than she thought, and we decided to suspend them.

While it was a disappointing decision on both our sides, I am going to make the most of my free time and finish publishing book 3 of my Tower City Romance Trilogy. I have also started a new book, and I’m about 3500 words into it. I’m very excited as this plot has been nudging me for quite some time.

Enjoy the last chat between KT and me, and we both wish you the very best with your own publishing journey!

Hands holding an open book with blank pages

KT Daxon
So. Let’s talk “inside matter”. The goodies of the book. What is the most important thing to remember when crafting the inside of your book?

Vania Margene Rheault
To format it correctly. Unjustified margins and spaces between paragraphs are unacceptable. It’s amazing how many people forget what a “real” book inside looks like.

KT Daxon 
What is the difference between a dedication, and Acknowledgement section, and are they both needed/required? Formatting. Is it centered? How do you advise an author to go about doing it correctly? You mentioned to me before about looking at other books?

Vania Margene Rheault
Looking at other paperbacks helps tremendously. The margins are justified, there aren’t any spaces between paragraphs. No headers and footers where there aren’t supposed to be. I can’t tell you the number of books I’ve bought that aren’t full-justified. It’s insane.
The CreateSpace template, for those of us who don’t know how to set those kinds of parameters up in Word, is a big help. They have almost everything you need set up in the file already. You just need to copy and paste your book’s text into it.

KT Daxon
I bought some books myself that had either big print, then small, or weren’t centered correctly. It’s definitely important. Thank God for templates, LOL. What all needs to be included?

Vania Margene Rheault
CreateSpace includes the Title Page, the Copyright Page, the Acknowledgement Page, the Dedication Page. They also include a Table of Contents that I delete. I don’t believe a fiction book needs a Table of Contents, it’s a pet peeve of mine. Besides the About the Author page in the back of the book, CreateSpace says, “You’re on your own.” So you can include anything you want back there.

the writing cooperative

KT Daxon
Good to know. Let’s go back to the pet peeve. I agree; I don’t pay attention to most of the front matter unless it’s a dedication or Prologue. What else do you believe isn’t needed, but people throw in there?

Vania Margene Rheault
I don’t think front matter is the place to ask for newsletter sign-ups or ads for your other books. I think that can go in the back. Keep in mind when a person uses the look inside feature on Amazon, they want the first page–the meat of the story. They don’t want to wade through five pages of acknowledgments, or “A note from the author.” They want to know if they’re going to buy your book or not. That’s it. So don’t crap up your front with a lot of junk. Keep it professional. Paperbacks you can find in a store can do what they want–the reader has the power to skip through to the parts they want to check out. Online it’s different, and you only can read what Amazon will show you.

KT Daxon
I always forget about Amazon having that feature to “look inside”. I should use it more often. So, let’s discuss back. What do you usually include in your back?

Vania Margene Rheault
What I included in the back are my other books, my author page, my website. A plea for reviews. LOL For books one and two of my trilogy, I added the first couple scenes of the next book. But I couldn’t do that with book 3 since I don’t have another book started well enough I would want to include it.

KT Daxon
What should authors NOT include?

Vania Margene Rheault
I’m not sure. I haven’t come across anything that turned me off. As a reader, I’m not sure how many people keep reading after they’ve finished the story. I’ve read a couple books where the acknowledgments were so long the author did put them in the back. That can be something to think about if you have a ton of people who helped you with research. If you write fantasy and have created a language or made up words, I suppose you could add a glossary of sorts.

KT Daxon
What about maps? I’ve seen some people do those.

Vania Margene Rheault
Maps are hard to format. I wanted to include one in Summer Secrets but decided it was too much work to make it fit. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to certain things. Formatting for the Kindle is a pain in the butt, and not everything you want to insert will convert correctly. If you want to get fancy, I always recommend hiring out so your files convert correctly.

KT Daxon
Good to know. Formatting…the thing that may scare me more than getting edits back from the editor lol.

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, formatting sucks. Conversion is iffy–you never know what will work and what won’t.

KT Daxon
True. Well, I don’t think I have any other questions about inside matter. Is there anything you want to add?

Vania Margene Rheault
Just that with the table of contents, if you publish outside of Kindle, other platforms for their e-readers will make you have one. Smashwords will put one in if you don’t, and so will Draft2Digital. I think it’s silly; I don’t think fiction needs a table of contents. But it’s a good thing to know if you decide to go wide and they put one in when you didn’t want one.

KT Daxon
Hmm, def makes me reconsider going wide.

Vania Margene Rheault
For your paperback, table of contents is a personal choice. But to me, it’s some kind of weird myth spread among indies. I guess they think it makes the book look more professional or something. I have no idea. But it just goes back to taking a fiction book, looking through it. Seeing what’s in it.

That is where our chat fizzled out. We always get to talking about non-chat related subjects, but if you have any other questions about front and back matter here are a couple more articles you can read about it.

Thanks for joining us!

Writing: Front and Back Matter for your Self-Published Book

Anatomy of a Book: Front Matter, Body and Back Matter

What’s it Matter?: The Front and Back Matter of a Book

 

Vania Blog Signature

 

Thanks to the Writing Cooperative and Bookstand Publishing for the photos.

Indie-publishing chat: 411 with Vania and KT–Author photos

Indie Publishing Chats

This blog post is archived. While there is useful information pertaining to having your author photos done, KT Daxon is a defunct pen name by a friend who is no longer writing. Thank you! VMR 

Today’s chat we talked about author photos. Lots of people go with the casual photo, even a selfie, on social media, and if that’s the image you want to convey, that’s fine. But when you publish a book AND WANT TO SELL IT, you’re opening a business. I feel like you will be taken more seriously as a business person and an author if you look professional online.

Here’s a sample of author photos: EL James, Jennifer Weiner, Hugh Howey, John Green and Stephen King.

Let’s open the floor to chat. Thanks for listening in!
KT Daxon
Let’s talk about author photo first, what do you think?

Vania Margene Rheault
Author Photos sounds great! My brother in law did mine about a year and a half ago. I guess I need an update.

KT Daxon
Awesome! I have a friend who agreed to take mine. It’s a matter of matching schedules around appointments and kids. I may have to take my own. What should a new writer consider when getting an author photo taken?

Vania Margene Rheault
Well, I guess for me, it’s a question of the kind of presence you want to convey online. Some people go totally professional, some people use a selfie, that looks pretty good, some use a selfie that definitely looks like a selfie, and some don’t us a real photo at all, only an avatar or their logo

KT Daxon
What do you advise against? You mentioned before that obvious selfies are a no-go.

Vania Margene Rheault
I suppose if you want to maintain a level of professionalism, you should find someone to do it for you. If you’re going to query, what kind of picture do you want a potential agent to find? S/He has to work with you. First impressions are important.

KT Daxon
As with everything one does in life is.

Vania Margene Rheault
It’s like people saying they don’t judge books by their cover–yeah they do.

KT Daxon
If I take it myself, I planned to use a tripod and a remote. Ha! So there are ways to not have to pay out or have a friend do it, correct?

Vania Margene Rheault
Sure. I asked my brother in law to do it. He has a decent camera.

KT Daxon
What should the photographer (no matter who it is) think about when taking the photo? Full body? Headshot? Etc?

Vania Margene Rheault 
Well, that’s up to you, but a headshot seems to be the best. You have to think like Twitter, or Facebook, your Amazon Author page and your Goodreads page, they all will have a photo, and sometimes the space isn’t that big. Also, you may want your photo on the back of your book, or in the back matter with the about the author section. Those photos aren’t big either, so you want something that looks good, in a small size.

KT Daxon
Plus, most people don’t want full body photos of themselves. LOL. Do you recommend getting a number of poses to have on hand?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, no thanks. I have a few poses, but I use the same one almost everywhere. It’s important to stay consistent so people online recognize you. You want your readers to be able to find you. I have a few different poses in my media tab on my website though, in case I get famous and a reporter wants to use a different picture. 😛

KT Daxon
Ha! Love it! What about IN the photo? Backgrounds? What should the picture NOT have in the background, etc. I’m not wording this right so hopefully you know what I’m asking.

Vania Margene Rheault
Well, I’ve read to not have a brick wall behind you. And I actually see that a lot. I had my best ones taken in a breezeway at my local library. Natural light is the best! Joanna Penn goes into this a little bit in her How to Market a Book. She advises you to do your hair, put on some makeup, don’t wear a busy print. Outside looks good, if you’re near a tree or something. Or go to a cafe, so you can pose with a coffee mug and maybe a book. But turn the book so you can’t see a title.

KT Daxon
Oooooh, good tips! I would have never thought a brick background would be bad!

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah. Or a chain-link fence can make you look like you’re in prison.

KT Daxon
I’ll have to check out that book, sounds like it could have excellent tips in it. BTW- you should write your own “How to Publish” book…*wink* just saying. ❤
Hahaha. That’s funny.

Vania Margene Rheault
Thanks. Not sure I want to go into non-fiction right now. Maybe when I have the sales to back up my knowledge. 🙂 I was thinking of doing some kind of planner or journal with my trilogy theme. All the couples had a ton of photos and I could pull quotes from the book.

KT Daxon
That would be awesome! I love that idea.

Vania Margene Rheault
So do you have any ideas for the author who doesn’t want to put their picture out there? That has always kind of mystified me.

KT Daxon
Well, I believe each their own, but it baffles me why an author wouldn’t share with their readers what they look like. This could be a whole other blog post topic but, I think it’s important for a reader to know about the book and the author. Why do you think authors hide behind their words? What are your thoughts on those that do?

Vania Margene Rheault
I actually am not sure. I guess they are concerned about privacy. But what happens if their book takes off? Will they not do signings? Or do interviews? Will they not do face to face meetings with anyone who wants to sell their books? I guess they don’t think that far ahead.

KT Daxon 
Maybe it’s self-doubt? Like, they don’t think they’ll ever make it that big? Could be a great guest post idea for a future blog? I know for myself, I think big with low expectations

Vania Margene Rheault
That’s true. I kind of feel like, if they act like no one is going to read their work, then no one is going to read their work.

KT Daxon
I agree. If they think it’s bad, everyone else will too. That’s why I think it’s important that through the doubt, anxiety, and stress; you stand behind your work and have faith in it.

Vania Margene Rheault
That would be an interesting blog post–find someone who is not willing to put their photo out there. But I only know a handful of people who do that, and they probably wouldn’t talk about it.

KT Daxon
Hmm, tempting to do it myself.

Vania Margene Rheault
Although, on Twitter, there are lots of people do that–I’m just not friendly enough with them to ask.

KT Daxon
See what I can come up with…lol

Vania Margene Rheault
Sounds good! Anything else for our author photo chat? I can’t wait to see yours! Here’s a list of the places it can go– Amazon Author Page, Goodreads, your FB author page, if you have one, your Google + page if you have one, LinkedIn, Twitter, of course. Your website. Even a business card at some point.

KT Daxon
I think that’s it for Author Photo, but thank you for telling me where all it can go. Many of those places you wouldn’t normally think of, especially as the anxiety rises with the publication date nearing.

Vania Margene Rheault
Right. It helps to have a list. There’s a lot you need to know, but on the bright side, when you’re a relative unknown, no one is watching you make mistakes. 🙂

Like usual, our chats bleed off into things not fit for chat, and we started talking about something else. But here are a couple more articles on having an author photo, if you’re on the fence about having one, or even revealing your true you to your fans:

The Relevance of a Professional Author Photo

A Picture Says It All Or Does It? Judging an Author by Their Photo

An Author Photo Is Worth a Thousand Words
Your book jacket photo will follow you for years. What do you wear? How do you look?

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you again at our next chat!

Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Imprints

Indie Publishing Chats

Imprints are fun . . . some say frivolous. But if you have any long-term plan to publish books, having an imprint is another way to claim your work. If you think really long term and are successful as an author you may want to publish other writers’ works. Joanna Penn, not long ago, created her own imprint. While she’s not accepting submissions, she certainly has what it takes in terms sales and exposure to draw in new talent under her imprint if she so chose. Never write-off something that could be part of your brand, as you never know what the future holds.

Let’s listen in to the chat I had with KT about imprints.

KT Daxon
What are imprints and how important are they? Personal preference or encouraged for Indie authors?

Vania Margene Rheault
Imprints are the name and logo of the publishing company you set up for yourself when you publish. They are a personal preference, but your name will be listed as the publisher of your book on CreateSpace if you don’t have one. They aren’t encouraged as much as owning your own ISBN numbers, but they go hand in hand.

KT Daxon
How does one set up an imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
The first you have to do is make something up. Something you like, something short, though, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room. Something that means something to you. I’m a romance author, and I love coffee, so I made up Coffee and Kisses Press. BUT and this is a big BUT, you have to make sure it’s not taken by someone else. Coffee and Kisses Press was like, my 4th choice.c&k2

I had a friend draw the mug, and my son did the rest. I share this imprint with @drwillisbooks. David doesn’t write romance, but he wanted an imprint and they are kind of hard to think of. So many are taken.

KT Daxon
So you both use this when publishing?

Vania Margene Rheault
He only has one book under this imprint. He published other books with iUniverse, and they have their own imprint. But yeah, all mine are under this imprint. I bought my own numbers and I knew I wanted my own imprint from the beginning.

KT Daxon
You say so many are already taken, how do you advise other authors on creating their own? Coming up with names is difficult for me, and in turn drive me crazy until I figure it out.

Vania Margene Rheault
I’ve read up on it, and they say that if you think of something personal, it’s easier to be unique. Like your pen name. I know how you made it up, so I mean, keeping it close to your heart it’s easier. But I suck at stuff like that too.

KT Daxon
Would you recommend I use my pen name as my publishing imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
I would suggest you think of something cute. Especially if you’re going to stay with writing romance. PillowTalk Press. On the shape of a pillow. LOL But I bet that’s taken.PillowTalk Publishing

KT Daxon
Hmm

Vania Margene Rheault
Actually, it’s not. That’s funny.

KT Daxon
Hmm, I don’t know if I’ll stay with romance. Down to Sleep is Romantic Suspense … the next book after this is likely considered Contemporary Romance? Hahahaha! Hmm …
How much does getting your own imprint cost?

Vania Margene Rheault
Nothing. You pay for it when you buy your own ISBN numbers. Unless you hire a designer. Then that would be an extra cost.

KT Daxon
Even better, LOL. So, when you buy your ISBN numbers, you will just include that during that purchase?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can look for ideas on Canva. They have logo templates. Yes! Great question. You need to have thought of your imprint name before you buy your numbers because there’s a field for it.

KT Daxon
I know what will be running through my mind now. LOL That’s all the questions I have for now on imprints…that I can think of. Oh! I have one more. How can you find out if an imprint is taken? Is there a site?

Vania Margene Rheault
No, you just Google it. Most of the time if there is a publisher or a press associated with it, it will be the top few search results. But I used all the search engines to make sure: Yahoo, Bing, Google. You get slightly different results, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

KT Daxon
I got one I will check out…where on Canva can you use to check for logos?

Vania Margene Rheault
If you go to Create A Design, it’s under the menu, Marketing Materials. I made mine before I knew Canva existed. I have a tab on my website that explains my imprint and the books that are published under it. You have to be careful on Twitter if you are ever approached by a “press” or a “publisher” who wants to publish your book. It could be someone trying to publish your book under their imprint, and they don’t have any real publishing experience or distribution channels. They run your book through CreateSpace, just the same as you would then take a cut of your profits. So be very careful when someone approaches you–especially during the pitching games like #pitmad.

KT Daxon
Good to know!

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, it’s kind of scammy. But if they have a pretty imprint and a website that looks legit, it’s easy to get taken in. Everyone wants a contract and not everyone is as careful as they should be.

KT Daxon
Is Press the only thing you can use or are their others?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can use press or publishing. Those are the two main ones.

Our chat fizzled out after that because KT started experimenting on Canva. She wants to keep her imprint a secret until she publishes, so I’m not allowed to post what she came up with during chat. But if you need ideas for yourself, Google imprints and click on Images for the results. You’ll get an idea of what you need to come up with. Here are a few other articles on imprints:

Should Self-Published Authors Create Their Own Publishing Imprints?

A Quick Lesson About Publishers, Imprints, CreateSpace, and Bowker

Why You Should Create Your Own Publishing Imprint

A long time ago, I also wrote a blog post about imprints. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

Thanks for reading! Next up we’ll talk about having your author photo taken, and the advantages and disadvantages of trying to remain anonymous online and still try to sell books! See you there!

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Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–ISBN

When I first started out, ISBN numbers were a mystery to me. They aren’t so much anymore, but the prices haven’t changed since I started–they are still one of the most expensive things you can spend your money on when you self-publish.

Take a few minutes to listen in to our chat about them. Whether you decide to buy them or not is a personal choice, but it’s always a good idea to have all the facts before you choose.

Take it away, KT!barcode_design_elements_vector_set_519833

KT Daxon
What are we starting with first?

Vania Margene Rheault
Should we start with ISBN numbers? There’s quite a debate about them.

KT Daxon
Sounds great! What are the pros and cons when it comes to buying your own ISBN numbers vs using CreateSpace’s free ones?

Vania Margene Rheault
The biggest pro is that you are protecting your own work. I like knowing I own my work free and clear. Using a CreateSpace ISBN number doesn’t mean they own it, but they are listed as the publisher in the product details. Some people don’t mind it, but if a reader has been burned by an indie book,  it’s the quickest way to lose a sale.

createspace as publisher

This is from someone who took the free number.
The other pro is yes, you can list an imprint you create for yourself as the publisher, lending a bit more professionalism to your book.

imprint as publisher

KT Daxon
Which also doesn’t help separate you from other indie authors when you share the same “Publishing Name” I would think professionalism would be up on the top of an authors list?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yes. But that goes with the biggest con. ISBN numbers are expensive, and not everyone can afford them. If you publish with IngramSpark, they make you buy your own.

KT Daxon
I’m very excited to learn about imprints…as for the cost of the ISBNs, they are expensive but is it worth it to buy your own?

Vania Margene Rheault
Here’s where people are divided. Some say it’s worth it, some say they don’t care. The professional opinion of the Alliance for Independent Authors say you should always buy your own. But with CreateSpace giving them away, and Kindle Direct Publishing give you an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) lots of people forgo buying their own numbers.  It’s a personal choice. Personally, if you can afford it, I say you should. Even if just for the vanity (and fun!)  of being able to use your own imprint.

KT Daxon
I really can’t see myself doing it any other way. Self-publishing is a journey, why wouldn’t you want to go all in?

Vania Margene Rheault
I guess cost is the main issue. After you pay for editing, maybe formatting, maybe cover design, there’s not much money left for something you can get for free.
Another con is if you’re going to be slow to publish. The best deals are in packs of 10, 100, and 1000. If you only publish once a year, it doesn’t seem worth it.

KT Daxon
Do ISBN numbers expire?isbn number

Vania Margene Rheault
No. Once they are yours, they are yours. But you can’t sell them or give them away. They are registered under your name and imprint. I called and asked them that. 🙂

KT Daxon
So as long as you wrote 10 books in your lifetime, it wouldn’t be a waste….if one could afford it?

Vania Margene Rheault
Five books. One for the paperback and one for the KDP version. Any version of the book needs a new ISBN number. I’m thinking of publishing my books in Large Print. That would require another ISBN. So one book could have four or five ISBN numbers.

KT Daxon
Such great information to know. Knowing that each book requires a different number, shows me that it IS worth it to get your own. Even if you had to sell something to afford it. (Which is what I considered, haha!)
Does CS and KDP have unlimited free ones?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yes, they’ll give you as many as you need to publish.

Other questions people have asked about ISBN numbers:

*Can you change the cover without needing a new number?  Yes.
*Can you change the insides without need a new number? Yes–if you don’t change more    than 20%.
*Can you change the size of your book and keep the same number? No.
*Can you change the title and keep the same number? No.
*Can you change your author name and keep the same number? No.

KT Daxon
Great information to know! Especially for those just venturing out. I’ve learned so much tonight!

Vania Margene Rheault
I hope we’ve helped some others, too. Do you have any other questions right now?

KT Daxon
Not at this time. The good thing about these chats, I’m sure we’ll get comments to inspire other chats.

Vania Margene Rheault
Awesome! I’ll dig up a couple of articles on the pros and cons of buying your own ISBNs as well.

It was fun to chat with KT about ISBN numbers. I know they are very expensive, and I like I said in the chat, not everyone can afford them–especially if they pay for other things for their book like editing or cover design.

Here’s what the Alliance of Independent Authors says about buying your own. You can read it here.

Should You Buy Your Own ISBN When You Self-Publish?

ISBN 101 For Self-Publishers

Thanks for listening in! Next time we’ll be chatting about imprints! See you there!

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Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Beta Readers and Editing

Indie Publishing Chats

Thanks for joining us for our second chat of this series. KT and I chatted about beta readers and editing. Enjoy!

Vania Margene Rheault
You’ve written Down to Sleep, and it’s been slightly edited and with a couple betas. What has been your biggest surprise so far?

KT Daxon
My biggest surprise so far has to be that my Betas were able to finish it without wanting to throw it across the room. They enjoyed it, and to me that is HUGE. On the self-publishing side of things, I think I was a bit thrown off about how difficult doing everything yourself can be.

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, that is a rude awakening for sure! And as you can tell by some indie books out there, not everyone gets it right.
What made you decide to beta? I’m thinking back to where I was at your stage of the game. I had written On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton and someone offered to beta for me. The feedback was less than thrilling. Then I had Jewel edit it for me. Those two people were the only eyes I had on it before I published.

KT Daxon
That’s another story I need to read …*scratches a note on my notepad*. I decided to Beta because someone told me I should. I didn’t think anyone would be interested, so I took a chance. Melissa and Shannon were wonderful. Both had different styles and gave me TONS of amazing feedback. My editor will be happy as she won’t be getting pure crap. Ha!
What are your thoughts on Betas? Pros? Cons?

Vania Margene Rheault
I say don’t let them have too much weight. If I had listened to my beta, half of 1700 would be missing. Just because they don’t like it doesn’t mean you need to take to heart everything they say. Do stay true to your work and vision because at the end of the day, it’s your book and no one else’s.
What is the next step for you?

KT Daxon
That’s some good advice to carry with me as I move forward. I let what other people think dictate a lot of aspects of my life. But, this was my story in 2013, and it’s still my story today. As for what’s next, I’m currently editing the Beta suggestions. Picking and choosing what I think needs changed. I’m hoping to be done by the start of the 2nd week of January, and I’m trying to decide if I want to do another round of Betas or just shoot it to the editor…thoughts? How many rounds of Beta advice should one take?

Vania Margene Rheault
Probably that’s not best coming from me–Don’t Run Away, Chasing You and Running Scared won’t have any. So I would say do as many as you feel is necessary.
In the near future here, you have a lot you’re going to need to know. How are you preparing for that next step?

KT Daxon
A stiff drink? Haha. Kidding … though the thought does sound appealing. I’ve made myself a sponge. I accept advice when it’s given and I utilize the veteran’s in the writing community, such as yourself, for help. I’m dedicating the first weekend of the New Year to research on all aspects of self-publishing. Cover design, formatting (which scares me btw lol), ISBN’s, whatever I need to learn to publish this book, I’m soaking it up every way I can.
Any tips on what to tackle first?

Vania Margene Rheault
I read a lot of books when I first decided to self-publish. One of the two I read right off the bat was APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.
APE
This was one was instrumental in getting the lay of the land, so to speak, and the other one I told you about was A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers: How to Print-on-Demand with CreateSpace & Make eBooks for Kindle & Other eReaders.publishing with amazon

While there is some outdated info in each, they both still have really important information in their own right.
The first one was given to me by someone who was taking publishing classes at our university in Moorhead. It was a textbook in their class.

KT Daxon
I intend to get the second one once payday hits. It looks like it’s an easy read.

Vania Margene Rheault
I would caution you though, and make sure you double-check advice. What works for someone may not work for you. I read up on how to do it all myself, and while 1700 didn’t come out the best, at least I can say I learned what *not* to do. Fortunately, you know people have gone through it so you should have more help than I did.

KT Daxon
That’s true. It’s good for anyone to remember that advice isn’t someone holding a gun to your head telling you to change things or else, it’s just suggestions … helpful suggestions.

Vania Margene Rheault
Right. And everyone has a suggestion. LOL Okay, we’ll wrap up this chat for tonight! Thanks for hanging out with me!

Thanks for hanging out with us! Here are a few other articles on beta readers:
Ultimate Guide: How To Work With Beta Readers

How many Beta Readers do you need?

WHEN NOT TO LISTEN TO YOUR BETA READER

beta readers
Just for fun, since I’m not doing chat anymore, I’m going to give away Better Critiquing for Better Writing: Use Writing Feedback to Craft Your Story, Refine Your Message and Become a Better Writer by Kelly Hart. Enter HERE.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next time when KT and I discuss ISBN numbers.

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Indie Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT — How it began

Indie Publishing Chats

First off, Happy New Year! We hope your New Year is full of writing and publishing, and we also hope this chat series will help you in those endeavors during 2018.

This blog series will help us too because let’s face it, we all have issues finding content. We want to be interesting, but helpful. We don’t have to keep repeating topics over and over–there are thousands of bloggers blogging about the same thing. But when I realized that KT and I have a goldmine of relevant information at our fingertips, we decided to dive in.

Let’s follow KT while she edits and publishes Down to Sleep! We’ll dish about indie-publishing news, talk about things you need to think about before you publish, and obstacles that come up in the process.

This is our first chat. Thanks for tuning in!

KT Daxon
I’ll let you take the lead on the chat because I’m clueless. You mentioned going back to the start?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah. Let’s go way back.  When did you start Down to Sleep? Can we call it that? Were you still thinking about a title change?

KT Daxon
Nah … I think Down to Sleep is the correct title. Once you read the full story and have suggestions, I’m open to them, but as of now, that’ll be the title. Goes along with the next book’s title too.
When did I start Down to Sleep? Down to Sleep is a product of NaNoWriMo 2013. It’s come so far since that first draft, but yeah. The story idea is 4 years old. Life happened in the middle of rewrites that caused elements to change but it originally was crafted in November 2013.

Vania Margene Rheault
And I feel like I’ve worked on Don’t Run Away forever! I wrote that for a NaNo project in 2015. How did you learn to join Twitter? And what were your goals for joining?

KT Daxon
Well, I think timing will help us both pay off. Having just read Don’t Run Away, I think it was an excellent investment of time. ❤
When you asked me this earlier, about Twitter, I started to sweat. It’s a painful subject as to why I ventured onto Twitter and it involves me leaving Facebook for good. An incident led me to Twitter. Back then, I hadn’t fully engulfed myself in the idea of becoming a full-time writer, so it amazes me to this day how welcoming the writing community has been. It’s as if one day, I woke up and here I am. It sounds unreal but it’s the truth. I discovered hashtags and as the old trope goes, “the rest is history”.
Once I dug myself a cozy spot in the writing community though, I developed goals for my career.
I wanted to write and publish my stories. When I became serious about writing, it was an escape. A way to save myself from myself. I connected with amazing people, both good and bad, and decided I wanted to rebrand myself. I created a pen name, and set out to be a supportive force in the community. I’m still working on that part, but hopefully it’s paying off. I’ve always cared what people think about me, so I figured, be nice … who doesn’t like nice people? Ha!
Stop me or I’ll talk your ear off.
Should I be asking you questions too?

Vania Margene Rheault
That’s interesting because I joined social media thinking I was going to sell books, not join a writing community that would support me but not buy.
(If you want to, sure. As we get deeper into the process it will be easier for me to know what you need help with.)
I was thinking Twitter would be more of a marketing tool. It’s great that I found such a supportive community, like you said, but now I need to focus on finding readers. Thoughts?

KT Daxon
I’ll admit, when I joined Twitter, I too thought it was a platform to sell books. But, as each day passes, I’m realizing that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Not to shine a light on the negative right away, but I’ve noticed a bit of “do this for me,” but not a lot of giveback.
I agree that once you build a platform of support, the next phase is finding your readers. My question is, how do we do that? What’s the best way?
I have many of my followers tell me, “I can’t wait to read your book,” but I can only hope they mean that once my book is actually published.

Vania Margene Rheault
I have ideas on that, that we’ll talk about later. I think the best thing you can do before you worry about any of that is to concentrate on putting out a good book. I was going to ask you about your pen name. What made you decide you needed one? I’ve had a couple comments on my blog post that said I don’t need to worry about one (for my fantasy; I’m a contemporary romance author) but with genre-hopping, I feel like I should have one.

KT Daxon
I wrote a blog post explaining the meaning behind my pen name. I decided I wanted one because I wanted one. My name doesn’t pop on a book cover and I wanted one that did.
James Patterson has written different genres and doesn’t use a pen name. IMO, it’s all a personal choice.
Putting out a good book, or 3 is what I am working on now. Finding readers is pointless if you don’t have anything for them to read, so I agree there.
I researched reasons why people use pen names because I thought it was just to hide your real name because people didn’t want coworkers or family to know they wrote certain genres.  I never understood that though, if I write something, I want people to know it’s me who did it. LOL. I selected a pen name that was still me 100% and pops on a book cover. 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That was a fantastic first chat!

Some of our chats will bleed into other topics, so if you feel like we end a chat rather abruptly, it’s because we’ll be picking up during our next chat where we left off. KT and I will be posting the same chat, with perhaps a few differences in the intro and smoother closings at the end. Look for us Thursday, January 4th, when we discuss editing and betas!

I hope you all learn a little something, and for sure, if you have questions, please let us know, or tweet us at @v_rheault and @thektdaxon!

Other articles on pen names:

Should You Be Using a Pen Name? by Helen Sedwick

Why Using a Pen Name is a Risk that Writers Shouldn’t Take

JK Rowling is right – a pen name is a writer’s best friend

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