Five reasons why taking advice from writers about what readers like is a (really) bad idea.

Writing, marketing, and publishing advice is plentiful online. There’s excellent advice that can take your business to the next level, good advice, mediocre advice, very very bad advice, and some advice that is straight up, literally, illegal.

But when it comes to writers giving other writers advice about what readers want, I have found that, depending on where you get it, a lot of that advice isn’t to be trusted. Here are some reasons why it’s probably not a good idea to apply advice from other writers when you’re trying to write, publish, and market to readers–especially to readers who don’t write.

Writers don’t read like readers do. This is a big one. I hate seeing writing advice online. I hate it. I try to avoid it on this blog unless a pet peeve like my “got” issue (and not Game of Thrones) crawls too deeply under my skin and I have no choice but to speak up. Writers don’t read like readers do. How may times have you heard an author say, “I couldn’t get into the book. I was too busy dissecting/editing/proofing it to enjoy it.” A mom hiding from her toddler in the tub with her Kindle and a glass of wine isn’t going to critique your book. She wants a good story, characters to fall in love with, maybe some sexytimes, and if you give her that, she’s not going to care about small issues like whether or not you used the Oxford comma. She actually probably won’t even care how many times you use the word, “got” if the story is engaging and she cares about the fate of your characters. Give your readers a good story, and forget about the writing advice you see online. Keep changes between you, your beta readers and your editor.

A related thing I dislike is hearing writers say, “I read everything, and I write for readers who read everything, too.” The fact is, there are very few people who will read “everything” and writing and marketing to people who read “everything” is like throwing a handful of gravel into the wind. The pebbles scatter, and the force behind your throw is wasted, but throw ONE rock as hard as you can and watch it fly, right? You can’t write for everyone, you want to write for readers of a particular sub-genre. It will make it much easier to find readers because you already know what they like. Whale readers devour everything they can get their hands on in the sub-genre they prefer to read. They don’t stray much outside of their lanes, which is why writers are also counseled to stay in one lane–at least for a while.

Other writers may not have the same audience goals as you. We all want to find readers, but that doesn’t mean we have the same goals. I want to make a living with my writing. That may not be someone else’s goal. Maybe they want to sell only a handful of copies to say they are a published author. If we don’t have the same goals, we aren’t going to run our business the same way, or even think of our books as a business at all. That means anything from being a multi-genre author instead of niching down, not putting their books in KU when yours would do well there, or writing whatever they want when you would prefer to follow what’s selling in the market.

This goes hand-in-hand with writers who will give you plain old harmful advice. The other day on Twitter there was a writer who asked if she should separate her different genres with a different pen name. I can’t tell you how many authors told her not to bother and my jaw dropped. I wanted to explode, but I kept scrolling. Unless your genres are closely related, (billionaire romance/mafia, paranormal romance/speculative women’s fiction with romantic elements, mystery/thriller/domestic thrillers) you’ll do better if you separate your genres with pen names. It will make marketing easier, your also-boughts on Amazon won’t get messed up, and you can cultivate two sets of readers. It’s work though, and that’s why the thought of pen names turns off a lot of writers. Readers will appreciate the separation. Even if you don’t keep your identities a secret, they’ll appreciate knowing which name you write under that they like best. Writers say they want to take credit for all their hard work. You can still take credit–inside on the copyright page. So many people told me that I didn’t need to separate my 3rd person contemporary romances from my 1st person billionaire books. I wanted to because they have different tones, though the subject matter (my characters’ personal problems) is largely the same. I felt validated when Zoe York mentioned in a Clubhouse room that she separates her 3rd person from her 1st person. It just made sense to me all around, though readers probably can switch from reading 3rd to 1st easier than I can writing it.

Writers don’t read enough to know what’s going on in their genres and the industry as a whole. For every rule there is an exception, and there are probably a lot of writers who read regularly. I’m not one of them, and I should be. I should be gobbling up every billionaire romance out there. I did read some, when I decided to make my switch, but I didn’t, and still don’t, read enough. I’m willing to bet that if writers read more in their genre, they wouldn’t be giving the advice they do. They would know what readers want, what they look for, what they’re willing to pay for. They would know the book cover trends, what kind of blurbs capture a reader’s attention. Advice steeped in ignorance is not advice you want to take. I have bemoaned on this blog so many times about how a lot of indies don’t understand the industry, and if you don’t understand the industry, you don’t know what’s selling, or why it is. That’s important.

“I don’t read newsletters, so that’s why I’m not offering one.” This is, by far, the craziest thing I have ever heard. You are a writer. We’ve already ascertained you more than likely don’t read enough, so saying you’re not subscribed to any newsletters isn’t surprising, but it’s not a reason why you shouldn’t offer one to your readers. Readers are not like us. You need a way to communicate with them. I haven’t offered a newsletter in the five years I published under Vania Rheault, and it’s my biggest mistake. If you don’t offer a newsletter, your readers have no way of staying in touch with you. I gobble up non-fiction content and I’m subscribed to many newsletters from big indie names like Dave Chesson, Derek Murphy, David Gaughran, Jane Friedman, Ricardo Fayet from Reedsy. I also get newsletters from Kobo Writing life, Reedsy, BookBub and more. Their information about publishing is valuable, and I subscribe, and, more importantly read, to stay in the know. Your readers, if they enjoy your books, will want to sign up for your newsletter to stay up to date on what you’re doing. This does mean that if you offer a newsletter, you have to send one out on occasion. Content wasn’t the issue with me. I’ve managed to regularly blog for 6 years and rarely do I run out of something to say. I didn’t offer a newsletter because I’m lazy. I didn’t want to learn how to use MailerLite. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out how to create a landing page, how to set up an autoresponder, the technical issues of signing up for a professional email, blah blah blah. But, I finally did it. Now I’m five years behind. Don’t offer a newsletter because you haven’t subscribed to any. You’re not a reader. You’re a writer.

Stubborn indie writers are set in their ways and won’t change even if that behavior hinders finding readers. The two most stubborn groups of people in the world are runners who are injured and who should take a break from running to rest and heal…and indie writers. Taking advice from a writer who isn’t open to new ideas and bristles at constructive criticism is a terrible idea. Feedback and kind criticism are a necessity to grow in craft and in your business. I wish I could count how many times I see an agent say, NO PROLOGUES and a writer say, “I’m gonna write all the prologues” then cry when they can’t find an agent. Are you going to listen to someone who is intent to do it their own way damned the consequences, or are you going to listen to someone who knows what’s going on in the industry and is flexible enough to pivot and or try new things? (By the way, agents know the editors {who are the people who actually buy the books} who know readers and what they like. Just a thought.) As far as readers go, what’s expected in your genre? Fantasy uses prologues. Mystery/thrillers do too, often in the POV of the villain. If you want to write a prologue and your genre supports it (meaning your readers are used to them) write a prologue. If a prologue won’t enhance your story, maybe you don’t need it. I like epilogues. I like writing them, I like reading them, and they are often found in romance novels to tie up loose ends. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary writing an epilogue. Sometimes a story needs it, sometimes it doesn’t, but prologues and epilogues are not a hill you need to die on. What is best for YOU and your genre? Romances don’t do well with prologues. Readers want to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible. Introduce your heroine and hero ASAP. Writers have made too much of an issue about something that should be considered on a book by book, and genre by genre, basis.


Writers do their best to sabotage their own businesses–sometimes not thinking about their books as businesses at all is the first mistake they make. Everything you do should be geared toward finding and keeping readers. Writing what you want is only good advice if you know the genre you want to write in, the reader expectations of that genre, and if you enjoy writing that genre and those tropes readers expect. Many people have asked me if I feel boxed in writing billionaire romance, but I don’t. The same tropes (and yes, I structure my novels around tropes) apply to people who have money as to the characters who are broke. They handle problems differently, sure, but that’s fun, too. Make what you love to write meet in the middle with what readers want to read. You can’t listen to a writer who says a book cover doesn’t matter or tells you readers don’t read blurbs. Over on Twitter, I’ve heard it all, and it’s concerning because the writing community has thousands of members, and some of the information passed through those hashtags is harmful at best and toxic at worst. Think like a reader from start to finish and you’ll never go wrong with writing, publishing and marketing of your books.

Can You Follow Advice from Someone Who Isn’t Successful?

There is no shortage of advice. Everyone has an opinion on what to do and what not to do, and not many are afraid to shove it down your throat either, or take offense when you don’t follow what they say, or want you to drop down on your knees in gratitude they gave you five seconds of their time.

I think about this when I’m blogging and sharing my experiences, tweeting my own opinions, and especially when I’m scrolling through Twitter and my Facebook writing groups. I was poking around for motivational quotes for another blog post, and this one caught my eye:

I really like this because we’re all struggling writers, all trying to find that magic bullet that will catapult our book to bestseller status (with as little work and money as possible, if we’re being honest here), and we should be open to advice. We should be open to learning from other people’s experiences.

Probably one of my favorite topics to blog about is scammers–people offering a service they aren’t qualified to provide. The indie community is full of them, and how many indies finding ways to game the system or relieve you of your money knows no bounds. I got into a discussion with someone on Twitter the other day who is getting to the blurb-writing business. I asked politely, as I have never had a problem with this person before, if he had a refund policy in place for the blurbs that don’t convert to sales. He said that blurbs aren’t part of marketing that therefore he had no refund policy in place as it wasn’t his responsibility to market your book and that conversion on a new blurb wasn’t measurable. I said I wished him well and that I hoped his own sales success was proof that he could write a good blurb. He said he was doing just fine. I took a look at his book rankings, and unless he meant something other than book sales, no he wasn’t doing just fine.

So he 1) didn’t believe a blurb was part of marketing a book, 2) didn’t have a refund policy in place if you were unhappy with conversion 3) didn’t believe blurb conversion could be measured and 4) his own books weren’t doing well sales-wise. I hope people followed along our tweets because there is no way this person should be offering a blurb-writing business AT ALL. I did the best I could to call him out, but there’s only so much I can do, especially without looking like a big B. I think I already have a reputation on Twitter as being a bit aggressive, and I’m trying to soften up my look. It’s not working.

This goes for a lot of other advice too–writing advice, cover advice, marketing advice. I know one writer who loves to give writing advice, is always sharing excerpts of her work, but it’s all telling and she’s not selling books. People who don’t know what covers are hot in their genre love to give advice on what they like and don’t like. Maybe their advice is valid, maybe it’s not, but if you’re trying to ask for advice from a perspective that others don’t share (like writing to market, covers to market, writing commercial fiction, or the other way–if you want to write your own thing getting advice from someone who doesn’t share that viewpoint won’t help), it can be tough. You’ll be inundated with opinions that would never help.

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help whether the people those eyes belong to have had their own success or not. I feel like I know what goes into a bestseller, and I can say easily that depending on Twitter for sales will only go so far, or you need to learn an ad platform, or you need to change your cover, simply for the fact your cover is horrendous and I don’t need to be a bestselling author to know it.

I think that’s why I like Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon ad challenge so much. When he shares his screen/Amazon Ads dashboard during the videos, we can see that he’s selling books. We can see that he’s written books that people want to buy. Yes, he spends a lot of money on ads, but he also makes it all back and more. His ad challenge wouldn’t be worth much if he wasn’t selling books.

Just the other day in a group someone was asking about a different indie author who offers classes (that aren’t free) and one poster said, “I stopped taking his classes when he stopped selling books.” Like the blurb-writing guy, people forget that it doesn’t take much time to go onto a book’s product page and see the ranking in the Kindle store. You can go onto any of my books’ sales pages and see that I’m not selling many. I’m very transparent–in fact it’s practically the premise of my whole blog–I’m not selling books, this is why I think that is, how I’m changing that, and I hope what I try can help you. I’m not interested in making money off this blog. When I get a couple of readers who thank me for the resources or thank me for sharing my experiences, or tell me they tried something and it worked, I consider my job well done.

So what do I suggest you do when you might consider taking someone’s advice?

  1. Take a look at their success rate if at all possible. Look at their covers if they are going into business creating covers and see if they know market trends, what’s selling right now. Look at their books’ rankings and decide for yourself if they’re qualified to give the advice their giving.
  2. Ask yourself if what they’re saying makes sense. Trends change, and maybe someone isn’t up on the newest thing–like that lady who told me my first person blurb isn’t how everyone else is doing it, when actually most are now, at least where billionaire romance is concerned. But it could be that you missed the boat with something and their advice is legit. Check it out and see if it’s something you want to experiment with.
  3. Where else are they online? Sometimes Amazon sales rank won’t always be the greatest measure of success. LIke the guy who wants to write blurbs, maybe he is successful somewhere else (like writing ad copy for his day job), but if he doesn’t make that known, it reflects poorly on the business he wants to start. Some writers publish to Wattpad and have a large following there. Some write for blogs that have good traffic and they have a large following in that circle. Some submit to literary journals and are published in lit mags. Dig deeper. You might be surprised–and learn their opinion is steeped in more experience than you think.
  4. Do they have a good track record giving advice? Sales aren’t the end all be all, I know that. Sometimes questionable books do quite well and no one can figure out why. Maybe someone has a great marketing tip that didn’t work for themselves but worked really well for someone else. Maybe they know a secret ingredient and it turns out to be the last piece of your own puzzle that can bring your books to the next level, like a promo that didn’t do much for them but made another author’s book rank high in the charts. I edit on the side for friends who can’t afford it. Just because my sales aren’t great doesn’t meant I’m not a good writer or editor. I have a handful of people who could tell you that I’m good at what I do and that I’m qualified to give grammar, punctuation, and writing advice.
  5. Look at the viewpoint of the person giving the advice. I tweeted about this not long ago–taking the advice from one writer on Twitter when there are a million readers out there probably isn’t the best idea. Writers read differently, and what would bother a writer may not faze a reader. I catch myself doing that all the time–stressing while editing or writing about something a writer said they disliked. Why should I care if a writer says she doesn’t like the word moist (or whatever?) Chances are 99.99% that she will NEVER read any of my books. So why does it matter? All that matters is what readers think–and they will tell you.

I’ve taken advice (and my cover for Faking Forever is better for it), but I’ve ignored my fair share. I’ve also given a lot of advice, and usually in some way the people I’ve spoken with aren’t ready to hear it–even if they’ve asked for it. I’ve told plenty of people their covers aren’t working. I’ve looked inside a lot of books and said they need another editing pass. I’ve pointed out blurbs that aren’t written well, and I don’t think a day goes by where I haven’t told someone that they need to branch out from Twitter for marketing if they aren’t seeing the results they want. Usually my advice consists of either spending time or money (it’s work, y’all), but you have to invest something in your books if you want to find readers and nurture an audience. Just today someone on Twitter said he would take down his YouTube channel if he couldn’t get up to a certain number of followers by the New Year, but when I asked him what he did to drive traffic to his channel besides Twitter, he didn’t answer me. So in that non-answer I know the answer. Nothing. I don’t need to be a YouTube guru to tell him he needs to promote his channel to expand his audience and threatening to take his channel down won’t do anything to build his audience. The opposite, in fact, because why would someone invest time in something that may disappear?

At the very heart of your business, only you can make decisions for you, and only you can decide what to apply to your book business and what not to apply. If you’re not seeing the results you want in blog follows, sales, YouTube subscribers, whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, that will be the true test. Trying to achieve different results doing the same thing over and over again will not work, and you don’t need anyone to tell you that. (And if you can’t admit it, it won’t matter how many people tell you–you won’t believe them anyway.)

So, after all that, should you follow advice from someone who isn’t successful? I guess the murky answer is maybe. I certainly wouldn’t pay for anything if the person dispensing said advice couldn’t put his money where his mouth is, and in the indie publishing business, that usually means book sales. There are quite a few top-tier indies who do dispense advice through podcasts, non-fiction books, interviews, and various classes they’ve decided to teach. Some will do consulting, some blog and offer their advice for free. There is plenty of advice out there from indies who are making it, so maybe there’s no need to take advice from someone who isn’t. It could be that simple.

Do you give advice? Take it? Let me know!

Until next time!

Author Musings and Are You a Good Writer?

fall leaves. happy weekend

Happy Weekend! I know I don’t normally post on Fridays, but my work computer at home had some problems and I had to go into my call center. It threw off my whole day, and usually I can shake off change, but today I had a couple things planned I wanted to do and after I went in to work, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around any of them. But there’s always tomorrow, right?


I did use the time to read more of Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide to the Kindle Store by David Gaughran. It’s an interesting look at Amazon, and I’ve learned a couple things. Overall, I like to read book-marketing books, but they do make my head hurt a little bit. Spending money on ads, and spending money on how to learn ads, choosing a platform (Amazon Ads, Facebook Ads, Bookbub Ads) not to mention promo sites, it can all be just a little much. Still, there’s some interesting tidbits about Amazon’s own promo tools like the Kindle Countdown and the free days you get if your book is enrolled in Kindle Select, and just a few ways to use those to the best of your advantage. I’m not sure if anything will help me right now, as I’m still writing the last book in my series, and it remains to be seen if switching from 3rd person past POV to 1st person present POV will make a difference to the way readers look at and buy my books.

I haven’t done this for a while, so just for the hell of it, let’s take a look at the top ten contemporary romance books on Amazon. This changes all the time, but here’s what was up top when I wrote this post:

  1. Playing with Fire: A Bad Boy College Romance by L.J. Shen FIRST PERSON PAST
  2. Seabreeze Inn by Jan Moran THIRD PERSON PAST
  3. Roommaid: A Novel  by Sariah Wilson FIRST PERSON PAST
  4. Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score FIRST PERSON PAST
  5. Coming Home for Christmas: A Clean & Wholesome Romance (Haven Point Book 10) by RaeAnne Thayne THIRD PERSON PAST
  6. Marrying My Billionaire Hookup by Nadia Lee  FIRST PERSON PRESENT
  7. Wild Fire: A Chaos Novella by Kristen Ashley THIRD PERSON PAST
  8. My Husband, My Stalker by Jessa Kane FIRST PERSON PRESENT
  9. The Takeover (The Miles High Club Book 2) by T L Swan FIRST PERSON PRESENT
  10. This Is Not How It Ends by Rochelle B. Weinstein  FIRST PERSON PAST

I haven’t done that exercise in a little while, and there’s not as much first person present as there used to be, but that’s just a minuscule sample of the top 100 on Amazon. There could be more first person present when you drill down into some sub-genres, but I’m not going to do that now. I’m still confident my POV shift was a good move, but I won’t know until early next year when I start publishing.


In other news, I’ve been hearing a lot about stalling a release or putting a hold on book promos from October through the election, even going into next year and the inauguration. This year is going to be a bit crazy, and it doesn’t matter what side you’re on. There is going to be overwhelming disappointment no matter who wins, and authors like Lindsay Buroker and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have cautioned authors and suggested scaling back a bit during the election period. I won’t have a new book out ready until the beginning of the new year anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind. Thanks to Joshua Edward Smith for posting this on his FB page. It was a good read. https://kriswrites.com/2020/09/09/business-musings-trainwreck-fall-edition/


I still like Twitter for some things, other things, not so much. The book promos are getting a bit out of hand (I’ve heard September is being a hard month for everyone), and no one seems to be writing anymore for personal reasons. A lot of my friends have school-aged children and we’re all doing the best we can with e-learning, and over here we’re trying not to meltdown because every five minutes we have a Google Hangout meeting and my daughter doesn’t want to do it.

Anyway, so there’s a woman who’s close to publishing her first book. She’s got the preorder up, had her cover professionally done (I don’t like it, but she didn’t ask my opinion LOL) paid for formatting, so it seems like she’s got things under control. But it’s her first book, and she’s green. I can tell by some of the things she tweets . . . and by the way she shrugs off advice. You’re right, she could be taking all the notes, but when she only hearts a suggestion and doesn’t bother to even thank someone for thinking of her, I know she’s shrugging off the advice. And I get it, you can’t taken EVERYONE’S advice. There’s just too much of it out there, and yeah, I completely understand there is more than one way to do this. And looking at my sales, better ways than mine!

But her attitude drives me a little nuts, and she’s not the first indie author to put a book out, expect to become overnight sensation, and earn bestseller status without having to lift a finger besides press Publish on her KDP dashboard. We all have to cut our teeth, but I hope back when I published 1700 in 2016 and didn’t know what I was doing, I had a little more grace. I probably didn’t. We all know more than a teenager when we put out our first books. But being seasoned, (and even not that seasoned as I only have 10 books out when others have 50+) I can step back and be slightly amused. I wish her well, I really really do, but it would be nice if she didn’t act like she was the first person in the whole world to publish a book. We get it. It’s fun, it’s special, but honey, if you don’t know how to market besides tweeting on Twitter, your book is going to sink like a stone and after your 30 day grace period is up on Amazon, I’m going to watch to see what happens. Hopefully, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.


How do you know you’re a good writer? Reviews? People simply telling you you are? Sales?Who do you believe? It’s tough because while quality is subjective from person to person, there has to be an overall agreement to what “good” is or there wouldn’t be bestsellers. It hurts when I see my author friends’ self-esteem shaken because they get negative feedback. Sometimes by several people. So, how do you know what to believe and what you shouldn’t?

For me, I can look at bad reviews with a critical eye. It’s easier when I don’t have reviews that say I’m a bad writer. They can nitpick a character or plot (one reviewer said His Frozen Heart had too much drama in it), or dislike Jax because he was an alphahole and maybe I didn’t completely redeem him at the end of All of Nothing, but in the reviews that I’ve read about my work, no one has come out and said that I’m a bad writer. And that helps. But it also doesn’t. Bad writing you can fix with time, effort, and lots of words written, but can you fix something that’s “off” about your books when no one can really articulate what that is?

Who should you listen to? Too many cooks ruin the broth, but when are opinions valuable?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch in her talk at 20booksto50k in Vegas last year said shouldn’t write by committee. Write the story you want, publish it, and go write more.

If you can’t trust your beta readers, can you trust reviews? I counter that for every one unhappy person who bothers to leave a review there are 20 happy readers who won’t take the time.

Writers are a sensitive bunch, and I hope that she finds her way out of her maze. She enjoys writing, and from the small portions I’ve read of her work, she’s a good writer. Hopefully she finds her happy place, and that’s back in front of her laptop.


That’s about all the news I have for today. I’m trying to get through to the end of my last book. I’m at 43k, so I’m slow going, but I need to plan out the rest of the book so I make sure I wrap up every single plotline I had going. At work tomorrow, whether I’m back home again, or going into the center, I need my notebook and I’m going to make list after list of what I need to finish this series. I think knowing exactly what I need for the last 50k+ words will help a lot.

Have a good weekend everyone!