Tuesday Thoughts, Large Print, and Getting Rid of Twitter

Hi, everyone! I know I usually post on Mondays, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been struggling with finding things to blog about lately. I go through that sometimes. I feel like anything I have to say has already been said a million times by someone else, and especially when it comes to writing and publishing, I don’t have much new to share.

I did decide to take a Twitter break, and if you follow me, you can either friend me on FB, or like my FB author page and we can touch base that way. I just couldn’t take the negativity anymore, and it was bringing out my own negativity toward other people. Twitter as a whole is very emotional, and I just can’t handle how sensitive (and insensitive) people can be and when they lash out because of it. I’m not a fragile flower, but geez, there are only so many times I can be “put in my place” without feeling it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like a whole lot of people are writing over there anyway, and it’s not such a great place to find supportive writers who want you to succeed. Last week, I made a graphic and congratulated an author on her release, and she never bothered to retweet it. I think that was the start of me being so discouraged I just wanted to leave. If you can’t support me supporting you, then why are you on there?

twitter logo bird with a red circle through it. no more twitter

I didn’t delete my profile or deactivate my account, but I did pin a “see you next year” tweet to my profile and I deleted the app off my phone. I logged out on my laptop to remind myself when I go on there just to go on there that I’m trying to break the habit. I’m sure it’s one of those things where I’ll go through withdrawal for a few days and after it’s over I’ll feel better.


I blogged about doing large print for The Years Between Us, and I got the proof in the mail the other day. It looks great! I approved the proof and I didn’t have any problems with KDP flagging it as duplicate content. I may do some other books as time allows, though Amazon has stopped putting Large Print as a buying option on the book’s product page. So even though I know there are visually impaired people who would appreciate a Large Print book, I have to weigh time versus return on investment. In the scheme of things, doing the Large Print didn’t take very long, so I could do most of my backlist in the next year or so if I did one per month. We’ll see how it goes. I buy all my own ISBNs, and I have to keep in mind that expense as well. With the way Ingram has been glitching lately and not accepting Vellum files, this book is only available on Amazon, and I didn’t check the box for expanded distribution. I’m impressed that I could price it at 14.99 and still make a couple dollars. In expanded distribuion, I would have made fifty-six cents.


I’m still editing my series, and I suppose that’s going to be something you’ll hear from me for the next little while. I get discouraged when I think about needing to figure out newsletter stuff. I’ve looked around StoryOrigin, and I don’t think I’m going to be using it for right now. I feel like authors forget that cultivating a newsletter list is more than just getting people to sign up for it. You’re supposed to be collecting emails from readers who are going to be fans of your work and support you. I may get the newsletter stuff figured out so I can encourage them to sign up in the backs of my books and aim for as many organic signups as possible. I don’t want to lure readers with a free book to sign up. I know that’s the thing to do, but freebie seekers will cost money eventually because you’ll pay for them to be on your list but they won’t buy when you send out email blasts about a new release.

You guys, I know the rules, but I’m tired of playing this game. I just wanna write and make money doing it. Yep.

Well, I don’t have much else. I did Bryan Cohen’s ad profit challenge, but he didn’t offer anything new from what he showed us in his last challenge. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more of those, though I have met some nice people doing them.

I’m always on the look out for new non-fiction to read, but I haven’t been reading much since I’ve started working from home. It’s a lot easier to get words down now that I am, and I’m reading less. Which is probably why I’m all dried up when it comes to blogging. That said, I’m still listening to podcasts, and the Six Figure Authors podcast has Sara Rosett on this week. She wrote a non-fiction book about writing a series. Since that is one thing I’ve managed to make myself bend for (I prefer standalones) I figure anything that could make the process more tolerable (and profitable!) I need to look into. I ordered How to Write a Series, and I will tell you how I like it. I didn’t realize there is also a workbook that goes with it until I accidentally clicked on it trying to grab the link for you all. Check them out!


If you want to listen to her interview on the podcast, you can find it here:

Thanks for reading!

How important is social media if you’re a writer? A published author weighs in.

I have a friend who constantly struggles with social media. She hates it, but not for the idea it’s a time-suck. For now we can all agree that with the JK Rowling stuff, the #publishingpaidme hashtag that’s gone crazy on Twitter, police brutality, COVID-19, and our president, things on social media are more than just a dumpster fire. It’s a raging, out-of-control forest fire. Think Australia. Really, let’s think about Australia since we haven’t heard anything about their fires in quite some time, but they’ll be dealing with damage control for years.

As a writer and author, we can agree that social media is a necessity. BUT as a writer and author, social media isn’t necessary in the way we’re told it is at the beginning of our careers. Namely, we need to be on social media to sell books. This is only partly true, and in the part of it that is true, it takes a lot of scrambling on our end to make it happen. In my 2020 predictions blog post from a few months back, I quoted Mark Coker (the founder of Smashwords) as saying that Amazon ads have stolen the writers’ platform. Why work for reach when you can buy it? Why work for reach when it’s EASIER to buy it? I know for the books I’ve sold in the past year, it’s due to buying ads on Amazon.

And yet. Is social media worthless?

Let’s take a look at social media from an author’s standpoint. Just a quick one, since I’ll start off by saying I’m not doing this but I know I should be. One of the only ways to use social media as an author is to set up a Facebook Author Page. (Ads aside since you need an author page if you want to run FB ads for your book.) The idea is having someplace for your readers to find you. Like your page. Interact with you. Some authors form groups instead of pages, but the downside to a group is that you’re constantly moderating and making sure posters are behaving. That doesn’t sound like fun (and a true time-suck), but an author page is doable. Especially since FB offers a scheduling option for your posts. A downside to this is you’re building your castle on someone else’s property. We know Zuckerberg changes his policies all the time and we’re told it’s better to send your readers to your website or newsletter. The problem with those two options is it’s harder to interact with you. So an FB author page is probably going to be the best thing you can do to use social media to help sell your books. Recommend books in the genre you write in. Host giveaways and post about your books. I’ve seen lots of robust FB author pages with lots of engagement. I don’t give my author page enough love but I should start.

Twitter is bad for selling books and I don’t promo on there. I follow a few industry leaders and retweet the articles I find useful to me. That’s about all I do.

Instagram can be a fun place to hang out, but when you’re a writer, you get sucked into the social circle of other writers. So you’re not going to be selling books on there unless you can crack out of the writer/author bubble and find readers. I don’t post on Instagram with the idea I’m going to sell books. You can run ads on Instagram, but besides paying for exposure, I’ve never sold books buying ad space on Instagram. If you wanna see pictures of my cats, look me up.

So, social media isn’t the best for authors. Unless you’re into content marketing and you’re constantly posting snippets of your books. That might not be a valid option if you’re a slow writer, because by the time you release your book, you’ll have posted every single line already. It’s good for non-fiction. But I’m not a non-fiction writer, and I’m not an authority on anything, nor do I want to be.


So, what is social media good for if you can’t sell books?

This is where my friend, I think, throws the baby out with the bathwater when she cuts herself off from social media.

As a PUBLISHER, there are a ton of benefits of being online. Facebook is where I learn 99.9% of marketing and keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to the industry. My friend says– and I’ve heard this from others too–is why would she need to know about marketing, publishing, or anything in-between if she doesn’t have books out? Isn’t writing the most important part of it?

Sure, you need to be writing to be a writer, to eventually be an author.

But.

What are you gonna do when you’re done with that book? How are you going to learn ads? How are you going to know where to promo your book? You’ve cut yourself off from marketing and publishing groups and now you don’t know what the current trends are. Best practices?

If you cut yourself off from author groups on FB, when you’re done with your book and you start up your social media again, you think you you’re just going to join these groups, guns blazing, demand answers to all your questions because you needed the answers yesterday because your book launches tomorrow and you don’t know what you’re doing? I’ve seen people do that in some of these groups. Some of them are met with kindness and people will walk these authors through what they’re doing to sell books. Many others, though, are ignored because it’s evident that they expect other people to do their work for them. Networking and keeping apprised of industry news is a process. It’s an ongoing process. I’ve said before that being an author/publisher is no different than other professions. Would you want to go to a doctor that didn’t keep up with the newest (and maybe better) treatments? Do you want your children to go to school and be taught by a teacher who doesn’t keep her certification up to date? Do you want to be represented by an attorney who doesn’t keep up with changes to the law? Maybe you don’t feel your publishing company is that important, but suddenly you’ll feel like it is when you want to buy promotions for your book and don’t know where to buy them. And even suckier, don’t know who to ask because you’ve taken yourself out of the game.

I LIKE knowing what’s going on with the publishing industry. I like keeping up with Amazon changes, new aggregators, what IngramSpark is doing. Even if I don’t need the information, I’ve been able to help others, and that’s what networking is all about. My blog would be pretty useless if I didn’t keep my head in the game and pass along information to you.


What are some of the best groups I’ve joined on Facebook?

  1. Six Figure Authors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/504063143655523/ It’s moderated by Lindsay Buroker, Andrea Pearson, and Jo Lallo. It accompanies their podcast by the same name, but you don’t have to listen to the podcast to benefit from the group. Though the podcast is awesome and a lot of the discussions are based on a podcast topic.
  2. Mark Dawson’s SPF Community. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPFsecretgroup/ I like this group because Mark Dawson is very protective of Amazon and won’t let anyone talk shit about them. Amazon did indie authors a great service with the Kindle, CreateSpace (back in the day) and KDP. I don’t know where indie publishing would be without them. I also just love the conversations on there about publishing and marketing.
  3. Level Up Romance Writers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LevelUpRomanceWriters/ Moderated by Dylann Crush, this group is for marketing romance. There are so many generous writers in that group, and it’s a place where I have started to post more and get to know people there.
  4. 20Booksto50k. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/ There are a lot of generous people here, too. They are more than happy to tell you how they are selling books. Craig Martelle is pretty strict with what is allowed and every post is moderated, but I mainly lurk and soak up information.
  5. Vellum Users. https://www.facebook.com/groups/VellumUsers/ I format my books (and sometimes for others) with Vellum. This group is for questions about the software if you run into an issue, or if you want to ask if something you want to do formatting-wise is available. Jody Skinner and Erica Alexander are in touch with Brad and Brad (the creators of Vellum) and they both know their stuff. I learn something new about software capability every day.
  6. Indie Cover Project. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20CoversTo50k/ I’ve gotten feedback about covers from here before. You can develop an eye just by looking at what other authors are doing with their covers and reading the suggestions and critiques. This is a great place for blurb help, too.
  7. Book Cover Design 101. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookcoverdesign101/ This is a great group if you want to learn tips on how to do your own covers. I find a lot of my fonts here when people post deals. There are wonderful people part of this group and very happy to help you if you have a technical question. Both this group and the Indie Cover Project can point you in the right direction if you want to order a premade or custom cover instead of doing your own.
  8. Launching Indie. https://www.facebook.com/groups/launchingindie/ Cecilia Mecca is amazing. She’s so generous and loves to know the best way to do anything with marketing. I heard her speak at the Sell More Books Show Summit last year.
  9. And no list is going to be complete without Bryan Cohen. Everything I learned about Amazon ads I learned from him. For free. I’m a member of The Five Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge and his other group, Selling for Authors.

There are other groups I’m a part of, about 40 if you want me to be honest, and not all of them have the same level of information as these do. I’m the most active in the ones listed above, when I’m on Facebook, at any rate.

My friend has told me she shies away from social media for mental health reasons. There’s not much I can say about that except I have told her in the past that if she’s having issues, to find help, like anyone should. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media because of my carpal tunnel. If I’m online I like to make my time worth it either by blogging or if I’m on the computer at all, writing and editing my books.

When it comes to social media and your business, they go hand in hand whether you want to admit it or not. The main trouble I see a lot of writers have these days is separating their writer self from their author/publisher self. Engaging with writers while at the same time hoping to find readers. It doesn’t work like that. We tend to join a clique and follow that clique from platform to platform, but that’s not going to sell books.

I take social media for what it is. A place where I can network and find resources for my business.

And I hope you can, too.

Do you have a Facebook group you benefit from? Let me know. Have a thriving Facebook Author Page? Link it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!


The authorpreneur I am versus where I was five years ago.

It’s never fair to compare yourself to where you were five years ago, or more precisely, four and a half years ago, unless you haven’t changed and you can’t see in your rearview mirror through all the regret of wasted time.

16114241When I joined Writer Twitter, I was writing a huge epic fantasy and I thought I needed to be on social media to sell those books. Independent publishing was always a no-brainer, even when I didn’t know exactly what it was, and how I’d heard of it, I have no idea. Probably the one thing that pushed me along was a friend from work who was majoring in publishing at our local university. She gave me one of her textbooks, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, by Shawn Welch and Guy Kawasaki. It was my first taste of independent publishing, and being independently published fed into my control-freak nature. (I try to keep that under wraps, so don’t be surprised if it’s the first you’ve heard of it.) I don’t recommend the book now–this industry moves too fast for a book that’s eight years old to hold much relevance.

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These are delightfully naughty stories, and I highly recommend them!

Back then, I was a wide-eyed, starry-eyed girl. People were publishing, they knew a helluva a lot more than I did, and they made the industry sound exciting. I wanted in. I read indie. Lots of indie. Bought lots of indie paperbacks, some from people who don’t write anymore or who have dropped off the grid because other things got in the way. I held books in my hands from people I knew, actually talked to online, and I wanted to hold my books too. One of the very first books I read was by Jewel E. Leonard, Rays of Sunshine. She did everything herself. Her husband helped her with the cover, but she wrote it and edited it, formatted the insides. She was my inspiration, and I started 1700 to publish like she did. (And can you read a blog post I wrote about writing to write and writing to publish here.)

Except, I had no idea how much work it would be to be let in. Because if it’s something that I’ve repeated on this blog for as long as I’ve been blogging, is that behind the cover designers and editors, the huge Twitter accounts, behind the shop talk, and Twitter chats, and blog tours and cover reveals, is this very one important thing. None of that matters if you haven’t written a good book. 

And this isn’t going to be another one of those blog posts. Everyone is going to publish crap. No one is immune from it, and very few are exempt. I’m no exception.

But the thing that probably saved me was the fact that I didn’t know it was crap. I went on my merry way, writing and writing and writing, and publishing and publishing and publishing and blogging about it, too! It was cool. I was a loser who didn’t know I was a loser.

Eventually, I got better. It’s just something that happens if you write enough words. You get better. Since I’ve started publishing, not including the fantasy still on a memory stick that I go back and forth between deciding to edit or not, I’ve written 1,227,000 words. Some of those aren’t published yet, as they belong to a first person trilogy that I haven’t edited. I’m going to write the sister trilogy to that before I release them. But they are written, and I’ll include them in my word count.

That figure isn’t to brag. I know I have a lot of time, and I do use the time I’m given.

But I think back to almost five years ago and how much the industry has changed. I did my book covers in Word. I used a free photo for The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, which I learned is a huge no-no. I formatted my documents myself using the templates KDP still has available though Vellum is so easy to get your hands on these days.

Besides the few people I had help me in the beginning, once I got the hang of writing again, I started editing my own books and for others.

There is something to be said for going back to basics. I learned a lot. I learned what a cover consists of, what bleed means. I can spot extra spaces between words in sentences in a manuscript and how not to put two spaces after a period. I know how terribly a Tab can screw up formatting, and even still today, I’m still learning how important it is to back up files (thanks disappearing Vellum files).

I’ve always moved forward, never gone back too often. Dean Wesley Smith calls this “overwhelming” your book. I call it burying it. But that’s hard to do if you want all your books to count. I say The Corner of 1700 Hamilton and my erotica novellas don’t count toward my backlist, but they have my name on them. They count. Even if I’ll never promote them. I put them out there, they are mine, and I own them.

For me, the glitz and glamour of being an independent author has gone away. You can scroll through writer twitter and maybe see some of those writers who haven’t published yet interacting with other writers with the same wide-eyed look. It’s not that I’ve become jaded–I still get teary-eyed whenever I finish a book and press publish–but it’s not long after that I’m on to the next thing, because there will always be another story.

What is this blog post about? It was supposed to be about how I revamped The Corner of 1700 Hamilton, but I’ll save it for another day.

I guess being quarantined has made me a bit nostalgic. I’ve come a long way in four and a half years. I’ve cried over lost files and bad reviews, I’ve virtually high-fived other authors and shared in their successes. I’ve shaken my head at others who keep making the same mistakes, and I feel bad for them because I don’t see their careers going anywhere. I know authors who are still working on the same story as the one when we met. This isn’t the career for those who can’t be tenacious, who can’t look ahead, who can’t see what they want in ten years and put in the work now. This industry isn’t for the faint of heart. Or for the weak.

I’ve come a long way in the almost five years I published 1700, and I plan to go even further in the next five. I WILL have a bestseller. Just wait and see.

What have you accomplished in the last five years? How has the industry changed since you’ve joined the writing community?

Let me know!


I read more than just Jewel’s book when I first joined Writer Twitter. Take a peek at the books I read that I very much enjoyed, and that I still recommend today. If you’re interested, click on the cover and it will bring you to Amazon. Some of them are in KU if you have a subscription. Some of the publishing dates reflect earlier dates, and I can only take that to mean that the authors have gone in, made changes, and republished. That’s one of the perks of being your own publisher. 🙂

I can’t link you to What Boys Are Made Of and the other books in the series because I think Stephanie is redoing them. It’s too bad she unpublished while relaunching them though, because they were really good. Probably some of the best indie work I’ve ever read. I hope she gets them put back up really soon. They deserve to be out in the world.

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Entropy is the first in a trilogy, and I’ve read them all. I’ve mentioned before Joshua helped me by beta-reading Don’t Run Away, and we formed a friendship after meeting on Twitter. He has quite a few books in his backlist now, and if you want to read his next book, Perplexity, he’s blogging the scenes for a little entertainment due to COVID-19. You can find his blog, Perplexitybook.com, here.

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I love Aila with all my heart, and she knows her stuff. She introduced me to Canva, knows her way around IngramSpark, and is all around a fantastic writer. Sex, Love, and Technicalities is the first in a duet, and I helped her edit the second (which is why I’m attached to it, not because I helped her write it). Aila and I have been friends for a really long time.

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One of the first indie books I read was David’s Lonely Deceptions. Originally published as a novella trilogy, Austin Macauley squished them together and published them as a whole. Not that I would recommend going with a vanity press, David was fortunate and they paid him, not the other way around. Just recently he wrote the sequel and sent it off to Austin so the books would be consistent (they gave him an advance for that book also). Right now he’s working on something new that will be published under a pen name because he says he’s tired of people thinking he’s a doctor. LOL

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Tom is another writer who kind of fell off the grid, though I think he’s active on Goodreads. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but I’ve read all of his books, and he was one of my first Writer Twitter friends. I think Jewel introduced us. His books are hilarious, but dark, and I recommend empathetic all the time. It’s laugh-out-loud good.

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Author Interview–Aila Stephens

Everyone loves to hear how a launch goes. Was it successful? How many books did they sell their first day? Their first week? How many page reads did they have if they were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited?

Book launches are exciting.
◊Cover reveal!
◊Excerpts!
◊Author interviews!
◊Blog tours!

But what about after? There is always going to be someone else who releases a book and our attention will be jerked away by a shiny new cover.

What happens after the launch? What happens months after the first week of sales? How does an author keep the momentum going?

I spoke with author Aila Stephens to find out. Listen in—maybe she’ll tell us all her secrets.

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You launched Sex, Love, and Formalities, the companion to Sex, Love, and Technicalities in November of 2017. How did that launch go for you? Can you give us a quick rundown of what you did to prepare? You hosted a giveaway, as well, correct?

Sure! I drank a lot of coffee. I panicked a little…no, no. I mean, yes, I did those things, but really, I talked Formalities up on social media a little more than I did when I launched its’ predecessor. I had much better-looking bookmarks printed up, and I spent a little more time and money on the book trailer than I did for the first one. I love having a book trailer for my books. It’s mostly a total vanity thing, but they’re still fairly rare in the indie community. Giveaways are pretty hit or miss, I don’t think that’s a secret, but I look at them as a necessary evil.

I did have a giveaway. It’s no secret that giveaways are pretty hit or miss, and there’s never any rhyme or reason to how many participants you get, but this one had decent participation. I gave away two signed copies of my books along with coffee and tea, a mug, and even a nice shawl to throw over the shoulders as it was quickly turning wintertime.

That was a great giveaway! I was bummed I couldn’t enter. You also did a free book promo for book one during the launch of book two using some of your free days allowed to you in the KDP Select program. Can you explain how you promoted that, if you did? If I remember correctly, your stats for that free book were rather impressive.

I promoted using Twitter and my Facebook author page.

I am going to strangle myself for this, but I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how many free copies of Technicalities were downloaded during those days, but it was several hundred—maybe even closing in on a thousand. I’d tell you concretely, but apparently, Amazon won’t let me go back that far. Whatever it was, the top ranking I got on Amazon that day was #14, for Women’s Fictions > Crime, and I believe it was #20 for Women’s Fiction > Romance.

That’s fantastic! Did your free promotion for book one bolster sales for book two?

In the weeks following that free promotion, I did have several thousand “normalized pages” of Formalities being read on Kindle Unlimited, which was very nice.

…If only all those free books and KU pages led to reviews, right?

It’s hard to tell if the sales of Formalities since then have been directly related to that free promotion, though I suspect most are.

Did you find it easier to launch book two since it was a sequel?

I did. I had so many—so very many—mistakes I learned from with Technicalities. I think that’s kind of a great thing though, learning from one’s own mistakes. I made a few with Formalities which I hope to avoid with the next book, and I’m sure I’ll make some with it that I’ll try and avoid with the one after that…and so on and so forth.

What are you doing, four months after your launch, to keep sales going? And are your methods working?

Still drinking coffee, still panicking. Ha! No. It’s not in my nature to go for the hard-sell. I do share pictures of my covers from time to time on Instagram, though it’s fruitless. What I think has helped me the most to see continued sells and KU reads has been my blog. I didn’t have the best track record of consistently blogging, but after my launch, I decided to make blogging my second priority to writing more books. I blog every Monday and every other Thursday. I’m still trying to wean myself from blogging just to other writers and figuring out how the heck you blog for readers, but I digress.

At the end of every blog post I include a small, hopefully unobtrusive, advertisement I made for my books and I link it to them on Amazon. I have noticed that I usually sell something on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, and my KU pages have remained rather steady.

This is a comfortable way for me to garner attention to my books without me feeling like a spam-artist.

Again…if only those translated to reviews.

What have you learned from either of your books to help you launch and maintain momentum for your next book?

I want to give a little more time between finishing the book and launching the book. With this next one I want to seek out ARC reviewers on YouTube (which, honestly, excites me and kills me a little on the inside), and I also want to spread out smaller, but still impressive, giveaways. I am still researching some launch tactics, but these are the main ones I intend to employ this go-round.

Do you have any tips for those who are seeing declining sales after their launch?

I would ask them what they’re doing to keep putting it in front of people. Like I said, there isn’t a soul out there who can say I’ve sent them an auto-DM going, BUY MY BOOK!! But I endeavor to have a quality blog I drive traffic to several times a month, in the hopes that by the time someone gets to the bottom, they’re intrigued enough to take a look at my books.

You can’t publish a book and then expect people to find it without a little elbow grease.

Have you ruled out paying for ads or promotions?

Not at all! I just don’t want to do it for two books. Once my next book comes out, I’ll shell out a little money for advertising and see what comes of it. Three is by no means the magic number, but I will chalk it up to research, too. I can’t afford to be anything except financially prudent with this, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.

I’ve read the best advertisement to promote your work is to write another book. Do you believe this is true?

Absolutely. I wish I had the ability to write full-time so I could crank them out faster. I think in today’s world, we’re all so accustomed to instant-satisfaction that we don’t want to fall in love with a book or an author if they’re not producing anything else. It’d be like watching The Paradise on Netflix and falling in love with it only to learn they shucked it after two seasons. We binge-watch in this day and age, and readers binge-read. This is why there is so much advice out there saying book series are the moneymakers.

…says the girl writing a standalone book right now.

Think of Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird is a priceless piece of American literature, but for the longest time—fifty-five years!—there was only one published out there by Ms. Lee. I don’t know how well that sort of publishing schedule would work in this day and age. 😉

I guess the secret is to write such a thought-provoking, moving book, that your book is mandatory reading in all schools! Thanks, Aila, for taking the time to chat with me!

Vania, thank you so much for sitting down with me again for such a lovely interview! I am always honored and humbled that someone of your talent and expertise has time for little ol’ me.

And to all of your amazing readers, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me!

Love ya, mean it!  -Aila

Aila always makes me blush. I hope you enjoyed her interview and maybe learned a little something about how to keep the momentum after your launch from drifting away. Help keep her momentum up by downloading free copies of her books here (March 27 and 28) and give her Amazon profile a follow while you’re there. 🙂

Aila is leaving her mark all over the interwebs, and you can follow her Instagram account, Tweet with her on Twitter, like her Facebook author page, and definitely give her blog a peek. She’s in the middle of a wonderful writers’ resources series you don’t want to miss!

Thanks for reading!

 

Quotes taken from the websites in the photo captions, and photos taken from http://www.pixabay.com and http://www.unsplash.com. Graphics created with these photos in http://www.canva.com.

PitchWars: Should You Enter?

PitchWars is an annual writing contest where writers all over the world compete for the chance to be mentored by traditionally published authors. If you have a completed novel, you can enter. While mentors comb through entries, everyone involved in the contest spends about a month on Twitter making friends, talking about writing, and sharing their favorite GIFs.

Once picks are announced, mentors and mentees work together for two months on the mentee’s novel. After that, there’s an agent round where roughly fifty agents will read the entries and make requests for manuscripts that spark their interest.

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Right? It’s an amazing opportunity to network and get your foot in the door with traditional publishing. The question is, should you enter?

Yes, I think every unpublished writer who wants to go traditional should try it once. I entered this past August and didn’t get a spot, but thought it was a very valuable experience. However, please save yourself some heartache and assume you will not win a spot. Getting into PitchWars is no easier than getting an agent from cold querying.

So why should you bother? As with everything in this bizarre universe of ours, it has its pluses and minuses.

Disadvantages

Seriously, the Odds Are Not in Your Favor

Ignoring duplicate entries, over 2800 people entered PitchWars in 2017. There were 180 spots. That’s a 0.6% acceptance rate. For context, Yale Fucking Law School has a 9.7% acceptance rate.

But let’s say you’re lucky enough to get in. As of July, PitchWars has almost 250 success stories. This means ~250 people have gotten agents out of the 385 mentees selected between 2013 and 2016. Don’t get me wrong, a 65% chance of getting an agent is HUGE, especially compared to the 1% cold query success rate rumor I keep hearing about. But it’s far from a guarantee.

Am I trying to shit on PitchWars? Absolutely not. But you need to go into this with wide-open eyes. You should have faith in yourself as a writer and your journey; your book will find a home (whether it’s with trad pub, self-pub, or small press). But it probably won’t be through PitchWars. PW is not a golden shortcut ticket to unlock the Gates of Traditional Publishing.

The Secret to Getting Picked Is a Goddamn Mystery

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In addition to the numbers working against you, there is no real way to know why your manuscript does or doesn’t get picked. Some mentors give feedback, but most do not. Your book has to fit into a specific and subjective set of standards, which include…

  1. It has to be good. Good voice, solid plot, interesting characters, quality writing, etc. are essential.
  1. But it can’t be too good. *facepalm* I know. But if you’re going to work with a mentor for two months, they need to have a vision for what they can do to help you improve the book. Contest rules say to submit a “complete and polished” manuscript, but I would read this more as “complete and copyedited.” Your lump of clay needs to be good, but it still needs to be a lump of clay.
  1. It has to mesh with the mentor’s tastes. Before you submit your application, mentors will post wish lists about what kinds of stories they’re looking for, which is helpful, but look at their backlist too. Does anything about their work resonate with you? Their voice? Their subgenre? The tropes they use?
  1. But it can’t be too similar to the mentor’s body of work. If the mentor has a series about a talking squirrel who solves mysteries with a cynical school janitor, they probably won’t feel comfortable working with you on a book about a talking chipmunk who solves mysteries with a grumpy hotel maid.
  1. It has to be marketable. Mentors are more lenient about this than agents are, but it still has to be clear where your book will fit in the market.
  1. The mentor has to believe you can work together. Mentorship isn’t just about quality and marketability. It’s an interpersonal issue, too. Some mentors will stalk you on Twitter to see if you’ll be a good fit.
  1. Weird miscellaneous factors can decide your fate. Maybe your protagonist has the same name as their favorite niece. Maybe your book takes place in their hometown—which they HATE. As they always say, this business is subjective. Considering some mentors have hundreds of entries to wade through, it could be literally anything that puts your book in the “Yes” pile.

Not surprisingly, aside from #2, the reasons a mentor will accept or reject your work are similar to why an agent will or won’t request more pages. Once again, PW is not simpler or easier than cold querying an agent.

Social Media Is Hell

What makes PW such an event is the social media component of it on Twitter, but to be honest, I have conflicting feelings about that aspect. In the weeks leading up to the submission window opening, there are all kinds of Twitter games, encouraging you to get to know mentors and other PW hopefuls. Once the submission window closes, the Twitter party continues for another month…but it gets more intense.

The entire purpose of the PW Twitter community is for everyone to get worked into a literal frenzy. They want you to be excited and proud of your work, which is a nice thought, but it also sets up unrealistic expectations. Many mentors post teasers about entries they’re enjoying— there’s an entire hashtag for them. There are also endless posts telling you to stay positive because there’s always a chance you could win a spot. It was an exhausting rollercoaster.

At least with agents, you know to pray for the best but expect the worst. Cold querying is beautiful in its simplicity. I send out my package, note the expected response dates in a spreadsheet, and walk away. If I follow agents I’ve subbed to on social media, I don’t have to worry their posts will be hints about submissions they’re reading. Some agents do #tenqueries, but those posts include specific reasons for passing on or requesting more pages of a project. They don’t post cryptic messages about something they might pick.

So if you do enter PW, protect your space. Like all social media, PW Twitter can become too much. Don’t be afraid to block hashtags, mute certain accounts, or take a break.

Advantages – Why You Should Enter Anyway

 

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I know, I raised a lot of issues with the contest, but I still think it’s worthwhile to enter at least once. Whether you’re new to the querying trenches or are a seasoned pro, PW has something to offer.

 If You Do Get Picked, It’s a Great Opportunity

It doesn’t hurt to buy a lottery ticket—just don’t gamble away all your money. Go in with low expectations, but if you do have the fortune of getting selected, the mentorship alone is an amazing opportunity. Not only are you getting free, in-depth help from a professional writer, but you’re also forming a connection with them. I often hear about mentors who still talk to and help their former mentees with their writing. Like with any other industry, you need connections to thrive. Mentorships are invaluable.

As I said earlier, the agent round may or may not yield fruit, but it does boost your chances.

You’ll Make New Friends and Expand Your Twitter Presence

While I wasn’t a fan of certain aspects of the PW hashtag, overall, I did enjoy the sense of camaraderie among entrants and mentors. If you participate in any of the games (e.g., GIF competitions) or interact with the hashtag, you’re bound to connect with other PW hopefuls. Some of these people will become followers, critique partners, and even friends. For some writers, PW has become as much a valued tradition as NaNoWriMo because of the unique community.

PitchWars is also a good excuse to post content and build your brand. Twitter is the most popular social media platform for us writer types, so if you’re looking to network, it’s the place to be. Many unpublished writers are using their growing platforms to build hype around their manuscripts by showing off novel aesthetics, character interviews, and memorable quotes. Taking advantage of the PW hashtag can help you with that.

You’ll Discover New Authors

Since mentors are wading through their slush piles for free, it’s nice to give back by reading their books. There are over a hundred PW mentors, so there is plenty of new content to discover. You might find your next favorite book or a new comp title to use in your query letter.

It’s Good Practice for Rejection

If you haven’t queried agents or publishers before…Welcome! PitchWars is a great way to rip off that first Band-Aid of rejection because there’s going to be tons of it, regardless of how you publish. Agents will reject you, publishers will rebuff you, and readers will scorn you. Get in the practice now with PitchWars. Rejections from faceless agents are way easier to digest after getting rejections from friendly mentors you bonded with.

It’s a Kick in the Pants

Most people don’t enter PitchWars because they simply happened to have a polished manuscript lying around. They prepare. Whether they just found out about PitchWars existed three weeks before the deadline or they’re a third-year PitchWars veteran, PW hopefuls haul ass. If you’re looking for motivation, the contest is a great stimulus for finishing your book and writing a query letter. Even if you don’t get a spot, you’re still way ahead of where you were before.

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PitchWars will re-open in August 2018, but you can read this year’s winning entries here: www.pitchwars.org

nadia's logoNadia Diament writes sexy, funny things. You can ask her esoteric questions on Twitter here, check out her blog here, and read her stories here.

 

Five Reasons Why I’m Not Marketing My Books Right Now

As always in conversations about self-publishing, the subject of marketing your book comes up. I hosted a Twitter chat last week on Self-Publishing, and people wanted to talk more about marketing than anything else.

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I get this. I mean, we all want people to find our books; we write so people can read our work. But when people ask me what my plans are for marketing my books, I have to tell them, I have no immediate plans.

And here’s why.

  1. I don’t have enough content.
    You don’t need a marketing plan if you have no content. (Good grammar for a writer, huh?) Various numbers come up, but I follow @BadRedheadMedia‘s #bookmarketingchat on Twitter, and in one of her tweets, she said your career doesn’t start an upswing unless you have 6 to 10 books published. That seems like an impossibly high number, and when I first started in self-publishing, that number was 3 to 5. But with all the new writers publishing books, it’s harder and harder to make a name for yourself, and I believe that number will get higher as the market floods even more.
  2. I don’t want to throw money at one or two books.
    This kind of goes hand in hand with number one. I do have content, but not enough to warrant paying for any kind of marketing. Even if you were to stumble upon a plan that works and drew people to your book, after you draw those readers in, they’re done. They have no backlist to read through if they like your work. I’m too poor to start over every time I publish a new book. When you spend on an ad to market one book, you’re actually advertising your whole list.
  3. I genre-hopped.
    I wrote a Romantic Fantasy for my first go at publishing. I wrote it expressly to experiment with publishing, to get a feel for the process. On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton is two different novellas of the same story, one told from my male main character’s point of view, and one told from my main female character’s point of view. Summer Secrets is six novellas. The story is about six couples told in chronological order, and I published them together so readers would be forced to read them that way. These are Erotica and not my genre of choice. Since I’ve published those, I’ve settled into Contemporary Romance, full-length novels at that, and I don’t want to spend money on books that are not in my genre. When I market my books, I’ll market books that will be the foundation of my writing career. There is no point in marketing books in a genre I won’t write anymore.
  4. I’m researching how I want to market my book.
    I’m reading books right now on how to run Amazon ads, how to run successful Facebook Ads. I read a book on how to use Goodreads as an author. Marketing takes time and money—I don’t want to try these vendors without knowing what I’m doing. I talk to people who have tried various things and they say they don’t work, but they didn’t take the time to figure out how they work so they don’t waste money. It’s important to know what CPC (cost per click) is, what RT (not retweet, you tweeters) Read-Through means, and how to calculate ROI (Return on Investment, not a weird spelling of your sister’s boyfriend’s name). Knowing this stuff puts you ahead of the game, so you’re not wasting money on tactics that won’t work. Here’s a tip: If a person put together a class, say Mark Dawson and his Facebook Ads class, then that way of advertising is complicated and investing a few hours of your time to learn how it works and maybe learn some insider tips can only help you.
  5. I’m networking.
    Yes, networking is a part of marketing. When you hear that you should start networking a year before your book comes out, that’s not a lie. Some suggest even longer. You need to get to know book bloggers—be a blip on their radar as an acquaintance, even a friend, before you have a book to peddle. There is nothing more irritating than having someone introduce themselves to you for the sole reason to ask something of you. Follow them on Twitter, like their FB page. Wish them a nice day, or a great weekend. Listen to podcasts by successful indie authors, like their FB pages, follow them on Twitter, read their books. Become involved in the indie-publishing community. Everyone knows everyone in this business, and you want everyone to know you. I listen to The Sell More Books Show podcast, and Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen host. Bryan Cohen wrote a book, How to Write Sizzling Synopsis, which I bought to support him since I love the podcast. It’s a wonderful book, and I’ve written Don’t Run Away’s blurb with his tips. It took me 15 minutes. It was fabulous. One day I was listening to their podcast, and they had a guest, Michael Cooper. Coincidentally, I was reading his book about Facebook Ads, because someone in Brian D. Meeks’ Amazon Ads Facebook Group recommended it. I’m in his group because I read his Amazon Ads book, and he runs a Facebook group for his readers who want help with their ads. Funnily enough, it wasn’t that long ago he did a guest spot on Joanna Penn’s podcast, to talk about his book. Everyone knows everyone. I’m not suggesting you get to know people just to use them. But if you get to know them, even peripherally, (I tweet and blog about their books all the time; well I tweet and blog about any books I like all the time) then maybe one day when you cross paths, they’ll already have heard of you and will be more willing to help you out, by say, inviting you to be a guest on their podcast. Networking, letting relationships grow naturally, organically, takes a lot of time. Start before you’re desperate for publicity.

Those are my five reasons I’m not marketing right now. I’m writing books to have a decent backlist before I throw money at anything. When readers find me, I want them to ask, “Where has she been all my life?” not, “Oh. She only has one book out?” I’m learning how to market, where best to put money so I don’t waste it. As I do that, I’m getting to know the heavy-hitters in the indie publishing world. Even if you’re not so keen on getting to know them, you can at least study what they do in their careers, what makes them successful, so you can duplicate it.

How long will I “prepare” before I actually punch in my credit card number, or submit my book to a blogger?

It depends on how fast I can write.

Check with me next year.

I Googled “How many books does it take for an indie author to start their careers in 2017?” While I didn’t get a straight up answer, the Google spit out some interesting articles that you can read here and here.

Tell me what you think!

Vania Blog Signature

 

#SmutChat Aftermath

I held my first Twitter chat the other night. My emotions were all over the place.

The chat itself started off very slowly. It was only me, @DRWillisBooks, and @JewelELeonard at the beginning. @SpartaGus and @Alex_Micati joined in and helped out (thanks, guys!). Then @ceeleeolson and @KaelanRhy popped in as well as @erikafrose (thank you too! It was nice to see you!). After that, there were enough participants it didn’t sound like crickets, and as the chat went on more people joined in.

Yes, the first ten minute were very nerve-wracking, and I saw my whole Twitter chat future go down the drain. I imagined the worst-case scenario rather quickly, but it wasn’t necessary.

Though the chat was on the smaller side in terms of participants, it was my first, so that’s to be expected. I think everyone had a good time, nonetheless.

I understand if people were a bit leery—who really knows what a #smutchat could turn into— but my main goal is to keep it informative and classy. I want participants to have fun, and there were a few naughty jokes mixed in, which is fine as we are romance/erotica writers after all. I don’t see the harm in it as long as for the most part the chat maintains a rep as being informative and fun.

I was pleased to see people answering the questions long after chat closed for the evening, and my phone was blown up the next morning with notifications of people participating in the middle of (my) night and into the morning.

I will try my best to touch base with everyone individually, but I do hope that this chat takes off, and participants are happy to chat amongst themselves about the topics as well.

I was a bit disappointed not many jumped at the book giveaway, but that would have been caused by many things—people missing the tweet, or lack of interest in the book. Maybe people didn’t realize the giveaway is open to all countries. (My giveaways always will be.)

I had to work the next day, so I wasn’t able to answer all my notifications right away, but I will always try.

I think I will always announce the winner of the book and announce the date of the next chat at the same time—provided there is still a want for the chat.

I appreciate everyone who participated in my first chat, and I welcome feedback. Please DM me on Twitter or email me at vaniarheaultauthor@gmail.com.

Some things I learned and mistakes I made during my first Twitter chat, plus tips if you’re thinking of starting your own chat:

  1. Don’t panic if you get off to a slow start, but definitely have good friends to help get the traffic moving. Plus I did tweet about the chat almost once every day for two weeks before the chat. This will help keep the chat in people’s minds and give them a chance to schedule the time to participate.
  2. Figure out how you’re going to give your prize away beforehand. I set up a Rafflecopter account and tried the demo before I did my chat. I still made mistakes. When I tweeted about the giveaway and provided the link, I linked to my WordPress.com admin page for my website, not the actual website page. I think this may have caused people who use the WordPress software but are not actually part of WordPress blogging network to log in, which they wouldn’t be able to do. @drwillisbooks had this issue. I realized it in the middle of chat what I did and did eventually linked to the right page, but I may have missed a few people who wanted to enter and thought they couldn’t.
  3. When I announced the winner, I tweeted a screenshot of the Rafflecopter winner so everyone would know I just didn’t pick someone (this rules out favoritism). Rafflecopter adds personal information to the winner pick that shouldn’t be made available to the public. A kind person on Twitter called me out on it, and I took the tweet down. Luckily it had only been up for maybe 45 minutes so hopefully, no harm was done. I wasn’t impressed with Rafflecopter as a whole anyway, so I am going to look for another way to give my books away during chat.
  4. Keep a tab open for Notifications and the #smutchat hashtag. Hosting a chat was new to me, so sometimes even I forgot to add the hashtag to my tweets. Keeping both windows open allowed me to keep an eye on both sets of traffic.
  5. Be actively involved on Twitter and in the community you are a part of. Having friends who supported me definitely helped. I couldn’t have done it without them.
  6. Try to choose a night that does not host a lot of other chats. I researched a good night for chats, and chose Thursdays. I know nights may not always work for everyone, but you won’t please everyone so you need to choose a night that works best for you, as you are the host and moderator and need to focus on the chat.
  7. Be prepared to be online for longer than the chat. Late-comers started answering questions almost at the very end of the chat, which is perfectly fine, but if you want to give them a personal “hello, thanks for playing,” be prepared to be online for a lot longer. I may eventually call this the “chat after party” since I was online for 2 ½ hours for a one hour chat.
  8. Space out your questions. Sometimes I let too many minutes go by between questions. If you stick to a schedule this will keep the chat moving more easily as your participants will have a new question to answer. I don’t think it was too obvious, but sometimes I forgot to put up question because I was busy chatting.

And that is all the tips I have for now. I don’t know how the second chat will go, as I’ll be trying out a new giveaway mechanism, so there will be another learning curve. Overall, hosting the chat was fun, and I have questions already made up for many more. I hope you all join me!