Some Things an Author Does Will be a Waste of Time

There are a couple of problems that every author faces.

1. There are a lot of marketing strategies out there.

2. An author can’t predict which marketing strategy will pay off.

3. What works for one author might not work for another author.

4. While marketing, an author needs to devote time to writing the next book. The book is the best marketing strategy any author has because authors are in the business of selling books.

An assistant who knows what they’re doing will charge between $15-$20 an hour, and since they do know what they’re doing, they’re worth that price. The learning curve is steep in this business, regardless of whether you need someone to upload books for you, maintain ads, or work on your blog/website. Authors who can afford assistants are often more productive than those who can’t because they can focus their time on things they know will pay off.

But alas, we are in the real world, and a lot of us can’t afford an assistant to do the things that might not pay off. As a result, a lot of us will end up wasting our time at some point in our writing career. The only things we can do is hedge our bets and do those things which have the best chance of success.

So what do we do in a sea of uncertainty?

This is why it’s best to be as wide as you can with your books. You never know what will take off, and you never know when it’ll take off. You might be doing well on one retailer one month but do better on another retailer another month. One month, you’ll see a nice boost in sales on one book then another boost in sales on another book. One month, you won’t sell anything in paperbacks, and suddenly, you’ll see some sales in paperbacks. I had given up on paperback sales until I saw some money coming in at D2D on the paperbacks I put up over there a couple of months ago. People said AI audiobooks would never sell because people will only listen to human-narrated books, but I made a few bucks on those AI audiobooks on Google Play. Granted, paperbacks and audiobooks do not sell as well as ebooks, but they do sell. Every little bit you make will add up. At least when you already have the book done and out there, it stays there. Once in a while, I’ll get a comment from someone who just now found the books that I published in 2009 and 2010. The world is a big place, and there are a lot of people who have never seen your books, no matter how long they’ve been available.

I’ve been publishing since 2009, and it’s a roller coaster. If you think this business is going to be steady, you’re wrong. Anyone who tells you that you can expect your income to always go up either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or is lying. Sometimes income even goes down. You can do things to give you an advantage, but you aren’t guaranteed that those things will work.

That’s why some things you do will be a waste of time. It’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what will stick. If you can get something to stick, then you want to do it again to see if it’ll pay off. If it does, then you have something worth devoting more time into. If, however, it doesn’t stick, maybe you want to try it again, just to make sure. Sometimes what looks like a failure is just a delayed reward. It can be hard to know in this business. But if it’s still not sticking after a few tries, then it’s best to try something else. For example, I took a couple of weeks out of my schedule to make a Payhip store so I could sell ebooks directly to people. This has turned into a huge flop for me, even though it’s worked out great for other authors. I tried running different coupons, but nothing worked. Over the past two years, I saw one sale. That was it. Doing all of that work on Payhip was a waste of time. I keep the site up, though. I went through the trouble and work to put everything there. Maybe someday it will pay off. For now, it hasn’t. Another example, so far I have received 0 sales from the AI audiobooks I’m putting on Kobo. I’m only continuing to do it because I can upload the files while writing, but if I couldn’t write while uploading the files, I’d stop and move onto something else. I’m all for exploring your options because until you try something, you don’t know how things will pan out, but there has to be a time when you decide enough is enough.

Choose the things that interest you.

There are a ton of things you could be doing to get your books out into the world. It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a brand new marketing trend that sparks through the writing community like wildfire. Since you are limited on time, you need to pick which strategies you’re going to go with. I suggest you go with the ones that most interest you.

For example, I have no interest in podcasting. I’d rather share what I learned as an author through a blog. Writing is a lot easier for me than speaking. When I speak, the ideas just don’t come out as easily. I communicate faster and more effectively when I type things out. But other authors do very well by speaking their thoughts out. For them, speaking makes more sense than blogging. I’ll throw in another example. Some authors love running Amazon ads. Their favorite part of the day is checking on keywords and seeing how those keywords are doing on getting clicks. To me, this is a form of torture. But these authors would rather be checking on their ads than blogging like I am now.

Just because someone else has huge success in one area, it doesn’t mean you have to do it if it’s something you’re not interested in. If you can afford to hire out for stuff you don’t like, do it. If, however, you can’t afford it, there’s no sense in doing it. You have plenty of things out there that you can do. And let’s say what you pick does end up being a waste of time. At least you enjoyed what you were doing. Granted, you probably will want to quit that once you realize it’s not paying off. Just choose something else that interests you. Also, you don’t have to be tied into the same thing year after year. Let’s say you did enjoy doing something for a while but then lost interest in it. Let’s say you want to try something else. You can. The beauty of this business is that you can be flexible.

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Moving Paperback Files to Draft2Digital

I don’t know how many authors read my blog posts, but a discussion came up yesterday in a writing group where the question was posed, “Which is the best place to publish paperbacks?” Hands down, I’d say Draft2Digital (D2D). The process is easy, the author copies are reasonably priced, the dashboard is nicely set up, and the paperbacks are good quality.

I started out publishing paperbacks before I got into ebooks. This was back in 2008 when CreateSpace was around in the US. Back then, CreateSpace was what D2D is now. Sadly, Amazon decided to drop CreateSpace, and now authors have to use the KDP dashboard in order to make paperbacks. I know they recently added a hardback option, but they can’t even get a paperback cover right, so what makes me believe they’ll make the hardback look good?

In the comments of the writing group I mentioned above, an author friend, who is more marketing savvy than I am, made a comment that convinced me it was time to get serious about moving my paperbacks from KDP to D2D. In a nutshell, she said she lost money in paperbacks using KDP’s Expanded Distribution option. I had noticed that since Amazon switched from CreateSpace to KDP that my paperback income plummeted. I was getting about $100/mo in CreateSpace, but once KDP got put into place, I’ve been lucky to make $20/mo. Considering I have more books out, that’s not good. I knew KDP had done something to put the nail in the coffin on my paperback sales, but I didn’t know what that nail was. Could KDP’s Expanded Distribution be the nail? I don’t have any proof to say it is, but considering how smart my author friend is, I have to consider it a real possibility.

All I know is that I am not happy with the quality of the paperbacks, and I am definitely not happy with the way Amazon bullies authors around. I understand there is no perfect retailer, but I’d rather put my time and attention into places that don’t jump on authors for the littlest thing. (If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you know I’ve been hassled by Amazon quite a bit to prove my copyright after I’ve done minor things like making a price change on my book.)

I like D2D a lot. The people running it are nice to authors. So I’m taking all of my paperbacks off of KDP and moving them to D2D. I did have an author ask me yesterday about making more money per sale on Amazon if the files were in KDP. Yes, it’s like anywhere else you choose not to go direct. If you use a distributor for your books, that distributor will take a percentage. That’s how the distributor makes money. Every retailer you upload directly to will take a percentage of the sale, too. I understand when you use a distributor, that distributor AND the retailer takes a cut from the sale. But sometimes it’s worth using the distributor to eliminate the hassle of being direct everywhere AND to have a good quality product. To me, the crappy quality of the paperbacks KDP produces just isn’t worth it. KDP is like a flip of the coin. Sometimes their printer does a good job, and sometimes it doesn’t. You don’t know what you’re going to get until the book is at your door. With D2D, I’ve never had a bad experience. With KDP, about 70% of the books were “off” in some way. If a reader buys one paperback that is poor in quality, chances are, they’ll decide not to buy any more paperbacks from the same author. They’ll assume all of the author’s books will look terrible. Considering how expensive paperbacks are, who can blame them for not wanting any more paperbacks?

Anyway, this morning I went into my KDP dashboard and unpublished over half of my paperbacks. (I plan to get to the others later.) It took a surprising amount of time to create my list, so I don’t forget which books to work on. I am going to start uploading files to D2D soon. This is going to take me a while to do. I have a few paperbacks already on D2D. But I have over 100 books out in all (when you count my Ruth books and my Barbara books). I believe I have about 80ish books to upload to D2D. I’m just going to take my time. When this project gets done, it gets done.

In the meantime, I’m still working through my catalogue to put my AI audiobooks up on Kobo, and I’m still writing the Marriage by Obligation Series. The writing is the priority, so my word count goals for the day gets done before anything else does. On some days, I’m unable to get around to anything but the writing.

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The Books I’m Writing at the Moment

I’m happy to say my current works in progress are coming along better than I had expected. I thought I’d share what is going on with them.

First, I wanted to say this is the definitive order of the Marriage by Obligation Series:

Secret Admirer ebook cover Midnight Wedding ebook cover The Earl's Jilted Bride ebook cover Worth the Risk ebook cover

I decided to drop The Duke’s Return, which was originally supposed to be Book 5 in this series, because I don’t have an interest in writing it. I realize some people will want a certain character in Secret Admirer to get his story, but there’s no plot idea that sparks my interest with him. I’ve had to say “no” to a few projects in the past because I didn’t find anything exciting enough to write about for a particular character. It just is what it is. I can’t force a story that isn’t there.

So anyway, this is the complete list of books for the Marriage by Obligation Series.

Now onto the stories themselves…

Midnight Wedding

I am 16,000 words in, and there’s already been an old bloody settee found in the attic. (This becomes important later in the story.) This story takes place at the heroine’s family estate, so the main characters are in a secluded environment. The main characters are the heroine, her two brothers, and the hero. There is only one servant available due to the heroine’s family’s financial ruin. Lord Quinton is the answer to their prayers. I thought he would be upset with being kidnapped and whisked off to marry the heroine, but he developed affections for her in Secret Admirer and is quite agreeable to the match, though he’s not all that excited they didn’t think to take any of his clothes with him when they kidnapped him.

I originally introduced Lord Quinton in The Cursed Earl. He’s the character who is obsessed with good and bad luck. I brought him back in Secret Admirer, which is due out March 2023, and he’s still convinced that he needs to tip the balance of luck in his favor. He is the right character for the gothic story I’ve been wanting to tell since 2020. So far, the humor is strong. But I already know what these characters are going to find in a remote area on the property, and the subject matter will turn dark. Something terrible did happen at this estate back in the 1600s, and these characters are about to uncover it.

I originally thought I should tone it down since this is a romance, and I know a lot of romance readers don’t like dark elements in their books. But then I decided this is my story, and if I want it done right, I need to do it this way. I have to write this for myself. If people don’t like the direction it goes, then they don’t have to read it. I’d say it’s going to be close to The Duke’s Secluded Bride. So if you are fine with that book, you’ll be okay with this one. But if that disturbed you, skip this one. That all said, there is still the humor that will help to lighten the mood. Lord Quinton’s reaction to things and the fact that the heroine’s older brother thinks Lord Quinton is the oddest person he’s ever met will help balance the darker elements.

The Earl’s Jilted Bride

I don’t know if anyone remembers that duke I was planning to get rid of who was supposed to come back. I wrote that post a while back. Anyway, my original idea for this series was to introduce the duke in Secret Admirer. He was betrothed to Lady Carol, but he resented being fixed up to marry her so he was supposed to run off. She was supposed to end up with someone else instead, who then would die, and when the duke returned, he was supposed to make things right. But honestly, I wasn’t feeling it. The plot felt stale and boring. So after taking time to figure things out, I went a different route. I decided to have news of the duke’s suicide come out at the end of Secret Admirer, thereby setting up the events for The Earl’s Jilted Bride.

In the suicide note, the duke makes it clear he is killing himself so he doesn’t have to marry Lady Carol. Lord Wright, who desperately needs a mother for his two-year-old daughter, jumps at the chance to marry her. Since she can’t imagine anyone else taking her, and since her guardian is threatening to run her to a convent, she accepts the marriage proposal. I introduce Lord Wright and Lady Carol in Secret Admirer, though they don’t meet each other until this book.

I’m only in Chapter 5, so there hasn’t been much build up to this story yet. What I know are two things: 1) Lord Wright is not the girl’s biological father, but to save the family from scandal, he hides this fact. 2) Carol is going to be accused of murdering the duke. The fact that she’s going to be accused of murder can go in many directions. I won’t know how the others in this story will respond until I write those scenes. The fun part of writing is not knowing what will happen until you’re writing it out. This drives plotters nuts, but it works for me. I want to be surprised. I don’t want to know how things will play out in advance. This is why when I read how predictable my books are, I’m thinking, “They weren’t predictable to me.” Except, perhaps, the predictable aspect stems from the fact that these are romances, and in romance, you are guaranteed the hero and heroine will work things out and have a happy ending. If that’s the case, then yes, my books are predictable, because even I know this element of the story going into it. But how I get from the beginning to the end is always up in the air to me.

Worth the Risk

Anyone remember Reuben St. George from It It Takes a Scandal? He was the kid brother of Corin St. George (Lord Durrant). In the story, he ran out to his estate because he thought Reuben was seriously ill. Anyway, Reuben is now an adult and ready for his own romance. I bring Reuben and Corin back in Secret Admirer, but the emphasis leans more heavily in Reuben’s direction since he is the hero of Book 4 in this series. In Secret Admirer, he meets Miss Amelia Carnel. Amelia is Lord Wright’s sister. Since Lord Wright’s book is The Earl’s Jilted Bride, I am able to bring Reuben and Amelia in for quite a few scenes that will set things up for the events that take place in Worth the Risk.

Worth the Risk starts with Reuben coming down with another illness that scared Corin enough where he demands that Reuben leave London and return to the estate. Reuben, used to taking orders from a brother 15 years his senior and reasoning that Amelia should have a husband who is healthier, heeds his brother’s wishes. He writes a missive to Amelia explaining why he’s leaving, adding that he wishes things could have been different between them. Well, Amelia is not the kind of lady who is just going to let true love walk out of her life, and so she and her brother follow him out to the estate.

This story is going to have a happy ending because it is a romance. My husband thought I was going to kill Reuben off because he’s sickly, but I’m not going to use that all-too-familiar trope because, quite frankly, that trope sucks. The reason I love romance is that it’s all about hope. Even thought Reuben is sickly, the lesson is that we can’t stop living out of fear that we might die. We have to enjoy life. It does no good to hole yourself up from other people. A meaningful relationship is worth the risk (hence the title of the story). Meaningful relationships are what makes living worth it.

Naturally, this will create some conflict between Reuben and Corin, but I’m not the far into the story yet. I’m only in Chapter 4. There’s still plenty of things that need to happen before Corin finds out that Amelia’s with Reuben. Of the three stories, this one will probably have the lightest tone, though it will not be a comedy. Midnight Wedding will have the comedic moments that will border on comedy. Worth the Risk is more of a tender and sweet romance.

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