Category Archives: Business of Writing

Yay for Gift Boxes!

Back in December I had entered Siobhan Muir‘s Hot Teddy Bear Hero Gift Basket giveaway, as you do, and much to my shock I won!

So today I received a big box with four of her books (Flip the Trope: Endless Summer, The Samhain Soldier, Broken Chains, The Beltane Witch), a nifty cell phone wrist purse with stickers and jewelry, a magnificent ceramic hot drink glass with all kinds of tea samples, a branded mask, and a beautiful Bearifairy (shown at right) who I have named Isabeau Bear. She now sits with my Edgar Allan Poe doll and watches me as I write, which is only appropriate.

I also got this beautiful lightweight shawl in a pale apple green with delicate beads along the ends. The moment I saw it I knew my Muse would be wearing it in future TikTok videos because it goes perfectly with her hair.

So a big THANK YOU goes out to Siobhan Muir for this amazing swag (and I plan on trying the tea tonight).

In other news it’s cold and rainy out there right now so soup is on the menu for tonight, I’m continuing to plow ahead on Claw, and I think once the omnibus is done and I have the print version ready I’m gonna do my own book box giveaway with swag and other nifty things. Because it’s always important to keep the love flowing, you know?

The Shift to Wide

As of July last year, I moved almost all of my titles out of wide distribution and put them into Kindle Unlimited. My income jumped fivefold and I was suddenly making three figures a month (yes, I know that’s ridiculously low, I’m working on it).

Cut to November and what I kept hearing from reputable sources was that Amazon, which up until now has been the 800 pound gorilla in the indie publishing game, was losing interest in selling books and was thinking of shifting authors away from Kindle Unlimited (which is partially funded by them) to Kindle Vella. People who rely on publishing to pay all of their bills were going wide; more importantly, they were selling directly from their website.

Which got me to thinking. Amazon has an excessively stupid rule where any title that costs more than $9.99 can only earn a 35% royalty instead of the 70% one, which impacts box sets. I will be putting out at least three box sets this year with Esposito County Shifters (5 books), Paladins of Crystal (5 books), and Olympic Cove (6 books). But if I sell them through Amazon I would either have to break each one up into two in order to make the money that I should be making on them or bite the bullet and accept a 35% royalty. Yeah, no.

So I have signed up for a Shopify website, which I’m in the middle of designing. Almost all of my titles currently in KU end their periods in February, but three of the Esposito County Shifters titles end in January. Once they’re out, I’m going to do an experiment and set them wide, then launch the Shopify store and put those up as the first books. When Shifter Woods: Claw is published I’m not putting it in KU, and once Shifter Woods: Growl is out of KU on February I’ll put the box set on sale on my Shopify site and all online retailers.

Except Amazon. the ECS box set will contain five titles and retail at $14.99. For Amazon I’ll split the box set into two and sell Howl, Snarl, and Growl as one set priced at $8.99 and Claw and Roar as one set priced at $5.99. If that works, I’ll start moving all of my other titles out of KU and put them wide as well as sell them directly.

If nothing else, 2023 is going to be interesting.

There Is No Algorithm for Indie Publishing

God, I wish there was—I know enough computer people who could work it out for me.

Instead, you have to test and experiment and test again until you find out what works for you. And that testing is vital because what works for one writer most definitely doesn’t work for another writer. For example, I know authors on TikTok who are averaging huge amounts of views for their page flips or their vids where they stand there and be beautiful at the camera while quotes or blurbs from their books appear.

Neither of those work for me (believe me, I tried the page flips, and as for the “be beautiful at the camera” TikToks there isn’t a filter developed that will make me that captivating). As for other forms of social media FB ads don’t seem to work for me (although I’m taking Mark Dawson’s Facebook Ads expedition this week to see if I can figure out what I’m doing wrong), and Amazon ads do work … kinda. But I have to stay on top of them and ruthlessly prune any that are costing me money without garnering me sales or read-through. I crosspost from TikTok to Instagram which is getting some traction (I need to study hashtags and figure out which ones work the best), and Tumblr is fun but doesn’t do much except for allow me to post pretty pictures and snarky commentary.

Much as I hate to say this, I suspect I’d be a lot more successful with social media promotion if I was thirty years younger and a hundred and eighty pounds thinner or so. Yes, I know there are older authors and bigger authors who are mega-successful, but they either write in genres that I don’t do or they have had to work twice as hard to garner their success.

But I am who I am, I write what I write, and I need to make that work one way or the other. I just have to home in on what that magic formula is.

It’s only January 6th, so why do I feel like a slacker?

Claw is recovering from the shellacking I gave it (the complications I added to the plot would have worked wonderfully for a novel. Not so much for a novella) and should be ready for release Real Soon Now (the editor is already tapping her fingers and asking when she can expect it).

Unfortunately I made the mistake of reading other authors’ newsletters and watching the trailer for A Pale Blue Eye last night. Now my Inner Taskmistress is screaming at me, “Why aren’t you selling more books? Why isn’t anyone optioning YOUR work? Is your thumb permanently embedded in your ass or are you actually going to earn some damn money this year?”

People think that working for yourself must be great. Not so much, especially when your Inner Taskmistress can be an utter bitch. I always feel that there’s more I can be doing, should be doing, and if I don’t do that I’m a lazy slut who deserves to spend her golden years in a cardboard box under a bridge. And I know that’s a stupid mindset to have but it’s a hard one to shake.

Anyway, I’d better wrap this up and get to work. I need to write a lot of words today if I want to be able to spend the weekend taking down the Christmas decorations and cleaning, whee…

Authors Behaving Badly

Currently watching the Susan Meachen saga (briefly: Meachen is an indie romance author who had a family member claim she had committed suicide two years ago after being bullied over her romance novels. The indie book world promptly gathered together to raise money for her funeral and get her last book published, innocent people were accused of the bullying, and there was much stramash. A few days ago Meachen popped up on her FB reader group saying that she wasn’t dead, let the fun begin, and indie book world pretty much exploded when it came out she’d adopted a new pen name and had been moderating the group under it as well as writing under it).

Okay, so now you know. Her supporters say that she was just trying to protect herself, that she had been under great mental strain, yadda yadda. She said that she had been in the hospital when the family member (if this family member exists) had posted about her “death” and she had no control over that but knew they were trying to help her.

This, of course, does not address the help her family received in publishing her last book, the alleged possibility of fraud over the funeral money (this is still a confusing point), or the fact that she could have just said, “Whoops, I’m still alive, family member was just trying to protect me” instead of, you know, adopting a whole ‘nother online persona to moderate her FB reader group.

As I’d mentioned on TikTok, there’s making a mistake, there’s compounding a mistake, and then there’s this. And yes, I can understand mental illness driving someone to do something along these lines—some folks have mentioned that being bipolar can result in similar actions. But she shows no signs of regret or remorse whatsoever for hurting her readers. There was no apology, no, “Hey, I am so sorry about this, please forgive me for what I did, it won’t happen again.” Just a flippant, “Let the fun begin.”

That’s not MI—that’s being a manipulative asshole.

BOY, it’s been a busy two months

When last I left you, my friends, I was prepping for my sister’s arrival (aka frantically trying to make the house not look like a heavy metal band had been camping here for the last six months) and getting started on TikTok. I’m happy to say that the house was indeed cleaned, the visit was lovely, and she’s coming back with her husband in two weeks. Which is good because I need the time to re-clean this place–granted, it’s not nearly as bad as it was in September, but I got some contract work this month and went to Vegas for a week (more on that later) so some of the housekeeping kinda slid by the wayside.

As for TikTok, that’s turned out to be an immense amount of fun — I’m coming up with skits I want to do, I made it over a thousand followers so I can now put a URL on my profile page that links to all of my books, and generally it’s a good outlet for being the goof that I am. It also gave me a good reason to buy a new tiara (there’s a Thing on BookTok where if you’re a romance writer you wear a tiara while you do your videos. Far be it from me to say no to wearing a crown).

And that extra tiara (I now have three) came in handy when I went to Vegas for 20Booksto50k® 2021, which is a faboo conference for indie authors and publishers. In the space of five days I learned SO MUCH both about the craft of writing and the business of being an indie author — marketing, ads, stacking promos, how to construct a book launch properly, bookkeeping, starting LLCs and similar companies, everything from soup to nuts. I came back thoroughly pumped, started adding A+ content to all of my Amazon books, tweaked blurbs and ads, and rewatched videos of panels to get deeper into the best way to construct Amazon and FB ads.

Oh, and I’m doing NaNoWriMo, too, because I’m a masochist who doesn’t know when to say no. Right now I’m up to 35,085 words on Crystal Shard (ooh — did I mention that I’m doing a rapid release Reverse Harem series next year? I’m doing a rapid release RH series next year) as well as finishing The Crimson and the Black (and man, did I get some insights into that book while in Vegas). Right now it looks like Crimson will be coming out mid-January, and Crystal Shard will be coming out mid-March with the next four books in the series following in April, May, June, and July. Oh, and I’m also working on Mage of Fire (Two Thrones 5), release date TBD.

Yeah, definitely a masochist. But at least I’m having fun.

Vote for King of Blades in the Swoon Awards semi-finals!

There’s a new contest in Romancelandia! The Swoon Awards are chosen by popular vote and are open to all romance readers. Much to my shock and delight, I found out that King of Blades made it into the semi-final round for the Fantasy Romance category.

Voting for the semi-final round ends tomorrow, so if you’d like to vote for King of Blades in the Fantasy Romance category you can do it here — go to the middle of the page and click the pink Next button to start voting. And thank you for your support!

So, it’s 2021

I know it’s expected to come up with a list of resolutions, diet plans, and goals at this time of year, but to be honest I hate resolutions, diets bore me, and I already came up with my goals for 2021 back in November.

Goal #1: Improve my indie publishing sales

The trick here is twofold — write and publish more good books steadily, and get really, really good at promotion. Which includes Amazon ads for me (I don’t have a great deal of luck with FB ads but I’m studying up on them), as well as social media promotion, regular blogging here, biweekly newsletters, and tools such as BookBub, BookFunnel, and BookSprout.

On the book-writing front, I managed to get a novel or novella out each month in the last half of 2020, which almost completely cleared off my WIP backlog. I won’t be able to keep that up in 2021, at least not if I want to maintain my current level of quality, but the goal is to release six books, once every two months, and put out a novella or short story in between the book releases. That, I feel, is manageable, and should result in twelve titles being released in 2021.

On the promotion front, my Amazon ad game is definitely improving — I’ve been making more sales and my Advertising cost of sales is dropping steadily, which is also good. That being said, I’ve decided to blow away all the old ads and start fresh in January by implementing the things I’ve learned about Amazon ads and doing A/B testing. It’ll take some time for the algos to pick up on that and start bumping the books up, but from a long-term perspective I think it’s the best thing I can do. Still need to do some more research on FB, but I may dip my toes back in that pool sometime in February.

Goal #2: Make mo’ money

This is partially tied into Goal #1 since that’s one of my main income streams. What with the emotional and financial rollercoaster of the last four years, I’m tired. Last year I had determined to clear off all of our outstanding bills with my contract job, and before COVID got me furloughed I was able to clear all bills except one. I want to expand on that this year, plus I want savings, I want to be able to invest in the stock market, and I want Ramón to be able to retire in 2024. And the only way to make that happen is to bring in more money.

I have three income streams at the moment — indie publishing, contract tech writing work, and jewelry making. At the moment the contract work pays the most, but it’s also on hold due to COVID. I would very much like to get to the point where I make enough money from indie publishing that I don’t have to rely on contract work unless the job really appeals to me.

And believe it or not, before last year I made pretty much the same amount from jewelry making as I did from indie publishing (mainly due to my work in sterling silver and semi-precious stones). Publishing has now pulled ahead of the jewelry, but I’d like to get back to designing and creating jewelry this year. It’s fun, it’s a nice break from writing, and it’s become part of my writing process (I mull over story ideas and plotting when I’m melting silver and soldering findings together). Also, people have been asking when I’m going to put more baroque earrings on my Etsy page. It’s nice to have fans.

Goal #3: Continue working on my shitty knees

At least I now know exactly what’s wrong with both of them, and I have PT exercises that do help. But that little chat with the PA at Baylor confirmed that I’m never going to actually straighten out either knee unless I get replacements, and the Baylor surgeon did not seem willing to do that.

Which means I will continue to limp for the foreseeable future, until 1) I can find a surgeon willing to replace ShitKnee at the very least, and 2) save up the money for that, as my PT sessions drained all the money I’d saved for surgery from last year. God, I hate the American medical insurance system.

Now, I just have to implement all of these goals. I’d gotten off to a great start on 1/4 after my break, but yesterday was taken up with hauling JJ to the emergency vet because he’d been vomiting up pinkish foam (after an exam and bloodwork to the tune of $611, the determination — he had an upset tummy) and today I’m running around trying to tempt JJ to eat with soft treats and easily digestible things and Jeremy is making an absolute ass of himself trying to get in my way. Need to catch up with word count, monitor the pending Senate race in Georgia (come on, Jon!), and brave the outside world later on for a food shop.

Onward, 2021.

N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s Christmas and Holiday Book Festival – Natasha M. Stark

Hello, all you lovely people, and welcome to the blog! I probably should explain the discrepancy between the name in the blog title and the name on the website itself — I write speculative romance (SF/fantasy/paranormal) as Nicola Cameron, but in 2020 I started writing contemporary romance as Natasha M. Stark. My very first contemporary holiday romance, One Sweet Christmas, is the story of an unemployed personal assistant traveling to LA who gets stranded in a Colorado ski town when her car breaks down. She gets talking into helping the local hot baker make an emergency wedding cake for an influencer Bridezilla––and hijinks ensue!

One Sweet Christmas was an absolute ball to write as it combined three of my favorite things––romance, banter, and baking. I can neither confirm nor deny that this story was influenced by The Great British Bakeoff, but I do enjoy baking assorted treats like mince pies and fruitcake, which leads me to my family holiday tradition. When I was a kid, my mother used to make a Polish fried cookie called Chrusciki (angel wings) every Christmas, and watching her making them was almost as good as eating them.

Image Copyright 2020 JennyCanCook.comThis was before the advent of silicone baking sheets, so she would spread a clean sheet over the kitchen counter to get a smooth surface, scatter it with flour, then roll out paper-thin sections of dough before slicing them into rectangles and cutting a slit down the center of the long side.

One end would get pulled through the slit to form a kind of dough bow tie, before going into hot oil and puffing up into a delicious, crispy cookie. The final touch was sprinkling them with powdered sugar (this had to be done while they were still hot and slightly oily so that the sugar would stick). You couldn’t wear anything nice when you ate Chrusciki because you’d get powdered sugar over everything, but we didn’t care because they were so yummy.

If you also love baking and want to take a crack at making these delicious cookies, Jenny Can Cook has a really good recipe that produces authentic Chrusciki. Just don’t wear anything that has to be dry cleaned when you nom them.


Thanks so much for stopping by the blog, and I hope you had a good (and safe) holiday this year! Before you go, I’d like to remind you of the Rafflecopter giveaway being held by N.N. Light’s Book Heaven. Everyone who enters has a chance at winning one of the following:

  • $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

Direct Link: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92db775087

The giveaway is open internationally and runs December 1 – 31, and a drawing will be held on January 4, 2021. Click the link above to enter, and good luck!

https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Want to read some AWESOME holiday books and win an Amazon gift card?

Calling all holiday-themed readers! We’re celebrating Christmas and the holidays all month long at N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s Christmas and Holiday Book Festival. 48 holiday-themed books featured plus a chance to win one of the following:

  • Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, One Sweet Christmas, will be featured on December 31st, 2020. Each author shares a family holiday tradition, including me. You won’t want to miss it.

Bookmark this event and come back every day:

https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/christmas-holiday-festival