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Messages - Usedtoposthere

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Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: May 31, 2020, 09:00:15 am »
I can see how they would say that about a book they decided to publish. When you say marketing decisions, are you saying Amazon actually markets a book that has more reviews? How exactly do they market? Emails or moving them up the also bought list, etc? I haven't seen that to be true with my books although a couple have 500 or more reviews. I've certainly never seen a spike I didn't pay for myself.
No, this is specifically about indie books. You see, decisions on which books to include in merchandising are not all made by algorithms. They are made by humans. Books are recommended to Marketing by humans, and humans make the determination. I am not saying that reviews are the most important part of that decision. Sales are the most important part. But the number of reviews, the review average, and the credibility of the reviews all matter as well. What do the reviews actually say?

And yes, when you publish with an Amazon Publishing imprint, they also do everything they can to get early reviews, for the same reason, and also for customer credibility, because Amazon firmly believes that reviews are important to customers. (Which is the reason they matter to Marketing.)

As to what that means: including books in new release emails or preorder emails. You can move thousands of books just from one preorder email. (That will not be from reviews of course). Including them in Prime Reading. Including them in daily and monthly deals.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: May 30, 2020, 04:19:37 pm »
Except that I have been explicitly told by Audible, KDP, and Createspace reps that that is not true. They had no reason to lie. They were telling me to get more early reviews, because those matter to Marketing when they make merchandising decisions. I have seen the truth of that in books that they push. They pick up my books with a large number of reviews and a 4.9-star average in particular. It is truly not sales, period.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How Many Reviews Tweak the Zon's Head?
« on: May 28, 2020, 07:42:13 pm »
I believe the reason for the persistence of this idea is that there is some truth to it. The merchandising department at Amazon does like to see a large number of early reviews on books when they are deciding what to give a boost to. And a high review average. (This is not stuff pushed by algorithms, but decisions like what to put into Prime Reading, on a KDD, into emails for new releases, etc.)

The “get more early reviews” thing was said to me over lunch with my KDP rep and with the head of Createspace. It was a number of years ago (5?), but I know Merchandising still cares about reviews. Per a much more recent conversation.

Does not mean X number of reviews alone will do anything.

Writers' Cafe / Re: First Time Writer
« on: May 21, 2020, 08:43:16 pm »
It's a good question. My first book--I edited for about a month, with feedback from some helpful and brilliant friends. Then I wrote Book 2. That one needed more rewriting than Book 1, but I learned a lot, so I went back and edited Book 1 some more. Then I wrote Book 3, which came really easily and needed nothing but proofreading. I finally knew what I was doing! Back to Book 1 for some more editing.

I published them all together, about eight months after finishing Book 1. They were each about 90K. So that's my short answer. Eight months. Nowadays, i edit as I go, and when it's done, it's done--but that's 31 long books in.

To answer your second question--I don't. I've written almost every story idea I've ever had, and I've finished every book I've ever started. People's processes are different, though, because people are different. I think you have to find out for yourself. Oddly, the two books I really almost gave up on turned out to be reader favorites. I've learned that I'm a lousy judge.

Best of luck with your books.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Promotional codes
« on: May 18, 2020, 09:13:27 am »
The point is the market. Amazon has the biggest one. Each store has flaws. Until one is ready to set up a competing bookstore, though, one lives with it. (And personally, is grateful to be able to sell my work directly.) The alternative is traditional publishing, which has issues of its own and where you have much less control. So...??

Writers' Cafe / Re: Promotional codes
« on: May 16, 2020, 09:39:52 pm »
You do a time limited sale and announce and or advertise it. You can do a regular sale on iBooks also. I do not really understand the outrage. What were you expecting?

No. It does not work better than an unsolved murder mystery. It works the same. In other words, not at all. What you are writing is not romance. Period.

There are many, many, many types of romance beyond those you describe. Your contempt for the genre shows and is insulting both here and to any potential readers. You do not understand it. Do not try to write it unless you do.

Yes. I am an actual bestselling romance writer.

I understand that my tone is snarky. You must understand that romance authors are used to this dismissive attitude toward our work, which can encompass some of the great themes of human nature. We write about people. First and foremost and always. It is just as difficult to write romance well as any other genre. But it is incredible how many people think it is easy because the genre and its readers are stupid.

You could try writing that mystery that remains unsolved. That thriller where the bad guys win. That fantasy where evil prevails. None of them are likely to sell. That is not what readers are reading for.
ETA: Romance is also not about the male character “conquering.” It is about the male and female character growing. Each of them has a character arc, a personal journey.

Women are happy to read romance from the male point of view. Most romance is written from both male and female POVs, and quite a bit of romance is written solely from the male POV.

There’s a huge universe of romance beyond “girl falls in love with billionaire boss.” It is an enormous and diverse genre. But yes, they will end up happy together, because that is the sole requirement of the genre. It’s about a relationship. And they end up happy. Just as a mystery is about a mystery, and it ends up solved. Beyond that? Anything goes.

I took a quick look. I think an issue you will have is that you haven't really written romance. You seem, from a quick perusal, to have written the sexual adventures of a man. Two books, at least two (?) different women, and it's "about" the guy, not the relationship. (As far as I can tell from the blurb etc.)

A romance is about two people (or more, if it's a menage romance) falling in love. It may or may not have sex in it. In erotic/steamy romance, the sex may be a big part of the story, even a major plot point, but the driving force of the story is the relationship between the people. The point of a romance novel is people's struggle to be together, to build a life with each other, to complete each other and become their best selves.

It's really hard to advertise romance successfully, or to do well with it, if it doesn't meet the criteria of the romance genre.

Here are some guidelines from RWA that you could look at to see whether what you've got is a romance novel.

ETA: Yes, you can advertise romance, including erotic romance. You just can't advertise on Amazon if your covers don't meet their ad guidelines.

Writers' Cafe / Re: The #1 Contributor to your sales is....
« on: May 14, 2020, 11:37:52 am »
The book.

My times have been normal, for what it's worth.

I start when I know the characters very well. I don't normally have the plot beyond a general idea, and I don't outline. (I can't. I'm not creative in that way. I can't think things up.) I don't do any rewriting though or throw things out. I write the book all the way through and so far (on book 31), it's worked out fine every time. Even on pretty complex mystery/suspense books. (In many cases, I don't know who the bad guy is until halfway through.) It doesn't take me extra time. Whether I know what comes next or not, I write at about the same steady pace, though some books are faster than others. I edit as I go and rewrite for the first half of every day, then write new stuff, then edit it--and edit it again the next day.

I average 2K-3K edited words per day while I am working on a book, up to 7K/day edited words for the last 4-5 days of writing. It takes me 2-3 weeks to think up a new book though and to research the characters. My books are 110-150K. The fastest I've written & edited a long book is 5 weeks for a 120K story. The slowest is maybe 8-10 weeks for a book of that length.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ACX and online readings.
« on: May 04, 2020, 09:56:13 am »
The author owns the copyright to the performance, not the narrator. (At least for paid-upfront works. No idea about royalty share.) I can tell you that ACX encouraged me to put samples up on SoundCloud and link to them from my website, so that is what I do. I can then link to that spot on my website or directly to Soundcloud, which also includes buy links.

ETA: I cannot imagine that a reading by the author would be an issue. To be sure, contact ACX customer service and ask. They are responsive.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How many social media sites do you use?
« on: May 02, 2020, 08:35:34 pm »
Just Facebook. That's where most of my readers hang out. Some of them follow Instagram, but I'm not a big picture-taker. I have a fan Facebook group, which is a helpful place as you don't have the visibility issues you have with an author page, but I post on both. I do find that engaged readers are more likely to talk your books up, etc., but I post very, very little "buy my book" stuff. (For that, I'd send a newsletter--but even there, the tone is more conversational.) My most popular posts are about my dog, my garden, my house, my husband. Those get a lot of engagement. I don't share anything I'm not comfortable with, but I'm authentic.

The FB group is useful if people want to ask me questions and have a conversation. It's fun. Probably an ego boost. Helps me when I'm feeling doubtful about the book I'm writing to see that people care about what I do and are looking forward to the next story.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Audiobook for 7K-Word Short Story?
« on: April 28, 2020, 06:28:04 pm »
$2.76 with the discount for Audible subscribers. Otherwise $3.95. That's a whole lot to pay for a 45-minute listen unless the author's name is Lee Child. And even then--his publisher bundles his short stories to make them credit-worthy.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Writing an internal conversation
« on: April 27, 2020, 11:15:02 am »
If it is within a section of dialogue where I need to distinguish thoughts from spoken sentences, I use italics. If I were showing an argument between two sides of one character, I would simply use paragraph breaks as one normally does in dialogue. I sometimes do it without italics if the context is clear, but I do write pretty deep, without filter words: he thought, he saw, he heard, etc.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Rules on writing craft books
« on: April 27, 2020, 10:58:13 am »
This is why copyright lawyers exist, as mentioned above. If you want to know where things are laid out, you can read the appropriate law yourself. That is about as close as you can get without consulting a lawyer. Best practices are to tread cautiously and get permission. Especially problematic is quoting work in a negative context.

The one time that I know of that my work was used in a craft book, the author (a mainstream editor and grammar expert) asked permission of all the authors. Many writers will be happy to give permission as long as their work is cited and the example is positive. Any publisher will ask you also whether you have permission to use a quote, even if it is out there in the popular culture, commonly used. Another thing a craft book will do is quote work in the public domain, that is out of copyright.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Do you ever hate your first draft?
« on: April 23, 2020, 02:56:57 pm »
I edit as I go, so I don't have this specific problem, but I do compare the book I am writing to (usually) the last book in the same series, unfavorably. Especially if the last book was extremely popular/well reviewed. That's the worst. How I deal with it is that I remind myself that I always do this, and it's always fine. That I'm comparing a book in-progress, where I can't quite see where I'm going, to a book where I wound up all the threads and everything made sense. In other words, I keep plugging away and try to have faith.

I've finished everything I've started and published everything I've finished, and it's always been fine, but it takes a LOT of faith to believe that this latest book will also be fine. (Except sometimes, when I feel just fine about it. Oddly, those books are not necessarily the best reviewed. Often, the ones I struggled with most, that I feared everybody would hate, are the most loved. Go figure. I'm a terrible judge.)

I have had narrators sing if there's a song in the books. (Only songs that are in the public domain.) It's been really popular when they have. I wouldn't put music all over the place, but a song or two, if it's in the story, is fun.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How to get reviews from friends? Is it Allowed?
« on: April 22, 2020, 03:53:43 pm »
Whenever people want to do something, they will split hairs on how it's not REALLY disallowed by Amazon. We saw this with book stuffing, and any number of other things over the years. They have long, legalistic arguments over interpretation.

Look. Amazon makes its guidelines vague for a reason. They want to be able to bring the ban hammer down, no questions asked. They do not care about your legalistic interpretation of what "close friends" means. (Do you have a personal relationship with somebody? As in--know them in person, other than meeting them at a signing or book conference? Not allowed.) The book stuffers lost their accounts in many cases. Their tortured arguments gained them exactly nothing.

With Amazon, the safe course is: Follow the spirit of the rule. They make it pretty obvious. Or, of course, if you like to gamble--go ahead.

Writers' Cafe / Re: How to get reviews from friends? Is it Allowed?
« on: April 21, 2020, 08:45:44 pm »
No,it is explicitly not allowed in the review guidelines. Your friend will be pretty annoyed when they lose all review privileges, which happens not infrequently over this type of thing.

ETA: Here you go.
3. Can I ask my family to write a Customer Review for my book?
We don't allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book. Customer Reviews provide unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers and aren't to be used as a promotional tool. Please refer to our Help Page for more details. Your family and friends are welcome to share their enthusiasm for your book through our Customer Discussions feature.

Full FAQs on Reviews:

Writers' Cafe / Re: ACX audiobook production questions
« on: April 21, 2020, 01:35:52 pm »
Yes, you can pay the narrator independently of clicking the button. As you note, there is stuff that happens for approval on both your & narrator's ends. You hit "Payment submitted," and the narrator hits, "Payment received." The narrator is the one who actually releases the audio to ACX. You can pay them now and do that other stuff once you are ready to release (and have the cover done).

Realize that involves trust on both your parts, since you don't have the "audit" function of both of you confirming via ACX that you've paid & narrator has received payment. In theory, one of you could operate in bad faith I guess. But my main narrator & I do this in reverse--as soon as I say files are OK & hit "Approve," she hits, "Payment Received," and then invoices me, so we don't hold up the process while they payment gets there. (Since we're always in a hurry!) But we've done a lot of books together. :)

I don't know about the "error" message, but since the audio won't have gone through the QA process yet (which is a real process by the way), I don't see how they'd "know" your files had issues. I would assume that's the lack of a cover.


Writing is easy.

Writing a book and then books that find and keep an audience that can provide you with a steady income you can live off is hard.

But it's the good kind of hard. Being able to write fiction for a living is sweet so the hardness of it is worth it.


Well said.

I'm very character driven (what is a plot), so once I've introduced a character, I'm usually excited to write their book. That's half the reason I picked up my billionaire series. I'd set up guy #3 in book #2 and I kept going back to his character. It was not at all the kind of thing I normally write. He was the villain of the book and while he clearly had his reasons, he wasn't really a good guy. My guys have their issues, but they ultimately have big hearts and good intentions.

It was an interesting challenge to write his character and it taught me a lot about the market. I never really liked his character, perse, but I did find him and the book interesting (he was abused by his wicked step-father, who still abuses him in less easy to see ways, now by forcing him to marry, a little contrived, yes, but it's supposed to be "Beauty and the Beast only with metaphors" lol). Even though he was super repressed with a violent temper, readers liked him, and pretty much no one complained about him or asked "why is she with him?" As long as he's alpha...

The next in the series is more my style. It's still very OTT though, which is what's fun about those. A virginity sale + a secret online journal. This is one I've wanted to write for awhile, that I just couldn't fit into my usual books. (Why I want to write a virginity sale, I do not know, but I so love virgins).

Nut, now, even though I introduced the next hero and commissioned two more covers, I'm not sure what I want to do, because there aren't any more ideas I'm dying to explore in that space.

I feel like I've explored a lot of my more commercial ideas, and I'm pretty hesitant to explore less commercial ideas, because I have usually failed commercially when I've done that. And it's just a bummer to see a book not sell & not hit with readers. I got really resentful of my readers for awhile, for not going to where *I* wanted to go, but it's just how it is. People want a specific thing from you, and the breadth of that varies by the author, but if you give them something else, they often don't take it.

Between my initial failure and my mid 2018 release, I don't really believe readers are willing to sympathize who heroines who are actively suffering from mental illness or anyyyyyyyy kind of self-destructive behavior. I'm not sure I *really* want to dive in deep. That's exhausting, and I'm glad I've done it, but it takes a lot of emotional energy, and I don't really feel like people appreciate the raw and honest portrayal. I already get a lot of pushback for leaving ongoing issues ongoing in my books.

In the above book, the guy doesn't end it healed and normal. He ends it ready to take a first step.

But the thing is, I've written the next book, the one where the MC fights & heals & deals with their ugly, ugly, painful, painful trauma, and people didn't really go for it. Maybe the would if it was a male MC and it was a certain trauma, but IME, people don't really want to see the ugly truth of healing.

But now I'm rambling. (And also my next tattoo artist book, the heroine is recovering from an eating disorder, so we'll see).

tl;dr romance heroines aren't allowed the kinds of roles and depths romance heroes are allowed; they are allowed a different kind of depth, but they aren't allowed to really sink low and feel their pain and screw up.

Romance heroes have their own roles. It's true. They have to be "strong" in certain ways, but I find the range that readers will accept a lot more interesting and broad.
Interesting again. (In fact, fascinating. Thank you for sharing. i loved reading your thought process.)

I thought about it and realized that my heroines generally have more issues than my heroes. My heroes definitely tend toward "kind and strong." My last book in particular--my heroine was a hot mess. She was a funny hot mess, though. I wasn't sure how she'd go over, but readers LOVED her.

Maybe it's that my reader's a bit older, and she likes the heroines who are struggling more, because they're more relatable. (I've noticed that they don't like it as much if the heroine's very good-looking, even though those heroines have problems of their own.) My reader also likes "good guys" more than "bad boys." Just a really different market segment, I think. (I'm also the very last thing from over the top! I'm all leaking-breast-milk, baby-weight, potty-accident real life. And I've written exactly one virgin in 31 books, so there ya go. :) )

Bottom line, I guess--important to write for your reader. And if "your reader" is "pretty much you," it makes it easier. 

That is so interesting, Crystal. You made me think. I do change up what I write a lot in terms of tone and subject. It is all romance but some has a more chick lit tone, some is hardcore romantic suspense, some is mixed with a more contemporary fiction slant. That is why I have seven series. My most enduring series, I only write one book a year in, waiting until I can write something that feels new and fresh. Maybe that is not the most immediately profitable path, but as I write long, kinda deep books now, I think I could lose my audience if the books feel less than fresh and meaningful. Maybe that is naive, but that is what readers tell me, and it makes me much happier, so there ya go. I write to make myself happy, bottom line.

I do also write to explore something new in terms of struggles. Not so much societal issues as personal challenges, although I do write books centered around issues as well. Campus rape, prescription drug abuse, domestic violence, amputation, PTSD, divorce, and a lot about starting over. That sounds heavy. The challenge is to make the book sweet, romantic, sexy, and funny too! But I always realize later that the book was “about” something I was personally struggling with at the time.

I guess I would say that my niche is “decent grownups” and “family.” Like I said, it is important to know what your priorities are and what you do well. I have moved away from the darker-shaded mysteries, because what I do best is funnier stuff. I can still explore serious issues this way and I make myself and my audience happier. My overarching goal is to write re-readable books.

My path. Many paths out there.

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