First Cup of Coffee – January 8, 2024

On beauty standards, vanity, aging, skin-care, Botox, and choosing your author brand. I promise they’re related! Also Indie authors going to Traditional Publishing and the pitfalls, and a cool data point on series drop-off.

When You’re Caught in Author Drama: 3 Steps for Extracting Yourself

Monsoon rains in New Mexico bring green green green!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week concerns Author Drama. We’re asking specifically if we think it’s idiocy or a PR campaign.

So far the opinions this week have run to proclaiming it unwise at best and idiocy at the baseline. I don’t disagree. I’m not much for drama in any aspect of my life, so I go to lengths to avoid it. Those of you who’ve followed me for a long time know I’m all about balance, that – as a practicing Taoist – I’m forever seeking the middle path and a place of equanimity.

That said, sometimes the drama finds you.

As with all of life, we are walking a fine line with author promotion. We put our books out there, and we put our SELVES out there, because the author is the brand that readers follow. When we post photos of our lives, our likes, our pithy observations, and so forth, we are doing it because we WANT attention, right? If nothing else, we’ve been trained by social media to court those clicks and likes and followers, in the hopes that they translate to book sales and readers.

But we only want positive attention! you might say. Well, yes. Still, there’s always the chance that a bid for attention can go too far and tip over into negative attention. These things aren’t always controllable. When I see the latest kerfuffle and readers lining up on sides, it’s easy for me to sit back and feel smug that they’re not yelling about ME. I also have to be honest about myself and realize that they’re not talking about me either. It’s easy to declaim drama when you’re not noticed at all.

What’ most important to remember is: most authors who find themselves mid-drama did not intend to incite that level of reaction. What’s happened is they handled it badly. They don’t have the professionalism, the emotional maturity, the support network, the sheer ability to control themselves, to back away.

That’s what it takes. The common wisdom holds, should you find yourself propelled into drama:

1) Step away

No matter what anyone says, you are not required to respond immediately. It’s almost always better if you don’t  respond until things have cooled. This includes not looking at what people are saying.

2) Apologize

Don’t entrench. Don’t argue. Don’t try to convince everyone that you really are a Good Person™. If you don’t know how to craft a good apology (which admits being wrong, makes no excuses, and includes real resolve to change), get help with it.

3) Don’t fan the flames

Resist the urge to respond further. Stick to your statement and apology. Don’t succumb to the lure of attention by stoking it just a little more. Actually do the work to correct what you did to upset people.

What happens with some Author Drama cases is that the person in question becomes so enticed by the attention that it all feels good. In extreme cases, it becomes their brand. It’s a choice, but not always one that serves the books and the storytelling.

First Cup of Coffee – February 14, 2022

Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy who even knows I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Ah, ah oh the angels sing. Ah today is Monday February Fourteenth happy Valentine’s day to all of you. Um I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s day and it’s it used to be painful when I was single. I think it’s one of those holidays that like if you are in a relationship. You really don’t care that much. It’s like ah and or every day is valentine’s day depending on how sickening you want to be ah. But and if you’re single and don’t want to be It’s painful I think even if you’re single and you do want to be It’s painful because if you’re happily single. The other three hundred and sixty four days of the year and then valentine’s day rolls around and all of a sudden you feel like all of your choices are called into question and yes I’ve been that soldier so it’s um, apparently spring here. It doesn’t. Necessarily feel like spring. Although the dates are getting longer nights are growing more warmer. Sorry um, this is how my brain works. It’s chock full of like song lyrics and especially from broadway musicals at any rate. The sun is warmer. The days aren’t that much warmer but the birds the birds have decided it spring. So now I’m looking out my window at the portal and there are finches that are trying to make sort of this top spiral of. Wisteria vine up in the corner of the portal work for a nest and I just don’t think it’s gonna happen I don’t know they’re very determined I have did say to this is like totally off topic. But that’s what you guys have to. Are used to hear it first cup of coffee I got this suet because the Bush tits have been coming through Bush tits are adorable. There’re these tiny little birds and they come to in the flock and they cheep madly. You mostly know they’re there. Could you hear that cheekki deede d dede and they’ll just swarm to suet and so.

Been I’d been seeing them around so I grabbed a suet for them at the grocery store. You know like 1 those ones with chock full of meal worms and brought home and I could not find our little suet feeder bracket. This is like part of my life I don’t like to talk about is the fact that here we are back to Valentine’s day every day is Valentine’s day been with David for 31 years Love him. Best partner in the world in so many ways the band cannot organize shit to save his life. Ah, and when we moved into this house. There’s this workbench in the corner of the garage. And there’s this one relay long side and then a shorter side and so I said oh hey, why don’t you take the whole long side for your tools and I’ll take the short side for my gardening bench. Okay so David is one of these people was it is it a man thing it might be a man thing. So. When he sees an empty space. He doesn’t think oh that is the empty space where x thing normally lives or there’s that empty space that Jeffie keeps open on her gardening bench so that she can actually do gardening bench things. No he thinks. There’s an empty space where I can set my shit down I know that we have a suet feeder bracket. It is buried somewhere I I eventually he kicked me out of my gardening bench you guys he kicked me out and I I went without protest he he had like this brilliant plan. Brilliant plan. He’s like oh if you moved your gardening supplies out back then I’ll have room to organize the rest of my tools reader. He did not organize his tools I don’t care I took all my I just like fine. Took everything that could stand the elements and I even have a little bin out there to put things in there’s a couple things that stay inside like wedged in the corner. Ah and now the whole thing’s a disaster. He always thinks that if he can get my stuff out of the way that. That will like magically solve his problems hope springs eternal right? Anyway, that’s a digression that I did not mean to get into but anyway suet feeder could not find the bracket thingy so I like wedged into the wisteria vine where it’s pinned against the post. And and it was great and the Bush tits came and they were merry and all was well and then yesterday the suet gone stolen I think coyote stole it little fuckers. So I I bought I went on Amazon and bought one I’m supposed to come tomorrow and so.

I know I know you all care. That’s my um saga of the suet feeder. Um, birds are what in the nest. It’s actually nice to hear their spring songs. Valentine’s day halfway through February ah, okay, so. I did work all weekend I may be slightly manic and punchy I don’t actually I feel good I’m I’m feeling fine I made it almost all the way through my revision I did slow down Friday Saturday Sunday I did not get too many as many pages but I was also adding a lot of words so it. It felt like good work. It didn’t feel like bad slow work. But yeah I definitely slowed down. Um Friday 35 pages Saturday 30 pages yesterday 27 pages so I’ve made it through. 333 pages of 344 written so far I am a little shy of 93000 words like 11 pages left to revise right? Um I’m guessing at the 13000 words for those of you who not familiar I figured that by where the beats are so like where my f 1 word count is where my midpoint word count is at 2 climax. At this point I think I’ve made it through actually I think I’ve written all the way enough to be. Um, act 3 climax let’s see because I figure x 3 climax no not quite so act 2 climax I was figuring was going to hit somewhere around 92500 words I’m sorry scene 7 words at Ninety Two Thousand five hundred words transcript is going to hate all these numbers. The transcript is not handle number as well. Um, and then x 3 climax will be at about 95000 words and then partly because this is third book in the trilogy and this is the way it’s working out those are dramatic beats. But I’m going to have a couple of chapters of resolution of things that need to be handled are not necessarily big dramatic beats but they’re really important for the story in the world and for setting up the next book I’m definitely gonna be writing at least one more book in this series. Probably a lot. Which I know makes you guys happy. So yay who knows when have to figure out that storm princess comes after this. So um I had a point. What was my point. Oh.

So yeah I worked Saturday Sunday doing all that revising adding a bunch of words. Yeah, so you know like last week even though I was totally revising the whole time I um I wrote almost 7000 words last week which is a lot if I’m just revising. So I’m clearly adding deepening and yesterday I added another 1500 so making it. So yeah I’m I’m guessing I’m going to end up somewhere around 105000 words. So yeah, I’ve got like 13000 words to. Write and polish this week can she do it probably probably I’m at least I’m feeling energized so that’s good thing and I know more or less what it will be about all good things. Um, so I actually have notes look at this I have all kinds of notes things that I wanted to mention to you guys? Um, currently reading Juliette Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest Jeffe you haven’t ever read Juliette Marillier’s Daughter of the
Forest before why? no. You guys I have not why I don’t know she was like never on my radar I don’t want know why and then when the mark of the talla came out I got a um hair flip starred library journal review and. They compared it to JJuliette Marillier and so I bought Daughter of the Forest then which I think came out like 2000 and was you know and I’ve tried it I know I’ve tried it a couple times over the years and totally bounced. It’s very interesting. How my attention has changed I don’t know if it’s pandemic I’ve I had bounced off Thorn before too and this time just dove right in. So what is it I don’t know. Ah, but anyway I you know sort of been looking for my next thing to read. And let’s see what had I just finished reading I think I was talking to you guys about it. oh I read a a couple of things um oh I finished reading abandons and deaths that was fun and then I read a couple of things that I didn’t love so I won’t mention them although I like them enough to keep reading for what it’s worth I read this one story that.

Heard people talk and talk and talk about it a while back and now I haven’t heard much of it since and it was just very math. It was a fairy tale retelling I must be on a kick and because um, daughter of the forest is also a fairy talele retelling right? of um, is it what was it the swan prince. Something like that. You guys will tell me ah I just can’t think of it right now. I I have brain I’m like reasonably articulate but then other things it’s like no I have no brain I would say a sofa meeting on Saturday and. Was trying to think of a word and I couldn’t come up with I was like you guys I oh I screwed up someone’s name. Oh. It’s so funny because it’s Nathan Lucas I know Nathan Lucas’s name and it’s there on the Zoom only had it backwards so it was Lucas, Nathan which I guess was a relic of his day job and and I called him Luke and I’m like why the. Talking my call Luke and I I felt so bad and and they were all laughing at the um like really guys. It’s just words anyway. I’m enjoying daughter of the forest I will talk about it more later there is a thing I really want to talk about today absent of digressions. So there were some conversations I saw lately about um, Kindle unlimited and just to remind for those of you who don’t recall or don’t know Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s subscription reading service so you pay your fourteen ninety five a month and you can read an unlimited number of books that are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited it’s also called kdp select from the author publishing side. Um, and it was very interesting listening to these gals talking about sort of their struggles with. Getting readership getting page reads someone was complaining that they’d gotten negative royalties and you get negative royalties because Amazon lets people return your books and they were upset saying you know that it’s not fair that readers shouldn’t be allowed to return books that they’ve read which. You know it. It is a problem and I occasionally get my books returned and there is a pattern where you could see people working their way through your series I saw someone else commenting on this where you could see them see a book gets bought returned next book in the series gets bought return next book in the series gets bought in return. And there are readers who will freely admit that they do this that they buy and return books because they don’t want to have to pay for them and yeah, it sucks that they’re allowed to do this. But if you are taking advantage of the kindle unlimited ecosystem. This is partly.

What you get, you know everybody loves Kindle unlimited when it’s paying big bucks for page reads but it does teach readers that they can get books for free and you know sucks. But that’s there it is um. 1 thing that I think people have to keep in mind authors have to keep in mind is that these people who do this are a minority the ones who do the read return read return there. There are some they freely confess to doing it. they’re they’re freeloaders they’re just always going to be that way. Most of my readers buy my books even the people who get the arcs of the books then go back and buy the book. They are awesome. They support authors these people that won’t pay for books. They’re gonna pirate it or figure something out. They’re just um, you’re never gonna convert them. They’re they’re just sort of like the. The crowd of humanity sorry but you guys are it’s a shitty thing to do. Um, you’re basically saying that you don’t value what the author did. That’s the next step in this. Okay, so there’s the. Unrepentant people who just won’t pay for books ever because they’re shits. There are the people who do buy the book and feel like it wasn’t worth it and they’re going to return. It. So some of these um authors were saying that they would never ever do that that they would never return a book. But one of the things that the Kindle unlimited ecosystem. Also promotes is this minimum viable product idea that a lot of people because a lot of authors because it is a free thing. That they they don’t go for the same quality because you know that’s that’s the big marketing push right? is that you say oh you can read this book for free. Why not? Well if somebody buys the book and reads it and thinks that it’s. Not worth it that they shouldn’t you know that it’s um that they’re disappointed in the book. Then yeah, then they can return it and that’s part of our society right? You buy something and you think it’s not worthwhile. You don’t want to keep it. You return. It. Some of that’s writing a book. That people want to keep and reread. Um, it’s not easy I know it’s not easy, but that’s the thing so then the other thing that I wanted to talk about and I’m kind of running out of time because I digress too much. But I think I can get through it is.

Some of these girls we’re talking about how en kinddle unlimited you come up with a different pseudonym for each subgenre in its I was thinking about this because basically what they’re doing is they are wanting to communicate this is the trope that you want to read for free that is. In fashion or whatever in Kindle unlimited and I mean yeah, it’s um, it’s a marketing approach know you’re taking they’re taking advantage of the Amazon algorithm but I wanted to give some history for this because in publishing. Um and in reading and writing that. The the brand of the book or story has always been associated with the author’s name right? Readers follow authors. So when you talk to readers about who do they like to read and and this is sort of like. How it was before kindle unlimited right? You know that people would always talk about. Oh you know I love Grace Draven’s books a little shoutout for my bestie I love Grace Draven’s books I’ll write I’ll re day think Grace Draven writes we all have our favorite authors that way our bookshelves are full of authors that we love to read their book. We love their voice. We love the kind of story. They tell now there was a. Huge push for a long time especially in like the early twenty ten s maybe before that I mean it’s been true all along where the publishers were really trying to establish themselves as the brand um harlequin is one of the few who was successful at this where you would read. You would pick up a Harlequin category romance because it would promise you a particular kind of story experience and readers almost didn’t care who the author was they would after a while follow certain authors but it was like oh you know I love harlequin blaze you know and they remembered and you would. You could get a mail to you. You know, get your harlequin blaze every single month. That’s a particular kind of branding right? But for the most part publishers have not been successful as establishing themselves as the brand of the book because readers are never going to be oh. I love harper voyager books I’m going to read every harper voyager book I can get my hands on right? Just doesn’t happen. They’re going to follow authors, readers associate stories with authors except now with.

This camillailla unlimited working of the algorithm and I don’t know if Amazon wanted to do this on purpose I kind of think they didn’t but basically you’re you’re getting people to follow the algorithm you’re getting to follow the subgenre trope. You’ll like. Monster romance monster romance is great but you’re getting all of these readers who want to read a monster romance and you have all of these authors using pseudonyms for their monster romance books and then they may have I mean there are people who have like 5 6 7 pseudonyms for all of these subgenres that they write. So do you see? What’s happening is these authors are no longer creating a loyal readership to their brand to their name. Um you as the author that is the biggest most critical piece. Of brand marketing that you have um and it’s it’s being set aside to pursue the algorithm to try to get the reads in the category. Um, and that’s that was what all of these little notes were about because it it occurred to me just occurred to me and I feel like I almost want to write like an article on this because I think it’s it’s not good for authors. You guys, you are. It’s like authors are voluntarily giving into this handing over the branding to a publisher because. In many ways. Kindle Unlimited is now the publisher right? So now this branding is happening in these little subcategories and it no longer matters who the author is because everyone wants to just jump in and take advantage of. Whatever hot trend. It is that and I and I chimed in and said you know this is I write as myself for everything I know I’ve been hinting at that. Maybe I’m going to do this new new project that would be under a pseudonym. We’ll see because it would be a real departure for me. So far that hasn’t happened. Um, but even then it would probably still be Jeffe Kennedy writing as because for better or worse I have a strong brand associated with my name and I’m so glad that I have that and someone was even saying to me. Um that they were. I got this great cover and I’m going long sorry I got this great cover for Prisoner of the Crown. That’s been translated into Czech and the cover for it is oh my god Orgasmically gorgeous.

Which is so great because the us cover for it sucks. Donkey balls I’m sorry it does I hate it and it’s better than the first one they tried to give me but so I was just sharing this with some of the gal saying you know here’s my beautifulful cover and you know here’s what the us one was and when the gals commented she said well. You know that us cover I would pick it up because your name is on the cover but otherwise I would not whereas the Czech cover I would pick it up. Not caring who the author is and that’s what we want right? We want to get those new readers and win them to our author brand with the story inside. But. That was part of what kicked off this thinking and I’ll put the Czech cover in the show notes or you know on the photo on the podcast. But um, I’m I’m really interested to see how the transcript handles Czech what do you want to bet. It’s check (it was! I fixed it everywhere else). Um, yeah so i’m. Um, excited about that cover. Um, keep in mind that you want those readers who say I would buy that book because your name is on the cover and because they feel that loyalty to you. They will buy your book and they won’t return it because. They’re loyal to you and they want to keep your books lots of thoughts for this Monday wish me luck on getting this 13000 words and change plus revised this week that’s gonna be interesting I think I can do I can I think. I will um, talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye bye.

Book Marketing, Author Branding and the Long Game

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is reviews: do they really do any good?


Serendipitously enough, this topic dovetails with something I’d already noted on my list of Things to Discuss, which is author branding and the long game. I’d been thinking about it since I was interviewed last week on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. Since it aired, I’ve received a lot of great feedback and appreciation for my “down-to-earth” marketing strategy and advice.


I found that description kind of amusing – because I don’t think of myself as “down to earth” in general – but I also get why they say that. I think it’s partly because a lot of my marketing strategy is grounded in author branding and the long game.


I’m also thinking, as one does days later with these things, that I didn’t say exactly that in the interview and I wish I had. So I said it here.