First Cup of Coffee – August 8, 2022

Some real numbers comparing the same book and series self-published vs. traditionally published – Spoiler: first month revenue is already 10% of 10 years of trad – & other thoughts on trad vs. indie.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious.

Ah, so good. How are you all today is Monday August date 16 22 I don’t know why it seems like there’s so many good dates lately. Bumping the table here. So um, we are New Week New week hopefully a productive week I need a productive week. Um I’m still on track with shadow wizard I’m losing a little bit of my buffer. I did not have um, a rocking writing day on Friday for no good reason I am happy to report that. However I am caught up on royalty crunching who I’ve caught up two months ‘ worth. Always interesting. Um, just to have a break from the royalties and come back and sort of see what the sales are like and one thing that’s very interesting. Sorry if I’m using that word way too many times. Um, you can’t adjust hold on a moment. My chair is could be apart. Ah, you know it’s like one of those selfassemble patio chair things and so it has the. It’s probably gonna be too hard to explain but you know like the caps that you screw on to the ends that hold it in place and one of the caps came off and I had it sitting here on the table but very lazily had not put it back on ah because it was one of those you know like two step projects where it required me to go inside the house. To get a screwdriver to come back out and screw it on and somehow I just never would not take that freaking long but somehow I never made that complete circuit and no I’m not sure where the piece has gone hopefully some. Critter didn’t carry it off but now it’s um, bending enough that it’s like pulling entirely out of the socket without the cap thingy to hold it on so the ah problem’s becoming more pointed but. We already spent way too much podcast time on that. Ah, ah so interesting. So interesting fascinating I think that’s why they came up with fascinating for Spock because interesting just got too boring. Um.

On my covenant of thorns books this is a great example of traditional publishing versus self-publishing. You know what? and I’m even Goingnna oh I’m not going bring up the exact numbers. But. So I started releasing rereleasing Covenant of Thorn’s series Rogue’s Pawn being book one in July and then Rogue’s Possession came out later july and then third book Rogue’s Paradise is coming out in August and. For all three books considering this is a series that’s 10 years old fabulous covers beautiful covers um but old books I shared a um review on the podcast on friday. Was a very interesting review I shared it with Grace and she’s like wow that’s a great review and I was like well it’s sort of ah a mixed review but I would much rather have a review that notices. Um and notes how I’ve grown as a writer and for me going back and reading those first books. Is a little bit cringy. It’s a good reminder for me. Um, when I read new authors first books that I should probably like read one of their later books too because um, ah I mean thank goodness I’ve gotten so much better. But wow you know and people told me then that it was overwritten and I didn’t think it was ah but ah the hubris of youth and newbiness right? Ah yeah, ah. In one contest. Someone told me that it was um, overwritten like Anne Rice is overwritten and I took that as a compliment. Um I think I’m way worse than Anne Rice ah but um anyway these books are being well received but they’re not burning up the charts I mean they’re not like hugely high rankings I’ve got more preorders for book 3 than I have for books 1 or 2 I like twice as many which is really nice. So that means that the people that are reading it and loving it. Are wanting to read that third book. That’s awesome. Um, but you know it’s like it’s still double digits I mean I don’t even have preorders in the triple digits which is fine. You know it’s like that’s kind of what I expect for rereleasing an old series like this right? so.

Even with fairly low but climbing preorder numbers I’m trying to walk the line here I I don’t want you to Um, oh what am I trying to say I’m trying to set the correct expectation here because I figured. If I was lucky if things went well that I could recoup my investment in putting a new cover and reformatting the book putting it up for sale. Ah in the first month and I’m going to do that easily more. For the first two books and with pre-orders alone for the third book each of those books has already I mean you’ll just like in numbers I don’t have the money yet, but they’ve already earned 10 to 12% of the lifetime sales. Of the books that did that they earned through Carina press. Okay, so let me rephrase that just in case I put that in a confusing way because I track all the sales of all my books. So in all the time 10 years that those books were with Carina Press and Carina paid me quarterly royalties on those books. So I know how much each book has earned over its lifetime via Carina in the time that I have had these up self-published a month for the first book. A month the two days they’ve already earned 10 to 12% of those lifetime sales one month versus ten years right? So when we talk about self- publishishing. And the money that you can earn in self-p publishing. There is a concrete example now why didn’t these books earn more money through Carina press. There’s a couple of factors and if you all already self publish or if you are um, you know, follow. Self-pubbers then you know this information but I’m going to share it here anyway because it does bear repeating part of it is the percentage. Um from Carina press even though they gave me a very generous I think 45% something like that of the. Net so that means of the money that they get after the wholesale price and all of that they gave me 45% of that price. So and actually.

Okay, so I went ahead and opened the spreadsheet just so I could give you some actual numbers because I calculate approximately how much I earn per book. Um, well this is going to be a little bit deceptive. However, okay, well let me give you the the numbers. From through Carina Press which is harlequin which is under harper collins. We’re looking at big consolidation of presses. So it’s worth it looking at that tiering. Ah penguin already emerged with random house. Now Simon Shuster is looking to acquire penguin random house. So anyway before and you know under them. My books were earning I would get ¢71 to a dollar for per per book. Now I have to do some quick baths self publishing I’m getting $3 per book. Um, so easily 3 times I’m making per book so that adds up fast. The other piece of it is. Marketing. Um, and we were having this conversation over the weekend. Ah Minerva Spencer and Katie Lane are their writing names came to brunch at my house on Saturday and we. Set out in the grape arbor and talked business. It was lovely and the demystifying thing is is because we have all published traditionally and self published. And it can just be mystifying what the traditional publishers are doing I do pretty basic marketing on that Covenant of Thorns series and it’s like a 1,000 times more than Carina press did on them especially 10 years later um we were gossiping about one friend of ours who’s who had a bestselling book Usa today but still bestselling book did enormously well but it came out a long time ago now. Um, somebody was saying 3 years but I think it’s longer than 3 years because 3 years was beginning of pandemic that amazing. Um, well it was like leading up into ah it’s on my mind because like Minerva Spencer I had not seen her since September of 2019 so it was nearly three years since I had last seen her in the flesh.

And it’s funny to think that um you know three years ago August of 2019 I was at world con in Dublin and we traveled around Ireland just seems ages ago. So um, anyway I think this this gal’s book came out. Probably five or six years ago yeah could be even six or 7 definitely pre 2017 so that gives us a ah range anyway. But she gets very upset that her traditional publisher is not. Pouring more publicity that they’re publicizing other books newer books and not hers which ah you know sometimes that happens that way. Oh. Mosquito so it’s this is what traditional and publishers do. They’re always about the new shiny. They don’t care about the older books. Um.

And and it’s to the detriment of the author because I mean you know like this girl’s perfectly right to be upset that they’re not publicizing this book. Especially I mean everybody could be making money on this but they just don’t they also. Just don’t seem to know how to position books which is bizarre and they fully believe that they do know I mean they’re just certain that they are in the right? So it’s this very interesting thing. Um that there are what, one of the gals I don’t remember who they might have both said it is like well why are people still going with traditional publishers and I still think there are good reasons to publish traditionally. But as far as making a living and getting your books out there. Ah. And makes all the difference and and what’s funny is that the traditional publishers and we all know this because we have editors and agents saying this to us as they’ll say well you know you just can’t make real money self-p publishishing and they always want to go back to the Statistic. You know that most self-p publishers. Only ever sell a hundred copies a year and and it’s like yeah, but then you have to look at the the other end of the spectrum that you know you’re not looking at the person who decide to you know, write their memoir and. Printed it out for their kids and grandkids. Um, besides which we don’t have to sell as many copies to make really good money as evidenced by this statistic I’m just fascinated by that it has made this big of a difference because I thought well. You know should I even republish. These am my sinking good money into this for no reason it’s going to be great. It’s going to be awesome. I was also counting up like how many books I sold at Apollycon because in the world of the convention. You know, ah it was just like sale sale sale I sold a lot of copies of Rogues Pawn I didn’t realize how many but that was the right crowd for that book I did not sell as many copies of dark wizard as I thought I would I do have a mosquito candle out here now to fend off the mosquitoes. Ah, see if that works I’d scooted it closer because there’s a couple of mosquitoes hovering hovering hungrily. So um.

You know it’s just really interesting what you sell in different venues and I think this is one of the things that self-publishers are able to do is that I can go and I can see which of my books sell on site and what I can say to readers that elicits their attention. I think it’s really super cool that I sold so many copies of the print version of rogue spawn um, for $10 right? Ah, but they love that it was a face story. So um. My point and I do have one. You know that there are people in traditional publishing who make a huge amount of money but there are lots who don’t and even the ones who are making a decent living the dreaded midlist right? which has become kind of a curse. But. There was a statistic that came out the other day that said that um I don’t know if they put a percentage on it but it was most and and I believe that it is most traditionally published authors are making $25000 a year or less which is. Below poverty level in the us and I I don’t know if that’s before or after taxes. But it’s still It’s not much money. Actually I think it was $20000 a year because the person who retweeted it into my timeline said that they were. Doing relatively well compared to many of their compatriots and they’re making $25000 a year. Um, which is still not enough to live on and traditional publishing persists in this idea that um. You know that we should be grateful for the money we are making I think ah one of my friends has been kind of struggling because ah, her traditional sales have fallen off. Um, we think we know why I think I know why actually I gave her. Um. A really good insight and I’ve seen this happen to a number of my friends that’s bragging isn’t it I thought it was great insight. She agreed. Okay, so in in two cases I’m thinking of specifically and I could probably think of a lot more There was an author who was selling incredibly well in a particular thing and their publisher changed the branding of it in 1 case, an author was told no no, we don’t want more of these of this subgenre. We want you to write this other subgenre.

And the books just didn’t do as well and the publisher is like huh I wonder what happened? Well you went off of the main readership and this other friend of mine who has done fabulously well in. Traditional publishing to the point where she didn’t really want to self-p publishlish because she’s like I’m making better money and trap and it’s like well wherever you’re making better money and go for it but now ah her most recent series. The sales are really tanked and I realized how they changed from her main branding that these books don’t. Look or feel or have the same wording as the ones where her main platform is and and it’s a departure and and once I pointed this out to her. She’s like you know what? I’m going to put these words in my next title and I’m going to see what’s what happens and it’s like great. We can do this as self publishers meanwhile in traditional publishing land. Her editor actually said to her that it’s because she’s self-publishing that she’s diluting her sales and that’s and it’s her fault and this is what they do in traditional publishing is they tell the author that it’s their fault and because it can’t possibly be theirs. And it’s nonsense. It’s I I was telling this story to Minerva and Katie this weekend and both of them immediately said that’s bullshit because we all know that readers read much faster than we can write and they they want more books. They don’t. Get tight. They don’t say oh ho ha another j– oops sorry another Jeffe Kennedy ah slight slip there wonder if I could fudge it out I bet I didn’t say as much as I thought I did we’ll see. Ah, but yeah, another Jeffe Kennedy Blah you know it’s maybe there are some who say that but the passionate readers they want more and this idea that um, which tread really holds onto that you know that they feel that it should be 1 book a year and I even had that. Um, on my last traditional publishing excursion. You know when we were talking about the frequency of the books and they said well our market research shows that the books do best if we release some nine months apart I kind of wanted to say well, what market research is that. Because it’s sure not how it looks from our perspective. The other interesting thing about self-publishing and this is a conversation that Minerva Katie and I were having was how we know what it takes to make a good cover. We know exactly how expensive a cover is.

We know about layers and putting them together. You have to learn I mean it’s just like at first you don’t know and you gradually learn so when a traditional publisher comes to us and this has happened to all of us. And says look at this beautiful expensive cover and we’re like that’s clip art and this part doesn’t look right? Can you fix this and they’re like oh no, it would take so much to fix that we’re like no, no, no, all you do is go in and tweak that layer. Um and they still want to act like we don’t know this that they can still blow sunshine. Ah. So this has turned somewhat into an indictment of tread which I don’t mean it to be because um I there are a lot of things I love about traditional publishing. Um and I will still try to publish traditionally but there. I feel like we’ve been saying for more than a decade now that traditional publishing is going to have to change what they’re doing and they are somehow mysteriously still not doing it. Um, but yeah, just being able to. To make a living as a writer. There are not many people who can do that without also self- publishing or without having a sidegig. So um I do think and we were all agreeing is in our conversation Saturday that. It was huge for all 3 of us that we had already traditionally published and had that readership they’re they’re good at establishing that readership and so it made self publishing much easier. It’s it’s harder when you’re coming right out of the gate as a self-p publisher. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is. So on that note I’ve chattered on long I hope you all have a wonderful Monday and a wonderful week and I will talk to you all tomorrow you all take care bye bye.

First Cup of Coffee – July 7, 2022

Print version of ROGUE’S PAWN is available! I’m also talking about some history, mean reviews from the past, the conversation about whether authors should talk to readers, “hidden gems” & asking for recs.

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Delicious Today is Thursday July seventh and it’s it’s a Thursday here we are I’m feeling so behind on all of the things and I was excuse me complaining to David about it saying why am I so behind on everything. Have I been saying this for a while I kind of feel like I’ve been behind since a nebula conference. But then in June I went traveling for a week right? And then I’ve had friends here which hasn’t been that intensive but it’s been. Disruptive you guys know how I don’t like my schedule to be disrupted I am also totally aware now of how ubiquitous the phrase you guys is it’s in movies. It’s everywhere I am trying to lense it from my vocabulary with limited success thus far. Least I’m aware of saying it but a lot of people say it. So um, so yeah, I’m really hopeful this weekend that I can get caught up on some stuff. David asked me this morning. If I had ridden my bike that we let’s see when we came back from Tucson in April April while we were gone I had it. At the bike shop so they could tune it up so because it wasn’t in shape to ride and I wanted to ride it and I was pulling into the garage last night and saw my bike there poised in front of my car and David asked me if I had ridden it since we picked it up and the answer is no I have not spent. Hundred and fifty dollars to get all tuned up and ready and I haven’t touched the fucking thing but but you know for a while it was really windy and then it’s I don’t know I have no excuse except that. Just feel like I haven’t had time and so I was starting to say hopefully this weekend I would get caught up on a bunch of stuff I’m hoping to but then on the weekend I also want to relax. So maybe I can go for a bike ride I have.

Ah, shit ton of stuff to mail out and I think would help me I I keep thinking in terms of and I do this to myself a lot where I want to get everything ready so I can mail it all out at once and and it creates this enormous bottleneck whereas what I should do is just mail things out gradually. So I do have print copies of storm princess I need to mail those I should just start mailing. Um, mailing mailing so some of it requires. Research like what is the least expensive way to send a thing and well I feel like I almost need a step by step list. Um I also feel like I need that with some of the side projects you know like. Rogue’s pawn is out but already I need to be thinking about getting book two rogue’s possession I just have to make a few changes to it. That’s these little tasks right? and making good progress on shadow wizard I’m having a lot of fun writing jeron. Even sent a snippet to caring yesterday I should ask her if it’s too spoilery because I’m thinking about posting it. You guys know. Ah you all know that I don’t um, post a lot of snippets of my work in progress. But I’m tempted to post this one. 1 of the things on my list is get to get the preorder set up for shadow wizard. So just all these things to do. Um I need to ship stuff out for a polycon too. And yeah. So let’s see. Yeah um, Kelly and Alex are only here for two more days they fly out on Saturday. So um, so we’re doing some fun things today and tomorrow which won’t help with getting caught up. But maybe I could get a few of these tasks. Done. So let’s see um one thing that was um, just this kind of funny serendipitous thing was I complained to a group of authors I was emailing with.

We were emailing about something else organizing a thing but I was um I was being cranky and I apologize for being cranky and I said that part of it was because um, what was of miscellaneous things. But anyway we got into telling these stories about I’m trying to say if I want to tell you I don’t want to sound ungrateful or like a bad person I’m still thinking about Mary Robinette talking about. Ah. Like apologies on the internet and are you really trying to apologize or do you want people to think that you’re a good person because don’t we all want people to think we’re good people and sometimes we’re not sometimes we’re not a good person. Um, so okay so I’ll be honest. Ah I saw this Instagram post from a reader who did a really nice post showing one of the uncharted reless books and she called it an underrated series. And she loves it and I love that she loves it and it’s it’s meant in all sincerity and but you know it’s just sometimes when you’ll it’s like one of my oldest series and when. I don’t know when somebody calls it underrated I understand what they mean they mean that it doesn’t have the fandom you know like Sarah J Mos or Jennifer O out arm in Trump which is absolutely true. It’s it’s not as well known, but it still. It just put me in a little bit of a mood where I was just like and I think I was already in that mood because I was talking about this some at the beginning of the week it’s just like I don’t know every once in a while and and people do mean it in all sincerity and enthusiasm. But you encounter readers. Who um, discover your books and they’re like why haven’t I heard of your books before and you’re like it’s the million dollar question I don’t know why I wish you had I’m glad you know now. So i. I hesitate to complain about that kind of thing because I don’t want anyone to not share about in fangirl. My books. You know? So um, but it’s still I don’t know it was a mood and.

So I I shared this with these girls and said you know and one of them wrote back to me and she said Jeffe I want you to know that a few weeks ago I was at a book signing and a reader came up to me and she said ah. That I that she knows I’m new to this and that but that I’m very talented and she really hopes that I keep going which is a lovely thing to say right? The thing is is it wasn’t for that this author it was she said it was like for the 7th book in her sixth romance series. You know? So it’s like but you know hope you keep going and one of the other girls chimed in and said that she saw a Tiktok video that was like on hidden gems. Which you know people like to do and it’s a wonderful impulse because it’s like let’s not all always post about the same 5 books and I’m seeing more and more complaints about this kind of thing. Um, even my assistant said something about it the other day after I’d heard some other people complaining about it where she was saying. She was finding it hard to get good book recommendations because everybody recommends the same 5 books and and there’s a cultural phnom to that right? because the people who are posting like the Tiktok videos and so forth they want their posts to be. Liked and get a whole lot of comments. So if you post about something that I just knocked myself off the ledge here. Oh there we go um, overly dramatic. Not much but you know you you if you post about a book that already has a huge fandom. You’re much more likely to get attention for that right? It’s sort of a side effect of that fandom. Um, but it does result in this the same book’s being recommended and my assistant was. Frustrated the other day saying I can’t get book wrecks anymore because it’s always the same same books and so the the whole impulse behind underrated books or undervalued books. Hidden gems. All of it. It’s great because the thing is is that and and I should say this to myself is it’s not really hidden gems or underrated books. It’s just like books that aren’t these five books. It’s ah like this big huge the venn diagram right is like everything else.

The 5most popular books and everything else. Um, but anyway she said that she had seen a tick talk video on hidden gems that ah was about a book by colleen hoover ah who is easily the james patterson of romance you know and it’s like not exactly a hidden gym. So so yeah, um, it’s all good I really don’t want to stifle. Anybody’s enthusiasm. You should be able to rave about anything that you like. Whether it’s the same 5 books that everybody else likes or something that nobody’s heard of It’s just a funny, a funny phenomenon I saw somebody quote yesterday um about again about tiktok and how. Maybe the quieter books don’t have the content that makes for good tiktok videos and it’s like I don’t know you know and I think that’s a response to if it’s not about. Big blue aliens was vibrating dicks than it makes for bad content I think anything to make for good content. So anyway, that’s that’s one of my thoughts. Um I was very interested I made a note about this. And I’ll see if I can link to it in the comments. Um, but there was this thing that happened quite a few years ago and I was reminded of it when I was looking up rachel vincent I mentioned her in my podcast the other day. Um, because Rachel Vincent had written that book Stray that I liked very much that was an urban fantasy and when I went to look her up to see you know like what is she doing these days I don’t know rachel I don’t think I’ve ever met her um wish her well in general because I enjoyed her books. So I was looking her up and I found a review of Stray on Dear Author and I think I don’t think dear author is still extant um Jane Litte was one who did dear author with another gal I think it was amy tan and then amy tan backed away. And Jane Litte and Sarah wendell were very good friends and sarah wenddell had smart smart bitches trashy books which I know is still going. Um, but there used to be a lot of back and forth between the 2 but anyway Jane Litte did a review of Stray and.

I will link to it because it is in her inimitable style. A really mean review. Um, and it was interesting because at the time she was leading a whole lot of conversation about how authors. Um, should not interact with readers that reviews were for readers and someone pointed out to her that by writing her reviews as dear author and then sincerely Jane as if she was writing a letter to them made it seem very much as if she is writing the review for the author. And not for the readers. She gave the book a d and it was um, it was harsh. It was really harsh and I noticed in her bio on there that she had updated it where she said that she writes. Um, contemporary and and a romance and I happen to know that that’s not the only thing she writes she has a number of pen names. But I remember when it came out that she was also a writer because prior to that it had been a secret and Sarah Wendell had known the secret and had kept it quiet and Sarah Sarah posted an apology and it’s hard to explain how explosive this was at the time because Jane had been so much on this side of that authors should stay out of reader conversations. And reviews are for readers and you know, never the Twain shall meet and she um called out authors for you know, interfering with readers. She was even say she would even say that. Um. Authors shouldn’t even like say thank you on reviews or respond in any way because it would have a chilling effect. I mean there were a lot of these conversations and then it turned out that she had been secretly writing under a pen name. So I found it interesting that her bio now acknowledge is the thing that everybody found out. And the reason they found it out was because of the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit ah because Jane had written a blog article about Ellora’s Cave and all of the things that they were doing to cheat authors and Ellora’s Cave sued her. For slander and just to revisit quickly in order to sue for slander you need to prove that it has had a negative effect on your business and that it is um.

I’m not sure if it has to be untrue, but at any rate they sued and her real name which is not Jane Litte her but her actual real life name was named in the lawsuit and so it all came out this way that because it was public record right. So it. It was I believe they settled out of court and then Laura’s cave subsequently folded. But yeah, it was just interesting to recall some of that history. So I thought I would share it. With some of you. But um, you know it’s it’s one reason why I don’t review books that I don’t like um and in some ways I could say that I don’t even I don’t know if I even. Review books because I certainly don’t do a critical review where I break stuff down sometimes I complain to you all anonymously here. Um without naming the book just so I can talk about general principles of story. But um I take it can be It is a narrow line between critiquing the work and being unkind or even mean to an author because you didn’t like their book and. And I think it’s interesting to read this review and I I encourage you to go read it because things have changed since then this was quite a while ago I didn’t look at the date on it but probably something like 2007 2006 given that’s when I was. Trying to figure out my how many words were on a page reference Tuesday’s podcast um so I’m not sure that people would get away with it in the same way now or that they would want to? um. early days of the internet versus maturity where I don’t know maybe the meanness is of a more pointed and different variety. But um, yeah, breaking down someone’s book like that as if you’ve written them a letter and. But it’s posted publicly and then just saying all this stuff and I suppose it’s admirable in some ways that she has not taken these down she clearly stands by them. But I think we have to ask ourselves what we’re doing particularly knowing that she was an author at the same time.

It’s um, yeah, a pretty fine line between critiquing work in a thoughtful way and attempting to eviscerate the competition. Ah you know and maybe it comes back to that thing that I was talking about the other day that. You know competition especially in like the reading and writing world. It’s it’s invidious. It’s unfair. There’s no place for it. Maybe that’s part of the frustration with people recommending the same books over and over Again. It’s like well it’s Great. You know and they’re. They’re wonderful books. That’s why people love them. But you can only reread them so many times right? and then you want to read other books. So So I’ve been looking through some things in my tbr trying some different stuff out I’m um. I’m really in the mood for a very emotional lush romance and it doesn’t have to be fantasy if anyone can point me to that I want something. That’s really yeah, emotionally transporting not mean I’m I’m finding I don’t want any of the bully stuff. Um, but yeah, something something really moving hit me with your res please and you all take care and I will talk to you to crew Bye bye.

First Cup of Coffee – June 10, 2022

A bit about how to write back cover copy (BCC), otherwise known as blurbs, and why there’s confusion. Also several kinds of good news for me, plus the fabulous effect of gushing reader recommendations.

Good morning, everyone! Gracious. This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic romantic fantasy and I’ve lost my first cup of coffee here. We go I was shifting around. Looking for the correct spot to be in. Um today is say it with me Friday woo June tenth yeah good day. I’m still running a bit behind today. Not as much as I was yesterday but um, taking it easy, not pushing too hard. We went for a walk this morning and I did my run so that was great and feeling good feeling good I um. Hope you all are feeling good.

I have things eating plants in my garden which is annoying me though. Alas, maybe time for the purge of the rodentia. So um, so yeah I got the book. Uploaded yesterday. It’s ready to go release on Monday woohoo. Thank you. Everyone for all those preorders. They’ve really been going up the last few days now that you know that I’m actually going to finish the series hope you all like it. Um, yeah, so it was good to get that done I had kind of a different day yesterday I did a lot of businessy things did writer coffee um got this podcast up late as as predicted. But I got it up and ended up not going to in-person yoga unfortunately because I had a few things I had to get done. Um, and I’ve still got to finish a few of them today writing that new backcover copy for the covenant of Thorn’s books I need to just plow through it I did look I did peek. At the bcc on the first one and this is one of those weird terminology things because the traditional publishers call it the back cover copy or the bcc but sometimes even with other authors I’ll say bcc and they don’t know what I mean. Um. So it’s clearly industry jargon of limited usefulness and a lot of people call it the blurb and I recall doing that as um, when I was purely a reader when I would you know be looking at stuff and I would say oh you know the blurb. Blurb on the back of the book. But we also talk about the thing on the front. That’s like the pimping from other authors is the blurb right? You know we’re you know, like the during the jones says this is the best book I’ve ever read. We also called out the blurb so it gets confusing. But any rate I need to write those I did do some other stuff for corine so that we could get out the next dispatch from Jeffe’s closet and we’ll do the cover reveal for the Covenant of Thorn’s books in there lizard going by on the wall. Doing his dominance display for me. They do this little thing that looks like pushups and go up. It’s very cute. That’s it. That’s all right? I’m not gonna get your territory so and another cool thing happened yesterday. So I do have this? um.

Google Search set up for my name and it it’s of limited usefulness but I get it usually picks up this podcast. It sends me stuff. That’s just mentions I used to do very early on I did like mentions for my book titles. But that ended up being like. Totally not useful. Ah, one thing I learned is that oneword titles are really hard for search engine optimization. They’re really cool and I did them at first but they actually suck for people being able to find your books. And so you’ll like that first book I did with Corina Press Back in the day sapphire which I now have rights back to and need to upload. One thing at a time. Um I used to have a Google search for that because it was early days and I you know I wanted to go in. About my books that people heard and so I had it set up for just sapphire and then got garbage results and I had it sapphire plus Kennedy and then I started getting all these weird Google alerts for mentions of like. Jewelry sapphire jewelry and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that was like everything I would get so finally I just ditched that one but this one brings me um, you know, fairly useful stuff and every everyone’s well it gives us gold gives me gold. So I saw this yesterday. Um, that’s a Reddit’s read that this gal put up a couple of days ago and it’s just so cool I have to share it with you ah, because she said I have found my fantasy romance white whale dark wizard by Jeffe Kennedy and she put it under gush slash recommendation. She says the further I read the more checks on my perfect fantasy romance check-list were ticked off I had to tell some one so my white whale book was an adult fantasy romance with dark themes political intrigue and great smut scenes. The premise was to be in a magical world where the hero and heroine have to be magically bonded for reasons. And either one or both of them don’t want the bond preferably with a heroine who is strong but in a smart cunning way. Not a feisty way and with a hero who is powerful and dominant without being an arrogant arsehole hard checklist 1 I didn’t think I could get all of but dark wizard fulfilled it. And she says the blurb the blurb gives a great feel for the book. However, from reading it, you might think the hero is going to be obsessed with revenge and treat the heroine like crap a common trope but that is not the case he is such a sweetheart to her. He didn’t grow up in high society like her so he sees the horrible laws of the convocation.

The government for what they are he sees how unjustly familiars like the heroine are treated and wants to change things. He also respects her knowledge mallet magic and politics. The reason he needed her in the first place to restore his house yet. He is also scary and powerful when needed. And is dominant in the bedroom. So my ideal hero I think that lizard must be down in the leaves. There’s something scrabbling round in there I read the 3 books released so far in four days that is how much I loved this series. Fair warning though, the series is not finished but each book ends in a happily for now. No major cliffhaners and 1 of the really nice things too is like the first comment on there is um, she said jeffe is also a lovely person and somebody else chimed in and said 100% she is amazing. Which thank you? You guys? That’s just warms my heart so I’m I was just thrilled to see that and then lots of comments on there with people saying souls going to read this now. And you guys would not believe my um sales jumped hugely for that book I mean massively just today because I hadn’t been looking at them because I as you know if you’ve been listening. You know I’ve been busy so I went looked at at Amazon and. Yeah, my sales hugely jumped hugely yesterday and or usuallyly two days ago after she posted that and then even more yesterday. So thank you thank you readers who gush like that that makes all the difference in the world and it’s. The kind of thing that you just can’t engineer right? and so this kind of goes back to some of the stuff I was talking about. Um I don’t know yesterday or Tuesday you know like about wanting to create a new book platform that makes this kind of thing happen I think. Understandably authors are wanting to make this kind of thing happen because it’s so great for getting books out there and getting books into the the hands of the readers who will love them I mean that’s that’s what we really want or at least it’s what I want I think um, some authors are happy to get. Just anyone to read them. But I always am looking to get them to the readers who who will love them and I thought it was funny because this the the op that’s what we say on Reddit because we are hip and cool. The original poster.

She replied in some of the comments saying that um that she was surprised when she went to goodreads to see that I was not a more popular author it was something like that it it she didn’t mean it mean right? but it was um. So then they were talking about some of my other series saying that they had just discovered me um, somebody else said they’d just gone on a big run of my books. Maybe it wasn’t the O p.

Maybe it doesn’t matter exactly what she said I won’t go through this this whole thread.

Here I am going through the whole thread. It’s just nice reading all the happy comments. Um, anyway, yeah there there was this reference to like why haven’t I heard of her before I like I don’t know. But um i. It’s always a mystery right? So but it made me happy make me happy of day. You know it’s just um, done. That’s it’s just amazing getting that kind of thing. Um. But you know you can’t you I feel like internet marketers are always trying to create this sort of thing because it does have such a huge impact you know so they’re always trying to do this thing where they like access influencers and get influencers to recommend stuff and gush about stuff and. Maybe this is you know it goes way older because you know it’s like um room the oldversals remember those I’m not a doctor but I play one on Tv and I recommend um, you know it’s that ah someone that you trust. Recommending a thing even if it’s just you trust them because they’re a celebrity you recognize you like the character that they play or or that sincere gushing that I love love love to sing it. It ticked all of my boxes. Um, Grace and I when we recommend books to each other. We often talk about catnip you know oh this is your catnap. So I understand the temptation to try to create this for everybody. But. You know because it’s so awesome when it happens but part of why it’s awesome is because it is unforced and spontaneous and um, people recognize that people recognize the the honest gushing recommendation. It is funny. If you go to that thread and I will link to it. Um, ah hang on I had something in my eye there. Um, and now the flo thought has fled the plot. What was I going to say chich.

This one I wish I could rewind hold on now I thought of it sometimes I just need a minute right? have to pause and think ah one of the other things that’s funny about that thread is that somebody else commented popped in there and so. Recommended a totally different author and series and the op was all thanks for the wreck and you could kind of hear in her tone being like but I didn’t ask for recommendations I was here to talk about this book that I love and recommended it to other and recommend it to other people. I didn’t want your recommendation and the recommendation is for these books that are actually do not tick the do not tick the boxes. That’s one of the funny things because the person. Um, let’s see if I could find oh yeah, they said um. I’m a picky reader and really enjoyed it and it seems to align with what you’re looking for. But um, I’ve read that book and reader it does not ah so I mean I liked it I liked it. Fine. It’s a classic. Um. But it’s it’s a phenomenon assistant Carien and I talk about a lot how people just want to be able to recommend a book. They want to be able to recommend something anything and and this particular book is like sixteen years old which is you know, nothing wrong with that. But at the same time It’s like yeah, but by now most people will have I mean there’s going to be some exceptions but most people who wanted to read it will will have read it. Um, green green mentioned that it has been sitting in her tbr pile. Um. Pretty much since it came out ah or actually it’s a different one by that same author that she said that has been in her has been a tbr orphan as we say the books that go into your 2 b red pile and then languish their little orphans because. We somehow never pick them up and you know it’s like after a certain point you know, maybe you’ve read the thing. Maybe you haven’t whatever I also got some. It’s funny I’ll go like for a long time with like. Feel like is anybody out there reading my books I hear nothing and then things will happen all at once but I got a note from my first agency the one that sold ah my original Twelve kingdoms books and they said that my publisher Kensington.

Had renewed the serial rights on The Mark of the Tala and and and she said my agent. She’s the head of the agency now. So she just like handles financial stuff on those books for me and Laurie McLean at at fus. She’s great and. Laurie said um she said this is really a great thing for a book as long in the tooth as The Mark of the Tala which I thought was kind of funny and that came out in 2014 so and and i. I asked her I said well what does this mean and I forwarded it to my current agent Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost literary to give her equal billing and I said what does it mean which is funny because at this point in my career. It’s not often that I come across some kind of right sale. That I have no idea what it means and so Sarah said it’s probably for something like radish that the first serial is before publication and the second serial is after but Laurie McLean said something slightly different. She said oh well, it’s probably for. Being excerpted into a book or textbook and which would be really cool. So Laurie is checking to see what it is and I mean it’s it’s like $40 you guys. It’s like it’s not like a so lot of money. But um, it is cool and one thing that Sarah said was. You know that is great although not promising for getting rights backs and I ah I was like I am just never going to get rights back on those books because they they continue to sell and that’s one of the criteria for rights or version is like if they’re no longer in print if they’re no longer for sale. If if the sales aren’t reaching a certain threshold so you know it’s one of those good bad things. You know it’s great that they continue to sell um never getting those rights back but you know since I just got the rights back on ten books I’m busy for a little while so one of my. Big projects for today is to write the new backc cover copy blurb for the covenant thorns books I have to do 3 of them and it’s just not a fun task and I ran out of bandwidth yesterday I started one and if you want tips on doing that. Um. I only have a couple one of them is that you focus on who’s the character. What do they want? Why can’t they have it and you could do it for both characters. In this case, it’s first person point of view. So I’ll write it in that first person point of view and you try to kind of capture the same tone and feel of the book.

And then one way that I do it is I just like write it all out first and then tweak it I just sort of like try to get it all down and then fix it ah because otherwise you could just spend forever on it and then I’m going to start going through rogues spawn and. Doing a bit of editing I’d like to get that done today and Monday before I go on this trip and I still haven’t asked if I can talk about where I’m going and what I’m doing. So um I will have to do that today as well. So um, yeah. Should be a fun weekend should be pretty laid back I hope you all are looking forward to a weekend full of all the things you want or empty of the things that you don’t want and I will talk to you all on Monday take care bye bye.

Silly Writer! Reviews Aren’t for Craft

I talked a bit about this on Twitter, and on my podcast – First Cup of Coffee – but I said I’d loop back and discuss on the blog in more detail.

I admit it started with a subtweet. A few blogger/reviewers were posting about authors who were publicly shaming readers who gave them poor reviews. The tenor of the authors’ complaints were that the bad reviews were harshing their (or their friend’s) release day buzz. Which… that’s a whole other thing, but the TL:DR is that nobody owes an author a sparkle pony on release day. The operative word there is RELEASE. That means letting the book go, to sink or swim in the world. It no longer belongs to the author. Helicopter parenting it will only bring misery to the author and damage the book’s chances.

ANYWAY. This post isn’t about that.

What I subtweeted about was an author who weighed in on the thread with a “but, but, but” –  #protip: don’t do this – “But, but, but,” she says, “I just wish readers would *explain* why they give it one-star, so I can learn from it!”

First of all, not only does nobody owe you a sparkle pony, no one owes an explanation for a rating. Readers can rate books whatever they like, for whatever reason they like, and they don’t have to explain. They’re not in a relationship with the author, so there’s no obligation to tend feelings. They’re not writing teachers. They read.

Secondly, reviews are not for the author to read. Even readers and reviewers who take the conceit of appearing to address the author, aren’t really. They’re engaging with the voice in the book. It’s really important for writers to remember we are not our books. One of the very interesting outcomes of the Burnout Panel (and How to Maybe Avoid It Next Time) at Nebula Conference was that one of the key conditions leading to burnout is a person over-identifying with their work. A book is something we create (and RELEASE) and how readers react to it is about *them*. When someone reviews a book, it’s for other readers. It’s not a job performance appraisal for the author.

Finally, reviews are a TERRIBLE place to look to improve craft because the lens is so different. The experience of reading a book is totally different from evaluating it with an editorial eye. As proof of this, I point to the near-universal author experience of discovering that reading for sheer pleasure gets lost. Somewhere in the transition from being a person who only reads books to someone who also writes them, we develop that critical lens for evaluating the story creation. And it becomes almost impossible to shut it off again. This is bad and good. There’s some grief in the realization that the experience of reading a story without examining it is lost forever. But it’s good because, well, we *need* that ability. Every book and story a writer reads is an education – what works for us, what doesn’t, how the writer created certain impacts, where they lost the thread, etc.

Because of this profound difference in reading experience, however, reviews from readers tell us nothing about the craft of the story. Maybe a writer can glean some insight from which stories seem most popular – but most writers also will note that they can never predict which stories will “hit” and which don’t. It’s almost never our personal favorites. It often seems counter-intuitive. Many writers will say that their very favorite of their own work is the least popular with readers. Is there a correlation?


That’s the thing, and that’s my point. There is no knowing, which means that scouring reviews for information on improving craft is fruitless.

You know what does work? Read a lot (books and stories, not reviews). Write a lot.

Read. Write. Repeat.