Reader Expections : Blessings or Curses?

If you know me, you know I write in several genres. At last count, those included urban fantasy, romance, thriller/suspense, paranormal, action-adventure, dystopian, and hard science fiction-space opera. Hard sci-fi and space operas were new for me as of last month. Sci-fi is a genre I enjoy as a fan of TV, film, and novels (Dune was my first!), but had never experienced as a writer.

So far I’ve published one sci-fi novel (Drifters’ Alliance, Book 1) and a short story prequel to that series (Winner Takes All), which is scheduled for release on August 24th as part of an anthology titled Dark Beyond the Stars.  I’ve really enjoyed stretching my wings and trying this new thang. I love space battles! Pew-pew!

I’ve also realized something important about myself and my job as a writer, and because this new discovery is kind of slowing me down and holding me back from writing my next book (by clogging up my brain), I figured I’d blog about it. Generally speaking, when I write something down in the blogosphere, it gets it out of my head and allows me a clear path ahead. And right now, my brain is completely clouded and jammed up with the specter of … duh-duh-duh-duuuhhhh … Reader Expectations.

What exactly do I mean by reader expectations?

Once you write a book, if it’s good enough and all the planets and stars have aligned (meaning you get some kind of online exposure somewhere, be it via a retailer and/or an influential blogger), you gain a following of readers looking forward to your next release. And those readers will naturally have some expectations concerning that next release. For example, they’ll want your next book to be similar in tone and style, similar in length (or longer if possible), and capable of evoking the same kind of emotional responses the previous one did. Fair enough, right? That’s cool.  I’m down. I’m a reader too. I toootally get it.

When there are just a few expectant readers out there, it’s somewhat easy to make them happy. After I wrote one book, I had maybe three people who bothered to email me and tell me what they were hoping to see in the next book (and one of them was my mother). I was happy to accommodate any of those requests that made sense for the next story, and I did my best to write the second book with as much passion and focus as I had the first. Reader expectations in small doses like that were invigorating!

But once you write 30 plus books, you gain a lot more readers and along with them, a lot more expectations, a lot more email messages with strong opinions, and a lot more … shall we say … vigorous requests for certain story arcs, character development points, and other various things that go into telling a story. Shoot, I even have people telling me how I should run my business.

What kind of expectations are we talking about here?

I’m pretty open about my writing process, and I regularly invite readers to contact me and discuss my books. Maybe that’s why I get so many passionate messages from people who have opinions about how I should write my books and what they hope to see from me next. My reviews are often written as messages directly to me, since my readers know I read those things every day. It’s cool! I love it! But you know, even very wonderful things tend to have a dark side to them, and reader interaction is no exception.

The problem with reader expectations for me at this point, really, is twofold: First, because there are so many, they constantly conflict with one another; and second, because of that first point, they eventually make it very difficult for me to write anything at all.

I’ll give you an example of the first situation, a phenomenon you can verify by reading the reviews on any of my books. For the same book, I’ve heard from readers that :

  • the story is too long, and the story is too short,
  • the girl should have gone with boy #1, and the girl should have gone with boy #2,
  • a girl of this age would never do what my character did, and my character acted exactly as a girl of this age would,
  • I didn’t resolve the main conflict, and the main conflict was completely resolved
  • people don’t say in real life what my characters say, and my characters are so real they practically jump off the page,
  • I don’t know what I’m talking about, and I’m a frigging genius,
  • series suck, and series are awesome,
  • cliffhangers suck, and cliffhangers are awesome,
  • characters shouldn’t swear (because it’s not nice to read in a book), and characters should swear (because real people swear and characters in books should act real).

After you read a few hundred of these conflicting messages, you start to wonder if there really is any way to please anyone. (In fact, *spoiler alert*, you can’t. In case you didn’t already know that.)

That leads me to my second point, which is that as each new book comes out in a genre I’ve already written in, the pressure increases exponentially and makes it very, very hard to write anything at all. Pressure with book #1 in a new genre? Practically zero. Maybe 1 out of 10. Pressure with book #2? 5 out of 10. Yeah. Big jump there. Pressure with book #3? 10 out of 10. And I have a series that’s going on 9 books now. You can imagine the freak-out level I’m at with that one. (War of the Fae, holla! Book 1 is FREE, yo, jus’ sayin’.)

With every single word that flies off my fingers and onto the keyboard, I’m questioning whether I’m doing the right thing, whether I will disappoint a huge number of people and make them hate me (readers can get really, really cranky when you don’t deliver, trust me on this), and whether I will finally see the end of my career as a storyteller. I’m a human being. I want to be loved just like everyone else. But these books are part of my brain, part of my spirit, maybe even part of my soul. It really, really stings when people say I let them down. Knife. In. The. Heart kind of sting.

On the other hand, the process of writing a book, the mechanics of it, get easier with each one. I can whip out a manuscript formatted perfectly, I’ve lost most of my bad habits, I edit faster, etc. But to actually create the story inside the book…? I swear it gets harder with every one I write, sometimes tortuously so. For me, it’s not writer’s block that slows the start or completion of a book; it’s the high expectations readers have for me and that I have for myself.


Now … would I change it if I could? Get rid of all the reader interaction and just focus on writing for myself? Leave those expectations unnoticed in the dark? Ignored?

No. Because in order to have demanding readers, you have to write books people want to read, books people get excited about. I get excited about good books. I know how that feels to read something awesome and want to talk to someone about it. And to be able to talk to the author? That’s some kind of miracle for a bookworm like me.* So why wouldn’t I want to do that for other readers who like my work? I’d have to be crazy to shut myself off from all that reader love, regardless of the side effects.

I must be doing something right, because the expectations for my work seem to get higher and higher with every release. So according to my long-winded blog post here, that means I have more and more pressure to look forward to. But what’s the alternative? The way I look at it is this: the alternative to life is death, so even when life gets tough, it’s better than the alternative. And what’s the alternative to reader expectations?  No reader expectations because no one gives a crap about what I write. And I could never live with that. Talk about soul-crushing!

So, I guess what I’m saying after reading my own words here, is bring on the expectations and the opinions, bring on the passion, and bring on the rage if that’s all you can manage; just don’t stop reading and loving my stories and my characters. Readers, you are ALL blessings to me. But if I’m a few days late delivering a promised book, please don’t roast me over a fire for it. I’m doing the best I can in this pressure cooker that is my brain.


*(I’ve only fan-girled once and somehow managed to hold back from asking the author why he wrote a particular scene that drove me crazy with wondering, as much as I wanted the answer! The book was Defending Jacob by William Landay in case you want to check it out. I recommend it!)

Behind the scenes… Just One Night Serial

For a short time only, Part 1 of my Just One Night serial is FREE! 

Grab your copy here:

Amazon US  / Amazon CA / Amazon UK / GooglePlay / iBooks / Kobo

Below I answer some readers’ questions about how I came up with the idea to write a serial romance, and what my favorite romance books are.  Read on for more!

1.    Why did you decide to write a serial romance?
I’m always looking for ways to do something different, mix things up a bit. I was reading about the history of serial novels on Wikipedia one day, and I realized that it’s really an old form of delivering novels to the public (not some newfangled thing like some people think), and I thought it would be kind of interesting to give it a shot. I write a lot and have a lot of books out, and to keep things interesting, I like to try new things — new for me, anyway. The best part about writing that serial novel, though, was that I would write a Part and then wait for reader feedback before I started the next Part, so it was a very interactive way of writing a story. The readers definitely influenced the way the story was guided and how it ended.

2.    What specifically inspired you to write Just One Night?
I was looking to write something a little steamier than I have in the past, and I liked the idea of a one night stand that turns into something more. I also have a real soft spot in my heart for Hugh Grant, so having a character who is a charming Englishman really appealed to me.

3.    How would you describe the characters in Just One Night?
I would describe the two main characters, Jennifer and William, as business-minded people who are disillusioned with love or don’t feel like they have time for love, but still have a yearning to be with someone. And they both have a pretty good sense of humor.

4.    What has the reader response been to Just One Night since its first publication in 2014?
It’s been really great! I’m so excited that the readers have enjoyed William and Jennifer’s banter as much as I did when I was writing the book. I say this all the time, and I know it’s hard to believe, but when I write, I just take dictation. The characters speak to me in my mind, and I write what they say. I giggled through the whole book.

5.    Do you have plans to write other serials?
Actually, yes, I do. Edward is William’s younger brother in Just One Night, and he has earned his own serial romance that will come out in November and December. It will also feature Jennifer and William from the first serial novel, Edward’s new personal assistant, and Mia, Jennifer’s best friend.  Add it to your Goodreads shelf today!

6.  What are your favorite Romance books / favorite Romance authors?
My favorite romance books are the ones that have happy endings. I guess I’m kind of old-fashioned, because I really enjoy the ones where the main characters end up getting married and having a baby. A surprise baby is even more exciting! I’m not a real fan of a bunch of heartache and cruelty, which I think has become kind of common these days. I see a lot of readers really looking for tearjerkers and emotional rollercoasters in their next reads. That’s not my style as a reader, although there will be some tears involved in some of the books that I’ve written. I don’t always write what I would choose to read as a reader; I write the stories that are being told by the characters loudest in my head. I don’t have a favorite romance author because I have read so many, many romances in my lifetime. I just grab ones that have great descriptions and read! I also like to get recommendations from my family or friends for my next reads. That being said, I really don’t have time to read much these days because of all the writing I do!

7.    What direction do you see the Romance genre going in next?
I really wish I knew the answer to that question! It seems like we started out with billionaires and then moved into bikers and firefighters and police officers and all those other groups of manly men, but really, this is nothing new. You can find romance novels from 30 years ago with the same themes (except maybe not the biker thing). I can’t predict the subject matter, but I think I can tell you what will happen to the format of romance novels: We’ll probably see more serialized novels and much shorter single-part works. With the advent of programs like Kindle Unlimited, where a reader can get an unlimited number of books for a very small amount of money, it makes it very difficult to have a career as a writer if you write regular-length novels; that’s why you’re seeing shorter and shorter works out there. Serial novels work great with Kindle Unlimited. Because readers are asking for emotional roller coasters, you’ll see a lot more shocking plots than in the past (such as these “I fell in love with my bad-boy step-brother” – which used to be considered incest and now is pretty much mainstream romance), and since Colleen Hoover has done such a great job of introducing big twists in her stories, there will probably be a lot of authors who will do the same thing with a big surprise at the end of the story that you never saw coming. I’m a fan of those especially!

What are your favorite romance books?  Who are your favorite romance authors?  Come leave a reply to this blog post on the homepage of my website, come say hi on my Facebook page, or drop me a line anytime at  Want to join my Facebook Street Team, where we talk about all things book-related?  Click here.

Announcing my new SciFi Series, Drifters’ Alliance

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Noelle asks Elle some questions about her new sci-fi space opera series, DRIFTERS’ ALLIANCE


What motivated you to write a SciFi novel?

I’m a big fan of reading science fiction and watching sci-fi movies and television series, and I like to write about things I enjoy as entertainment. Plus, I often wonder what the world for my children or their children will look like in fifty or a hundred years, so my brain is always busy building future worlds. I’ve written in the science fiction sub-genre “dystopian” before (my Apocalypsis series), so I feel like it was a natural progression for me to try a space opera, being that I like to spread my wings and try new things pretty frequently. It wards off boredom and keeps life interesting!

What’s your approach when writing in other genres?

Generally, I just jump right in. Because I read in all the genres I write in, I’m pretty familiar with what readers are looking for (at least, I like to think I am). For motivation and to get the creative process kickstarted, I usually begin with either making or commissioning a book cover, because I find the artwork very motivating and inspiring. I also listen to music that reminds me of the main character’s struggle or personality in the weeks before I start; that helps me create a picture of who they are in my mind. In this latest series, Drifters’ Alliance, I actually did a Google image search and downloaded photos of the characters as I saw them in my mind. After this point, once I have at least the main character solidly in my head, I just write. The story flows from the characters and the scenes I put them in.

What did you have to modify / adapt about your usual approach to write this series, Drifters’ Alliance?

I thought I wasn’t going to have to change anything about my approach … and that was very naive of me. Stupid, really. I’ve watched I don’t know how many sci-fi shows without even realizing how much background work went into building the world, creating the dialogue with loads of new vocabulary, adapting the necessary mechanics to the world and the ships and the astrophysics, etc. I started writing my first scene of Drifters’ Alliance, Book 1 and realized within the first paragraph that this new world my chacters were living in was totally blank and needed a lot of filling in with detail. So my writing this time has been slower and done in fits and starts in between doing a ton of research and coming up with a whole new lexicon for the series.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing in a new genre?

Creating the new world, without a doubt. The second most difficult aspect was learning the astrophysics involved and functioning within those rules. I was terrible at regular old Earth physics in high school; I have a very hard time learning things that are abstract, like I consider physics to be. Google is my best friend right now.

Because I wanted to create my own Elle Casey future world that was plausible and believable, and I didn’t want to use a world created by others before me (George Lucas, Joss Whedon, Jason Rothenberg, et al) I had to imagine what kind of ships would exist in the future when space travel would be the norm, what lingo would go along with those ships and with those people, what slang would develop in that atmosphere (no pun intended), what they’d have to wear to protect against radiation exposure, what future technologies might exist, what problems might occur with health living in space and how to combat those problems, and so on and on and on… it’s a monumental task I was not prepared for. Even in my dystopian series, I had the Earth as my world and all the normal physics I’m used to there to guide my characters and their actions, behavior, clothing, needs, etc. Drifters’ Alliance is a whole new ballgame for me in world-building, but it’s been really fun. I just hope I get it right for my readers!

Tell us about the cover design, and especially the symbol thingy at the bottom.

I commissioned the artwork for the cover from Jeff Brown. I found out about him from an author friend in a private Facebook group I belong to. He was amazing to work with; fast, professional, and amazingly talented, as you can see. He can draw just about anything you might need for a space opera.

The symbol on the cover is something I found doing some research. It represents what’s called “Metatron’s Cube”. Here’s the definition from Wikipedia: Metatron’s Cube is a sacred geometric figure (some call it the Fruit of Life) that sympolizes Metatron, an angel mentioned in apocryphal texts including the Second Book of Enoch and the Book of the Palaces.

Other sites I visited mention Metatron as an angel who was the scribe of God.

From a new agey site, I found this information interesting:

To make Metatron’s Cube, begin with The Fruit Of Life (13 circles). Curves describe feminine energy, so to manifest something (remember, this is a figure intended to describe creation), you must add masculine energy, represented by straight lines – then join the centres of all the circles with straight lines.

Encapsulated within the resulting Metatron’s Cube design are all of the 5 known Platonic Solids: a cube, a tetrahedron (triangular pyramid), Octahedron (two square pyramids with bases joined), an Icosahedron (twenty triangular faces) and a Dodecahedron (twelve pentagonal faces). The tetrahedron represents fire, the cube earth, the octahedron air, the icosahedron water, the dodecahedron ether and the sphere the void. Essentially, this site says, the metratron’s cube signifies where the mystery of all creation meets science.

I thought Metatron’s Cube was very apropos for the story that I was going to tell not just because of its history and what it represents but because the name Metatron sounded so spacey. (yes, I am that much of a dork.)

What techniques did you use to make the interior of the ship come to life for you?

I imagined it in my head. I know that’s not a very exciting answer, but that’s it. I had to think about what I’d use a Drifter Ship for, what important elements its design must have based on that use, and what interior features the crew would need not just to do their jobs but to live comfortably. I’m hoping to commission Jeff Brown again to draw what I see in my head so I can share it with my readers.

Who’s your favorite character and why?  Most interesting character?  Which character do you think readers will like the most / least?

My favorite character so far is the main character, Cass, but I’m also liking all of the members of the supporting crew too. They each have their own quirks, the things that make them unique and interesting. I’m only 2/3 of the way into book 1, so not all of them have been revealed to me, and most of them I’m just getting to know. There’s one character who’s somewhat abrasive right now, but I have a feeling there’s more to her than she shows on the surface. We’ll see!

So I hear there’s a glossary.  Why? Is this new for Elle Casey?

I’ll say there’s a glossary for me, not necessarily for readers. I am using all kinds of new vocabulary that I’m inventing, and I’m also creating processes for everything the crew has to do on the ship, so to keep it all straight, I have a glossary going. I have one for the ship, one for the world, and one for each of the characters. It’s a lot more tracking-of-things than I’ve ever done for a series.

How many books are you planning for this series?

3 to start with, but depending on reader reception and enthusiasm, there could be more.

What are your favorite SciFi novels / authors /TV series / movies?

Firefly, Serenity, Star Wars, Star Trek (TV and film), Battlestar Galactica (the old version from when I was a kid), Blade Runner, The Matrix, iRobot, Ender’s Game, Avatar, Minority Report, Interstellar, The Fifth Element, Surrogates, Total Recall, Star-Crossed, and Galaxy Quest. That’s a mix of TV and film off the top of my head that features actual space travel type stuff.




When I first started writing three years ago, I put my publishing schedule together each year in January. But last year it didn’t work out so well. After several troll attacks that really had me questioning why I bothered to do some of the things I do, I took a step back from writing, from promoting, from pretty much everything involved in publishing books. As a result, I finished fewer novels than I had originally planned. It was a frustrating time for me, but with time came the ability to let it all go.

So now, I’m on a roll. I’ve figured out my publishing schedule through the end of 2015 already, and for the last 8 days, I’ve written over 6,000 words a day. It feels great. I guess the only thing getting in my way is that thing that distracts every writer. I call it … SQUIRREL!

There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank page to a writer. Even for someone who’s prolific, a writing goal set for the day is an obstacle to get over. That’s where the squirrel comes in to make things even more difficult.

Today I was typing out my first paragraph of the day, and it crossed my mind that I hadn’t checked on the health of a friend of mine who had a fall off his bike. I thought I should probably stop writing for a minute and send him a text.

SQUIRREL!  squirrel-nut-cute-animal-nature-grass-1920x1280

Fact of life for a writer: Any excuse to stop writing can and will present itself in the midst of writing towards a deadline.

I knew I’d meet my word count goal by lunchtime, so my friend’s text could wait. I convinced myself to get back to writing and leave the texting for later.

I typed another paragraph, but as I started on another, I thought of a puppy I’d seen online that I really wanted to buy. I could just go look at her adorable picture once more…


I had 1,500 words done and suddenly, I thought it might be a nice idea to do a load of laundry …


And send an email…


And post something to Facebook…


And, and … and …


I think you get the idea. The writer’s bane is a bunch of wild squirrels. The only way to manage them is to herd them into a little corner of the room and deal with  them after the word count is done. :)

The interesting thing is that once the writing is done, the herd of squirrels has dwindled down to almost none, little bastards that they are.



iBooks kicking it up a notch … for my author and blogger friends …

In case you’re as clueless as I was about iBooks tools and affiliate program, this is for you!! I plan to start putting all of this in place in the next two weeks as I ramp up for an amazing 2015. This goes for bloggers and authors who are looking to earn more income from book referrals and sales, or who are looking for ways to fund great promotions for their readers.

Did you know?…

iBooks offers 7% commission to affiliates, and you don’t need to be a direct upload author to get in on the action.

Even bloggers and regular non-published folk can be affiliates. Anytime anyone buys ANYTHING at the apple online store following one of your links to get there, even computers and such, you get 7% commission on it. [I’m pretty sure about the hardware thing. But if I’m wrong, at least I know it works for music, movies, books, applications, and things like that. Working off memory here.]  This works for 24 hours after they’ve followed your link. And no, you do not need to link to a computer. Link to your books or the books of other authors’ books and if they buy anything in the online store after following that link, you get commission credit.  I use my affiliate money to fund promotions. It’s free, it’s there for the taking, and my readers love promotions, so why not take advantage of it?

iBooks also has these great author tools to help market your books on iBooks. I talked to several authors whose income on iBooks has surpassed their income on Amazon. (whoa nelly) These people are using these tools. I’ve linked to them below.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard this before from the iBooks people directly, here’s the explanation, provided to me by one of the two Apple iBook reps: Apple makes it impossible for iBooks people to contact you about this stuff. They have told their reps they cannot and they don’t give them access to it (email addresses of authors) anyway. They call it a concern for privacy. I call it hamstringing-oneself, but what do I know.

Anyway, iBooks is becoming a contender in the ebooks retail space, despite their inability to properly market their services and despite their ridiculously inadequate book search capability, and what with the KUpocalypse, I figured getting the good word out there about other programs is important. We need to be survivors to be career writers in this day and age; survive to thrive, baby.

Thus, here is a link to the affiliate sign-up:  and

And here is a link to various author tools you have access to, including the ability to make widgets, banners, and other helpful links directing people to your iBooks portfolio:

1. for iBooks badges to use on your sites:
2. to make links to your or others’ books:
3. auto link maker:
4. banner builder:
5. widget builder:
6. general FAQ about iBooks:
7. guidelines about how you’re allowed to use Apple badges and so on using social media:

All of these items were provided via this document:
And here as well:

Best of luck to all of you getting more sales across several platforms!

Who wins in the race to the bottom?

I haven’t gotten up on my soapbox in a long time, mostly because every time I do, trolls come after me online, but oh well. Sometimes the need to express myself outweighs the strength of my self-preservation instinct LOL.  Here’s my latest opinion piece about the reading and publishing communities. >> WARNING: Grab some popcorn because this is long. But I hope you read the whole thing because it’s important. FIRST, I talk about great authors disappearing and SECOND I talk about a very disturbing trend in the publishing market with regard to Amazon.


I read a long post from Cassia Leo (an author who writes really fun, very emotional, original romance novels) about how she’s going to kill her pen name and start her career anew with another one and not tell any of her old fans what that new name is.

Does that sound crazy to you? It does to me because I know how much work it takes to build a fan-base; but I DO understand what has motivated her to do this, and I wanted to share those thoughts with you because they concern us all, readers and writers alike. Not only are we talking about author/reader relations but also Amazon and its pricing and promotional strategies and how they’re affecting your reading experience in a negative way.

Cassia spends a HUGE amount of time online talking with her fans. I mean, literally talking to them live in chat rooms, on Facebook walls, on online events, and by private message. She does a TON of promotions, often discounting the price of her books to 99¢ or FREE for long periods of time.

She has done this discounting so much, in fact, that now many of her readers have decided that they’re never going to pay regular price for her work. Some have actually verbally attacked her for daring to price her books at $3.99 — which in case you didn’t know, is still often less than HALF the price of traditionally-published ebooks. Cassia is a single mom who also takes care of an elderly ailing parent. She supports her family solely with her writing income.

Cassia’s books have made it to all the bestseller lists. She regularly launches a new book and has it zoom right to the top of the charts with amazing reviews from readers. She writes well, and readers love her stories. So why is she getting attacked?

The lesson that Cassia has learned, and that I learned a while back, is that if you try to be all things to all people, there is a group of readers who will start to get angry at you when you fail at that, and they will attack you. And you WILL fail at pleasing everyone all the time; it’s just not possible.

Being a writer, having readers attack you –people who you bend over backwards to treat like gold — is soul-crushing. It makes it impossible to write anymore. It makes you want to run away and never come back, which is what Cassia is going to do, in a way.

Writers work in the business of creation. Creators put a piece of themselves into everything they create. Most of us have worked 9-5 jobs before becoming authors, and it’s true to say that writing books is not like other jobs. Each book or short story or whatever ends up holding a piece of US inside it, every time; it’s a very personal thing.

We will sometimes discount the price of that very personal creation to raise awareness of it and hopefully get wider distribution of it. That’s the necessary business end of things. We need readers to be successful! (duh) Maybe you didn’t realize this, but just in case there’s a misconception out there, I’m going to clarify one point: Indie authors don’t EVER discount the price of their work because they think it’s not worth the full retail price.

We price our creations (books in this case, but also music, works of art, etc.) at what we consider to be a fair level, and occasionally lower the price to help sell more of them to more readers. Do we have to do this? No. As indie authors, we are in charge of our pricing. Is it nice for readers when we do this? Sure. Everyone has a book budget, and it’s nice when it can stretch further. Can we afford to do it all the time? No. Absolutely not. And here’s why you shouldn’t expect us to:

When writers can’t afford to support themselves as writers, they have to stop writing.

It’s as simple as that.

The question to ask yourself as a consumer of books is this: Do you want to have great books available to read? Sure you do. There’s nothing more annoying than sitting down with what you hope is a great book and realize you bought a total stinker. That’s wasted time you’ll never get back, and time is very precious to all of us.

As a reader who wants to read great books, it behooves you to support the authors who write books you love, so you can have more of them in the future. And when I say “support” I mean not just online on their fan pages, but financially … by buying their books.

The number one way you can support your favorite authors is to NOT PIRATE EBOOKS. It’s sickening for a writer to go on a pirate site and see her books being stolen to the tune of hundreds of copies an hour, knowing she’ll never see a single penny of royalties for those downloads. It’s ridiculous to me and any thinking, rational person that readers who wouldn’t dream of shoplifting from their local grocery store would happily steal ebooks from writers. Pirating is stealing. There’s no way around that fact. If you pirate books, you’re stealing from an author who you obviously otherwise admire. Crazy, right?

People who steal ebooks are selfish, obviously, and in being selfish they end up hurting not just themselves, but the writer they like and all her other readers. My own writing schedule has slowed way down as a result of the disappointment I’ve experienced seeing pirates steal from me. That means less books for my fans. How is that right or fair to the reading community?

The other way readers can support their favorite authors is to be respectful. Fan-girling is cool, but when it turns ugly, it turns really ugly. Demanding that someone lower their prices or send you a free book because you think you deserve it is being disrespectful and downright rude. (yes, people do this) Threatening to leave bad reviews if the books aren’t priced how you think they should be priced is blackmail and awful.(yes, people do this too) If you don’t like the price of a book, just don’t buy it. There’s no need to go on the warpath over it. Readers should vote with their dollars not their inner mean-girl.

I know most readers wouldn’t dream of doing these kinds of things ^^; it’s the bad apples that spoil the whole barrel of good ones. But sometimes even good people get carried away, especially when they can live in the anonymity of the online world, free of witnesses. You’d be surprised how many of my true fans have stolen ebooks from me on pirate sites and thought nothing of it. I’ve received some apologies by email, so I know this happens.

I know that online social media makes it seem like we all need to be personally connected all the time, but the truth is, it’s the stories that matter. You read to escape everyday life. Being online constantly with thousands of readers doesn’t leave a whole lot of stress-free time for writing or just living. I love being online with my readers, but I’ve had to learn how to temper that with time for family and time for writing too. So if your favorite author isn’t always available to you, please don’t punish her for that. We’re people too, with families, with responsibilities to those people and others, and we have a full time job trying to create, from nothing, new worlds filled with interesting people with exciting lives.


Last, I’m going to send out a dire warning to the entire book-reading community. I hope I’m wrong about all of this, but I’m pretty sure I’m not. I’ve been an indie author for almost 3 years now, with several bestsellers and lots of time spent studying the numbers. I see lots of changes coming very fast that I think will end up hurting us all, writers and readers alike.

Amazon, a company I love to work with and respect very highly, has engaged in a race to the bottom of ebook pricing with several other online retailers and subscription service providers. As a result of their campaign to offer the lowest prices anywhere, the average price of books has gradually gone lower and lower, to the point now that many readers expect all books to be 99¢ or free.

Is this good for readers? On the surface, sure. It’s awesome. You can now buy ten books instead of just one. What could possibly be wrong with that? Well, let me tell you…

Have you noticed that the quality of the books has gone down while the quantity has gone up? Because I sure have. And I’ll tell you why I think that’s happening, and why it’s happening at a very accelerated pace right now:

Amazon has this new deal, where if an author joins their subscription service with a 99¢ book, and someone who subscribes to that service downloads that book, the author will earn $2.00 in royalties.

Say whaaaat?  Yes, it’s true. You’ll have to ask the number-crunchers how this equates into a good idea financially for Amazon (who incidentally sells a lot more than just books, so if you save money on books, I guess you have more money to buy other products from Amazon, right? — so they don’t necessarily lose out) but for now, let’s just forget their profitability. Let’s look at the authors involved.

If you’re a writer of quality material, you’re generally not writing 99¢ books, unless they’re just serials or short-stories or on a special promotion (like first book in a series, or temporary sale to increase readership). A good writer can get $4.99 or more for her work without too much trouble, and that’s a fair price: $4.99 for many hours of entertainment is way cheaper than a 2-hour movie.

But a writer who can’t write well or who is happy writing little short stories can churn out all kinds of stuff at 99¢ and then make a killing with this new Amazon deal. All they need is a download, not even a full reading of the book!

Did you know that great authors, people with thousands of genuine 5-star reviews, are talking about taking full novels and breaking them up into pieces and selling them at 99¢ per piece so they can continue to earn a fair royalty? Yeah. That’s how bad it’s gotten. Authors who want to continue to be authors have to be survivors too. When Amazon does something like this, we have to adapt, and unfortunately, everyone loses (everyone but Amazon, actually).

So what kind of material are YOU seeing online? Have you seen quality go down and quantity go up? Do you find it harder and harder to find books you like? If you answered YES, well, you’re not alone. That’s all about the race to the bottom.

Think about it: If you pay 99¢ or less for a book and it sucks, you don’t get too bent out of shape over it. You move on. But if you pay $4.99 for a book and it sucks, well, you definitely have something to say about that. So when books are priced higher, writers have to respond by either upping their game and writing quality material or stopping writing altogether. Bad writing at $4.99 is not a sustainable model. Bad writing at 99¢ is. We’re seeing that now, thanks to Amazon.

So I’m asking you this: which is better for the readers? A glut of crappy books that may or may not be worth what you pay for them, or a system of pay that rewards good writing and punishes bad writing?

I’m no finance wizard, but I AM a voracious reader, and I can tell you right now I’d rather spend $5 on one awesome book than 99¢, 5 times on 5 crappy books that pay some not-so-talented writers $10. Call me crazy.

I’m going to (finally) finish this piece by saying that I LOVE AMAZON. Without Amazon, I wouldn’t be living as a writer. Amazon has changed not only my life but the book-reading experience forever, and mostly in a very good way. And the people who work there are always coming up with new things to improve the customer experience. Sometimes they get it really right, and sometimes they get it really wrong, but at least they’re trying.

But, it’s important to remember that Amazon is not a person; it’s a business — a business struggling to remain profitable. Amazon knows that to be the #1 online retailer, it needs sales. Sales of ANYTHING, not just books. So if books become a loss-leader for them, where they basically give them away for free or it costs them money to “sell” them, but consumers spend more time on the site and buy more things, they’ll do that. I think this race to the bottom is a very short-sighted plan, causing good writers to disappear, but hey, like I said, I’m no finance wiz. All I know is that as my income drops, I have to come up with a plan for myself and my readers that will keep me writing and them buying my books.

Writing Software : A How-To Video

I use this software called Scrivener to write with. It’s kind of complicated to learn, so I put together a video for my writer friends showing how I go through and set it up to write and compile the book for the Kindle format. Share this post if you have writer friends, please. :)

Starbucks and Books

I’ve been writing this romantic serial novel called Just One Night (purchase links below if you’re interested). I’ve gotten a ton of great feedback, and really the only negative feedback I’ve gotten has been about the potential future cost.

As serial novels become more popular, we’ll see more and more of this conversation, I’m sure. I’ve touched on the pricing issue before in a long blog post HERE, but I thought this was worth a mention one more time, from a slightly different perspective.

I price my books according to page length, for the most part. I rarely offer promotions or sales on my books because they are so fairly priced as it is. With the romantic serial parts, so far they’ve been 99¢ because they’re about 100 pages long. I’ve had some readers suggest that if I charge more than 99¢ they will not buy those parts. I’ve also had some readers say that if I have too many parts in the serial, they won’t keep buying.

Here is my official response to those comments:




  How much does it cost?   $3.50-$5.00   99¢ – $2.99 depending on length
  How long can you enjoy it?   10 minutes unless you don’t mind cold coffee   1-3 hours
  How many times can you enjoy it?   Once   As many times as you want
  Does it make you laugh?   Nope   Yes
  Does it make you cry?   Not unless it’s too hot   Maybe
  Does it make you get tingley?   Not unless someone roofied it   Definitely

I think you see where I’m going with this.

The point is, before you as a reader decide out of hand that you’re not going to pay for something, think about what it is you’re actually saying. If an author prices by the page count, you cannot get ripped off. You will pay for exactly what you get.

I realize some authors out there are charging $2.99 for a 75 page book. That’s not something I’m doing, but is it wrong to do it? No, of course not. They’ve assigned that value to their work, and readers who agree with the value will pay it. And since these books are on the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists, I have to believe there are a TON of readers out there who agree.

Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll increase my prices. But for today, this is where I stand on the matter, and I hope the vast majority of the readers out there will agree that my work is worth at least a little bit more than a cup of coffee (even though I’ve priced it significantly less than one.)






My obituary

A story mostly unrelated to books but hopefully inspirational …

Last time I was at my mom’s house, I was going through old boxes of things that had to either be thrown out or kept, depending on their worth to me after having been stored for 3 years. I ran across some surprising things, but none more so than my obituary.

At some point in my late 20s, early 30s, when I was a struggling single mom trying to figure out where my life was going, I wrote out my obituary to try and ‘design’ who I would be when I died (hoping, of course, that I’d have plenty of time to get there.) I think it might have been part of a self-help book’s exercises or just something I thought that would help me clarify my vision for myself.

Anyway, I was happily surprised upon reading it to find that at age 45, I have become that person I wanted to be back then. I could literally die today and that obituary being read wouldn’t make anyone scratch their heads in confusion. I’m really proud of that.

And now I know in order to stave off the Fates from taking me earlier than I want to go, I must write another obit for the new and improved me!

What new heights shall I reach for this time? I know that continuing to help others while reaching for my own dreams shall be top on the list. I’m excited about the other prospects as well. Now that I know it is possible to design my own dream life and then live it, I realize: the sky’s the only limit. And then, maybe it’s not my limit. Maybe there’s more.

Anyway, I highly recommend you take the time to write your obituary today. I strongly believe that you become what you think about most of the time, and also that you strive towards the goals and dreams you have for yourself even subconsciously, as long as those goals are clear.

Write ’em down, y’all. Make it happen.

Oh, and happy Monday.

You have been TRICKED in the bookstore by publishers

I had a reader-fan write me and ask me for advice about formatting her paperback book that she just wrote. She’s moving from reading to writing. Yay! Her questions led me to write this post.

As a reader, I used to walk into the bookstore, head over to the section that housed the books I like to read, and search for the biggest, fattest one they had. Why? Because I loooove to read, and I especially love to extend the experience out as much as possible. That also meant I’d search for series. If it was a series full of fat books, more’s the better. Auto-buy.

When it came time to format my own books for paperback, I came at the project from a different perspective: I wanted to make my book as affordable for readers as possible. That means fewer pages is better since a printer charges me by the page (and hence, the reader pays by the page). To get fewer pages, it’s very easy; you simply make the font smaller, use a font that’s more compact, use smaller margins, smaller line spacing, and a bigger book footprint (9×6 instead of 8×5). I took an 89,000 word book and printed it out in just under 200 pages.

And then something weird happened.

Readers complained.  They complained that the book was too short.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t short, it was just small, but they didn’t agree. They didn’t listen to my discussion of word count and a comparison of my book’s word count and the word count of a bigger, fatter book on the same shelf in the bookstore.

Confused and frustrated, I conducted an informal poll on my Facebook page. I asked my readers this question: Would you pay more for a book that was fatter, knowing it had the same word count as a book that was thinner or smaller? I explained the conundrum of an author/publisher who was trying to make her books more affordable, so they would understand the issue.

You know what they said? Every single person responded that they’d happily pay more for a bigger book, even while knowing it wasn’t any longer word-wise than another book. Many said they would feel like they were getting more for their money, even while admitting it made no rational sense.

I also took a stroll over to my bookshelf and pulled off a few titles that are in the same genre as the book I had just published. I was shocked and appalled at what I found in there. Huge fonts, massive line spacing and margins so big I could have taken classroom notes in them. No wonder I read these books so quickly!  They weren’t nearly as “big” as I thought they were when I bought them. All this wasted space that should have had words in them was just empty. I paid for that emptiness, when all along I thought I was paying for words.

Did you know that Amazon puts “actual page count” on the ebook when there is a paperback of the same book? They use the paperback page count to show readers what they’re buying.  In essence, just by tweaking the formatting of my paperback, I can have an ebook that says 350 actual pages or I can have an ebook that says 195 actual pages, even though it’s the exact same book. Which one would you buy?

I wanted to fight the system, but I couldn’t. Readers told me what they wanted, and even though my heart was in the right place before, I had to give them what they were asking for now. I also know that if I decided to become a one-woman crusade against selling empty space to readers, that I would get punished for it. People who didn’t realize what I was trying to do would proclaim me the ripoff author who charges way too much money for books that are tiny.

I went back in a re-formatted my paperback to increase the page count by about 125 pages. I made the margins smaller, the line spacing bigger, the font bigger. I caved to the pressure from the publishing industry and raised the price of my book to cover the cost of the additional pages. Lo and behold, the readers stopped complaining about it being short. And I sold more of them.

I guess you could say that I’m outing myself on this blog post, but I’ve already done that on my Facebook page. It frustrates me that I feel like I’ve been forced into making readers pay more. I also posted this because I wanted you readers to know that you should NOT trust page counts given by Amazon or publishers. You should not trust the width of the spine of your book.  The only real measure of a book’s length is the word count, and even then you have to know whether the word count includes the front and back matter and any sample chapters of other books included. That could add thousands of words to the length and it wouldn’t really be the story they were measuring.

I believe that all authors should include the word count of their manuscript in the description so readers really know what they’re buying. I’ve already done this for several of my books, but I will be doing it for all my books in the future.  We could change this practice in publishing, people. Speak out! Tell authors and publishers what you want!  If you need some inspiration, go take a look at what’s on your bookshelf. Compare the fonts and the margins and see how much empty space you’ve purchased in your reader lifetime.  Oh, and try not to think about how many other books you could have purchased with all that extra money. :)

You know you’re an online bully when …

I was thinking about the online bullying of authors, after reading the article about Anne Rice and the bullying she experienced (she is not alone – lots of us have suffered from this sickening trend), and it struck me how strange it is that a person who might be perfectly nice in public can become a menacing troll online, under the cover of anonymity. There’s a petition directed at Amazon here, by the way, if you want to sign it. I did.

Impulse control

Online bullying is an impulsive behavior. When I’ve seen it happen and the comments start piling up, it’s almost inevitable that the original poster removes the original post and sometimes they end up deleting entire websites and online profiles as the fallout comes crashing down and it spirals out of control. People start or enter conversations without stopping to think. They let their fingers fly and allow passion to take charge. They get all riled up and start saying the craziest things. We don’t do this in polite company. When we’re upset with someone, we pause for a moment to reflect: should I say that or not? This is why I believe not permitting anonymous posting on Amazon reviews and Amazon forums would stop this behavior. When people know that what they say will be assigned to their names, they pause to reflect and act like they would if they were standing in front of you.

Could it be that they just don’t realize?

Anyway, as my mind was wandering like it often does, I started thinking … what exactly is an online bully or a troll? What are the behaviors one might assign this moniker to? As I came up with a list of things I’ve seen and experienced as an author, I realized that it’s very possible some people might act as bullies while not realizing that’s what they’re doing.  And then I was thinking that maybe those people would stop, or at least pause and consider their actions before taking them, if they had a list of bullying behaviors to which they could compare their own.  With that in mind, I’ve created this Jeff-Foxworthy-inspired post.

You know you’re an online bully when …

    1. You’re not a forum moderator, but you go to the forums and “police” them anyway, scolding, lecturing, or taking action against other posters when they do things that don’t follow your rules of proper behavior.
    2. You see a message from someone online discussing an author’s poor behavior, and then seek out that author online and say negative things to or about her, like a judge meting out a form of punishment. And/or you incite others to join the fray.  The overriding thought here is: “We need to teach that author a lesson.”
    3. You write a negative book review for a book you haven’t read.
    4. You write a book review that includes negative personal judgments about the author.
    5. You do anything online with this thought providing the impetus: “Oh, yeah? Well, I’ll show her…” or “I’m going to teach this person a lesson…”
    6. You down-vote positive reviews for any reason other than it was not helpful to your buying decision. e.g. You use down-voting to manipulate an author’s ranking as a form of punishment or retribution.
    7. You threaten physical violence to an author.
    8. You threaten to harm the reputation, career, sales, or income of a writer.
    9. You accuse an author of buying reviews or gaming the system when you have no actual proof and only suppositions based on detective work that consists of reading reviews and finding them suspicious.

I’ve probably missed a few, but these are the ones that I’ve seen and/or experienced. If I think of any others, I’ll add them later; or you can comment below if you think of some I forgot.



Money grubbing authors? Readers, before you paint, make sure you have the right brush.

I received an email from a ‘devoted fan’ who was dismayed to find that I’ve started writing a romantic serial novel. You can find Part 1 of Just One Night here. She accused me of being another one of those “money-grubbing authors” who rip off their readers.

Wow. Can I just say that again? Wow. I’ve never been called a money grubber before and I can tell you this right now: I don’t like it.

I’ve seen a lot of press about a certain author who shall remain nameless, who writes this type of fiction and charges $2.99 per episode or part. These books are bestsellers, which means this author and her work are very popular with lots of readers. But there is a very vocal minority who is speaking out all over the place (reviews, blogs, Facebook, messages to me) about how this is a horrible practice, and as a result, all authors who write serialized fiction are being painted with the same brush. We are all, apparently, money grubbing wankers.

The only thing I’m going to say about this author or any other charging $2.99 per episode is this: if you don’t think the value is there for your money, don’t buy the book! No one is forcing readers to buy these books, right? On top of that, no reader has the right to decide for other readers what they should or shouldn’t spend for books, so getting angry at people who do buy them is completely out of line. Yes, share your thoughts. No, do not attack other people. Do you cry foul and launch verbal missiles at publishers charging $10 or more for an ebook? No, most people don’t. They just either buy the book or not. I’ve seen some pretty nasty messages to this indie author online, though, and I just don’t understand that. Why attack someone over their pricing? People can charge whatever they want. Vote with your dollars, readers. Being angry and nasty isn’t going to help anyone; it just makes your day suck.

Should you be a reader of serialized romance? It all boils down to value for me, as I believe it should for anyone spending money on any product.  Ask yourself how much entertainment you get out of that thing you bought and how much you spent, and decide if you could have spent that money elsewhere and been more entertained. If the answer is yes, then don’t buy another. If the answer is no, then buy the next one. It’s that simple.

Now, since I’ve asked not to be painted with the brush used on other authors, I’m going to show you why it makes sense that you judge me by my work and my actions alone.  What follows is the email I sent back to my ‘devoted fan’.

Here’s the deal:

1.  Serialized fiction is not new. It began in the 17th century. Many classics were written this way … Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alexandre Dumas, and many many other authors used this form to publish their work. It fell out of favor with the advent of high speed presses, cheaper books vs, income per capita, and then the internet later, but still there are some modern-day authors who’ve done it, Stephen King being one of them.

Sometimes “old-fashioned” things are really cool and shouldn’t disappear. Part of the joy of being an indie author is the ability to write in whatever format you want instead of the format publishers want (you know, those same outfits that charge over $10 for an ebook).  Right now there’s a movement in several genres to bring this back, and it’s not because of the money for many of us. Yes, there is at least one author out there who is doing it in a way that suggests it is about the money, but to paint the rest of the authors on the planet with a brush suited to one author would be unfair, don’t you think? And like I mentioned above, many people find good value in these serials, which is why they’re bestsellers.

2.  Serialized fiction the way I’m doing it — I hope and believe — will make the reading experience more fun for the readers because they have the opportunity to share their thoughts with me as the serials continue, for the first time putting readers in the position to be able to guide the characters and story arc to some degree.

This story, JUST ONE NIGHT, is not already written. I haven’t even started part 2. I’m waiting for readers to comment on the website link I provide inside the book about Part 1 so I can take their thoughts, wishes, and desires into consideration as I write the second episode. Show me one other author actively doing that out there.  I’m the first I know of, and I don’t do it to make my job easier. It makes it harder!  … But more fun.  I believe after I do this successfully, other authors will join in and you’ll start seeing more of what I call “crowd-sourced fiction”. Have you ever read a book that you wish the author had written differently? Gotten upset because an important detail was overlooked?  Well, this is your chance to make it right.

3.  I put out a lot of material. It can be a monotonous job to some degree if I don’t change things up now and again. That’s why I change genres frequently. It’s also why I do co-authored projects. It’s also why I’ll join anthologies and write a couple short stories here and there. Writing in this serialized format helps me stretch my writer wings and stay motivated to keep putting out great material on a frequent basis.  Would you rather I take long breaks and publish less frequently? Most of my readers would say NO to that.  I do what I can to keep my readers happy, because they support my family and me. It’s that simple.

4. Let’s do some basic math.  Is it really all about the money, as some readers assume?  Take a step back and think about this for a moment:

I’ve offered the first book for 99¢. It’s 100 pages (I’ve already formatted the paperback, so I know this) or 25,000 words. One of my full-length novels is about 85,000 or so, and I charge $5 for that.  So for 30% of the book, you’re paying 20% of the price.

My royalties on a 99¢ sale is 35¢.  On a $5 book it’s 70% or $3.50.  Anything under $2.99 has 1/2 the royalty rate (which is why you see authors often charging this $2.99 amount.)

Let’s say I charge 99¢ for Book 2 also, $1.99 for Books 3 and 4 and $2.99 for Books 5 and 6 (this is not necessarily my plan, but it’s good for illustrative purposes.)  In total, for 150,000-word story (about 600 paper pages – a monstrous romance novel), you’ll pay $12.00.

How many hours do you think it will take you to read a 600 page novel? Now divide that by 12. That’s how much you’re paying for the entertainment I provide. My royalty in this split scheme would be $6.27, but if I charged $12.00 outright, I’d make $8.40.

So essentially, writing serialized fiction, I do more work (working with readers to make a better product) for less money.  Add on top of all this that I have to pay for cover art, editing, website changes, and all the other expenses that come with publishing a single part of this serial, and you’ll see that it’s not just about the money.  It’s about a lot of hard work and dedication to the process and to the fans.

Judge ME by MY actions.

In the end, you’re going to make your decision about me as a writer and me as a person, and use that opinion to decide whether my work is worth spending your hard-earned money on. I would like to think that you’ll look at ME for that and what I DO, and not what another author might be doing.

The bottom line is this: if you like my work and you look forward to reading what I write, then buy my books. Invest in me. If you don’t, if you feel as though I charge too much for my work, don’t invest in me. Invest in someone else who gives you a better value for your buck.  I believe that my work is worth what I charge, and that I could actually charge more and still have a very big following. But I try to keep my prices affordable for the vast majority of readers because I know what it’s like to spend a lot of money on books. I’ve done it all my life. Making an income as a writer makes it possible for me to keep being a writer. No one should expect me to apologize for earning a living at this.

If you got  this far in the message, gold star!  I hope this clears up any misinformation that might be floating around out there about my latest adventure, at least about me personally. Thanks to those readers who are willing to give this a shot. I’m having a ball so far and I really appreciate your feedback!