A Guide to the ARC Reader Process: Part One

ARCs are a vital part of any book launch, providing a little boost during release week. But what are ARCs? Why are they important? And what do you do with them?

ARC means Advanced Reader Copy. It’s a copy of your book that you send out to reviewers or avid readers for free before the book comes out in exchange for an honest review on or before release day.

These can be print copies or ebooks, but there are obvious logistical benefits to ebook. First of all, you can send ebooks for free. Shipping books, even going media mail and risking late delivery, gets expensive real fast. Some of the bigger bookstagrammers prefer hard copies because they photograph better, but we’ll get there later.

Is this whole process a gamble? Yes.

Not every ARC reader honors their promise to leave a review.

And the ones who do aren’t guaranteed to love it. This does mean there’s a chance the reviews that go up could be bad reviews. (Hence the stress on the word honest up above.)

But ironically enough, even bad reviews get your book noticed in the eyes of the almighty algorithm.

Why does that matter?

When your book gets enough reviews (I’ll be honest, I don’t know the magic number. I’ve heard 10, I’ve heard 20, and I’ve heard 50), Amazon will start recommending it.

Without any extra effort from you.

As in… FREE promotion of your book.

So obviously, reviews are important, whether they’re good, bad, or neutral.

And since some readers prefer to read 3, 2, or 1 star reviews (so they can see what they’re really in for and decide if they can stomach the bad in the name of the good), they could actually serve you well.

Some readers find books they love after seeing a 1 star review complaining about the presence of a certain trope within the book, a certain trope that happens to be that second reader’s favorite.

Now what do you do with ARCs?

First of all, you should make sure your book is ready for this step. All major edits should be done. ARC readers are not beta readers. They shouldn’t find plot holes for you to patch up after the fact. That would basically invalidate their review.

Exception: If the book is still with your editor for proofreading (aka some typos remain), that’s okay. Just make a note at the beginning of the ARC so they know to expect a typo or two.

But everything else needs to be done.

That includes interior formatting and the cover design. This needs to feel professional and finished.

Now, take a week and make sure your book is truly ready for this step. Come back next Monday for some tips and resources to help you find appropriate ARC readers to help you launch your book.

P.S.- If you’ve signed on with a traditional publisher, chances are, they’ll handle all of this for you. Indie authors, you have some work ahead of you.


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My Camp NaNo Project: The Regonia Chronicles

Are you doing Camp NaNo? I wasn’t sure if I was going to this year or not until I made a goal on the Nano website before bed at 4:00am on April 1st.

Which… might not be the best time of day to be setting goals. Since I’m a night owl, that’s really still an hour before I would normally go to bed, but still.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, Camp Nano is basically NaNoWriMo Light.

NaNoWriMo consists of a bunch of writers buoying each other’s spirits as they each try to write 50 thousand words in a month (November).

Camp NaNo takes place in April and writers get to set their own goals for the month. It can even be editing rather than writing.

So, way too late at night for goal setting, I decided that I’d shoot for adding 20 thousand words to The Regonia Chronicles. Not a bad goal, considering the mild sleep deprivation that prompted it.

The challenge will be doing this alongside prepping release stuff for Allmother Rising and editing A Blessed Darkness. I guess I could make an editing goal, too.

But anyway, 20k words isn’t a bad goal.

By and large, I usually have no idea what’s coming in my books. I don’t exactly plan them. If I did, I would’ve known that The Regonia Chronicles was going to be multiple books rather than just one.

But I sorta have an idea of what’s coming for the next little portion.

Climb a mountain. Hope to avoid lightning storms while on said mountain. Avoid alien abduction while attempting to forge an alliance with a warrior tribe that fears you’ve brought a disease from the stars.

You know. Normal, every day shit.

So, maybe since I know what’s coming (to a degree) I’ll be able to just bust right through those 20k words.

But in all likelihood, a million complications will come up and draw out the progression of it all. Maybe someone will fall off a cliff.

*shrugs*

We’ll see.

I’m hoping to finish writing this series this year and finish the editing by next spring in order to maintain my publishing schedule. As long as it doesn’t blossom into too many additional books, that should be possible. Right now, it’s looking like three or four plus a novella prequel.

I *think* I know the general plot of the rest of book three and most of book four. And there are a few additions and adjustments that need made to books one and two.

But for now, I’m just going to concentrate on the 20 thousand words for this month.

Are you participating in Camp NaNo?


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

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Why you should Write your Characters with Continuity

Something I always strive for in my books is the integrity of a character’s personality and their decisions. Not necessarily that the characters have integrity, but that the things they do line up with who they are.

Their choices and history, their thoughts and their opinions and the things they do and say.
I want these things to mesh, to make sense.

The way that I write makes it a little easier since the characters drive. I don’t force their hands or push them into neat little boxes. They become fully formed people with something akin to a level of autonomy. (Yes, I know that logically isn’t the case, but that’s what it feels like.)

As such, their decisions are aligned with their personalities, the way they fit into the world (or don’t), and the traumas they’ve dealt with/ran from (because let’s be honest here, all my characters are dealing with at least one traumatic event).

But for people who don’t let their characters take the reins from the get go, or anyone who’s ever suffered writer’s block (so all writers), it may not always be that simple.

Sometimes, you write yourself into a corner. Sometimes the characters make so many bad choices that they get stuck, which really just means that you, the writer, are stuck.

Some people consult their highly detailed character bibles or rehash their outlines at that point.

If I get stuck, if I don’t know what a character would do, I may just listen to the playlist that I’ve crafted for them, composed of every song I’ve heard that made me think of them. Or I may look at them through the lense of my psych degree.

Or maybe I’ll do something repetitive but active enough to get my blood pumping, then let my mind drift. Add the playlist to that, and it really helps.

Why am I telling you this?

Why do I strive to maintain integrity across their personalities and actions?

Because it matters.

Because reading a book packed with characters that act in ways that don’t make sense for their personality or their past is infuriating.

If a character that gets into trouble all the time for speaking out of turn and telling everyone exactly what they think suddenly has trouble expressing themselves the one time it’s convenient for the plot to have a misunderstanding… it’s going to piss off a lot of readers.

A character that’s never drank or even had the desire to do so suddenly gets plastered the one night you need them to not remember anything?

Probably going to piss off readers.

These things need to have a logical progression leading to them. The characters shouldn’t do things that don’t make sense for them to do.

Their actions may be stupid or the wrong choice to make, but if it’s a choice that’s consistent with their previous decision making processes or the evolution that you’ve already showcased, then it works.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

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IngramSpark vs. KDP: Which Publishing Company is Best for You?

Last week, we talked about the dangers of vanity presses. This week, I want to discuss a couple of legitimate self-publishing companies.

There are many options, and I’m sure more crop up by the day. But KDP and Ingramspark seem to be the front runners. As they’re the two I have experience with, those are the two I’ll be going over.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only options, and it doesn’t mean they’re who you have to choose. There is no one size fits all option here. Everyone has different needs, different desires for their books. What’s best for one author may not be right for another.

All I can do is put my experiences out there for you so you have a little more information to make your choice.

Formats

Both offer ebook and paperback options.

Ingramspark also offers hardback. They even have a few different cover types: cloth with a dust jacket, case laminate, or case laminate with a dust jacket.

If you’ve never heard of it, case laminate means that an image is printed directly onto the binding of the book. You can have that with or without the dust jacket. If you get the dust jacket, it means that you can have a second piece of art on the case of the book (hidden beneath the dust jacket) or have the same cover so that readers can remove the dust jacket, leave it at home for safe keeping, and still show off that pretty cover art while reading on the go. Either way, this requires an additional file, in a different size, something that may incur extra charges with your cover designer.

Print quality

The books that Ingramspark produces are beautiful. They feel good in your hands, and they look stunning.

This isn’t to say that KDP doesn’t print good books, they do. Just not as good as Ingramspark.

Print speed

I can’t be sure, and of course time of year affects this (the time leading up to the holidays is always a longer print time), but it seems as though KDP is quicker.

Shipping of Author Copies

KDP charges normal Amazon shipping rates to send copies of your book to you. Ingramspark… *sigh* They have a basic, uninsured, no guarantee, “it’s not our responsibility” shipping option that starts at around $5. But if you want any kind of insurance or tracking at all, shipping (even for a single proof copy) is going to cost you about $20 or more.

Wholesale Distribution

Ingram is one of the biggest wholesale distributors in the world. They’re trusted by bookstores across the globe. Publishing with them does not guarantee that your book will end up in stores (you still have to approach them about carrying your book), but it gives you a chance.

KDP has an expanded distribution option, but what’s the point in taking the hit to royalties? They’re an Amazon subsidiary. Bookstores aren’t exactly likely to buy from their competitor.

Direct to Consumer Distribution

KDP (as part of Amazon) obviously has this. And with Prime shipping, readers could get your book quickly.

Ingramspark does not ship directly to consumers or handle sales directly. They print the books and ship them when a retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble places an order.

Tech support

KDP wins this, hands down. Ingramspark used to have passable tech support, but since last year (something I’ll cover more under the next category), they’ve taken a nose dive.

When I uploaded A Heart of Salt & Silver last November, I had nothing but problems, and getting anyone to actually address them was like pulling teeth.

KDP, however, is timely with their responses and makes uploading, fixing problems, or adjusting book listings very simple.

Ease of use

KDP wins this one, as well.

Early last year, it would have been a tie. But last summer, while the whole world was shut down and everyone that could work from home was doing so, Ingramspark did a major overhaul to their entire system in an attempt to make it more “user friendly.” But all it accomplished was breaking their system.

There were bugs.

A lot of them.

And since most people (especially tech people) were working from home on limited hours, the whole “fixing them” process dragged on and on. Meanwhile, tech support for authors was minimal and… rough. Long wait times to receive an email (7-10 days), long queue times for the online chat support (hour+), long wait times on hold (hours).

That is, until they did away with the phone option for support, making everyone use the email or chat, making wait times even longer. And the hours for the chat are highly inconsistent, not always lining up with the hours posted online.

I’ve had several issues with them since their “user friendly” update, several of which dragged out for weeks.

I’ll be uploading Allmother Rising to their site soon for that magnificent hardcover option, so we’ll see how much has been fixed.

Sales dashboard

KDP reports sales quickly and in an easy to read bar graph that shows how many copies sold each day.

Ingramspark can take up to 90 days to “gather” sales data, then reports it in a rather lackluster format. On the dashboard, it says how many of each book you’ve sold, but with no dates (which complicates the process of honing ads since you can’t get an accurate picture of their performance).

Even their monthly statements for royalties lack dates, showing only which book and which format sold. And you’ll get multiple statements. One for Apple ebooks, one for Amazon US, one for Amazon UK, one for the print distribution in the US and one for print in the UK. So the data is a bit… all over the place.

Royalties

This one really depends, honestly.

KDP offers a 70% royalty option (less print cost), but if you go with their expanded distribution (why?) you’re only eligible for 35% after the cost to print the book.

Ingramspark does 60% (I think) of the profit. But since bookstores demand a discount (a hefty 55% is preferred, but you can lower it to 30 or 35% depending on the market), you’re getting 60% of what’s left after that massive discount and the print cost.

Start-up Cost

KDP is completely free. There are no up-front costs or fees. They make their money off their portion of the profit when a book sells.

Ingramspark charges $49 for a thing they call “Title Setup,” which is basically the fee they charge to list your book in their massive wholesale distribution channels. It irritates me that it’s a thing. But as discussed above, their distribution channels are very widely used, so they can get away with it.

You have to pay that for each print format, but you can pair your ebook with one of them for no additional charge. If you’re only releasing an ebook, you still have to pay the $49.

You can revise and resubmit your files as many times as you need until you’re happy with them and hit approve. However, if you wish to do any additional revisions after approving all the files, there’s a $25 fee. Per revision.

So if you want to change the cover and have an ebook, paperback, and hardback version of the book, that means $75 to fix all three covers, even if the ebook is linked to one of the print formats.

The good thing is that they frequently release discount codes to waive these fees in their Facebook group, release some for Nanowrimo, and often provide these codes at writing conventions. (20booksto50k on Facebook has a convention coming up with a code associated)

Advertising

Ingramspark has an option to promote your book by listing it in their catalog. I think it’s under $100, but I’m not sure. I’ve never done it, so I have no idea how effective it might be.

KDP is part of Amazon, and we’ve all seen the sponsored product ads when looking for books on Amazon. They have their own marketing thing, linked to- but separate from- KDP. Many authors have found success with Amazon ads. I’m not one of them. I’ve tried a few, but since I’m still learning about ads, I haven’t gotten an Amazon ad to actually be profitable yet.

As with any type of advertising, there are a lot of metrics and a lot of things to experiment with, a lot of demographic research and keyword research to be done. Ads need honed in, and of course, it’s easier to turn a profit advertising a series than it is advertising a standalone.

(You can afford to lose a bit of money advertising book one with a higher cost per click, so long as your series hooks readers and pulls them to book two and three and ten. Standalones… you can’t afford to lose on book one because it’s only one book. This is another problem for me, as I usually write standalones.)

Kindle Unlimited

Obviously, this is a strictly Amazon thing, thus only KDP has it. If you upload your ebook ONLY to KDP and enroll in KDP select or kindle select (I forget the name, it’s a little check box during the upload process), that puts your book into the Kindle Unlimited program. People who pay monthly can read as many KU books as they want, and the authors get paid per page read.

If you don’t have many books in the program or don’t get a lot of reads, it might not add up to anything. But there are several full-time authors in the 20booksto50k group on Facebook who attribute half their earnings to KU.

That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll go full-time or be a best-seller, but the vast majority of ebooks are read on Kindles or in the Kindle app. And KU is a massive market.


Now, as I said above, there is no one size fits all publishing solution. Authors have different skill sets, resources, and needs. So, it’s natural that not every author will choose the same publishing path.

You can use either of these publishers. You can use neither.

If you purchase your own ISBN, you can use both.

I do. My ebooks are slowly being moved to KDP to take advantage of the higher royalty and the Kindle Unlimited program. My paperbacks are split between the two, and of course, I will always have hardbacks. Which is only available through Ingramspark.

The blessing (and curse) of being an indie author is that you can pick and choose whatever methodology you want. Don’t be afraid to play around with this to see which one you like best.

This is a process, not an instant, get it right the first time, always be satisfied with the first thing you try type of dream/hobby/career.

Mistakes happen. Things don’t always work.

But as long as you keep trying, you’ll find what works for you.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

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The Hidden Dangers of Vanity Presses: Warnings for New Authors

The publishing world is a minefield with all our dreams waiting for us on the other side. High stakes, tension, and a lot of intricate details mean that there’s a lot to take in, a lot to learn.

And unfortunately, there are people out there who know this… and take advantage.

Vanity presses, I’m looking at you.

I had a run-in with one of these beasts when publishing my first novel, and if I can spare even just one other author from that mess, then this post will have been WELL worth it.

So, for all the writers who don’t know, and thus are at the greatest risk of falling into this very effective (and very legal) scam, let’s talk about what a vanity press even is.

Obviously, it’s a publishing company. They typically offer various packages (watch out for that word on publisher sites) of services they’ll provide in exchange for a set amount of money. Many have additional services you can tack on, at an extra cost.

They’ll print your book, usually print-on-demand, a feature that they’ll be sure to sell you on because it’s less wasteful and doesn’t run the risk of having extra books lying around. (Which is fair. That’s the method legitimate self-publishing companies use, too.)

They’ll list your book and distribute it, then they’ll give you a cut of the profits made off the books.

Which all sounds perfectly fine.

Unless you know that no reputable self-publishing company (and certainly no traditional publishing company) charges the author money.

*Exception: Ingramspark (definitely not a vanity press) charges $50 for “title setup,” a thing they explain as being the cost incurred by placing your book in their wholesale distribution channels. And since those channels are used by the cast majority of bookstores, they can get away with that. But they frequently release coupon codes to waive that fee.

But the point is, vanity/subsidy presses make their money off the author. Not off the books sold.

Legitimate publishing companies, be they indie, traditional, or self, make their money off the books.

The cost of each book sold accounts for the print cost, automatically keeping them out of the red. Then, they get a cut of the profit. How much depends on the publisher and the royalty they offer their authors, but no matter what, self-publishing companies should not lose money on a printed book. (Note: Traditional publishers keep higher amounts of the profit for themselves because they edit, format, design covers, etc.)

There’s absolutely no reason for self-publishing companies to charge an author (who typically has their book edited and their cover designed ahead of time) thousands of dollars to publish it. And yes, vanity presses do indeed charge thousands of dollars. (With convenient monthly payment options and *limited time* deals to pressure you into buying.)

IF covers, formatting, or editing are included in a package offered by these vanity presses, they’re usually done at cut rates and turn out very poorly. That round of editing in the package may even turn out to be that YOU find the typos and grammatical errors and tell them where they’re at so they can “edit” them. (That’s what the one I got fooled by did.)

If they try to say that formatting and file conversion are included, and thus justify thousands of dollars, formatting can be done on any computer with a simple how-to guide online. If you want it fancy and don’t want to mess with it yourself (because it is very tedious and fiddly), there are many graphic designers who do interior design/formatting, some of whom charge only $49 (or less if you find a reputable one on fiverr). Not thousands.

And file conversion to EPUB and MOBI can be done with free programs that you can get off the internet. (I use Calibre.)

Now, of course, vanity presses are not going to miss the opportunity to exploit an uninformed writer when it comes to our (almost) universal weak point: marketing. They will undoubtedly offer marketing packages, as well, but they tend to be underwhelming at best, if not downright rip-offs.

Especially when you consider the exorbitant prices they charge.

Even more so if you consider the paltry royalties they extend to the authors, like crumbs fallen off a loaf of bread. Literal pennies per printed book, maybe a quarter for an ebook.

When I fell prey to one of these beasts 7 years ago, they literally wrote in the press release that I was running a marketing campaign which… is pretty self-explanatory and wastes words in the press release that could’ve been spent on the book or me as an author.

As if that weren’t enough, add the constant phone calls trying to get you to give them more money for things that will garner little to no sales. (That press release wasn’t run by a single newspaper, but they sent it, so obviously that was worth nearly a thousand dollars.)

I was working a weird shift (half overnights and half days) at the time and told them very specific hours that I could be contacted… which were of course disregarded. Their people talked over me constantly, trying to bully me into paying more. If I didn’t answer, they called again. If I blocked the number, they called from a different one.

They called while I was supposed to be asleep for my night shifts. They called while I was at work. They called while normal people would be eating dinner.

They called ALL THE TIME.

My account was shuffled from one person to another when someone failed to get money from me. (One even went so far as to say that his teammate had read my book and thought it had promise, which of course was a lie. No one there read my book.)

After the day that I signed with them, every single person I spoke to had the same hard to pin down accent coupled with an overly-American name (doubtless an attempt to make the dumb American feel more comfortable with them).

And not a single one of them gave a shit about me or my book or the fact that I was broke as fuck working part-time, earning minimum wage, eating $0.12 ramen and $1 canned ravioli to get by.

They didn’t care that I wanted my book (and future books) to be taken seriously.

They wanted my money. That was it.

Shame blossomed within me, growing up alongside years of anger, when I realized that I’d fallen into a carefully contracted scam made especially for new, uninformed writers.

I hid it from friends and family because I didn’t feel like a real author. I shied away from questions about my writing because I didn’t know what to do with the rest of the books I was working on. I stayed quiet in writing groups, unsure how to contribute if I was such a fool.

I even stopped promoting my book, out of spite toward them and out of humiliation for myself.

When I learned that no traditional publisher would take it, even if I could get it back, since it had already been published and (since it had basically no promotion) sold almost no copies, I was heartbroken.

But eventually, I learned about legitimate self-publishing. Then, I learned how to get my book back. I could fix it, edit it properly, and rerelease it.

I cancelled everything with the vanity press and instructed them never to contact me again, though that process in and of itself took a ridiculous amount of time considering their continuous hesitation and obstacles in sending me a copy of the contract to begin with.

The copyright had been registered in my name, thank god, and they didn’t require exclusive publishing. (Why would they, since they already had my money?)

I rereleased The Gem of Meruna with a reputable self-publishing company. But even today, that poor book has been tainted in my memory, because every time I think about it, I think of them and the stress and shame and heartache of dealing with them.

So please, don’t put yourself through the years of torment and disappointment I endured. If a self-proclaimed self-publishing company (or hybrid company) asks for money upfront, run as fast as you can.

They should make their money off the books sold, not off you.

There are reputable self-publishing companies out there, ready and willing to help you publish your books. (I’ll do a post later about Ingramspark and KDP, the two I’ve worked with). There are freelance editors and graphic designers, ready and willing to make your book as beautiful as it should be.

Trust them. Work with them.

Not a vanity press armored with jargon to legalize their scam and sucker in the unsuspecting.


Want to check fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Asking Authors How Many Books They Sold

There’s this tendency for non-writers to ask how many books you sold. And as an author, that question always causes a spike in anxiety.

Why?

Most authors wish more copies of their book sold. Plain and simple.

We’re happy to have sold the copies we’ve sold, of course we are, because that means people are reading our work.

But many of us want to do this full time, and selling 50 or 100 copies of a book does not a full time wage make.

So, as happy as we are to sell any copies, there’s always the weight of not selling enough to be a full time author hanging about our shoulders.

Many non-writers are unaware of what it takes to manage to sell even just a handful of books (or how many $2-$5 royalties it takes to make a living wage). Even without considering the writing, editing, formatting, metadata and publishing (if indie), querying (if traditional), there’s an absolute shit ton of work that goes into selling books.

Months, or years, of social media posts. Newsletters, networking with other authors, blog tours, and Instagram tours.

Then, there’s advertising, which is a hellscape, in and of itself. So many authors (myself included) hate advertising because it feels as if there’s just too much to learn, and if you do it wrong, you’re literally just dumping money down the drain.

It’s intimidating.

And then, of course, there’s the vicious cycle of being afraid to check your sales and your ads (even though it’s necessary to tweak ads to get them to actually work), thus leading to ads running and doing nothing, then finally getting up the nerve to check them (or giving in to the shame/self-blame of knowing we’re not doing what we should, thus finally checking the ads) and seeing that they’ve done nothing, because they haven’t been adjusted. Which just hurts and confirms the self-doubt we all harbor.

Writing is a very vulnerable process.

We’re basically putting ourselves on the market, because a lot of ourselves go into our books, not to mention the time and effort to get them written and ready.

So, to all the non-writers reading this, if a book is selling well, the author will let you know. They’ll be ecstatic.

And even if they aren’t chomping at the bit to tell you, it’ll likely appear on material promoting the book. Because selling a lot of copies is actually a good tool to sell more books.

That’s why you see awards on book covers or the title “USA Today Bestselling Author” or “New York Times Bestselling Author” above author names. It’s a tool to sell more books, to let you know that you can trust that book and that author because so many other people already have.

So, please, if you know an author, don’t stress them with talk of sales. If you’re curious about the fact that they write, ask about the main character of the book they’re working on/just released.

For all the authors out there wishing you’d sold more copies and comparing your numbers to the whole “most books sell less than 250 copies” thing, don’t forget that this average includes all the bestsellers, who skew that number quite a bit.

Look at your audience (excluding follow loop numbers), and 5% of that number is where you should aim for preorders. If you get that (or exceed that) then not only are you doing just fine, you should celebrate.

Like… a lot.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books hereSubscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story). Or if you’d rather pitch in for editing and other writing-related expenses, you can support me directly here.

Why I Don’t Fill My Books with Big Words

If you use a lot of big words, that means you’re smart, right? And clearly, it means your writing is better, right?

Not necessarily.

Some people prefer five dollar words, but personally, I like to keep my words small. Or at least, common.

There are many reasons, and today, I’ll be going over a few of them.

Big words aren’t necessary.

It is completely possible to get a point across without replacing a ton of words with synonyms that add syllables or seeking out obscure words that no one uses. Common language is more than capable of conveying meaning and depth.

Flow and Immersion

If a reader has to stop over and again to Google a word, that means they’re setting the book down and breaking immersion. And who wants that?

Readers want to be sucked in, and writers want their readers to be sucked in.

So what’s the point in using a bunch of obscure words that will break the illusion we’re trying so hard to build?

What are we trying to prove?

I don’t need to prove my intelligence, and you don’t either. Intelligence stands on its own. People are intuitive and can usually tell whether someone is smart. Throwing in a bunch of massive synonyms doesn’t make you look smarter.

Synonyms aren’t always the same.

Sometimes, a big fancy synonym means something slightly different than the word you actually mean. Sometimes, a synonym has a secondary meaning that is completely different than what you actually mean.

Changing that one word could change the whole sentence.

Why not just say what you mean?

Gatekeeping

I don’t want readers to come away from my book wondering why other people liked it. I don’t want readers to think my work is too convoluted or self-important for anyone with less than a master’s degree to read.

I could throw in a bunch of psychological jargon, but what good would that do? It wouldn’t improve my fantasy novel.

I want people to understand the meaning of my books without getting a bachelor’s degree.

And shouldn’t you?

I’m not fancy.

As a whole, I am not a fancy person. I barely bother with makeup (eye liner, and that’s about it). I wear jeans and a t-shirt most days, especially on days that I work. On days off, it’s because it’s comfortable. On work days, it’s because I don’t want to have any nice clothes torn up at the factory.

Basically, I’m not fancy. So why paint some false picture of myself with a bunch of fancy words in my books?

I write emotion first, themes second.

Emotions are best described in bodily terms, in my opinion. Clenched fists or eyes sparkling with a smile. Hammering hearts or gritted teeth.

Getting too cerebral with the description can actually take away from the scene.

And since I write emotion first and themes second, getting that emotion across in a way that makes the reader feel it is important to me.

So, unless it’s the best word for the situation or the character, I leave the big words out of it.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Check out my emotional, gritty books hereSubscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story). Or if you’d rather pitch in for editing and other writing-related expenses, you can support me directly here.

Five Tropes that I Hate: A Book Rant

It’s time for a rant, and man, have I been building up to this. This trope series has been rather positive so far, but now, it’s time to spill some tea. Today, I’m talking about my least favorite tropes in books.

First and foremost, we’ll start with on that is unbelievably popular, much to my confusion.

Harems and Reverse Harems

Just… why?

These always feel unnecessary to me, not to mention ridiculously unlikely. Unless you’re dealing with an actual celebrity, the odds of seven people being into the same person are just… too high for me to really accept within a book.

Not to mention… juggling that many people just seems exhausting.

I’m good on all that.

The Bookworm (Or the writer)

I know, another controversial one. Reading about a bookworm or a librarian who goes on adventures seems like something that should appeal to me.

But for some reason, it’s actually a pet peeve of mine.

Maybe it’s because I want to read about characters that I don’t have quite so much in common with, and since books are kinda my lifeline, a character with the same lifeline really isn’t breaking the mold for me.

Plus, from a writing standpoint, it just feels too easy for a writer to give the character the exact same passion that the writer possesses means that writing the hobbies of their characters requires absolutely zero effort or research.

And it means that while reading, I’m less likely to pick up some ridiculous little bit of know-how or some little quirk that’s unique to that character’s hobby. Because I already know how to turn pages in books and I clearly know what it feels like to sit at a computer typing for hours on end.

The Ditz

I don’t typically like ditzy people in real life, so it isn’t terribly surprising that I don’t like them in books.

I want strong, capable characters who can think about what they’re doing and the consequences it’ll have. I want characters I can relate to, and that means they should probably use their brain, sometimes using it so much that they actually hold themselves back.

I don’t want to groan in frustration the whole time that I’m reading because the character is walking into asinine situations and endangering their life and the lives of others simply because they have too much hot air in their head to think anything through.

The Meat-Head

I know that these people exist in real life, but much like the ditz, I avoid them.

Muscles are cool, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not the most important thing in the world. That view seems rather short-sighted. Though considering the average intellect of the meat-head characters, that short-sightedness isn’t altogether surprising.

Again, I want intelligent characters. I want them to think about their situation and their choices. Brute force works in some situations, but not all.

And these characters fall short when any amount of brains are necessary.

Mr./Ms. Indecisive

What exactly is the point of a character that never makes a choice? If they hang back and let the world dictate their entire life, why are they playing a role in the plot?

I like character-driven stories, and these characters refuse to decide anything, thus ruining their ability to drive the plot forward.

What’s your least favorite trope? Let me know in the comments below. Really let loose. I certainly did.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Check out my books here and fill your heart with all the aforementioned tropes. Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books. Or if you’d rather pitch in for editing and other writing-related expenses, you can support me directly here.

My Three Favorite Tropes and How to Write Them

Of all the tropes out there, I love strong female leads (with trauma), underdogs, and slow burn romance above all others. I write one or all of them into nearly every one of my own books and love when I find them in books that I’m reading.

And in the interest of seeing them done well, today I’m offering up tips on how to write them well.

Shall we start with one that’s become increasingly popular of late?

Strong female leads who have a history of trauma

Plot-relevant trauma
If your MC has a tragic backstory, it needs to make sense. Trauma for the sake of trauma (or for the sake of clamoring to be relatable) probably won’t come across well. If her struggles are relevant to the plot or a sub-plot, the story will feel more natural.

There are many kinds of strength
Remember that bold, reckless, and in your face is not the only kind of strength. As human beings, women have the ability to possess many different types of strength. They don’t have to be rude or bitchy. There are much quieter types of strength.
Yes, fire is hot and fierce, but stone is sturdy and unyielding. Yes, resolve and a go-getter attitude is strong, but so is the ability to be compassionate under duress.

Underdogs

Give us a reason to root for them
Don’t just throw a two-dimensional character up against insurmountable odds. Give them emotion. Give them heart. Give them something compelling to fight for so that we want to see them succeed.

Give them at least some chance
The key to a good underdog is them coming out on top, besting their foe. But if the means by which they accomplish this are completely unbelievable, the story will fall apart. Give them difficult odds, not 100% impossible.

Slow Burn

Chemistry
Build these characters into people who would actually fall for each other. Give them inside jokes. Fill their time together with fleeting glances and the excitement of wondering if the other person meant to brush their arm. Give them butterflies and heat.

A compelling reason for them not to tear into each other immediately
Give them all that chemistry… and then give them a compelling reason for staying apart at first. Maybe one of them is healing from betrayal and isn’t sure they can trust what they *think* the other person is feeling. Maybe one of them has a history of being a player, and the other doubts them. Maybe one is about to move across the country, and they weren’t looking for anything serious.
Just make sure it’s a good reason, that way it frustrates them and gets your reader really hoping they can overcome it.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Check out my books here and fill your heart with all the aforementioned tropes. Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books. Or if you’d rather pitch in for editing and other writing-related expenses, you can support me directly here.

My Three Favorite Tropes (and why I love them)

It’s time to talk tropes. I have a whole series lined up for you, but let’s start simple.

What are tropes? They’re elements that crop up in a lot of books, be they themes, types of characters, or types of plots. Strong female lead, hero’s journey, vigilante, insta-love, harem, coming of age, orphan discovers they have magic, etc.

They can crop up in just about any genre or subgenre. They can be done well, or they can be ludicrously awful. Where they fall on that spectrum is a bit subjective. Some people hate certain tropes but adore others. Some authors staunchly avoid writing them.

But with so many out there, the odds of using one, even accidentally, are pretty high.

I want to kick off this series on tropes on a positive note. So, we’re starting with my favorites.

Underdogs

I fucking love a good underdog story.

Seeing someone who’s deep in it, someone who has nothing going for them, who’s been through hell, rise up and make it out alive?

I’m in.

What’s better for a little hope?

Strong female lead
(Likely with a traumatic past)

I love seeing a strong woman in books. And no, that doesn’t mean the bold, brash heroines that just do what they want regardless of anyone else’s feelings. There are a lot of types of strength.

I like the women who’ve been pushed, women who broke and rebuilt themselves, and in the process, learned that they can do what they need to do because they’ve withstood worse.

Yeah, there might be some who hate the levels of trauma that some strong female leads face in books, but I’ll be honest, it makes them more relatable for me. (And probably for a lot of other people, because life can be relentless.)

Slow Burn

I love a good slow burn romance subplot. The tension, the build-up, the back and forth… It just sucks me into the book.

I like seeing the characters get to know each other. It makes it more realistic and believable.

What are your favorite tropes? I’d love to hear about them.

Come back next week for tips to write these tropes well, and then the week after, I’ll be listing my least favorite tropes.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Subscribe to stay up to date on all my upcoming books. Check out my published books (featuring the tropes above) here. Or if you’d like to help fund some editing and marketing efforts, you can support me directly here.