Periodic Reminder re: Advertising

It is not cheating or gaming the system to advertise your books.

There are absolutely people out there who engage in shady practices with respect to advertising (I’m looking at you people who send fake clicks against books that use the keywords you want to use), but the mere act of using, for example, Facebook ads, does not make you some sort of cretin that can’t even be assigned a name because you’re such an insult to real authors whose books fly off the shelves all on their own.

I wouldn’t still be publishing if I hadn’t managed to get some sort of grasp on advertising. Because I wouldn’t have sold anything more than a handful of copies here or there and I would have quickly decided that there were better ways to spend the hours of my day than putting up my books that I’d spent hundreds of hours on and only hearing crickets.

Some people don’t need advertising. They write something that readers are actively looking for and where there isn’t enough competition to drown out their visibility. They started in trade-pub and have a pre-established audience that’s waiting for their next book. They have a lot of well-connected friends who like them enough to get the word out about their books. They hustle in some other way that gets them in front of readers.

But if you don’t fall into one of those categories, it is actually okay to learn AMS or FB ads and use them to promote your books. Do not let other people’s skewed perceptions make you fail.

This post triggered by a comment that may not have even been meant the way I read it, but also by the many, many times I’ve seen a forum discussion where the implication was that “real writers” don’t have to advertise.

Ah, Planning Time

I usually sit down at the beginning of the year and set up some goals for both personal and business so that I have some sort of direction heading into the new year. Because of how the year started, I was a little behind on doing so and only sat down to think about that today.

(Not that I don’t have a running list of possible projects at all times, but this is usually the time of year when I try to at least pick one or two. Especially since some of those projects have been on that list for years now.)

Every year I ask myself, “If you could only write one more book, what would it be?”

Because that’s a good way to choose what to write if you want to accomplish something meaningful, right? Pick the one that matters the most to you.

Except…I never have an answer to that question.

I don’t have that “one” book that I’ve always wanted to write. When left to my own devices I tend to do something like write a book about an obscure software most people won’t use and for a niche audience on top of that. (Hence, Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts.)

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed writing that book and I’ve enjoyed writing the other ones like it that I’ve written over the years, but if someone did an exit interview with me at the end of my life, I probably wouldn’t list that book or any of those others as a life accomplishment.

So then I usually turn to the money approach.

What have I written that did well enough that I should write more of it? And that does sometimes work. Some of my more profitable titles have come from that approach.

Although most series have diminishing returns after a certain point unless you’ve really hit on something special. You can keep advertising the series, but people will fall off at certain predictable points in the series so that the number of readers who make it to Book 10 are almost never the same as the number of readers who read Book 1.

And sometimes there’s just no more to say or write about it. The couple got their HEA, the ultimate bad guy is dead, or it stretches believability to think that yet another person could possibly die in that quaint little village of a hundred people and in such a way that the only person who cares about it is the retired school teacher who now runs a knitting club.

That author can certainly write more. And in that genre or adjacent to that genre to try to keep those readers, but the series has seen its end. And not all readers will move to the new series.

Plus, not every author wants to keep writing the same thing, even if it is profitable.

The third option is the “shake it up” approach where you look at everything you’ve already done, decide that more of the same won’t get you where you want to be, and venture off onto a completely new path.

Depending on the path, that can be great. Or not.

I know more than one author who saw exponential improvement by switching genres. I’ve also known many who’ve found that non-fiction in an area of expertise they have has done far better than any of their fiction. But I also know of more than one author who switched tracks and saw even worse sales than before.

A side version of this is the new format/new platform goal. I’ve made goals in the past to list all my books on X site or to put out books in audio or print or large print. Sometimes that’s been a really good use of my time. Other times, not so much.

I was looking at audio sales the other day and I have one series that doubled my money and one that I might as well have never bothered with because it will never earn back its cost. Same with large print. Worked a treat in one genre, but a dud in another.

Bottom line is that sometimes it’s just a crap shoot and you can’t know what the dice are going to give you. Or how the world is going to change underneath you.

Which is why I usually go through this exercise, make goals to publish whatever I was working on in December so I do hit at least one goal for the year, make a few extra goals to have something to aim for for the year, and then completely ignore them but somehow end up hitting about 75% of them while also doing another two or three projects that weren’t even on my radar at the beginning of the year.

Honestly, the goals that work best for me are actually ad spend goals. I determine to spend $X per month on advertising my books which ensures that no matter what I decide to write for the year, I focus on promoting it and/or what I’ve already written and do so consistently month-to-month.

Whether that comes from AMS or a Bookbub feature or FB ads or a free first in series run doesn’t matter. It forces me to keep some sort of momentum. And if I find that no advertising works for anything I have, I can then brainstorm new covers, new titles, new categories, new blurbs, new audiences, etc. until I do get something that works.

Obviously, if you’re new to setting an ad spend goal like that, start small. You should build up to higher ad spends only after you know that what you’re doing will actually generate profitable sales.

So there you have it. My super exact approach to annual planning. One you may not want to actually follow. Haha.

Life Thoughts

I’m writing this from a hotel because I’m still not back in my place. But I do have a place and stuff, so that’s a good outcome. It’s just covered in a thin layer of ash that makes it unsafe to be there right now.

Hopefully I can go back soon. I should have an estimate for clean-up this week and am hoping it’ll get done in the next week after that but living in an apartment has its own stupid challenges because the apartment company needs to do its part, too.

As with all life events, this whole situations makes me think about things. Maybe I should’ve been a philosopher instead of a writer…


First, one of the biggest challenges of being high Strategic (CliftonStrengths) is that you can see all the paths. Or more of the paths than others do. Which means you live catastrophes that haven’t yet happened sometimes.

When my friend was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer a few years back there was a part of me that mourned his loss because Stage IV cancer. And yet, he’s still here and thriving. (Knock wood.)

Same with this fire. I partially lived losing everything. And I partially lived having the insurance not cover the hotel expense. (They wanted me to go back to an apartment with no heat, no running water, no cellphone service, and unbreatheable air, but I refused. They have since come around.)

Being able to see what’s coming and plan a path through is an invaluable skill, but it comes with its own weight of stress and unhappiness for things that have not yet happened and maybe never will.

Second, I’m reminded yet again that sometimes absolute devastation is easier to recover from than that middle of the road area where things are bad but not horrible. If I’d lost everything I’d be in a new place by now buying new shit and moving forward. I’d be mourning the things I’d never see again for probably the rest of my life, but it’d be something I was recovering from already.

But because I didn’t lose everything and also wasn’t spared from the fallout of the fire, I’ve spent the beginning of 2022 in a no-progress limboland that feels like pulling teeth to accomplish anything.

(Which kind of reminds me of writing now that I think of it…Doing well enough to keep going, but not so well that it’s just a joyous fun ride full of love and money.)

I can also tie this to COVID, too, right? We’re all stuck in this ongoing, slow-motion train wreck. It’s not something that blew through, devastated a bunch of people, and ended. We’re mid-crisis and so we’re living as best we can until it derails us somehow. Maybe for a few days, maybe for months, maybe forever.

Someone somewhere said that you can’t recover from an ongoing trauma and I think that’s true for a lot of things in life. That bad job, that bad relationship, the ongoing decay of your society or your health. Sometimes you just want it all to fail miserably so you can start to move forward.

Third, I’m reminded of how just because what someone is going through isn’t as bad as what others are going through doesn’t change the emotional impact to the person suffering.

That sounds very wordy. Let me give an example.

After I lost my dad I was devastated. I was barely holding it together because he was my rock. About five months later I got together with a friend for lunch and she talked about how absolutely crushed she was that her friends had already gone back to college.

At the time I got furious at her, “Like, seriously? You’re barely holding it together because your living, breathing friends aren’t here to hang out with? I just lost my fucking dad. Let’s get real here.”

But after many years of processing that conversation and sometimes being the one on the other side of it I realize that the size of the problem or loss and the size of the emotion around that problem or loss are not always linear.

One person can roll just fine with a punch that would put another on their knees. And another can be knocked down by what seems like nothing. So, yeah, it seemed absurd to me at the time that my friend could be so upset about something so minor, but for her it wasn’t minor.

Which right now I’m using to let myself feel the stress and loss of this situation even though I know others have a level of loss that’s infinitely worse than my own. It doesn’t mean I can’t feel exhausted and sad, too, you know?

So, on that cheery note. Onward. Life is never going to be all you want it to be (unless you’re a fucking unicorn of a human), but it can still have moments of being amazing if you keep pushing forward.

Welcome to 2022

A new year, a new chance to make of it what you can. I think it will be a rough one for many, but at least we’re here and you never know what tomorrow holds which is why you keep going and trying.

On a personal note, as of now it sounds like my apartment building survived the fire which is a small miracle given where the flames spread. I haven’t gone back to see it yet because there’s no electricity and the area is still under an evacuation order.

Also, we just had over a foot of snow fall at my mom’s where I’m staying so won’t be dug out for at least a day. (Welcome to Colorado.)

But at least there’s something to go back to and I’ll happily take that win.