Quiet Quitting

I’ve decided to change things a bit with my fiction writing. It doesn’t make sense to keep putting my heart, soul, and pocket book so energetically into my fiction writing. So I’m quiet quitting. 

That doesn’t mean I’m not writing anymore, but it does means things are going to be different. 

A Great Idea

Thursday I went to office hours for a BookTok class, and they gave me some great ideas to try on TikTok. One of them was to look in the Kindle version of my books and find all the text that had been highlighted by readers in order to quote them in videos (overlayed over flipping pages). This is really a good idea, because while some of what gets highlighted is mundane, I also see stuff that is more interesting and profound show up. So I went and bought all of my YA books on Kindle. And I soon discovered that not a single person has highlighted anything in any of my books, including the one that came out in 2020.

This just says FAIL. It doesn’t matter that my first book won some small awards and the next two also did well in a national contest. It doesn’t matter that there are a handful of people who really believe in my work and me as a writer. Ten people does not make a writing career. Virtually no one reads my books, no one follows me or interacts with my posts on social media, and no one reads my blog posts. It’s hard to deny that I have completely failed as a writer. 

The Effort

At the beginning of my journey, I took lots of classes on writing as a craft, and even went and got the MFA. All that was great, and I improved dramatically. I know I am a good writer. But I’m not quite good enough for the publishing industry, and there is no way for me to get there without help from someone in that industry, but I have been denied access to those people (300 agent and editor rejections sends a clear message). I’m simply not good enough for real traditional publishing, despite having done everything you’re supposed to do to get there, and promises that if I just “keep trying” it’ll definitely happen. This from people who write “inspirational” posts about how they queried 35 agents before FINALLY landing one. Puke. 

Trying to Not Feel Sorry for Myself

Faced with this rejection reality last year, and a comment from my book coach that my work wasn’t quite publishable (this was a surprise to me—I thought what we’d been doing the whole time was making my work publishable, not just throwing my money away), I got depressed and even somewhat lost the ability to enjoy reading (which was probably the worst part). So earlier this year, I decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’d just go ahead and put my work out there rather than sit on it forever, even though I knew they weren’t going to be the best books they could be if I’d been able to find a major publisher. I thought that I’d just need to focus on marketing. Self-published authors obviously have full responsibility for their own sales. 

Social Media

I threw myself into learning about marketing and especially learning how to step out of my comfort zone, as self-promotion is very unnatural for me. I did everything I could, even going all-in on TikTok/BookTok, which in retrospect is kind of crazy—I’m someone who generally won’t even have my picture taken, and here I am getting on camera several times a week. But I didn’t take off on TikTok, where I cap out at about 230 views on every video, with very little interaction, despite several months of posting nearly daily and interacting with other BookTokers (again, way outside my comfort zone, but I did it anyway).

On Twitter, I’ve been trying to post regular content three times a week, and there is literally only one person who ever likes my tweets (an old friend). On Instagram, where I also try to post three times a week, I usually get five to fifteen likes, mostly from people I know in real life. So my social media "strategy" is obviously not working. 

Blogging

My blogs are even worse. I made my first post on this blog in January of 2017 because I knew you were supposed to have a platform to be taken seriously by the industry, especially agents, and blogging seemed the least intimidating way to start. “Platform” was the buzzword. Even though my post views have always been in the low doubt digits (sometimes in the single digits, actually), I kept going because I believed that eventually I could turn the tide, and then I’d have all this content. For many of those years, I managed to post something every single week.

I’ve tried different things to pull in readers, with no success. I also have a blog for my romance pen name, and I actually get more views on there even though I almost never post. I have another blog about my art that I get similarly low views on. My blog efforts are obviously not working either. 

Forging Ahead

With all this mounting evidence that for whatever reason, I can’t make myself a successful writer (the most obvious reason is that maybe I’m just a bad writer, but I really don’t think that’s it), I thought I would give it one more full-effort shot and actually pay an expensive publicist for help with my release of Ugly in June. Although it’s hard to definitively quantify the results of that because a lot of it involves longer-term impact, it seems to have been a total bust (especially considering how much I spent—many thousands of dollars). I’ve made about twice as much on Always the New Girl, released four weeks before, than I have on Ugly. But the money is laughably low so it doesn’t really matter much, anyway. 

Income

Since my first book was released 2.5 years ago, I have made less than $550 on book royalties. Contrast this with how much I’ve spent on writing, and it’s clear that this is an irrational pursuit. Since 2018 alone, I’ve spent nearly $89,000 on writing related expenses, from tuition, to editors, to software. Last month I sold a total of ten copies of my five self-published books, totalling $19.80 in royalties. Here’s a chart showing lifetime cumulative sales for all my books:

Chart showing cumulative royalties

Clearly, staying the course is completely insane. 

The Change

Last year, with all the agent rejections, I went through a bit of an existential crisis with my writing and thought I might give it up. But I didn’t seem to be able to stop. Then, when I hired the publicist this year, I decided that if this doesn’t work, I should seriously evaluate whether I should keep going. It didn’t work. So as I concluded above, I shouldn’t keep going as is, but as I learned last year, I probably can’t just quit. So I am going to keep writing fiction, just at a much lower energy level. 

I am continuing to work on Uglier, and I also have a romance I’ve just sent to my editor and will do final edits on it, but that’s all I’m going to do. I’m considering submitting the romance to a publisher that does offer an advance, but I’m not decided on that. If not, I’ll publish in November. When Uglier is ready, I’ll send it to the line editor and then publish it, and then I’ll figure out if I should work on the third book in that series or the third romance, or something else. I still have a draft of Sadie Speaks floating around somewhere. It needs a full rewrite, but the story is pretty solid. 

What’s Different

But I’m not going to keep making pointless social media and blog posts, I’m not going to constantly look for small and cheap promotional opportunities, I’m not going to enter any more contests, I’m not going to do any more freebies, and I’m not going to check my sales every day. I’m basically dialing back the energy. I’ll stop setting myself up for failure after failure, and just deal with the one long-term failure of low sales. 

For now, I’ll be giving more attention to the nonfiction and the picture book writing and illustration. I think both may be a direction I could still have some success with. I don’t “believe it with all my heart” or anything stupidly naive again, but there is a nonnegative chance. The only way I can find out is by trying. I have a great idea for a nonfiction book for teen and college students that I’ve started working on (plus I’m working on short nonfiction for adults for real magazines). I’m also working more on my art (I actually decided to withdraw from the degree program I was in, so I have more time to focus on what I want) and will soon be starting to work on sketches for the two picture book manuscripts I have ready. 

Future State

So I don’t know where things will end up, but I do know I will never be a YA novelist published by a major publisher. I’ll keep putting my work out there, but I’ll always know it isn’t as good as it could be. And that is still hard for me to accept, but there you go. 

So if you are one of the handful of people who really like my work, thank you and don’t worry—there will still be more of it. Uglier is actually coming along quite nicely right now. You will love what Nic has done with herself and a new character just barged into the story, and she’s going to be fun.

June 2022 Royalties Update

So in the past six weeks, I’ve released three self-published books and it’s been really interesting. I know a lot of people really don’t have any idea how many books writers really sell. It’s kind of like money and some people are probably reticent to speak about it. But I don’t really care, so I’m going to talk numbers a bit, because things have been really interesting with these releases (also the numbers are so low it doesn’t matter). 

First, for a reference point: Finding Frances. This book was published by The Wild Rose Press so my numbers come from them. They don’t get instantaneous records of sales and instead they come in in batches. With the exception of copies I bought directly from my publisher, I’ve made just under $100 in royalties over the lifetime of the book (over two years). Note that that does include royalties on copies of the books that I’ve purchased on Amazon myself (I’ve done this a few times, maybe 10-15 copies). In contrast, I made close to $150 in May alone from sales of Always the New Girl (Kindle and paperback). 

Charts

Because I am a nerd, I made a chart showing total royalties over time and another one just showing individual book royalties over time. The first is going to be far more interesting after another couple months go by because right now you can only see Finding Frances royalties. (Though it’s somewhat interesting since you can see how flat it is—they’re coming in pennies at a time.) This is through May, so it technically includes Always the New Girl numbers but not Ugly numbers. 

chart showing total royalties over time

There seems to be a tiny uptick in Finding Frances sales in April and May—this is just coincidence because of the delay in reporting, so it can’t be related to my new releases coming out. But if I see growth over the next few months, I may be able to attribute it to the exposure with the new ones. This next chart shows monthly royalties over time. 

Chart showing royalties over time

You can see quite a gap between July and December of last year—I literally did not sell a single copy of Finding Frances between August and November 2021. Fun times. You can also kind of see Always the New Girl and Ugly presale numbers on the far right of the chart—that blue dot in the upper right is Always the New Girl, and the green dot just above the yellow line is the the 2 copies of Ugly I sold in May. 

Ongoing Sales

Sales have continued on Always the New Girl in June and sales for Ugly have also been surprisingly good (again, for me). As of June 17th, I’ve sold 13 ebooks of Always the New Girl, 4 of Ugly, and 1 of Binding Off, and in paperback I’ve sold 4 of Always the New Girl and 23 of Ugly. These are not numbers that “real” authors would feel anything about (except shame), but for me they are amazing. Going four months without selling a single copy sets your standards pretty low, but I’m actually selling books. More than one a day. Of course I am curious what will happen over the long term, but I’m feeling good that at least I’m off to a good start. 

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When Lightning Strikes Twice, and It’s the Good Kind

I am not sure how this happened, but I finally had a stroke of luck this past month not once, but twice. If you are familiar with BookBub, you will know it’s popular among ebook lovers. It features books that are on sale (or normally priced low) in a daily email. Writers don’t sell through them, as they just link to the various stores where readers can download their books, but these emails go out to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. You can pay for ads with them, but the dream is to get a Featured Deal or one of their other features. I’ve applied for a Featured Deal for Finding Frances about six times and been turned down each time. 

BookBub also has a feature called New Release for Less, which obviously applies to new releases only, and the max price is $4.99. I applied for Finding Frances back in the day, and it didn’t get selected. I dutifully applied for one with both Always the New Girl and Ugly. To my amazement, they actually selected Always the New Girl for one. I was shocked. It goes out to 810,000 subscribers and only costs $110. I was obviously really happy about this, and mine is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, May 24th, two weeks after release. So I thought that was my good luck for the moment, and I was happy that one had been selected since I had hired the publicist for Ugly, so both books would be getting a boost. Then a couple weeks later I was even more shocked when BookBub also selected Ugly for the new release feature. I mean, this kind of massive good luck hardly ever happens to me. Ugly releases on June 7th and the BookBub feature is running on June 21st. So I’m really curious to see what kind of impact this has on my sales. And of course I’m also excited for the upcoming Ugly release because I have the publicist. 

So I had been not really working on any YA fiction at the moment, and focusing on trying to get these two adult romances out that I’ve had on my computer for a while and work on the YA nonfiction book. But my friend pointed out that with the issues dealt with in Ugly and all the awful anti-transgender/anti-queer laws horrible states are passing right now, it might make sense to start working on the sequel to Ugly. I have the basic story for that one, as well as ideas for two more after, so I think she is right. I’m finishing the first romance first (I’m a couple weeks away from having that ready for my editor), but then I’m diving into the sequel for Ugly. It will be the first new writing I’ve done in YA for a while, so it’s going to be a bumpy ride in the beginning. But I'm sure I'll get into the swing of things quickly enough. 

Thick Skin Needed: Book Reviews and the Author

A lot of writers, when they’re first starting out, are really sensitive and often afraid for anyone to read their work at all. They eventually get braver, and anyone serious about it will develop thick skin, because you pretty much have to if you want to improve as a writer. I think critique is probably the most important thing for a writer to develop their skills. You have to learn how to convey what’s actually in your head, and only other people can tell you if you’ve accomplished that. The quality of the critique definitely matters, so it’s important to find people that are roughly at your level (or a little better), so you can all grow together while giving each other relevant and not-too-advanced critique (which isn’t helpful). The thing about critique is that you always submit your work hoping that they’re going to turn around and say, “This is perfect. Don’t change anything.” This never happens with a good critique group (if it does, find a new group, because they’re not doing their job). So you have to get used to people telling you things you’re doing that don’t work, and so on. The only caveat is they’re not allowed to be mean about it. Most of the critique partners I have been with for years can take virtually anything at this point. But we’re all also nice to each other and we all know the critique is truly just trying to help. So you get that thick skin.

But reviews are another matter. It’s one thing to have your work read by a few people who know you and your work, and a totally different thing to have strangers read the work you poured your heart into. Because here’s the thing about strangers: some of them are mean. Some people actually feel obligated to “tell the world” about a book they don’t like. Which is stupid because the fact that you, just one person, didn’t like a book says nothing about that book. It’s all about the numbers. Any book that has a lot of ratings is going to have a handful of ones and twos even if the average is over four. Conventional author wisdom is that you shouldn’t read your reviews, especially those by randos on Amazon and Goodreads. If you do decide to do this, you’d better have that thick skin in place because there’s going to be some pain. Reviews by the major review sites like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly are kind of another matter since these are by professional reviewers, so we sort of value their opinions more. However, it is still true that one person’s reaction to your book does not indicate how everyone else’s reactions will go. 

As a case in point, I’m going to talk about my experience with my book Always the New Girl, releasing on Tuesday. I entered this book as an unpublished manuscript in the 2021 BookLife Prize (BookLife is an arm of Publishers Weekly focused on indie books). They take self and unpublished books. It ended up being a quarter-finalist in that contest, getting a perfect 10/10 score. I’m going to share the review here, as it’s really good. 

But first I’m going to explain a little about the book in case you don’t know it. It’s a little odd, and I always planned to self-publish it and never even tried to sell it because of its oddness. The book came about only because of something one of my writing instructors told me. I had written this short story based on a scene I had removed from Finding Frances when a critique partner (wisely) posed the question of whether it was really needed in that book. It definitely was not. So I created a new character and put her in the situation I’d originally had Retta in, and ran with it. It turned into a revenge story and I liked it a lot. My instructor casually suggested I write several more stories about this character. At first I didn’t think much about it, but then I thought of several other stories I could tell about Sarah. So there were seven stories I ended up with, one while she’s in eighth grade, the others in her last two years of high school. The stories were all pretty long (the eighth grade book is 20,000 words, or over 70 pages). I struggled with how to present this. A collection of short stories? A novel? I decided to do it as a novel in parts. So I assumed the reader read them all in order (short stories would ideally fully stand on their own) and structured it that way. My goal was that each part would stand on its own plot-wise, but that the overall book would have a clear character arc. Because of the nature of it, not all the characters were there throughout. Some important characters disappear and others don’t show up until later, which is a no-no in a typical novel. There are varying time jumps between the parts, and the eighth grade story was pulled out as a prequel. So the book I submitted to the contest and Kirkus started with the original story, the revenge one. And I think it works. And it clearly did for the BookLife Prize reviewer. Here’s what they said (this also published on their site here):

Plot: This plot delves into serious bullying and other grave social issues that can impact teens, and it accurately portrays the extraordinary importance of social media in kids’ lives.

Prose/Style: Vincent writes convincing teenage dialogue with all of the meanness and profanity that can surface at that age. Vincent’s style is spare and to the point, giving just enough detail for to engage the reader’s interest and imagination.

Originality: Vincent’s second YA novel, Always the New Girl, started out as a series of short stories, each of which is well thought out and fully developed. Vincent has woven them together masterfully.

Character Development/Execution: With parents who can be described as negligent at best, Sarah is out of necessity a fiercely independent young woman trying to find her way in the world with very little adult support, but she is able to make good choices for herself and forge a future that should turn out well. Vincent depicts Sarah as an utterly believable character whom one cannot help but respect.

Blurb: Always the New Girl is a carefully considered and executed coming-of-age story about a resourceful young woman who matures from a somewhat rebellious high school junior into a successful senior on her way to college, all with very little help from the adults in her life, but a lot of help from her friends.

So that made me feel great, when I got that back and then found out it was a quarter-finalist. It stalled out there, as the reader for those books probably just didn’t feel the same about it. Perhaps they felt like the Kirkus reviewer did, like it was a hot mess. I can’t directly quote the Kirkus review here because I opted to not publish it. But I can summarize their main issues, which I do here:

Unsatisfactory resolution: There wasn’t a good resolution at the end

Fractured time

Rushed pacing: Pacing feels rushed in each of the parts, like they were written separately and just crammed together

A disjointed story: The various threads never come together 

Unnatural character change: Sarah’s changes in her interests seem to be because of the narrative, not a natural thing

Incomplete and weak characterization: Characters are interesting when first introduced, but are gone before they’re developed enough

Inauthentic teen culture

Some of these really do surprise me, like the resolution issue. I really disagree—I think the resolution is solid. There is a storyline with her mom that isn’t resolved, but it’s intentional because that’s life—it’s not always neat and tidy. But Sarah herself is on a clear path at the very end, which came across in the BookLife Prize review. The next two are clearly related to the structure. The BookLife reader totally got it—they went along with the short story concept—but the Kirkus reviewer didn’t seem to find this acceptable in a “novel.”  It cracks me up that the BookLife reader said I’d woven them together “masterfully” and the Kirkus reviewer thought they were thrown together haphazardly. I mean, man, is this subjective. It’s also funny that the BookLife reader specifically called out Sarah’s authenticity and the Kirkus reviewer thought her growth was unnatural. I also am surprised at the fact that the Kirkus reviews thought the teen culture I wrote about was unrealistic. It is true that I don’t have a lot of experience with actual teens today. But I read tons of YA, so I know teen culture as it’s represented in YA fiction, which is what I’m writing. So yeah. I think I’m good. But I wondered if the reviewer isn’t widely read in YA. I have no idea how they assign books. 

So that was an unfortunate waste of $375. Oh, well. At least it was on sale. Doesn’t mean I won’t try again. Finding Frances got a star, after all (I think only about 10% get them) and the Ugly one was mostly positive. Even my romance got an overall decent review. I just have to move on and do whatever I am going to be doing (once I figure that out).

Ugly Cover Reveal and Plans

If you’d looked at the books section, or are on Instagram, you would have already seen it, but in case you haven’t, here is the new cover for Ugly, which will be out everywhere on June 7th:

Ugly book cover

Today, I have Always the New Girl, Binding Off, and Ugly all loaded into Ingram Spark (the distributor for paperback, B&N, Kobo, and Apple), and I’ve uploaded files to Amazon for Kindle and Google Play directly. Although I’m still waiting for everything to be finalized and pushed out, I’m basically ready to go. The only thing that will change anything is if I get nice reviews from Kirkus for Always the New Girl or Ugly (I should have those both back by early this week). If that happens and there’s a good quote I can pull out of them, I will add them to the book cover and resubmit those. 

My publicity campaign will begin in the last week of May, which I can’t believe is coming up so soon. The passage of time is relentless. But as soon as Ugly is released, I’ll have five books out (including one romance), which seems like a number that is easier to make some progress with. I’m actually not sure what I’m going to work on next in the YA fiction world. I’m actually focusing right now on my YA nonfiction book and on getting my two romances out, because they’re close to ready. Then I’m going to return to YA fiction and do something. Maybe work on Sadie Speaks, or maybe work on the sequel to Ugly, depending on how things go. 

Publicist and Always the New Girl Cover Reveal

I have been in this weird really bad reading slump, where I’m not just reading slow, but I’m actually not reading at all, except when required. It’s weird and I think it has me a little unbalanced, but when I’m lying in bed at night, the silly games I play on my phone seem easier than reading. I’m still hoping to get back to reading like normal. But we’ll see. In the meantime, I apologize to anyone who likes reading my reviews. 

I am still prepping for the upcoming releases. Always the New Girl and Binding Off (the prequel) are coming out May 10th, and Ugly June 7th. I have submitted both the novels for Kirkus reviews so I am hoping they are at least good enough to extract a quote from. If so, I will add them to the covers. I have final versions of the May book covers from my designer:

Always the New Girl book cover
Binding Off book cover

I love them, but I still need to finalize the paperbacks. I want to add the Kirkus quotes if possible (which aren’t due back to me until later this month), and I am getting help on the back cover book descriptions from a publicist I hired, so I need to update those. So I’m hoping that all comes together in time for the release. Worst case, the paperback versions are a little delayed.

My cover designer is also still working on the Ugly cover, but I should have that back well in time for release. More significantly, I’m going all in on this release, as I’ve hired a professional publicist this time. I’m spending quite a bit of money to see if I can find actual readers, something I’ve struggled so much with on Finding Frances. People seem to like that book, but I can’t get it in front of anybody. And I think it’s going to be even harder to find the audience for Ugly, since this one will appeal more to teens than adults (adults aren’t as interested in gender identity stories as (some) teens), which isn’t as true of all the others. So I’ve paid for extra marketing efforts, so the whole package includes reviews (obviously not guaranteed positive, but hopefully), BookBub ads, Amazon ads, some Amazon listing optimization, and other stuff I don’t remember. It may not work. I definitely won’t get my money back in earnings, but I’m hopeful I can at least reach more readers who will also be interested in my other books. 

Other than the releases, I’m not currently working on any YA right now, which feels a little weird, but there you go. I’m busy with art school and am working on finishing up a couple romances under my pen name, and once I’ve got those done and released, I plan to get back to Sadie Speaks, or possibly (if sales go better than I expect), the sequel to Ugly. Or maybe both. My crystal ball isn’t working right now. 

Finally, the social media strategy I talked about earlier is still going on, as I am posting pretty regularly on Instagram and TikTok (generally three times a week on both). I'm still locked out of Twitter, and I don’t see that ever resolving. My Medium article writing has suffered a bit was I definitely couldn’t keep up with my weekly plan, or even biweekly, but I’m doing the best I can given my pretty busy life at the moment.

February Ad Results

I planned to do a review this week, but I can’t seem to break out of this reading slump. I’m reading a book I really like, a YA biography of Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo, but I didn’t finish it in time to review it this week. 

So instead, I’ll just give an update on my advertising efforts for Finding Frances that I focused on in February. I ran a Bargain Booksy ad on February 16th and I did sell a few books on that day. I started a Facebook ad campaign on the 25th and I have gotten some sales out of that, enough to move up in the top 100 of two of my categories. This is cool because it means anyone searching that category could feasibly see it on the first page of the results. 

Finding Frances category ranks

I also ran two Kirkus ads, one in their magazine on February 15th. I haven’t seen anything from that, but if I am lucky, that’s more likely to be paperbacks, I suspect, and there’s a major delay in reporting those so I won’t know for a while. The other ad I ran with them was on their website and started February 14th and ran for two weeks, and that one probably was a bit of a bust because I didn’t see any clear sales on Kindle books except on the Bargain Booksy day and right after the Facebook ad started. I also ran 10 separate targeted ads on BookBub for the book. It was so strange—I had a terrible click through rate, and my two Amazon ads that actually advertised the sale price never got a single click, even after being shown to nearly 1000 people each. I think BookBub does offer help with creating effective ads, but my guess is it’s not free. Anyway, I hope I get some more reviews out of all this advertising. 

I’m still working on prepping my new releases. I finally got both Always the New Girl and Ugly sent off to Kirkus for their reviews today, and I should have them back by May 2. This meant I pushed Always the New Girl’s release to May 10. Ugly is still June 7. The Always the New Girl cover is almost finalized. It looks really good. I’m actually planning to release all but the Kindle version through Ingram Spark instead of going to each distributor directly (except I will do Amazon Kindle myself). I also plan to put both of them on BookSprout, which is a site you can put ARCs (and older books) on to get reviews. I’m also probably going to do a review tour with Goddess Fish, which I did for Finding Frances, when I got 7 good reviews. I plan to submit both books to BookBub as New Release features. I doubt I’ll get that, but it’s free to try, so why not. I guess I’m going to do everything in my power to get some momentum at the beginning. I don’t have high expectations, but I figure I should give it the old college try. Rah.

Twitter Drama and Advertising

It’s kind of funny that my last post, 3 weeks ago, was all about social media and my plan to be all involved, because literally the next day Twitter locked my account without cause. I had posted a link to a Medium article I published that day that talked about a racist Zoom-bombing experience I had that was awful, and how I didn’t think that the way the presenters handled it (pretending it hadn’t happened after kicking him out of the meeting) was right. I talked about how  upsetting it was even for me (a lot) and how I wasn’t even a target. By ignoring it, the presenters kind of gave tacit approval of what had happened, or at least they didn’t convey how wrong it was. So that was my article. Not very salacious. Two hours after I linked to it, Twitter locked my account, claiming I had broken one of their rules. The email said I had broken “the following rule,” which was a blank line, so I had no idea what rule they thought I’d broken. But I read their rules, and I hadn’t broken any of them. I assumed that their automation picked up on the word “bombing” and flagged it automatically. So I filed an appeal (which was linked to from the original email), expecting a person to look at my tweet and realize it was the opposite of rule-breaking. However, a few hours later, I got an email stating that they had determined that a violation had happened, so they would not overturn their decision. Then they again tried to tell me which rule I’d broken, but again left it blank. How anyone could look at my tweet linking to basically an anti-racist article and call it a problem is beyond me. Maybe they haven’t heard of Zoom-bombing? Because I looked on Twitter before posting that tag, and it’s been used many times, sometimes by people bragging about doing it. And I’m a problem? It boggles the mind. I filed another report with customer service a couple days later, and after a week I still hadn’t heard back. When I go into Twitter there’s a screen with a message about my account being locked and a link to cancel the appeal and delete the email, which seemed the only way forward at this point since my appeal was denied and they weren’t responding to my followup. So I decided, what the hell, I’ll just delete it and repost without using the word “bombing” anywhere. I went in to do this, and in order to delete the tweet, you have to check this box admitting you did something wrong. I was like, I didn’t! So I didn’t click the box and went in and filed another ticket with customer support. It’s now been almost two weeks and I haven’t heard back. They indicate that you should hear a response within a few days but sometimes it takes longer. It’s infuriating to me that they won’t even tell me which rule I supposedly broke. How do they think that’s acceptable? 

Anyway, apparently I am no longer going to be on Twitter, because I refuse to admit to wrongdoing after doing nothing wrong. But I really sort of need that account for promoting my writing and having a social media presence, so this is really frustrating and unfair. And they’re denying me that for no reason at all. I’m so pissed.  

Other than that drama, the past week has been filled with an intense campaign of Finding Frances promotion and advertising. It’s been on sale for 99 cents (Kindle only) since February 4th, through the 24th. I started an ad campaign on BookBub on the 5th, but that actually didn’t go anywhere. BookBub emailed me to tell me to try something else because I was getting no clicks. Then early this past week, an ad went live in the Kirkus Reviews magazine that came out Tuesday, and I have an ad running on Kirk’s website for last and the coming week. Then on Thursday, I also ran a BargainBooksy ad, which did result in some sales. I don’t know how many yet, but it brought me up to a rank of about 65,000 in the Kindle store (normally I’m down around 1,600,000) and I got in the top 100 of one of my categories for a little while, which is great. But these are small wins, and my BookBub ads (I redid them and am now running 10 separate focused ads) are totally flopping. I really don’t know what to do with this book. I think I may just have to admit defeat after this month if I don’t see significant sales. This is a tough business. 

I am still in the process of preparing to publish Always the New Girl and the prequel, as well as Ugly. I’ve pulled all the Always the New Girl stories off Vella and they’ll be officially gone after 60 days. The Ugly Vella is still publishing, three episodes per week, so I figure I’ll let it finish (mid-March) and then pull it from Vella, too. I haven’t had a single read on that one, not even one free episode. But I almost have the covers for Always the New Girl and the prequel finalized with my cover designer. Once she finishes those, she’ll work on the one for Ugly. I’m figuring out my pre-publishing activities at this point. I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to go wide (publish everywhere) or focus on Amazon for a bit. I’m leaning toward wide. Always the New Girl will be available in ebook and paper and the prequel in ebook only. As soon as the cover is finalized, I’m submitting Always the New Girl to Kirkus for a review (I prepaid). Then I’ll release it (and the prequel) April 26th. I’m going to put some ARCs up on BookSprout to see if I can get some reviews soon after release. Once the Ugly cover is finalized, I’ll also submit that to Kirkus for a review. The release date for that is June 7th, and I’ll do BookSprout ARCs for it, too. I’m also looking into BookFunnel, which allows you to do promotions with other writers. I’m thinking I may do a FreeBooksy for both of the novels soon after release to see if I can get some traction. Not that I expect it to work, but I figure I should try. 

So even though it is all depressing and seems pointless, I’m moving forward. Maybe I’ll eventually catch a break some time. 

December 2021 Update

It has been a while since I’ve posted. I’m still not reading a ton, which is part of the reason there aren’t reviews being posted. But I’ve got a few things going on now. Thursday, I got news of a Kirkus Review of Finding Frances that was actually really good—I didn't realize it at first, but it is actually a starred review. You can find it here. I was pretty happy to see it. I still don’t know how to get people to read the book, but at least I can be comfortable that when they do, it’s not crap. 

I mentioned a couple months ago that I would be publishing Ugly on Kindle Vella. I did that, and you can find it here. The first 12 episodes are released now, and new episodes release every MWF. It will wrap up in March. It’s 807 tokens in total. I’d love it if you’d read it, thumbs-up any episodes you read, and fave it. I’m going to be getting a new cover image for it soon (more on that below). For Ugly, I added author notes on each episode because apparently readers like that. I am planning to go back and add them to all the Always the New Girl episodes soon.

I am already planning to publish Ugly next year in eBook and print, and also Always the New Girl as an eBook/print book plus an eBook prequel. So I got in touch with the cover artist who did my romance cover (which I loved), and she’s working on the three covers for me. These will be for the real book, but I’m going to license the image(s) she uses on the covers so I can reuse them without text on the Vella stories. So I’ll be redoing all those images soon. 

In other news, I am working on an exciting new project. It’s a book proposal for a YA nonfiction book on what I do for my day job. I’m pretty stoked about this because there actually isn’t a book for teens about it, and it’s recently been called the “sexiest job” all over the media. There are a lot of books for adults about it, but these make assumptions about the reader that wouldn’t work well for teenagers. I think I have a really good chance of getting this published, so I’m working away at the proposal and sample chapters. 

If I am lucky and this works out the way I want—as long I’m smart about it and choose well—I would have someone who would also look at my fiction. I’m going to also try to find someone who does picture books in addition to YA fiction and nonfiction. I may not be able to manage that, but I’m going to try. 

We will see how things go. It’s hard to imagine the future at this point. 

The only other thing I have going on soon is a pretty cool trip to Egypt (as long as omicron doesn’t ruin it).

Stuck

This past week I tried my first advertising on Facebook and Instagram. I made an ad for “Now Would Be Good,” the first story in Always the New Girl as posted on Kindle Vella. I can’t say it’s working at all. People are clicking on it, but not a single episode from the series has been read this week. I have no idea how to get the message out. This writing thing is so hard. But I do think I’m going to go ahead and make an ad for Finding Frances. I suspect that one reason I’m not getting reads on “Now Would Be Good” is because people aren’t familiar with Kindle Vella.

I’m still waiting on the Ugly edits from the freelance editor, who’s having some (pretty awful) personal issues and can’t seem to finish the last step in getting it back to me. I’m just in limbo without it, though. I don’t want to start anything new. I want to wrap that up and start sending it out to agents again.

If it still fails to get me an agent, I don’t really know what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll just self-publish, even though I already know nobody would buy it. I just don’t seem to have the marketing chops to make it happen. But after that, I’m not sure if I’d start working on Sadie Speaks again. As much as I love YA, it doesn’t seem to feel the same about me. I do think I’m going to work on some of my romance projects and get those out there (self-published) to see if I can do any better in that genre (which is much more self-publishing-friendly). So most likely I will continue my break from YA for a bit.

On the other hand, if I do manage to land an agent, I will probably refocus and get back to Sadie Speaks. Or I might dive into the sequel to Ugly, for which I have the premise and main characters already worked out.

Anyway, time will tell.

First Book Event and a Contest Milestone

Yesterday was my first book event, at Best of Books in Edmond, Oklahoma. It was with four other authors of three other books. They put me at a table with another YA author, Talitha DeVilliers, and we had a nice chat about YA and writing. The staff was all really nice, too, although we didn’t interact much. I even broke the double digits in sold copies of Finding Frances (I had very low expectations) and I was able to leave three signed copies on consignment. I handed out a few bookmarks that also had Always the New Girl information on there. I also got to see a friend I hadn’t seen since she visited me when I lived in Scotland, I think in 2002.

Here’s a photo my mom took of all of us:

Author Event
Best of Books in Edmond, OK

Also, in other good news, I submitted Always the New Girl (stories 1-6, not the prequel) to the BookLife Prize contest (the one Ugly semi-finaled in in 2019) and got the score back a few days ago—a perfect 10 out of 10. This should mean I should make it to the quarterfinal round, at least, which is awesome. It’s just nice that somebody in the industry thinks it’s good. The listing can be seen here. It includes the score and review, which was really glowing. 

Another Win and New Release

I found out Finding Frances placed 1st in the YA Novel category of the NEST (National Excellence in StoryTelling) contest run by the Central Region Oklahoma Writers. You can check out the winners page. So that’s nice, too. 

But bigger news is that I’ve released a new book, on the new serial platform, Kindle Vella. This is the Sarah stories, which I’m now collectively calling Always the New Girl. I released it as seven separate stories, as #1 (Now Would Be Good) through #6 (The Weight of Choices) plus the prequel (Binding Off). If you are interested in reading it, you can search for my name or the series name on the Vella page linked above. To read the entire series, you’ll have have to have 703 tokens, which you should be able to get with the free 200 and a purchase of 525 for $4.99. I’d love it if you could:

  • Follow the story
  • Like each episode
  • Review the story
  • Fave the story (you can only do one a week, and only after you’ve purchased tokens)

One downside to this is that you can’t read on an actual Kindle, only in the app or on the website. But I’m really hoping this takes off a little and gets me new readers for Finding Frances (probably wishful thinking, but why not?).