Author Archives: Ruth Ann Nordin

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out http://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.

What To Do When Someone Hates Your Book

The older I get and the more books I publish, the more I’ve learned that it’s okay if everyone doesn’t love my work. This wasn’t an easy conclusion to come to. Believe me, I have my share of critics, and I had to trudge through some difficult times as I struggled to keep quiet when people were letting me know how much my books suck. I even almost quit writing several times because I got to the point where I believed I was a terrible writer. So I get it. I know how hard it is to brush off negative comments and reviews when it comes to your work. It is a lot easier to be objective when you see another author’s work being criticized, but when it’s your book that takes the beating, objectivity tends to fly right out the window.

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So today for those of you who are struggling with this issue, I thought I’d share things that helped me over the years as I’ve had people tell me why my work belongs in the city dump.

The first step is to be objective about criticism.

1. Understand that taste is subjective.

Honestly, you can’t make someone like your book. Trying to explain why you handled a conflict in your story a certain way or why your character did something someone doesn’t like is a fruitless endeavor.

Why? Because people will think whatever they want. Everyone who reads your book will be doing so with their personal bias already in the back of their minds.  Think of a book you hate that was massively popular. This is the book that makes you ask yourself, “Why do so many people love this horrible story?”

I’ve certainly had this question pop up in my mind.  There is a traditionally published book (which I will not name) that I hate. My hatred of this book was so strong that I actually felt like I was going to vomit while I was reading it. It got so bad that I had to stop halfway into it and throw it out. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this is a bestselling book. When I talk to others about this book, an overwhelming majority praise it. They encourage me to finish it. “It is so worth it when you get to the end,” they say. Personally, I don’t care how much they loved it. They aren’t changing my mind. I don’t care what motives the main characters had. To me, one character was stupid and the other character was undeserving of a happy ending.   Nothing could redeem them to my satisfaction.

Does this mean the story truly sucks? No. Of course not. All it means is that I think the book sucked. It’s just one person’s opinion. That’s all.  The same is true for people who don’t like your books.

2. The reason someone hates your book says a lot more about that person than it does about your book.

The book I mentioned above, the one that I hate more than anything else I’ve ever read, reveals my own likes and dislikes. It reveals an aspect of my personality. The hero and heroine have personality traits I absolutely despise. They did things I would never do in a million years.  Those characters represent the antithesis to the kind of person I want to be and the kind of people I want to hang around.  So all that book really did was reveal the kind of people I admire and respect.

The very qualities a reader likes or doesn’t like about a book are a window into the reader’s soul. You can gain insight into a person by their praise or criticism of the work. So take that into consideration when you come across the comments people make about your books.

Now, that we took an objective look at criticism, what should we do about it?

1. Ignore it.

The longer I’m in this business, the more convinced I am that ignoring criticism is the best way to handle it. Trying to defend your book is pointless. Instead of answering your critics, the best thing you can do is cater to your fans. They’re the ones you’re writing for anyway. They understand your vision for what you do, and better yet, they are already supporting and encouraging you.  They enjoy your work for a reason.  Why change what you’re doing to please the critics when the fans already love what you’re doing?

2. Choose to think on good things.

Recently, I’ve learned that the more attention I give something, the bigger of an issue it becomes. If I dwell on negativity, after a while, I start getting depressed or angry. I stop being as productive as I want to be. Negativity drains you of your energy. On the other hand, if I focus on positive things, I feel happier and freer. I find it easier to focus on my work. I’m more relaxed. I smile a lot more. I’m pleasant to be around, and believe me, my family is a lot happier when I’m pleasant.  So by focusing on positive things, you’ll probably attract a lot more pleasant people into your world.

To be honest, I used to think there wasn’t a correlation between what I was thinking and how I felt, but the more I’ve experimented with focusing on the positive, the more convinced I am that what we think about definitely impacts how we feel. It’s not easy at first. Breaking the old habit of dwelling on the negative takes time to do. But the more I do it, the easier it gets. Life is short. You have to decide whether you’re going to spend it in misery or whether you’re going to spend it in joy.  The choice is yours.

3. Be thankful for what you have.

A spirit of gratitude has a tremendous impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing. When something bad happens, I take a step back and start to list out things that are good in my life. If nothing else, the fact that I have food on the table, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back are huge. The fact that I can walk to the car or type on the computer or that I even know how to read are huge. Sure, I have problems. We all do. But no matter how grim a situation is, there is always something you can be thankful for.  Or, to put it another way, there is always someone out there who has it worse than you do.  So taking into consideration your blessings when problems start to pop up can help buffer you from the negativity when it rears its ugly head.

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In conclusion

If you reach a wide enough readership, you will have your share of critics. When this happens, do not engage with them. I know it’s hard, but it’s necessary. There’s no need to try to defend your book to someone who hates it. Your time and energy will be better spent focusing on your fans.

Categories: Uncategorized

Book Promotion is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Strategy

I read this excellent article “Why Comparing Yourself to Other Writers Doesn’t Make Sense” and wanted to pass it on.

The article fits in with the topic of this post which is why we’re not all called to promote books the same way.

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Is there really only one way of doing things?

I get weary of hearing marketing gurus insist that their way of doing book promotion is the “correct” way of doing things.  This sets up the idea that every author who doesn’t follow their advice to a “T” is somehow a failure.

Imagine if I were to write a blog post over here telling you that every writer must write romance.  Then, I not only told you the genre you must write, but I also told you the plot you must use and the type of characters you must include into that plot.  And if you don’t do it my way, then you’re not writing correctly.  Such a thing would be silly, and yet, this is what I see a lot of marketing people tell writers.  They must do X, Y, and Z, and it must be done in a certain way.  If you don’t do it exactly as they think it must be done and you don’t sell enough books, then you have contributed to your own failure.

Nature testifies to the value of being different.

Think of this world we live on.  Is the landscape the exact same across the globe?  Are we in a world that is only mountains?  And more than that, do all the mountains look the exact same?  Of course not.  We live in a world that is full of variety.  Some places have mountains that are covered in snow.  Some have mountains covered in trees.  Some have mountains that have rocks in them.  And there aren’t mountains all over the place.  The mountains are in certain places.  In other places, you have oceans, the plains, hills, deserts, etc.  So the world itself suggests there is no one way of doing things.

Writers’ personalities are just as different as nature is.

Now let’s consider something else.  People have different personalities.  And as writers, we have different interests.  Not everyone writes romance.  Thank goodness for that because I like reading a variety of genres!

If you break down the genres, you’ll find a whole list of sub-genres that narrow things down further.  In romance alone, you have historical western romance, Regency romance, Victorian romance, Highlander romance, contemporary romance.  If you want to break it down further, you can add other niches like paranormal elements like vampires and werewolves.  There are so many divisions within fiction that a person can get very specific. More than that, not everyone writes fiction.  Nonfiction also has it’s assortment of variety.

Expanding on this, not everyone writes the same length of book, either.  Some write short stories.  Others write novellas or novels.  And some even write more than 100K words.  If someone were to tell writers they must write in a very small niche with X, Y, and Z requirements, they’d be laughed at.

So why are we pigeon holing writers?

This is what I feel we do with book promotion.  We box writers into believing they must engage in certain activities online in a certain way if they are to be successful.  (Success often means money, of course.  The intrinsic value you bring to a reader’s life or the passion you had as you wrote the story rarely get factored into “success”.)

What marketing gurus often fail to take into consideration is that each writer has a unique personality, and what works for one personality type is not going to work for another. Yes, there might be some valid things to consider, but not everyone has the same talent.  For example, speaking engagements is one way to promote a book.  The idea is that you talk and generate interest for you book that people might then buy.  I tried speaking.  I was awful at it.  Believe me, you don’t want to hear me give a speech.  So that type of technique would be all wrong for me.  I’ve also tried doing those newsletters where you update your readers on something every week or so to remind them you exist, but honestly, I have no interest in trying to email people that often.  I’d rather do blog posts and send out an email when I have a new book out.

The point: 

Instead of trying to put writers into a little pigeon hole, I think it’s time we embraced the fact that book promotion is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Below I’m going to throw in some examples of why I say this:

1. Not all writers need to do the same type of social networking promotion.

I keep hearing every author needs a blog.  I blog because I love it.  I may not be blogging as much as I used to, but I do still blog.  However, I would not tell writers they must have a blog if they want to be successful.  Blogging isn’t for everyone.  Not everyone wants to write posts.  I know authors who are much happier engaging with readers on Facebook and Google +.  They have no idea what to talk about on a blog, nor do they have the interest in maintaining one.  They’d rather writer a couple of sentences and engage directly with readers.  Some even prefer Instagram or Pinterest.  Some like the forums.

My point is, the choice of where a writer spends time needs to be a good fit for their personality.  To tell someone they must be doing a specific social activity or aren’t promoting right is not helping that person.  Instead, it would be far better to tell writers that they ought to pick the things that are the best match for their personalities and focus their time and effort on those things.  Yes, they might lose potential readers by not doing a certain activity, but they might gain readers when they do another one.

2. Not all writers have the same amount of time to devote to book promotion.

Some of the tips I hear from marketing gurus would take far too much time than I personally have, and I know other writers who are even more strapped for time than I am.  Maybe the marketing guru has a lot of spare time to devote to a certain activity.  Maybe they aren’t working a full-time job.  Maybe they aren’t trying to write new books.  Maybe they don’t have children and a spouse at home who need meals prepared and a house cleaned.  Maybe they don’t have an adult child with special needs still living with them.  But some of us do.   And we’re trying to get more books written so our current readers and prospective readers have something to buy.  Some writers make book covers or edit to make money, which adds another reason why their time is so limited.  My point is that life is busy, and sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything we’re told we “must” do.

Again, I want to emphasize that sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to do it all.  For certain writers, they might have the time.  But not every writer does.  So it’s not fair to tell a writer who is strapped for time that if they aren’t spending X amount of time doing Y, then they are hurting their chances of success.

3. Not all writers have the same amount of money to throw into book promotion.

I know writers who are living on social security.  I know writers who are in debt.  I know writers who are struggling to make ends meet.  Not everyone can buy a Bookbub ad.  Not everyone can pay $600 for a marketing guru’s course.  I even heard of a writer who spent $1500 in one month on book promotion.  My eyes nearly popped out of my head on that one.  I don’t have that kind of money to throw into ads.  I’m too busy digging up money for the IRS so I don’t accrue a penalty for not paying my quarterly taxes on time.

For some of us, even $100 can mean the difference between eating for the month or not eating.  I know the topic of ads is a popular thing, but not everyone can afford them.  So to suggest that a struggling writer is a failure at book promotion just because they aren’t buying ads is putting them through needless guilt.

Now, this isn’t limited to placing ads.  Other examples could be writer’s conferences, online marketing courses, or giveaway items.  There are others, but this post is long enough as it is.

In Conclusion

The bottom line is that writers need the freedom and relief of knowing they aren’t failures just because they don’t promote books a certain way.  I know authors who have written excellent books who have done ads, mailing lists, newsletters, blogs, Facebook, and other things very well.  And yet, their sales aren’t showing it.  You’d swear by the lack of sales that they aren’t effectively promoting their books or that their books suck.  Things couldn’t be further from the truth.  They are doing everything right, and for some reason, they aren’t selling as well as they should be.

Whether marketing gurus will ever admit this or not, there are forces outside of our control that impacts our sales.  We have no control over which reader reads our books, likes it enough to pass it on to others, or even if a particular reader has a high level of influence within his/her circle.  All writers can do is control the product (book) and the type of promotion they choose to do.  From there, it is out of our control.

So take heart if you’re a struggling writer.  You’re not alone, even if you might feel like it.  No one can guarantee your success if you follow their formula.  They can only give you strategies that might help.  But they can’t promise you anything.  Take their advice with a grain of salt and apply that which fits your personality best.

Categories: Uncategorized

But I Thought The Income Was Only Supposed to Go Up

Over and over I keep hearing people say, “As you continue publishing more and more books, your income only goes up.”  I don’t know where this assumption comes from, but in any business, you can increase productivity and see a loss.  So why can’t the same be true for books?  Why must we assume that income never drops if you publish books?  Maybe it’s because no one seems to be talking bringing it up.  Maybe they are in forums, but I can’t remember seeing a blog post that addresses the issue of a dropping income.

So I thought I’d write it.

I’m lucky.  This is the first year I’ve seen a drop in income since starting out with ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords in 2009.  I know I’m not the first author to see a drop in income because I’ve talked to some who have.  My income went up from 2009 to 2014.  In 2015, it stayed the same.  This year, it dropped by half.  In the previous years, I averaged six novels a year.  As of August 1 of this year, I have published six novels.  I have two more done and up on pre-order.  I plan to publish at least two more before December 31.  So even though I’ll be publishing ten novels instead of six, I am still on my way to only making half of what I did this year.

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Why am I telling you this?

Because the idea that you can write more books and expect an increase in income is a myth.  It’s not fair to tell writers that their income will always go up.  I know we’re in an expanding global ebook market, but that doesn’t mean we’re all going to see a boom internationally.   In some countries, my income is actually down.  In others, it’s gone up, but we’re talking $10.  Not enough to pay any bills with.

So now that we addressed the problem, what do are we supposed to do about it.

1. Realize there is no “sure” thing.

Change seems to be the only constant in life.  The one thing we can depend on is the fact that nothing stays the same.  The sooner we take this to hear, the easier it’ll be to adapt.

2. Try something different.

Sometimes we can get stuck in our ways.  What we did in the past might have worked great.  For example, the $0.99 price point was big back in 2009-2013, and if you had a book set to free, you could pretty much guarantee a lot of downloads.  But then things shifted.  With the increase of books into the market, those two tactics weren’t as effective as they used to be.

I don’t know what you’ll want to try that’s different.  Maybe it’s running a Facebook ad.  Maybe it’s revamping the old covers.  Maybe it’s audiobooks.  Maybe it’s hiring someone to handle the marketing side for you.  Maybe it’s offering online courses in an area you’re an expert at.

I chose to focus on writing one book after another in the series.  I used to take my time in finishing a series, but this time around, I wrote one book right after the other.  I make sure to advertise the pre-order in the back matter so people know what the next book is and where to get it.  The technique has worked well.  It might not have brought my income back to what it was last year, but it’s kept my head above water.

3. Say no to the things that aren’t helping you reach your income goal.

This can be hard to do, especially if we enjoy those things.  But it’s necessary if you’re going to have the time you need to do the things that will help earn you more money.

Take a look at how you spend your time.  What can be cut out?  What can you put in that will help you reach your goal?  I’m not saying what you put in will work, but it’s worth a try because if you don’t try, you won’t know.  And guess what?  You might stumble on something that does work.

I cut back on my blogging.  I enjoy blogging, but it’s not how I make money.  I say no a lot to TV/movies.  I’ve cut back to the time I’ll watch anything to 1-2 hours before bed, and that is to wind down.  More often than note, I’ll fall asleep while watching something.  I said no to spending time browsing forums online.  I used to go to Kindleboards a lot to see what was going on in the publishing world.  These days, I just don’t have the time.  If something newsworthy pops up, usually it’ll be on The Creative Penn or Sell More Books Show podcasts, which I listen to while cooking.

So figure out what areas you can trim out.  This is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worth doing.

4. Treat this like a job.

If you don’t take this seriously, the people in your life will take advantage of your time.  You need to set boundaries with them.  If you have to leave the house, then leave the house.  Set up specific hours and days you’ll work.  Decide how much time will be devoted to writing and how much time will be devoted to non-writing business tasks.  Then make those the priority.  If you were working for someone else and had to be at the office from 8am to 5pm, would you skip a couple hours to do something else?  Of course not.  So you need to take your business as seriously as you would if you were working for someone else.

I stopped writing at home.  My husband and kids kept bugging me while I was working, and no matter how much I told them to leave me alone, they won’t.  I decided to go to my local Barnes & Noble bookstore and treat that as my office.  My writing output went from 1500-2000 words in a day to 3000-4000 on average.  So I easily doubled my word count in the same amount of time simply by making myself leave the house in order to write.   I still do my non-writing related business tasks like emails, blogging, and social media at home.  But when I’m at Barnes & Noble, I keep the Internet off and only write.  I leave my husband with the kids and just deal with the fact that the house isn’t going to be as clean as I’d like when I get home.

5.  Piggybacking off of #4, make sure to take days off.

Otherwise, you’re going to burn out.  I work Monday through Friday.  I don’t write on weekends, though I might send out a new release email when a book is published on Saturday or Sunday.  I make up these emails and blog posts in advance so all I have to do is click a button.  But otherwise, this is the day to spend with family and friends and to have a life outside of the business.

I know it can be hard to take days off to relax.  I’m a workaholic.  I hate sitting around and doing nothing.  I like to be on the move.  So if you’re balking at the idea of taking two days a week off from your writing and non-writing business-related tasks, I understand why.  It took me until this year to finally do this.  But it has been the reason why I’ve been able to publish more books this year without sacrificing the quality in my writing.  I’m not working harder.  I’m working smarter.  I’ve learned a couple days off every week helps to buffer me from stressing out.  You might have to find another routine that works better for you.  This is just the way that works for me.

6. Quitting is a valid option.

I’m not going to criticize anyone who decides writing is not for them.  You only fail if you don’t try.  Writing is harder than it looks.  Not everyone is meant to be a writer, just as not everyone is meant to be a singer or football player or an engineer.  I don’t adhere to this notion that everyone should write a book.  I also don’t believe that quitting is for wimps.  I think if you try something and find out it’s not a good fit for you, then you should move on to something you can be more passionate about.  You can take whatever lessons you learned along the way and become a better person for it.

For example, I was in a high school play, and I learned that acting is a lot harder than it looks.  I was bad at it.  Another example, I thought I might want to go into public speaking at conferences.  After doing a couple, I realized I’m not good at it.  Also, after trying a podcast for a very brief time, I learned it was a lot more work than I cared to do with it.  So there are things I tried but found out weren’t a good fit for me.

Now, do you quit because you can’t make money but love writing?  That’s a tough one, and it’s a question only you can answer.  Not making the money is a valid reason to quit.  You need food.  You need shelter.  You need clothes.  You have to make sure you’re able to obtain those things before you can worry about writing.  You can have a job and write in your spare time.  But the fact of the matter is, you only have so many hours in a day, and you can only do so much with that time.  How you spend it is up to you, and some of you might decide you don’t want to spend your spare time working on a book.  You might want to be doing something else instead.  There’s nothing wrong with that.   Or maybe you’ll want to take a break from it for now and come back to it later.  That’s an option worth noting, too.

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So those are my ideas on coping when the income drops.  Does anyone have any they’d like to offer?

Categories: Uncategorized

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