Author Interview, cozy mystery, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel

Writing Update, PLUS Dark Matter: Artificial Release | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE.

My short answer to this question is “yes” and “yes, then no.” One of the reviews for Smitten with Croissants said that it was just short of a romcom. At first I was surprised because it is a romcom. Or at least, that’s what I was trying to write. Then I recalled some of the books that I’ve read labeled as romcoms which didn’t even make me crack a smile. Yet other people said they had them rolling on the floor in laughter. It was a good reminder that humor is soooo subjective. What makes me giggle causes other people to roll their eyes.

Anyway, enough of that – I’ve got more in store for you. First a writing update, then I’m celebrating the release of Dark Matter: Artificial with an interview with one of its authors, Stephanie Espinoza Villamor.

Writing Update

Overboard on the Ocean was released at the end of April! This is the final full-length book in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series. (Don’t worry Mollie fans, there’s a Christmas novella planned – we couldn’t let Mollie sail to the Bahamas without solving one more murder, could we?)

If you like cozy mysteries with lots of goofy humor*, plenty of chocolate, and adorable cats, you can pick up a copy at your favorite retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU)

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple Books | Google Play | Smashwords

*Note: As discussed above, my idea of goofy humor might not be yours. 🙂

I finished writing Smitten with Candy Canes in April – whoo-hoo! This novella will be released exclusively as part of the Love, Laughter & Happily Ever After sweet romantic comedy collection in July. You can pre-order your copy HERE for only 99c. All pre-order profits go to Pets for the Elderly!

Can you help with the release of Love, Laughter & Happily Ever After either by reading and reviewing an ARC of my novella and/or spreading the word about the collection? You can? That’s awesome! Just fill out this form and I’ll be in touch!

Dark Matter: Artificial – Interview with Stephanie Espinoza Villamor

I’m excited to interview the winner of the Dark Matter: Artificial anthology – Stephanie Espinoza Villamor! I loved Stephanie’s story, as well as all the others. (You can read my review HERE.) If you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, you can snag one at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU)

Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books

Now, on to the interview. Grab a beverage and a snack, sit back, and find out what Stephanie has to say about writing, cookies, and penguins.

1 – What inspired / motivated you to write this story?

Two members of my writing group participated in the Insecure Writers Support Group anthology contest the year before I did. My dear friend Beth Anderson Schuck was selected as one of the top 10 authors that year, and her story, “The Orchard” can be found in Voyagers: The Third Ghost. I wanted to participate, but just had a baby and couldn’t do much of anything in those early months with a newborn! So I promised myself I’d try when the contest came around again. Then they announced the genre and theme: Science fiction. Dark matter. I didn’t know anything about dark matter! I’d never really written science fiction before (mostly fantasy and contemporary). But I brainstormed while my baby slept. Inspired by a habit of saving every memory as photo (my husband will tell you how obsessed I am with pictures) and a friend’s master’s thesis on artificial intelligence, I came up with an AI that has a photo memory and the dark matter found within it.

2 – What stage are you at in your writing and publishing journey?

I feel very much in the middle of my writing and publishing journey. I’ve loved to write since I was a child, and even started sending query letters out for an unpublished fantasy novel when I was 16. I researched the publishing industry a lot as a young adult (remember the SASE? We don’t need Self-Addressed Stamped Envelopes anymore with email queries). Then college and jobs and married life kept me busy, and while I continued to write when I could, I didn’t really focus on publishing again until closer to 2016 when I formed a writing group with Beth and other friends. In 2017 I also joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to workshop a middle grade novel I’d been writing for years. I continue to try to publish middle grade novels, but I’m working on several short stories for publication contests in the meantime and hope to hear back from them soon!

3 – Do you have any writing rituals?

My son is 21 months old, so my biggest writing ritual is waiting until he falls asleep to start writing anything. Seriously though, while I don’t have any strict rituals, I do find it’s easier to write when I’m motivated by other writers—when I’ve just come out of a writing group meeting or just read an author blog post or finished a really great story. It just makes me want to write even more.

4 – What’s more important – character or plot?

I’m very big on writing character. Individual identities intrigue me so much that sometimes I’ll come up with a character and a concept without any idea of where the story is going to end up. This is definitely a problem, because then I don’t always finish what I start. So you must have a good balance of both if you want to be successful; one can’t really be more important than the other. But I will say that if you have a compelling enough character, and come up with an ending that you want to reach, the plot does become a lot easier. I don’t know if the same can be said if you have a really compelling plot but no one to put in the story for readers to care about.

5 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least?

I love writing! I love getting “in the zone” when I have an idea that excites me, and crafting fun dialogue for interesting characters. Being an author means you get to create something personal, whether it’s worlds you’ve always wanted to live in or people who you’d love to get to know. What do I like least? There’s a lot of internal pressure to produce. And there’s always that fear that if you’re not producing, can you call yourself an author? (Spoiler alert: you can). I really enjoy editing, but I get overwhelmed sometimes thinking about all the things I might have to go back and edit in a novel draft if I decide to make a major change. And, of course, there’s going to be anxiety with any situation where you put your work out there to be judged by others. But it’s definitely worth it–otherwise I wouldn’t keep putting myself through it!

6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”

Gosh, I’m more of a cake and ice cream kind of person…but I thought about this question more than most people probably deliberate on cookie preferences. I like peanut butter, oatmeal, gingerbread, graham crackers, shortbread, cookies with icing, and Mexican polvorones (especially the pink ones). But I think my favorite would have to be a nice vanilla biscotti dipped in coffee. And it cannot have anise—I am NOT a fan of anise seed. But I am a big fan of coffee. You should ask me about my coffee preferences….

7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?

Well, penguins cannot talk, so he doesn’t say anything. But I will look him up and down, and realize his beautifully embroidered charro hat matches his black mariachi outfit and so I’ll do all the talking. Clearly he’s here to perform for our family. “Permiso. Nos puede tocar ‘Solamente Una Vez?’” I don’t speak much Spanish, but my mom says that’s how I could ask him to play her wedding song.

8 – What else would you like us to know about you?

In my bio for Dark Matter: Artificial I was able to sum up my identity being a “librarian writer mom.” Those are some of the most important pieces of who I am. I’m close with my family. I love my jobs. Oh, and I’m also a big geek! Before having a baby I played video games ranging from MMOs to RPGs, everything from Fallout 4 to Spider-Man to Disney Sing It karaoke! Now I’m happy playing real life games that make my son laugh and reading to him as he sits in my lap.

Connect with Stephanie on Facebook | Twitter | Website

Dark Matter: Artificial – Blurb

Discover dark matter’s secrets…

What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?

Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!

Congratulations to all the authors of Dark Matter: Artificial! Have you grabbed a copy of the anthology? What good books have you read lately?

cozy mystery, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel

Writing Update, PLUS Rivals by Jennifer Lane | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. Instead of answering the questions, I’ve got a writing update for you, PLUS I’m sharing Jennifer Lane’s fabulous new release – Rivals.

Writing Update

March was a busy month in writing land!

I finished up book #6 in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series – Overboard on the Ocean. It’s now with the editor and I’m hoping to release it in late April. This is the last full-length book in the series so there was a bit to wrap up in terms of Mollie and Scooter’s overall character arcs, as well as their quest to get their boat ready to sail off into the sunset. Of course, there’s a dead body or two as well! The final book in the series will be a fun Christmas novella. I gotta say, it’s bittersweet getting ready to say goodbye to Mollie . . . although, you never know, she could show up again in a spin-off series.

By the way, if you want to pre-order a copy of Overboard on the Ocean, you can find it at your favorite retailer HERE. If you’re interested in an ARC, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at

Toward the end of March, I started working on a new romantic comedy, Smitten with Candy Canes. This is a Christmas novella set in Santa’s Village, Finland. I’m teaming up with some amazing ladies to release it as part of a sweet romantic comedy collection which will be headed your way in July. Naturally, I’m insecure about whether my story will be as funny or swoonworthy as theirs are since they’re all pretty seasoned romance writers.

Anthologies are a fantastic way to connect with fellow writers and to find new readers. In fact, my first publication was as part of an IWSG anthology – Hero Lost. I’m really looking forward to reading the newest IWSG anthology – Dark Matter – which is coming out in May.

I’ll share more details with you about Smitten with Candy Canes and the sweet romantic comedy collection next month, but if you can’t wait, you can always pre-order a copy now for only 99c at Apple Books, Barnes & Noble or Kobo HERE. 100% of pre-order profits will be donated to Pets for the Elderly, an amazing cause which connects shelter animals with seniors. (Note: the collection will be available on Amazon at a later date.)

Also, if you can help out with spreading the word about the romcom collection on your social media, blog, newsletter etc., that would be awesome! Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at

Rivals by Jennifer Lane

If you’re a romance reader, you’ll want to check out Rivals by Jennifer Lane. Having gone to graduate school at a Big Ten university, I was instantly intrigued by the premise – an enemies-to-lovers romance between two coaches from rival schools. Learning what goes on behind the scenes in college sports programs was fascinating and watching Jeremy and Lauren’s relationship unfold tugged at my heartstrings. Find out more about Rivals below. You can also read my review on Goodreads.


I embrace my rival. But only to strangle him.”

~Jean Racine

After landing her dream job as head volleyball coach at Ohio State University, Lauren Chase’s career has become a nightmare. Her only hope of saving her job is to recruit a star player to her team. Too bad the player’s twin has signed a football scholarship for OSU’s chief rival, Michigan. And too bad Michigan coach, Jeremy Trent, sends sparks through Lauren every time they cross paths. But no way will she pursue an attraction to a man who represents the university she hates.

Jeremy detests his boss, and he hopes that signing the nation’s #1 recruit is the ticket he needs to become a head coach himself one day. Lauren Chase is already a head coach, and Jeremy has to admit that she intrigues the hell out of him. He wants to know why her performance has tanked after winning a national championship. He wants to see beneath Lauren’s fast pace and dirty mouth. But he can’t get with a Buckeye, right?

Maybe rivals don’t have to remain enemies. Maybe they can learn to appreciate their opponent’s strengths. And, if they’re lucky—if they excel at the game—maybe rivals can bring out the very best in each other.

Read in Kindle Unlimited or grab your copy at: Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (AU)

About Jennifer Lane

Psychologist/author (psycho author) Jennifer Lane invites you to her world of sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist!

Jen fell in love with sports at a young age and competed in swimming and volleyball in college. She went on to become the Honda Award Winner for Division III Athlete of the Year. She still gets high from the smell of chlorine and the satisfaction of smashing a beautiful volleyball set.

Jen’s latest novel is Rivals, a romance between coaches from rival universities. Her Blocked trilogy also explores the transformation from hate to love. Particularly in this time of division, Jen’s favorite theme is finding common ground.

A romantic suspense trilogy (The Conduct Series) and a psychological thriller (Twin Sacrifice) complete Jen’s collection of stories. She calls Ohio home and shares writing space with her two trusted feline collaborators: Tuxedo and Tessa.

Whether writing or reading, Jen loves stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time, she likes to exercise and visit her amazing sisters in Chicago and Hilton Head.

Connect with Jennifer at: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram

What about you? How was your March? What are you looking forward to in April?

cozy mystery, Cozy Mystery Publishing, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel, Writing

2020 in Review: Writing and Publishing Cozy Mysteries & Romantic Comedies | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Everyone has a favorite genre(s) to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely on only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choices?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. Instead of answering this month’s questions, I have my annual year in review post for you below.

It’s that time of year, when I post my annual review of my writing and publishing journey. 2020 was a doozy of a year, but somehow I managed to keep focused on my writing. I think in some ways it helped me to escape to some degree from all that was going on in the world.

Before we dive in . . .

For those of you who are new here, let me give you a little bit of background about me. I published my first book in June 2018, the first in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series featuring a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth. This series is based in part on my own adventures (and misadventures) living and sailing on boats in New Zealand, the States, and the Bahamas. {You can find out more about my background HERE.}

I published book #2 in that series toward the end of 2018. The following year, I released three more books in the same series (two full-length novels and one prequel novella), along with a box set. From the outset, I’ve been wide, meaning that I distribute my books on all retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play etc.).

{For more info on my writing and publishing journey check out my 2018 review post and my 2019 review post.}

Stuff that got done in 2020 and plans for 2021

Okay, now that we have the background out of the way, let’s talk about what I accomplished in 2020. In my Mollie McGhie series, I published book #5 – Shooting by the Sea – and a short story – Buried by the Beach.

When I originally planned out my production schedule for 2020, I had a goal to publish two more books in my Mollie McGhie series. But . . . um . . . well . . . I didn’t.

Things don’t always go as planned, especially not during the year we all had. So instead of publishing more cozy mysteries, I decided to launch a sweet romantic comedy series. The Smitten with Travel series features three things I love – travel, food, and happily-ever-afters. I released the first two books – Smitten with Ravioli (set in Italy) and Smitten with Croissants (set in France) during 2020.

Romcoms are so much fun to write! And the genre is a good fit for my goofy sense of humor, so you should expect to see the third book in the series (Smitten with Strudel – set in Germany) come out in 2021, and possibly the fourth book too (Smitten with Baklava – set in Greece). For all those Mollie McGhie fans out there, don’t worry, I’m currently writing book #6 in the series – Overboard on the Ocean – and it will definitely be released later this year.

Okay, enough about that . . . let’s see some charts!

Who here likes numbers?

Don’t worry, we’re not talking about square roots or long division. Trust me, math is not my strong suit. But I do like keeping track of how many books I sell and how much I make. And I find making spreadsheets to be a soothing activity. Yes, I know, totally weird. But the upside for you, dear blog reader, is that I’m able to produce some nifty, colorful charts which you may find interesting.

All right, time for a little disclaimer before we jump in. I’m not going to share actual numbers with you. I know some people are comfortable sharing how many books they’ve sold and how much money they’ve made, but that’s not me. However, I promise there is still some interesting info in the charts below.

Some boring financial terms

The charts you’re going to see below show the peaks and troughs of my sales and revenue.

Note that I used the term revenue, not income. These are pretty boring financial terms, but the distinction is important.

Revenue is how much money has come in from the sales of your books. Income is what’s left over after you deduct expenses. You may see people post their earnings in various Facebook author groups, blogs etc. and be in awe of how much they’re making, but don’t forget that the numbers they’re sharing may be before expenses which means they’re taking home less than you think (in some cases, a lot less).

As an independent author, I have a number of expenses including:

  • editors (one of my biggest expenses, but so worth it to me)
  • ISBNs (these don’t come cheap if you’re based in the States—$575 for 100 of them—which is one reason why not everyone uses these book identification numbers)
  • proof copies of paperbacks and large print editions from Amazon KDP and IngramSpark
  • paid email promotions
  • advertising (I primarily use AMS ads, but I have also dabbled unsuccessfully with Facebook and Bookbub ads)
  • licenses for images used in marketing and book covers (primarily Shutterstock)
  • author website hosting / domain fees
  • other system subscription fees such as BookFunnel (used for ebook distribution to my ARC team and for distribution of my reader magnets) and Mailerlite (used for newsletter)
  • books related to writing craft and marketing
  • membership in the Alliance for Independent Authors (the cost of membership is offset for me by the fact that I don’t have to pay fees for paperback uploads / changes on IngramSpark)

Come on already . . . let’s see a chart!

Are you still with me? Ready for a chart? Here we go – this one shows how many units I sold (the blue bars) and how much income I made (the red bars) each month. I like presenting it this way because I can get caught up in how many books I’ve sold, but that doesn’t always correlate with how much I’m making.


See that big blue spike in March? I dropped the price of my first in series cozy mystery (Murder at the Marina) to 99c / 99p and did a bunch of promos including an international BookBub Featured Deal, Fussy Librarian, Book Adrenaline, Book Sends, Bargain Booksy, and Ereader News Today. I also organized some newsletter swaps.

The result was that I sold a lot of books. But that doesn’t mean I made a lot of money. When you sell a book for 99c / 99p, you only make pennies after the retailers take their cut. But that’s not why I do promos. I do them to gain visibility and attract new readers who hopefully love my writing so much that they go on to buy other full-priced books in the series.

{By the way, “lot” is a relative term. Everyone has their own sales baseline. A lot of sales for one person might be a drop in the bucket for someone else. Comparing yourself to other authors can be a dangerous path to follow. Possibly even the path to despair and too much chocolate.}


I’ve always done relatively well in terms of sales of my large print editions, but during April and May, they exploded (my AMS ad spend also exploded which was very scary at first). When the lockdowns started happening, people were looking for books to read. Cozy mysteries are fun and lighthearted, a good way to escape for a time from the stress of the pandemic. I suspect many other cozy mystery authors saw an uptick in their paperback and large print sales during this period.

My large print sales leveled out during the remainder of the year, although I did see a slight increase in December. No surprise there as books make good gifts for the holidays.

Author Central BookScan Chart – shows spike in paperback sales in the US


I released book #1 in my Smitten with Travel sweet romantic comedy series in May. I didn’t set the world on fire with this release, but I didn’t expect to either. My strategy is to release three books in a series before I do any serious marketing. To me, it doesn’t make sense to do a price drop, book a bunch of promos, spend a lot on advertising etc., if there aren’t any other books in the series for readers to buy.

{Wondering what I mean by “sweet”? I use it to indicate that my romcoms are on the “clean and wholesome” side of things. As with my cozy mysteries, there aren’t any sex scenes or naughty language in my romcoms.}


I joined in with a group of other authors to put together a collection of cozy mystery short stories. My contribution was Buried by the Beach, a standalone story which takes place between the events of book #3 and book #4 in my Mollie McGhie series. We published the anthology in June, and I thought it was a great success both in terms of attracting new readers to my series and making connections with an awesome group of authors who were a delight to work with.

Our stories were exclusive to the anthology until the end of 2020. I’ve since separately published an expanded version of Buried by the Beach with contains an epilogue and bonus material. The original version is still available in the anthology which the group will continue to collectively promote.


August saw the release of book #5 in my Mollie McGhie series – Shooting by the Sea. I had a lot of fun writing this one, especially around the bits about Scooter’s silly celebrity crush on a game show host and Mrs. Moto learning to play the ukulele. (If you’re new to the Mollie McGhie series, Scooter is Mollie’s hubby and Mrs. Moto is their adorable Japanese bobtail cat.)


I somehow managed to squeeze out book #2 in my Smitten with Travel series, publishing the ebook edition of Smitten with Croissants at the end of December. This was a blast to work on because I got to include all sorts of geeky references to Star Wars. I may just be a bit of a Star Wars geek myself.

Psst . . . between you and me, how much did you make?

Sorry, no can do. But, I will tell you this. I actually made money in 2020!!!

There’s a reason for all those exclamation points. That’s because it was the first time in my publishing career that I was in the black. Yep, that’s right, in my first two years of being a published author, I lost money. My expenses were greater than my income.

I know some people turn a profit during their first year, but not me. However, I did stick with it, realizing that it’s a long game. And I’m fortunate enough to have had the money to invest in my books during those first couple of years.

The chart below illustrates the progress I’ve made over the past three years. Notice how 2020 is the first time the yellow income bar is above the zero mark? What had been a very expensive hobby is now making me a little bit of money and I’m now treating this whole author thing more like a business.

Let’s talk formats

As I mentioned earlier, a significant chunk of my sales are paperback and large print books. During 2019, the majority of my sales were ebooks (73%) compared to 21% large print and 5% paperback books.

During 2020, that ratio changed drastically with the majority of my sales being large print (54%) and paperback books (5%). Ebooks only made up 41% of my sales. My guess is that this was a one-off, related to the pandemic lockdowns, and ebook sales will once again surpass my large print and paperback sales.

By the way, I use both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark print-on-demand services for my large print and paperbacks. I definitely sell most of my large print and paperback books through Amazon than on other retailers, but I have no idea of the exact breakdown. That’s because Ingram Spark doesn’t breakdown sales by retailers. Amazon also outsources printing to Ingram Spark at times, meaning that some sales that show up on my Ingram Spark reports can be attributed to Amazon. But how many that is . . . well, I don’t have a clue.

Ebook sales and revenue by retailer – Wide for the Win!

Let’s break down my ebook sales and revenue by retailer, shall we? No surprise that Amazon has the largest share, but I continued to actively try to grow my sales on other retailers during the past year. I’m all about the “Wide for the Win” mindset – i.e., not wanting to have all my eggs in the old Amazon basket. And it’s worked to some degree – 57% of the ebooks I sold in 2019 were on Amazon, compared to 51% in 2020.

Barnes & Noble continued to be my next strongest retailer (30% of ebooks sold, which is on par with 2019). I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted into some of their promos which have really boosted visibility and sales on their storefront.

Kobo came in number three accounting for 11% of my ebook sales (up from 8% in 2019). Kobo also has great promo opportunities, especially when it comes to box sets and their romance BOGO deals.

Apple Books trailed behind the other major retailers, but I saw a massive increase in their share of ebook sales, up from 3% in 2019 to 8% in 2020. No idea why, to be honest.

I struggle to make any sales on Google Play except when I’m doing a first in series price drop promo like I did in March. And even then, sell-through to other books in the series is pathetic. Maybe one day I’ll gain traction there. Maybe one day I’ll give up eating chocolate and lose weight. Miracles can happen, right?

There was a new entry on the retailer scene for me in 2020 – Eden Books. This is a small, romance-only storefront which I’m delighted to support. I’m not selling tons of books there, but it’s always good to expand my reach to potential readers.

Before we move on, take a look at the units sold (blue bars) versus the revenue (red bars). See how on Amazon the revenue bar is higher than the units sold bar? When it comes to Barnes & Noble, the situation is reversed. Interesting, huh? Just another reminder not to always focus on how many books you sell on each retailer, but rather on how much money you make.

{If you’re interested in wide distribution, you might want to check out the super informative, supportive, and helpful Wide for the Win Facebook group.}

{How about another parenthetical note? I distribute directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play, and I use Draft2Digital to reach Apple Books and other smaller retailers.}

A brief note about sell-through

If you write series, then you definitely want to track your sell-through. Some people call it read-through, others say buy-through. It all means the same thing – what percentage of people who read / buy the first book in your series go on to read / buy subsequent books in the series.

It’s an important metric. If you have a low sell-through, do you want to keep investing your time and money in other books in the series? Are you targeting the right audience? Do you need to make tweaks to your cover, blurb, or even the content? Should you eat more chocolate? These are all important questions, especially the chocolate one.

I only tracked sell-through for my Mollie McGhie series in 2020. I’m happy enough with it, especially considering this series probably isn’t written to market as much as other cozy mystery series are. Cozy mysteries featuring a sailing hook and an amateur sleuth who like investigating UFOs in her spare time? Not your typical draw for the cozy reader crowd. Writing more to market is something I’ll be paying more attention to when I launch my next series.

Anyhoo, approximately 9% of readers went on to buy book #2 in the series. That might seem low, but it reflects the fact that I did a price-drop promo on book #1. Lots of people will pick up a book if it’s only 99c, but then either not read it (ask me how many unread books I have on my ereader) or find that it’s not their cup of tea. However, if folks go on to read book#2, then around 85-90% of them will buy the subsequent books in the series. I can live with that.

Don’t forget about libraries and subscription sales

I used to lump in my library and subscription sales in with my other ebook sales, but I’ve started to break them out into separate categories. Why? Well, because they’re kind of different beasts, wouldn’t you say?

During 2020, I didn’t sell tons in either of these categories. At least, not enough to be bothered to make a separate chart for them. But I didn’t want to lose sight of the importance of these distribution channels, so I’m gonna tell you all about them. Now might be the time to grab a Snickers bar. The peanuts will give you the stamina you’ll need to keep reading.

One of the great things about being wide is that you can distribute ebooks to libraries. If you’re exclusive to Amazon (i.e., enrolled in KDP Select, aka Kindle Unlimited), then you’re out of luck when it comes to libraries.

No can do. I like libraries. Actually, scratch that. I LOVE libraries. My whole family loves libraries. I was practically raised in libraries, and my sister even works in a library. So, the thought of not selling my ebooks to libraries was inconceivable. I use both Kobo and Draft2Digital to reach libraries via Overdrive, Hoopla, and Biblioteca.

{Note: This only applies to ebooks. You can be exclusive to Amazon for your ebooks, but still distribute your paperbacks / large print books to libraries.}

Remember how I mentioned Kindle Unlimited a moment ago? Well, it’s not the only ebook subscription service in town. There are other services which are non-exclusive including Kobo Plus and Scribd. I have my books enrolled in both of them via Kobo and Draft2Digital.

Okay, I think that wraps it up. Anything else you want to know? What are you looking forward to in 2021? What’s your favorite candy bar?

Cozy Mystery Publishing, IWSG, Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel, Writing

BookBub Featured Deals, Writing Update & Camping in the Desert | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book / throws you out of the story / frustrates you most about other people’s books?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. Instead of answering the question, I’m chatting about the terror that overcomes you when you pay for a BookBub Featured Deal, giving a writing update, and sharing the best part about camping in the desert.

Scoring a BookBub Featured Deal – Eek!

Last month, kind of on a lark, I applied for a BookBub Featured Deal for Murder at the Marina, the first book in my Mollie McGhie cozy mystery series.

While I had been accepted for an international BookBub Featured Deal last year, I knew that getting a US one was competitive. People get turned down all the time. That’s what I was expecting – a big fat “NO!” Instead, I got a “Congratulations. You’re booked for mid-January. Now, give us lots of money.”

{By the way, if you’re not familiar with BookBub it helps folks discover new things to read through daily emails which feature free and discounted books. Authors pay to have their book included as a Featured Deal. And it’s not cheap.}

The thing about being an author, like with any other business, is that you have to invest money to make money. Things like editors, cover artists, website hosting, promotions, advertising etc. add up. And you don’t often see a return on your investment for a while. Sometimes, a long while.

So when I opened up the BookBub invoice to pay for it, my stomach churned. This is a lot of money with no guarantee that you’ll earn it back, the scaredy-cat part of my brain said. The more gung-ho part of my brain said, “Go for it. Chances are good you’ll make it back and then some!”

I went for it. The invoice was paid. My BookBub Featured Deal is booked. My fingers are crossed.

Writing Update

When I haven’t been hyperventilating about shelling out money to Bookbub, I’ve been hard at work launching the second book in my romantic comedy series. Smitten with Croissants came out at the end of December and I couldn’t be more excited about the reviews that have come in so far. Sure, you try to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter what people think about your books and that there will always be people who don’t like your writing, but until you get a few positive reviews under your belt, the worries and insecurities bubble away at the back of your mind. So, many, many thanks to those folks who have left reviews! They’ve left a huge smile on my face.

By the way, if you enjoy sweet romantic comedies and you’re interested in becoming part of my review team, drop me an email at

Camping in the Desert

My hubby and I are currently camping in the desert with two other couples who also former sailors and now live full-time in their rigs. We’ve all formed a little, nomadic COVID bubble and had a lot of fun celebrating the holidays together. And, you know what one of the best parts of it all is? The fact that one of the people we’re camping with is none other than fellow IWSG member and author of the fabulous memoir PlungeLiesbet Collaert of Roaming About! It’s been wonderful to have someone with whom I can talk about writing-related stuff in person. And it doesn’t hurt that she and her husband make the best-tasting margaritas I’ve ever had either. LOL!

Do you subscribe to newsletters like Bookbub? Read any books lately? Have you ever been camping in the desert?

IWSG, Romantic Comedy, Smitten with Travel, Writing

Writing in Present Tense, ARC Reader Request & An Adorable Cat | IWSG

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It’s a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there’s an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they’re struggling with what to say.

This month’s question is:

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the zone? Care to share?

Check out how people have answered this month’s question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list HERE. I opted out of answering the question, instead sharing some of my insecurities about writing in present tense. Check it out below.

Which of these sentences do you prefer:

1 – I write in present tense, then worry that readers will hate it.

2 – I wrote in present tense, then worried that readers would hate it.

If you had asked me this in the not so distant past, I would have said without any hesitation that Option #2 was way better. Like many other people of a certain age, I grew up reading novels written in the past tense. That was just how it was done. I had no idea there was any other kind of book.

Then came The Hunger Games. Loved the story, but I found the use of present tense a bit jarring. I read a bunch of other YA books for a while and made my peace with present tense. I didn’t love it, but it was starting to grow on me.

As of late, I’ve been obsessed with reading romantic comedies / chick lit. And guess what? A bunch of them are written in present tense. And guess what else? I love it!

I know some of you are shaking your heads. Why, Ellen, why? Why have you gone to the dark side?

Well, here are a couple of the things I like about it:

1 – Everything feels way more intense.

And when you reading romance, that’s an awesome thing. Especially when the main character is kissing a really cute guy.

2 – It kind of feels like a movie.

You’re smack-dab in the middle of the action. It’s all happening right now. You’re experiencing things right along with the main character, like those kissing scenes.

So when I decided to try my own hand at writing a romantic comedy, guess what I did? Yep, that’s right, I decided to write it in present tense.

This may turn out to be a huge mistake.

Readers may hate it.

This may be an experiment gone bad.

Or it could be amazing.

Time will tell.

Wanna try out a present tense romantic comedy? I’m looking for ARC readers.

If present tense doesn’t scare you off and you’d like to read and review an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Smitten with Ravioli, let me know if the comments. Be sure to leave your email address.

I don’t have a firm publication date yet, but it will be out sometime toward the end of May. In terms of heat level, it’s on the clean & wholesome side of the scale. There’s kissing, but no sex scenes.

You can check out the blurb HERE.

Raise your hand if you like adorable cats!

This is Garfieldia, one of the cats that lives at the marina where we’re currently hanging out at in our teeny-tiny camper. She’s such a sweet cat – super affectionate and cuddly.

So what about you – any writing rituals you want to share? Do you like present tense? Interested in an ARC of Smitten with Ravioli?