Growing Pains… The Self-Editing Process

I completed my fourth book in my novelette series. I have been neglecting this blog. I am sorry. I had trouble trying to find the ‘perfect ending.’ Well, I decided that my stories are not perfect. That’s what makes them awesome. They are raw, dirty, unpredictable and jaw-dropping.

I couldn’t decide on a character and if they were going to be good or evil so I played around with them a few scenes. Then let it come naturally. I did my darndest to plan out this book, at first, but it always turns out I write the way I think. I let it flow and it happens naturally.

When I plan, I tend to write myself into corners and look around aimlessly. If I don’t plan I can crawl out a window or use the back door. Weird analogies but I am hoping you all get it.

I recall hearing the famous quote by Hemingway Write drunk, revise sober.” 

two persons holding drinking glasses filled with beer
Photo by Tembela Bohle on

Well, I am very uninhibited with my writing. This time was different. I tried to plan. I tried to be sober. It took a little longer until I decided that doesn’t work for me.

My revising and self-editing is another story. This process I need to do many times before I consider giving it up to a professional.

I have Grammarly in my Word Doc so I can pick up some flaws that Word doesn’t see; if I overused a word or if I need a comma. Usually, it’s because I used a comma too many times (I think). Grammarly loves to use commas for the words but, and, so, yet. I was taught these words connect phrases so that you don’t need a comma and Grammarly loves to try and add them. I am always second guessing myself while self-editing.

woman working girl sitting
Photo by Alexander Dummer on

I also have Hemingway set up in my laptop but it ruins my formatting if I integrate the document and app. I must have downloaded it wrong. The way I use Hemingway is I have the document open (messed up format) on the app and my original Word (better format) open in another window.

I look at the phrases or sentences they highlight as ‘hard sentences’ or ‘very hard sentences’ and reword them. They also highlight how many adverbs used in the document along with word count. Hemingway tells you your goal to match or stay under.

Weak phrases and words are in both apps. I do my best to reword these. As I am working on the self-editing with these two apps, I see how much I have to learn. I notice I am getting better at grammar but still have a way to go as a professional.

Once I go through these two processes, I read the story again. I make sure I didn’t add to the story or delete an essential section because my grammar was poor. This area is touchy. I wrote it, I read it a few times already, sometimes I can’t remember what is still in the work or in my head.

I give a copy to my mom. She reads it and gives me feedback. She asks me questions or tells me if there’s something missing. If anyone is not afraid of telling me the truth, it is my mother. She is my biggest supporter and can be an honest critic. My mother knows success comes with honest feedback. I consider mothers to be true test readers.

I have others that I can go to. I use them once in a while, but many of my friends and family have little ones to care for, so it is difficult for them to find the time.

purple blue green pink orange and yellow highlighter
Photo by Pixabay on

So, I get my feedback. I write down the questions and reread the manuscript. As I read, the story may change again. This means some other areas might change. I should mention here I have a printed copy of the manuscript and three highlighters.

The highlighters are to keep me updated on where and what I changed or what I kept the same. The yellow highlighter is used first. This is used to show where the significant changes are needed. The blue is where the main plot and scenes are. The orange is for the subplots and twists or turns. A pen is used to just cross things out entirely and rewrite in the margins.

After I read the hard copy, I take it and go back to the laptop. Sometimes this is more tedious than the original writing. I think this fourth novelette edit will be no different.

Jerry Jenkins has a 21-part checklist you can download for free. I read over it and if you don’t have any apps that are integrated into your laptops, I suggest you check it out.

Here are four of the suggestions in the checklist:

Deleted that, except when necessary

Omitted needles words

Chosen the simple word over the complicated one. Anywhere I could have simplified, I have.

Deleted the word literally when I actually mean figuratively.

One thing I found interesting is he said to omit overuse of adjectives and adverbs. I agree with this, I see it in my work. I noticed he uses adverbs in his checklist which forced me to recognize how he could have omitted the needless words.

I tend to do something so I need to add this to his list. Tense…I change the tense in my work without realizing. I go from past tense to present, and vice versa.

I would like to omit one from the list. Jenkins mentions using the word ‘said’ as opposed to any other option. I have found that an annoying word while reading if it is there too often. I feel it is not an ‘invisible word’ as many call it.

I know many disagree with me. I had a debate in my free writing class with my professor on this (years ago). I write a lot of dialogue in my stories. Half the book would be the word said (or says) if I did this. I would not want to read my own work if I went with the rule.

Most of the checklist is awesome and I use it. I believe in it. It will make me a better writer. Don’t get me wrong. I suggest you print one out for yourself. check out his website

After all of your self-editing and the checklist, more editing/revising is complete you pay your editor(s) to go to work. I can’t afford to go to multiple people on my stories. I know many go to a content editor, a proofreader, and the others to get the most out of their books.

My accomplishment is one editor. I am happy to afford one. Test readers will be another, thank goodness they are not paid. The ups and downs of newbie writers. Good luck, I see many posts on editing which means many are at that final stage. I hope to see some great stories out there soon!


Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. - Colin Powell

Have a great weekend and stay fabulous!

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie




Growing Pains…I Have an Email List, What Next?

I have been so focused on the goal of getting an actual email list of readers, I have neglected to figure out what to do with this list. There are so many questions I have:

What do I do with this list?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on

When do I contact them?

How do I thank them for signing up?

When do I do all of these things?

How do I do ANY of these things?

mailchimp monkeyI have so much to read on e-mail lists. I guess I never thought I would ACTUALLY get anyone to sign up. Maybe I was so focused on getting readers, I wasn’t thinking of the next step.

In any case, I need to step up my game. I have to figure out how to NOT bother these people AND not ignore them. They are signed up because they are interested in my work. That is a compliment. I guess I can officially take my own name off of my list. I probably won’t. I still need to see if I’m sending crazy information or sending something more than once.

I send my other account the test preview but I still need to check four times before I know. I still don’t know if my thank you template goes to my readers right away. I want to fix something in my thank you template but I am not sure if the original thirty will get it again on top of the new subscribers.

men s white button up dress shirt
Photo by Helena Lopes on

I can’t afford to lose the thirty I have right now. That number may not seem like a lot to some of you, to a newbie that just went from four to thirty in a matter of three days…it’s a lot.

I am in promotions and giveaways. That is how I received the jump in readers. The advertisements on AMS and Facebook hasn’t worked for me. When I first wrote “Wendy’s Song” I had an advertisement on one of the free weekend five dollar deals online. It gave me a jump on Amazon. I had almost a thousand readers download the book.

I thought that was great because my book was top five in my genre for a quick minute. My big mistake with that is I didn’t have any information or giveaway in the back of the book to entice readers to review the book or sign up for my list.

I learned my lesson. That is why it is better to research and read before you act. I have said this before, a professor used to tell me “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

The funny thing is, I remember the infamous line AFTER THE FACT.

blank female hands lady
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

This is why I need to read up on email etiquette. I cannot let the readers down. I am in the process of completing my fourth book in my series. I want to notify the readers of this but I can’t just say “Hey, how are you. I am selling this book.”

That sounds kind of crappy. I know of an author that did that to me and I unsubscribed from her right away. Honestly, I gave her three chances to NOT sell to me, but that was all she did.

I understand it is a business but I saw she was collaborating with other authors and she was the only one that sounded shady with her email. I am signed up with her associates as well. They offered advice on various things. She offered to sell me things. While her associates offered their friends links, she did not. I felt that was a little shady.

Something to remember, don’t forget your friends/ fellow authors. I would think if you felt comfortable enough to work with someone, it could only help your business to send some work their way, no? I know it didn’t help to ignore them.

What I did on my thank you list is I offered the promotions links from both websites and said there are some great authors here (I’m not lying, there were one or two books on there that were really interesting). I also said I will offer a test reading if they’re interested. It’s not required. I mentioned more free promotions will be available on occasion and thanks again. Drop me a line on what your favorite type of reads are and hit me up on twitter and facebook.

I am hoping that one is the one that went through. If not then I have the generic thank you that I didn’t really mention my details and just the free ebook promotions. Not good for me but free ebooks from Bookfunnel and Prolific Works are available.

I am not sure if either email sounds good. I am going to have to research. I should not have done anything until I knew for a fact what was right. After I find out exactly what is the right thing to do, I need to make sure I don’t email anyone more than once with a thank you email.

person using macbook pro on brown wooden desk
Photo by on

Then I have to find out when the best time is the next time I can contact my readers. Would it be when I see more free stuff for them? I don’t want to bother them, I have three hundred unopened emails on my one account because I can’t deal. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Well, if anyone here wants some free ebooks, one is any genre and one is biography/ memoirs type of books. Below are the links:

dear diary on bookfunnel

group giveaway on prolific works

Thanks for reading and good luck with your email lists.

Stay fabulous,

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie

Growing Pains…Finding Out the Hard Way

I have spent some big bucks doing things the wrong way. I assume many authors in their newbie days have done the same. That’s not my point. My point is, I found a way that is not that hard and much cheaper. Okay, I will explain what the heck I’m talking about.

E-mail lists and how to get them.

I tripled my e-mail list today. Granted there were four of us on it (yes, one dropped me like a hot potato, and yes I am still on the list). The struggle is real! If anyone tells you differently, they are either lying or not authors.

Well, I prepared the reader’s magnet. I had the book funnel. I updated the covers on my e-books to make them fancy and professional. I got excited about it, I even did my third book which has nothing to do with the promotions (but I’m sure someone might want to read it one day).saving lisa ebook cover design (1)

Granted, I don’t have the means to hire anyone, but I know how to work a computer and is a free service. I fake it ’til I make it. 

I also set up my last page to link up to my email. It looks professional, in my mind it does. I did some testing and it works. Bookfunnel is set up and so is Prolific Works (previously Instafreebie).mailchimp monkey

Originally I had an ad on Facebook thinking this will get me some leads on a growing email list. Before I purchased advertising, I researched (I love to study up on as much information as possible, even if I think I know what I’m doing). Well, Facebook started me out with two or three e-mails and I spent seventeen dollars. I was not happy with my investment.

In the past, I spent money on AMS (Amazon) ads and they did get me tons of clicks but not much else. I spent more money on that than on Facebook.

In case you’re wondering, a click means the reader clicks the link to see what the book is about but they don’t purchase the book. Usually this means there is something with the book.

The click is what you spend the money on, not the reader just looking at the ad. If you would like to know more about AMS advertising, click here:

Considering my first book in my series is permafree, I am looking to get the word out to the public AND grow my email list more than waste any more money. I understand I will be spending but I don’t want to be wasting. Who does?

ground group growth hands
Photo by Pixabay on

I received an e-mail from Bookfunnel (or Prolific, sorry I can’t remember) about promotions or giveaways. I read about authors collaborating. I have never understood the concept…until now.

books in black wooden book shelf
Photo by Pixabay on

Both websites have promotions on them. Your free book can become part of a giveaway with other authors. The giveaway I’m in with Prolific has no genre and they request the whole book (no chapter or partial read). You also need to promote on your email list and social media. I am fine with that. I will be sharing the links of the promotions at the bottom of this post.

The best part of this is, IT IS FREE! My Bookfunnel promotion began today and so far I tripled my email list. As a matter of fact, I am recieving notifications that subscribers are signing up AS I AM DRAFTING THIS POST! Exciting stuff, huh?

I could have saved myself some money weeks ago if I understood this collaboration thing when I read about it. Well, here are BookFunnel and Prolific Works pages if you’re interested in learning more about adding your ebooks on their sites and working with other authors.


Prolific Works

The life of a newbie is up and down but the ups feel pretty good.

Another thing I have learned is I need to NOT compare myself to other authors. I am part of a few author’s groups and there is some that discuss their lists. They ‘only’ have a hundred on their list. I don’t comment but I cringe when I read it. I would love to say I only have a hundred email addresses.

Some authors discuss their twenty reviews for one book and say they can’t advertise on Bookbub. I don’t have fifteen reviews for my ten books. Then I read on. Some of the authors have been in this business for years. I can’t imagine the frustration they are feeling. I am just beginning.

I read the criteria for Bookbub and I was in shock! I don’t want to get into what there is to do. I have a long way to go. I am taking this journey one step at a time. Today is a good day. I am getting my list closer to my hundred emails. I will be finishing up my fourth book in my series soon, I can ask my Forbidden list if they would like to test read. First I should ask if any would like to be on my Forbidden list.

I have lots to do, it looks like. The life of a newbie writer is never quiet. Let the chaos continue!

Whether I have four or one hundred fans on my email list, I am living my dream. I am lucky to have this opportunity, fifty reviews or five. Bookbub will have to wait, for now. I may not ever need to advertise on them (probably a lie, but that’s what I’m telling myself for now).

Below are the links for the giveaways/ promotions. The e-books come in various forms for all to enjoy. If you have a chance, I’m sure an aspiring author would love a chance for you to read and enjoy their story:

Dear Diary on Book Funnel Now until October 29

Prolific Works October 13-November 30th

Good luck to anyone trying to get on to Bookbub, if you have, congratulations, you have my respect!

Stay fabulous

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie


Growing Pains…Reviews and Emails

The two most important (besides sales) goals an author strives for…a large email list and massive amounts of reviews. From what I read, the formula is simple. Give away a tempting freebie. This freebie is only if the reader gives you an email address. After they read, they will be willing to purchase your books. They may even be ready to be on launch teams.

The review tactic is not that difficult in theory either. At the end of the story, ask for a review, explain how reviews are essential for EVERYONE (including the reader) and provide the link (in e-book) for easy access for readers to click.mailchimp monkey

Okay, first off, if you have BOTH of these in your ebook, they click one and not the other you might lose a review or an email address. I think placement is key. Second of all, theory  NEVER goes as planned.

I had a small push with my email list for a week or so when I set up Bookfunnel and Instafreebie. They went in my MailChimp list (or they’re supposed to) and we were set. For some reason, my email campaign came to a halt. I felt like my list was the marathon runner that hit the brick wall.

photography of brickwall
Photo by on

Not that the names were flooding in. They might have been one a day but at least they were coming in.

Now, not only have the names stopped, one name unsubscribed. I do not like this at all. I am doing something wrong and I can’t figure it out. I am not writing as much as I’d like, I am ignoring my downtime, and I am tearing my hair out because I am too busy trying to get this email list thing down. Did I do something wrong?

I feel like the teenager waiting for a date but not sure if the phone works so calls her friend to have her call back to make sure it works (old school reference). I think my date just never called. I am home this weekend. I should stop trying to see if the phone is broken, it’s me and not the phone.

As for the reviews, I hear that for every thousand books there is one review. Okay, well that’s fine and all but how can I get any decent advertisement on my full priced books if I don’t have any reviews?

The reviews I do have at the moment are not great. The general consensus is ‘not what I expected,’ ‘this made me sad,’ and ‘a book with two endings.’ These three comments are actually not bad compared to the stars. 

 I have two 5 star reviews and the three above. Not a great start for my career.

I changed covers and blurbs to explain more about the books without ‘telling’ the story. The readers are surprised by the story and I get poor reviews. I have a few five stars, but I like to concentrate on the two and three stars. I need to know more about why.

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on

Did they expect to ‘know’ what I was writing? Did they want a happy ending? Do I annoy them with too many twists or turns? They didn’t say, the above comments are what I have to work with. ‘This made me sad‘ also mentioned it was ‘well written’ so I am confused on the two-star review.

I want to call them and ask more questions. I can’t. They did not sign up for my email list. They opted to give a review. One mentioned she took it out of her Kindle library.

Reviews are not upsetting to me. The lack of depth in the critique. I have questions. I want to know WHY. I know I said this a second ago. If the websites are going to use reviews as the IT factor, then guess what…I want more information on why you said what you said.

Well, besides my five reviews for my four books (One book doesn’t have a review), I can’t create lists for reviews or emails hence, no sales.

On top of that my concentration for these two things, I am giving away two of the books so I can grow an email list. I feel ridiculous that I can’t GIVE my book away.

I need to go and find a vlog and reevaluate everything I have done. I should look up Joanna Penn. I am sure she has a great guest podcast with somebody. I haven’t seen any of her videos in a while.

Derek Doepker might have something or Mark Dawson. I could just look up something on Reedsy. I like their articles lately. I am too tired to read. I worry myself into exhaustion for no reason.

A Facebook group might have someone that has been in my shoes. I will read some of the posts and hope I comment and ask a question or two. I am getting better at it.

Stay fabulous

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie


Growing Pains…My RollerCoaster Ride is Far From Over!

photo of white purple and blue smoke
Photo by on

I had a great day on Tuesday. My book jumped astronomically up the ranks, yes…it is down in numbers. I knew it would happen. I received more fans on my email list, not many, but more and they are realistic numbers for a newbie. I was on cloud nine.

Today, I was writing my fourth book in my series and seemed to have stuck myself into a bit of a corner. It happens. I’m sure many of the greats have been there (if not, I would like to imagine they have). This story is my favorite by far. I know I say that every time I begin a new book, but seriously, it is.

At the same time, this story is coming with a price. It is taking me longer to write. I am taking my time because I am using a new technique. I am being careful to create a more professional product. That, in my head, sounds silly. I typically write like I think. I jump all over the place and my stories come out like the “Pulp Fiction” movie. You think you can follow along, then the scene jumps off to another character or place.

two white and red admission tickets
Photo by on

Quinten Tarantino is an outstanding creative genius so it might be pretentious of me to compare my work to his, but that’s how I see my writing. Unorganized until you finish the book and get the big picture.

I love experimental writing and it was my favorite course in college. It honed my craft of novice writing, but in my professional career, I don’t see big bucks unless I tone it down and ‘work’ on some things. This is where the new technique comes in.

I worked on this new technique to REALLY fix the gaps in my story. I added beef to some of the scenes and transitioned some of the scenes so as not to confuse the readers and leave them hanging. Some of the test readers had issues with that in the past.

I am doing my best to not ‘write like I think’ but to ‘write like THEY think.’ Hopefully, you get what I mean. This new process is taking a lot more time than I thought it would. I am realizing now how difficult improvement can be. I want to please my readers without losing my sense of style. There is such a fine line and I feel I am crossing it every other page, another reason why it is taking so long.

Writing emotion is something that is not new to me. I have been dabbling with emotion (as most writers do) since I picked up a pencil in grammar school. Every artist knows about passion. To connect the reader with a character’s emotion is an entirely different story (pardon the pun).

I live in fear, we all do. I don’t live in a world where fear runs my life or I am in a life or death type of fear. This emotion is not familiar to me. If I need to express this in a story, I will watch a scary television show or movie and study the character. Usually, the character is annoying, I need to be more sympathetic, I guess.

night television tv video
Photo by Tookapic on

My characters are not very fearful. They are angry and sad. At times, they withdraw. For my book I am writing now, I was thinking of adding fear into a character (I still haven’t decided since this isn’t a strong suit of mine). Before I decide to add this emotion, I wanted to read how to properly invoke the feeling into a character without it coming off fake.

How To Handle Fear In Your Novel: The Dos And Don’ts

This article discusses exactly what it says. What a writer should and shouldn’t do in writing fear for a character. I found it to be great for all emotions, to be honest. One big DO is have the reader FEEL the fear, not have the reader WATCH it. I love this. I believe this to be true with anger too. I want my readers to FEEL the rage when I write my character is flipping s#!t on somebody. Sorrow can be felt as well. I want my readers to cry after the love of her life died. I think grief is easier than rage and fear. Many have experienced loss but not life-threatening situations or anger so fierce they’re ready to murder (unless someone messed with their child).

man person face portrait
Photo by Pixabay on

I am not sure what I will do with the emotions, I still have a scene that placed me in the corner. I can’t explain much about it. The new technique forced me to think things through, made this book special, then pushed me in a corner.

Another newbie mistake I made today was just silly. I have a growing email list and I wanted to thank my new readers so I created a thank you newsletter that welcomed them. I set up a nice simple looking template, added the cover design for the new book, told them I was in the process of this book. I also invited them to be on my street team. They will get the book first and free if they signed up. No obligation, blah, blah, blah. If they didn’t sign up, no biggie. Other readers still get free short stories and other offers as well. I also expressed I wanted to get to know them and gave my email address for any questions and concerns.mailchimp monkey

adult dark depressed face
Photo by Pixabay on

I felt confident about my newsletter. I didn’t send it out the right way. I sent out the draft to my email list. Which means, I sent the email list my newsletter with an option to edit the newsletter. When I received it (I am one of the few on my readers’ list), it gave an error stating I don’t have authority to be on there. I looked like an amateur (which I am, to be quite honest). I have no idea what I was thinking! I know what I was thinking, I didn’t know what I was doing, that is what I was thinking.

So what I did was resend it the right way. I forgot to send an apology, but it is too late and I should have done it earlier. I don’t want to do it now because then that is three emails in one/two days of each other. Too many and I will lose readers. I am not about to do that. I will wait a week or two.

Now I need to set up a REAL newsletter and have it go to new subscribers only. I have to figure out how to do that before all my readers get the same thing every day. The life of a new author is exciting at the very least. The ups and the downs. The minute one thing goes well, you make a mistake and learn what NOT to do for next time.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. - Thomas A. Edison

Stay fabulous and don’t be afraid of your mistakes. I am only getting better with mine.

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie



Growing Pains…Establishing an E-Mail List

Woohoo! I have my first bonafide email sign up! It is not a relative, nor is it my account. I ACTUALLY have a real person that I don’t know. Well, time will tell if this is a real person.

I have been fixing a few flaws to my reader’s magnet and upgrading my techniques on collecting email addresses. First I added ‘Bookfunnel’ and integrated it with MailChimp. Then I added Instafreebie. I created a Facebook ad for my free book (with the sign up) and cried when I saw the amount of money I spent this weekend.

Photo by Pixabay on

mailchimp monkey

I used a few shortcuts in the past and so far it’s not working out that great. I am almost four months in and have little to show for it (9 books, enough money to go food shopping). I decided to try this out and I will see where it leads me.

If I do this for two weeks and I still only have that one email, then so be it. I will contact that person and welcome her/ him to my launch team. Free reads for everyone! Considering it is only one, I can handle it.

I have some time to try the products out and then say…oh well. They’re not for me. I know I’m not spending a ton of money on Facebook ads right now. I chose to use Facebook because while using the AMS worked okay in the beginning, I was not using it to its fullest potential and I need to expand to a WIDER audience to grow my email list.


I have tripled my email list. Woohoo!

I have also jumped up my sales with my third book. I was almost 6 million in the sales rank of Amazon. Now I jumped 5.6 million in the ranks for that one book (which means I’m #200k or something in there). I am assuming it has something to do with giving away the free ebooks. I give my first book in the series away, the rest of the books are affected.

The one day I go from almost six million to about two hundred thousand is insanity. If I read about this in an advertisement for a person trying to get me to purchase their ‘how to’ system, I would think they are liars and delete their emails.

Now that I have these three people on my email list. What is next, exactly? Do I send a thank you right away? Do I leave them alone and wait a week? What is the etiquette for emails? Should I go by my preference?

Yeah, that is most likely the best idea. If I don’t like getting hounded daily or weekly by some people, I doubt these people do either. If I don’t like emails that try and sell me something or just announce a sale without any consideration to me…you’re in the trash.

walk human trafficking
Photo by Tookapic on

I think this goes on instinct. I bet everyone has their own opinion because there are differing preferences. I will not be able to feel comfortable emailing once a week, I don’t think once a month is okay if I have nothing to say. If I have the book coming out or a short story to try out then great. I will send it to my readers. I don’t feel comfortable filling up the mailbox for no reason.

Even with my exceptional jump in the sales rank and my three readers, my reviews have stayed the same. I have one here, two there. I have less than ten reviews for all of my books combined. That will come with time. I’m sure that if I utilize my email list properly (all three of my fans), I can get more reviews.

ferris wheel in city
Photo by Pixabay on

I am quite sure I will have a humongous drop in sales for the books again. I am confident that my rollercoaster ride isn’t over. I am not bragging by any means. Clearly, I am not number one. I have a few emails on my list. I am trying to get more professional and it is working.

Every little detail counts. I see that now. I will create a better product and learn more about this journey. I love every minute.

I read an article today on a well-known publisher’s blog. The quote that stuck with me said (paraphrasing) “I learned more with my failures than I did with my successes.”

I am grateful to have both. I am optimistic when things go my way, on a day like today. I learn a lesson on the days when I feel EVERYTHING has gone wrong. I also have a bag of cookies on hand in case I have a terrible day. Cookies make everything better.

close up cookies delicious dessert
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on

It is pouring rain in my area. I think even though I’m having a great day; I’ll have a cookie. My rules, I can break them.

You have a fabulous day wherever you are, and happy writing.

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie


Growing Pains…Is It Worth Paying For Advice?

I have been contemplating this for months now. I sign up on an expert’s mailing list for some free advice, I am blown away by their knowledge, I look up the ‘VIP’ package, I almost pass out by the amount they ask. I go through this vicious cycle at least once every two weeks.

person holding string lights photo
Photo by David Cassolato on

In the beginning, it was a little bit more often. I knew a lot less, obviously. I learned a few tricks since then. I am reading blogs, I am listening to podcasts, and I am learning many of the experts are friends with each other.

Some associate more often than others. Some are former students of the experts on the podcasts. For example, Joanna Penn is a former student of Mark Dawson. Does this make a difference in deciding whether it’s worth listening to her praise his product? I don’t know. All I know is they are both reasonably successful authors in their own rights, in fiction and nonfiction.

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on

I can find out a lot of information online for free. Do I know what I need to know? I have no idea. I know I have three emails on my list and one is mine. Not great.

I also know that I was going about this process wrong for the entire time I began my career as a Self Publishing Author.

I advertised two of my five free days of my KDP Unlimited. I forget where I hear that Sundays and Mondays were great days to use, but it worked. I got great exposure. I waited a few weeks, advertised, and asked for those two days. My ebook rocketed to #5 in my category.

adult dark depressed face
Photo by Pixabay on

Well, that did nothing for me. I skipped the most important step in the process. I didn’t request reviews, nor did I have a link to an email list anywhere in the ebook. I didn’t even have a link to a website. I was pretty ignorant. I had about a thousand downloads in one day, and I did nothing to solidify any of those readers to become fans.

If I did more research or if I followed the close advice of a paid expert, I might have set it up correctly. I learned this step on my own weeks after my freebie launch. I learned by making BIG mistakes, reading up, watching YouTube, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and paying closer attention.

I am absolutely confident that I don’t have the faintest idea of my next mistake if I stay solo. I most likely will not know even if I go the pay the piper route. I think I would be able to narrow it down, or at least ask. I could probably ask if I felt comfortable in any groups I am in too. The cyber introvert takes over; this I need to get over. I’m sure there are many of us out there (at least I like to think so).

Say you choose an expert course. Which one do you choose? I tend to think the course material is similar since many of the authors run in the same circles, no? Well, Kindlepreneur wrote an article on his blog about four self-publishing courses. He broke them down and analyzed them. He ACTUALLY took the courses, according to the article.

The article is called:


So, not all of the courses are EXACTLY the same, I guess.

I know there were a few emails I received about a specific course. I didn’t trust the expert and the money they were asking? I almost fainted.

Photo by Pixabay on

I appreciate you trying to make some money but woah! The reason I need help is that I am not making money. You think I have over a thousand dollars to hand to you? I will stick to searching the internet and making mistakes, thank you.

There are swindlers in every business. This person is rarely seen in the circle, I believe I only noticed one or two webinar spots with this person involved. Then the person disappeared. That leads me to think others saw through the garbage too.

So maybe it is a good thing I did not choose to pick up an expert course so quick out of the gate. I may have ( couldn’t afford that person) picked up the wrong expert for me. I might have not been ready or may not have understood the terminology. Maybe I would have been lost in some of the material. Possibly I would have listened to a swindling expert that would have steered me in the wrong direction.

I wouldn’t know, as I was so new and green at the time. Timing seems to be in everything we do. Whether you choose an expert or go the ‘organic’ route (a term I’ve learned from experts meaning free), I wish you the best of luck.


Stay fabulous.

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie

Growing Pains…Reviews

The other day, I was reading an article on how a newbie or unknown author can improve the number of reviews on their books. I didn’t implement any of the tactics as of yet, I am still waiting on how useful my improved blurbs are. I must wait another week or two before I change anything.

However, I was curious if I received any new reviews for my perma free book or my other books. To my surprise, I received one. Let me be clear, the first review I received for “Wendy’s Song” was great but I will not be discussing it. This review was a five star and the comments were complimentary.

Yesterday, I received another review for the book, it was two out of five stars. The confusion for me is, the comments for me were complimentary as well (in my eyes). Except for the first line, I didn’t think it was so bad.

“I did not enjoy it unfortunately.

It is well written and realistically painful.

I read to escape and this made me sad.”

I felt good after this review. I don’t know how many see the two stars and not read the comments. I am not sure how many will skip the blurb and read the review. The reviewer did not like the book, which is fine. I am not going to connect with everyone’s taste.

walk human trafficking
Photo by Tookapic on

It worries me now; how do I move on and start to ask for reviews after I received a two star? My style is to evoke anger, sadness and (at times) the feeling of loss or confusion. The emptiness one feels inside when you just lost a playoff game or your childhood pet runs away.

If I struck that emotion inside of you, I doubt you will be happy with me. I think the comments might be nice, but I am not sure about the stars. I am not positive about all the comments. “John’s Journey” has a review and the title is called “A book with two endings.” This review received three stars.

I love that the title is so captivating. The reviewers are giving me GREAT advertising. I am confused on the star ratings. It is more apparent the “John’s Journey” review is less appreciated, but the comments give more of a synopsis than hate or love of the book. This is why I am assuming it is more a hatred of ‘a book with two endings.’

I may have misunderstood the review. Either way, I love getting input in comments. Having only stars would make me cry. Having both stars and comments gives me agita.

For one small moment, I was confused. I questioned myself. I don’t have five-star reviews but I have okay comments. I didn’t feel comfortable asking for reviews, to begin with, but I knew the task has to be done.

photo of head bust print artwork
Photo by meo on

I decided to check out my email. I needed to forget this for a little while, let it fester in my subconscious. My brain will work it out somehow. I opened an email that was surprisingly perfect for what I was going through. I thought only Facebook read my mind; now I have experts emailing me and knew EVERYTHING I was thinking.

The email essentially said not to let a one-star review get you down. There will be one-star reviews and there will be nasty comments coming my way, it’s inevitable. At this moment, it hasn’t happened, but if an expert says it will happen, I’m not going to argue.

I am still astonished at the timing of the email. It couldn’t come at a better time. I am really grateful for the free advice that so many experts offer. I really love the comradery I feel in this industry.

ground group growth hands
Photo by Pixabay on

I know I blog, but to be honest, I am not one to put myself out there and comment much on unfamiliar social media posts. I notice many familiar names are connected on social media and it is a helpful and welcoming community. This is encouraging for cyber introverts like me.


Well, thank you for the email and encouragement. If you have an email list, a little bit of support goes a long way. I know this one did for me today. I will also remember this for when I have more than three people on my list. I am sure that will happen soon. I know by the time I get a nice list I will know what the heck to do with it, too.

Stay five-star fabulous and have a great day!

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie




Growing Pains…Blurbs, Again!

This is the third post in a row discussing blurbs, but I am beginning to realize they are unavoidable and the difference between book sales and going back to waitressing. I love waitressing, but I would rather sell books.

beef blur bread bun
Photo by Foodie Factor on

Vania Margene Rheault commented on my last post about Libbie Hawker’s blurb tips. I took notes and went through the exercises. After I completed both of Libbie Hawker’s YouTube video’s (both about 13 minutes long, first one here), I reread my blurbs.

walk human trafficking
Photo by Tookapic on

Wow! I do need the practice. I might have been better off leaving some blurbs blank (I’m aware that’s ridiculous). I did a complete overhaul of my e-books. Well, I ‘reblurbed’ my novelette series. For now, I will keep the children’s books as they are. I would like to experiment for a bit. See if the books that are ‘reblurbed’ sell any better than non-revised blurbs.

While I was completing the YouTube exercises, I came across Joanna Penn’s video on Back Book Blurbs. This video is only about five minutes long and gives an insight on what to say for the print version of your synopsis.

Both videos shared have two things I felt that are very important. A target audience and words that are relevant to the genre. I am probably always discussing simple tips to everyone, but to me, they are such common sense, and I don’t think of them. Almost as if when you walk in a room a thousand times, and someone asks what was on the mantle, you can’t answer. It’s always overlooked.

blue denim pants
Photo by Pixabay on

The target audience of my books is in their thirties and forties. The books are set in the 1990s to early 2000s so they will identify with my main characters. If I said JNCO jeans, most (if not all) of my target audience would understand this detail. Many probably wore them in their teen years. If my target audience were six-year-olds, they would have no idea, JNCOs went out of business years ago.

Then again, JNCOs shouldn’t be in the blurb to begin with. That is a detail. It is vital to stick with the four or five (depending on which article you are reading/ watching) key points and stick to the ‘meat’ (Libbie’s comment) without taking away from your key points.

According to Reedsy’s How to Write a Book Blurb: A Guide for Novelists, using keywords in your blurb will help your Amazon book sales if you write the correct word strings or phrase. For example, if I were to write my synopsis to a mystery or thriller, I would make sure I used the phrase ‘murder victim’ (if there was one in the story). The phrase murder victim will become an Amazon keyword that book.

Both Joanna Penn and Reedsy point out a blurb should be very short. Joanna Penn says 100-150 words for the back of a  print book, Reedsy claims 150-200 words. I didn’t catch if Libbie Hawker gave a word count, but she agrees that the synopsis should not be bogged down with details.

Last post I was curious if I could have a review from Sammy in San Diego (or any regular Joe). Reedsy answered this question. If I have a raving review from an editorial or a reader, I can use it in the blurb. I only have one or two reviews for my books, but this is good news for me.

A few of my books only have five-star reviews with no comments. The readers will see this, so I see no need in wasting my word count by saying ‘five stars’ unless I have nothing more to say.

In any event, I am happy I continued on the quest for influential blurbs. I would never have been able to utilize the content just by ‘researching examples.’ I think I missed the mark. It seems I am researching a bit backward. Maybe I should investigate how to succeed in whatever task it is, then look at examples.

I need to make a mental note of this. At this rate, my one-year goal may need to be pushed back a few months. It is still early, we shall see. Sticking to the plan is essential for success, no?

woman in black shirt using macbook
Photo by Christina Morillo on

Next post will be Friday, I don’t know what I will be blogging about yet, but it will definitely be on writing and not marketing. I am going back to that side of things for a while. A good friend told me it is good to change things up a bit, to keep things from getting stale. Besides, we are writers, that’s the part of the job we like best.

Happy writing and stay fabulous.

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie




Growing Pains…Blurbs & Covers; More In-Depth

Since my last post, I have been looking into bestsellers of historical fiction novels. I do not have a novel, I am an author of a novelette series. I feel the best sellers are my best bet for finding juicy blurbs. Some of the novels have over 20k reviews, they hold best seller tags, and are names in the industry.

Whether or not my choice is a good one for using them as examples to “choose books in your genre,” I felt they still have something to teach me. So far, this is what I noticed.

  1. Many of the blurbs were long and detailed.
  2. They used italics and/ or bold writing
  3. If possible, they added smashing reviews from NYT or another well-known reviewer (for me, not possible…at least not yet)

I noticed that a few have reviews from previous books written. I found that interesting. I don’t have many reviews for my books written yet so that one is not possible for me either, but the future is bright. I will keep this in my mental notebook for when I am rich and famous with a massive amount of reviews.

I also looked at some books that had less of a following on Amazon. These books had fewer reviews, they had a simpler cover design, they were lower on the sales chart( farther back pagewise). What I noticed:

  1. No italics or bold fonts.
  2. No reviews are written for the book or previous books.
  3. Less of a detailed description/ Fairly generic, basic description or summary of the book.

I don’t know what you can get out of my observations with these blurbs. Many of us have little options when it comes to a Kirkus or NYT five star review. Many others can’t use previous reviews. I guess thinking out of the box, maybe a review from a lesser known person? Sal from Sacremento gave us a five-star review on our first book?

I would hope that Amazon would allow us to use lesser-known reviews in our blurbs. I am not confident this is a good idea, but if NYT works for the big guys, I am willing to try Sal.

One idea the big authors use that we all have an opportunity to take advantage of is the italics and bold type.

I know that Dave Chesson has a tool that creates more exciting blurbs using italics and bold type (if you are on his mailing list). I have yet to try it. That is on me. Now I see why this is such an invaluable tool. It is called the Free Amazon Book Description Generator Tool. 

Descriptions of our blurbs, I would imagine, comes with practice. Just like writing the book itself, write the blurb, edit, revise, and so on.

Some of us do not have the financial circumstances for my next suggestion, but I will tell you all anyway.

I received an email the other day about an offer for someone else to write my blurbs. I will say this now…I NEVER TRIED THIS. I do not know how this works, but if this is your thing, this is the website: Selling for Authors

I don’t have money for others to write my own blurbs. As a matter of fact, if I wrote the book, I think I should think I could figure out how to write a decent blurb. Right now I am putting in the work to upgrade my capabilities. That is me, others may have a different opinion on the matter.

On to covers:

As I was reading these blurbs in the same category. Why not? Before I read the blurbs, I made notes on the covers. I saw a few things as I looked at my favorites:

  1. The pictures/ backgrounds had something to do with the titles (ex. Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novelscarlet sky for “Beneath a Scarlet Sky”)




2. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's ListThe title is clear and visible ( the boy on the box is blurred/ saturated, possibly using the waterdrop effect…I can’t be sure, but the title is where your eyes are drawn).


3. Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh BrothersMany of the fonts and backgrounds give you a feeling of what the book’s mood could be (ex: this font would be what Van Gogh would use if he had access to computer fonts, the background is symbolic of his paintings. To me, the background shows a crazy story, much like many sibling relationships, or Vincent Van Gogh’s life).


I am aware many of us are not artists or designers, but we are readers and see advertising on television, billboards, and the internet. What do you see that invokes emotion? What works for you? Think of colors, what does dark blue do for you? Light blue? Dark green? These colors can set up a feeling for your book.

I think that’s what we are trying to get at. If a writer is selling a humorous novelette, but the cover is black and red with a font that looks like it should be in a Freddy Krueger movie, you lost me as a reader.

One last note about my observations, I noticed that some well-known authors have their names larger than their titles. I assume that is for their followers. Ken Follet had a few books listed, but I can’t remember one title. I just remember his name. I need to make a mental note on that too.

Do I want my name to be remembered or the book I am launching that week? If I am that well-known, they will know my name. I would prefer the readers to see what they are reading. My opinion, you can do what you think is best when you are as well-known as Ken Follet. Maybe this is a tactic that I don’t know yet.

I think I covered enough for today (I know, corny). Stay fabulous.

Robyn Branick


Robbie Ellie