KU or Wide?

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Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Wide?
How to choose between the two as a self publisher

In today's indie author world there are two choices: Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Wide.

There are pros and cons to both, but ultimately there is no “right” decision. It really depends on your genre, level of involvement you want, and a whole mess of luck.

What is Kindle Unlimited (KU)?

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon. If you spend $9.99 a month, you get unlimited access to the Kindle Unlimited library.

This is awesome if you are a big reader. Since many romance readers are voracious, there is a great market for romance. (Also LitRPG is big here too)

Authors are paid by how many pages are read. This is traditionally around .05 cents a page (half a cent). At 250 words a page, that means a 50K novel read from cover to cover nets an author about a dollar. This money is paid out of a monthly “pot” that fluctuates in amount.

Any author that wants to be part of this program must be Amazon exclusive. They cannot sell their books on any other sellers. (E-book only. Print is different) Their book will be part of the KU program and be available for sale on Amazon only.

Authors can join KU for 90 day contracts. You cannot get out early.

What is Wide?

Going wide is when an author sells their book on multiple sites. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Kobo are the big book sellers. Authors sell their books on all these (and more).

Pros and Cons

Pros of KU

  • Ease. Being exclusive means you only have to have one version and uploaded it to one place. It also means that when you advertise your book, you can have all the ads lead to the same purchase page instead of making readers choose which version they want.
  • Higher search rankings. Books that are “borrowed” in the KU program are counted in Amazon's search algorythms. Check out the top 100 books on Amazon and you will see a lot of KU books.
  • Readers are more willing to try new authors with KU. They haven't “spent” money, so they are more willing to take a risk on an author they haven't tried yet.
  • Amazon has some nice perks for exclusive books. There are Kindle Countdown deals and sales.
  • If you are a top seller, you can get bonuses.

Cons of KU

  • Exclusivity. You can't publish other places and have other revenue streams
  • No hitting lists. With only one seller, you can't hit NYT or USA Today's bestseller lists.
  • Following the rules. If you break the rules, Amazon will kick you out of the program. Unfortunately, many authors have been caught up in unfair practices or even targeted by other authors.
  • Payment. One dollar for a full novel that sells for $2.99 or more is a big discount. The theory is that there are more readers in KU, so you'll make up the difference with volume.
  • Unsure payments. All the page reads come out of a big pot. This means that the actual value of a page fluctuates on a monthly basis. It's usually around half a cent, but also tends to trend lower. You will never be exactly sure how much money you are getting paid.
  • The problems with KU. KU is a mess. There are so many issues, scams, and payout issues. I'm not going to go into them here, but you can read about them here: https://andrewbeymer.com/2018/05/11/kindle-unlimited-snafu-scammers-suspended-accounts-and-page-read-reductions/. Innocent authors have seen their Amazon accounts terminated without warning or recourse. As someone whose entire income is books, this is terrifying.

Pros of being Wide

  • Selling your book everywhere. Not everyone wants to buy from Amazon, and this means you can sell your book to them. It also means you can use cool promotions (B&N just announced coupons!)
  • Can hit best seller lists like New York Times or USA Today
  • You know exactly how much money you are making
  • Amazon is less likely to ban your account due to scammers

Cons of being Wide

  • More work. You have to upload to each site. You have to set your advertising to a specific website. You have to keep track of it all
  • Less visibility on Amazon. Amazon favors their KU books because that makes them money. It means less natural visibility from Amazon unless you are a big seller.

So, how does an author choose?

If you are brand new, I recommend KU. It's easier and you will get more readers willing to take a chance on a new author in KU. It simplifies marketing and it gets your foot in the door.

If you're not brand new, this gets trickier. You have to look at your numbers. Are page reads a huge part of your income or are sales? Are you willing to do more work? What does your audience expect? (For example, the only website that sold stepbrother romances was Amazon. The other retailers wouldn't sell them, so being wide with a stepbrother romance isn't a good idea.)

It really comes down to whether you will make more money selling to multiple websites or if you'll make more with page reads.

There are many authors that do the first 90 days of their book launch in Amazon KU, then at the end of their term, go wide.

There are authors that launch wide and then go to KU when sales have slowed down on other retailers.

There are authors that are exclusive. There are authors that hate KU. There are authors that fluctuate and change as the market and their needs change.

It's a tough choice. Luckily, it's just a 90 day one. Experiment. Find your market. Then roll with the punches to keep your books where you want them.


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I need a hero!

Since the reader will see themselves as the heroine, you have to make the hero someone the reader wants to be with.

The Physical

The hero should always be inwardly attractive. It helps if he's outwardly attractive too, but it's possible to have a scarred, deformed hero that we still love. (Jane Eyre for example, or even the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.) He doesn't have to be handsome on the outside, but he does have to have a heart of gold.

Most women still say the tall, dark, and handsome look is preferred. Taller tends to be more attractive.

Hair, skin color, race, eye color, and builds can vary. They need to take care of themselves, though. They don't have to be Mr. Universe, but they shouldn't be Homer Simpson either.

There is definitely a wish fulfillment aspect here. We want to be with the hot guy. We want to have the prince. So give your reader that if you can.

The Emotional

Your hero must be intelligent. Since this is a book, we only get a description of the physical but we get a play by play of what he says. He needs to have a brain or your reader will lose interest. If he's just a pretty face, why would our heroine (us) want to be with him? We'll be bored since we don't actually get to see those rippling muscles.

Intelligence, humor, and kindness will win the hearts of your readers.

The hero can be dark and brooding. He can be locked away inside himself with his emotions, or a bad boy with a dangerous past. He can be an assassin, a gangster, a soldier, a doctor, or a gigolo.

But he must be intelligent and have a good heart. Why would we fall in love with him if he didn't?

Dealing with Bad Reviews

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You wrote an amazing book. You spent hours agonizing over the cover. You poured your heart and soul into the blurb. You published it. Months of hard work.

And then you get this:

1 star: Unbelievably Lame
I've never given a one star before, but this book deserves it. The authored tried too much to make the book a contemporary romance novel, but failed miserably! Waste of my time.

1 star: One Star
This was so poorly written I couldn't get beyond the 2nd chapter. How could this get published?

1 star: Very disappointed. I think I could have written a better …
I would give less if it was an option. Very disappointed. I think I could have written a better story. Didn't know it was a short story, feel ripped off for purchasing it. I should have requested a refund.

And your heart breaks.

I know mine does. Those are real reviews on one of my books. (Yours Completely. It was the #2 selling book on Amazon for a month in 2016. You can get it HERE)

So, here's what you do.

  1. Curse them. I yell at my computer and tell them that they are complete a-holes. If they think it's so easy- they should do it. Also, 50,000 words is not a SHORT STORY! It is a novel! It took months! F*** YOU RANDOM STRANGER!
  2. Have someone else read the reviews. I have my husband do this. He's close enough that he'll tell me if there are real issues (like I need to get a better editor) or if they're just jerks. He doesn't tell me about the just jerk reviews.
  3. Know that some people are haters. Seriously- how sad do you have to be to give a book a one star and call the author names? I figure those people are just pathetic sad individuals that need to get their kicks by feeling superior to others.
  4. Forget about them. This is the most important. You are not your reviews. I'm going to say it again and in big bold letters because it's incredibly important.


I actually find that one stars are worthless. They are always sad, bitter people hoping to troll. Two and three stars are where you learn things. The two and three stars at least acknowledge that work went into this book. They usually have more than just “Ugh. I can't even!”

Use those reviews to improve. If you have lots of negative reviews, figure out why and come up with a plan. If you have lots of positive reviews, then you're doing your job well. Keep improving.

Harry Potter has made billions. Yet there are one stars on her work. Everyone's a critic. There are people that gave Harry Potter one star reviews. You are not alone.

Basically, ignore the one stars. You will never please someone who gave a one-star rating. Never. They are lost causes and don't deserve your time.

Also, NEVER respond to a review. It does you no good. It's like arguing on Facebook. No one wins and you just end up looking like an idiot.

Yell at them in your head. Write their names down and burn them in a fire. But don't respond. It won't change anything. It will only cause drama that won't help you sell more books. Let the stupid people have their opinions.

It's probably all they have.

*If you need someone else to tell you basically this same sentiment, check out Chapter 14 of “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis. She says, “Someone else's opinion of me is none of my business.” And it's true. It doesn't matter what someone else thinks.

Writing Resources

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I recommend these in no particular order! *And I will update these periodically!

Books I Recommend:

  • Wired for Story by Lisa Cron –On Amazon
  • 2k to 10K: Writing Faster, Better, and more of what you love –On Amazon
  • Writing the Great American Romance Novel by Catherine Lanigan- On Amazon
  • Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst –On Amazon
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi –On Amazon
  • Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes –On Amazon

Websites for Writing:

The Romance Genre Rules

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I'm guessing that if you're reading this, you want to write a romance novel that makes money. You'd like to sell more than three copies to friends and family.

How do you do that?

You have to write to reader expectations.

Rule 1: For a book to be considered romance, there must be a happily ever after or at least a happily ever after for now. (This is why Nicholas Sparks doesn't consider his books to be romance. Romeo and Juliet is not a romance. It is a tragedy.)

The hero and the heroine must end up together. (This can be over the course of several books if you have an ongoing series. I know Fifty Shades of Gray doesn't always end on a happy note, but the last book does.)

If you do not give your readers this, it is not a romance. Romance readers want the emotional payoff. That's why they picked up your book.

Rule 2: No cheating. The hero cannot cheat on his girlfriend to be with the heroine. He needs to break if off with 1st girl before dating heroine. (And vice versa) You can play with this, but know that cheating triggers a lot of unhappy reviews.

Rule 3: The romance is what is important. It is what the book is really about. There can be zombies and aliens and nuclear bombs, but if the book isn't focused on the relationship, then it's another genre with a romantic sub-plot.

Then within each sub-genre there are expectations. Sweet romance: no sex. Erotic romance: hot, steamy awesome sex. Historical has different rules than paranormal (historical peeps like factual details.)

How do you discover these rules? You read that genre. If you want to write historical fiction, you need to read a bunch of historical romance novels. Read the best selling ones and see what they do well. Read one that has terrible reviews and see why people hate it. (Or just read the reviews on those. They usually spell out why they didn't like it pretty clearly.)

Follow authors' blogs and Facebook pages. There are some great resources out there! (I'll be adding some links soon!)


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Not the drug, but the person.

The heroine should be someone you would like to be or someone they could be best friends with. Since they are one of the two main characters in a romance story, they should be someone that the reader will enjoy. The reader will be spending at least two hours with this person, so they should like them.

(There are of course exceptions to this rule. There are always exceptions.)

We want to live another life. That's why we read fiction. It gives us a chance to fall in love with different people and live lives that we could never have. I will never be a 16th century courtesan, but I can read it and give my brain the sensation that I am. I'd love to fall in love with a handsome billionaire, but my husband would miss me.

That's why I read instead. I get all the thrill, but none of the work.

As such, make your heroine someone that your reader will want to be. Make them funny or sweet. Make their life more exciting. They can have danger and drama without the risks. They should never be boring or rude. We have to like them, even if we don't agree with their decisions.

You can have a strong heroine. She can be brass. She can be ditzy or even a little self-centered, but we have to like her. We need to see something redeemable inside of her. Romance readers want the happily ever after (that's why we read romance and not other genres) so she needs to be capable of not only having that good ending, but deserving it.

Your heroine may not be everyone's cup of tea, but she should always be kind. She needs to be someone you want to spend the next week with (as a writer and a reader.) I'm a shy introvert, so I don't always see myself as the bold, uber-friendly heroines. However, I would LOVE to be their friend. I can get behind a heroine that could be my best friend.

Your heroine can make mistakes. She should make mistakes. If Elizabeth Bennet wasn't prejudiced, we wouldn't have a story. But, the important part is that even though Elizabeth has all the wrong ideas about Darcy, we still like her. We understand why she's sure that Darcy is a prideful snot, and we can see a bit of ourselves behaving that way too.

Keep this in mind while writing your character. The heroine is your reader. No one wants to think of themselves as rude or unkind. We all want to be Cinderella with animals that come rescue us because we are so damn awesome. She shouldn't be perfect, but she should be someone we want to be. Someone we would want to be friends with.

The main point here is that the heroine should be likable. We should want her to succeed. We need to feel that she deserves this chance at happiness.

As you write your heroine, make sure that she's always someone you'd want to have around. Even when she's sad and mopey because she's lost the love or her life, we should want to bring her ice cream. We can want to smack her upside the head, but we should want to do it because we love her and want what's best for her.

Not because she's annoying the crap out of us.

Your heroine should be someone you want to be or someone you want as your best friend.

Creating Characters

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Characters are what make the story. You have to have good characters or the story won't matter. We need to care about these people and what happens to them. I would bet your favorite movie has interesting characters that grow and change through the story.

Boring people don't sell books. We all know too many boring people in real life. We want a chance to escape into a more interesting world for a while. That's why billionaires, princes, aliens, shifters, pirates, historical, and motorcycle clubs are all popular genres. We want something new and original in our lives.

The best part is that you don't have to come up with a brand new character all on your own. You already have hundreds of them in your head.

Think of your favorite movie. I'm guessing you have a favorite character. They probably have something interesting about them. They probably have someone that they interact with that is interesting too. There is a relationship that makes it fun to watch. The way they react to problems speaks to you.

You can have a Mary Sue (someone with no real characteristics) as a main character, but only for self insertion. Think of Twilight- most people don't really love Bella, but we can easily insert ourselves into her head. She's a blank character. If we were reading this from someone other than Bella or Edward's point of view, we wouldn't see why Edward is so enamored with this very normal/boring girl. She could use a little more humor. Or a hobby. Or something that makes her stand out more than just she smells really delicious. We can't love her based on looks/scent/can't read her thoughts alone. We need to like HER. Not her attributes.

Being pretty isn't enough. Being handsome isn't enough. We need some flaws. We need something that we can connect with.

Let's create a character for a book. Let's call him Joe.

Joe is prince charming. He's handsome. He's rich. He's in the perfect age range.

Do we actually like Joe? Would you talk to him at a party? Would you set him up on a blind date with your sister? What kind of date would they go on?

We need more. He can be handsome. He can be smart, but we need to show that intelligence, not just say it. Instead of “Joe was smart” we need to say “Joe sped through his advanced physics homework. He didn't even need a calculator.” We should also clarify if he's book smart or street smart.

Then we need a flaw. It doesn't have to be something terrible, but something that trips them up. For Aladdin, he is a street rat with too much confidence. For Thor, he's not all that bright sometimes. Loki is self-centered and a trickster. Edward Cullen likes blood. Mr. Darcy has way too much pride.

These flaws make the story much easier. Why can't Mr. Darcy find love? He's got too much pride.

It makes the character relate-able. If the character is too perfect, we can't put ourselves in their shoes. We don't care about them. The Stepford Wives are only interesting as plot devices, not as characters.

Your hero and your heroine both need a flaw. If their flaws clash, even better. Your hero has too much pride? Your heroine having some prejudice against prideful people is great. We have drama.

In creating characters, use what you know. Is there a friend that you adore? Can't stand? Why do you feel that way? Take them and make them a character.

Same with TV shows. Do you LOVE Dr. McSteamy? Why? What makes him real to you? He's kind of an ass, but there's something charming about him. Use that.

There are so many amazing characters out there. Use literature (Pride and Predjudice), TV (Grey's Anatomy), Movies (Disney Princesses) and make them your own. Make Disney's Mulan meet Mr. Darcy, but they're on an alien spaceship. Maybe Arya Stark should have a meeting with Marvel's Loki, but they're both high powered business lawyers.

Imagine the possibilities!

Working on Your Writing Brain

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Story Plot Exercises

You have this idea for a book, but something is missing. Or maybe you're stuck on a plot point.

What do you do?

The best thing an author can do is watch TV and dissect the plot and characters. Asking why a plot is working and how the writers did that, or if it isn't working, the things the writers can do to fix it will build your storytelling muscles in no time. The best part is you can do this with any show. It doesn't have to be a romantic movie- any story will help you become a better story-teller.

I play this game all the time with my husband with our kids' movies since we have to watch them nine million times.

For example, Frozen. It's a great movie and it's made billions of dollars. It's not a traditional romance, but we can still learn a lot about it.

The main criticism of the movie's plot is how out of the blue Hans' transformation to bad guy is. In the movie's commentary, the original story had Elsa being the villain, but the song was just too good and they changed the story around. Knowing that, it's easy to see why he has such a abrupt change of personality. They morphed him into the bad guy rather than making him the bad guy from the beginning.

So, how do we fix it?

My plan: Hans needs to show more uncaring characteristics earlier on. The gloves theory (he's wearing gloves while professing his love to Anna and thus doesn't mean it) is weak. We need a clearer hint. Perhaps during the meeting with Elsa, he says, “when I'm king…” and Elsa corrects him that he'd still be a prince. He can smile and brush it off. But, the audience would have the hint that he wants more.

He can say something again while handing out blankets. “When I'm your ruler, things like this won't happen.” The people can smile and cheer, and Anna can be happy she has a strong man to help her. She doesn't have to see anything wrong with this statement.

Also, when he's interrogating Elsa in the dungeon, he could try and woo her a little bit. This would make it a lot easier to hate him, and make it more believable that he'd do anything to be king. It also makes his feelings for Anna, or rather the lack of them, make more sense.

The audience LOVES to figure out the clues to a puzzle. That's why mysteries are so popular. That feeling of “I KNEW IT!” is super powerful and motivating. We want to keep the story going to see if we're right. It's important to give hints and clues so that the A-ha! Moment can happen. Plus, if you do it well, you'll get a re-read. How many people watched The Sixth Sense at least twice? You don't have to have a huge twist, but making the reader/viewer feel smart for figuring it out will definitely make your book more enjoyable to them.

How do you then incorporate this into your story?

-Make sure you're characters decisions make sense. They don't have to be rational (who in their right mind goes and looks for the scary noise without calling the cops?) but it does have to be believable.

-Use inspiration from other stories. That CSI episode might give you a great idea for why your character needs to go to Vegas. Use your favorite TV shows to fuel your brain. Don't just consume the show blindly- analyze them. Why is this show entertaining to you? What's the story that's got you invested? Put that in your book, or use it as a motivation elsewhere.

So, go watch some TV 🙂 It's not totally part of your writing process.

Tips on Being a Romance Writer

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I'm going to start a new blog series:

Tips on being a Romance Writer!

I might come up with a more exciting title, but for now it's pretty explanatory. I'm a romance writer and I'm going to explain how I do what I do.

This will be great for those looking into writing a romance novel or even those who already are in the business. I know I'm always learning new things from other authors!

So, stay tuned for a new post every Friday!