Shaking My Head At Myself

Shaking My Head At Myself

I belong to several Facebook groups for fiction writers, I’m not going to tell you which are my favorites, but suffice to say I have a couple that I read several times a day. During the last couple of months several strange things have happened in a few of the groups I belong to. One group closed completely after the owner of the page received threats of physical violence toward not only him, but his family. Seriously? What is wrong with people, not just writers, but all people? How is it that they think it’s okay to threaten a man’s family because they disagree with the writing advice he shares? I’d also like to point out that this man is a college professor and was giving the information for FREE! Now thanks to this person, he is refusing to do it because…shock of shocks…he needs to keep his family safe from harm. I don’t blame him.giphy.gif

Another group that I’m in is having issues with one of the group’s two moderators being accused of favoritism when it came to their choices for an anthology. It eventually culminated in the moderator explaining the acceptance process, including why his EIGHT-YEAR-OLD daughter was allowed to put a 300 word story in the back of the book supposedly taking a spot from a “real” writer. Below is my reaction to this situation.

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Then I got angry. Here is a person that is publishing an anthology from members of this group. An anthology that had strict requirements for length and quality. After all the stories had been chosen. Then, and only then, did they ask the authors who contributed to the anthology if it would be okay for the girl to add her story. It was put to a vote and the girl’s story was added, all three hundred words of it. What is so wrong in this world of writers that someone felt it was okay to A.) take it to another group where the moderator was unable to defend himself, and B.) to attack a little girl who dreams of being a writer? A dream that we, as writers, should be nurturing not getting butt hurt because our little story didn’t make it in to the anthology.giphy (2).gif

Finally, in a third group I belong to, several of the members started complaining about the level of emails they were receiving from the email list they voluntarily chose to join. This is the one that bugged me the most, probably because it was in my favorite group. These complaints have gone on for several days and today I had enough of the whining. I spoke up, basically attacking someone for being stupid. Yep, I violated my own rules and got involved in trolling (I’m a horrible person). Yes, people were receiving a large amount of emails, but they have the option to unsubscribe…Hell they can choose to delete them on sight if they wish. For the life of me I couldn’t understand the problem with 3 or 4 emails a day when the person who runs the list specifically stated it was only for a 2 week period. Then the person posted screen shots of the HUGE amount of emails they had received. My bad. But trust me, it gets worse. The person running the list sent me a message asking about the three emails I received. It turns out I wasn’t supposed to receive that many, so I promptly go to my inbox and find out that I didn’t receive 3 as had stated, but 2. I misread the name of the sender on the third one…oops.


Of course being my typical INFJ self, I immediately apologized to the person I had just attacked on Facebook. The person running the email list learned that there was a problem with the emails being sent out and immediately fixed the problem. Here’s the best part, she sent a mass email to all of her subscribers apologizing…oh the irony.

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So here’s my question why do we writers think it is okay to start tearing down those who go above and beyond the norm? Why is it okay to tear down those who are more successful, have a bigger email subscriber list, or who, out of the goodness of their own hearts, attempt to lift up a fellow writer? Why don’t we live the lives we claim we want to live?

V. L. Cooke

P.S. I’d apologize for all the gifs, but I was having a little fun with them. If you don’t like them I’d apologize, but I’m going to dance instead.

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The First Thirty Days

The First Thirty Days

For those who don’t already know, I self-published my novel. When I started this blog, my intention was to share the ups and downs with my readers. If you’ve read my post on the cost of self-publication, then you know I don’t account for every expense. Nor do I expect to make a fortune. My financial goal has always been to make back what I’ve spent out of pocket so I could spend it on the next one.

Recently, someone asked me how it felt being a “published author” and what I was planning on doing with my “buckets of money”. I feel it should be put somewhere on my permanent record that I kept my snarky-self under control, and I didn’t throat punch them. Rather than assault, I said that I loved my book being available for people to read and hopefully love my characters as much as I do, and that when I earn buckets of money I’ll let them know what I plan on doing with it. Then the person told me that they looked my book up on Amazon and felt my price was too high and would I be willing to give them a copy? Really?

It has been thirty days since Golden Opportunity went live, via self-publication at Amazon. I thought I would share with you all the sales and “buckets of money” I’ve made in the last thirty days. Are you ready?

date ebook/paid paperback KENP pages ebook/free
12-Sep 0 0 0 0
13-Sep 3 1 128 0
14-Sep 2 1 161 0
15-Sep 3 1 110 0
16-Sep 0 0 404 0
17-Sep 0 0 0 0
18-Sep 0 0 0 0
19-Sep 0 0 0 0
20-Sep 0 0 0 0
21-Sep 0 0 424 39
22-Sep 0 0 0 25
23-Sep 0 0 0 48
24-Sep 0 0 0 49
25-Sep 0 0 0 25
26-Sep 0 0 0 1
27-Sep 0 0 0 0
28-Sep 0 0 14 0
29-Sep 0 0 0 0
30-Sep 0 0 152 0
1-Oct 0 0 75 0
2-Oct 0 0 72 0
3-Oct 0 0 90 0
4-Oct 0 0 577 0
5-Oct 0 0 0 0
6-Oct 0 0 354 0
7-Oct 1 0 0 0
8-Oct 0 0 0 0
9-Oct 0 0 219 0
10-Oct 0 0 254 0
11-Oct 0 1 0 0
12-Oct 0 0 0 0
Totals 9 4 3034 187
Royalties 25.76 * 12.40 13.65 ** 0 *** 51.81


There are my buckets of money. $51.81 is what my book made in its first thirty days. I’m happy with what it’s done so far. I haven’t advertised because I can’t afford it right now. Maybe after book two is ready advertising will be a little less of a financial burden. Right now, I’m more focused on things like utilities, groceries, and the holidays.

I did change my price from $4.99 for the ebook to $2.99, but I refuse to lower the print version from its current price. I think $9.99 is not too much to pay for a physical book by any author, and really what’s $9.99 in the grand scheme of life? You can’t buy a ticket to a movie for less than ten dollars at most movie theaters anymore, you could get a couple of drinks from your local Starbucks, or a meal at a fast food restaurant. Me? I’d rather cook at home and read a book.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, someone read Golden Opportunity and gave it a five-star review on Amazon. When I saw it I screamed like a tween girl at a Justin Bieber concert. The review is the reason I’m a self-published author. To whomever wrote that review, thank you. I hope you’ll read book two and still love my girl and her dragon. Big changes are coming to my world.

V. L. Cooke

* – the royalties after exchange for currency other than USD has been applied.

** – amount based on the last per page payment for KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) read on Kindle Unlimited and via Kindle Lending from Amazon from the Global Fund and is not accurate as of 10/11/2016.

*** – Free promotion provided as part of the Kindle Select enrollment and available every ninety days of enrollment. Royalties are based on the price paid for the book, thus no royalties for these books.

Author Branding 101 – Blogging

Author Branding 101 – Blogging

So we’ve discussed branding, social media, a few things you want to avoid as part of your brand, and building a blog, now we’re up to the big lesson…blogging. Most of the authors I know blog, the biggest issue is deciding what to blog about and how often to post. Let’s start with the basics.

When it comes to the topic of blog posts, stick to your brand. My brand is a self-published author sharing their experiences as a newbie to the self-publishing world with my readers. I share links to classes that I’ve taken, shared a breakdown of my costs, even discussed reviewing, beta readers, etc. I do this for those, who were like me a year ago, learning from the ground up. I fail and I share those. I discuss my books, NaNoWriMo, and more. I try to avoid anything too personal, but I’m about to start opening myself up to those who read my blog to help connect with my readers. I tend to be very reserved, but I’m trying to overcome this tendency for the next twelve months. I’m going to be doing NaNoWriMo in November and right now I’m plotting that book. I’m going to share this process with everyone in a series of posts. Whatever works for you and your brand then do it.

wishing-you-all-thehope-wonder-and-joy-that-the-season-can-bring-1Size – On the technical side of things try to keep your posts consistent. A great size is between 300 and 750 words. It reads fast, and since most of us are busy, time constraints figure into our lives.

Respect your readers – They are giving up their free time to read what you’re sharing and deserve respect.

Pick a schedule and try to stick to it – If you’re writing a multi-part series, try to remain consistent. Don’t follow my example. I screwed it up during this series.

Keep it visually interesting – Try to break up all the words with something to stimulate a person’s eyes. It means they will be more likely to read further.

Spell and grammar check – Try to have someone proofread, use spell check, and grammar check EVERY TIME YOU POST. Mistakes will get through; you can’t avoid it. I write my posts in Word, then I walk away. I have my sister read them, then I read them out loud, and amazingly mistakes still get through. Accept that you won’t be perfect, but fix them as soon as possible.

Most of all have fun! – Remember, to have fun. This is the face you share with the world and no one wants gloom and doom all the time. Yes, there will be some downers, but most people prefer a little light-hearted fun.

Homework – In the comments share your blog post. I promise to respond and follow anyone who links their blog to me. Good luck and happy blogging.

V. L. Cooke

Author Branding – Create Your Blog

Author Branding – Create Your Blog

Yes, I’m back. Last time I gave you homework to decide whether or not you’re going to blog and to choose a platform. I did this back in June and you’re looking at the results. Am I happy with it? No, like me it’s a perpetual work in progress some days it’s better than others. Will you be happy with yours? I hope so, but I doubt it. If you did the homework, you have an idea about your blog’s style and your brand, so let’s get to the grunt…er…fun work.

Blogging Basics – Where to begin? It’s what I have been building toward with the previous three posts. If you know your brand, by now you have a basic idea about what you want to put on your blog as a way of promoting your brand. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the behind the scenes stuff you need to do first, so let’s proceed.

Step 1 – Create your blog. Once you’ve chosen where you will host your blog you need to decide on a name. It can be as simple or as creative as you’d like, but remember this is your brand’s homepage. Try to make it all about you, your writing, and the topics you wish to share with the world. I believe that if this is your author homepage you’re going to want your name somewhere in the title. Also, this is where you’ll want to consider reserving a specific .com or .net name that matches your blog name at one of the hosting sites to make it easier for your fans to find your blog. Yes, this will cost money (notice I haven’t done it yet) but it is something you’ll want to consider. Once you’ve done that we move on to step two.

Step 2 – Pick a theme. This is not as easy as it sounds. If you’re like me, you want to go as cheap as you can until your presence grows, and you don’t want anything too distracting. Take the time to explore your options. Don’t feel like you have to choose the first one you see. I’ve changed themes on this blog four or five times and I finally have one I like. You need to do the same thing.

Step 3 – Pages/formatting. Obviously you’ll want a section for contacting the site author (you), you’ll want a section for your blog, probably one for your work, a page about you, and a home page as the very minimum number of main pages. However, there is no reason you have to stop there. For example, right now this post is housed on my blog page, but I want to make them easier for people to find when they visit. Thus. I use categories to make posts easier to find. If you click on “author branding” all three posts show together. I also chose not to use a static home page; I prefer people see the newest posts first. Whether or not you want to go a different route is your choice. Remember, this is your piece of the internet do what works best for you and your brand.

Step 4 – Once you have everything tweaked to perfection, when you’ve added your work on your page for work, filled out your bio, added you contact page, and the rest, then you’re ready to write your first blog post. This is where you’ll introduce your brand to the world. Try to make the post true to your brand. Also, keep your posts of a manageable size (this is one I fail at all the time) if you think you can write only once a week, because of real world time issue then don’t try to crank out 3,000 words stick to 750 – 1,000 words. Most readers don’t want exceptionally long posts anyway. Double check spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. If you link to another page, make sure that the link comes up in a separate tab. Also, if you cite information make sure to show your sources. Don’t ever declare something to be a fact without the ability to back it up. Finally, make sure to add graphics. They catch the reader’s eye and break up the monotony of the post. You can find free use images at and create graphics at Trust me, even a moron can do it because it’s what I use every single time and I’m a certified moron.

Step 6 – Make sure to cross post. WordPress allows you to do that from their user control panel. If you choose to use a different provider, you’ll have to learn to do it from their platform. The great thing is once its set up, you don’t have to worry about it.

Step 7 – Remember to respond to every comment, even the harsh ones. Thank the commenter for posting and keep the conversation flowing. Don’t get embroiled in a flame war because someone doesn’t agree with you. Accept it, thank them for the comment, and move on. Finally, remember that every time a person follows you, at your blog, Twitter, Google +, Facebook, etc. it is only polite to return the favor.

the-new-youStep 8 – Go to a company like Mail Chimp and create a subscriber mailing list. If you notice, mine pops up when you first log in. I use the mailing list to send updates about book events, releases, sales, and blog posts.

Homework – Create your blog and leave a link in the comments. I guarantee you’ll get at least one follower (me). Next time we’ll be discussing controversial topics and political ideology and why you should avoid it in your blog posts.

V. L. Cooke



Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen I’m still here and this post is all about etiquette/netiquette. As authors we live and breathe our brand every day. It’s important that we remember that once we’ve posted something on the internet it never truly goes away. So for this post I am going to give a few hypothetical situations and the good, bad, and ugly of possible responses. Some of these occurred to me on my personal page, some in various groups, some I witnessed but had no part in, what they are is examples of how we should behave when on social media and the potential implications of not learning to control our fingers.

Scenario 1 – Political Discourse – Don’t share controversial opinions on your author page, under your author twitter handle, etc. I understand that you have an opinion, but like all opinions there are people who are guaranteed to disagree and it can have a negative impact on you. I don’t care how much you despise (fill with whatever your major pet peeve is), walk away, take a few deep breaths, meditate, punch a wall if you have to, but whatever you do don’t write that post, tweet that tweet, etc. Remember every mistake you make online is magnified. Every typo, every sexist/racist/political comment, every joke that falls flat, they all exist in the ether and will come back to bite you in the end.

Scenario 2 – Trolling.  We all know what it is and what kind of drama it brings, but what do you do when you’re the target of trolls whether it be in writing forums, groups, or even reviews? Nothing. Take this saying to heart at all times when dealing with trolls. “Please don’t feed the animals”. Giving them a response is a validation of their behavior. Yes, ignoring them can make it worse, but try to always rise above and not stoop to their level. It is the only thing you can do. However, if someone is deliberately posting negative reviews via multiple profiles on a website (i.e. Amazon) you could always gather the proof you have and send it into the customer service abyss and hope for positive results. Remember that if the trolling gets to be too much for you, block the person and watch for sudden appearances of another troll when you’ve blocked the first. Keep a list of the names they use. You can always report them and hopefully it will stop problems even if only for a little while.

Scenario 3 – Review Swapping –  This is something I see a lot. I’ve had authors that I beta read for ask me to post reviews on Amazon and Good Reads for them. I’ve had authors offer to review my book if I’d post a review on theirs. This one is an entirely personal decision, but I will tell you how I decided to deal with this. If someone I beta read for asks me to leave a review and I intend to purchase the book to read the final copy, I will leave an honest review (notice I didn’t say a good review). I will do this only after I have purchased and read the book and I leave a review as a reader/customer not as a beta reader/friend. As for review swaps, I will never do it. First of all, it’s misleading the customer. Second, it’s dishonest because you don’t want to leave a bad review in case they decide to retaliate (see trolling). Third, it’s a mockery of the review system. Customers read those reviews and make decisions based on what is written. Giving great reviews when one isn’t deserved insults the reader and authors alike. That’s just my two cents.

the-new-youWhat should I do? In simplest terms, don’t do anything that will damage your reputation as an author and tarnish your brand. Don’t feed the trolls, don’t go on tirades about your opinions with regards to politics, religion, sexuality, race issues, etc. Make a decision about whether or not you’re going to do review swaps and stick to it, don’t make exceptions for friends. Most importantly remember that everything you do is very public and the person responsible for your brand is you. Don’t play the blame game, just accept that you will make mistakes and be ready to apologize.

Homework: Next post will be about blogging, what to post, how to post, and the etiquette of comments and follows. You might want to consider whether or not you are planning to blog and consider which platform you’re going to use. This homework is about experiencing the available options for blogging. It’s time to start getting your hands dirty, ladies and gentlemen. So get out there and explore the internet. Explore author pages in your genre see what works, what doesn’t,  and start to create a mental image of what you want on your page.