#241 – Romance Mastermind with Skye Warren

New York Times bestselling author Skye Warren joins us on the podcast this week. Skye has been an indie author for almost a decade and she tells us how her writing process and marketing strategy has changed throughout her career.

New York Times bestselling author Skye Warren joins us on the podcast this week. Skye has been an indie author for almost a decade, and she tells us how her writing process and marketing strategy has changed throughout her career. Skye is also the founder of the Romance Authors Mastermind and she tells us how RAM came to be and why RAM is so different from other author conferences.

  • Skye talks about the beginnings of her writing career as a traditional author, why she decided to go indie, and why that continues to be the right choice for her business
  • She tells us about Romance Author Mastermind and why she decided to start her own writing conference, she explains what RAM strives to achieve, and she tells us which guest speakers have stood out to her over the years
  • Skye discusses her marketing strategy and how it has changed throughout her career, why authors should be aware of all of their marketing options, and she explains why Facebook ads were such a gamechanger for her business
  • She talks about staying creative during a global health crisis and how she uses her writing to work through difficult emotions
  • Skye tells us about her writing process and explains why she tackles each project a bit differently
  • She talks about the evolution of her author brand throughout her career, why the freedom of indie publishing allows authors to better find their brand, and why one breakout series has dictated the look of her covers

Useful Links

Skye’s Website
Follow Skye on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
Private Property
Romance Author Mastermind
Lauren Blakely
Laurelin Paige
JR Ward
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Theodora Taylor
Schitt’s Creek
Book Bonanza 2022
RARE 2022

Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of dangerous romance. Her books have sold over one million copies. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, sweet dogs, and evil cat.

Episode Transcript

Transcription provided by SpeechPad

Stephanie: Hey, writers, you’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. We’re bringing you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Stephanie.

Joni: And I’m Joni.

Stephanie: This week on the podcast, we are talking to Skye Warren, who is a “New York Times” bestselling author of dangerous romance. Her books have sold over a million copies and have been translated into five different languages. And her latest book, “Private Property” is a “Jane Eyre” retelling that was released March 9th.

Joni: We’re really excited to talk to Skye as not only is she a very successful indie author herself, but she is also the creator behind the Romance Author Mastermind Conference, which takes place in Texas, obviously moved to online last year and I believe is going to be online again for 2021. This conference is focused on more established romance writers, and she likes to use it to highlight the voices of women writers. So, it’s a great conference. We were really interested to hear a little bit about that, a little bit of behind-the-scenes. And she also talked a lot about mental health and running a business and writing during a global health crisis. So, it is jam-packed. We’re excited for you to hear it.

Stephanie: And here it is. So, thank you, Skye, for joining us on the podcast today.

Skye: Thank you so much for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Stephanie: So, just to kick it off, can you tell our listeners a bit about yourself?

Skye: So, I write contemporary dangerous romance, which is kind of what I call, it dangerous. It’s steamy, suspenseful, and that’s what I love to read and write. I’ve been writing since…or publishing since late 2011. So, my husband who keeps track of dates really well, he’s like, “You’re coming up on 10 years.” He was like, “How do you feel?” I was like, “I don’t know.” This kind of feels like this is all I know how to do now because before this, I was in computer science and he kept thinking I would go back to it. And that would be very strange for me now.

Joni: Did you always want to self-publish?

Skye: No. I actually started a different pen name. I started what I thought was going to be my actual pen name that I worked with and had books published with a few different publishers. And then I was self-publishing kind of the stuff that I thought that content-wise, they would not like, it was a little bit like too, I mean, I guess dangerous would be the word. And I would publish that under this pen name, Skye Warren, and I didn’t do any promotion for it, it didn’t even start with a website or anything and people…I just made a Gmail for it, and then people would read the books and they would message me and be like, “Please make a Facebook page, make a website so I can keep up with it.” And it was just, sort of, fan-driven. Whereas my other opinion pen name that was with publishers, I was pushing so hard and I just wasn’t getting the traction compared to that. So, it took me a while to, sort of, switch my mindset where I was like, no, readers are telling me what they want. So, I just have to listen. And now I write solely under Skye Warren.

Stephanie: So, in addition to writing, you’re the founder of the Romance Author Mastermind Conference, which our coworker, Tara, has attended a few times and she describes it as one of the biggest and best romance conferences that she’s been to. What was the inspiration behind this event?

Skye; So, yeah, I’m so grateful that Tara and Kobo has sponsored and supported RAM. The response has been incredible. I wanted for a few years…So I was a member of RWA, which is Romance Writers of America, since I started writing. I went to my first national conference in 2012 and it was great. It was like a whole new world in 2012 when I went for the first time and learned everything. But then going back year after year, it was kind of similar content again and again. And, you know, and then I started as I grew more intermediate/advanced, you know, and I was talking with other authors and they were like, “Yeah, we do all of our learning at the bar, you know, and that’s why we go and we don’t really go to the workshops.” And, you know, and so, right from there, I just had this, you know, image of an event where you did all your learning in the classes, and then you got to meet at the bar and we would just chat.

And I wanted to do it for a long time. And then the first time I did it was in, let’s see, 2018. So, I had to plan it a year in advance. And I don’t have any background in event planning at all. So, that was the scary part, had to sign, you know, a big contract with the hotel. And I really just made it like my dream event. I was like, “What would I want?” And I was like, one of the things that I really want is to be as comfortable, and basically as well fed, as possible when I’m doing these conferences so that I can just focus on, you know, what I’m doing and not have to worry about like sometimes…oh, I mean, RWA is so huge and so are the other conferences, they just take over the hotels. So, there’s just this massive line at Starbucks.

And so, I’m always thinking, you know, what am I going to eat? And I’m also a vegetarian, so it’s a little bit stressful. Like, are they going to have stuff for me? And it was like, I just want to be so comfortable where that is all taken care of. And so, I looked around at a lot of hotels and I was like, “No… like the Four Seasons, this is what I want.” And so, I had to sign with them before I really knew if I would sell a single ticket. And now that we’re actually booking for our fourth year and we’ve sold out every year, that seems like obvious. Like, it doesn’t seem like a real scare, but I mean, at the time when I’m signing, you know, this contract and we really had never sold a single ticket, I didn’t know people would want this, you know, because it is at the Four Seasons it is certainly more expensive than some of the other ones.

I also, from outset…you know, I think that one of the reasons why other conferences struggle to get high-value content is that it’s based on who’s coming already and would you be willing to spend just an hour of your time coming in to talk and not necessarily put a lot of time into the presentation, not necessarily share, like, your secrets, that kind of thing. And so, it was very important to me from the outset that we invite speakers that we want to speak, it has nothing to do with who was already attending, and also that we pay their way. And so all of those things, you know, having a really great hotel and having…I mean, we [inaudible 00:07:01] them multiple times and having, you know, where we pay the speakers right, that the cost would be elevated. And so, but I was just like, “This is what I personally want from a conference.”

And that’s, sort of, how I think books have worked for me, you know, like the books that I would write in my style would be books that I most wanted to read. And so, you know, I found that like readers responded to that and luckily enough, other authors also responded to this idea of like what I would want from the conference. So, what sets it apart is that it is only for intermediate and advanced level authors. The focus is on romance authors. We have had other authors attend and even speak where they write in other genres. So, we do allow that, but you do have to have a certain number of books published to even be considered for an invite. And that just keeps the standard high. You’re not going to get to the Q&A and have people raising their hand and, you know, asking intro questions. So, yeah.

Stephanie: Was there any speaker that you had that you were really excited about, or like what have been some standout presentations you’ve seen at the conference?

Skye: So, there are usually…you know, one of the other things that we do better is that because we focus so much on creating great content, it’s actually a single-track conference, so everyone attends the same talk. So, there’s no, like, picking, you don’t have to decide, oh, do I want to miss this, or whatever, you don’t want to have to miss anything.

Joni: I like that.

Skye: It elevates the conversations outside of the conference. So like…or starting outside of the session. So everybody, because you’ve been to the same session, so at another conference, you might be catching like, “What did you go to? Was that good or whatever?” And now you can just use that session as a jumping-off point for your conversation and say, “Okay, what did you think about what she said?” And then, you know, and the conversation is like that.

I mean, I really, because I created this as my dream conference, really every single speaker who has come has been because I brainstorm who would I love to see speak? So, like, I can’t say that I…you know, I mean, they’re all because I picked them because I love them, but some standouts that fans or, you know, attendees have just commented again and again is Lauren Blakely, C.D. Rice, Whitney G., they were in the first year. Laureline Paige was great. And then in this previous, it was a digital conference that we just did in 2020, we had J.R. Ward, we had Jennifer Armentrout. There was a great talk about Theodora Taylor…or by Theodora Taylor who talked about universal themes, which is like an interesting way to think about like, sort of, tropes and things like that. And so, everyone just loved that one. And because it was digital, people did get to rewatch them, which was, you know, some people even preferred the digital format because of that.

Joni: That’s awesome. And one of the things that Tara mentioned is that you make a big effort to uplift women writers and women generally at the conferences that you only have women speaking. Is that right? How do you think that the indie landscape has changed publishing and opportunities for women?

Skye: Yeah, I mean, that was one of my…you know, and I don’t mean to, like I was a member at RWA for a very long time and only recently lapsed my membership because of some of the other issues that they were facing, you know, but the fact is, you know, sexism exists in every industry. I mean, when I was in computer science, I was really…you know, the company that I worked for, the only other women who worked there were in HR and secretaries. And so it was great for me to go to enter the romance genre publishing, and there are so many women. But still, even in that situation, you know, whenever, you know, sort of, men can still get that preferential treatment to be speakers. RWA will have, you know, these massive sellers, those sort of, I mean, relatively unappreciated, I think.

And then, you know, sort of, a man who, I mean, by the numbers, sells less, giving these advanced level…paid to talk. So, they would, sort of, pay the men to come and speak to us while the women would be like, “Well, if you want to do it for free, you can do it.” And, you know, there’s just a lot of examples of that, of, you know, certain topics like, you know, two lawyers work on the [inaudible 00:11:33] case and the person who was invited to speak was the man on that team and not, you know, the woman and just situations like that. And so, you know, what I love about the romance genre is that it is primarily written by women for women. And we really wanted an event that would just celebrate that. And so, because you only invite women to speak and we absolutely allow men to come and attend, you know, in particular, we appreciate when, you know, men who write MM romance [inaudible 00:12:04] you know, so they’re absolutely welcome to attend, but it’s going to be, you know, in the audience.

Stephanie: You mentioned earlier that you kind of adjusted your writing based on the feedback you were getting from your readers. So, I’m just wondering, how do you incorporate kind of their ideas or inspiration or what they want to see from you next and then into your own plans that you have for what you want to write, if you do that even?

Skye: I definitely like to explore. With my writing, I like to explore something, sort of, a new take on every book, like a new, sort of, taboo or a new, sort of, kink, or a new, sort of, angle. So like, my next book that’s coming out is “Private Property” and it’s a “Jane Eyre” retelling. So, it’s got like the brooding billionaire nanny, it’s a modern take, you know. And so, I need that, like, creatively something new to explore. But, you know, I mean, I think my readers definitely constantly looking for an edge and I think that, I mean, it’s a fine line because I think like, you know, with Apple saying that Steve Jobs quote, you know, I mean, they aren’t necessarily going to ask you for what they want. You kind of have to see what sells and be like, you know, I just really think about it and like, what can I deliver that will feel new, the same but different is something we talk about a lot, like same but different like for covers again.

They want it to be close but still feel fresh. And I don’t know if there’s really like a good formula for that, but one of the things that I have noticed, like just in talking like with my friends as well, and my author friends, is that when we’re like going through ideas, let’s say, especially back when we can have writing retreats and we would go to their ideas and, you know, they’d be like, “Well, I could write this,” and they’d talk about it. And then later, “I can write this,” and they say, “or…” and they, sort of, light up and just start talking about it. That’s the idea. That’s always the idea because your passion is going to come through so much stronger. So, I tried to look for that when I write as well. Even if it is a little bit off-brand, not too far, but I just have to feel that excitement, that, like, lit-up feeling.

Stephanie: And I’m curious on, kind of, your marketing strategy, has it changed over the past 10 years or have you, kind of, continued and you’ve found what works the best for you in getting…in enticing readers to read your books?

Skye: I guess this also ties into your previous question because what I do want to say though, is when I think about what readers want, the first thing that I will do is I will open up like book report or tracking box that has my sales numbers. And I will look at the spikes and the sales of each. And so, when I think about what readers want, I’m looking at sales numbers, I’m not looking at, maybe I posted my Facebook group, “What do you guys want me to read next?” I mean, I can ask…or write next. I mean, I can ask that question, but that’s not what I’m really taking as data. I’m taking the sales numbers as data of what they really want.

Marketing-wise, you know, I started doing Facebook ads in the very beginning, I think in 2015 and it really completely changed my business. Like, I, before then was, you know, just very much…I was basically not making as much as I was, you know, when I was a programmer, the dips between releases would be so low that I would really worry about them. And then I would start to…you know, the negative part about that is you start to feel stressed, like maybe I should write faster because then there won’t be as much dips, you know. And so advertising, in general, but Facebook ads in particular definitely changed both my writing experience, I mean, and honestly, my life. Like, I went from like a low, like, you know, sort of, five figures or mid-five figures and now making six and seven figures and writing less than I did then.

So, you know, because if you can keep the ads running and making…you know, doubling your money, then you can write less and you can, sort of, relax that speed and have less pressure on yourself artistically and just have more time to buy the books that you really want, have more flexibility to take a little bit of creative risk on your series that, you know, you weren’t sure it’s going to go well. And so, yeah, I also actually do run a Facebook ads course, or at least I’ve run it two or three times before. I might do it again later this year, but, you know. And again, that’s one of the big topics that we cover at RAM and one of the reasons why I wanted to cover it, you know, because I think that a lot of authors really even when they are “advanced,” they might have…you know, sometimes you have career authors who’ve been writing for 30 years and have this huge backlist but it isn’t moving and they don’t necessarily know how to get it moving beyond BookBub.

And that was one of the hard parts because…So I love BookBub, but I was actually also…I use them for everything, I do feature deals, I do pre-orders, I do ads. I do all of the things with them and they’re also a great sponsor of RAM. But I would see in these Facebook groups where authors would be like, “Yeah, my only marketing strategy is to go to BookBub.” And then the worst part is that, you know, six months later or a year later, they’re saying, “Hey, BookBub won’t approve me for anything.”

So like, that’s their whole marketing strategy, and now it’s gone. And so, my whole idea with the Facebook ads class and with RAM is like, let’s build ourselves this dashboard. And I, sort of, envisioned this, sort of, like a spaceship, you know, dashboard where there’s all these buttons and levers, like let’s build this marketing dashboard for us where we have all of these levers and you don’t have to use them all at one time, certainly, but you can have them available to you. And so that way, you know, if you aren’t getting traction on your ads, or if you aren’t getting a BookBub deal, you have something that you can go to, you know, and you’re not just taking a nosedive with your sales.

Joni: So, leading on a little bit from what you said earlier, I think that the unpredictable income of a writer, especially when you’re starting out, I imagine can have quite an impact on your creativity and your ability to just relax and write. And it takes a little bit of security to feel like you can be creative, right? And we wondered how do you find, or do you have any strategies for coping with that? And the same, kind of, goes with everything that happened last year and it’s still happening with the pandemic and everything else. I think a lot of people have struggled to be creative.

Skye: Yeah. You know, I think one of the things when I started my business, or when I started writing and publishing, I did have a PayPal account that was kind of like my business account, but the money which was into my personal account, like, you know, just with my husband and everything. And then sometimes I’d have to pull money out to pay for a big editing job or something like that. And, you know, and at some point, he was like, “You should really be writing this out of like a business bank account. You should get a business bank account.” I really resisted because, you know, probably, well, for one thing, I mean, you have to walk into a bank and who wants to do that? But, you know, so I resisted and he was like, just, you know, “You gotta do it, you gotta do it.”

And so, I do it, and you transfer over…So like, Amazon and Kobo and everything is now depositing into my business bank account. And then like a few months later, I just…like, you know, two months later, he’s like, “Hey, are you going to put anything into our personal account because you haven’t done that?” And it just kind of was a wake-up call for me to not treat everything that my books make as personal income. That, yes, I can move money into our personal account, obviously did at that time. But I realized, but I didn’t have to put 100% of it. You know, I could hold stuff back, you know, I mean, one of the things…and I do understand this completely. But, you know, when people think about doing my Facebook ads class, or when people think about doing RAM, you know, one of the things is they, kind of, need to ask their husbands or their spouses about big spends.

And, you know, everyone runs their business differently. Sometimes their spouses are involved, but, you know, for me, I just want to say, as the CEO of your business, you can choose to make this expense and, you know, maybe save up, have some money sitting there, you know, spend on ads and things. And, you know, particularly ads, it’s something that would be very hard to ask every, sort of, week if you’re running continual ads. So, you know, just, you know, your business makes money and keep some of that money and pay some of that to you. It can be hard to face if you are like, “You know, I wanted tthis amount and I, sort of, needed it to live,” but it’s also a more realistic way to look at what your business can earn you and still grow.

Oh, and then the pandemic. Yes. I mean, it’s so, so, so hard. We were chatting about this, but it’s…well, I live in Texas and we just had the blackouts. We lost power for a little while, we lost water for a little while. We also had a scare where we had a fireplace on in our bedroom and woke up in the middle of the night with a carbon monoxide alarm. And so on the one hand, it’s been hard to really, sort of, complain or take it seriously as a major issue because we’re sitting here in our house, relatively comfortable, relatively safe, other people in Texas had it worse, you know, much more days without power or water. But on the other hand, you know, it’s like, my son is going through some…you know, and me as well, just, you know, it’ll keep coming up like, wow, if we didn’t have that carbon monoxide alarm, like, we wouldn’t have woken up.

And it’s like you’re experiencing trauma, but nothing…you know, part of you says nothing traumatric happened to you, just get over it, but you actually did experience trauma and you have all this fear and adrenaline and stress response in your body because of it and how similar that is to the pandemic itself because, you know, we can’t leave home or when we do leave home, we’re afraid of, you know, catching something or getting too close to people. And that, sort of, constant vigilance really weighs on us. And it’s kind of like the hierarchy of needs. Who’s the guy who did that?

Joni: I don’t know, but I know what you’re talking about.

Stephanie: I’m going to google it right now.

Joni: And basically, you need enough food and water and shelter…

Stephanie: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Skye: Maslow’s. Yeah. And so, you know, we’re living in that space. So on the one hand, we’re like, this doesn’t look like trauma. We’re not being attacked by a bear, you know, we’re not, you know, in that, sort of, way, but we are still thinking about survival. And so, we’re at that level of needs where we’re thinking about survival and not, you know…and so, those needs aren’t being met. It’s just very hard to get creative. You know, I think creativity is such a nebulous thing. And I don’t know if I can provide good advice because everyone is so different, but I will say for me, what…you know, especially with the kind of fiction that I write, which is, like I said, it’s sexy, it’s suspenseful, and emotional and all of these things is that when there’s something bothering me or something I’m afraid of is that I actually lean into it with my fiction.

So, you know, if I’m worried about like, you know, death, like that’s going to come up in the book that I’m writing, or grief, you know, and not living in that fear and all of those emotions are going to come out in whatever I’m writing, sometimes in a more literal way, sometimes more figuratively, you know, that is what works for me. And I think because that’s the way that I’ve always written, like it’s always been the stories that I’m, sort of, burning to tell, which is based on sort of things that have happened to me. I think there are writers who go the opposite. Like, this is so heavy. I want to write something like fun and light and frothy that will just totally distract me. And I think there’s totally nothing wrong with that. It’s just been my experience that when I do that, because of the way that I do it, those books don’t sell, like readers feel that my heart is not in it. So, yeah. That’s just been my experience. And so that is how I approach, you know, I’m thinking to myself, like I’m too stressed out about the carbon monoxide alarm going off to write. Like, you know, I’m just going to sit down and I’m going to be like, how do I want to put this into the book? Because that’s what I’m going to write about right now.

Stephanie: I’m curious about what your writing process is like, are you like an outliner? Do you just kind of go with the flow? How do you approach writing?

Skye: I’m mostly a pantser, but I have recently started outlining, which is interesting. I don’t know if it’ll stick. You know, every book feels different. Like, sometimes I will write them out of order. Sometimes I’ll write a lot of it on paper, you know, sometimes I’ll outline, sometimes I won’t. But in the case of this novella I’m writing right now, sometimes I’ll write like a fourth of it and then decide that that is wrong and trash it and start over. So, I wouldn’t say that I have a really good repeatable process. I think that writing a book is…I call it an act of faith because as soon as I have finished a book, and as happy and accomplished as I feel, I think to myself that it was so hard, I don’t think I’m ever going to do it again.

And, you know, and I’ll go to my husband at various points while I’m writing a book and I’ll be like, “Babe, I don’t think this one’s going to happen. Like, I really don’t think.” I was like, “Look at this deadline. I’m not writing, not moving forward.” He’s just like, he’s so over it. And he’s like, “You say this every time.” And I’m like, “No, but this time I’m serious.” Yeah. So, it just feels like an act of faith because, you know, putting down one word and thinking I’m going to have, you know, 50,000 more of these, it just, sort of, feels almost impossible to me, but then somehow it happens every time.

Stephanie: I guess this kind of leads into the next question that we have. We kind of ask this to, we call them veteran authors, but like who’ve been writing for a while. But what’s one piece of advice that you’d give yourself if you could talk to baby author you back in 2011?

Skye: Oh, gosh. I’d probably say, back in 2011, I mean, you know, it’s hard because like you probably wouldn’t listen to yourself.

Stephanie: Of course not.

Skye: You have to experience it, right? But, I mean, I think that for me really, you know, working with publishers was not a super great use of my time. Like, really, it took almost more time to, sort of, work with them than to do things myself. Not only do you make less on each book obviously, but I also sold less on those books. So, you know, even now there’s still a struggle, like the price will drop and there’s no communication, you know, and I’m just like, you know, I mean, it’s something that I wanted to work and then it didn’t, I think I could have told myself. But even when I see like baby authors in groups in that situation, you know, and they’re like, “Oh, I had a couple good, you know, self-publishers, that kind of thing. I would like a deal.” I mean, I don’t bother telling them anything. Like they have to try it and then…you know, and I mean, obviously, for a few people it works out. But for a lot of people, it doesn’t, and I’m like, they just have to try it. You know, me saying it, it’s just…you know, I mean, it wouldn’t…I don’t even know. I wouldn’t even listen to stuff that like…it looks so amazing from the outside.

Joni: I think a lot of it is probably just like the verification of having someone else say it’s good, right? I think that’s what it really comes down to because I think the evidence is abundant that self-publishing is better in terms of running your own business and all of those things, but I guess it’s kind of an imposter syndrome type thing.

Skye: Yeah. That is definitely part of it, feeling like, you know, you got accepted. You know, and then you see those few authors who are so successful and you think that could be me or something like that. And, you know, obviously, there’s also the job being on bookshelves though that has, sort of, evaporated now that we can’t go out. But, yeah. Now I think you just have to do it. And I mean, I’m not even saying I would never take a deal again, but I just think there’s really a disconnect and some people really cheat. Well, I think it’s, you know, I struggle with that because I think it’s almost become like cool to say I hate marketing as an author, like it’s, sort of, proof that you are a true artistic soul because you don’t like, you know, the whole selling business. But the way that I like to think about marketing and the way that I teach it when I have a class or anything like that is that marketing is storytelling.

And it’s one of the big reasons why it’s very hard to outsource because you can find someone who knows how to, like, literally create an ad in Facebook and change the text or whatever, but you cannot find someone who can find…who knows how to write. I mean, it’s writing copy, it’s writing a version of that blurb that will sell the book and creating an image that appeals to the…as Jennifer Lynn Barnes said with the id, you know, what it is about this story that makes people need to click and click right now. So, marketing is storytelling. And from that standpoint, you know, every great marketer is highly creative and there is no one who can be more creative about your books than you.

Stephanie: We’ve been talking to a lot of authors recently. And a lot of them say that you keep updating your synopsis to, like, get it new attention and new search engines. But like, you don’t have that ability when it’s a publisher because from like a working on a bookstore side, they maybe update that once, if that, maybe if you get a new cover four years from now, so that, like, updating makes a big difference and I feel like publishers aren’t able to do that.

Skye: That’s part of the upside of ads is, I mean, the big part, you know, and this is the part that most people think about, is that you’re driving traffic to your book and that traffic can converge. But the other part, which I think is really important as well is that, you know, one of the first ways I’ll start creating ads is by pulling out pieces of the blurb and putting it as text. And then I’ll say, “Okay, that performed however it did, let me try this new text.” And I tried a new text, if that performs better, if that sells the book better, why shouldn’t that be on a sales page? So then I’ll move it to the sales page and, you know, and again, for covers, it can be that way too.

It’s so simple to, you know, task…and I’ve had covers where you get so much praise, you know, you get people being like, “I love this cover.” People will message you and be like, “I love this cover.” And then you actually run it in tests and it doesn’t click, you know, the clicking isn’t there. And I’m like, it doesn’t matter. You know, I do want to love my covers but, you know, but it doesn’t matter if I get messages from people saying that they love the cover if I’m losing half the sales, every time they go to the sales page and they say, “I don’t like, you know, this book cover as much. “

So yeah, it’s just being able to be really agile and can change when…which is another reason why doing Facebook ads yourself makes the most sense because you actually see that. You know, it’s one thing, again, like it’s hard to be told things. You know, it’s easy for a PR person to come in and be like, “Oh, I don’t like this cover.” And I’ll be like, “Well, but I did like this cover, and also my friends like this cover. So, there.” But once you see the actual data, you know, like half the people, you know, see this cover and leave compared to this other cover and you’re just like, wow, wow. So, I’m losing half of my sales by choosing this cover that me and my friends like. And so, it really just shows you rather than tells you what’s going on.

Joni: That’s actually really interesting. You would think that the one that people love is the one that they click on, but yeah.

Skye: Yeah. I mean sometimes, I think it’s…well, I mean for one thing, it’s like there’s an artistic angle. Like, if the artistry is really good, even for something simple like a man chest cover, if the artistry is better, people will like it. People will say, “Oh, I love this cover because it looks better than a very clean man chest cover or something like that. The other thing they tend to say is…this is why you should never ask any sort of group of readers which cover you like best is because they tend to say covers that look outside of your genre look better because they’re so bored of them. If someone has 500 man chest covers on their Kindle and they see an object cover…this is just an example because object covers actually work really well for me. But they see an object cover and they’re like, “Oh, that’s so great. It’s so original. It’s so interesting.”

But in reality, if they have 500 man chest covers on their Kindle, that means that’s what they clicked. And so, the other thing is that readers will be…much more of your readers are much more likely to say they prefer whatever you had before, just because that’s how they found you, that’s why they…you know. So this is why, you know, I like the data I was looking at, what do new readers click on, what do they buy is really, you know, what I want to put on my book going forward.

Stephanie: I guess that, kind of, goes with your brand, right? You’ve settled on a brand. Has your brand changed over the course of 10 years or have you, kind of, maybe adjusted it here and there?

Skye: Funny because object covers do work really well for me. And it does depend a lot on object covers. I will try so many objects. It’s not just…you know, like it almost seems easy. Like, oh, you’re just going to put a feather. You’re going to put a violin, you’re going to…and you’re just like, there’s a million pictures of that, but they’re not…a million pictures are not going to perform well. So, it does take a lot of work to get to good object covers. But I mean, sometimes it’s frustrating just because I’ll follow these really great photographers and I’ll be like, “Oh my God, he’s like super hot.” And then the pictures actually cost so much and I have paid…like, for “Diamond in the Rough,” right now he’s on there. But I paid like $3,500 for his picture, which is the most I’d ever paid for a picture. But I was like, he is just…But this is the problem with authors, you know, I’m like, “That just looks exactly like the character. I mean, yeah, he’s hot, but yeah, and it was exactly like the character.”

Stephanie: It’s a great cover.

Skye: And so, I got that. And then when my friend was like, “I don’t know if this matches the style of the book that you’re writing.” And sure enough, I tested it against…I mean, I did try a lot of different covers, but I mean, you know, I ended up putting a deposit photos cover that probably cost me like, you know, $1 or $2 of images put together and it performed better. So, I launched with that cover and then my PR person is insisting that this cover…but I mean, it’s actually good for…you know, I can use the object cover for a while and then I can use the person cover for a while and people can be attracted to whatever they like. And, you know, the book stays the same, but they discover it different ways. Yeah. She was like, “This guy, you have to, he so hot.” I was like, “Fine. Fine.”

But yeah, object covers just consistently perform better for me. You know, it may be because, sort of, my…I think every author has breakout books, but like not just one breakout book, but like a series, you know, this one bursts me out to a new level and this one bursts out to the next level. But one of my big breakout books and still my best-selling trilogy is “The Pawn.” And that was an object because…I think it was the first object that I had done. And so now, ever since then, you know, I think something about my brand just makes them want objects. But it’s getting hard because I’m, like, running out of objects.

Stephanie: I was going to say, eventually it’s going to be like, “I don’t know what’s left!”

Joni: I thought it would be easier. Because there’s an endless amount…I guess there’s an endless amount…

Skye: Yeah. It’s got to be like the perfect object of appearing, like, sexy and, like, contemporary. It’s also easier for some objects to look like they might be historical or paranormal or something like that. So, yeah. So, you know, I’m running out. It would be easier for me to just buy because photographers are always producing great content. That could change but, you know. But the other thing is that I am wide and I think that goes a little bit more into the object cover realm than…and also writing this kind of like dangerous romance vibe.

Joni: Well, I’m conscious of taking too much of your time, but we always like to finish with the question, what have you been loving lately? Can be a book, podcast, television show, anything that you’ve been enjoying.

Skye: I should probably say something really smart, like, oh, some, like, new, edition of “Jane Eyre” that I got or something that would tie into my book. But actually, what I’ve been loving is the show “Schitt’s Creek.” I just started watching it and it’s hilarious. We sort of have a joke that like I’m, I mean…and by we, I mean, it’s mostly just my personal joke that like I’m the princess from “The Princess and the Pea,” which is a ridiculous story when you really think about it as a grown up. But unfortunately, I am that person. And so like, I need everything to be really right. So, like I identify with the mom way more than I should. I’m like, “Oh my God, they don’t have, like, valet.” And I mean, it’s terrible. It’s terrible. And then, you know, I used to do a lot of travel back then we had signings and conferences and all of that stuff. And so I’m all like, you know, I want the lounge with the comfortable seats, I want…and, you know, now, of course, like you get what you get and you wear a mask while you do it. Like, this is not as fun. It’s not as glamorous.

Joni: So, are you ready to go back to in-person conferences when it’s safe or…

Skye: No, I…at least with this RAM 2021 because I wanted it to be in person, even though I got great feedback about the virtual one, which was really amazing, but I was hoping that the vaccine rollout would be a little bit faster and that I could sign with the hotel, but it’s just so hard to plan an event. You really need to book so far out with hotels and with services, like, and getting all their speakers lined up. And there was so much uncertainty. So, I decided to do it virtual this year. But I am now really hopeful that in 2022 if we do it that it would be in person. And I’m signed up for like, you know, Book Bonanza 2022, RARE Paris 2022.

Joni: Yes. Awesome.

Skye: It’s like all travel all the time.

Stephanie: I miss it.

Joni: Yeah. So much.

Stephanie: So, what can readers expect from you next? And then what dates are your conference for anyone who might be interested?

Skye: So, “Private Property” comes out on March 9th, and as I said, a “Jane Eyre” retelling, the brooding billionaire with the nanny contemporary. So, I’m really excited about that. And in terms of RAM, it’s happening November 4th through 7th, I believe, of 2021. So, it is mostly filled up with tickets, but if you are interested, then you can always go into romanceauthor@mastermind.com and you can request an invitation. And, you know, and if we are full for fall for 2021, there’s always 2022.

Joni: Hopefully a few of us from Kobo will be able to be there in person.

Skye: Yeah, that’d be great.

Joni: Well, thank you so much for coming in for…

Stephanie: Thank you.

Joni: Well, for giving us your time.

Skye: Thank you so much for having me, Joni and Stephanie. I really appreciate it.

Joni: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re interested in Skye Warren’s books, we will provide links in the show notes. And if you are interested in learning more about Romance Author Mastermind, we’ll make sure to include a link to that as well.

Stephanie: This episode was produced by Stephanie McGrath and Joni Di Placido. This episode was edited by Kelly Robotham, music was provided by Tear Jerker. Special thanks to Rachel for being our production assistant. And thank you, Skye, for being a guest on our episode.

Joni: If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.

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