#310 – Writing Romance, Working with Kobo Originals, and More with Jackie Lau

In this episode, we spoke to Jackie Lau, author of The Unmatchmakers, The Stand-Up Groomsman, and many more titles, and we’re celebrating the release of her second novel with Kobo Originals, Not Your Valentine!

In this episode, we spoke to Jackie Lau, author of The Unmatchmakers, The Stand-Up Groomsman, and many more titles, and we’re celebrating the release of her second novel with Kobo Originals, Not Your Valentine! Not Your Valentine was released on January 24th 2023 and is available now, exclusively on Kobo, just in time for Valentine’s Day. ♡

We spoke to Jackie about her new release, her writing process, her favourite romance tropes, her experience working with Kobo Originals, using Toronto as a setting, what it’s like to be a hybrid author and the differences between traditional and indie publishing, and so much more! Our discussion was informative and interesting, and as Rachel can attest, you don’t want to miss out on Jackie’s gourmet donut recommendations. Take notes, Torontonians!

In this episode:

  • We ask Jackie about her favourite romance tropes and what she loves to see in romance novels, as well as her journey to writing romance
  • She discusses some of the changes in the indie publishing industry, touching on what has changed and what hasn’t, particularly in marketing
  • Jackie tells us more about Not Your Valentine –  we dive into the setting of Toronto and why she chooses to set her books in the city, and learn more about the main characters of this novel, the sworn-off-of-love heroine, Helen Tsang, and the Valentine’s Day-loving hero, Taylor Li
  • We chat about the covers of her books; we hear about her illustrated covers and her covers featuring real-life models, and touch on cover trends
  • We talk about what’s it like to be a hybrid author, and what working with a traditional publisher is like for Jackie
  • She talks about her experience working with Kobo Originals, what the process was like, and how working with Kobo Originals has compared to other publishers
  • Plus, we get a great gourmet donut shop recommendation from Jackie
  • And much more!

Useful Links

Jackie’s website

Jackie on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

Not Your Valentine

Jackie’s books on Kobo

Mentioned in this episode:

Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Kristan Higgins

Julie James

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Toronto Romance Writers

Unholy Donuts

Jackie Lau decided she wanted to be a writer when she was in grade two, sometime between penning “The Heart That Got Lost” and “The Land of Shapes.” She later studied engineering and worked as a geophysicist before turning to writing romance novels. She is now the author of over twenty books.

Jackie lives in Toronto with her husband, and despite living in Canada her whole life, she hates winter. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gelato, gourmet donuts, cooking, hiking, and reading on the balcony when it’s raining.

Episode Transcript

Transcription by www.speechpad.com

Rachel: Hey writers, you’re listening to the Kobo Writing Life podcast where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Rachel, the promotion specialist at Kobo Writing Life.

Laura: And I’m Laura, Kobo Writing Life’s author engagement manager. Today, we talk to Canadian romance author, Jackie Lau. Jackie decided she wanted to be a writer when she was in grade 2, sometime between penning “The Heart That Got Lost” and “The Land of Shapes”. She later studied engineering and worked as a geophysicist before turning to writing romance novels. She’s now the author of over 20 books.

Rachel: We were so excited to sit down and chat with Jackie about her upcoming Kobo Original “Not Your Valentine.” We really dug into the writing process in the book. We talked to her about what tropes she really likes to write, and I really enjoyed talking to Jackie about why she sets her books in Toronto and how she manages to make this city that we all live in and love over here at Kobo, part of her books. And bonus, especially for me, Jackie gave me her best recommendation for gourmet donuts, which was a game changer in my life. So, thank you so much, Jackie, for that, and we really hope you enjoy this conversation.

Rachel: Hello, we are joined today by author Jackie Lau. Jackie, thank you so much for taking the time to sit with us today.

Jackie: Thank you for having me here.

Rachel: Now this is not your first time on the KWL podcast, but for listeners who missed your previous episode, could you start us off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Jackie: So, I’m a romance author. I’ve now written over 20 books starting in 2018. There’s sort of romantic comedy all with at least one or more Asian main characters. Most of them are set in Toronto, a few of them elsewhere in Ontario, and a lot of them are indie romances, but I also have a couple books with Berkley, and now also a couple books with Kobo Originals.

Rachel: Now, on your bio, on your website, it says that you knew you wanted to be a writer when you were in grade 2, but then you went on to work as a geophysicist before becoming a romance writer. Can you kind of take us on the journey towards your first romance book?

Jackie: So, I studied engineering and geophysics in university, and then I got a job in that field after I graduated. But writing was always something I wanted to do, just not something that I wanted to plan as a career, you know, right out of the gate because that doesn’t always work out. So, I started writing my first novel I think when I was 24, more than 10 years ago. And that was meant to be more like chicklet back in the day when that was a more common term. And then I realized it was basically a romance. So, I started reading romance after I started writing actually. And then I trunked that novel because it was terrible, and I read romance almost exclusively for a year before I deliberately started writing my first one.

Rachel: So, romance was not the genre that you always had in mind, it’s just kind of what you fell into?

Jackie: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Rachel: Interesting. And so, you wrote that first book, and then like you said you scrapped it and then was your next book the first book you published?

Jackie: So, this is my second pen name. I won’t say what the first one was, but I had a bunch of books with small presses. So, I did publish. So, I trunked the first book. I can’t actually remember, I think I started a second, like, women’s fiction chick lit book. And then I started a romance novella, and I did sell that one, and it was published by a small press. I think it was early 2014. And I had, I think, a dozen novelettes to short novels under that pen name.

Rachel: I also wanted to ask you a little bit about your writing process. Would you say you’re a plotter or a pantser?

Jackie: So, I’m definitely a plotter. I also think very chronologically. So, I plot the whole book out ahead of time, just sort of like a couple lines of point form notes per chapter sort of following Gwen Hayes “Romancing the Beat,” which is very useful for romances. I always plot ahead of time. I think I would be, like, paralyzed with not knowing what direction I was going in if I didn’t outline it first.

Laura: That makes sense for sure. And do you have any favourite tropes? Let’s say as a writer and as a reader because you mentioned you read a lot of romance too.

Jackie: Yeah, so I really like fake dating, which is what is “Not Your Valentine” is, and I like “Grumpy Sunshine” and yeah. I guess those are two of the big ones I like and forced proximity of some sort as well.

Rachel: You mentioned that you wrote chicklet, and then kind of went into romance after reading a lot of romance. Was there a specific romance author that made you think, “Ah, this is my genre,” or any specific title?

Jackie: So, when I first started like the chick lit, it was sort of “Bridget Jones’ Diary” that made me want to write at that specific time. I was like, “Oh, I’ll write something like this,” which is, it’s chick lit, but like there is some romance in it. And then when I started reading romance, I really liked Kristan Higgins, Julie James. Those are two of the big contemporary ones.

Rachel: Out of the two of us, I must admit Laura is the romance reader, so she’s the one, like, nodding along and I’m like…

Jackie: Yes.

Laura: Yeah, totally nodding along and agreeing with some of the tropes you mentioned. Forced proximity is a really good one. So, you mentioned “Not Your Valentine” which is your upcoming Kobo Originals release. Could you give our listeners a little spoiler-free synopsis?

Jackie: So, “Not Your Valentine” is about Helen Tsang and a year ago she had a viral video, a video go viral of her being dumped at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day where her ex says, “It’s not me, it’s you.” And after that she just sort of swore off dating and now Valentine’s Day is coming up again, and she is perfectly happy not dating, but her family and friends are sort of getting on her case and worried that she’s not over it. So, she decides to ask one of her friends to be her fake boyfriend just so everyone will stop worrying about her.

Rachel: Now what was the first, like, spark of an idea for this book? Was it the viral video? Was it the fake dating? So curious.

Jackie: I actually can’t remember. I think it was the fake dating, but I’ve written a bunch of fake dating books so I’m not… Yeah, I’m not sure actually.

Laura: A viral breakup video is like everyone’s 2023 nightmare, can I just say?

Jackie: Yeah, yeah.

Laura: The idea that there’s like cameras, everyone has a camera now and that could totally happen to anyone nowadays, and that’s my worst nightmare.

Jackie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure.

Rachel: I guess I should be grateful to any and all exes for breaking up with me in the privacy of my own home then, huh?

Jackie: I mean and also like for me like so long ago that this wasn’t often really…

Rachel: Now we touched a little bit on tropes and like you mentioned, “Not Your Valentine” has the fake dating trope in it, but there’s also a grumpy sunshine element to it as well except like unlike the, and I’m using, like, heavy air quotes here, traditional grumpy sunshine, it’s the heroine who’s like the Valentine’s Day hating anti-heart shaped everything character. Was it really fun to write Helen?

Jackie: Yeah, it was quite fun. I have written a few other books as well with a more grumpy heroine, and I always enjoy doing that.

Rachel: I did see… Oh, I forget where I read it, but somebody was exclaiming how great your grumpy female characters are. Is there any like outside influence to these characters? Are they inspired by you?

Jackie: A little bit, but I don’t know if I would really call myself grumpy exactly.

Rachel: Sorry. Didn’t mean to put you on the spot with that one.

Jackie: Yeah.

Laura: So, you’ve said that Taylor loves cinnamon hearts, and Helen prefers a charcuterie chalet. Which do you prefer, and what was the inspiration behind the charcuterie chalet because I could totally go for one of those? Have you ever made one?

Jackie: No, I haven’t. I forget when I first heard of them. I think it was like maybe 2020 and I was like, “Oh, I should put that in a book,” and I did. And so, yeah. I would prefer charcuterie chalet over cinnamon hearts. But if it was a gingerbread house, I think that would be a tougher decision because gingerbread is kind of appealing.

Rachel: Gingerbread is delicious, and I genuinely want to try to make a charcuterie chalet. I have zero artistic skills, but I love to eat, so I feel like that would motivate me to attempt one. So, you haven’t tried to build one yet?

Jackie: No, no. But you don’t actually have to bake, right? You just have to get the ingredients and assemble it, so yeah.

Rachel: But it’s the assembling I’m a little worried about. My gingerbread houses tend to look like, do you remember the original Sims, like SimCity video game and you could summon disasters? That’s what my gingerbread house would look like.

Laura: We should have done some kind of, like, charcuterie chalet building contest as part of like our promotion of the book. I’m gonna float that by Jess for our promotions.

Jackie: I do wonder if it’s something that’s like people only do if they’re gonna put it on social media. Like, does anyone actually do it, and it’s not like something that they’re going to post?

Rachel: I mean, I don’t think I could build something that’s spectacular, and not try to share it with the world. Yeah.

Laura: Unless you were hiding it from someone because it deflated before you…

Rachel: Kind of speaking about social media, social media a presence is such a big part of Helen’s fake relationship. How do you approach social media in your marketing?

Jackie: So, I don’t use TikTok at present. I want to, but it’s something that like doesn’t really come naturally to me. I know some people have had great success with TikTok, but it’s a bit hit-and-miss. I mainly use Twitter, which I’ve been on for quite a while, and Instagram as well. And like on Instagram I find that book content always does better. Gets more likes than other stuff. I do post other things on Instagram as well, but it’s quite heavily on the books I have, especially if I have a release coming up. I mean, I post, like, donut pictures and food too, but I don’t focus so much on posting my regular life. Twitter is just sort of whatever at this point. Like, who knows what’s going to happen to Twitter? I know some people say Twitter doesn’t sell books. Twitter has absolutely sold books for me mainly at the beginning when I was starting out as an indie author, like you have… If you have your tweet, like, retweeted, and stuff by the right person, like, it can make a difference. I’ve seen it in my sales numbers. It’s not a great promotional plan by itself. So, I think Twitter is most useful for connecting with the writer community. Like, there are some readers, and there are some opportunities to get people to buy your books, but at this point, the main benefit for me of Twitter is connecting with other authors. So, I do like post sort of the same similar graphics. I make most of my graphics in Canva that I post on Instagram as well there.

Rachel: We love Canva so much.

Jackie: And I use Book Brush too a little bit. And I have a Facebook reader’s group, which I really like. I don’t use Facebook much otherwise, but I have a reader’s group with two other authors as well.

Rachel: Now, I’m taking us, like, out of the, “Not Your Valentine” talk and I promise we’ll go back to it.

Jackie: That’s fine. Yeah.

Rachel: When it comes to interacting with your readers, do you find your Facebook reader group is your primary source of reader interaction, or do you use all your platforms to discuss your work with your fans?

Jackie: I think, like, all of them to some extent, but their Facebook reader group I think is the most focused on interacting with fans because that’s what people are there for, right? They’re not people who just, like, randomly come across your tweet. Like, they’re members of the group, so that’s the nice thing about that.

Rachel: And like I promised, bringing it back to Kobo, we’re told this is the second novel that you’ve done with Kobo Originals. I’m just curious because you’ve done a bunch of Indie publishing, you’ve worked with a traditional publishing house. What was working with the Kobo Originals team like? No pressure because you’re on the Kobo podcast, you can be honest.

Jackie: So, I liked it. I think the schedule is very quick compared to trade publishing. So, for my Berkley books, they were basically done six months in advance for the “Unmatchmakers”. Even maybe not for this one, I hadn’t started it six months in advance because the contract hadn’t been… It wasn’t decided till early last year, and the book came out in June. So, the timeline was much more. It was more similar to like my indie publishing timeline, but perhaps even more condensed than that for the first one. And yeah, I love the covers I’ve had, and I’ve had different editors for both books, but I can have input on what editor I have as well.

Rachel: Yeah, Laura and I were talking about the covers today, and how much we love them. How does the, like, Kobo release schedule, like you mentioned it was really quick? How does that compare to how you usually write and release your books on the indie side of things?

Jackie: I’m a somewhat fast writer, but I switch off between projects. So, I’ll write, like, the first draft to one book, and set it aside for a month or two, and work on other things, and then go back to that book. So, I usually have a first draft and two rounds of revisions before it goes to beta readers or an editor. And with “The Unmatchmakers” there just wasn’t any gaps in that process. With the “Not Your Valentine” there was, was probably pretty similar to my usual schedule for an indie book. So, I usually do start the first draft six months or more in advance of when it comes out. Not always for novelettes, but usually just so I have time to let it sit in between. I started at least six months in advance.

Laura: And you mentioned that you have had a couple books with traditional publishers recently. How has that shift been to becoming kind of a hybrid author versus just indie?

Jackie: So, it is very cool to see your book in bookstores, like, just walk into Indigo. I mean, not always every Indigo, but in general, I can find my books in Indigo. So that, it was actually at that point I think I’d sort of been like, “Oh, I don’t care about that.” But it was pretty cool. The timelines are so different, so it can make kind of planning your release schedule a bit complicated because you’re working on one hand on something that’s coming out in a year and a half and on the other hand something that’s coming out in four months. So, it can make it a bit difficult to space everything out. I found that I don’t, I think the readership is very different. So, for the Berkley books, like before the eBook went on sale, vast, vast majority of sales were print, and in my indie books, like, 95% of the sales are eBooks.

So, it’s a pretty different audience, and I didn’t really feel like the people who were reading “Donut Fall in Love” would then go into reading my backlist. I mean, definitely, I anecdotally heard of a few, but I did not really see it in the numbers, so that was interesting. But yeah, I like having both, and I hope to continue to have both, to be a hybrid author for the time being, yeah. Actually what I was gonna say was that the Kobo Original has done more for my Kobo sales numbers for my indie books than my Berkley books have.

Rachel: We’ll take credit for that. We’ll punch that along to the Originals team…

Jackie: Though actually, it’s mainly in Kobo Plus. I can see it doubled my Kobo Plus income…

Rachel: Oh, that’s really cool.

Jackie: My indie Kobo Plus income, yeah.

Rachel: One thing that I absolutely loved about “Not Your Valentine”, and I know this is a theme throughout a lot of your books, is how Toronto the book is. There’s one point where Helen is talking about the TTC, which to our non-Toronto listeners is our public transit system. And she says that if she leaves very early, she gives herself a buffer, everything will go smoothly, and she will arrive on time. But if she leaves with just enough time to get to her destination, everything will go wrong and she will undoubtedly be late, which is the universal TTC experience. And I love that so much as somebody who loves Toronto. And I’m just so curious, do you purposefully draw attention to the setting? Like, do you love setting your books in Toronto as much as I personally enjoyed reading it?

Jackie: Yeah, I do. I mean, part of it is because I don’t have to do much research, or like it’s very limited kind of research I have to do. So, part of it is me being lazy, but like I do like setting my books here because I like the city, and I’ve lived here my whole life, so I plan to continue to write most of my books in Toronto.

Rachel: Is there a part of Toronto that you haven’t explored in your books yet that you would love to use as a setting?

Jackie: Not that I can think of really. At this point, I feel like I’ve put basically everything in my books.

Laura: As a Canadian romance author, are there any resources that you’d recommend to Canadian indie authors?

Jackie: That’s a good question because yeah, some advice is very American-focused, and for some things, it doesn’t matter, and for some things it does. So, like I’m a member of Toronto Romance Writers, which it’s called Toronto Romance Writers but, like, I think most of the meetings are virtual right now, so you can join elsewhere, and it’s not an indie-specific organization, but we do have a lot of indie authors, and some talks that are relevant for indie authors. I can’t think of another particularly Canadian-focused indie author resource.

Rachel: Did you find it difficult when you were, like, first breaking into the indie scene as a Canadian amongst so much Americanized content and advice?

Jackie: Not too bad really. Like, I think the main thing, like, for advice is the financial stuff. So, it’s just that when people talk about income tax, like the stuff that they, and getting like actual you know, income tax slips from retailers, which I so on. It’s just not, it’s not the same, and then you get, if most of your sales in the U.S., then the exchange rate with the U.S. can really affect how much you get paid. So yeah, I mean mainly for that you just need an accountant and ignore advice that’s clearly American-specific. But overall, I didn’t think it was too bad but, like, one of the things I did worry about was using Canadian spelling because in my experience, sometimes Americans think that non-American spelling is an error. So, all my books have American spelling just because the majority of my readership is American.

Then some people complain that it should have Canadian spelling because it’s like Canada, but at this point, I probably just gonna leave it as American spelling also because, under my other pen name, I was just so used to American spelling from submitting to American publishers that it’s sort of awkward to go back and forth for different projects between different spelling. So, that was one of the things I thought about when I was starting out. Also, like, Kobo is very big in Canada, so one of the reasons I never considered doing Kindle Unlimited is because I wanted my books to be easily available in Canada. So, I definitely wanted them to be on Kobo.

Rachel: That pesky OU in colour, just coming back to haunt you.

Jackie: Well, I have like two books that have… Well, I guess one book in this pen name that has neighbor in the title, so like yeah.

Rachel: It’s so funny. I went to school for publishing, and I actually have a textbook called “Editing Canadian English” because…

Jackie: Oh really?

Rachel: Canadian English is such a weird smörgåsbord of American and British spelling. So, it’s really interesting. I never really thought about having to make that choice as an author based on where your readership is because usually when you’re publishing in Canada, traditionally you’re using Canadian spelling. But that’s a really interesting consideration that I never would’ve thought of.

Jackie: And Microsoft Word is just completely useless for Canadian spelling because it just accepts everything, so like it’s not helpful at all if you’re trying to be consistent.

Rachel: You need a strong editor and proofreader to make sure the geographical spelling is correct.

Jackie: That’s the other thing is like because when I was starting I had an American editor, so it’s like I don’t want you to have to figure out what is and isn’t the right spelling.

Rachel: One thing I wanted to ask you about, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to formulate this question properly for most of the day, but as you mentioned in all of your books, one if not both of your leads are Asian and in “Not Your Valentine” they’re both Chinese Canadian. And what I thought was really interesting was drawing attention to the white gaze on the Asian experience, if that makes sense. Like, talking about how, like, white folks can fetishize the Asian community, and I was just wondering, like, I don’t wanna say like, “Why did you include this?” Because obviously it’s important, but I guess it’s more like what was that decision to include it like for you? If that makes sense.

Jackie: Yeah. Like it’s not a big part of the book. I’m not 100% sure what brought it on. I think the, like, fetishization of Asian women is sort of, like, a long something that’s been, like, I wouldn’t say like always widely discussed, but something that’s been talked about a little bit going back a long time. I think we’re sort of seeing it the other way with white women fetishizing Asian men to some extent now with K-Dramas and, not to say that all fans do that, just that I think with the rise of K-Pop and K-Dramas, we are seeing that a little bit, and so, that was kind of one of the reasons I wanted to put that in the book.

Rachel: I think it’s really interesting, and like it’s not a huge focal point of the book at all. It’s mentioned in passing I think twice, but I feel like I find this happens a lot when folks are writing outside of their lived experience, is that they will describe a character as being a member of a marginalized community but then not going deeper into what that experience is actually like because it will affect a lot of how you interact with the world. So, I don’t know. I just wanted to draw attention to it because I thought it was really well done.

Jackie: Okay, thank you.

Laura: So, we mentioned at the beginning that you’ve written over 20 books. How has the publishing industry changed throughout your career, and have you had to kind of evolve your marketing strategies at all to keep up with the different changes?

Jackie: So, I published my first indie book under this name in 2018, and like publishing, I feel like publishing is always in crisis. I don’t know that like one of the big things that’s completely different in that time is TikTok, but I still haven’t used TikTok. I’ve been sort of watching videos to like learn about it, but I haven’t really tried it. So, that’s been one of the things that, like, didn’t exist in 2018 that some people have really done well within marketing. I think we’ve also seen sometimes cost-per-click ads are more expensive and not getting the same results. I have never done a lot of cost-per-click ads either on Amazon or Facebook because I haven’t wanted to put in the time and the money to figure out how to make them work for me. And also I think that newsletter, you know services like Freebooksy or BookBub is the big one.

I’ve only had one big BookBub, so I can’t comment on how that’s changed over time. But like, I think some of those are just not getting quite the results that they used to. Not that they don’t work at all, I think they do, but like it can be a little more difficult, and especially if you promote the same book again, like, I find you don’t get the same results using the same service twice. So, I think that’s got, it seems like there’s always, like, something that’s getting less effective over time. Other things like the covers have changed a little bit. I think illustrated covers were just sort of getting big in romance in North America around 2018 was when “The Kiss Quotient” came out. So, like, around that time I would say is when they started to get bigger. So, we’ve seen covers change a little bit in that time as well.

Rachel: Yeah, we’ve definitely heard that about the BookBub changing a little bit, the expectations being a little bit different, and Laura and I are both avid TikTok watchers but not users. So, if you figure it out how to make effective TikToks, please let us know because we’ve been studying very hard.

Jackie: I have heard too like that’s actually another problem if you’re not American is that I’ve heard people recommend that you get an American sim card so that TikTok thinks you’re in the U.S.

Laura: Whoa, I never thought about that before. That’s interesting.

Jackie: I was like, “God.” I was like, “I’m not doing that.”

Laura: That’s too much work at this point.

Jackie: But that is like something that sometimes you have to consider stuff like that when you’re not in the U.S. is where it’s going to promote your post and stuff too, so.

Laura: It’s really interesting. There’s so many things to consider when you’re indie. There’s so many, like, little decisions that kind of fall on you to make.

Jackie: Yeah, and I mean going because I like under my old pen name started in 2014, like, there are a whole bunch of decent-sized eBook first or eBook-only romance publishers at the time that are pretty much all gone now. So, I think indie just sort of took over just because indie became more accessible. It became, it’s so easy to get your stuff up on retailers that the advantages of that weren’t as big. And yeah, so the whole bunch, the whole, like, idea I had in like 2013 of where I was gonna sell my work and stuff is just completely different than from what it is now.

Rachel: And when you started with this pen name, did you find you had to basically start from scratch?

Jackie: Oh yeah. I mean, I purposely… It’s not like a big secret, so I did say, like, I’m writing under this name now, and my social media handle was like back something slash something for a while, but it was basically starting over. But, I sold so poorly under my first pen name that there has basically nothing to bring with me anyway. Like, there was nothing there, so it wasn’t that difficult to decide to leave that behind.

Laura: You mentioned covers changing a little bit like with “The Kiss Quotient.” Do you feel a lot of pressure as an indie because you kind of have this opportunity to change your covers a lot, like when you see different things trending?

Jackie: So, I’ve never to this point recovered a series. I am thinking about it for the first time, and I’m not sure what I’ll do. Yeah, this was a… I was thinking of taking, most of my indie covers are stock photos of people. Mostly the guy, but not always. A couple of them are couples, and I was thinking of doing illustrated covers for one of my backlist series. I’m not sure. TikTok and also Instagram really like the illustrated cover, so that’s sort of why I was thinking about it, and just sort of to get a new, you know, a new opportunity to promote the books again with something a little different. But because I don’t make my own covers, it’s another expense and I just, I have not until now really been in a position where I wanted to think about that at all.

Rachel: Yeah, covers are much harder to do well in Canva than social media graphics.

Jackie: Yeah. I don’t have the skills to do my own covers. I think the indie are the authors who change their covers more often. I think many of them do their own covers. And also like for stock photos, if I wanted to do another stock photo, I don’t think I would change covers to like use a different stock photo of a person. Because there are only like a limited number of really good Asian stock photos, and I don’t wanna like… I feel like I’m wasting them if I’m recovering a book almost, so I’m not sure.

Rachel: And when you’re choosing the model for your cover, like when you’re going through the stock photos, do you have a very specific picture of what this individual looks like in your mind while you’re looking or are you sometimes just see a random photo and you go, “That’s him?”

Jackie: I don’t know. At first, I picked the photos after I’d written the book, but like, later on, I started basically picking the photos before I wrote the book, or like, narrowing it down to a few different options before I wrote the book. Just, I don’t know. Just so I had something. I’m not actually very good with faces, so like just so I had something in my mind before I started writing. Also with Asian characters, if you say you want, like, someone with a shaved head or long hair for a male character, then you start to have problems finding what you want, so. Like, the stock photo situation’s not completely terrible, but like, once you start having criteria like that, it gets a little trickier. So, that does affect how I describe my characters physically sometimes is sometimes I just haven’t found a stock photo of what I actually wanted to write, so I changed it a little bit.

Rachel: That’s so interesting. And you’re not the first author we’ve spoken to who has mentioned the lack of… Not complete lack, but somewhat lack of diversity in stock photos.

Jackie: Yeah. And couples can be trickier, especially interracial couples with one Asian person, which is part of the reason I don’t have a ton of couples on my books.

Rachel: You should start having photo shoots. Put yourself on your covers. Nana Malone did it first, you can do it …

Jackie: I know. I heard. I remember hearing that. Yeah, no I don’t, I would never wanna …

Rachel: Now, I have one very important question for you. In your bio, you mentioned that you love eating gourmet donuts.

Jackie: Yeah.

Rachel: And we are all based in Toronto. And so, I am really curious, what is your favourite donut shop in Toronto?

Jackie: Lately, I really like Unholy Donuts. Do you know that one?

Rachel: I don’t. Where is it? I’m genuinely gonna write this down.

Jackie: It’s near Church and Wellesley. I think it’s only been open about a year. But one thing that’s nice is that they’re open late, and they have good selections later in the afternoon if like me you don’t go out in the morning ever. So, like, when I go there at five, there are still, like, lots of different things to get, but it’s hard to go in and say, “I want this” because they always sort of rotate, but there’s always something interesting.

Rachel: Okay. This having selection late is key because my donut shop usually closes at like 2:00 PM because they’re sold out. So, thank you for this.

Jackie: Yeah. I think they don’t open early. Like, I think they say they don’t even have all their donuts out till noon. So, they’re not trying to cater to an early crowd.

Laura: Have we just changed Rachel’s life? I think so. This is one of those times I kind of wish we were a video podcast, so you could have seen Rachel’s facial expression.

Rachel: Just pure donut-related joy.

Laura: Yeah. Late afternoon donut-related joy. So, can you tell us a little bit about what’s coming up next for you, and what our readers can expect from you?

Jackie: So, I don’t have any more books with Berkley. So after “Not Your Valentine”, which will be out by the time this podcast is out, I don’t have any more books with Berkley. I have a book with Emily Bestler Books that will be out in 2024. And for my indie books, I’m still figuring out my schedule. I hope to start two new series this year, but I’m still working on figuring out the details. Yeah. And I’m also looking at starting a subscription, not a Patreon, but something similar to that as well. So, we’ll see. Hopefully, having a Kickstarter too. Like, there are so many different things you can do in indie publishing right now that’s kind of exciting, but also very overwhelming.

Laura: Yeah, I was going to say definitely overwhelming. There’s so many options. It’s hard to know which one to go with, but that’s really exciting.

Jackie: Yeah, yeah. So, we’ll see what happens.

Rachel: Well, keep us posted, and we will include links to any and all of the above projects in the show notes for this podcast. And where can our listeners find you online?

Jackie: jackielaubooks.com and on both Twitter and Instagram. I’m also JackieLauBooks. And on my website, you can find a link to sign up for my newsletter as well.

Rachel: Amazing. And we will include links to all of those in our show notes as well. Well, Jackie, thank you so much for taking the time to sit and chat with us today. We really appreciate it.

Jackie: Thank you for having me.

Laura: Thank you for listening to the Kobo Writing Life Podcast. If you’re interested in picking up Jackie’s books, we will include links in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. Be sure to follow us on all socials. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.

Woman: This episode was hosted by Rachel Wharton and Laura Granger with production by Terrence Abrahams. Editing is provided by Kelly Robotham. Our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker and big thanks to Jackie Lau for being our guest today. If you are ready to start your publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.

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