I'm going to tackle a sensitive topic today - for myself and for others I've spoken to. It doesn't just affect authors, but honestly any small business. It can be hard to talk about, because in a sense, it admits to failure on some level.
Let’s talk about the reason why so many authors - myself included - struggle to make ends meet with their author career.
Is it crummy book covers? Nope.
Is it poorly edited (or not edited) stories? Nope.
Is it a lack of marketing money? Nope.
Is it a lack of talent? Nope.
Don’t get me wrong, the above can contribute to failing careers, but at the end of the day the key metric all struggling authors experience is a lack of support.
But I can’t afford to buy books all the time!
Support has very little to do with a monetary value. Support that most small businesses need right now is "moral" support.
Support is taking time to click like on a post, to comment on it, to share it, because that viral reach could put your friend in front of new readers. Support is offering to review (and actually following through) which costs you nothing but time, and if you’re already a reader you get free books! Support is chatting with other book people about your friend’s new book. Support is sending them a text or DM on release day to give them little congrats because writing a book takes a metric fuck ton of work.
I can post about the stupidest thing on my author and personal Facebook/Instagram and get engagement and comments. The minute I post about my books, it’s almost utter radio silence unless it’s a huge accomplishment. Here, check it out. I post book stuff maybe once every 3 days, so it’s not a flooded thing either for those that might think “authors just shove too move in your face”.
This goes for authors, too.
Other authors are not your competition. I cannot tell you how many authors I support simply because I love them and their work. Because kindness matters and if they thrive, that’s awesome! Together, we can reach new readers, more readers, and maybe stop the author from permanently closing the laptop on their dream career.
But you always act like you’re doing awesome.
Of course I do - fake it till you make it. It hurts and drags me down every single release day when I barely make it into double digit sales - and I do have those double digits every release, but sometimes it’s hard and other times I skyrocket past. It’s gut wrenching anytime I post looking for a quick share or a like because I know next to no one is going to take the time, which means I look unsupported and therefore not worth a chance to new readers.
It's insanely expensive to be an author. Roughly $800 per book and 95% of us do not make that back. We fund it with our day job. We skip new shoes or fund snacks because our dream is worth it. We spend time writing we could otherwise be out or with our family. We won’t all make it. We won’t all be quality worthy of making it, but a simple show of support could pull us from our darkest days when looking ahead to decide if the next book might be our last.
Isn't it possible your work just sucks?
100% a possibility. However, when I have been able to reach new readers, I've gotten amazing reviews, inboxes telling me how much they loved something, and sometimes, (hopefully) new book friends! So yes, I may suck. It's entirely possible, but it's unlikely given the response when my work is looked at by new readers.
I’ve got a challenge for you 2022
If you’ve got an author (or any small business owner really) on your social media feed, don’t scroll past that post. Give it a thumbs up. Maybe even comment. Offer your community to share just for a single. Maybe skip a coffee or fast food meal to buy a single one of their books. You never know what you’ll find.
Last month, I posted a fun video to TikTok that was playfully poking at how insane my writing calendar is for the next 2 years - because I'm determined to get all these crazy characters out of my head. I also shared the video across my other social platforms because I thought it was a good way for readers to understand what goes into the books. Now, my process is a lot faster than most because I'm fortunate enough to be an uber quick typer who essentially hears my stories in my head all day long so they spill out when I sit down for a few hours after work.
Want to see it?
I figured I'd get some quick comments on it, people would have a laugh at how crazy my goals are, and that would be the end of it.
What actually happened was A LOT of authors asked me where I got the template. Well, I made it. There were actually 6 different iterations of it because I kept forgetting what I wanted to include/kept realizing other filters would be helpful later on.
This thing might look small, but the columns have custom dropdowns and a lot of coding in the backend. Plus, it's helped me stay on track A TON as I work through my lofty goals. Something about having it down on paper helps. Plus, since it's digital, if I get into trouble and absolutely have to shift a date here and there - so long as it's not release of course - I can!
When I've said I made it, a lot asked me for the file. So, I went ahead and created a blank template!
I also added a book cover field since some people aren't cover whores like me and buy them before they start.
You will need to either save a copy to your drive or download a copy to edit the fields.
I suggest downloading a copy because it displays nicer!
Since I had a lot of bloggers reaching out to me for ways to organize their TBRs, I created one for them, too!
Hope these can help you rock your reading and writing goals in the future!
In February 2020, I released the first book in the City of War series, City of Light & Steam. It was an amalgam, and such a mashup, when I wrote it, I was terrified of how it would do. The book was actually written in late 2018, but I needed time in my release schedule, so I'd held onto it.
Apocalyptic? ✓ The world was destroyed by a virus
Dystopian? ✓ The world was rebuilding/trying to function after the illness swept through it and failing miserably with it incredibly dangerous to step outside after dark.
Steampunk? ✓ Takes place in Victorian London with steam and electricity as the main sources of power long before they belonged in existence.
Vampires? ✓ The term for those affected by the illness that destroyed white blood cells causing them to need blood infusions to survive
Romance? ✓ Yup, the two guild leaders do, in fact, fall in love.
To my surprise, readers were in love with it, many messaging me days after release. I'd already had the second and third book covers, so I immediately sat down to outline. As often happens when I'm fresh out out of a world, the outline came quickly and I was ready to roll!
The pandemic began and life as a full time social media agency girl, mom, and author came to a halt as I could really only be a mom at that time to my 3 year old. My days were spent figuring out playtime, how to keep him from missing his friends, and how to stay safe because I originally didn't think COVID was a big deal - I was in New Orleans at the time, and the city taught me better.
Shortly after at the end of April, my mystery illness began. For 4 months I was in and out of so many surgeries, imaging sessions, and doctor's appointments I couldn't write, there was no time. Not an iota.
What happened next? A military move which means driving across the country, cleaning the new place, getting the new place ready, and starting life again. All during a Pandemic - which at the time, New Jersey was a dangerous place to be. From September 2020-September 2021 I worked more than 50 hours a week at the day job AND hand my son home with my full time. If you have been a long time reader of mine you know that between city of war and the end of 2021 I released 3 book in total - 2 Christmas Fairy Tales and Land of Flames.
In fall of 2021, my son started kindergarten and I quit my horrible day job in favor of a much calmer business opportunity - still in social media, but not for a giant agency that didn't give a shit about it's employees work hours. The words began to flow and I very quickly had written a Christmas story, a Monster Romance (accidentally because I didn't know it was going to be a thing), 2 In Service shorts, and began The Race.
The juices were back! I was vibing. But, the more I thought about City of War the harder it became for me to write. I love Ben and Raven so incredibly much. I love their world and how far they take things.
But, I can't focus on a world destroyed by an airborne illness that failed not because of the illness, but because of how the people within the countries around the world couldn't play nice in the sandbox. It's too very real right now and while some people can write that way, I want an escape from the drama America is going through every damn day.
Readers, I apologize. I know this has been a favorite series already, and I'm here to tell you that they will be out - likely late 2024. While things are still rough, they are getting better and with every escape I read and write, it's getting easier to believe I can distance myself from the crap around me.
I want to know, how do you feel about reading a story with so many accidental parallels to COVID?
Last night, before a terrible tragedy ended one of my favorite parades, a member of the Sirens walking krewe looked at Aidan and dug through her bag to find this siren’s bottle just for him. Though she didn’t say why, I believe it was because of the note inside, and how powerfully it would resonate for a 3-year-old with a cast up to his thigh, stuck in a wheelchair during what is arguably the best time of year if you live in NOLA.
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my own ship. “
My son is my hero. Period.
19 days ago he suffered an accident while out having the time of his life and found himself in more pain than should be fair for a small child - a broken bone, just under his knee near the growth plate.
In that moment, fun vanished for him. He wasn’t himself. My smiling, loud, non-stop talking child wouldn’t smile and he wouldn’t talk for
nearly 10 waking hours.
Within those first 24 hours, he was smiling and laughing once he was splinted. In that time, he also went to the ER. I had to stand by and listen and watch as he was essentially tortured (through no fault of the ER staff) in getting X-rays and a cast. Even still, he found calm and would sing and play.
Over the next 19 days, his world was different. My child who loved to say “I’ll do it” and run to do said thing, had no way to do it. The child who made it a game to climb on and off things to help, no longer could. The toddler who loved squatting down to build train tracks and race hot wheels, could only do so if someone let him - which we of course did. He couldn’t play with his friends. He couldn’t even go potty alone - something he’s been doing since before he was 2.
But you know what? He didn’t complain. Within a day of the full leg cast, he’d figured out how to butt scoot along the floor by putting his good foot under his bad. He taught himself how to roll over by tugging on the blanket and pulling himself - while mommy and daddy held it. Within seconds of being in a wheelchair on day 4, he was off, free once again.
He’s figured out how to play, admittedly by himself. He’s learned not to cry when his friends don’t stay by the wheelchair at school, play dates, and parades. Aidan “runs” through the house by scooting along the floor, giggling and grinning as he goes. He suffered through getting a cast off and a new one on at a hard angle for his stiff leg and while it sounded like an exorcism during it, five minutes later he was laughing and giggling asking to come back and see his leg photos again. He’s a fantastic terror, chatting everyone’s ear off and shouting “I’ve got a broken leg” to try and get stuff at the parades.
Throughout everything, he hasn’t lost his shine. He’s not once given into the sadness that I swear an adult would. He’s not complained about being stuck in one spot or losing his beloved bath time. (Though he literally pushed up off the ground with joy when I opened a cast cover that will let him swim!). Even last. night, when he was in pain because Mommy and Daddy didn’t do the best lifting jobs and made him sore.
He is a hero.
We write books with these strong, masculine leads and heroines we either identity with or strive to be. We often times forget that there are other hero’s, little ones with bigger hearts who tackle adversity in a way adults couldn’t fathom.
I only have a few novels with kids - and I’m not going to link them because that’s not what this is about - they’re not “characters.” They’re more plot elements, unique as they needed to be to let Mommy and Daddy shine.
I want us to do more. Romance is about the kids, too. Let’s all make a story where a young child is the hero in a parent’s life, not just an accessory.
Branding is important. It's what people say about your business. It's the vibe your business gives off. Most importantly, it's what draws readers into your business.
As an author, my brand is more than just my books - though those are the bulk of it for sure! My brand is me. It's what I put forth into the world. If you've followed my page or friended me, there's a good chance you know a few things about me.
You also probably know there's not much in the romance genre I shy away from. From Christmas holidays to cancer-stricken heroines, I don't hold many punches. I bet you're reading this and thinking "Okay, so what's the point of this blog." It's to talk about author logos.
When I first started in 2014, a dear and amazing author friend made me a logo. She charged nothing, she asked for nothing in return. I loved it. Slowly, I added the worlds, attempting to bring my tagline in a bit more. From there the worlds became people, as I felt that better represented a romance author, feeling my tagline could do the heavy lifting to imply I take two different characters and mash them into one happily ever after.
Two years went by and I started to feel like I needed a bit of a revamp - something that said "author". I wasn't even sure where to start. So, I ended up buying a premade logo from a friend's site. It was fun, to me screamed author and had just the right amount of color.
Fast forward to a few months ago. Logos started to evolve. They were more than just something "generic". Which lead me down the dreaded path of "am I where I should be?" After months and months of seeing logos I realized, "no, you aren't where you should be." Cute little illustrated drawings had been around forever, but were slowing gaining traction. I saw one posted for a book cover that the artist was selling as a separate file and it hit me.
I needed one. I needed a little Chibi-Lexi to showoff my business. Unfortunately, the artist never responded. However, luckily for me I work with three amazing cover artists (not including the premades I buy when they speak to me). Of them, Melissa Stevens from the Illustrated Author had already done an amazing series logo for me for my Relics of the Lost Worlds Series. (Bet you're interested in that, but that's another blog post for another time.
I went to her, uncertain if she would even do the project. Like every zany cover idea I've brought to her in the past year, she happily told me she would! Now, if you've worked with Melissa you know you get a pretty epic questionnaire before beginning that gets you set on the path. I'm pretty sure if you asked her, the one for the logo project was a hot mess and "all over". I knew what I wanted - a Chibi with something author-like. Too bad that was all I could tell her. Nonetheless, she didn't hesitate to accept the project.
Now, something I find important about working with any artist is their willingness to trust what you want mingled with their personal and professional opinion to do what's best. Once, I asked Melissa for an oasis cover - she came back with a winter wonderland that is actually my favorite cover of ALL my books. I trust her, her process, and most importantly, her designs without question.
What followed next was a month of what felt like presents and torture as she showed me tidbits of pretties. (She was being amazing and squeezing me in between projects and her personal life). So how did we start? With these two amazing sketches!
I was hooked. Without question I knew that not only was Melissa the perfect person to do the logo, but that it was just what I needed. Guys, look at the subtle nod to 10 with that sexy trench coat. Look how luxurious she made my lifeless hair. Plus, come on, check out those stacks of books! This was just the beginning and to say I was hooked is an understatement.
Like all good things, they take time. I'm sure I knew at the point how much, but now I don't - because life. I got a message and it was filled with more pretties. This time, Melissa was really just showing me steps, because she already knew where she was going and was just testing new poses to see which one stuck. I must have a tiny bit of a design eye, because I agreed! (You'll have to keep reading to see with what).
Meanwhile I'm over here like "ooo is she running with books? Is she going to get an adorable little octopus baby in her hand" because I knew there was no way with what Melissa knew about me from our time as customer-client (and friends), that she was not going to give me an octopus after giving me 10's trench coat!
By this point, it's probably not hard to tell that I was beyond excited. What could come next? Well, let me tell you, I 100% did not see the next part coming. You guys, it turns out the next step was more than I dreamed for, with not 1, but 2 epic designs!
Like, seriously, she has me riding on a freaking Octopus you guys! Riding a Mother F*ing Octopus - which is the exact message I sent my husband along with the photo while I was at work. She mentioned there were little tweaks coming and of course, I needed a body, but we were almost done.
Giddy didn't begin to describe it. Even incomplete, I felt complete. Suddenly, I felt professional - like a real business. Yes, I'd been operating as an author since July 2014, but now it was as if I was suddenly a step above where I'd started. But it gets better, you know why? Because Melissa sent the final babies the next day!
Without further ado, take a peek at the new and improved Lexi Ostrow, Romance Author.
There aren't enough words on the planet to describe how I feel. Look, I can describe acts of sexual pleasure in great detail from the male and female POV - so forgive me for this.
Melissa took a simple request and gave me a logo that feels like me.
There's a nod to my business - books.
There's a nod to me personally - aka the physical stuff (minus the mom bod I'm now rocking IRL).
There's a nod to my favorite things - doctor who and octopodes.
There's a nod to one of my main (and favorite) genres - steampunk.
More importantly, it's what it doesn't do that I love. It doesn't look out of style - which I love the others, but they did. It doesn't scream "I know what she writes". It leaves mystery. My career largely has been built upon steampunk and paranormal romance, but the coming years will see a fun shift, one that you'll learn about pretty soon. To me, this logo says "This author has more to say." However, instead of rambling I'm just going to sum it up with: Melissa, you nailed this so hard. It's everything I wanted it to be and more.
Need a logo? Seriously, go hit up Melissa at The Illustrated Author right now! just make sure you tell her to do the rest of Lexi's covers first (jk, jk. I kid, I kid.)
Also, I wouldn't be me if I hadn't rushed out and done brand new swag - I mean - check out this website for example. I've been sitting on this amazing logo for a week and a half, with the only people who saw it besides my husband being my street team. Plus, if you've hung around this long, click the third photo to enlarge it, and whip out your phone and scan that QR code on my sexy new business card for a FREE read!
I honestly have no idea where to start. Today is a day that I've been dreaming about since I was in second grade and decided I wanted to be an author. I didn't know then that it was a daunting task filled with so many different emotional journey's I would want to scream and cry and jump for joy all at once. But today, eighteen years, I've learned that.
A bored little seventh grader dreamed up a world where the book characters could be real; could protect her from things. Until I was 20 I had that fizzling in the back of my mind. Pretending it could be a really good book idea. Then last August I decided it was finally time to write it. Time to tell the story I'd randomly been dreaming for most of my life.
I may have always known I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't have the drive, or maybe it was the guts, to make it happen. I went to undergrad at UC Riverside for Creative Writing. I was told so many things by wonderful, and honestly, not so wonderful professors. More than once I'd been told that genre writing was a different ballgame than literary fiction and considered "smut". So I learned how to write brilliantly boring literary fiction - don't get me wrong I know some people love it, but it's just not enough for me.
I never had the drive to finish anything though because I got it in my mind that it wasn't being a real author. While I didn't let it get me down I did let it push me to pursue my second love, journalism and PR. Not a horrible thing but when I found myself unemployed and looking for something to do I decided it was time to finish just one of the few stories I'd started. Torn Between Two Worlds was the only one that made sense to finish.
A little less than a year later, I'm getting to say hello to my book being brought out into the world. I submitted to a publishing house that I knew was the right fit for me, and thankfully they felt the same.For the past 5 months I've been schooled in promo photos, cover creation, book trailers, Amazon stuff and more. Now it's time to see if I did any of it right ;)
I want to take a moment and thank all the people that I never could have done this with out. Thank you first and foremost to my private school librarian - Miss Burns. Without you I may never have even tried to write, my never have known how. To SJ Davis, thank you so incredibly much for taking a risk on a me. I hope to not let you, and Hot Ink Press, down. To my rockstar editor, Elizabeth, thank you. I don't think I will ever forget to have a man clean himself ever again! (P.S. I totally checked Nightmare in Steam after that convo to make sure everything was squeaky clean!). Thank you to Skye, Catherine, Mariana, Randi and Frances for holding my hand at various steps along the way to learn how to market and release this book. Thank you so much to Joe for his incredible gift that means more than he knows. A special thanks to Riley for my beautiful (and sexy) cover - Ciara and Stryder are exactly how I pictured them! And lastly, thank you to everyone outside my lit family who have been going on this journey and supporting me.
Now for some fun! Click below to grab your very own copy of Torn Between Two Worlds and check out the slideshow of my favorite promo images!
NEW RELEASE FROM Lexi Ostrow
Torn Between Two Worlds (Book 1 of the Guardians)
"A girl with an incredible gift must chose between good & evil, love & loss"
SMASHWORDS (epub format!) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457869
Stay up to date with any announcements and just general posts here!