The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne

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Rescuing the Prince is AVAILABLE NOW!

That was fast! It seems like only this morning that I was posting this, and… oh, wait.

Anyway, here it is, in all its glory! It’ll be 99c for just a few days before going up to full price – so, if you think you might get 99c worth of pleasure out of a lighthearted story about a grumpy prince falling in love please do snap it up!

the cover of "rescuing the prince" by victoria leybourne. A young woman in a dress gives a thoughtful sidelong look to a man in a suit, who glares back at her

If the slipper fits…

Prince Cor of Seingalt is about to announce his engagement. The court, the country and the world are waiting to meet his fiancée. The trouble is, he hasn’t got one. He needs a fake, and fast.

Rhian Rothe is trapped. With her dreams of stage stardom in tatters, she needs a new opportunity—enough to agree to play Cinderella to an arrogant prince. But this is no fairytale, and Rhian’s not the one who needs to be rescued. If Prince Less-Than-Charming wants her help, he’d better start acting like it.

Sparks fly as soon as the pair meet at the palace, and it turns out that the only thing Cor hates more than lying to his country is working with Rhian. But nothing is as it seems in the royal court—and, no matter what, the show must go on.

Rescuing the Prince is a sweet contemporary romance novel for fans of fairytales, tiaras and happy endings.

Click here to get your copy!


Right. If anyone needs me, I’ll be whimpering in a corner.



A book launch, and some screaming.



I just did this:

screenshot showing that my book rescuing the prince has been submitted for publication on amazon

It’s going to be 99c for a couple of days so, if you think you would get 99c worth of pleasure out of a lighthearted story about a grumpy prince falling in love, please do snap it up when it publishes! UPDATE: here it is!

And I’m nail-gnawingly nervous about it. I love this book. It was just so much fun to write. Although I’m proud of my first couple of books, thinking about them brings up a lot of stressful memories of battling endless problems and an overwhelming sense that I was out of my depth. But this one was different. Writing this one, I finally felt like I was doing okay.

Of course, even writing that, I’m thinking “I’ll look like a real idiot for having said that if this one falls on its face.” And that’s what I’m worried about, really. I thought my second book was better than the first, and it made, uh… *furious calculator work*… 7% of the money the first one did.

Aside: AHAHAHA I actually didn’t realise it was that bad until just now, oh no

And I think this one is even better. So, extrapolating from previous results, I can probably expect my total takings from this one to be, like, 1p and a small collection of lint. And that would make me really sad.

Still, I think I’ve dodged most of the things that may or may not have tanked the last launch, so there’s that. And now, with our expectations suitably lowered, I guess I should tell you about what I’ve been doing to try for a better launch this time.

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Things that are happening

Hello! How are we all? Is it just me, or has it been February for a good couple of decades now? I’m cold and sad and I miss daylight.


Things are happening. Book things.

Here they are, in no particular order.


Yes, I know, I have a problem. I have to say, though, I’m pretty pleased with these:

the cover for the rose and the mask: a man and woman stand together. The Man's face is obscured but the woman is staring straight out of the picture, holding a mask. red rose petals sweep over the bottom of the cover, and the title and author name are picked out in gold. The cover for the murano glass slipper. A man and a woman in historical clothing dance together. Blue petals sweep over the bottom of the cover, and the title and author name are picked out in gold.

They’re an evolution of the ones I showed you in this post, which I decided just weren’t quite right. I liked the images, but wasn’t quite happy with how I’d used them. These just look a bit more professional, I think – plus they coordinate with each other a little better.

Brief but mostly-relevant digression: I recently saw this chart (definitely click that link if you’re an artist or creator of any kind! I found it really thought-provoking). It’s really about visual art, but I think it applies to other kinds, too. Basically, it explains that, as your ability to produce good art improves at a slightly different rate to your ability to evaluate art, there will be times when you can create better than you evaluate (where you think “Wow! I’m amazing at this!”) and times where you evaluate better than you create (“Wow, this sucks…”). This certainly explains a lot about writing for me (like how I can feel worse about my writing while being sure I’m getting better) but it probably also plays into my feelings about my own cover designs.

I have far, far less experience as a cover designer (or a designer of anything) than I have as a writer, and I learned everything I know about graphic design by fumbling around in Photoshop until things somehow look a bit better. I only have a very vague idea of what good design is supposed to look like. So, when I produce something that looks half-decent, I feel great about it, and will all but drag people over to the screen like “Come and see this AMAZING THING I made.” Conversely, I actually know quite a lot about writing (some of that English Literature degree must have sunk in), so my ability to evaluate literature is probably better than my ability to create it. So I often feel pretty terrible about my ability as a writer – even though I’m much better at that than designing covers.

The obvious conclusion to this is that I should really pay someone else to design my covers, but I’m a) chronically short of ££ and b) deeply stubborn, so that’s not on the cards for now.

Moving on…


If you’ve been following along here for a while, you’ll know that I originally released my two books exclusively on Amazon. This was in order to join the Kindle Unlimited program, where your books are available for people to borrow with their KU subscriptions and you get paid a small amount (around $0.004, four-tenths of a US cent) for every page they read. Your books have to be Amazon-exclusive to be eligible. For a while, I was doing pretty well on KU – in fact, I’d guess that a good half of my earnings from the books have come from those page-reads. But I was starting to get uncomfortable about relying solely on one retailer for that income – especially when there’s very little transparency about how KU works.

So, I’ve pulled the books out of the program. They’re still available to buy on Amazon, of course, just not to borrow. And they’re now also available on Apple’s iBooks, Kobo and Google Play. (I’m working on Barnes & Noble, too, but I’ve run into some issues getting an account set up.) If you want to see how they look in those stores, all the links are on my author website, which I just revamped again. The old layout didn’t really have space for all the retailer links.  That’s proving to be one of the challenges of “going wide” (the term a lot of indie authors use to describe using all major retailers instead of just Amazon), actually: it’s difficult to manage all the links. If you’re an author struggling with this problem, by the way, I recommend this WordPress plugin!

I started the process of “going wide”, uploading the books to all the different stores, on the 3rd, and the books went live pretty quickly. So far, I have to say, I haven’t made a single sale on any of these new retailers. That’s not terribly surprising, since I haven’t done anything to let people know they’re there, but you often get a surprise sale or two on Amazon before you even know a book’s gone live, so I guess I was secretly hoping for that to happen! I have, however, had a few more sales than normal on Amazon, which is interesting. One theory about KU is that it “cannibalises” your sales – that is, people borrow your book when they would otherwise have bought it (which generally nets you less money, depending on the sale price).

Overall, this could well prove to be a mistake – especially when so much of my income was previously coming from KU. Then again, both sales and reads had dwindled down to virtually nothing, so I didn’t have that much to lose. In fact, it seemed like a good idea to try it now, with these two fading books, before deciding what to do with my next release. And there is some good news…


Despite the lack of sales there, so far I’m very impressed with Canadian retailer Kobo. (Here’s the link to their self-publishing arm.) While I’m very glad of the work Amazon did in opening up ebook publishing to indies, there’s no getting away from the fact that Amazon is so huge that any individual author is just an ant on the pavement to them. Most of us aren’t even ants. We’re like… microorganisms. They just don’t know we’re there. In practical terms, this means that there’s pretty much nothing you can do to make your book more visible on Amazon: most promotion is driven by algorithms, and those will only push a book if it’s already selling.

Kobo, on the other hand, offers promotions that you can actually submit your book for. If accepted, you either pay (usually not much) or agree to let Kobo keep a larger share of the takings for the duration of the sale. I applied for one of these almost immediately, just to see how it worked – and got accepted! The Murano Glass Slipper will be reduced to $3.99 (Canadian)/$2.99 (US) on Kobo from Feb 15 to 19. In return for including it on a sale page and an email (note: I’m not totally sure if the book will be in the email or if it will just advertise the promo as a whole), Kobo will take an extra 10% of my royalties. Since, at the moment, I’m getting a whole 70% of nothing on Kobo, this definitely seems worth doing!

I’m pretty excited to see how this turns out. In fact, until a few days ago, this was the biggest news I needed to share with you.

But then


Okay, have you guys heard of Bookbub? Basically, it’s a place to find ebook deals. You sign up, choose the genres you’re interested in and, every day, you get emailed a selection of free and discounted books in your genres. You can also browse deals on the site.

That’s from a reader’s perspective. From a writer or publisher’s perspective, it’s a highly sought-after promotion opportunity. See, there are tons of newsletters you can pay to advertise a discounted book in, but most of them don’t produce a positive return on investment. That is, the newsletter doesn’t sell enough copies of a book for the royalties to cover what the author spent on the promo. People still book these promos, hoping that they’ll make their money back on other books in the same series, or benefit from increased visibility when the book goes back to full price, but that kind of freaks me out. I don’t mind taking the occasional calculated risk, but I can’t bring myself to spend money on a promo that I know won’t make a profit. That’s why I chickened out of running a 99c promo on The Rose and the Mask when The Murano Glass Slipper came out, the way I originally planned to: because I couldn’t afford to advertise it.

Bookbub is different. Bookbub has a huge, highly-engaged audience, and almost always produces positive ROI. It’s also incredibly competitive to get into. They’re very selective about the books they promote, which makes them more popular with readers, which means that they can afford to be more selective. Getting an all-territories Bookbub promo (US, UK, Canada, India, and Australia) has been known to make an author’s career, and many people submit their books endlessly in hope of getting one.

You’re probably guessing at where this is going, so let me head you off at the pass: I did not get an all-territories Bookbub. HOWEVER. I did get an “International” one, which includes all the countries above except the US. This is a much smaller audience: the number of subscribers to Historical Romance, the genre I applied for, is quoted as 1,330,000+ in the US, compared to 300,000+ internationally. But still, I mean… Yay!

The Bookbub promo is for The Rose and the Mask, and will go out on Feb 26. The book will be reduced to 99p in the UK, 99c in Australia and Canada, and ₹65 in India. Apparently, the average number of sales for one of these promos is 440 which… I mean… wow. It’s sold 575 copies (admittedly, at full price) over the last year, so to sell that many in a day is just unimaginable. Also? It’s sold virtually squat outside the US. This has always puzzled me. I mean, I get that the US is the biggest market for English-language ebooks. But I’m British. My writing is, I think, overwhelmingly British. I kind of expected it to appeal to British people. And yet, it’s made almost no impression over here. I think that’s largely because the US store has something the UK one doesn’t: the option to run pay-per-click ads. I think those really helped me to find an audience early on, whereas there was nothing I could really do to promote to UK readers. Maybe this Bookbub will turn things around!

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if good news didn’t freak me out a bit. All along, I think I’ve been a little afraid of these books being read by too many people. It’s an imposter syndrome thing: the more people read them, the more chance there is that someone will (metaphorically) stand up, point and me and yell “She’s not a real writer!” Because I’m not, really. I’m just some twerp with a keyboard. This fear is also not totally unfounded, since writers often find that running discount promos on their books leads to a flurry of bad reviews – perhaps because the promo tempts people into reading books they otherwise wouldn’t have chosen.

But, still. This is exciting, and I’m excited for it. And now this blog post has swallowed my entire morning, so I’d better go. I’ll be back soon – hopefully with good news!

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First peek: a royal romance!

That’s right: I still don’t actually have a title for the royal romance! But what I do have is a nearly-ready-for-editing manuscript, and I just can’t keep it all to myself any longer!

I haven’t had a chance to write the blurb yet, because blurbs are hard and I sort of hope that the task of writing them will go away if I ignore it for long enough (it does not). But I can tell you that the plot of this book involves a seemingly-grumpy prince, a fake engagement, a plot to undermine the monarchy of a small European country, and a West End musical.

With that in mind… here’s your sneak preview! (NB: this hasn’t yet passed the eagle eyes of my lovely editor!)

an engagement ring against a black background. text: a sneak preview...

Image credit: Freepik


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Belated New Year Post

Happy new year, blog pals!

I can’t quite believe we’re in a whole other year already. 2017 went incredibly fast for me, probably because I barely looked up from my computer. If I wasn’t hovering over The Rose and the Mask, being incredibly NERVOCITOUS (NERVOUS and EXCITED but mostly NERVOUS) about its release, I was writing The Murano Glass SlipperOr hovering over that, being faintly dismayed. Or, at the end of the year, quickly squeezing in about two-thirds of a draft of my still-untitled royal romance. I know I did some things that weren’t writing-related, like going to work, and spending time with people I love, and briefly nipping over to Disneyland Paris, but mostly it was writing. I think I’m okay with that.

Speaking of which, I seem to remember setting some goals at the beginning of the year. Let’s see how I did…

(Paraphrasing some of these, because apparently I never write a sentence on this blog when a paragraph will do.)

Finish the edits on The Rose and the Mask

I sure did! All the way back in January.

Attempt some pre-release marketing activities, such as approaching book review blogs to offer them advance copies.

Uh… huh. I mean, yes, I did do this – there was a spreadsheet and everything. It didn’t really work, though. But I did at least learn more about what does and doesn’t work in book marketing.

Release the kraken book!

Yes! On March 3. In retrospect, March and April were the most exciting part of the year. The book did really well considering my inexperience and general newness – though I guess I didn’t realise how well until Book 2 faceplanted in November. But, back in the spring, I got to watch sales coming in and even got some really encouraging messages and emails from readers, and the warm-fuzziness of that did a lot to carry me through the rest of the year.

Write the sequel!

Yes, and this is an area where I think I can be proud of myself – in spite of the disappointment over The Murano Glass Slipper‘s poor sales. I bungled the release, no question about that, but I honestly think the writing is my best work so far, and I’m delighted with how quickly I managed to get it done. Last year, I wrote, “I want to aim to finish it by the end of 2017. That’s ambitious, given how long [The Rose and the Mask] has taken me“. That was a fair point – The Rose and the Mask took me three years. The Murano Glass Slipper took eight months from planning to publication, and I’m certain it’s a better book. And all I intended to do was to end the year with it ready for editing. So, yes, I’m pretty pleased about this one.

Write 52 blog posts.


I just did a quick count, and I think I managed 22 blog posts in 2017. To be honest, that’s more than I thought. This goal was an evolution of my resolution the year before to blog once a week, which I almost did, though I had weeks where I felt like blogging a lot and weeks where I didn’t feel like it at all, so I thought, in 2017, I’d try for an average of once a week instead. But another thing about 2016 is that I often wrote a blog post when I wanted to feel productive, but really didn’t feel like working on my book. What I’ve figured out since then is that there is no such thing as “not feeling like it” for professional authors. If you don’t want all your books to take three years to write, you crush all your “not feeling like it” into a trash cube like the robots in Wall-E, and then you sit on that cube and write a bloody chapter. So.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t feel too bad about this one, in view of how well I did in other areas. I still like my blog, and I still want to share my writing and publish experiences here, but it has to be secondary to the actual writing and publishing.

Right. Let’s set some goals for 2018!


  • Finish the as-yet-untitled royal romance. And title it, I guess.
  • Write a short prequel novella to the royal romance. I am excited for this, because I’ve got some ideas for it, but I’m a little nervous because I have no idea if I can write a short romance novella. The royal novel is going to end up 20,000 words longer than I originally planned. So this should be an interesting challenge.
  • Write another novel. I almost want to say two novels, because of how well I’m doing with the royal romance so far. But that might be pushing it, so perhaps I’ll say that, by the end of the year, I’d like to have finished two novels and the novella, and be at least planning another novel.
  • I’d also like, by the end of this year, to have a better grasp of my own novel-writing process, so that I can more reliably plan some kind of production schedule. But that might be more of an ongoing development thing than a goal.


  • Relaunch The Rose and the Mask and The Murano Glass Slipper. I’m planning to release them on other retailers once my exclusive contract with Amazon runs out, which gives me scope to try a few different marketing techniques. How much I’ll be able to do depends on a bunch of factors (budget and my inexperience at scheduling any kind of coordinated promotion being two big ones) but I want to make a bit of a fuss of the books and just see if that helps at all. It won’t make up for the bungled launch but… anyway, let’s see what happens.
  • Publish the royal romance and its prequel. Do not mess up the launch. I realise there are a few details missing here, but I’m working on it.
  • Towards the end of the year, once I have a good number of books out, I’d also like to start working on some kind of promotional schedule – although, as above, that’s not really a goal. I guess I just want to finish 2018 feeling as though I’m working to some kind of plan, rather than just fumbling around.

Phew. I’m tired just from making this list! Back to work, I guess…

Thanks so much for all your support in 2017. I hope 2018 is a fantastic year for you, whatever you plan to do.

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Shiny newness, and other updates.

Hello again! A few more updates for you…


I really don’t want this to be exclusively a “complaining about publishing” blog, but I have to admit that morale is still pretty low around here. I really thought (and this is my own naivety, or arrogance, or whatever) that the relative success of The Rose and the Mask meant that The Murano Glass Slipper would do well too. And it… really hasn’t. The Rose and the Mask was in profit after a month. The Murano Glass Slipper is a month-and-a-half old and still very much in the red, even though I spent less on it than the first one.

In fact, releasing this whole new book has barely made a difference to my earnings from writing at all. Look at this:

graph showing a steady decline in earnings after a peak in April, mitigated only slightly by a small increase in November

This is from a tool called Book Report. The blue area is earnings from Kindle Unlimited and the red is royalties. You can see the release of Book 1 in March, the peak in April, then the steady decline I talked about before. November’s new release is not much more than a blip 😦

I really hope I’m not coming off like I think I’m entitled to more sales or something. I really don’t think that! I was very lucky that The Rose and the Mask did as well as it did, and I’m still very lucky (and feel it) when anyone chooses to read either of the books now. Writing a book doesn’t entitle you to readers, no matter how hard you try or how much you want success.

I just… I wish I could be happier without success. I wish the thing I wanted most of all wasn’t something so fleeting and that no amount of hard work can guarantee me. I’ve had jobs that offered security and money and good prospects, and I tried to want them, but they made me feel like I was disintegrating from the inside out. Writing is all I want to do, and all I’m really good at, so I broke every rule I’ve ever been taught and I tried it. It was a stupid thing to do but, for a few months in the Spring, I thought I was getting away with it.

The new book

The thing is, I’ll keep writing forever, no matter what. And, in better news, I really think I’m getting better at it. Specifically, I’m getting a better feel for what is and isn’t working in a story, and I’m able to act on that quickly, instead of writing another 20,000 words on top of a shaky foundation and having to axe the lot. I might even be developing a process. It’s not the one I’d choose, necessarily, but still.

I said in my last post that I’d got up to 40,000 words on the contemporary royal romance (still untitled!) that I’m working on. I ended up getting to 48,000 before noticing that it was becoming harder to get motivated, which usually means that I’ve uncovered a problem in my work. In this case, the problem wasn’t one big thing, but rather that I now had quite a long list of small-but-significant changes I wanted to make to the scenes I’d already written, and it was becoming difficult to keep them all straight in my head as I wrote new scenes. Plus, it was making me feel like the whole thing was a Mess In Need Of Fixing, which is bad for morale. So, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a second draft. 80-90% of it is copy-pasted straight from the first draft, but I’ve ironed out some of the inconsistencies and other flaws that were niggling at me.

For a few days, I was quite annoyed to be working on this new draft. I’d been really hoping to get all the way through a draft before going back to fix things. But then I remembered feeling the same way with The Murano Glass Slipper, after starting a new draft at about the same point. And I remembered not doing that with The Rose and the Mask, and having that “axing tens of thousands of words” thing happen a lot, for three years. And that I really think MGS is a better book than RatM, even though writing it didn’t cause me anywhere near as much grief. And then I thought, hey, maybe this is just the way I write books. And maybe fighting what might be my natural process is a just a good way of creating a lot of stress without creating a lot of book.

So I’m trying to embrace it. I read everything I’d written on the new book and it actually seemed pretty good, which is always a relief, and I’m confident that the changes are making it better. It’s a little tedious, and I’m hoping to be done with the redrafting and back to work on new scenes too, but hopefully doing this will make writing the second half feel as natural and fun as the first half did.

Some new covers

Finally, if you’re a long-time reader, you know that I went through a completely unnecessary number of iterations of the cover for The Rose and the Mask, starting long before it was ready for publication. Well, I’m at it again. I really like the current covers for both books, and I do think the RatM one was at least moderately successful, in that people have said they were drawn to it because the cover was pretty. But they don’t signal genre very clearly – you don’t look at them and immediately think “Oh, it’s this kind of book”. So I wanted to see if a cover that says “buy me if you like fairytale romance!” would help. Here’s what I came up with:

a new cover for the rose and the mask. a woman holding a mask stares out at the viewer while embracing a man whose face isn't visible


a new cover for the murano glass slipper. A couple dance together under a full moon, staring lovingly into one another's eyes

I’m pretty pleased with them, because they’re much better than anything I’ve been able to do in Photoshop with actual photos before. And I do think they say “romance”.

As for whether they’ve actually helped… I don’t know. Sales were dismal before I changed them (a week or so ago) and they still are, but Amazon has had reporting issues, plus apparently this is a bad time of year for ebook sales (they don’t make good presents) so it’s probably too soon to judge. I’m open to hearing any feedback about them, though! I’ll probably trial them until the end of January or February, and then either change them back or keep them and make paperback covers to match.



Personal Best

Well, there’s no good news on the sales front for The Murano Glass Slipper, unfortunately. It’s still, you know, fine. I’m not devastated or anything. In fact, I’ve now had a few really sweet comments about it that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Which, let’s be honest, is a big part of what I’m in this game for. But the sales are still so, so much worse than they were for the first book and, somehow, worse even than my most pessimistic estimates. It’s bad, guys.

I’m trying to be positive about it, to think that there’s a chance that it could take off at any time but, really, I’m gutted. I’m managing not to spiral too much, but I know the thoughts are there, at the back of my mind: am I just terrible at this? Is the first book so bad that people will never, ever read anything I write again? How could I ever be so arrogant as to think I had a chance as a writer?

There is some good news, though. My current project, an as-yet-untitled contemporary royal romance (not Meghan-and-Harry-related, although I’m hoping they’ll have put people in the mood for it!), is going pretty well. I posted before about how putting together a detailed plan before starting to write made a huge difference to my productivity last time. This time, I’m working from a plan again, but I changed up the method a bit. Rather than plotting scene-by-scene, I actually wrote out the entire thing as one 12,000-word outline. The idea was that, hopefully, this would make it easier for me to spot any plot holes–because I’m looking at the whole plot at once instead of one scene at a time. So far, so good–although it’s normally around the two-thirds mark that the plot holes really make themselves known, and I’m not there yet.

Actually, the real headline here is my output. In the post I linked above, I was excited about having written 40,000 words in three weeks. As of yesterday, I’d written 40,000 words on the new book in 17 days. Sooo… that’s good.

There are some mitigating factors. For instance, I’m writing this one in first person, which I’ve always found a bit easier to do. And I’m sure a large chunk of this 40k won’t make it into the book, because I’m over halfway to my target word count but not yet halfway through the outline, so I’m pretty confident that the beginning needs a trim.

But, overall, I’m excited. This is a personal best for me and a huge improvement on how I used to write. It feels like I’m training my writing muscles and making them stronger–which is strength I’ll need, if I’m going to make a success of this someday.

Meanwhile, I suppose the disappointment with MGS means that I’m building resilience, and I’ll need that too. Onwards and upwards, I guess!