SPS-395: Dominating the Dark Romance Charts – with Rosa Lee
Booktok is a powerful audience that can push book sales through the roof, yet many authors struggle with the platform. Rosa Lee, however, has been able to leverage the platform to reach thousands of new readers. Today she shares insights into her posting strategies, and what she’s observed from her time on Tik Tok.
- Dark romance troupes and conversations around them.
- TikTok tips and tricks.
- TikTok Video strategies for authors.
- Romance author signing events.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show,
Rosa Lee: I just watched my book Rise and Rise and rise in the charts, and I watched my royalties go up, and then I was in the Movers and Shakers thing. And at one point I was selling more than Prince Harry's at Coronation Weekend.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Do join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatt as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show with me James Blatch
Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Few technicals today, but I can see you. I can hear you. So let's just crack on with this one. We have a good interview today, mark with Rosa Lee, you're drinking a cup of tea as well, aren't you?
Mark Dawson: I'm drinking some coffee. Yes.
James Blatch: Oh, that's not, I dunno what coffee is in Coney rhyming slang. But that is where her name comes from. She's from London originally. Rosie Lee, obviously is coney rhyming slang for tea. But she went with Rosa Lee, she writes dark Romance sort of billionaire. Why choose? You know what why Choose is?
Mark Dawson: Nope, I have no idea. It's not my genre.
James Blatch: Why choose everything? Why choose is the new reverse Harlem,
Mark Dawson: Because Oh, I see. Okay.
James Blatch: A a certain Chinese own social media platform doesn't allow you to reverse harm anymore.
Mark Dawson: Oh.
James Blatch: And so now, now say, why choose until TikTok decides. You can't say why choose, then it'll be something else. Like, I can't believe it's not reverse harm. Which what, what they, they should have called it the first time. anyway very good interview coming up with Rosa. She has just done Rare in London. I really wish I could have got there. Had lots of authors at the big signing event in London at the Excel Centre. Romance authors, a couple of thousand readers were there as well. But I was just too busy to get down. They're too busy going to Wimbledon and, and formula One meetings, but apparently it was amazing. And Caroline and Suzanne had a snaking cue apparently. Rosa was saying from their table, but we'd expect that. But Rosa writes in very much the same wheelhouse actually as Caroline Peckham and Suzanne Valenti have been on this show before. And like them has seen tremendous success boosted by TikTok. Tiktok has been the key driver for her sales, and she's done very well. Hit number 72 in the store not that long ago. Okay. sorry, you haven't said a thing you want to say. Mark Dawson, would you like to speak?
Mark Dawson: I do, yes. So we've actually got some patrons who,
James Blatch: Oh
Mark Dawson: Yes. So Catherine has just, just a few minutes ago reminded us, we have some patients, so Bob Rimer Ryan Z from Plotter, who we know. And Mike Judd who didn't. Mike Judd. Isn't he responsible for beavers and Butthead? I can't remember. Must be
James Blatch: Judge. Maybe.
Mark Dawson: Judge. That's right. It was Mike Judge. Yes. It's obviously a different there was a
James Blatch: Judd who was a Blue Peter presenter. It might be Leslie Judd's grandson,
Mark Dawson: Who, who knows? We, we don't have addresses for the three of them. But we we do have Thanks. Thanks for them for supporting the show at Patreon, which is very, very, we're very grateful for them. Helped us as we approached nearly 400 episodes. This is 3 91, I think so in about two months then we'll hit 400, which is pretty good. Really?
James Blatch: It is pretty good. Yes. And you can join the Patreons by coming past of the [email protected]. Slashing self-publishing show slash
Mark Dawson: Slashing
James Blatch: Slashing.
Mark Dawson: It's Freudian.
James Blatch: I did, I did do an interview about Pirate Romance this morning. Got very into squash, buckling and slashing that
Mark Dawson: All you need to get the toilet, I'm not sure. Hang that's,
James Blatch: That's something else that TikTok doesn't, doesn't like in romance. Anyway.
Mark Dawson: Okay. Thank you.
James Blatch: Lovely. We were just queuing Rosa, so here she is. Let's hear from Rosa Lee. Then Mark and I will be back for a chat at the end.
Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Rosa Lee, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Great to have you here. We're going to be talking romance, dark Romance, I think probably is your your genre. And we're going to hear a bit about yourself, but I think just to start off,
you've been at Rare, which was the romance signing, big signing in London. I mean, it moves around Yes, the planets, but it was in London last week. What was that like?
Rosa Lee: It was crazy. It was super busy. There were lots and lots of readers. And it was, the vibe was amazing. It was a huge place. It was in Excel, it was a huge hall. So there was lots of space, so we didn't feel jampacked. But when I looked, I was in sort of the second row and when I looked behind me and you've got authors like Anna Huong, Caroline and Suzanne, Katie Knight, j Bre, and they had just crazy, crazy cues. And people ticked, I think, like some readers came up to me and they were like, number 500, 600 in the queue waiting to see these authors. And that was amazing.
James Blatch: But you had a, you had a fair number of sign of readers come to see you.
Rosa Lee: I did. I did. I had some small cues at some point and it was quite nice. There was a nice mix of meeting some new readers who would just come up and be like, I've never read your stuff, but your covers drew me in. Which is always good. Yes. So, you know, the covers are working. Yes. and, and then they'd, the, well the the trickiest thing is they ask you to explain your books and you're there like, okay, cool, I've got this, I've got the tropes in my head. I just need to make it sound good. Yeah. Without like, waffling a bit
James Blatch: I did see someone tweeted yesterday saying I'm an author. Ask me anything you want. Someone asked, what's your book about? You can ask me anything except that Cause we can, none of us can explain that. It's
Rosa Lee: Really hard. No, it is really tricky to say it in quite a succinct way.
James Blatch: Well look talking of queues, I'm, I'm going to glance that way occasionally because I'm 618,966 in the queue for Taylor Swift tickets at the moment. And I have to. So that's exciting. I'm only 22 hours away I think, from getting to the front of that queue. And they're only as far as I can work out. This is Paris. There are only 140,000 tickets. I dunno how this works. But anyway. I've got a daughter in Australia who's going to unleash nuclear Armageddon if I don't get them. So I'm I'm trying that. Okay, amazing.
Let's talk about you. Let's talk about your writing. You got into this fairly recently, Rosa, didn't you?
Rosa Lee: Yes. So I started writing like many others actually that I've met since not quite during lockdown, but sort of lockdown year. So I think, and I'm not sure how I know this, but I think it was the 12th of December, 2020. Cause I think I once looked at the document cause I was using Google Docs and it told me and that stuck in my head. So yeah, so I started writing then and it was kind of after my third was born, my little girl. And my usual work of making costumes was dead because no one was doing anything. There were no films, there was no museums open, no reenactment. And I just kind of wanted something else to do. And I was an avid reader and chatted to some authors and they were like, start writing. So, so I did.
James Blatch: You were- sorry You are a costume designer?
Rosa Lee: Well, so I'm a costume maker so I specialise, I guess I still do, although I haven't done it for a year or so. I specialise in making historically accurate linen garments, is the technical phrase. So shirts, roughs, I've done some films I did last year was the last job I did. And that was firebrand, which was a film with Jude Law. So I made, or Jude law shirts.
James Blatch: Wow, that sounds great. Thanks. So basically whenever the BBC do a costume drama on a Jane Austen or Dickens, you're in, you're in
Rosa Lee: Sometimes I, no, I don't know if I've done any bbc. I've worked with one particular designer. So he did things like the duchess tulip fever. I wasn't in a duchess, but I was in tulip fever with him. And he, he always gives me really fun people. I never get to meet them, but then when they're on the screen I'm like, oh, I
James Blatch: Made that. So I love that. That's amazing.
Rosa Lee: That's quite fun.
James Blatch: What a cool thing to have done. But lockdown was not great for that obviously. And you started writing and
you went into, I mean this is what you read presumably kind of dark romance.
Rosa Lee: Yes. So I am, well people tease me about it a little because I only read why choose reverse hareem whatever you want to call it. And it pretty much solely just read dark. So I'm really thick in that genre of reading it all the time. And that's kind of what sparked off the ideas to start writing.
James Blatch: That is one of the things they say, isn't it, about reading into genre. It sounds like you are mired in the middle of it. You mentioned Caroline and Suzanne, of course you are, you're in the same wheelhouse as them.
Rosa Lee: Yes. And I've been lucky to meet them a couple of times and they're lovely and they've offered quite a lot of advice and we, yeah, we're similar kind of genres. So it's, it's nice to sort of see where they are and see sort of where I could be and what they're doing and stuff like that. It's quite helpful.
James Blatch: Yeah. Well we're going to talk about TikTok in a moment, which has been an important part of life, I think for both, for both Caroline, Suzanne, and yourself. Yeah, your, your book covers. I want to talk about that as well because people can look them up but they again, a bit like Caroline and Suzanne's and that, I don't remember, maybe I just wasn't watching but five years ago, I don't remember a lot of covers like that. They tended to have more characters on the front. Mm-Hmm. But yours is and Caroline, Suzanne, keep mentioning them cause you are very similar genre have these very distinct at a glance.
Now you've almost created this at a glance. This is Dark Romance likely set in a school or something like that.
Rosa Lee: Yes. Yeah. And actually I was really lucky with my with my debut series the Highgate series because I had no idea. And I just contacted this cover designer who I really loved her work and she was the one that suggested the hands because I said, oh, I think sort of discreet covers like without people on a becoming quite popular. Cause I've been reading those books and seeing that that kind of cover was becoming a bit more prevalent. And and she suggested and she did an amazing job. And as I said, I've had people who see my covers from across the room and assigning and come up to me just simply because the covers draw them in. So it's really, they've really worked and I was worried because they're very different from a lot of the mod we call the model covers. But they, they do seem to work really well for me, which is quite good.
James Blatch: That's sort of in between the style because I think Caroline, Suzanne Downs don't have any figures on at all. No, and, and the model covers. And then in between you've got this sort of stylistic Yeah. They look great. I think they're really Capturing. So yeah, obviously it's a, it's a thing. And we should,
We should say right from the beginning that you've been very successful from, from almost from the get go.
Rosa Lee: I, yeah, I, I think so. I, it sometimes it's difficult to know because some people can be quite coy about where they are and where they start. But I think sort of briefly touching on the TikTok thing, I had quite a good viral video when my book was in pre-order, my initial book. And that led, I think it was a long pre-order, so it was about nine months and I put it up for pre-order before I'd finished it so I could start advertising it and people could start pre-ordering it. And I did have it, I think I put it at 99 cents, 99 p because I was like, for people to take a chance, I'm a brand new author. It was just a bit of an incentive thing I thought might work. And I think because of this TikTok and all the other things, when I released I had 340 pre-orders, which is good.
So I've been told for a debut Yeah. Never released a book before. And that series has done well. And then my biggest month, well apart from recently was when the last one in that trilogy sold released rather. And that that gave me quite a good bump. So it's, yeah, I think, I think I just hit the right time with the right genre and I think because I read so much in it, I know what people were interested in and I follow a lot of bookstagramers and book tokers and a lot of readers and can see what they're after, what they get excited about and I was able to kind of put that, those little elements into the book as well.
James Blatch: Yeah. I'm going to talk, we are going to talk about TikTok a bit, but I want to talk a little bit more about the genre. So I did read one of the Caroline Suzanne books, curious about this whole thing. And I was, I was honestly, I was a little taken aback at at the strength of the male dominance of the female character. And I suppose that's from being, you know, born in, raised in the seventies and eighties there's been this feminist transformation And as a male you feel a little bit like that kind of porny way of, of, of men holding women's throats and all the rest of it is, is really kind of old school and quite dark and male. That's what I think this is my takeaway male. And then I'm reading this book thinking this is mainly written for a female audience. Not exclusively mainly, but it's quite like that that seems to be kind of the thing. And I don't want to delve too far into people's psychology here,
but I'm reading that Right. Aren't it? Does feel like a yes male, you know, a subjugate sub, what's the word? You know, you know the word I'm grappling for of women?
Rosa Lee: Yes, yes. I think it is. I think there is some interesting psychology there because it's all over social media. And it is this sort of really dominant alpha male who, you know we kind of dabble in even sort of like the consent element. Yeah. And kind of, you know, like this idea that they're this really strong kind of warrior type. And I think that is, that seems to be really popular and seems to be what people are craving. And it's, I think there's an interesting argument and debate there somewhere about perhaps, I don't know, society now and the fact that it became quite oh, I can't remember what the phrase was. They used it loads where it was like men weren't really allowed to be really masculine. They kind of had to be a bit of both and, and like it was just sort of men were a bit afraid to be too masculine. And I think maybe, I don't know, maybe it's gone the other way and women are really craving that certainly in their books they're craving that kind of dominance.
James Blatch: Yeah. Fact in fantasy should probably draw a line there cause it's not, yes, no, it's a very different thing to crave it in real life. But, so yeah. So maybe there's a little backlash to the kind of modern man being all sensitive and, and kind and something there. But anyway, the books do very, very well. which is, which is great. And I, you know, I enjoyed the book hugely. It was, it was fun and it was a good story. It was just it, it piqued my interest, the kind of that, that aspect of it. But your books I think are going to be very similar to that. I can see that already from the blurbs and, and the covers.
And your audience is, is mainly female, but I think like a lot of romance writers, you probably find quite a few male readers.
Rosa Lee: Yeah I think, I think on the whole, it's definitely mainly female. Maybe sort of like 80 to 90%. But I have had the odd male reader pop up and I think even recently I had someone email me and he was a guy and he said it was his 73rd birthday or something coming up. And so I sent him an e-book as a birthday present. I think it was in response to one of my automated email welcome sequence things. And I asked people questions and they often, if it's working they'll email me back and I was really chuffed. I was like, oh, that's fabulous. Because I normally don't hear, normally the male readers can be quite quiet and you don't see them even at signings. Maybe a couple, but not too many. I think on the whole it is mostly female.
James Blatch: I think it's actually quite, quite when I get, I get emails as well for my automated sequence. I get particularly older people reply, like, it's, you've written that email just for them, which of course you kind of have and it feels slightly like you are, they don't really understand how it works. But that doesn't matter. You reply to it as if it's a one-to-one email. That's nice. But I do get that as well. Oh dear James, thank you so much for asking if I enjoyed your book. I've only just started this and you know, I get those emails every couple of days. Yeah, it's nice.
Okay, let's talk about TikTok then. So TikTok has been, I mean, it is, it is good for Dark Romance for for sure. And it was big for you all the way through your career. Got you started. So how did that happen at the beginning?
Rosa Lee: So I think, I'm just trying to think back. I, I had a friend who he's no longer writing anymore, but he was, I think the one that initially got me into TikTok and he gave me quite a lot of advice. And it was when I was doing sort of more face on video, so showing my face lip syncing, finding stuff that worked and just playing around and doing duets and stitches and things like that. And that worked for quite a while. And then sort of as the platform develops, new trends come along. So then you had kind of like the page flip trend. And so that was also working, but I never really, up until recently, I didn't really make that correlation between, well, I suppose apart from the pre-orders, but it didn't really sink in that actually it could have such a huge effect on sales.
So I sort of knew it could, but I wasn't sure how to kind of capitalise on that. And I did, there was a point where I did kind of, it sort of felt like nothing was serving and no videos were getting any views and it was just, I sort of kind of let it slip a little bit. And then I think earlier this year I came across some sketcher and she's another author. She does I think hers is darkish, it's sort of like billionaire type romance. And she's an absolute whiz TikTok and she was sort of like, she just took it by storm. And she gave me a lot of advice and she had this method called the Hook and Delight method. So you put a little hook about your book. So this is all just about your book. You're not showing your face and you've got two images as a video.
And then you put your hook, which draws people in. And then as the image changes, you put your delight, which is perhaps a quote or sort of the, the conclusion to that hook. But it's, it's really a way of drawing a style of video that really draws people in. And you see a lot of WATTPAD uses doing that. And the Wattpad crowd are really good to look at for social media because they're, they're so on it, they're, they're often quite young and they just know, like if you look at any Wattpad accounts, their videos get thousands and thousands of views every time and people desperate for their stories. And so it was a similar sort of setup to that. And so I got back in into it and was doing that. And she also sort of gave this idea that you could have more than one account so that you could play with different things on different accounts, which obviously is obvious when you look at the TikTok platform.
Cause when you go to it, it says add account. So yes, you can add more than one account. And so she, she really helps me with that. And then, and then again that kind of, it was working okay, but then it sort of tailed off a little bit. And I think that was like sort of maybe February, march time, sort of February, March, april time. And that's when I found like Bobby Kim's stuff and his particular way of doing videos which seemed to really have a really good return. And seem to be working quite quite well in terms of conversion from actual TikTok into sales. And so his videos the slideshow style, so you have a series of photos. And so you have your introductory photos with your hook on it. So we've still got this hook.
And then what you do is you have screenshots of your Kindle pages. So with highlights on, so you've highlighted certain bits in your Kindle. And of course I'm in KU but I can share up to 10%. So that's, that's all fine and above board. And then at the end you have your Amazon sale page. So it's basically a call to action. It's telling people where they can get it, it's telling them that you're on KU or not, how much it is, that kind of thing. And so I started experimenting with that style of video and I saw, and that was just on my one account I think at that time. And I did see a real increase in interest and I saw a bit of an increase in comments and things like that. And then the idea with that is that once you've kind of got your sorted, you've got your scenes that you know, people are really interested in and bearing in mind that most of your viewers on your videos are going to be brand new to you.
So it doesn't matter if you keep repeating the same content. It's not like Instagram or Facebook where you need fresh stuff all the time because it's the for you page. And those people often have, they're not following you, they haven't seen you before. And you just have to then match it to the right sound. And I just so happened one evening to, I think it was someone in one of his chat groups recommended this sound and it was, it was quite a dark sound. It was kind of about, I think it was about sort of sexual abuse and stuff and it really fit with one of my scenes. And I thought, oh well I'll give that a try. And I did. And then I woke up the next morning to find, I had 32,000 views overnight on that video. And that my book had jumped from, I, it was like 5,000 and something to like 200 and something in the whole of the Amazon store.
And it was just absolutely crazy and I just watched it and obviously I do the whole rinse and repeat thing. So I kept using that sound with other sort of similar scenes and other videos and kept pushing those out. And I just, that, I think that weekend was it, it was the Coronation weekend I think. And I just watched my book just rise and rise and rise in the charts and I watched my royalties go up and then I was in the Movers and Shakers thing and at one point I was selling more than Prince Harry at Coronation weekend which is like a little thing, but I've got a screenshot just cause I was like, yes,
James Blatch: if you ever meet him you can, you can just hold out the screenshot and wave at him.
Rosa Lee: Yeah, I could. Yeah. So yes, it was, it was absolutely crazy. And that really solidified in my mind this direct correlation between a video doing well and having all these comments. And I had people telling me that they were downloading the book and that, and then three days later on videos, I had people telling me they'd read the entire series because they were so excited by it. And it was just like, it was a crazy sort of week. And I think in the end I was sort of 71 in the Amazon store on a book that's two years old, so. Yeah.
James Blatch: Wow. Fantastic. And if people want to look at these videos, you said you've got more than one account, but at, at Rosalie is is one of Yes.
Rosa Lee: Yes. That's that's one of them. Yes. And it's still still going despite the violations I keep getting for putting naughty stuff on TikTok.
James Blatch: Yeah. And that is a occupational hazard isn't it, of romance writers in general, but I imagine dark and spicy in particular. So you've had, you've had a few rebukes from the
Rosa Lee: The Yes. A few little slaps. Yes. Well, and from I think occasionally it gets reported and, but it's, it's tricky because our readers want that stuff. Yes. And so you're in this catch 22 where you try and put stuff up that's not too spicy, but that's spicy enough it's going to engage the readers, but sometimes it clearly is too spicy and, which is fair enough, TikTok are just trying to, they don't have any age gateways at the moment. So no, I keep, every time I meet someone from TikTok, I keep suggesting they put them in Yeah.
James Blatch: Okay, well let's, let's pick unpack a a couple of the things that you talked about there. I think the, the sort of formatted videos, the, the idea, your first one you talked about, I think was was two images, the hook and hook and delight.
So a couple of images, presumably you just use text on screen or do you, and then a bit of musical, do you, do you use any voiceover in those or?
Rosa Lee: No. So it's just text on the screen. So yeah, it would just be I don't know, like one of them could be like, I dunno, when he takes her to, when sh I think there was one that was really popular and it was someone's burn. It was like when she, his wife takes his credit card and spends a billion dollars or something like that. And then the delight part where it switched over was something like, and the bank phones him and he says, that's my wife, I don't care. Also, I mean, it's a much better word than that. But it's, it's that idea that you it's just text on the screen and you match it to a sound that is sort of trending. And that's one of the biggest things that helped me was the sound that I picked just so happened to be on the cusp of becoming viral itself.
So it brought my video up with it. And what, that's one of the hardest things is finding the sounds that kind of match your vibe because you don't want a happy jolly sound if you've got quite a dark scene that you're trying to get across, but that also aren't too populated, but that aren't, that, you know, aren't too unknown. And, and it becomes this thing of trying to find these sounds that are then going to push you up. And it's interesting because you'll start to see once you start looking at it and if you can, you know, you can go into the sound and see what the other videos are. The ones you know are working really well are the ones that mostly have book talk stuff in. Because you'll be like, oh, that's a good sound. There's mostly book talk videos because then the algorithms pushing it out to mostly people who are following book tok. So it's, yeah, it's, it's interesting.
James Blatch: Yeah. And there are a couple of takeaways I think for people there. One is that TikTok started as a sound platform and sound is hugely important to its algorithm. So focusing on that's really important. Secondly, excuse me, you mentioned earlier, and I've had a few videos go viral. The, the, the percentage that are not your followers is astronomical when you have a viral video. So it's 99% are for you Paige and tiny number go to your followers. So you're quite right to point out that unlike most social media platforms, you don't need to really focus on your followers. They will be there anyway and, and enjoy your content, but don't worry about repeating yourself and getting your message. saying the same thing in 55 different ways is probably the, the motto for TikTok. You know, if you find a formula, rework it.
Rosa Lee: Yeah. And I think the biggest takeaway I took certainly from Bobby's course and things was that you switch your thinking about TikTok and it's not, if you start thinking about it, it's like an advertising marketing platform rather than a social media platform. All you are doing is split testing ads. So you, you've got your one, say you've got one scene like the credit card scene and you are just reworking your hooks. So you are rephrasing it in different ways. Putting in, putting it in like from a slightly different point of view or maybe a slightly different part later on in that scene. And you are just testing that so you can, one scene can do, I mean 10, 20 different videos because you are just seeing, and then from that you start to see, okay, well this, this hook with this scene always works really well.
I always get really good reception there. So you kind of narrow it down and then you just start pushing that scene and that hook and as you say, it's mostly for you Page. So it doesn't matter that it's the same thing, your followers aren't going to get bored or annoyed because they're not necessarily seeing it that much anyway. And it's just trying to get it out to new people who are like, oh actually that's a really good book. I want to try that. And that's where I, the beauty of TikTok is it finds you new readers like at more so I think than any other platform I've come across.
James Blatch: Completely agree with that.
And do you, how many followers do you have on your main accounts?
Rosa Lee: I think it's like 11,000 now. It went up quite a bit. So it's not too, it's not too bad, but in a way I'm not necessarily that worried about gaining followers on TikTok because I want the new readers on TikTok Yeah. Rather than the followers.
James Blatch: And that's the point I was going to make really. Cause 11,000 it's not, not a huge TikTok account, but the clout you have and the sales it drives just show what we were talking about. It really is about for you page and, and getting the algorithm working for you rather than your followers. It's a different way of thinking about social media.
Rosa Lee: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And you can see, I can see the direct correlation when I check my royalties. So I can say so for example, rare at the weekend I didn't really get to post much at all on TikTok cause we were so busy at the times and things like that. And my royalties dipped and I can say that's because I didn't post. And then now that we're back start posting a bit more and they came up again. So it's, it is really, I can pinpoint the times when I, I did babe in Oz in Sydney like a few weeks ago and I couldn't post because it wouldn't, it thought I was in Hong Kong or something. I dunno, it was a bit mad. And my, again, my royalties dipped quite significantly. And then as soon as I came back and started posting again, they went up.
So you can, you can track when you are posting and how much you're posting and it's, it's really interesting and you can, the thing that I do, so you can have an author hashtag and if you track that, you can track how many views you're getting overall per day. And so then you can really see, so maybe you've only, you are like, oh well my videos didn't do particularly well today, but you track your hashtag and you're like, oh actually I got 50,000 views overall. So yeah, that's why my royalties are quite good. So it's, it's an interesting platform. Sure.
James Blatch: That's another really good tip. And someone told me that in New Yorker at the Mastermind about having a hashtag with your author name in it for tracking purposes. It sounds rather vain isn't having a hashtag with your own author name, but you are there to promote yourself. But, but the main reason is you say you can then count number of of views for that, that hashtag and it is literally just your author name or do you have like a quirky little, cause it could be anything right? That you use to track it.
Rosa Lee: Yeah, it could be anything. Just a sort of unique identifier. I think people say, I think it was Bobby that told me to say, do your author name because nobody else is going to have that one. So if you put author in it and then your, your author name, then you know that all those videos are going to be your videos on there. But yeah, I mean if you've got like a quirky little saying or something, you could do that as well. But it's just something to track and then make a note. I've got a spreadsheet and I now do it every few days because once you start getting over a million views, which I did, it's, I think I'm at 2 million now. Overall it's, it's, it only counts at every a hundred thousand. So if you're below a hundred thousand, so for me now it's every couple of days and I think I average between 50 and 70,000 views a day now. So it's worth checking. Yeah,
James Blatch: That's excellent. Well that's a shame. I, I've marked mine up really cause I'm actually over over 2 million views as well,
Rosa Lee: But Oh, brilliant.
James Blatch: But I don't do anything like, as, I'm not as focused in any way in the way that you are on your books. So I focus on military aviation and don't I, when I focus on my books, I, I get sales, but they're smaller and it's a smaller part of my, my own audience. But that, that's disappointing because as I'm over 2 million I'm not going to see, cause I'm dealing in smaller numbers, I probably won't see my hashtag counts up very much anyway. I will try it, I'm going to start doing that. One of the many things yeah, on my list is to really go back and focus on TikTok. Cause it's really good for me in the early days when I, I got those big viral videos and, and then immediately followed up with book posts. that's how, how it worked for me. I think if you've had a million views on one day, which I had on a couple of days and then the next day you do anything, you do the algorithm immediately sends it out to like 20 or 30,000 people before it even blinks because it thinks Yeah. You know, you're on a bit of a roll and before, before the algorithms notice this is just about your book rather than it's the quirky military aviation thing I did the day before, but
Rosa Lee: Yeah. Yeah. Well you could also do it straight away as well. So yeah, as soon as you, you know, as soon as you hit 10 k you can start posting every hour. Like people post, I mean averagely it's like three posts a day. Normally you don't want to do many more than that. But I think when, when my video had gone viral, I think I ended up doing about six posts in that day and all of them hit and all of them served. Wow. Because my account was hot. So a TikTok is like, this is a really good account. The algorithms like this is brilliant, loads of people are engaging on it, I'll keep pushing out this content. But I've heard people have done like 20 posts in a day, just literally every hour the post, the post before hit several thousand they post again and post again and you are just, you are capitalising on that hotness as it were. So you could do that. Yeah.
James Blatch: The hot streak. Yeah.
I was still worried about cannibalising views from the post that was was winning at the front. But you don't think that's a danger?
Rosa Lee: I don't think so, no. Because also my, my original posts, I'm still now getting comments and stuff on them. And that was back in what May the seventh. I think I had three in the end that did really well. And I'm, they're still being served, they're still being shown so I don't see, it didn't stop the previous posts as far as I know. Because once they're already hot, they're already being pushed out. So I don't think it stops anything.
James Blatch: Well you mentioned reverse horror or why choose, which seems to be because reverse harms wouldn expressions that TikTok doesn't like. So why choose is the modern one until they decide they don't like that and then it'll be something else Who the hell knows might be the next expression
You, is that your books and and you also mentioned billionaire, you are you billionaire? Why choose Dark Romance? Or is that just
Rosa Lee: So Yeah, so I'm definitely, why choose Dark Romance and Contemporary? I guess my Highgate series, they are rich so they could be billionaire. My addicted series while the Dead Soldiers duet, that one is kind of a bit more gang focused, but they're still, they're still quite wealthy. So I kind of focus quite a lot on found family. So this idea that, you know, these characters have quite a lot of trauma and their, their families potentially haven't been as supportive as they should have been or they've been downright abusive. And so they kind of come together in that way. And that's, that is quite a popular trope at the moment and it's one that I love to read as well. You know, just a group of people who've come through loads of struggles and found each other. So I, I, so yeah, so, but I'm always, why choose
James Blatch: I love discovering new romance tropes. So Found family,
Rosa Lee: Don't think found family or sometimes chosen family as well.
James Blatch: So this is where your friends become your sort substitute family because you are real family let you down.
Rosa Lee: Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
James Blatch: Love it. Very supportive. Yeah, yeah, it never stops evolving, does it? This and, and no, I I think one of the keys, clearly one of the, your keys or secrets is how, how deep you are in into the genre.
Rosa Lee: I think so it's what, it's what I tell sort of new people or people who perhaps are struggling and I'm like, you have to read it a lot. You have to know because you'll know, especially if you're reading new releases, you'll know what people are really desperate for. You'll know that all the tropes that are really popular at the moment, and I mean I do know people who look at the say Top 100 in Romance and they, they look at the tropes that are in those books and then they sort of adjust what they're writing accordingly. But I think if you are reading it all the time, you kind of get to know the language as well and you get to know the terms that are really popular. Probably many that I can't say on air here, cause they're too naughty. And you know, it just, it means that you know what readers are craving.
So you can actually start to work those in your book. Like for example, and it's a combination of reading and TikTok the sort of touch her and we unlive you, that's the kind of trope. And then who hurt you is another sort of trope. So that's that dominant male thing. And I actually put both of those even down to using those phrases in my latest work in progress that I'm just about to start editing. Because I knew that those were hot tropes that people are looking for and people are desperate to have more of. And then I know that when I come to do TikTok videos about them, I've already got certain hooks that I can just pull straight away from certain scenes and that I can promote those because those are the kind of hot topics. So yeah, it's becoming a bit obsessed and completely immersed in that, in your genre I think is like top tip really.
James Blatch: Yeah, that's, that's really good. And a ninja advanced level marketing to write. So what Hollywood films do, they'll often have scenes in there they know are going to be effectively the trailer and the scenes built around that they know this is going to signify very clearly the best this film's got to offer. And that's kind of what you're doing at the point of writing is you are, you know, these, these are going to be the marketing hooks.
Rosa Lee: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I know another author again on TikTok and she, she actually, and this, this is the next level, I'm not sure I'll ever get to this level, but she tests her hooks from her scenes before she's even written the scene. So she will test several different scene ideas with different hooks and whichever one sticks the most, she'll put that in the book how she saw test them
James Blatch: Super clever readers.
Rosa Lee: Yeah. So she tests them on TikTok, see which ones get the most views and see which ones people get most excited about get the most engagement. And those are the ones that she'll then put in her book, which I think that's just, I mean it's just amazing, isn't it? You just think that's Yeah. Sort of next level.
James Blatch: Yeah.
It is amazing how big Dark Romance is. I, we have El James I suppose to thank for the Yeah. The, the modern explosion of it. But presumably it existed before 50 Shades?
Rosa Lee: I think so, because I know certainly you had well even why she existed. So I remember reading who was it? It was L LK Hamilton. She had quite a big series. Anita Blake, she was pnr, so she had a vampire series and a sort of fairy series. And I remember reading that when I was sort of 16, 17. And so that was ages ago. And yeah, I think you had the Dark Romance, but I think E l James bought it into mainstream a bit. So it became a bit like, oh this is actually a thing that we could really, that exists and that I could find. And so she really, I remember, I think it was at, not this year's sps, but last year's sps, the Lytics man who I've forgotten his name, Alex, he was
James Blatch: Talking No House,
Rosa Lee: That's it. And he was, he showed the graphs about, I think, and with Popular Culture and he showed when El l James published and then Dark Romance took off and he showed the same with Twilight, when Twilight came out or the vampire stuff became really popular. So I think there's definitely like a direct correlation between that. So we do have her to thank for that for
James Blatch: Sure. She did Brilliant job. And yeah, we didn't see her this year, but she did turn up at s SPS last time. Was it the year before? I can't remember. Anyway. Yes. Yeah, I, yeah. And your audience, I talked about them being obviously predominantly female. What demographic seems quite a young audience for Dark Romance?
Rosa Lee: Well, I don't, looking at sort of just looking at my social graphs and things, you know, where it tells you your audience? Not necessarily. I think I've got a lot of audience sort of readers that are kind of mid thirties to like mid fifties. Okay. So I think, I think it's one that kind of crosses age groups quite well because you've got the, you know, sort of mid aged to older ladies really enjoying it. And then you've got the younger women who are sort of getting into it and really enjoying it. So I think across, I think it's quite even in terms of age range actually.
James Blatch: Hmm. Good. Now
beyond TikTok, are you doing anything else? Facebook ads, Amazon ads, mailing lists?
Rosa Lee: So I've, well, so I've got, I've got a mailing list, which I had a mailing list before and in my great month of May, I lost it it, it got I'd been, yes. And it was quite, quite a large mailing list. And basically the email provider I was with thought that I'd got these emails and illegally and I couldn't prove that actually they'd been signing up for email builders and things like that. So they, they deleted my list. So I started a new one, So I, I do have a new list. It's much smaller than it was, but at least it's all organic and I know that they've all definitely signed up for it. So I do that. So I do two emails a month. Well, my pa my pa wonderful pa she does a lot for me now so I can focus in on the writing.
So we send two emails a month just with Catchups and I try to include sometimes like even a little sort of scene for my work in progress or a bonus scene that I take. Cause I, I've got a Patreon as well, so I write them bonus scenes. So I'll take one of the old ones and give that to my newsletter people just as kind of like a sort of thank you for being on my newsletter. Here's something a bit special. And I do I've obviously got Facebook, Facebook groups and I've got Instagram and I have started, I say I've started, I've got somebody who now does Facebook and Amazon ads for me because at the time back in May I just, I've got the SPS course and it's sitting there waiting for me to do, but I just didn't have time to do it. And the advice was like, you need to start doing ads to sort of help capitalise this popularity you've got and to just maintain it a little bit. So we do ads and I must confess, I don't understand any of it at all. It looks on the surface like I'm losing money on the Amazon dashboard, but when I compare it to my royalties, I'm making a lot more. So that sounds, I think it, that's
James Blatch: Normal for, that sounds normal for Amazon ads.
Rosa Lee: Oh, good, good. Cause I was looking at it the other day and I was like, this doesn't look too healthy. But then when I, it was like, you might want to compare your royalties and when I did that I was like, oh no, it's fine that that works. So, but we have quite, I think, I think it, well we've got the budget at like a hundred dollars a day, but it doesn't spend that at the moment. So it's, it spends I think maybe about 50 pounds a day. Mm-Hmm. $50 a day. So it's not, it's not a huge amount because I'm actually interested to see with the TikTok stuff whether that has a better conversion than ads, which I think it does in a way. I think because it's more of that organic reach, but it's how sort of maintainable that is. So yeah, there's a little bit of ads going on, but I, it's mostly for me up until I didn't do any ads up until May at all, no ads at all.
Wow. and that it was just being present on socials posting. I think when I started I set myself the goal of posting on Facebook and Instagram and TikTok once a day, every single day. And I just religiously stuck to that the odd time I didn't manage it, but, you know, I use scheduling where I could and things like that. And that has been such a help in building followers and building kind of these super fans and you know, actually just keeping in contact with people that I just, you know, I hadn't done any ads and now I'm doing them, but I'm still very present on social media. I think you kind of have to be as an author, certainly an indie author. Yeah.
James Blatch: That is amazing. I mean, TikTok clearly is the is the engine oil in your engine, your oil in your engine. yeah. Well that's, that's great. Oh, dogs arrived. Someone's let the dog in. Who's let the dog and Taylor Swift update. I'm now 617,000. Honestly, it's going to be this time tomorrow. Gosh. I'm going to be the front list queue. I don't understand it. Oh,
Rosa Lee: Good luck,
James Blatch: So I'm recording a series of interviews today, so the listeners over the next month are going to hear the progress of this Taylor Swift queue.
Rosa Lee: Oh, that would be exciting. There you go. And then we'll know whether you get it or not.
James Blatch: Yeah. Have to stay tuned. You'll find out in September. Yes. Well this is adore my wife's soon. It's all happening. Suddenly all happening. Rose, it's been brilliant talking to you. I mean, congratulations on your fantastic success. Thank you. So so pleased for you. Your writing's obviously incredible. My, I always, you know, thank you. Don't mustn't forget to say that because it's, you know, it's such an important part of this and, you know, all the best marketing in the world's not going to not going to get you booked to go from one person to another unless that person loves it. So that's what's working for you. And it's such a vibrant and dynamic little community. The say little significant community, the Dark romance. And I'm pleased you got to meet Caroline and Suzanne because I think you are yes. Your, you know, who knows soon be side by side with them wouldn't surprise me in a year's time. Oh,
Rosa Lee: Oh, I hope so. That would be, that would be the goal. That would be the dream to have a big long queue at Rare
James Blatch: Yes. Yeah, there you go.
And did you say you went to a signing event in Australia?
Rosa Lee: Yes, I did. Babe Ballgown books and Ballgowns event organised by Tate James. She's another Why choose Big author kind of dark and it was, that was pretty amazing as well. These were the sort of things I thought, oh, I might get to do in five years time and then I get to do now.
James Blatch: Wow. Fantastic.
And did you wear a ballgown?
Rosa Lee: I did, I did. I wore two different ones. Cause it's a Friday night and then Saturday all day, and then everyone wore ballgowns. It was it, she did it very, very well. In terms of the aesthetics was that whole Instagram like beautiful, everyone in ballgowns, it was all glittery. There were lots of props everywhere. There was like a throne from Game of Thrones, like one of the Sword Thrones. It was just, yeah, it was really well done. That
James Blatch: Sounds such a brilliant idea.
Rosa Lee: You'll have to come in 2025. Yeah,
James Blatch: I just stand the ballgown. So the readers, the readers dress up as well, presumably.
Rosa Lee: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yep. If, if they want to, if they don't, but if they, everyone dresses up, so it's quite special.
James Blatch: He doesn't like love dressing up. Rosa, thank you so much indeed for coming on. Stay in touch and follow your progress as you grow and grow as I'm sure you will. And I think you'll be checking you out on TikTok, but at Rosa Lee is the place to go for that.
Rosa Lee: Yes. Thank you so much for having me. It's been fab.
Speaker 1: This is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Okay, there we go. There's Rosa Lee. This, it, it really lends itself to TikTok dark Romance and I'm mean Spicy Romance generally. I suppose. I don't really know why. Is it because TikTok is a slightly more fruity environment to use that expression? Or is it because they are authors focusing their efforts there because they struggle to very clearly advertise their wares using Facebook ads and, and most of them, and Rosa was no exception of had their ads accounts suspended on numerous occasions in the past. I dunno whether it's what, what chicken and egg situation is there, but certainly
Mark Dawson: No, I think it might be that their audience naturally gravitates towards TikTok. That would be my guess is that that is the most popular of the social media platforms for people who like those kinds of books seems most likely to me. Yeah. yeah, but you know, it's, if anyone's questioning the power of TikTok, I sent you a link the other day of yeah, this old geezer in the States who was at a book signing and looked a bit lum and someone went up to him and said, you know, asked what he was doing and, and said, I wouldn't selling Lot lies. I'm not selling many books. So this guy bought a book and said like, I I, I'm on TikTok. I would've, I'll I'll do a video to promote you. And I think he was, I wouldn't, he didn't me as like a mega influencer.
It wasn't like he had, you know, millions of followers. But he had, he he was had some but then this guy, the TikTok went viral, millions of views and he hit number one in the entire Amazon store. So he would've made well thousands and thousands of dollars with, with a book that did, nor looking at it, you would say, and it's without being too un un charitable about it, it did not deserve to be a number one in the store. It it, it had a fairly amateurish cover. I think he was probably, you know, he was a writer. He wasn't, he, he was the writer enjoyed writing and he was trying to sell as many books as he could. And then he just got caught up in the TikTok juggernaut and was it number one for not just for a few minutes? I think he was number one for a few days, which was,
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. Cause you sent me the, the day after it happened, and it was still at number one when I looked. Yeah, I mean, it was a, it's a feel good story, isn't it? It's going to be a Richard, Richard Curtis film. Well, I can't imagine him going home in the evening and typing in TikTok and probably spelling it wrong and trying to work out it's okay. What, what is this thing that's happened to me? But yeah, just does, that, does underline the power of that platform at the moment. And we've talked a lot about it in, in two interviews I've recorded today. So with Rosa, we talked about, and she made some really good points, really good takeaways for using TikTok. And one of which it is, it, it's not follower focused TikTok. Your, your posts that do well, do well on what's called the for you page.
So it's the algorithm working on your behalf to find new. It's what's so good at finding new readers. Doesn't really matter so much about your followers, your follow accounts, or how many see your videos. And there are several other golden nuggets in there from her. Anyway, really, really good to speak to her. I know you've got another meeting that's international hand signal if you're watching on YouTube from Mark has to go. But that is, it's, I think for us this week. Thank you very much indeed for everyone who helps put this together and for you to listen. All that remains for me to say is this goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And I've got another international hand signal for you and it's goodbye from me.
James Blatch: Goodbye, goodbye.
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