The Dangers of Self-Publishing: Reviews

Okay, maybe this should be a general ‘dangers of publishing’ post, but I’d argue not. Sure, reviews are part of every author’s life, and can make or break their success. However, in the world of self publishing, we see a rather stranger side of reviews.

Being a published author gives you some legitimacy. Someone, somewhere, has put their seal of approval on your book. In fact, most likely it took several people giving your book the green light for it to get published.

Self-publishing however can be done by anyone. As long as you stick within whatever rules the self-publishing company has, you can pretty much publish anything. People know this. The common reader, as much as we love and need our readers, knows that your book has as little backing as whatever they could write. . . and they may well tell you so.

Once it has been established that you are, in fact, fair game, the reviews will come in. Some honestly just seem to be negative for the sake of it. Some, of course, seem positive just for the sake of it. It’s an interesting mix.

When I read my first bad review, my heart sank. I put a lot into my writing, and hearing it slated so much really did hurt. It took me a while to step away, and think. On the internet, people will ‘troll’ or make nasty comments just for the sake of it. And sure, they may not have liked the book, but some comments can be needlessly harsh. We have to just accept that we are opening ourselves up to this kind of criticism, just by being brave enough to self-publish.

There is of course the up side. Once they have read your book, you will be getting the money from that, whether they liked it or not. It’s a small balm, but a balm nonetheless.

There’s bound to be good reviews too. I’m still very pleased with the review on Breaking the Stallion:

Even if I don’t quite think it’s worthy of such high praise. As they say, it takes all sorts to make the world, and we just have to learn to deal with that.


Author Bias: Kinks

Ah, a subject close to all our hearts (well, about 18 inches down from our hearts, but close enough)

I think it’s inevitable that as writers, we will write what we like. In fact, it’s well-known advice, to ‘write what you would want to read’.

It’s also, however, good practice to write things that we don’t always like ourselves. This does, however, become harder with something as personal as kinks.

SO, do we write what we like, or what other people like? It stands to reason that someone out there will have the same kink as you, so you can pretty well be sure that there are readers for whatever you like. However, I would highly recommend writing outside your comfort zone, if only for fun.

This is where I have to make a confession. A year ago, I would not have been into animal shifters. Heck, I possibly didn’t even know about it as a kink back then. Now, however, most of my books are based around animal shifters, and in all honesty, I’m really enjoying writing them. Exploring outside my own interests has opened up new horizons for me, both in my writing and my reading.

However, part of me really wants to get back to my own personal interests . . . so, maybe expect more BDSM work in the future, as well as F/M erotica, and some fantasy erotica. Because after all, erotica is meant to be enjoyable – if it isn’t, you’re definitely doing it wrong ๐Ÿ˜‰ So don’t write outside your comfort zone if you’re not enjoying it.

The Personal Assistant Book 1- New Hire

Live (and, for once, fresh and actually on-time with the announcement) now – The Personal Assistant Book 1 – New Hire.

Andrew Phillips is a normal young man, down on his luck. Fresh out of university, he finds himself jobless, loveless, and hopeless. A chance meeting with Rob Truman, the black sheep third son of a very rich technology family, changes all that.


This is my longest book to date, at a whopping 58 pages / 22k words. See the innocent meeting of our lovely young men, all the way to their steamy encounters and moral dilemmas.

Buy it here:


How to choose a pen name

So, now that you know Isabella Cooke is a pen name, I feel I can give some advice on how to choose a name. This info is gathered from various sources and advice from other sites, long with my own findings and experience. Obviously with a leaning towards erotica pen names.

First off, you have to decide what kind of pen name you’re aiming for. Do you want something rather normal, like ‘Sarah Clarkson’? This kind of name is less obviously a pseudonym. It’s a believable name. The other end of the spectrum would be what I’d call a ‘porn name’. ‘Dick Hunter’ is a good example of this kind – you know that either it’s a very unfortunate name, or it’s to do with porn.

Both have their pros and cons. A porn name means that no-one is going to mistake what you’re about. They can often be a bit humorous, and act as something to draw in readers, all by themselves. However, people might not take you as seriously. It might make readers question the literary merit of what you write.

On the other hand, a normal name can give you a bit more legitimacy. People won’t question how serious you are and might assume that you at least put all you can into your writing, instead of coming across too jokingly. It is, however, a bit boring. It won’t draw readers to you, as you’re just another person.

The next major choice would be to pick your pen name’s gender. There’s plenty of argument that you should pick the gender which fits best with your target audience. There’s also an argument that it’s easiest to have the gender as your own gender.

Once you’ve decided all this, it’s just a case of picking a name. It should be rather simple, as writers pick names for characters all the time. Think of your pen name as a character and name them. It’s pretty simple… in theory. This step took me the longest. I aimed to have a list of five names to take through to the next step.

The next step – test the names. Mull them over in your head. Consider introducing yourself as your pen name. Does it get the response you want? Any that don’t fit right, discard. If you’re running out, come up with some new ones.

When you’ve got names you think you like, it’s time for the usability check. This is simple, but also very important. Google your pen name. Search the stores where you intend to sell your books. Search Facebook. What comes up?

Sarah Clarkson ( is already an established author on Kindle, so I wouldn’t use that. There’s no point in getting your books muddled up with someone else’s – it’ll probably mean losing sales.

Isabella Cooke ( is only similar to someone who has posted one book on Kindle, and it’s nothing like what I write, so I’m quite happy to use the name.

The Google and Facebook checks are important too though. If your pen name is only the real name of one person, it’s a bit tight to use it – imagine if you had a very uncommon name, and someone with your name became well-known online for writing smut. That’s potentially all kinds of embarrassing. On the other hand, if your name is the same as a million other people’s, then you’ll be lost in a crowd. Finding balance is good.

If you’re really fond of a name but it doesn’t pass these checks, maybe try changing the name slightly. Sarah Clarkson can become Sarah Clarke without too much difficulty. Dick Hunter could become Dick Fisher (…. okay, maybe not ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

Most importantly with this, don’t rush. with any luck you’ll be making money under your pen name for years to come, so it has to be one you’re happy with.

The dangers of self-publishing: Being found out

I daresay this is a danger which mostly relates to writing erotic romance or other ‘dubious’ books, but one of the dangers I have been struggling with is that of being found out.

At which point, of course, I have to admit that Isabella Cooke is a pen name. I’m sure no-one is surprised, but my apologies to anyone who is. The pen name alone took a lot of effort, actually. I toyed around with several names in my head, and then did research on a few – checking if they were used, checking if there was the right number of people with the same name, etc, etc.

So not only do I want to keep my pen name because of all the work it took, but I want to not be found out for writing smut. And I’m sure we all have at least one friend or family member who would look at us askew if they knew about us and smut.

What can you do though? All my accounts go through several dummy emails thanks to email-forwarding by Gmail. If there has to be a link to the ‘real’ me, I’d rather it wasn’t too obvious after all. Some of the rejected pen-names have their own email addresses just for this purpose.

My bio is a mix of facts about me, facts about friends, and a little sprinkling of imagination.

I’m still struggling with how to take an author photo. Maybe there will be a mask and wig involved. I don’t know yet. I need to get my masks and wigs down from the attic ๐Ÿ˜‰

Of course, even being careful, I run my mouth off – because hey, I’m writing, and I’m scraping in money (well, a pittance, but still) and it’s still kinda cool. So I may have told a few people about it. I wouldn’t advise doing it how I did. It’s cool if your family can support and encourage your choice to write porn (and hey, they should ideally), but nothing makes Christmas dinner as mildly awkward as discussing how one member of the family writes porn. Porn involving horses. Yep. Awkward.

Author bias: Characters

Chances are, if you’ve ever written or read anything before, you’ve noticed author bias. Authors, as with all people, have likes and dislikes, and no matter how hard we try to hide it, it shows in some way or other. That’s what this series of blog posts will cover.

Right now I am struggling with bias towards my characters. Don’t some characters just jump off the page and into your heart? Don’t others just stay a bit boring, a bit . . . nothing? I can deal with that when reading, but how do you get over writing a character that isn’t living and breathing and luring you in?

Right now, my published stories have three main protagonists between them:

There’s Sam, my young, innocent man set upon by bandits in the Stolen Love series. Oh, Sam is fun, sure. He’s going through full-on life changes, which I’m sure we can all relate to. Also, Sam has been with me for years (even though I’ve only just started writing him), so I’ve got a soft sport for Sam. He’s also maturing in ways I didn’t expect, so sure, Sam in fun.

Then we have Danny, main character of my best selling books, the Horse Rider series. Despite them being my best sellers, I personally don’t get along well with Danny. He’s surly and a bit difficult. He’s rough around the edges. Unfortunately, he’s just not my kind of character. Danny and I haven’t really clicked.

Sy though . . . oh, Sy. Sy, from my Cat Thief books, is my kind of character – especially my kind for an erotic romance. Sy is playful. He’s arrogant. He’s that little jumble of cocky and suave and fun. So much fun.

Thus we have polar opposites. I could write Sy’s adventures every day. Danny challenges me though.

So how do I deal with it?

Sy is easy. The trick is holding back. I have all the stories written down safely, and limit myself to how much I can write him. Usually it’s one Sy story between each other story.

Danny is more difficult. With Danny, I seem to be throwing him angst and anguish. Nothing inspires writing like some good old-fashioned angst. It doesn’t have to be much – a word here, an unexpected kiss there – but enough to light a fire under Danny’s ass (and thus mine as well).

So far it’s working – but how much angst can I throw at one poor character? Let’s find out ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Dangers of self-publishing 2: ScamSpam

Ah, spam emails. Don’t you just love them. ‘Isabella, hot blondes in your area!’, or ‘Isabella, need a bigger penis?’ (Well, I mean. . . maybe? They don’t write back when I ask for details though*)

Today though, I got my first writing-related spam. I’d love to know if any of you have had it as well.

It is from the a person representing The Books Machine. A person who foolishly included a Do-Not-Reply email address AND a regular one (Oh, what fun I could have…):

“Dear Isabella Cooke, (At least they spelt my name right)

I have recently come across your book Breaking the Stallion on Amazon ย (You mean my horse porn… right)ย  and due to both its qualityย  (Ah yes. Horse porn of the highest quality.) and plotย  (Man meets horse. Man *spoilers* fucks horse. Yep, really deep plot), it qualifies to be promoted in our community of readers.

Our press team’s offer includes help promoting books to thousands of readers in our community, whether at reduced or regular prices (Ah, the first hint of how authors are expected to pay/lose money for this). This is done through a deals promotion page on our website, a Facebook post with exclusive deals reaching over 25,000 readersย  (Well, 25k ‘likes’, but a reach of about 3 readers in reality) as well as a “Newsletter of the Day” that uses a unique and innovative marketing tool featuring an excerpt from your book within a unique customized layout. (Customised porn though. Wahey! Oh wait, that’s me. I write porn, and it doesn’t get much better than that)

The days currently available to feature your work in our newsletter are tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday.” (Interesting, since they sent this on a Friday. How come Sunday is left out? Poor Sunday.)


It didn’t take much (/any) sense to see this as a scam, but in case anyone has had the same: Basically this company wants authors to pay a monthly subscription fee, give people their books for free, and generally get walked over in exchange for the possibility of some reviews. In short: SCAMSPAM ๐Ÿ˜€

I guess nowadays safe sex includes sterilising one’s inbox after use ๐Ÿ˜‰


*That’s a joke. Remember, don’t reply to spam. It just makes them notice you more.