Make a Change

Author  DD Lorenzo and I were just talking about the book covers, titles, and blurbs of her books. A third author had suggested she try something new and recover them (and also update the titles and blurbs) because the books aren’t getting the recognition and following they deserve. I totally agreed with her. I’ve read DD’s Depth of Emotion series, and it’s really good (and I don’t like 1st person, but I still loved the stories and her style). 

NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Alessandra Torre (I highly recommend joining her Facebook group) has mentioned many times in her videos, blogs, and post that, if your books aren’t selling, then changes need to be made. If I remember correctly, one of her books has gone through 6 different covers!

At the end of last year, I took Alessandra’s advice. Recovering my series was a given since I’d done the original covers myself—something a lot of us have done for financial reasons in the beginning of our careers. Those covers were okay—and I say that in a flat tone of voice – my readers liked them, but they weren’t attracting new readers as much as I hoped. My standalone, The Friar, had a professional cover, but the title and cover had some readers thinking it was religious or religious taboo.

I ended up reworking all the blurbs, redoing the covers, and changing that one title. Sales have definitely increased on all books—part of that is from Bookbub deals, but  I’m sure the new covers helped me get those deals. They also helped me get a high number of downloads from those deals and keep those sales coming.

If your sales are not where you’d hope they would be, then take a good look at the entire package. I love DD’s book covers, but one person’s opinion isn’t the only one that matters. If the covers/titles/blurbs aren’t appealing to a broad reader base, then something has to change, if not all three.

The Friar won an award in 2017 in the Readers’ Favorite Awards in the very competitive Contemporary Romance genre. However, sales were dismal on it. It’s currently my only stand alone.
The Friar was retitled and recovered. While it will probably never be among my top sellers, the sales and ranks have definitely increased.

When I retitled/covered The Friar and made it The Road to Solace, all I had to do on Amazon and the other sites was change the title in the listing, upload the new cover, and adjust the blurb. I did NOT have to get a new ASIN or ISBN for the EBOOKs only. Print versions needed new ISBNs. The ebook version, though, is the more important aspect. The print versions are always easily linked to them. If you keep your ASIN and other ebook ISBNs, then you don’t have to go through asking Zon, Kobo, B&N, etc to move the reviews from one listing to another – a quick email takes care of this if you decide to start with a new ASIN/ISBN for the ebook. Some authors like to start with a fresh ASIN/ISBN because then the book will be listed as a new release and get exposure that way. If I ever do this again, I might go that route, since all I have to do is contact the sale sites, give them the old and new numbers, and ask them to transfer the reviews.

So don’t be afraid to start over with a new cover and title. I know how it feels to change from a cover you love and that has an sentimental connection with you, but sentimental is not going to sell your books!  Check out the top 50 books in your genres and study the covers and blurbs—see what is making them top sellers. Go into author groups and get opinions about different cover styles, titles, and blurbs. If you have a reader group, show them a few cover/title options and get their opinion from the consumer point of view. Remember, if your books aren’t selling, it’s because of either the cover, title, blurb, editing, or marketing—or all of them. Do the research, take a chance, and put your best book forward.


As with all posts in this blog, these are suggestions. What works for one author, may not work for another. Do what works best for you. 

 

What You Can and Can’t Legally Use In Your Fiction Book

Often, I come across questions about copyrighted material, trademarks, and whether or not certain things can be used in fiction. Here’s a common list of items I see authors asking about.

Towns/City Names: You can use the names of real towns and cities without any problems. I tend to use real large cities and make up the names of smaller towns. It’s easier to “create” a town to your story’s specifications and needs. You can take liberties with real places by making up the names of streets or businesses.

Company/Brand Names: You can use real company/brand names (Nike, Ford, Frito-Lay, Xerox, Facebook, etc.) as long as you don’t show them in a bad light. For example, you can write: A guy who worked for Xerox sat there eating his Fritos with his Nike-covered feet propped up on the dashboard of his Ford Explorer while he scrolled through the Facebook feed on his cell phone. You can’t write: “(Insert real clothing manufacturing company name) employs sweatshop workers from a third-world country. They pay them pennies and have beaten those who complain.” (Unless you have cold-hard facts that it’s true, make up a name for the company.)

Song/Album Titles, Movie/TV Show Titles, Book Titles: These are free to use, but, again, it’s recommended you don’t talk bad about them in any way, i.e., “It’s the worst song ever written.” (You can even use them for your own book titles as long as you’re not violating any registered trademarks.)

Lyrics: A BIG NO-NO! (Most of the time.): Most song lyrics have copyrights on them for 50-100 years. They usually have 2 copyrights to them: one belonging to the artist who wrote it and one to the recording company that released it. However, there are songs out there that are considered “fair use” and other songs that you can get permission to use. In 2015, Helen Sedwick, an author and an attorney in California, wrote a blog post on this, and it has a lot of good information on it. I highly recommend reading it if you’re really interested in getting permission to use a song’s lyrics in your book. 

Celebrities (Authors/sports figures/actors/actresses/politicians/any other well-known-figure): Again, free to use, but don’t risk being accused of libel by showing them in bad light (no matter how much the press and tabloids have done that).  Recently, actress Scarlett Johannson won a defamation case against a French author. 

Excerpts from books, poems, newspaper/magazine articles, blog posts, etc.: Unless you have permission from the author and give proper credit to the author and the original publication, you’re leaving yourself open to a lawsuit. (Also, a possible ban from book sites for plagiarism.) The exception to this rule is anything written before 1923 is considered to be public domain and can be used. Some works written after 1923 also fall into this category. If you’d like to learn more about public domain and how to figure out if a written work is available for use or not, check out this article from the Stanford University Libraries.

Images of Celebrities or Any Other Image Found on the Internet: Just because an image can be found freely on the internet, it does not mean you’re allowed to use it any way you want. While there are sites like Pixbay that have images you can use for free, most images are copyrighted and require you to purchase them for use. To ensure you won’t get sued for using an image, make sure you either purchase the image from a legal listing site (Shutterstock, Depositphoto, etc) or the original photographer, or research the copyright terms on free-use sites like Pixbay. This includes images you use for covers, teasers, and on your website. There are actually people out there who post their images on the web, then do searches for anyone using them on their website or social media page and suing them for unauthorized use. 

As with all my posts, these are simple guidelines to help you. Some are not written in stone, and you may find ways around the limits if you really feel you need a well-known name or previously-written work in your story. Make sure you research anything that belongs to someone else before using it in your books and risking a lawsuit.

How to Create, Cultivate, & Maintain an Active Author/Reader Group on Facebook!

Some of the most frequent questions I see in author groups have to do with creating, cultivating, and maintaining an author’s FB reader group for fans of their books. When should I start one? How do I get people to join? How do I get them to engage on posts? Etc., etc., etc. 

Let’s see if I can answer those questions for you.

When should I create a FB reader group?

It doesn’t occur to many new authors to start a group BEFORE they release their first book, but this is actually the best time to do it. It’s going to take a while to build up your membership (took me three years to hit 1000+ members), but if you’re already active in the FB book community then you have a head start. Create the group, think of a cute/fun name that has a connection to your books, then invite the book community members, that you interact with the most, to join. If you already have a book out, get crackin’ on creating that group.

How do I get people to join my group? There are several ways:

1) Post the link on your wall and your author page if you have one.

2) Post the link on all your other social media profiles too—Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon author page, etc.

3) If you are already sending out newsletters, make a big announcement in it that you’ve started a reader group and invite them to join—don’t forget to give them the direct link.

4) If you’re doing takeover events, put an invite to join your group in its own post! Don’t bury it with all your other “stalk me” social media links.

5) When a reader contacts you through Messenger, your profile, your page, email, or any other social media site, to let you know they enjoyed your book and maybe left a review, invite them to join your FB group.

6) Right after “The End” in your books, tell the readers if they enjoyed the book and would like to learn more about your other books or upcoming ones, then they should join your group!

7) Be VERY cautious who you let in your groups, though. You will be bombarded with creepers wanting to join. Because my group is called The Sexy Six-Pack’s Sirens, I attract the trolls who do a FB search for the word “sexy.” Turn on the feature that creates a popup for join requests that gives them 1-3 questions they have to answer. They can be funny or serious, but make one of them “Name one of (your) books.” You’d be surprised at how many weird responses I get to that one.

Here’s the big one! How do I get my members to be active in my group? 

This is the #1 group question I see all the time. I’ve written a similar response every time I’ve answered it, and seeing the question again today prompted this blog post. So here we go:

1) Post several times a day, every day! Let me say that again! Post SEVERAL times a day, EVERY day. If you’re not active, your members won’t be active.

2) Don’t just post about your books! Post about other things too. Here’s a list of things I post about, but pretty much anything goes (except religion, politics, or any other hot-button topic).

  • Excerpts from works in progress—the steamy or very funny parts.
  • Pictures of men and women who have inspired my characters.
  • Memes—always fun.
  • I recently start posting daily “funnies”—funny cartoons (try to make sure you won’t offend anyone with one—again avoid hot-button topics).
  • I ask my members to help name towns and businesses for my books.
  • I’ve had contests where the prize is for the winner to become a character in my book (name, physical attributes).
  • I show my members the covers and book teasers before they go live.
  • Live writes (more on that below).
  • Invite other authors to come into your group and do a takeover for an hour or a day
  • Post the links to another author’s books that you’ve enjoyed—especially if they’re on sale!
  • Let your members know who your favorite authors are—it’ll give them something to read while they’re not-so-patiently waiting for your next book
  • Let your members post about a new author or book they read (I’m not saying let them promo other authors every day, but the occasional OMG! I just found this amazing book! is allowed).
  • Keep a growing list of your members birthdays in a spread sheet and give monthly or weekly shoutouts to those whose birthdays are coming up.
  • Post about your real life—my members have heard about my mom’s health issues, my brother visiting and disrupting my routine for a few weeks, my dogs’ antics, my move to a new condo, crappy weather, etc. (But don’t get TOO personal).
  • Let them post about stuff going on in their lives too—but within reason. Avoid controversial stuff and not every day. But if they need a prayer for a family member (or themselves) because of health issues or accidents, have a funny thing that happened to them, have a question that’s non-book related, or they’ve accomplished something big in their lives that they’re proud of, I let them post about it.
  • Ask random book and non-book questions like When and who was your first kiss? Are you a dog or cat person? My characters are getting married—what do you think their wedding dress or tux/suit looks like? Which of my characters is your favorite and why? What was the last movie you saw? ANYTHING!
    • Now I know a lot of authors will say that they ask these questions in their group and they’re met with the sound of crickets. These types of posts really only work if you are engaging the members ever day with all the other types of posts.
  • Suggestions for book titles. (I’ve gotten a huge response to this twice now and have used some of the titles. My new Hazard Falls series was named after a member’s suggestion when I asked for a small town name for the series.)
  • Run contests with the prizes being an ARC or a $5 gift card.
  • Post funny videos (again, avoid controversial).
  • Post name game pictures (the ones with the first letter of your last name means something and the color shirt your wearing means something else). You can find these by Googling them or even making one that has your book/series theme to it.
  • Copy and post a glowing review that a member gave you on one of your books and thank them for their kind words.
  • Encourage them to post their reviews.
  • Create a second secret group and tell your readers to join it if they want to discuss your latest releases without putting spoilers in the main group for those who still haven’t read it yet. (In that group, immediately after a book release, I create a post asking what their favorite scene was.)
  • Ask for suggestions for a character’s name (I had my group suggest names for a pregnant couple’s child).
  • Post pictures of you meeting your group members at signings.
  • Keep an ongoing list of your upcoming signings in the file section of the group. I ask for volunteers to help at signings this way too. First person to volunteer, I pay for their assistant ticket and then give them a gift (book, gift card, or something else) at the end of the signing.
  • Create albums with your book teasers and covers in them so members can easily grab one if they want to post it somewhere.
  • Ask your members what jobs they’ve held so you can create a list for future research on a character’s job.
  • Do a live video and talk about your upcoming books or anything else!
  • And anything else you can think of that will garner responses. If you post any of the above only once or twice a week, it’s not going to work! Post often and you’ll start to see more and more engagement. Remind members to turn their group notifications to “All” so they don’t miss anything!

3 ) Live Writes 

A live write is when you do just that—write live in a group or event. These can be done solo or with a partner, and you can invite other authors to do one in your group. You can alternate POV or paragraphs.

  • Announce the live write all week with the time and date.
  • At the start of the live write, ask for story prompts for the author/authors—images, careers, places, etc
  • Choose a prompt and begin. Write a paragraph or two (don’t worry about typos, they’re expected)  in the comments of the post then hit enter. If you’re doing this solo, then just start the next paragraph under that. If two authors are involved, then wait a few minutes for the other author to post their section, then read it and continue the story. (Duals are fun because you never know what direction the other author is going to go in lol).
  • Some authors prefer that the members don’t comment (they can like) in between posted scenes. I, personally, don’t mind, as I get feedback on what I’ve already written. Either way, make sure the members know which you prefer before you start.
  • Sessions can go anywhere from 1-2 hours. (Trust me, the time flies!)
  • Have fun! I’ve done several of these, both solo and with a partner, and one has even inspired an upcoming book.

So that’s the lowdown on starting, cultivating, and maintaining an active FB reader group. As always, these are just suggestions, and other authors may have some other ideas. Do what works best for you.

Nobody’s Buying My Book! Woe is Me!

In one of the author groups I’m in, another author pointed out that your wall or page is not the place to be whining about lack of sales, exposure, lack of reviews, or anything else. I totally agreed with her and decided to further explain the reasons why. 

Whining is not going to endear you to readers and make them want to go buy and read your books. In author groups, you shouldn’t be whining about lack of sales either, but asking what you’re doing wrong and how you can change it. Is it your covers, blurbs, writing, formatting, or marketing? It’s got to be one or more of the above. It might even be all of them.
 
Every author started as an unknown. No one begins to write one day and produces the next Great American Novel that doesn’t need a stitch of editing, that readers will be clammoring for, and that Hollywood will be knocking down their door for the movie rights to. Hell, I doubt there’s an author alive who can publish a book that doesn’t need to be edited. You also can’t just throw a book up on Amazon and expect it to sell itself. This isn’t a baseball field in the middle of Iowa, with long dead players coming out of the cornfield. “If you build it, they will come” works in Hollywood. “If you write it, they will read” doesn’t work in the real book world — not without a marketing plan.
 

For many people it’s the lack of knowing how to network and market (free or paid) that’s holding them back. For others, it’s their writing that’s holding them back. When I first started, I was in a Facebook author group that I no longer participate in because there were a lot of “my way or the highway” people in there and a lot of cutting others down. When I was still new, though, it was one of the few author groups I’d found that was a resource for the critiquing and marketing at the time. Since then, several more have popped up and there are a handful of really good ones that I recommend. (See this blog’s first entry.) 

With only a few books out at the time, I was still naive enough to agree to a review swap — what could go wrong, right? Ugh, NEVER again. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The author had about a dozen books out, all with only a few reviews. I tried very hard to read her book, but the grammar, syntax, punctuation, head hopping, run-on sentences, information dumps, etc., were so bad, I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Granted, some of what she’d done was stuff I, and many other authors, had done in the beginning. 

But the difference between myself and that other author was that I listened to the advice of other more-experienced authors. When they pointed out what I was doing wrong in my writing, I fixed what I could. I couldn’t afford an editor in the beginning, like many of us, so I did what I could to make up for it. I used Grammarly (and another program I no longer have and can’t remember the name of at the moment) and several beta readers who were good at spotting typos. As soon as I could (5 books later), I hired an editor to go through my backlist. She actually thought they’d been professionally edited before because there wasn’t a whole lot we had missed typo-wise, by that point, but she did find some other stuff I needed to fix. I cringed when I went back and rewrote a book I’d let a few family members and friends read years ago. The storyline was good, but my writing sucked. I’d done every fiction-writing don’t.

Once I had the things I was doing wrong in my writing pointed out to me, they were easy to spot in those older books. That knowledge also helped me not make the same mistakes again in my subsequent books. But what it also did was make me even more aware of those issues if they popped up in other authors’ books. 

So getting back to that other author — by the time I did the review swap, I’d been taken under the wings of several other established indie authors who’d successfully published several or more books. I say “successfully” because they’d established a large following, their sales ranks remained steady below 50k, and they had more than a decent number of reviews with high averages. As I said above, I’d taken their advice and fixed everything I could. So, then, I’d figured I’d try to pass on this advice to this other author because I want to see every new or unknown author succeed. I politely explained I was have trouble getting through her story and that I saw things she’d done that I had done before learning they were wrong. I offered to send her some cheat-sheets I’d found to help with different things and to give her the links to sites and programs that’d been recommended to me that I’d found useful.

Surprisingly, her response had basically been “no, thanks, but I understand that you won’t be able to leave a review.” She then shocked me, again, by leaving a 4 star review for my book. I just couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to improve their books so that potential readers would be able to get past that first chapter and read the whole thing. If they can’t, they’re not going to recommend your book to anyone else. They’re going to leave low reviews that will contradict the few 5 star reviews you may have gotten from friends or family and maybe one or two readers who’d been able to get past all the problems in your writing. None of that will get you new readers and better reviews. 

When it comes to learning the craft of writing, you have to leave your ego at the door. Take criticism and use it to your advantage. Don’t roll your eyes and say the other person doesn’t “get your style” or they’re just too picky and critical. I’m not telling you to change your style — that’s what makes your stories unique — but make sure you’re using proper punctuation and you’ve searched for typos in every way possible (read it aloud, use a text to speech feature, get a proofreader, add a few more betas, or anything else that works). Make sure you’re not head-hopping — stay in one person’s POV in the scene — and that you don’t have five pages on how the character made their peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Make sure the reader knows which character is speaking. Use dialogue tags sparingly and use actions when you can. Avoid information dumps – spread the information out in different scenes or chapters. Look for plot holes and plug them.  And anything else that is pointed out to you.

Okay, now that you’ve gotten your book the best you can make it, it’s time to market it. There are plenty of ways to market yourself for free. In April 2015, when I released my first book, my marketing budget for EVERYTHING was about $20 per month, and I made it work for me. How? Read on.

First things first. Go into Facebook author groups or critique groups and ask others for input on your blurbs and covers. What you think is the perfect cover for your book may not garner the same response from others. Many authors find blurbs difficult to write. Others have a knack for it. Ask for help. Your covers and blurbs are the primary draws for readers.

Next, get marketing for free. Make a FB reader group and engage your members daily. Get on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, All Author, Bookbub, Goodreads, Amazon, Fictfact, Youtube, Books+Main, and any other site out there. Research and ask others how to use those sites to your advantage. Get involved in author groups, and make friends with those who write in the same genre as you. Sign up for takeovers. Offer some free books in blogger groups. Did you know there are over 1000 FB groups that allow you to promote your books in them? Yup there are. I’ve spent over 3 years finding them, and I’m sure there’s more I haven’t come across yet. There are new ones popping up every month.

Low-expense marketing — get a website and newsletter going. Keep them up to date. Post on your website’s blog several times per month. Send out newsletters at least once a month but don’t go crazy. Readers don’t like to get bombarded and they’ll stop opening them. Also, there are many low-priced book marketing sites out there. Ask other authors which ones they found worked for them because there are too many out there to list here at the moment.

When you can afford them, look into the higher-priced marketing options. There are plenty of those out there too.

I’m sure there are suggestions I’m missing — new marketing ideas are being developed all the time.

So, authors, please remember that complaining about anything on your page and profile is not going to increase your sales. In fact, it will probably decrease them. Readers don’t want to hear it and they may even unfriend you as a result. You’re now a product — a brand — and like any other product out there, you’ll be assessed on how you appear to the public. Always put your best foot forward. 

Createspace Closing & Merging Into KDP Print

For those of you who missed the announcement yesterday or are waiting to for Createspace to notifiy you in someway, here is the info on KDP about CS closing and merging into KDP Print. If you didn’t already know, Amazon owns CS, and, ever since they opened KDP, it was expected for this transition to take place. KDP and CS both used the same printing companies, so whatever qualities you liked or disliked with your books or deliveries will continue with KDP. This link to the KDP help pages tells you what to expect over the next few weeks, how to transfer your titles (with a video to explain it – some people have already transferred their titles and say it’s quite easy), and all the other info you need to know.
 

Blurb Writing: 101

Every author has dreaded writing a book blurb at one time or another. Some conquer their fear and get better at writing them over time, while others will go to their graves despising those two-to-four paragraph summaries of their books. I’ll admit I’m weird—I love writing blurbs and have gotten pretty good at them. I’ve helped numerous authors tweak their blurbs so they flow better. Here’s a few tips, along with samples of my blurbs, to help you write an eye-catching blurb without stressing about it too much. 

One of the main issues most authors have is putting too much information in the blurb. Base it on the first half of the book. Leave the reader guessing what happens in the second half. If you give them the whole story in the blurb, there’s no reason for them to buy the book, right?

Almost all my blurbs are 1-4 paragraphs comprised of 1-4 sentences each, tops! Too long of a blurb probably means there is far too much information in it. Many readers will take one glance at a long blurb and skip right over it. There are exceptions to this “rule,” where more or less may be better, but I try to use it as my standard.

Make it clear what genre your book is in. Readers don’t like thinking a book is a romance between two humans only to find out the characters are aliens from another planet and they don’t have sex the way we do. (Or any other WTF moments when they were expecting one genre only to discover the story is nowhere close to it.)

Introduce your protagonist right away. Don’t put a lot of unneccessary fillers before it.

Avoid clichés.

Make sure the reader knows what the conflict is without giving too many specifics. In Don’t Fight It, the main conflict of the story is in the first full paragraph under the hook line. (This is a blurb that ended up being an exception to my 1-4 paragraph rule, but only because I added the hook line that goes with the title at the very beginning.)

When it feels right, don’t fight it.

Shane and Tucker have been mourning their wife’s death for two years. Their love for each other and their daughter has gotten them through the rough time. But while Shane is ready to take a chance on a new future, Tucker is stuck in the past, finding it hard to let go.

Paige is trying to put her life back together after her marriage crumbled following her husband’s arrest. Leaving California behind, she moves to Kansas, taking a job as a housekeeper and a nanny to a six-year-old girl.

She shouldn’t be dreaming of her sexy new bosses, but after seeing a steamy encounter between the two men, she can’t get either of them out of her mind.

Shane is certain Paige is the one who can finally heal them but convincing her and Tucker might take a little scheming. Will it backfire or give them all a second chance at love?

Names:
  • If you can avoid using character’s last names, it’s one less thing making your blurb too “wordy.” As you can see in this blurb from Leather and Lace, I didn’t need their last names or his military nickname to get my points across:

How does a “vanilla” woman write a BDSM novel? With hands-on research!

Kristen needs inspiration and first-hand experience for a sequel to her unexpected and kinky bestseller. Devon, an ex-Navy SEAL and private club owner, is all too happy to help.

Soon, a single weekend of hot and dirty sex turns into something more. But while they fight their connection, a killer has Devon in his sights.

Will they survive with their hearts and lives intact?

  • If you need to include a hero’s last name for some reason, or just because you think it flows better with it, then include the heroine’s (or other hero’s) last name too. In Topping the Alpha (an M/m book), because the blurb was short and to the point, I felt it flowed a little better giving both their first and last names at the beginning. Because Nick never calls Jake by his military nickname, even though others do, I left it out.

Getting involved with your brothers’ friend and employee is never a good idea, but after being dominated by Jake Donovan for one night, Nick Sawyer wants more. A Navy SEAL, Nick’s been the alpha in every relationship he’s ever had, but now finds himself craving to submit to Jake again. The problem is Jake’s determined that will never happen.

Thrown together to help a girl in danger, Nick starts breaking through Jake’s defenses, but when things go awry, Jake must confront the ghosts from his past before he can ever think about a future. Nick just hopes that future includes him.

  • Include a character’s nickname in quotes between the first and last name IF it’s a name that practically every other character uses when referring to him. If it’s only mentioned once or twice, don’t include it in the blurb. If everyone calls your hero by his last name or nickname, but your heroine only calls him by his first name, that’s what you should use when writing a blurb paragraph from her POV. (This is when you would want to include both first and last names and any nicknames.) In Tickle His Fancy, Brody’s teammates call him by both his first name and his nickname throughout the book, while Fancy only uses his first name. Nobody calls Fancy anything but her nickname, including Brody.

All around him, Brody “Egghead’ Evans Trident Security teammates have fallen in love and gotten their happily ever after. Ironically, they had always thought the charismatic Dominant would be the first one to fall–not the last. While helping his boss’s fiancée find a new bakery for their wedding cake, he finds himself drooling–not over the delicious confections, but the sweet baker who’d created them.

The lone survivor, Francine “Fancy” Maguire’s world was destroyed when her husband and unborn baby perished in a horrific car accident. Three years later, she is finally shedding the dark shroud she was existing under and starting to live once more. When a handsome customer takes an interest in her, he sparks something deep within her that she never expected to feel again. But will she dare to give love another try?

With a killer on the loose and an unknown vandal targeting Fancy’s business, Brody finds plenty of reasons to keep her close. Can he break through the steel barrier she has wrapped around her heart? Or will he lose her before he can convince her to take a second chance on love?

  • Do not use a side character’s name unless he/she is important to the plot. If you can get away with just saying “her sister” or “his best friend” without using the person’s name, again, it’s less “wordy.” Example from Waiting For Him. (Another blurb that ended up being an exception to my 1-4 paragraph rule.)

Thirty-six hours was all it took for eighteen-year-old Ben to go from being the happiest man alive to having his world fall apart.

Kat was his best friend’s sister and the only woman to ever hold the key to Ben’s heart. Then she and her family were gone in an instant, killed in a devastating accident.

Twelve years later, Kat emerges from the shadows of the Witness Protection Program, only to find the danger her father had placed them in still out there. The last thing she wants to do is put her high-school sweetheart in danger, but he’s the only person she trusts with her life.

Working for a private-security firm, Ben is shocked when his evening appointment is a ghost from the past. He knows he can’t refuse to help Kat, but when it’s over he knows he’ll have to let her go; she deserves better than the man he’s become.

Will Ben and Kat survive, or will he once again have to bury the only woman he’s ever loved?

Don’t include the following unless it has something to do with the plot/story arc: 
  • Character’s profession
  • Character’s age
  • Character’s family background
  • A description of the character (hair, eyes, height, etc.)
  • Unnecessary filler information that the reader can wait until the book to find out about. If you have to include it, make it as short as possible.
Reduce the amount of words used to explain the reasons why a character is the way they are at the time of the story and how those reasons affect them. Example:

Too wordy: Jane was shy around men because she grew up in a small town, with very few boys her age and no father figure. As a result, she doesn’t know how to flirt and interact with men or know when they are truly interested in her or are just trying to add her to a long list of women they’ve slept with. When she meets Mike, she is tongue-tied and can’t figure out which category of men he falls into. But as she gets to know him, she starts to realize he’s actually interested in her so she finally agrees to go out on a date with him.

Much better: After leading a sheltered life as a child, Jane feels tongue-tied and awkward around men. She never knows how to interpret their advances, and Mike is no different—or is he?

Don’t start off by telling the reader, “In this story . . .” “This is a book about . . .” “If you like stories about . . .” or anything else like that.

Start and end your blurbs with “hooks,” something that will make a reader say, “Holy sh*t! I’ve got to read this book!” I find that ending the blurb with a “will this or that happen” question works great for me most of the time, but sometimes it doesn’t.

  • This example from Watching From the Shadows uses a question at the end:

Baby? What baby?

Marco DeAngelis is determined to stay single and childless forever. But sometimes life gives you what you never knew you wanted.

After months of trying to contact Marco, Harper Williams finally admits she’ll be raising her child alone, since he won’t return her calls.

When Harper is violently attacked, the two are, reluctantly, thrown together again and become embroiled in a web of lies and deceit. Will they lose their baby, each other, and their lives?

  • Meanwhile, for an upcoming release, The Ultimate Price, I was able to sum up the suspense without any this/that questions:

A committed bachelor, Brian is the only one of the Malone brothers who hasn’t fallen in love–and he’s determined to keep it that way. Too bad his career as an investigator for the state police has him repeatedly crossing paths with Tess Bingham, the delectable assistant to the local medical examiner. A one-night stand is out of the question—Brian doesn’t mix business with pleasure—but every time Tess flashes that shy, dimpled smile, his restraint frays just a little bit more.

Tess doesn’t have much time for hanging out with friends, having fun, or dating cute cops who can’t stop flirting. Three years ago, her parents died, leaving her the sole guardian for her teenage brother who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. But when that trouble puts them both in danger, Tess turns to the one man she can’t get out of her head.

As danger looms and their attraction escalates, Brian realizes Tess is one woman he doesn’t want to walk away from, while she tries to shield her heart against the man protecting her life.

Remind the reader if your book is part of a series (in addition to making sure Amazon or other markets link the books together and also mentioning it in your subtitle). This is what I put at the end of the blurbs for one of my series:

***The Trident Security series contains elements of the BDSM lifestyle, sensual romance, nail-biting suspense, and happily-ever-afters.

The Trident Security Series:

Book 1 – Leather & Lace (Devon & Kristen)
Book 2 – His Angel (Ian & Angie)
Book 3 – Waiting For Him (Boomer & Kat)
Book 3.5 – Not Negotiable: A Novella (Parker & Shelby)
Book 4 – Topping the Alpha (Jake & Nick)
Book 5 – Watching From the Shadows (Marco & Harper)
Book 5.5 – Whiskey Tribute: A Novella (Curt & Dana)
Book 6 – Tickle His Fancy (Brody & Fancy)
Book 7 – Absolving His Sins (Carter & Jordyn)
Book 7.5 – Option Number Three (Mitch, Tyler, & Tori)
Book 8 – Salvaging His Soul (Jase & Brie)

The books of the Trident Security Series can be read as stand-alones, however, for optimum enjoyment they are best read in order.

Don’t tell the reader:

  • How amazing your book is 
  • How they’ll be missing out on a great story if they don’t get your book
  • How the book is just like (insert famous author’s book)
  • How they’ll feel while reading your book
  • What a roller coaster ride your book is
  • Any spoilers

Trigger warnings: These are toss-ups on whether or not they should be included. Sometimes it’s difficult to include warnings about subjects that may upset readers (i.e. rape, child abuse, torture) without giving away too much of the story. In a recent survey, these were the stats from readers regarding trigger warnings in blurbs:

  • Trigger warnings in blurbs? (More than one response could be given.) 1,343 responses
    • Yes for sexual assault: 37.1%
    • Yes for non-sexual assault: 12.2%
    • No because it gives away what’s going on in the story: 13.8%
    • Doesn’t matter to me: 50.8%

So it’s up to you whether you want to include one or not.

Voice: This is another subject that gets a variety of answers. I know a lot of readers who want the blurb written in the same POV as the book—1st person blurb/1st person story. 3rd person blurb/3rd person story. However, there are people who aren’t bothered by 1st person blurb/3rd person story or vice versa. Some authors prefer to do 1st/3rd, I personally don’t. I’m not comfortable writing 1st person at all, so all my stories and blurbs are written in 3rd POV. I will say that I’ve been annoyed in the past when a blurb was in 3rd person and after I bought the book and start reading, I’ve found it’s in 1st person. I prefer reading 3rd POV. If I know going into a book that it’s in 1st person, and it’s a highly recommended book, then I can get in the right mindset for it and not be grumbling as I read the first chapter.

Wrap-up: A rule of thumb I’ve seen several times is to keep your blurb between 100-200 words. If you’re still having trouble with writing them, there are numerous author groups on Facebook (see my post 36 Tips and Advices for New Authors to Publish and Promote Their Books for a list of a few of them) where you can post your blurbs and get input from other authors. Just remember, second only to your cover, your blurb is what is going to attract readers to your book. If you give away the whole story, there’s no need for them to buy it. If you don’t give enough of a hook, you won’t capture their attention and make them curious enough to buy the book to find out what happens.

As I mentioned, I actually love writing blurbs and have gotten very good at them, but that doesn’t mean my own don’t need input from others from time to time. If I’m stuck or know there is something not “right” about a blurb, I’ll post it in an author group and ask for help. Usually all it takes is someone rewording what I wrote in a sentence or two or pointing out what isn’t working for me to tweak it.

As always, the above are suggestions based on my experience. Use this information as a tool to help make your blurbs better, but in the end, do what works best for you. Happy writing!

Giving Your Character A Job Should Be Easy, Right?

Sometimes when I need to give a character a job and suddenly my mind goes blank—I mean, completely blank. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well, sometimes it is, especially when it’s a side character whose job doesn’t really alter the plot, but you can’t just have him/her twiddling their fingers all day. Not every one can be a millionaire,  so I decided to make a list. Here’s over 700 jobs/careers for your characters. In addition to searching the internet, I asked the members of several author and reader groups on Facebook for jobs that they or any family members have had.  A few of the ones I collected I had to look up because I had no clue what they were! LOL! Hope the list helps you and happy writing!

9-1-1 Dispatcher / Supervisor Fabric and Apparel Patternmaker Pharmacist
Accountant Factory Janitor Phlebotomist
Accounts Receivable Factory Worker Phone Operator
Acrobat Fashion Designer Phone Sex Operator
Acupuncturist Farm Hand Photographer
Admissions Director of School Farrier Physical Therapist
Adoption Agent FEMA Worker Physicist
Adult Bookstore/Toy Store Clerk Fence Installer Picture Framer
Advertiser Feng Shui Consultant Pilot
Aircraft Mechanic Field Crew (on a farm) Pit Stop Crew Worker
Air Marshal Finacial Aid Office for College/University Plane Repossessor
Air Traffic Controller Firearms Instructor Plant Manager
Aircraft Cargo Handler Fire Investigator / Inspector Police Chaplin
Airline Reservation Agent Fireman Police Officer
Allergist and Immunologist Fire-Prevention and Protection Engineer Police Records Clerk
Alumni Foundation Administrator Firework Distributor Police Sketch Artist
Anesthesiologist Fish and Game Warden Politician
Animal Behaviorist Fisherman Pontoon Boat Captain
Animal Caregiver at Zoo Fitness Coach / Trainer Pool Installer
Animal Control Officer Floral Designer Postal Worker
Animal Trainer Food Critic Power Washer
Animator Food Preparation Worker Preacher
Animatronics Maker Food Safety Inspector Piano Teacher
Anthropologist Food Scientist Piano Tuner
Antique Appraiser Food Stylist for Magazine Photo Shoots Printing Press Repairman
Antique Dealer Food Vendor at Ballpark or Stadium Prison Guard
Apartment Building Manager Forsensic Accountant Prison Officer Trainer
Arbitrator Forensic Handwriting Analyst Prison Warden
Arcade Machine Repairman/Money Collector Forensic Psychologist Probation Officer
Archeologist Forensic Science Technician Process Server
 Architect  Forest Ranger Professional Cuddler
Armored Vehicle Guard Fragrance Chemist Professional Mermaid
Art Gallery Owner / Manager Freight and Cargo Inspector Props Artist for Movies / TV / Stage
Artist Fraud Investigator Prosthetist/Orthotist
Artist in Residence Fruit Sorter/Packer Psychic Medium
Asset Accountant Funeral Home Makeup/Hair Stylist Psychologist
Astronomer Furniture Assembler Public Address System and Other Announcers
Athletic Trainer Furrier Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
Auctioneer Gaming and Sports Book Writer and Runner Quality Control Analyst
Auditor Gaming Cage Worker Quarry Worker
Author Gaming Dealer Radio Operator
Autobody Repair Garage Door Repairman/Installer Radio Station Scheduler
Automotive Engineer General Manager for a Blacksmithing Company Radiologist
Assembly Line Worker General Manager for Sports Team Rail Yard Engineer
Aviation Inspector Geneticist Railroad Conductor
Baggage Porter and Bellhop Geneologist Real Estate Assessor
Bakery Assistant Geographer Real Estate Stager
Bailbondsman Geologist Recreational Therapist
Bailiff Geomatics Engineer Recruiter
Balloon Bouquet/Display Designer Ghostwriter Reference Librarian
Bank Manager Glass Blower, Molder, Bender, and Finisher Refrigeration Technician
Bank Risk Manager Glazier Registered Nurse
Bank Auditor Golf Ball Retriever (From lakes and ponds) Rehabilitation Counselor
Bankruptcy Clerk / Researcher Golf Course Designer Rent-a-Husband or Rent-a-Handyman for Odd Jobs
Bank Teller Golf Pro Rental Car Agent
Barber Government Engagement Coordinator Rental Property Inspector
Barista Grant Writer Rental Property Manager or Cleaning Crew
Bartender Graphic Arts Designer Repossession Specialist
Beer Cart Server Grave Digger Resident Assistant for College Dorm
Beer Tester Gravestone Maker Respiratory Therapist
Behavioral Specialist Grocery store cashier Restaurant Hostessa
Bereavement Coordinator Grounds Crew for Golf Course or Stadium Retail Manager
Bicycle Repairer Group Home Manager Road Crew
Billing Clerk Hair Dresser Robotics Technician
Billing Specialist for Doctor’s Office Hay Baler Rock Climbing Instructor
Bike Courier Hazardous Material Removal Worker Roofer
Biochemical Engineer Head Decorator for Wedding and Party Cakes Sales Associate
Blogger Headhunter Sales Director
Blood Bank Tech Health Inspector Sales Representative
Body Double Hearing Officer Salesman
Body Painter Helicoptor Pilot Sawmill Worker
Body Part Model (for closeups of
hands, feet, 
eyes, etc.)
Highrise Window Washer Scaffolding Company Administrator
Boilermaker Histologist School Bus Driver
Book / Art Restorer Historian School Cafeteria Worker
Book Illustrator Holiday Decorator (Professional for businesses) School Custodian
Bookkeeper Holistic Healer School Funding Manager
Bootmaker Home Aquarium Installer or Cleaner School Guidance Counselor
Border Patrol Agent Home Health Aide School Secretary 
Botanist Homeless Shelter Manager Scientist
Bouncer Home   Organizer Scout for Professional Athletes
Bounty Hunter Home Party Consultant (Candles, Passion Party, etc.) SCUBA Diving Instructor
Bowling Alley Worker Hooters’ Waitress Seamstress
Brew Master Horse Rider/Exerciser Secretary for Contracting Department
Brick Mason Horse Trainer Secretary for County Attorney
Bridal Consultant for Event Planning Horticulturist Secretary’s Assistant at an Architectural Office
Bridal Consultant for Store Registry Hospice Aide Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installer
Broadcast News Analyst Hospital Administrator Senator
Budget Analyst Hospital Housekeeper Septic Tank Repair
Building Inspector Host for Mystery Theater Events Service Desk Associate
Bullrider Hot Air Balloonist Sewer Inspector
Bus driver Hot Dog Cart Vendor (or any other food) Sex Education Coordinator
Business Analyst Hotel Desk Clerk Sex Therapist
Butcher Hotel Maid Sex Toy Tester
Butler Hotel Manager Shark Tank Cleaner
Cabinet Maker House Sitter Sheet Metal Worker
Cable / phone repairman Human Resources Director Sheriff’s Deputy
Cable TV Reporter Human Statue (Street or Event Performer) Ship Captain
Cake Decorator Hunting Guide Shipping/Receiving Clerk
Cameraman HVAC Technician Short Order Cook
Canal Dreger Hydrologist Singer
Candle Maker Hypnotist Ski Instructor
Candy Maker Ice Sculptor Ski Patrol
Car Wash Attendant Immigration and Customs Inspector Skincare Specialist
Cardiac Rehab Tech Insurance Salesman Skycap
Cardiovascular Tech Insurance Underwriter Slot Machine Designer and Tester
Carnival Worker Intelligence Analyst Social Media Manager
Carpenter Interior Designer Social Worker
Carpet Installer Inventory Controller Sociologist
Carpet Steam Cleaner IRS Agent Soda Jerk at Zoo
Cartographer IT Consultant Software Developer / Engineer
Cartoonist Janitor Soil Conservationist
Cashier at Gas Station/Minimart Jet Engine Inspector Solicitor
Casino Pit Boss Jewelry Maker Sommelier
Casino Dealer Journalist Sound and Lighting Engineer
Casino Security Guard Judge Soup Kitchen Worker
Catering Assistant Kennal Worker Sous Chef
Caterer for Movie and TV Filming Locations Knitting Machine Operator Speech Pathologist
Cell Tower Repair Worker Labor & Delivery Nurse Speech Therapist
Ceramics Maker Lab Tech Sports Analyst
Certified Nursing Assistant at Nursing
Home or Hospital
Land Surveyor Sports Announcer
Character Actor at Amusement Park Lanscaper Stable Hand
Charity Administrator Landscaper Architect / Designer Stage Manager
Chauffeur Land Surveyor Statistician
Chef Language Practitioner Steel Stamper
Chemist Lawn Care Crew Steward (Cruise Ship)
Chief of Operations for Security Company Laundromat Attendant Stockbroker
Child Protection Officer Lease Administration Analyst Stock Clerk
Childbirth Educator Leathersmith Storm Chaser
Chiropractor Legal Secretary Street Performer
Chocolatier Librarian Stuntman / woman
Choreographer Life Coach Submarine Engineer
Church Organist Lifeguard Substitute Teacher
CIA Analyst Lighting Director Summer Rec/Camp Counselor
Civil Drafter Limousine Driver Surgeon
Claims Examiner Line Cook Surgical Technician
Cleric Lineman (cable/phone/utilities) Sustainable Farming Tutor
Climate Change Analyst Loan Compliance Specialist Swim Instructor
Clinical Ethicist Loan Processor Switchboard Operator
Closet Organizer Lobsterman Tai Chi Instructor
Clothing Designer Locksmiths and Safe Repairer Tailor
Coach Locomotive Mechanic Talent Director
Coffin Maker Loss Prevention Manager Talent Scout
College Administrator Magician Tattoo Artist
College Professor Magistrate Tax Collector / Assessor
Comedian Maid Taxidermist
Comic Book Creator Mail Room Clerk Taxi Driver
Commercial Jingle Writer/Singer Makeup Artist Teacher for the Deaf/Hearing Impaired
Communications Specialist Mammogram Tech Telecommunications
Compliance Officer Manicurist Telemarketer
Composer Marine Biologist Temp Agency Office Worker
Computer, ATM, Office Machine Repairer Marketing Assistant Tennis Coach
Computer Programmer Martial Arts Instructor Territory Sales Manager
Computer Reseller Massage Therapist Theme Park Ride Designer and Engineer
Computer Security Expert  Master Distiller Ticket Agent
Computer Systems Analyst Mathematician Title Researcher
Concert Road Crew Mayor Toll Collector
Concierges Meat Packer Tool and Die Maker
Congressional Aide Mediator Tornado Chaser
Construction Worker Medical Alert Operator Tour Guide
Convenience Store Manager Medical Benefits Manager Tour Trolley Driver
Copy Editor Medical Billing Clerk Tow Truck Driver
Copy Writer Medical Examiner Toy Creator
Coroner/Medical Examiner Medical Records Coder Traffic Analyst
Corporate Actions Specialist for Bank Medical Records Fraud Reviewer Traffic Reporter
Cosmetologist Medical Researcher Train Conductor
Cost Estimator Medical Transcriptionist Transit and Railroad Police Officer
Costume Designer Medical Transport Driver Translator
Counselor/Aide for Children with Special Needs Merchant Marine Transport Driver for Disabled
Court Clerk Meteorologist Trash/Recyclable Collector
Court Reporter/Stenographer Meter Reader Trauma Service Coordinator
CPR / First Aid Instructor Microbiologist Travel Agent
Crab Fisherman Midway Games Operator Traveling Nurse
Crane Operator Midwife Trawlerman
Credit Analyst Military Family Life Counselor  Truck Driver
Credit Counselor Military Recruiter Trucking Company Dispatcher
Crime Scene Cleaner Mimeograph Machine Runner TSA Agent
Criminal Science Investigator Miner T-Shirt Vendor
Crisis Line/Suicide Help Line Counselor Minister Tub Girl/Shooter Girl (Bar Staff)
Crossing Guard MRI Tech Tug Boat Captain
Cruise Ship Captain Missile Launch Officer Tutor
Cruise Ship Director Mortgage Processor TV Presenter
Customer Service Officer for Airline Mortician Typesetter for Publishers
Cytotechnologist Motivational Speaker Ultrasound Tech
Dance Instructor Motorcycle Mechanic Umpire/Referee
Dancer Movie or TV Extra Union Steward for Car Factory
Data Base Administrator Moving Company Worker Upholsterer
Data Base Programmer Museum Curator UPS or Fed-Ex Driver
Data Entry Clerk Museum Docent Used Car Salesman
Data Warehousing Specialist Musical Instrument Teacher Usher (Broadway Show)
Daycare Worker Musician US Marshal
Debt Collector Mystery Shopper Utility Worker
Debt Management Officer Nanny Vacation Bible School Helper
Delivery Driver (Pizza/Furniture) Nature Reserve Owner Valet/Car Attendant
Demonstrator and Product Promoter Network Administrator Vehicle / Boat / Plane Repossessor 
Dental Assistant Notary Public Vending Machine Engineer
Dental Hygienist Nuclear Aeronautics Engineer Veterinary Acupuncturist
Dentist Nude Model for Art Classes Veterinary Clinic Receptionist
Deployment/Military Family Support Worker Nursery Worker (Plants/Trees) Video Game Tester
Dermatologist Nurse’s Aide Vocal Trainer
Design Consultant Oceanographer Voice-Over Artist
Diener (Prepares a body for autopsy) Occupational Therapist Volcanologist
Diesel Backup Generator Tester Ocularist (Paints artificial eyes) Waitress
Dietitian and Nutritionist Office Manager Warehouse Clerk
Director Oil & Gas Diver Warehouse Forklift Driver
Dispatcher (Trucking Company) Oil Rig Worker Washing Machine Repairman
Dishwasher Orchard Picker Watch Repairman
Diversion Team with DEA Orchestra Conductor Water Safety Instructor
DJ Organic Farmer Waterslide Tester (At amusement parks)
DMV Clerk Painter Weatherman/Meteorologist
DNA Scientist Paleontologist Weaver (Factory)
Dog Breeder Paralegal  Web Administrator
Dog Groomer Papermill Worker Web Developer
Dog Poop Removal Worker Paramedic/EMT Wedding Coordinator
Dog Trainer Paramedic/EMT Instructor Wedding Dress Designer
Dog Walker Paranormal Investigator Welder
Doula Parliamentary Monitor Well Driller
Drama Teacher Pastor Wholesale Buyer
Dressmaker Party Planner Wig Maker
Driving Instructor/Driver’s Ed Intructor Passport Processor Wildlife Conservationist
Drug Analyst Pathologist Wildlife Photographer
Dry Cleaner Patient Representative Wildlife Rehabilitator
Economist Payroll Administrator Wildlife Trapper and Relocator
Editor Pearl Diver Window Dresser
Electrician Person who hands out pamphlets on street corner Window Installer
Elevator Inspector/Repairman Personal Care Giver Wire Spooler
Embroiderer  Personal Assistant Women’s Shelter Worker
Endoscopy Technician Personal Financial Advisor Worm Farmer
Engraver Personal Shopper X-ray Technician
Entertainment Lawyer Pest Control Worker Yoga Instructor
Environmental Engineer Pet Food Tester (I’ll pass on this one.) Youth Counselor
ESL Conversation Tutor Petty Cash Administer Youth Pastor
Estate Planner Pewtersmith Zamboni Driver
Event Planner Pharmaceutical Company Representative Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist
Excavator Pharmaceutical Operator

 

The Little Things—A Few Helpful Tips for Authors

Over the past three years I’ve learned a few tricks that I thought I’d pass along. These are some tips to make life a little easier on authors. (And some are just for fun!) As always, these are just suggestions that worked for me. Others may have different experiences with one or more sites. 

1) If you have a series, Amazon doesn’t usually notice, so contact them through KDP and ask them to link the books. The full series will then appear just below your blurbs so readers don’t have to go searching for the next few books.

2) If you’ve updated the cover or blurb of your book, but when you post it on FB, the old cover/blurb appears in the preview, there’s a way to override it. Copy the book link, then go to FB’s debugger tool. Paste the link and click on “Debug.” You might have to “scrape” it more than once before the new cover/blurb appears. Now every time you post the link on FB, you’ll get the right info in the preview. 

3) If you have a series that spins off into other series (my Trident Security series has spawned four spin off series that interact with each other) consider putting a “Best Reading Order” page on your website, then mention the link at the back of your books, in your newsletter, and on social media. This is the most popular page on my website and numerous readers have told me they love it because they get to read all the books in the order they were written and can avoid even the smallest spoilers.

4) Also with series, after your 3rd or 4th book is out, consider making the first book perma-free. It gives readers an incentive to try an author they’ve never heard of before with no risk. In order to do this with Amazon, you must have the book out of KU and list it on the wide sale sites (B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play). Then send Amazon the links and ask them to price match. You should check the price on Amazon occasionally because they’ve been known to revert perma-free books back to the paid price without warning. This happened to me twice. All I had to do was contact them with the links to the other sites again and ask them to make it free again.

5) If you’re starting to go to book signings, ask in your reader group if anyone who lives nearby might want to be your assistant for the day. I pay for their assistant ticket and also give them a $25 Amazon gift card for helping me. It’s better than having a friend or relative helping me because my readers are so passionate about my books that they end up creating more “cold sales” than I do while chatting up the attendees waiting to meet me.

6) Look into Instafreebie and Bookfunnel for distributing your ARCs and free books for contests and such. If your book is also perma-free, you can make your book free on Instafreebie’s library where new readers can find you.

7) Back up everything at least 3 times! I save my files on my computer, on an external hard drive, and on Dropbox. I’ve learned the hard way not to rely on 1 or even just 2 places.

8) Did you know you can update your blurbs and author bio without going through the KDP bookshelf? Just go into Author Central and click on Author Page or Books and update the information from there. This way your book is not “frozen” in review for 24-48 hours in the KDP bookshelf.

9) Did you know you can link your website’s blog to your author page on Amazon? Also there’s a spot to list your upcoming author events! Again, click on your Author Page in Author Central. 

10) Did you know you can link your website’s blog to your Goodreads dashboard too? Yup, you can! From your Author Dashboard, click “view your blog.” There’s an option to sync to a pre-existing blog.

11) Did you know there’s an app extension that lets you post to Instagram from your desktop? There is! I hate having to post from my phone so this app was a game-changer for me. This is the one I use for Chrome. 

12) Did you know there’s a way to convert regular FB text to bold or italics? Just enter what you want to post into YayText and it converts it for you. Then copy/paste and you’re done!

13) QR-Code generator—great way to have a code available at your table at a book signing or put onto paper swag to hand out. Link it to the first book in your series or a freebie book or even your website.

14) Want to learn how to use Photoshop for your teasers and covers? Check out Photoshop Essentials. They have easy to follow instructions on how to do lots of things in Photoshop. Wiki-how is another site with easy to understand instructions for the program.

15) When you upload your book from Word to a print-on-demand site, do you end up with a blank page in the middle of the book and can’t figure out why? Drove me nuts when this happened to me and then it took an hour to figure out what to do about it. If it happens, check out this link for instructions on how to get rid of it.

16) Want to figure out what day you should plan your release so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other new releases? Check out FictFact’s release calendar. While it only lists releases that are part of series and if the author/publisher uses the site, it will help narrow down a possible release date for you. Also, sign up and you’re books series can be listed for free on the calendar and be sent to any followers.

17) Can’t figure out where to find the iBooks’ link to your book, find it here!

18) Want a fun, animated signature for your email? I love My Live Signature

19) Need a Goodreads librarian to help you with something? There’s a group on Facebook dedicated to that!

20) Do you have so many “friends” on FB that it’s difficult to weed out the inactive accounts? There are two ways I do this. Every day, FB sends me a notification with that day’s birthdays. I click on it and scroll down to the upcoming days, then click on each person’s profile link. I look to see when was the last time they posted or commented on a tagged post. If it’s been several months, and I don’t see a reason for it (i.e. they’ve been sick), then I unfriend the profile to make room for a new friend request. The other way is to click on your friend list on your profile and scroll down. Look for any profiles that don’t have a profile picture. Don’t automatically unfriend, because there are a few people who prefer not to have a profile picture. Hover over their name. If a pop-up box for their profile doesn’t appear, then the account has been deactivated. Just use caution, because if the person was thrown into FB jail for a few days, you won’t get a pop-up box.

21) Worried that your pen name will get flagged for not being a real person? Get an IRS Employee Identification Number from their website. There is an option to register your pen name as an alter-ego and link it to your SS number. You’ll receive a PDF with the information. Save it in a safe place and send it to FB if your account needs verification. Also, use your pen name when having book related things mailed to you. Take a photo of the address label and FB will accept that as a second proof of identity. Don’t always assume someone reported your pen name as a fake name. Sometimes profiles get caught up in the unknown algorithms for one reason or another. (BTW—If an image you used gets you in trouble with FB, don’t assume yours was the one reported. Sometimes the algorithms pick up your post because the image was reported when it was posted by someone you don’t even know. The algorithms search for where else that image appeared and flag it.)

22) Need to convert a mobi or epub file from Vellum back into a Word doc? It’s easy to do online at Convertio.

23) Want to make a little side money while sending readers to your buy links on Amazon? Become an Amazon Affiliate! You’ll be able to create specific links to your books that will earn you money when anyone buys your book through that link AND anything else they purchase at that same time that qualifies.

24) Can’t figure out how to claim your Bookbub author profile? It’s easy! Go to www.bookbub.com and scroll to the fine print at the very bottom. Click on Claim an Author Profile!

25) Frustrated with pirate sites posting copies of your books? Look into Blasty.co and Muso.com. Note—while these sites will help you keep piracy to a minimum, they won’t stop it completely. It’s part of the business so get used to it. Just remember that most of the people who use pirate sites probably won’t buy ANY book—they get plenty for free—so most likely you’re not losing many actual sales. Frustrating yes, but it is what it is.

26) Need a name for a new character and you’re drawing a blank? Here are two name generator sites I use (in addition to the one in the Scrivener program). UK Name Generator and Random Name Generator

27) Are your books in KU? This is one of the most common places pirates get books to list on iBooks. Once a week, I check for my books on iBooks. Twice I found some of my books on there. Everything—cover, blurb, title, author name—was the same. The only difference was the publisher. If this happens to you, don’t freak! Contact iBooks immediately and let them know you own the sole copyright to the book (give them the book’s ID number) and did not give anyone permission to list the book for you. They’ll pull it from the library within 24-72 hours (usually within 24 hours). Once you’ve contacted iBooks, then go into your KDP account and contact Amazon. Let them know a pirate listed your book on iBooks without your knowledge or permission and that you’ve put in a request to have it removed. State that you’re letting Amazon know because you don’t want to be accused of being in violation of the KU rules and regs. Both times, I received the same response. Amazon thanked me for letting them know. They understood that it would take a few days to have the book(s) removed and that my status with KU would not be affected. 

There are plenty more tips that I’m sure I’ve forgotten, but as I remember them I’ll start a new list! Happy writing! 

***I do not have any connection to any of the recommended sites other than being a client. I am not reimbursed in any fashion for recommending the sites.

The Pitfalls of Vanity Press Publishing

Great news! You’ve finished writing your book. Over many days, weeks, months, and possibly years, you’ve poured your heart and soul into every word. Your family and friends either supported you or rolled their eyes at your “little hobby.” Black ink courses through your veins as you hold the final masterpiece in your hands. But now comes the big question—what do you do next?

It’s time to find someone willing to publish your book. How difficult can that be, right? Well, in one word—very. To give you an idea of how hard it is to find someone to take a chance on an unknown author, here’s a few people who lived through it, but managed to finally land their big break:

  • K. Rowlings—12 rejection letters for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • John Grisham—16 rejection letters for A Time to Kill
  • James Patterson—“dozens” of rejection letters
  • Stephen King—30 rejection letters for Carrie
  • William Golding—20 rejection letters for Lord of the Flies
  • Margaret Mitchell—38 rejection letters for Gone With the Wind
  • Suess—27 rejection letters until he ran into an old friend on the street, who worked in publishing
  • Beatrix Potter—received so many rejection letters over a two year span, she chose to self-publish 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit (And that was in 1902!)
  • Kathryn Stockett—60 rejection letters from literary agents for The Help
  • Agatha Christie—4 years of rejection letters before someone took a chance on her novels
  • Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen—134 rejection letters for Chicken Soup for the Soul

Many of these authors did not have the luxury of starting their careers in the computer age where scores of literary agents and publishers could be found with internet access and a click or two of a mouse. However, with all technological advances come those who will find a way to exploit it.

Welcome to the world of vanity-press publishing. You send them the query letter they asked for, plus the first few chapters of your manuscript, and wait with crossed fingers, hoping whoever reads it will like it. Then, suddenly, they send you an email within a week or two—or they contact you out of the blue without a submission. The person says they’ve discussed your book with their “board,” everyone loved it, and they want to publish it! O.M.G!

Great, right? Wrong!

First off, if they want to send you a publishing contract after only reading the first few chapters and not the whole book, this is your first major red flag. Here are some more of them:

  • You did not approach them, instead, they approached you. They saw a little something you wrote in a Facebook group or on Wattpad, and thought it was fantastic. Or they found your book on Amazon or another sale site, and they want to rerelease it under their publishing company and they’ll get it out to a wider audience.
  • They want you to send them money for whatever reason—for editing, a book cover, finder’s fee, advanced copies, etc. No respectable publishing company will ask you for money. They make their money by taking a cut from the sales. In fact, with a legitimate company, you may even get an advance on anticipated sales.
  • When you get your “edited” copy back (usually after it’s too late to get out of the contract), it is still riddled with formatting errors or typos you missed. (This happens when you’ve read your manuscript so many times that you start seeing only every third or fourth word, increasing the risk of missing the typos. An experienced editor would spot those right away.)
  • They require you to purchase (for a wholesale rate) a certain number of print copies (to give away or sell on your own). This could be anywhere from a few dozen copies, to hundreds or possibly thousands of them.
  • They will put your book on their website, as well as a host of other online, book-selling sites, such as Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and GooglePlay, all of which are very easy for anyone to do on their own. However, they will not get your books into any physical stores or libraries unless they receive an unsolicited request. (Usually, they will list your print book through CreateSpace, IngramSpark, or a similar print-on-demand site, where libraries and third party retailers can order directly from them.) All these sites are simple to use, and you can do it yourself without paying someone else to do it for you or you can pay a formatter a flat rate to do it for you. There is no need to hand over a large chunk of your royalties to someone for the next five or more years! .
  • When you go to the publisher’s website, look closely at the covers of “their” books. Are they professional looking or do they look like a third grader did them using Photoshop? Find those books on the major online retailers. What are they ranked at? Book and author rankings are based on sales. If the publishing company’s self-proclaimed “bestseller” is ranked between 500,000 and 4 million, that isn’t a good thing. That’s is equivalent to less than one book sale per day. When a book is retailing for $3.99, after the retailer takes their cut, and then the publisher, the author’s daily royalty is approximately $1.09. That doesn’t even buy a loaf of bread these days.
  • While you’re on the sale sites, check the reviews for those books. Do the readers state there are a lot of issues with the books such as typos, formatting, plot lines, etc? And how many reviews do they have? Less than 10 and the book was published over a year ago? Not good. Legitimate publishers will send your book out to their long list of reviewers to get your name out there and increase its visibility on the sale sites.
  • Does the “publisher” require that you must do a majority, if not all, of the promotional work on social media? If you’ve already paid them to publish your book, where is their incentive to promote you? Even some of the bigger, legitimate publishers will require you to do some self-promotion these days, but since they only get paid based on your royalties, they’ll be doing a lot of promoting too.

There are hundreds of these vanity-press publishers out there, although they will do everything they can to convince you they aren’t one. They’ll stroke your ego and give veiled promises in the garbled legalese of a contract. They may even swap out the contract you reviewed and agreed on at the very last minute and you end up signing something you thought you had approved.. If a company wants your book, and they’re not in the top 5 or 6 publishing companies in the world, then do yourself a favor—research them, heavily, before signing the rights to your book away. (And, yes, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing—most vanity press contracts are written with the publisher having full rights for up to five years or more.) Plug their company name into a search engine and start reading—not just the first few URLs that come up, but several pages worth. Add the words “problems,” “trouble,” “complaints,” or “scam” to the search.

Go into your favorite author groups on Facebook and ask if anyone has ever dealt with the company before. Hire a lawyer to review the contract before you sign anything. This is your book-baby and you don’t want to lose it to anyone!

So, in conclusion, congratulations on completing your book and, hopefully, you are one of the very few who get a contract with a legitimate publishing company. There are some out there—small, medium, and large. But until that happens, get ready for those rejection letters, consider self-publishing, and research, research, research.

Should You Self-Publish Direct or Through a Distributor Site?

You’re all set to publish your first book, but how the heck do you get it on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Nook, Google Play, and more, right? Here’s some info and tips. 

There are two primary ways to get your indie book on the biggest sale sites. One is direct and another is through distributor sites like Draft2Digital (D2D) and Smashwords (SW).  Let’s start with the latter.

Distributor Sites:

D2D and SW are two of the largest distribution sites for indie authors (there are others though) and have been around for years. Once you set up an account with them and provide your banking or PayPal information (so they can pay you), you can start uploading your books.

  • Make sure you check their formatting guidelines first so your book looks nice and pretty when it’s downloaded by readers. If you use a formatting program like Vellum or hire someone to do it for you, most likely you can skip this step.
  • Add all your social media links and other books to the back matter. Make sure you use non-book sale site links. Amazon will not approve a book with a Nook link in it and vice versa. Send readers to your website, Bookbub author page, or Goodreads author page.
  • You’ll need to upload a Word or Epub file, or any other file format they accept, but those are the two common ones. Check out Calibre if you need to convert to Epub or other formats. (D2D and SW will convert the Word doc for you too.)
  • Enter all your metadata and other info—blurb, cover, bio, genres, keywords, price, etc.
  • The sites will provide you with ISBN numbers for free or you can enter one you’ve purchased.
  • Once your files are approved, D2D and SW will then send your book out to all their partner sites, such as: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Scribed, and many more, some you’ve probably never heard of! They’ll also list your books in their own library. With D2D, you’ll be provided with the link to a landing page (Books2Read) that you can post on social media and the readers will then have the option to choose which site they want to purchase from. (I was told readers could follow you on Books@Read and receive an alert when you list a new release.)  For Smashwords, at the moment, you’d have to create your own landing page to redirect the readers to all the other sites, or just list all those links on social media (it’s a pain to do that).
  • Many authors prefer this over listing on the individual sites because they only have to enter everything once and can update the book files and prices from one site.
  • D2D and SW will take a small cut of your royalties—you can see their royalty rates on their sites. You’ll then be paid at the end of their billing cycle.
  • You’ll be able to list your books with sites like Overdrive, which make ebooks available to physical libraries.
  • One disadvantage to using a distributor like D2D and SW is you will not be able to enroll in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited if you want.
  • Also note that Google Play is not one of the available partner sites to either D2D or SW.
  • It may take a few hours or, more likely, several days to be listed on all the sites and even longer to remove a book if you want to unpublish for a reason, such as listing it in Kindle Unlimited.

Direct to Individual Sites:

This is what I do, along with many other authors. I have accounts set up with Amazon’s KDP, Nookpress, Google Play Books, iBooks, and Kobo books. Each one has its own upload page and accept one or more format files—Mobi, Epub, PDF, Word, etc. If I’m putting a book on all the big sites for wide distribution, I also list with D2D so I can take advantage of the smaller sites. These are not big money makers for me, but I do receive a small royalty check each month.

A few points are repeats from above:

  • Check out Calibre to convert your books to other formats.
  • Make sure you follow the correct formatting for each site. I have two different files for each book, Mobi and Epub. (Three if you include a print version.)
  • The Mobi file gets sent to Amazon only and includes Amazon links for my other books in the back matter.
  • The Epub file gets sent to everyone else and the links for the other books go to their corresponding pages on my website, where the reader can click on the link for the available sale sites. (This way I don’t need four more versions of the book for each of the other larger sale sites.)
  • Some find it too time consuming to list on each individual site, especially when uploading each backlist book file when the author’s back matter has been updated, so the decision is up to you. I prefer to list my books this way because then I don’t have a distributor site taking an additional cut of my royalties—the sales sites are taking enough of my money already.
  • Google Play—GP had been open a few years back and then closed their doors in the wake of rampant pirating. After another popular site, Pronoun, which was one of the only sites GP was partnered with, closed its doors, GP opened up to new authors again. After a rush of author signups, they again shut the doors briefly, but as of this post, I understand they are accepting new accounts again. It will take a few short days to have your account approved. Another note about GP is they have a habit of “discounting” your book prices to compete with the other sites and don’t tell you if they do it to your books. Discounting on GP happens more often than not. You’ll still get paid the same royalty though. The disadvantage is sites like Amazon will want to price match the lower listing. Here is a list to consult to list your books on GP and have them “discount” it to the price you want it to be. (Yes, it’s a pain.) ***Copied from the KDBoards Image may contain: text
  • iBooks—Publishing direct to iBooks can be done two ways. Well, one is an indirect way. 1) Get yourself a Mac computer (or use MacInCloud) and use iProducer. 2) Hire someone with a Mac to do it for you. There are several companies out there that will do this, but you’ll probably be charged a small fee to upload any updates. (You can also use D2D or SW to list just on iBooks.)

A few other things to mention:

  • If you’ve listed on the individual sites or the distributor sites, make sure your books are completely delisted from them before entering Amazon’s KU. Delisting a book does just that. It removes the books from the sale sites, but your files and all the metadata will still be stored in their dashboards in case you want to relist it again. If you do that, you’ll reviews will be restored as long as you use the same ISBN. If for some reason you relist using a different ISBN, then contact the site and see if they’ll transfer your reviews to the new listing.
  • Updating your back matter in every book is very important each time you release a new title, so plan on making a day of it if you have a large backlist.
  • You can list your books direct through one or two of the bigger sites and then also through a distributor site for the others. In other words, you can list direct through Amazon, then use D2D and SW for all the other sites. You just have to unclick Amazon as a site you want the distributors to list on.
  • Whether you use the individual sites or a distributor site, download the preview of the book or look at it online to make sure everything converted properly. Do NOT assume it did.

As with all the posts on this site, these are tips and suggestions to help you discover what’s best for you.