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.

Suzanne Brockmann’s Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award Speech

From Samantha A. Cole:

Back around 2001, before e-readers, I would go to the local bookstore, or a supermarket with a paperback book section, and load up for the coming weeks. I’d been reading some romances, but mostly thrillers at the time. I stumbled across an author named Suzanne Brockmann. When I picked up her first book, I had no idea, not even an inkling, how my life would change from that moment on. I read the first book in the Troubleshooter series and, boy, was I hooked. From that moment on, I had a favorite author whose books I would buy no matter what.

Fast forward a few books in the series. Despite knowing several gay people through work and mutual friends, I’d never read an MM (or FF or MFM etc.) book up to this point in my life. Why? Well, back then, there were very few (if any) non-M/F romance books out there. Indie authors weren’t a thing yet. The very first e-reader was introduce by Sony in 2004. I think I got mine in 2005 — another thing that change my life. I no longer had to take 5 books with me on every vacation because I read them so fast. I could get dozens of ebooks and have them all on a device that was smaller than a hard cover book.

Anyway, Suzanne had introduced an out, gay sub-character, FBI agent Jules Cassidy, and I, like many other readers, fell in love with him. As you’ll read below, getting Jules into the series was not an easy thing. It was even harder to be able to give him his own book with a HEA. Even harder still was getting the RWA and others to accept that the world of romance was evolving, yet they were still woefully behind the times.

Over several books, my fondness for Jules grew. I was so invested in the character, I needed to see him find the love of his life and get his HEA. Jules and Robin’s story was my first (and certainly not my last) MM romance. They opened my eyes and my heart to a whole new sub-genre of romance novels. However, it would be about 7-9 more years before there was a decent amount of LGBT stories to be found in the mainstream romance.

Fast forward a few more years. Indie authors started taking the book world by storm. Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, and more became a way for authors to get their stories out to readers without a traditional publisher. Not only did this open a whole new world for authors and readers alike, but it opened a whole new world of non-MF romances. There was no censorship of books because the characters were gay or black or Asian or transgender or into BDSM or anything other than white, Christian, and heterosexual.

After finding books by more amazing authors such as Cherise SinclairAvery GaleLexi BlakeKennedy LayneAngel PayneNicole EdwardsLaylah RobertsSusan StokerCristin HarberChristy ReeceJerrie Alexander, Heather Graham, Julie Ann Walker, Sierra Cartwright, Kaylea Cross, Kristine Mason, Maya Banks, Trish McCallahan, Katie Reus, Elle Kennedy, and so, so many others who paved my way into the indie world, I took a leap of faith and wrote the first book in the Trident Security series. I found this incredible book community I never knew existed on social media and was welcomed with open arms. Several indie authors took me under their wings and helped me navigate this scary new world I knew nothing about. I am so grateful for their guidance and support during that first year because without them, I wouldn’t still be here.

While I was writing the first book in the Trident Security series, character Jake Donovan told me he was gay. As most authors will tell you, my characters tell me their stories and I can’t lead them in any other direction than the one they need to go in. After 3 novels and 1 novella, it was time to tell Jake’s story. I’d been giving my readers bits and pieces of it in the earlier books, but even I was surprised about Jake’s past, his family, and his old, tortured soul.

I knew the day I released TOPPING THE ALPHA, it would be another turning point for me. Many of my readers had admitted they’d never read a MM book in their lives and that brought me back twelve years, to 2003, when I first started reading Jule’s story. All I could do was pray I’d laid enough breadcrumbs for my readers to want Jake to get his HEA. After all, he deserved one just like everyone else.

TOPPING THE ALPHA popped a lot of MM cherries in my reader group and beyond. I cried when I realized they loved Jake’s story as much as I did and it has since become a fan favorite. I’ve had to give Jake and Nick two short stories on my website because my readers keep asking me what is currently happening in their lives. Jake and Nick helped pave the way for other couples in my series who aren’t traditional couples and would have been shunned by the traditional publishing world a mere fifteen years ago.

You’re probably wondering by now what this is all about. Well, I received a newsletter from Suzanne Brockmann. I’ll let you read it in its entirety below. I had to cut/paste it (minus the images) because it wouldn’t lead me to a link. Yes, I know she gets a little (or a lot) political toward the end, (please do not turn this post into a political argument) but her journey to get there is well worth reading.

Suzanne Brockmann, thank you for opening my eyes and my heart, and paving the way for generations of new authors who do not have to stand down because a bias, racist, mainstream society tells us we have to.

News from Suz Brockmann

www.SuzanneBrockmann.com
July 21, 2018, Denver, Colorado

There’s been a bit of buzz about my RWA LTA acceptance speech…
And I’d hoped the video would be up so you could watch it, but I think that takes a bit of time to do (and the gang over at RWA are a little busy with the rest of the giant conference), so I thought I’d zap you a quick e-newsletter with the contents of my speech.

(And also remind you that the big-ass RWA group book signing in support of literacy programs is TODAY, Saturday, July 21st from 3 to 5 pm at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Denver! I’ll be there! Come say hello!!)

But… this past Thursday night, I was given the incredible honor of receiving the Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, and was given a bit of time to make (ahem) a speech.

I had a few things to say.

But first, my son, Jason T. Gaffney, took the stage and gave me an incredible intro. (There was a slideshow with pictures on the big screen. I’ll figure out a way to post them later when I have more time!!)
Jason: Before she was a writer, my mom was a musician. She sang in coffeehouses and subway stations, she fronted a rock band, and directed an acappella group.

Since 1993, (I was eight!) she’s written fifty-seven novels, fourteen short stories, and three screenplays. She edits a line of own-voices romance called Suzanne Brockmann Presents.She co-wrote and directed an off-Broadway play, and produced four indie movies.

Here’s the trailer for her latest, a rom-com called ANALYSIS PARALYSIS

(We showed our trailer for AP here, on the big screens! So cool! You can watch it on vimeo here:

https://vimeo.com/271327084 )

ANALYSIS PARALYSIS was Kickstarted with the generous support of the romance community. It’ll be screening at LGBTQ film festivals and streaming on-line in the near future. In September, we’re filming our next movie, a rom-com titled OUT OF BODY—screenplay and novelization both written by my mom.

But okay, we’re here to talk about books. In romance publishing, my mom is known best for her LGBTQ activism—and for her books about hunky Navy SEALs.

Mom’s fascination with SEALs started in 1995 with PRINCE JOE and her Tall, Dark & Dangerous category romance series, which exploded her career in more ways than one.

In 1998, HARVARD’S EDUCATION was Silhouette Intimate Moments book number 884, but only the second book in that line with a heroine and hero who were African American. Mom fought for that book, pushing against institutional racism. It opened her eyes to her own privilege, and she vowed to use it to make romance more inclusive.

In 2000, Mom launched her second, mainstream SEAL series with THE UNSUNG HERO, voted RWA’s favorite book of that year. Her Troubleshooters series is set in an inclusive America, where diversity is celebrated and honored.

But early 2001 was the year that her most beloved character—out, gay FBI agent Jules Cassidy—first walked onto the pages of THE DEFIANT HERO, and into the heart of Romancelandia.

Jules was the FBI partner of Alyssa Locke, whose romance with Navy SEAL Sam Starrett played out in real time over the course of five books, before they finally won their HEA in 2003’s GONE TOO FAR

But Jules’s relationship with Sam was just as vital to this series. Sam began his journey a hot mess—ignorantly homophobic. But over time, Sam got to know Jules as a kick-ass, capable, smart, funny, highly-skilled, heroic man.

And as Sam began to think of Jules as one of his dearest and most trusted friends, Mom’s readers did, too.

In 2004, in HOT TARGET, Mom gave Jules his own romantic subplot and story-arc, in which he meets his future Mr. Right—Hollywood movie star, Robin Chadwick.

At the time, RT had a “no gay books” policy in place. Neither my mom, nor her incredibly supportive editor, Shauna Summers, nor anyone else at Ballantine Books knew if HOT TARGET would be accepted by reviewers—or just flatly ignored.

But they all were convinced that romance readers were ready for Jules Cassidy to fall in love.

And they were right—HOT TARGET was Border’s best-selling hardcover romance of the year. (Remember Borders…?)

HOT TARGET was also the book where my mother—with my approval—publically, capital-O-outed me in a poetically heartfelt two-page dedication, written in the form of a letter.

“To my fabulous son, Jason:
Even as a tiny child, your smile could outshine the sun…”

She wrote about how I’d always been completely myself, from a very young age, and the way she’d always supported and celebrated what she called “Jason being Jason.”

But then she wrote: “Years later, when you were fifteen, you still wanted me to tuck you in at night. So I’d stand by your bunk bed and we’d talk a bit about the day. I’d also gather up your dirty clothes…

She wrote: “One night, you took a deep breath and said to me, “Mom, I think I’m gay.”

She wrote: “I know that,” I told you, giving you a hug and a kiss. “I love you. I’ll always love you. Where did you put your dirty socks?”

****
My mom and I both believed that by sharing this story, we were giving Mom’s readers a recipe for how they might respond if one of their kids approached them and said, “Mom, I’m gay.”

Love is love is love is love.

I know it’s time to get my mother up here to accept her award, but I have one last thing to tell you:

She wrote ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT—the book where Jules and Robin get legally married in Boston—and gave all of her earnings—advances, sub-rights, royalties in perpetuity—well over a quarter of a million dollars by now—to MassEquality, to help win equal marriage rights in Massachusetts—rights that then spread across this entire nation.

And yeah, that’s our mother-son dance from my wedding to my amazing husband Matt, in March of 2016. Mom wanted you to see this—she considers THIS her ultimate lifetime achievement.

Okay. Then it was my turn. (Ahem.)
I took the stage (wearing my Dress. I have one dress, and it’s the same one I wore to Jason’s wedding. So it’s a Very Special Dress). I waited until Jason had returned to our table in the front, and I turned to him and said:

Dear Jason,

In December 1992, when you were seven years old, when things were financially dire for our family, I sold my very first romance novel, and I had my first phone call with my first editor of my very first published book. And it was so weird and cool. As we went down her list of revisions, she said, “Oh! You can’t use penis.”

I said, “I’m sorry, what…?”

She clarified. “You can’t use the word penis. You have to call it something else.”

See, I’d yet to discover RWA, and hadn’t been sent the memo about the 1992-appropriate euphemisms for penis. In fact, this editor asked me, later in that same conversation, “Will you be going to RWA?”

And I said, “I’m sorry, what…?”

She told me about the national conference, and suggested that I join.

But it was then, between our discussion of penis and RWA that she gave me a revision note that broke my heart.

Because even though it was gonna be another eight years before you said, “Hey, Mom, I’m gay,” I saw you clearly, Jason, and I knew. You were like that Pink song. Fuckin’ perfect.

So when my first editor of my first published romance novel told me that I’d have to change my beloved small-town sheriff because he couldn’t appear in my book just casually, openly gay as I’d written him, I laughed. This was a secondary character…

But she wasn’t laughing, so this time, I said: “I’m sorry, WHAT…?”

She told me that traditional romance readers were very conservative and they did not want to read books that included even the briefest mention of gay people. She said, “You have to make the sheriff straight.”

I said, “You can’t be serious. It’s 1992. The real world is filled with gay people.”

One of them—you were playing with your sister in your bedroom, down the hall.

I argued. How were readers ever going to expand their world view if they didn’t get to meet characters like my adorable gay sheriff…?

But this was non-negotiable. “We’ll get letters,” she said. I remember that so clearly. She said, “Readers will be offended, and they’ll write angry letters.”

I stood there, thinking, This woman absolutely believes that romance readers will be offended by my son’s existence.

I stood there, thinking about you, Jason, thinking, If I make this change, you will never see your reflection in my first book. At the time you were too young to read a romance novel—But I wanted you to read it, someday, and see that little glimmer of a reflection. I wanted you to know that, right from the very start of my romance career, there was always room in my world for you.

I stood there, faced with the choice of doing what was right—pulling that book and finding a different publisher, or… feeding you.

As my silence dragged on, the editor said, “Other publishers won’t let the sheriff be gay, either. That’s just the way it is.”

And that was it. My radioactive spider bite. My origin story.

Because feed you, my child, I would, but I also vowed, in that moment, that I would make room for you in the romance genre. Because I would not write books set in a world where gay people—where you—were rendered invisible, where you were erased “because that’s just the way it was.”

It was not by accident that many of my earlier books have a hero or heroine who happens to have a gay brother. He doesn’t appear in the book, can’t offend anybody, he’s only mentioned in passing, but he’s gay and he’s loved. Can I get away with that? I can? Good. Next book, I’ll push harder.

And I pushed and pushed, and eight years later, with the help and support of my brilliant long-time editor Shauna Summers, my most popular character—my out, gay FBI agent, Jules Cassidy—walked onto the pages of The Defiant Hero.

It was shortly after that, Jace, that together with your dad, we got actively involved in the fight for marriage equality.

And yes, RWA, that was my real lifetime achievement. I have danced at my son’s legal wedding to his amazing and wonderful Mr. Right.

Some of you have no idea how impossible a dream that might have seemed back in 1992, when I was told to erase the gay sheriff from my first published romance. The obstacles we faced seemed insurmountable.

RWA, you were an obstacle. In 2008, I was asked to MC the Rita Awards in San Francisco and I was thrilled.

My book, All Through the Night, had recently come out—a ground-breaking mainstream, New York Times hardcover best-selling romance about two gay men celebrating their love by getting legally married.

My crazy, inclusive, liberal, hopeful, love-embracing brain took RWA’s invitation as approval and acknowledgement that love is love is love.

But not so fast there, you.

Early on, I’d asked if there’d be time for me to speak briefly—just a few personal words at the start of the ceremony…?

“Of course,” I was told.

But at the rehearsal in San Francisco, I was asked to “practice” reading the statement I’d prepared. That seemed a little strange, but okay, I had it with me, so I did.

It was a short, joyful comment about California being one of a very few places in the US, at that time, that recognized Jules and Robin’s marriage.

I was stunned when I was informed that I could not say that. I was told that the issue was divisive and some RWA members would be offended.

Imagine being invited to speak at an RWA event and then being told you could not talk about your most recent hardcover bestselling romance novel or the marriage of your all-time most popular characters, because some members would be offended.

I should’ve walked out. I regret not walking out.

I should’ve rocked the living fuck out of that boat. Instead, I was nice, instead I went along, and I let Jules and Robin and all that we’d achieved, be erased.

But right here and right now, I’m reclaiming my time.

Because that, my second radioactive spider bite, changed me, too. I will never not speak up again. I will never chose nice over right.

I know this is a different organization now—I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that. RWA has grown and changed for the better.

But those changes do not—and should not—erase the past. And there’s still so much work to be done, to be as inclusive as we should be, as inclusive as we can be.

RWA, I’ve been watching you grapple as you attempt to deal with the homophobic, racist white supremacy on which our nation and the publishing industry is based. It’s long past time for that to change.

But hear me, writers, when I say: it doesn’t happen if we’re too fucking nice.

(Some of us are allowed to get angry. You know who you are, and you know who we need to support.) (Note: I cut those lines last minute because I needed to shorten the speech and believed they would be understood without my putting voice to them, but oh, how I wish I’d left them in!)

It’s time to rock the boat in the name of love and inclusion!

***
You know, even before I made my 2008 vow to stop being so fucking nice, I’d long been labeled as “too political,” because I write books that include gay people and people of color.

That’s not politics. How can equality and equal rights be political? It’s about right versus wrong. It’s about inclusion versus exclusion. It’s about embracing the incredible gift of diversity.

If that’s political, it’s time for YOU to get political, too.

It’s time to open ourselves—as both writers and READERS—to the people and their often harrowing stories that gatekeepers have long made writers erase from their books, for fear of offending the people who hold power.

***

So here comes the part of my speech where I get “political.” Oh, yeah, I haven’t gone there yet.

Be strong, be brave, be courageous and kind, be willing to take a risk and open your heart to let in some stranger—some scary “other”—and only then will you win the beautiful gift of love, of connection, in the form of a romantic HEA.

That has been the message of romance since we first began whispering our stories around campfires on cold nights.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, someone decided “Not so fast there you. You don’t look like me or think like me. These stories aren’t about you. You don’t belong here.”

Some of us intentionally tightened our circle to keep people out.

And when you grow up in a world where you learn, just from watching, that you are let in, but others are not, you often accept it as your truth. So when you write what you see and what you know and what you have been told to believe, like books set in a town where absolutely no people of color or gay people live…? You are perpetuating exclusion, and the cravenness and fear that’s at its ancient foundation.

Yeah, I’m talking to you, white, able, straight, cis, allegedly christian women.

And don’t @ me with Not all white women.

Because 53% of us plunged us into our current living hell.

53% of us are racist and some of us don’t even know it!!

Oh, wait, what’s that…? You’re not racist…?

Then do something. Prove it.

In November, vote these hateful racist traitors OUT.

If you believe in love, like I do, if you write romance, where the stories we tell are about the courage that it takes to open your heart, it’s time for you to do the same.

Open your heart and look hard at your political and religious beliefs. Examine all you were taught—usually by white men in power—and try to see exactly who and what they erased from the stories they then labeled truth.

Look beyond the fences that they claim will keep you safe—fences that are, in fact, your prison walls. Because the diverse, inclusive world that they’ve erased is vibrant and beautiful and filled with hope and joy and boundless love.

But the sad truth is, we no longer expect anything of you, you 53%. It’s up to the rest of us, including the 99% of all women of color who continue to inspire me and lead the way.

Stand up. Speak up. Fight. VOTE. Our lives, our rights, our marriages, our love depends on it.

RWA, thank you for this honor. I suspect you’ll never invite me to speak at anything ever again. But that’s okay. Because it’s now or never. And my idea of an inclusive, diverse, loving, caring America is worth both creating and fighting for—it’s worth EVERYTHING.

Dear Jason, I love you. Love, Mom.

So there it is. I hope RWA posts the video soon so you can see and hear it as well as read my words.

I sincerely appreciate this enormous honor from an RWA that I’m finally proud to be a part of!

For the record, no one in RWA heard, read, saw my speech before I gave it on Thursday night. These words and message are entirely mine, but I do believe and hope that they are shared by many in this organization whose purpose is to tell stories about love and hope.

PLEASE REGISTER AND #VoteBlue!!

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Thank you so much for your ongoing support!

Hang in there, double-check your voter registration, and happy summer!

Love,
Suz

What to Expect at Your 1st Book Signing Event as an Author!

 You’ve poured your heart and soul into your book(s), hit the publish button, and done your best to get your name and titles out there to readers. Congratulations! Now, you’ve signed up for your first author event, and the panicking has started. How do I prepare? What should I have on my table? How many books do I order? How do I get readers to stop at my table? Where do I get banners, swag, displays? Oh, my!

Yes, the questions are endless, but I’ll try to answer as many of them as possible. This is my second year of signing at book events (well over a dozen of them) and there have been good and not-so-good ones among them. I’ve learned something new at each event and hope I can help inexperienced authors avoid some pitfalls.

First things first. You will not, let me repeat that, NOT come out “in the black” at the closing of an event, meaning you’ll be shelling out more money for the weekend than you’ll be taking in. So why bother doing one? Aside from the fun, do it for the exposure and networking opportunities. With every new show I do, my reader base grows and I become friends with more authors, models, bloggers, etc. Those connections also broaden my reach to new readers.  

Finding the right signing for your genre:

The three biggest genre signings fall into the romance, sci-fi, and fantasy categories. Since I’m a romance/suspense author, that is what my suggestions and information are based upon.

One of the best ways to find out what events are looking for authors to attend over the next two or three years is to stay active in the book community on social media, especially Facebook. There are several groups where event organizers can list their upcoming events. You can also search for “book signing” or “author event” on Facebook and get a list of individual groups/pages for specific events. Keep in mind, many of these fill up quickly with attending authors at least 1-2 years in advance. If there’s a signing you’re interested in but it’s currently full, ask to be put on a waiting list. Authors have to back out of events all the time for one reason or another. 

Author Events Around the World

Author Events and Support

Events, Inc: Author Signings and Events Listing for Authors

Authors Connecting for Events & Signings

Author and Reader Events in the DMV (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia region)

Author Signings and Events in the Midwest

Author & Book Events

Book Signing Events for Author, Readers and Bloggers

Romance Book Signing Events

UK Book Signing Events

UK Book Signings / Events

Australian Book Signings Events

FL Book Events & Signings

Things to take in consideration before submitting an interest form to become a signing author at an event:

  • Is it an established event or is this the first year it’s being held? Just because it’s been held before, doesn’t mean it will be a successful event, nor will a new event be unsuccessful. I’ve attended events that turned out to be the opposite in both instances.
  • If it’s an event that’s in its second year or more, find out which authors and readers have attended it in the past. Ask them if they thought it was a success from both perspectives (and don’t just take one person’s word for it). Was it merely a signing, where the authors sat at their tables for a few hours on a Saturday, signing books, and that was the end of it? Or was it a full-on event with parties and activities throughout the entire weekend when authors and readers mingled and had some fun?
  • Is the event within driving distance for you or will you have to fly there? 

Questions you should ask before committing to an event: 

SaSS#18
  • Who is running the event? Are they an author, blogger, reader, experienced event planner?
  • What advertising are they planning on doing to promote the event to readers?
  • How many reader tickets will be available?
  • Will there be VIP tickets available? How many? What does the VIP ticket include?
  • Have the organizers attended a bunch of events before and spoken to other organizers for advice on how to properly plan the event?
  • Where is it being held? Hotel or convention center without a hotel attached?
  • What is the parking situation? Will you have to pay for parking? Is there easy access for you to get all your stuff from the parking lot to where the event is being held inside the venue?
  • Will the event be inside a venue or outside under a tent?
  • What will the hotel cost? As an author, will you be required to stay at the hotel?
  • How much is the table fee for you to attend as a signing author? What size is the table? Can you share the table with another author to cut down on the expense?
  • How much will it cost for you to bring an assistant or model? If you don’t have an assistant, will volunteers be available to help you if needed?
  • Are there any restrictions to what you can and can’t bring with you?
  • Are tablecloths included or do you have to bring your own? What color is the tablecloth?
  • Are the additional parties, author panels, and other events included in the price of the table or are they a separate cost?
  • Is breakfast and/or lunch included?
  • What is the cancellation policy if you have to back out for any reason? Please note that deposit fees are typically non-refundable, and after a certain date, all table fees will be non-refundable if there is no author to replace your spot. Fees may be transferrable to another author with permission of the organizer.
  • Will there be raffles held for author donated items? Is it required that you donate one?
  • Is a charity being supported by the event? What money will be going to the charity—all proceeds beyond what it cost to run the event or money raised through such things as the raffles, shirt sales, donations, etc.?
  • Can the organizers provide proof of a solid contract with the venue?
  • Will there be VIP and General Admission event bags? Can you donate some swag for the bags? How many will there be?

You’ve found an event you’d like to attend and have received an invitation to join them. Now what? 

SaSS#18
  • Join the event’s FB groups. Usually they have one for authors only and one for authors and attendees.
  • When does your invoice have to be paid? Can you pay in installments?
  • When will your name be added to the event banner on social media? As soon as you sign up, after you put a deposit on the table, or after you’ve paid the invoice in full?
  • Book your hotel room as soon as the group rate link is posted. Do not wait until the last minute as you may end up having to use another hotel and schlep back and forth during the event. Most hotels do not charge you until the actual stay and you can usually cancel up to 24-48 hours before the event.
  • Choose whether you want a full or half table.
  • Plan your transportation.
  • Announce your plans to attend the signing on your social media sites, especially on your FB author page and website and in your reader group if you have one. Provide a link to the event’s FB group and/or page/website. Ask in your reader group if anyone is interested in being your assistant for the day. (More on this below.)
  • Set up a pre-order form and put it in the event’s attendee group on Facebook. This will help you figure out how many books you need to order prior to the event. Check the order form often and send out invoices so they are paid in advance. Depending on the event and your reader base, you may have a lot of preorders or you may not have any. If it’s the latter, don’t get discouraged. My preorder volume fluctuates from signing to signing.
  • Start posting your book promotions in the FB attendee group. Do so on a regular basis, but not every day until the event draws closer. When you find out your table number, announce it in the group. 
  • Sign up to takeover the FB attendee group for a day or less if the event organizers allow it. They may have a schedule where you can sign up for multiple dates. This is especially good if there are several months before the signing, so readers can get to know you before the event.
  • Many of the romance genre signings take place in large, chain hotels, such as Hilton, Sheraton, and Marriott. Sign up for their frequent guest program.
  • Keep a log of ALL expenses you incur and all sales. You’ll need them at tax time.

What do you need to order before the event? Not everything on the list is necessary. For your first event, go with what you can afford to get, then check out everyone else’s tables to figure out what you want to add to your display in the future. 

My original banners.
  1. A retractable banner. These come in different styles and sizes. Some can sit on tabletops while others are set on the floor. I recommend a floor stand as it won’t take up valuable space on your table. If you only have a few books out and have extra room on your table, then that might work well for you. I highly suggest you have someone design the banner for you if you’re not good with graphics. Ask in author groups for people to post theirs to get ideas on how you should design yours. I don’t recommend putting your book covers on the banner unless you plan on updating it with every new release or two. Also, avoid making the links to your social media sites a major part of the banner. It’s highly unlikely a reader will remember the links or take a photo of them. You can put them on there if you want or just the social media icons to show where they can find you. Make sure your name is at the top of the banner where people can see it from across the room. I made that mistake with my first banner—I had it in the middle and several readers passed me by because they didn’t see it and didn’t recognize me. Thankfully they came back around looking for me. Here are customized banner sites that are recommended by other authors:
    • Build-A-Sign—One of the most recommended, and I’ve gotten 3 banners from them. One broke the second time I used it, and customer service was great. They sent me a replacement. There’s always sales going on.
    • Vistaprint now makes retractable banners and often runs sales.
    • Banners on the Cheap
    • Vispronet
  2. A tablecloth/table skirt—not all venues supply these or they only supply them in black or white. I have an 8 foot black tablecloth and table skirt in case they aren’t supplied by the venue. Some have 6-foot tables, while others have 8-foot tables, so I’m covered either way.
  3. A screen-print table cover. I have one of these in addition to my retractable banner. It’s coming in handy at a show next month were space is limited so they aren’t allowing floor banners. (I’ve only purchased from 4 Imprint, but there are a lot of companies out there.)
  4. Folding wire book rack if you have multiple titles. This keeps them neatly displayed and saves you room (a big plus if you’re sharing table or they’re only 6 feet in length).
  5. Display easels for individual books.
  6. Collapsible shelving units. Author Maryann Jordan had these at the second big event I’d attended. I loved them and immediately went home and purchased them through Amazon. You can also find them in Home Depot. They fit in a suitcase, and she even took them to England with her for a signing. Almost every show I go to now, other authors comment on them because the shelves give me more display room.
  7. Collapsible utility wagonthese are great for getting your stuff from the car or hotel room to where you’ll be setting up. With high attendance, you may not always be able to get a valet cart when you need one.
  8. Rolling makeup/cosmetic case. This is another idea I got from an author at a signing. I love how I can neatly store all my small items and swag in it and can access them quickly during a show. Make sure it comes with a lock in case you need to leave it unattended.
  9. Plastic storage totes. Some come on rollers.
  10. PayPal or other site’s credit/debit card payment device so you can accept them at your table. You can order them directly from the site. Make sure you set it all up on your phone or tablet and make sure it works before the day of the show.
  11. Portable, cordless, DVD player. I started bringing this to shows and a lot of other authors loved the idea. I burn a CD with video trailers, teasers, and banners and let it play throughout the show. I also picked up a rechargeable power bank (about $75) in case I’m not near a plug. The DVD player gets about 2-3 hours on a charge. The power bank gives me another 4-5 hours of play time. It also helps if your table ends up nowhere near an electrical plug.
  12. Pens and sharpies to sign with (you’ll want a few of both). Test them to make sure they don’t bleed through the pages of the book.
  13. Holders and/or bowls to put candy, bookmarks, business cards, and other little free items in on your table. I experimented with a few before I found little collapsible, square, fabric boxes that didn’t take up much room in my carry case or on my table.
  14. Decorations for the table—colored stones, tiny lights, or anything to dress it up. Don’t go crazy though and do NOT use party glitter. It’s a b*tch to clean up and many venues don’t allow it.
  15. Some sort of “gimmick” to get people to your table. (Note, this should not replace you interacting with the attendees and should not be relied upon as the only way to get people to stop by your table—many authors don’t use an artificial draw to their table.) Currently, I put a large card in the event bags with my logo and social media links on it. It tells readers to come to my table and roll a pair of large dice. If they get doubles, they get their pick of special swag that I can’t afford to just hand out — mugs, mouse pads, tote bags, etc. Another one I do is all book purchasers get to pull a lollipop out of a display and if they get the one with the colored tip they win an Amazon gift card and a blanket with my logo on it. It’s usually 2-3 shows between winners. Here are some ideas from some other authors:
    • Some sort of fun “party” game or carnival-type game. (Nothing too big that it takes up too much room.)
    • A funny display that will catch the eye of those walking past. 
    • Do a giveaway in the event’s attendee group on FB and have the winner(s) come to your table to get their prize.
    • Fill a container with M&Ms, Skittles, or anything else and have attendees guess the amount. Closest wins a prize—special swag, signed books, complete signed set of books, book site gift card, etc.
    • Have a raffle basket that readers can enter their names for and extra chances can be earned with book purchases.
    • Alcohol—make sure the venue doesn’t have a policy against this. You can’t sell it, but I’ve seen a lot of authors give away little sample bottles. Others have made Jello®-shots or alcohol infused chocolates, candies, or food.
    • Wear something different or funny that makes people stop and laugh or admire it.
  16. Find out if there will be a raffle during the event that you can donate a basket to. Some authors also do a raffle at their table. Go to a dollar store and find something you can use as a basket. They usually have the shrink wrap bags available there too, along with ribbons, bows, and shredded tissue paper. Ideas for what to put in the baskets include, but aren’t limited to:
    • Signed books
    • Special swag – tote bags, mugs, wine glasses, etc. (Don’t include shirts unless the winner can swap it for a different size.)
    • Bottle of wine
    • Items that go with your genre or book trope. (Sometimes I put a vibrator, furry handcuffs, and other naughty stuff in mine.)
  17. A tablet for your PayPal device if you don’t want to use your phone.
  18. Swag (see below)
  19. Books for signing (see below)

Before you leave for the show, you’ll want to go through everything and make sure you’re not missing anything. 

  • Are your books properly packed so they won’t get damaged en route?
  • Do you have all your swag, payment device, and business cards?
  • Do you have cash on hand to make change at the table? I usually bring $60 in ones, fives, and tens and put them in a money envelope that I can store in the locked makeup case I mentioned above.
  • If you use a pen name, have you practiced your signature??? You want to be very comfortable signing it before the show.
  • Do you have everything you need for a donated basket?
  • Will everything fit on your table? If you’ve never done a show before, I recommend you set up your display on your dining room table so you can figure out how you want it to look. If you don’t have a large enough table, measure out the table size on the floor. You don’t want the day of the signing to be when you realize it doesn’t all fit or you have plenty of extra space you don’t know what to do with.
  • Do you have your phone charger? I recommend bringing a small, cell phone rechargeable bank. I’ve gotten a few of them with purses and wallets. Charge it the night before and bring it with you, especially if you’ll be using your phone to process PayPal sales.
  • Have a sign ready with your prices on it and if you accept debit/credit cards (which again, I highly recommend.). Decide if you’ll give a discount to anyone who buys multiple books. (I take $1 off each book if they buy 3 or more.)
  • Do you have everything you need for events being held over the weekend besides the actual signing? A lot of organizers throw theme parties so make sure you have something appropriate to wear.
  • Do you know how to set up your banner, display, and shelving units? Don’t wait until the day of the show to find out!
  • Do you have a list of quotes you plan to use when signing your books? (Suggestions below).
  • Do you know what table you’ll be assigned to? Who are your neighbors? Reach out to them in the event’s author group and get to know them a little before the event.

The night before and morning of the show! 

Authors DD Lorenzo and Lydia Michaels at SaSS#18
Credit: Ivone Santos
  • One question I hear a lot of newer authors ask is “what should I wear to the signing?” The response most give is “anything you want!” Just make sure it’s comfortable. Make sure your shoes are comfortable, you’ll be on your feet a lot. If a dress is your style, go for it. If jeans and a T-shirt is more your thing, that’s fine too. Whatever you wear, you’ll be in it for hours.
  • Some shows will be able to let you set up your table the night before, while others you’ll have to wait until the morning of the show. Either way, you’ll have plenty of time so don’t feel you have to rush. (Another reason I suggest doing a practice display before the show.)
  • Make sure all your devices are charged and you have the chargers if needed.
  • Try to reduce the amount of clutter behind your table. You don’t want to be tripping over it.
  • Log into the venue’s internet access before the show starts. You’ll need it for your payment devices. Most organizers get the router name and password from the venue. Sometimes the wi-fi I received with my room works in the ballroom of some hotels, while other times it’s a stronger signal if I sign into the ballroom’s router.
  • Make sure you have room to get from behind to in front of the table easily during the show. I’m constantly moving back and forth to greet people and take photos with them, then sign some books.
  • One thing I do if I’m setting up the morning of the show and I’m staying at the venue is I wash my hair and let it air dry while I’m setting up. It’s usually still damp enough when I get back upstairs to dry and style quickly. I also wear sweats and a T-shirt to set up, since I can get hot with everything involved. I put on my makeup and change into whatever I’m going to wear for the signing after I’m all set up.
  • Most organizers will want a group author photo about ½ hour before the doors open to the attendees, so make sure you work that into your setup schedule.
  • Once you’re set up, take a few minutes to walk around and introduce yourself to other authors if you still have time, especially if you recognize them from social media. Look at everyone else’s displays for different ideas for future shows. Most authors don’t mind sharing their ideas unless they’re truly unique to their books/series. My display is constantly evolving.
  • If you have an assistant for the show, now is the time (if you haven’t already done so) to make sure they know what you expect them to do during the show. Mine are in charge of handing me the books a reader wants me to sign and keeping track of my pre-orders which I have sorted out before the show. I show them how to use the PayPal device to process the sales in case I get very busy. My assistant helps with the special swag, contests, and refilling things that need it on the table—candy, small swag that’s free to take, etc.—and anything else I need help with.

****Another note on assistants. I list all my signings in my reader group and ask for volunteers to be my assistant for the day. For almost every event, this is how I’ve acquired my assistants. I pay for their attendance, as required by the individual event organizers, and any meal during the actual signing, and I also give them an Amazon gift card as a thank you for helping me. I prefer this over asking a friend or family member or asking for an assistant through the event organizers because my readers are so passionate about my books. When they start chatting with attendees standing in line to talk to me, I think they make more cold sales than I do to people who haven’t read any of my books yet. It also gives them a chance to really get to know me as a person and not just an author, and it gives me a chance to get to know them better too.

You’re all set up and the doors are about to open! 

Author Elizabeth SaFleur at SaSS#18
Credit: Eric Battershell Photography
  • Take a deep breath—I promise it’s going to be fun!
  • Put your phone away. Nothing annoys attendees more than an author sitting there on their phone, either talking or doing something else, and they’ll walk right on by. (If you need to keep it near you for PayPal or emergency calls, then at least keep it out of sight.)
  • Put on a big smile and try to swallow your shyness. It’s time to promote yourself (and not just your books).
  • Step out from behind your table and greet people as they walk by. Comment on their funny shirt or cute shoes. Hand them a business card, candy, or a piece of printed swag (I have word search cards that have to do with one of my series). Ask them questions about THEM. Don’t make it all about your books. I’ve sold many books to attendees just because I chatted with them for a while before they asked what genre books I wrote.
  • Ask them to enter your contest or play a game at your table.
  • Ask them to sign up for your newsletter. (With the new UK rules, which might end up coming to the US and other countries soon, you may want to go about this a different way than just having a signup sheet. Maybe use a QR code that they can scan and then enter their email address so you have a digital record of them actually signing up to receive your newsletter.)
  • If an attendee asks for a photo with you, try to take it with your banner in the background. Also ask them to tag you if they post it on FB or Instagram.

Actually signing a book!

  1. Have that list of quotes you want to use when signing nearby (but out of view of the attendees) because your mind will suddenly go blank at the worst possible time. Common ones or ones I’ve seen suggested in author groups are:
    Author DD Lorenzo at SaSS#18 pre-party signing event anthology.
    Credit: Eric Battershell Photography
    • Happy Reading! 
    • Best Wishes!
    • Wishing you the best!
    • Reach for the stars!
    • Enjoy!
    • Live, laugh, love!
    • Thanks for your support!
    • Thanks for loving my stories!
    • Hope all your dreams come true!
    • Enjoy the magic!
    • Enjoy the ride!
    • Never stop reading or dreaming!
    • A quote from the book itself or something that goes with the trope. For my book Whiskey Tribute I write “Cheers!” For another book, I write a quote from it—“Sometimes life gives you what you never knew you wanted!” Another book is titled The Road to Solace so I write “May you always be on the road to happiness!”
    • Something that sounds like what your character would say to the reader.
  2. Ask the person to confirm the name they want the book addressed to AND the spelling! Don’t assume anything. Nowadays there are so many different ways to spell common names—Mary vs. Mari, Jane vs. Jayne, Steven vs. Stephen. They also may want you to address it to someone else or nobody at all. Some bloggers like to do giveaways with signed books they’ve bought at shows. (I’ve had bloggers give me their cards, then purchase two copies of the same book—one for themselves and one to giveaway in their blogging group. Sometimes I’ll give them the second book free and address it to their group’s readers.)
  3. Make sure you sign the right name! Pause for a brief moment before signing your name if you’re still getting used to your pen name.
  4. Some authors add the date or the name/year of the signing. There’s no right or wrong way to sign. Do what’s comfortable for you.

Winding up the day! 

Attendees of SaSS#18 having a blast!
Credit: Eric Battershell Photography
  • Close out your raffles. 
  • Put your cash bag somewhere safe where it won’t get lost in the cleanup.
  • Don’t start breaking down your display if you see some attendees still working their way down your row. They’ll pass right by you.
  • Make sure you have everything before leaving.
  • Thank your assistant for all their help.
  • Leave a few books out if you plan on signing them and hiding them around the hotel. I do this, as do a lot of other authors. Most of the time, I put them in and around the lobby either late at night or very early the next morning, but you can do it right after the show if no one’s watching you hide them. (Let the reservation desk or concierge know you’re doing this! I had a cleaning woman pick them up less than a minute after I put them down and hand them to the desk. I went and got them back, explaining what I was doing and that they wouldn’t be there long!) Go into the event attendee group and announce that you’ve hidden your books. If they are really spread throughout the hotel, I take pictures as hints and post them. The readers love this and you might just gain a few new readers out of it.
  • Go and relax, then get ready for the after party if there is one! 

Other things I suggest you also consider about signings:

SaSS#18 Group Author Photo
Credit: Eric Battershell Photography
  • Whether or not you want to bring along a model. This is a huge expense that many authors refuse to spend money on, while others like doing it. They’ll bring along a model who is on one or more of their covers as a draw to their table. You’ll usually have to pay for the model to attend (both to the organizers and the model themselves) and depending on the model, they may require you to pay some or all of their travel expenses. It’s up to you if you think it’s worth doing.
  • Don’t go crazy with expensive displays and/or swag. Focus on the less expensive stuff that won’t cost you a fortune to giveaway.
  • Don’t drink alcohol during the signing if you think you’ll get carried away with it. There have been fiascos in the past where alcohol played a huge factor and the results were plastered all over social media.
  • If you’ve had trouble with another author in the past, quietly let the organizers know you’d rather not have your table near them. Don’t make a big deal about it, but let them know you’d be more comfortable on the other side of the room. Most organizers will appreciate your attempt to reduce any chance of drama.
  • If you’re unsure of anything, ask questions before you get to the show. Shoot the organizers a PM or email or post it in the event’s author group.
  • Keep your displays “clean,” in other words “family friendly.” There may not be any kids in attendance but many times there are. (Check with the organizers if you’re not sure if kids will be allowed.) You don’t have to hide the penis lollipops if they’re not overtly noticeable, but keep some kid-friendly lollipops on hand. Don’t have a dildo front and center on your table, but keep it partially hidden in a raffle basket. If you have alcoholic treats, put aside a few non-alcoholic ones just in case.
  • If you’ve written a children’s book, but you’re mostly a romance or fantasy author, don’t leave them behind. I sell a lot of my children’s book under another pen name at shows. Attendees love being able to bring home a signed book to the kiddies who love receiving them just as much.
  • If you’re flying, carry your banner on the plane. Many airlines don’t count it toward your 2 allowed carry-ons. If they do, they can check it at the gate and put it in the hold with the baby carriages and car seats. Just let them know it’s aluminum and can be crushed under other items. I haven’t had an issue either way so far and I’ve brought it on many planes.
  • Some signings also have author-oriented events such as panels. Experienced authors will give talks on subjects that have to do with the self-publishing business. These are usually opened to both readers and other authors. Plan on attending if you can. 

Swag

There are two types of swag—relatively inexpensive swag that attendees can pick up from your table and walk away with and the more expensive swag you’ll want to limit and maybe use as prizes or a purchase thank you. They should all have, at least, your name, logo, and website on them. If you can get more of your social media information on them, then do it. Let’s start with the first one. 

The most common “free” swag items attendees like to snatch up are: 

Author Lisa B. Kamps setup at SaSS#18
  • Pens
  • Paper swag – postcards, bookmarks, notepads, etc.
  • Magnets
  • Buttons
  • Keychains
  • Stickers/temporary tattoos
  • Rubber bracelets
  • Book charms
  • Lip balm
  • Mint tins or packages
  • Can/bottle koozie (insulated sleeve)
  • Plastic tumblers
  • Stress balls
  • Other cute stuff that has to do with the theme of the author’s books (If it’s something you can’t customize then attach your business card to it somehow)
  • Something unique no one else has.

More expensive, limited items may include the following. You can also make them available for purchase.

  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Canvas tote bags
  • Posters
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Craft items made from the pages of books that have been damaged and rendered unsellable 
  • Handmade bookmarks or keychains 
  • Mousepads
  • Charm bracelets/necklaces or other types of jewelry 
  • Wine glasses
  • Shot glasses
  • Makeup bags
  • Phone covers
  • E-reader sleeves
  • Plastic water bottle or jug
  • Throw pillow or blanket
  • USB drive with exclusive content – stories you can’t get anywhere else
  • Customized fun items like a Rubik’s cube or Magic 8 Ball
  • Limited edition boxed sets of books
  • Journal
  • Candles
  • Something unique you find that works well with your books/series

Where do you get your swag?

There are so many answers for this. The following are suggestions from authors who have attended signings in the past; however, this is the tip of the iceberg. You might get a great deal on some items on one site but another site has a better deal on other items. Search Etsy and Facebook for swag designers for special swag. For the more common items, check out sites like these (there are plenty more out there but these are ones that are suggested often) and try to wait for sales:

Books for the Signing

How do you know how many books to bring? You don’t. I’ve been at shows where one title sold out, and at the next show, not one book of that title was sold, but others went. This is where pre-orders come in handy. For the impulse buys, make sure you have extra copies of your standalone books and the first book in your series. Those will be impulse buys for someone who has never heard of you but got interested in your books because of the interaction you had with them.

If you run out of a title, then offer to ship the book to them. It’s up to you if you want to charge for shipping. I don’t because usually those who take me up on the offer order more than one book.

Make sure you order well in advance. Don’t spend extra money on expedited shipping from Createspace. They’re notorious for getting the books to the author AFTER the event.

If you have an assistant who is close to a signing you’ll be flying into, consider asking them if you can ship the books direct to them. You may also be able to ship to the organizers. Check with the hotel before trying to ship direct to them. Many have time limits on how many days they’ll hold your deliveries before shipping them back to the sender. Some also charge you to hold the items. (I went to one signing that had a FEDEX store in the hotel, and they charged per day to hold any boxes.)

Wrap it up! 

SaSS#18
Credit: Eric Battershell

So that’s the lowdown on book signings. The most important thing is to stay calm and have fun. If something (like your books) doesn’t arrive in time, don’t panic. It happened to me with my books, but thankfully I had some on hand (just not all my titles). It is what it is. You can still network and meet new readers. Offer a free e-book through Bookfunnel or a QR code. Hand out your free swag. You’ll survive, I promise.

Remember to make yourself approachable. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a lone author sitting behind their table, playing on their phone, glancing at the clock, and clearly wondering why no one is stopping at their table. If you don’t appear approachable, the attendees will walk right by you.

If you had a successful event, find out if there will be another the following year and consider signing up for it early.  If it was a so-so event, don’t give up. Look for different events to attend the next time.

There are a few topics I didn’t mention or go into a lot of detail about, such as sponsorships and event anthologies, since you’ll want to get a number of events under your belt before looking into them. 

As always, these are all suggestions. Do what works for you and remember you will probably not recover the costs of attending the signing AT the signing, but hopefully you’ll gain new readers, who will recommend your books and become lifelong fans, and many new friends.

*Disclosure—some of the items above contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

**I have no association, other than possibly being a customer, to any of the other business links provided in this article. I am not reimbursed in any way for recommending their sites. 

***Images from SaSS#18 (Sexy and Sassy Signing in Norfolk, VA) used with permission from photographer or indviduals in photo and can be found on social media.

Tips for Marketing Your Book by Guest Author Kathryn Le Veque

It’s not just writing the book… it’s selling it.

You can write the greatest book in the world, the next War and Peace, but unless you can get it in front of a million hungry readers, it won’t make any difference how good your book is. 

In the world of a writer, the right hand writes – and the left hand markets!

Like many other writers today, I find a huge part of my day is spent on the marketing and business side of writing. Notice I didn’t say just “Indie” writers – that’s because even those writers who are traditionally published find themselves marketing their books as well. In this publishing climate, you can’t sit back and let your publisher get the word out about your book. The keyword with marketing is being proactive. 

Where to start? That’s a very good question.

It’s one I get asked a lot, actually, so let’s start from the beginning with the basics. You’ve written a book. Now what? When I think back to my early days of Indie publishing, I was really a marketing novice. For about the first four months, I had no idea how or where to market. There are several books on the subject, but the truth is that marketing in this industry is an ever-changing beast. It’s fluid, just like the industry itself, so discovering what works for you takes time and research. 
Let’s talk about ads –

Now, the first thing to understand about marketing ads is there are paid ads and free ads. My paid sites ad list is a cultivated list that I’ve acquired over the past four years. It’s extensive and I use it every time I release a book. It’s a little difficult to gauge where you get the most bang for your buck with these sites, so I usually budget my marketing dollars towards:

• The sites with the biggest following, and;
• The sites with the most reader interaction.

For reader interaction, just look at their posts and see how many comments they have. How many bloggers like their posts? Posts are the little articles that bloggers do on their website. Usually, people comment on them. You can get a good feel for how popular a blogger is by the comments on her posts. Or how about the website itself? Some sites will tell you how many followers they have and with others, it’s kind of a mystery. But you can usually tell by the response to their blog posts. Many responses = a serious following.

Where did I start?

Paid ad sites –

When I first published, my first paid ad was with Kindle Nation Daily. It’s a fairly comprehensive site. The ads can be costly, but I have gotten a good response with them. Other sites to place ads with are sites like The Fussy Librarian, The E-reader Café, and Storyfinds. I’ve had good responses from them. Again, they do cost, but they’re much cheaper than Kindle Nation Daily. We’re talking $30 as opposed to $150. Also, most of these sites require free or discounted books – make sure to check the site requirements before you run the ad. A discounted book is usually $2.99 or less. Anything above that is considered full price.

Is there a Holy Grail of ad sites? The answer is yes – there IS a magic bullet…

Enter the almighty BookBub. 

Image result for bookbub button

The Pros of Bookbub – www.bookbub.com

BookBub is a discounted site. Your book needs to be $2.99 or less. Bookbub started out a few years ago as a subscription site that sends daily e-mails to its subscribers on featured deals. They have a massive following but a BookBub ad can pretty much guarantee you some visibility in your genre. My first ad for a free book back in 2013 wrangled me 52,000 free downloads. Yes, you read that right – 52,000.

The Cons of Bookbub –

They are expensive and competitive. Bookbub has become so popular with Indie and Traditionally Published authors alike that it’s very difficult to get an ad with them. When you manage to, for Historical Romance for example, the ad is $600.

Bookbub Partners cost – but their results are measurable.

Now, let’s talk about free ad sites and free or very inexpensive marketing –

These can work very well if you strategize correctly. Here are a few essential suggestions:

Do:
• Cross-promotion with other authors. No man is an island and certainly no author is, so reach out to other authors. Meet them, greet them, make friends. Network at author/reader cons so you get to know your fellow authors. 
• Do book giveaways with fellow authors if possible – buy their books and give them away to readers with your own. Hopefully your author friends will do the same!
• Do book bundles (I’m the queen of those) because they WORK. Looking to gain readership? Do a book bundle with three or four other authors in a similar genre. Price the book at .99 cents (remember these bundles are about exposure, not revenue), and draw in new readership that way. Chances are, a reader will pay .99 cents for a new author they’ve never read and, if they like the author, the readers are very likely to run out and buy the rest of the author’s library or series. A .99 cent bundle is worth its weight in gold in that respect.
• There are several free sites out there for free and cheap books and promotions. I work with Aurora Publicity, and they have a list to share here:  www.aurorapublicity.com/free-author-promotion
• The best thing you can do for your career is make friends with other authors and learn from them. The community of authors, as a whole, is very friendly and helpful. Where to reach out? Facebook! There’s a massive community there. Twitter is also good for that. You want to find groups where you connect, grow, and learn. 
• One of the biggest places I found new readers was in Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program on Amazon for books – think the Netflix of books. For a monthly fee, readers can read as many books as they can possibly handle. The only downside is that readers can’t keep the books – when they’re finished, they must return them. But that’s a good thing for an author, because if they like your book enough, they’ll buy it to keep it. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they found me in Kindle Unlimited. It is free for an author to participate in Kindle Unlimited, but be aware that your book must be exclusive to Amazon for the 90-day term you are enrolled. However, to find new readers (and that’s what marketing is all about), I have found Kindle Unlimited to be the best free marketing site for me.
• Seriously – if anyone asks you to do an interview, or donate a prize to a giveaway, or be a guest at a virtual release party, DO IT. You want all of the (free) exposure you can get.
• Don’t be shy about reaching out to other authors or bloggers or websites and ask if you can be featured on their websites or blogs – or read their guidelines and find out how you can be featured. Remember – be proactive!

Don’t:
• Sit back and wait for things to happen. If you want to get your name out there, then YOU need to make it happen. This is a constantly changing business, and very competitive, so it is essential for you to be smart and proactive in your marketing.
• Behave badly – readers remember. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be kind, be generous, be available to your readers and to other authors. The last thing you want to do is get a not-so-nice reputation. Be professional in your ethics, and that includes marketing ethics.
• Watch out for scams. That usually entails someone reaching out to you and ‘promising’ to promote your book with some kind of guarantee. Absolutely nothing is guaranteed in this business, so watch out for those people who want a lot of money and make ‘guarantees’. Who can you ask about them? Ask your fellow authors and see if they’ve had any experience with them. Fellow authors are usually very willing to share what they know.

Marketing with Social Media –

This is a huge part of your marketing strategy. Readers are hungry to have contact with their favorite authors, so make sure you have a Facebook page, a Twitter, page, and a website. Make sure they are on every piece of marketing material you send out or print up. You want to make it easy for readers to click and find you.

Newsletters or blogs are essential – make sure visitors can sign up for your newsletter or blog via your website.

Giveaways and contests draw readers in. I run contests on my Facebook author’s page like this – I’ll give away something (book, swag, whatever). Winners are selected by random. But you WANT referrals – I will select a winner at random and not only give them a prize, but also the person who referred them. Gift cards go over well. It doesn’t have to be big – a little $5 gift card is fine.

The point is that you want that interaction with readers. It’s all part of marketing YOU!

These days, my marketing needs are bigger. I have hired a P.R. company to extend my reach. But until you reach that point, sticking with free marketing sites and cross-promotion strategies will help a lot. Reaching new readers won’t happen overnight, but with hard work and a solid marketing strategy, you will see steady growth in the months and years to come.

But one last bit of advice: to keep readers, you must write a quality product and sell it at a reasonable price. The object is to keep ‘em coming back for more, and quality and good prices will do that every time. All of the marketing in the world won’t make up for a poor product, so make sure yours is as perfect as you can get it.

You know that movie tagline “If you build it, they will come?” Let me change that a little: “If you write it (and use a little strategic marketing), they WILL read.”

~ Kathryn Le Veque
*Article orginally written for Lou Aronica’s Author First publication

**Note from Samantha A. Cole – As with all posts on this blog, everything is suggested. What works for one author might not work for another. This information is just another tool you can use to make an informed decision on what is best for you.  

Front & Back Matter—Does It Matter?

Whether you realize it or not, the front and back matter of your book is just as important as the story. It needs to be void of typos and errors, have links that work, and kept up to date!

What should be included in your front and back matter? Lots of things! But what is included and where differs between e-books and print books. Let’s start with e-books.

Because of the way most e-books are set up on Amazon and some other sites, when the reader opens the book on their device, it usually starts at either the Prologue or Chapter 1, meaning everything before that is skipped over. The reader may or may not flip back and look at it, so it’s better to put certain things at the back of the book where there’s a better chance they’ll see them at the conclusion of the story. If you use certain formatting software, such as Vellum, the book may open to a preface, introduction, or other set page. Still others might open at the cover due to certain formatting, but a majority of the books out there open to the beginning of the actual story. The following is how I format my front and back matter after spending a lot of time researching where to put everything.

 

E-book front matter (before the story) may include the following:

  • Title page—Book title, subtitle, author name, publisher name
  • Copyright—include disclaimer, year of publication, ISBN, who holds the rights to the book, and, if available, the editor, cover designer, photographer, and cover model.
    **I’ve read several conflicting opinions to where this should be placed in an e-book and decided to put mine at the very end of the book so it’s the last page. You can place it here or at the end.
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents—hyperlink the TOC entries to the corresponding chapters and sections. 
  • A preface or introduction. One of my series has spawned several spinoff series. There are a lot of characters from the original series who pop up in the spinoff series, so I created a Who’s Who of characters that appear in many of the books. I list their jobs, military brank/rank, family relations, spouse/girlfriend, and any other important matter. My readers have told me they love having it as a reference guide.

E-book back matter may include the following:

  • Immediately after “The End,” thank the reader for taking the time to read your book, then politely ask them to consider leaving a review. Provide the link to where they can leave the review. If you’ve included a preview chapter for another book, ask them to keep reading. At the end of the preview, include a link where they can pre-order the book. If it’s not on pre-order yet, consider a landing page where they can sign up to be notified when the pre-order is available. (Thank you, Author Sylvie Stewart, for reminding me to point out that Amazon tries to “kick” the reader out of the book after “The End,” so make sure the info in this point is on the same page as “The End”—no page break.)
  • Any Author’s Note you want to give the readers in regard to the story they just read.
  • Other Books by (Author)—make sure you put in hyperlinks to where the reader can purchase each book. You should update this religiously after each new release. 
  • Acknowledgements—the list of people you want to thank for helping to bring your book to life!
  • Connect With (Author)—this is where you provide all your social media links, so the reader can follow you.
  • About the Author—your biography.
  • Copyright page (if you choose to put it at the end instead of the front.)

For print books, there are a few differences from the e-books, starting with the front matter:

  • Reviews For (Insert the book’s title)—one page of brief reviews or excerpts from the reviews, along with the reviewers’ names and websites if applicable.
  • Other Books By (Author)—Some readers like to see if the book is part of a series and how many books are currently out.
  • Title page—Book title, subtitle, author name, publisher name
  • Copyright page – include disclaimer, year of publication, ISBN, who holds the rights to the book, and, if available, the editor, cover designer, photographer, and cover model.
  • Dedication
  • Any Author Note pertaining to the book.
  • Foreword—Short entry written by someone other than the author 
  • Preface—An introduction to the story written by the author. 
  • Acknowledgements—thank everyone you need to.
    ***There is no table of contents needed for a printed fiction book.

Back matter for print books:

  • Again, immediately after “The End” thank the reader for choosing your book and ask them to leave a review on their favorite book market site.
  • Preview for another book with buy links or release date information
  • About the Author—your bio, the links to social media where you can be found, and a newsletter signup link.

As usual, none of this is written in stone! Some authors may move the placement of a few items. Play around a bit, do some research, and find what works for you. There is no right or wrong way to do most of your front and back matter, just try to be consistent throughout your books. Make sure the reader can easily figure out where they can get your next book!

Social Media Etiquette for Authors

As with everything about the online book community, many of us have learned good and bad etiquette through trial and error. Aside from plagiarism, stealing covers or images, and scamming the system, there are a number of things that are frowned upon in the book community that drive many authors (and some readers, bloggers, etc.) nuts. As with all of my posts, these aren’t written in stone, but they are things I’ve seen many authors (and others) complain about over the years. Quite a few of the perceived faux pas will get you unfriended and possibly blocked.

1) Don’t add anyone to a Facebook group without their permission. This is one of the biggest etiquette complaints out there. Feel free to share the link on your wall or send it through Messenger to people you have some sort of a relationship with. In other words, don’t just randomly contact people, who you’ve never interacted with before, asking them to join your group or another group you’re a member of. There is a new feature on Facebook that people have been noticing lately (FB rolls out features so some people get them before others). If you invite someone to join a group, through the group itself (either by sending an invitation or clicking on some friends FB suggests you invite), they’ll get notification. If they click on that notification, it sends them to the group as an accepted member. This is not the fault of the person who invite d you, and it doesn’t happen to everyone. This is a FB issue, and one I hope they get rid of because I’ve seen many complaints because people think they were “added” by the other person instead of “invited” by them.

2) This is the second biggest complaint (and some days it tops #1) on Facebook. Do not private message someone or post on their wall, within seconds or minutes of them accepting your friend request, and ask them to either A) buy your book, B) accept a free copy of your book for a review, C) ask for a review swap, D) ask them to vote for your book in some contest, E) share your book on their wall, E) ask them to put your book in their newsletter, F) well, you get the picture. Ninety-five percent of the time, you’ll be ignored and probably unfriend and blocked. If one of those five percenters reply and decline your request, do NOT say anything other than “Okay, thank you.” There have been numerous posts about people going off on an author or blogger because they declined to “help out another author.”

Cultivate a relationship with someone (over days, weeks, or months) before approaching them with any of the above requests. Most authors are not your target audience. I went from reading 12-14 books per month to 1-3 books per month after I became an author. I have a long list of favorite authors who are constantly coming out with new releases, and I don’t have time to read them all. I’m not going to drop everything and read a book by an author who couldn’t bother taking the time to develop some sort of relationship with me before bombarding me with a buy/read/review request.

3) Don’t go to another person’s friend list (especially that of another author), scroll down, and send a friend request to everyone on the list. Find your own friends through author takeovers, author/reader groups, blogs, etc., or people commenting on the same posts as you. I’ve seen people complain because their profile has a combination of book community friends and real-life family and friends, and those real-life people contact them asking why this person from the book community is friend requesting them.

4) Try to avoid hijacking another person’s post in the comments. While it does happen and some people don’t mind, it is annoying when someone else goes completely off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the original post. If you find it happening, then move the conversation with others to a private chat or create a new post for the different subject (you’ll probably get more responses if you do that too).

5) If you’re in another author’s group, make sure it’s okay with them before you post anything that doesn’t have to do with their books—i.e. your new release or a shout out for another author or subject that tends to be controversial. Most authors won’t mind the first two as long as you ask.

6) Don’t post complaints or drama in any group that has a high volume of readers in it, including your own. They don’t want to hear it. Posting on your wall or in a group for authors about something that affects other authors is fine, but leave it out of the reader groups.

7) Read the rules of groups you join before posting! Don’t just say “yes” to questions posed to requesting members about whether or not you read and understand the rules. I’m in numerous author-only groups which do not allow self-promotions. Almost every day, someone joins at least one of them and immediately posts a promotion for their book. It’s the fastest way to get you kicked out of the group and blocked from trying to join again.

8) Think before you respond to another person’s post. There is no sarcasm font or a “just kidding” font on most social media sites, so many times comments are misinterpreted. You’re an author, so make sure your response to someone’s question or request for advice properly conveys what you want to say. If you can’t respond to a question or advice request without being snarky, then keep scrolling. Let people who want to help the person respond. Your way of doing things is not always the best way of doing things for other authors. All we can do is give our interpretation or experience, so the author looking for advice can make an informed decision for what is right for them. Everyone was new to this book community at one time or another, so remember how you felt when you went looking for advice as a newbie. There should be no “stupid” questions.

9) Don’t be offended if an admin deletes your post or comments in an author group. Sometimes comments get out of hand and the arguing and mudslinging start. Admins may delete the post or remove comments that are inappropriate. Remember, this is their group, they make the rules. If you don’t like it, leave and start your own group. Most admins have worked hard to make their group a happy and informative place for authors to communicate with each other, so drama is to be avoided at all costs.

There are other things some people in the book community frown upon, but these are the ones I see the most often. As always, if you’re not sure about something, ask in one of your favorite author resource groups!

What the Heck is a Takeover?

If you’re new to the online book community, you may or may not have heard about takeovers. What are they? They’re another interactive tool to get your books in front of new readers. Basically, a takeover is a Facebook event, (they can be held in groups too) created by other authors, bloggers, and, occasionally, readers. They’re usually done for cover reveals, new releases, fundraisers, or just about any other reason you can think of. Here’s how they work.

Let’s say I have a new release coming out and I want to celebrate, remind my current reader base that the new book is out, and attract new readers all at the same time. I’ll create a “new event” on Facebook or announce there will be a takeover in my own group on a specific date to coincide with the release date. I’ll then ask authors, usually who write in the same genre as me (if it’s a fundraiser or other event, it won’t make a difference which genre they write) to sign up to “takeover” the event. Common timeslots lengths are fifteen, thirty, or sixty minutes per author, depending on the event, how long it will be running, and how many authors are asked to attend. All the authors taking part in the event should invite their friends and followers to attend. This increases all the participating authors’ exposure to readers who may not have heard of them yet. I try to post the takeover link on my wall and in my reader group a day or two before the event, and then again on the day of the event, reminding my readers that I’ll be there. Inviting your readers will usually increase the comments on your posts and bump them to the top of the feed every now and then.

Sometimes, the organizers will create and run a group Messenger chat prior to and during the event, so all the participating authors can stay up to date on what’s happening and receive reminders when their timeslot is approaching. The authors may or may not be introduced by the event organizers in a post at the beginning of their timeslot, letting the attendees know who is up next. More often than not, this will be done, but sometimes the previous author will announce you or you’ll just start posting at your assigned time.

So, as an author, what do you do during your takeover? Pretty much anything you want! Your first post should be an introduction—tell the attendees who you are, what genre your books are in, how many you have out, etc. Also, thank the organizers for allowing you to takeover the event for a bit.

After your introduction post, you can post any of the following, it’s recommended you include a mix of the different types of posts. Space them out so you’re not sitting there with ten minutes to go to the end of your slot and nothing left to post. If you have a lot of books to cover, post every 2-3 minutes. If you don’t, then every 5 minutes is fine.

1) A “stalk me” post. Some authors put their social media links in the post with their bio. I prefer putting my website in my bio/introduction post, then putting the rest of them, with the Facebook page link first, in another post. The only two links I put in their own separate posts are my newsletter signup and my FB reader group. This way they don’t get lost and skipped over in the other posts.

2) A teaser for your book. A teaser is a stock image (that you have the rights to use!) with a short excerpt (1-3 lines) from the book, the title of the book, and your name. Include the buy links to the book in the post. (These can be for already published books, pre-order books, or an upcoming book in a series that does not yet have a pre-order link. If it’s the latter, provide the links to the first book in the series, even if you have it listed in another post.)

3) Video trailers are similar to a movie trailer, telling the readers a bit more about your book. There are several programs you can use to create book trailers—PowerPoint, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, etc., or you can hire someone to create them for you. Again, when you post the video, include all the buy links for the book.

4) An excerpt from your book. Pick a short (1-3 page) excerpt from one of your books (already published, pre-order, or work in progress) that will grab the readers’ attention. It can be a sexy scene, sweet scene, or suspenseful scene. Make sure the excerpts are completely edited if the book is published or on pre-order. If it’s a work in progress, mention something along the lines of “Please excuse any typos as this is a work in progress” at the beginning of the post. If you have buy links to the book, again, include them. Also, at the end of the excerpt, I like to add “Copyright ©2018 Samantha A. Cole.”

5) Giveaways! These can be done in a number of different ways with different prizes. Some reader favorites include:

  • “Caption this photo”
  • Name/date of birth/what color shirt are you wearing types of posts (I’m sure you’ve seen several of those unless you just joined FB this week!
  • “What was your last 5-star read?” “When was your first kiss?” or any other fun question for readers to answer.
  • Complete this sentence . . .
  • Replace a word in a movie title with . . . (pick any word!)
  • “Comment some pictures of hot military guys!” “Comment a picture of a fireman with a cute puppy!” “Comment an outfit you would love to wear to a BDSM club!” Or anything else that has to do with the theme of your books! Remind readers to keep them within Facebook’s decency guidelines.
  • Meme wars! Have readers post different memes and give them a theme to follow.
  • Anything else that you can think of that might be fun!

When it comes to giveaways, there are things you must not require for people to enter because FB and Amazon frown upon them. Do not ask participants to tag anyone. Do not require a purchase or pre-order. Do not require they like your page or follow you on any other type of social media. You can suggest any of those, but they can’t be requirements to enter.

In the giveaway post, let participants know what they need to do to enter, what the prize is, and how you’ll be choosing the winner. Most of the time, the winners are chosen at random. I use Random.org to choose my winners. You enter the number of participants, then the site randomly chooses a number. Count from the beginning entries and find the winner.

Close out the giveaway by posting a gif or image saying the contest is closed, winner will be announced in a moment. Before you announce the winner, click on their name in the comments and contact them by messenger! This is very important. A new scam is people creating a profile in the name of the winner, stealing their profile image, then contacting the author to claim the prize (usually an e-book or gift card). Shortly after the prize is sent, the fake profile is removed, and the author doesn’t know they’ve been had until they’re contacted by the real winner. So, make sure you’re sending the prize to the actual winner!

Once you’ve contacted the winner, then congratulate them in a comment on the giveaway post.

Prizes can include a free e-book (you can gift through Amazon or any other book market, Instafreebie, or Bookfunnel, or you can send a mobi file direct to their Kindle. Avoid sending any book to the winner’s regular email address). A $5 (or any other amount) e-gift card for Amazon or other book market. A signed paperback book. Swag.

Ask the event organizers when you should close out your giveaways. Most will ask you to pick a winner by the end of the next day, but they may also leave it up to you.

With some takeovers, there are so many participating authors that you may have trouble finding your giveaways the next day. I put “GIVEAWAY” at the beginning of each contest I run. Then when I want to find it again, I go to my profile activity, the event, or the group and search for that word. All my giveaways (and sometimes others’) will come up, with the most recent at the top.

At the end of your timeslot, thank the attendees for participating and the organizers for having you. Let everyone know when you’ll be closing out your giveaways.

Try to be on time, ready to post, when your slot comes up. Many organizers will add you as an admin or moderator to the event or group, so you can pre-schedule your posts. If you’ll be doing the takeover live, be prepared. Create a document, beforehand, with what you want to post so all you have to do is cut/paste. It will make your takeover so much easier and reduce your stress dramatically. I have a saved document that has all my blurbs, buy links, social media links, hashtags I like to use, my bio, and anything else I need for posting on a regular basis.

If the organizers let you pre-schedule your posts, take advantage of that so you can interact with those who comment on them, instead of trying to do it between posts or after you’re done posting. (Thank you, Abbie Zanders, for reminding me to add that!)

Reply to comments on your posts with a like or your own comment. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see a lot of comments on your posts. Sometimes participants check in later in the day or the following day. Some may not like or comment on a lot of posts, but that doesn’t mean they’re not reading them.

Try to observe a few takeovers as a reader before you actually do one.

Most of all, have fun! Interact with the participants and other authors. Comment and like the other authors’ posts. Don’t just drop your posts in there and leave. I’ve made some wonderful friends in the book community by commenting on their takeover posts!

Same Character Name/Same Title? It Happens!

Over the past few months, there have been many issues that have come up, resulting in the book community to be at each other’s throats. Stop with the “mine, mine, mine” attitudes. If someone is plagiarizing, stealing your covers or your images, or copying your UNIQUE series name or UNIQUE title, then, yes, you have every right to be pissed and take action. But to claim common words for copyights or hashtags, claim you own a stock photo, claim you came up with a title that is genric, claim a story line is the first of its kind (there are thousands of ways for different authors to write the same plot), and going after people who “violate” those claims will do nothing but piss off the rest of the community and make you a persona non grata. 

We’re here to support each other. 99% of us want to see every author succeed, and hell, most of us will do whatever we can to help you achieve that success (except write the book for you). So before you go contacting someone in a PM or through a post, or replying to their tweet, THINK first. Do you truly “own” it? Did you make it up and it’s so UNIQUE that it’s highly unlikely no one else did?

When I published my first book, Leather & Lace, I didn’t think to look and see if the title was used before. It had been. Dozens of times. Did I get contacted by any of those people telling me to change the title? No.

When I did a search on Amazon for books titled No Way in Hell, while writing a crossover book with another author a year and a half ago, I was shocked to see no one had used it before. Such a simple title. People use that expression all the time. A few months later, an author I’ve become friends with, whose books I’ve been reading for longer than I’ve been an author, told me the title she was thinking for her next book — No Way in Hell. I started laughing and told her I’d just released a book with that title. Did I tell her she couldn’t use it? No. (She hasn’t use it as of yet.)

Someone else just released a book with that same exact title a few months ago. Again, I don’t hold a claim to it because it’s not UNIQUE!

That same author I’m friends with, who hasn’t read my books (which I’m perfectly fine with), released a book with a character named Jake Dononvan, which is a character name I had used a few months earlier in my already released MM book. When I saw the same name, again, I laughed my ass off and told her great minds think alike. I’ve read numerous books with the same character names or titles or plot lines. Shit like this happens all the time!

So before you go laying claim to something, think first. Your response can do one of several things, but most likely will end up with one of the two following reactions. It can either make you and the other person laugh and maybe become friends or it can end up in screen shots pissing off a lot of people who have never heard of you and now refuse to buy any of your books. Which do you think is the logical choice?