Giving your novel a title

Out of anything publishing a book can throw at you, I find titling your novel the most important and the most nerve-wracking. Considering I have a book named On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton, there’s evidence that I have failed miserably. It sounds like an address for a hooker meetup. Of course, it being my very first novel I ever published, there’s a lot more wrong with it than just the title.

I think the wrong title can hurt a book, mainly through sales if your potential reader can’t lift the genre or form some kind of expectation from it.

Though the book sells okay, I don’t think the title of All of Nothing helps it any. People and search engines ask if I mean All or Nothing, which how the phrase is supposed to go. No one knows, or probably cares, that I named that book after a song from The Birthday Massacre that I listened to relentlessly while writing the book. It fits, kind of, but could the title have been a little more title-to-market? Absolutely.

Naming my small town wedding series could have driven me toward a bender, and by the time I settled on the names for the four books, I never wanted to see them again. That’s a dangerous attitude, because I’ll be marketing these books for the rest of my life. Not seeing them again isn’t an option.

Coincidentally, the other day I was listening to the Wish I’d Known Then Podcast with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett and they had guest Robin Cutler on for an interview. Robin’s been the director of the POD part of IngramSpark for a while, and they asked her what she feels is the biggest mistake indies make. She said their book title. With everything that goes into publishing a book, it surprised me a bit that she said that, but then, on the other hand, a title is pretty important, and maybe authors are stymied by it just as much as I am.

I’m sure many of you have come across a book’s title and wondered what in the heck was going on with that author when they named their book. Just for fun I pulled a couple of books from a book promotions Facebook group. I’m not invading anyone’s privacy as that group is open to the public and this is a promotion of sorts. But I scroll through that group every so often and it’s evident that the authors weren’t thinking about marketing, branding, or overall reader impressions when naming their book.

It’s too bad those titles don’t do a good job of representing what’s inside. Some of those covers are nice and the authors put a little time in, or at least put out the money for a premade. But if you happened upon any of those, would you know what you’d be getting? Especially those couple whose covers don’t hit the mark, either? The only one I hesitated including was Perfekt Match. Obviously that book is about some sort of magick, hence the spelling. But I don’t know what there is to be gained by making a play with the spelling like that. To me, it makes the word look wonky, and if that’s the way the author spells it in the book itself, I wouldn’t put up with it long.

Now that I’m doing a rebranding of sorts in 2021 with 7 new releases, I’m going to be a lot more careful when naming my books. The titles need to match genre, content, cover, and blurb. This goes along with what Suzy K Quinn says in her interview with Joanna Penn. She says while you write your book, or even before that as you plan it (genre, tropes, if it will be a series, etc) if you can look at your book as a whole package, marketing that book will be a lot easier after it’s published. I’ve heard a lot of authors say they didn’t have a plan for their book before writing it, only after did they worry about audience and then they struggle to find a place for it with categories, sub-genres, and genres. It’s tough. It’s like being at a party and winning the white elephant gift. What’s inside? And do you really want it?

Titles are a pain but FB groups such as the Indie Cover Project are great for asking for opinions. Sometimes you have to have a thick skin–sometimes there isn’t a lot of handholding in groups like that, but when I was feeling out a title for the book I’m working on right now, they were very helpful.

The book I’m writing is a standalone and the premise goes something like this:

To earn fifty percent of the company he helped build, Colt Jameson needs to find a husband for his boss’s daughter and is given a short list of acceptable candidates. He turns bitter when he realizes he’s not on the list. Elayna Carmichael is beautiful, frivolous, and an alcoholic. He has no intention of falling in love–even if they were childhood best friends.

Billionaire heiress Elayna Carmichael pretends to be a lush to anonymously volunteer at a women’s shelter. She’s been in love with Colt Jameson all her life. He’s a workaholic and she knows he would never loosen up to be with her.

When not one, but all of the candidates agree to marry Elayna, Colt will have to decide if his half of her father’s company means more to him than finding love and claiming her for himself.

I’m no good at writing blurbs–it takes me forever, but this is just a quick synopsis. Of course the book has more to it than just that–lots of backstory and damaged characters are my forte, but this will suffice. It’s not a funny book. I can’t write humor, and I’ll never try. So when coming up with a title, I was thinking something like The Husband List. I workshopped that, and the general consensus is that it sounds like a romcom.

The vector cover still popular these days and I would maybe go for that rather than real people. I would just expect to have to refresh the cover after a couple years if it falls out of style.

So possibly I could go for The Husband Contract. The title feels a little more weighty, not so funny and sweet. And of course, you want to look at what’s selling in the genre, so looking up Billionaire romance, this is the top ten right now:

It looks like we have some very serious men in suits–which looks to be exactly what I need for my serious/dark billionaire romance.

If you’re like me, you can play all day and as long as it’s clean and you have a guy in a suit (and maybe a city in the background for extra points) a cover won’t take long.

They give off a crisp look that I’ve admired on Willow Winters’ book covers.

I may not go with that with the title at all. I don’t want to mislead my readers and usually with this kind of title, the contract would be between the characters, not the female MC and other men. I suppose it would depend on how well I write my blurb.

I’m only 32,000 words into this, about a third of the way through, so I have plenty of time. But this rebranding is important. I feel like while the past four years haven’t been a waste or a mistake, I finally know what to do to start my writing career on the right track. I’m choosing this standalone to publish first because by the time it’s ready, a year will have gone by, and I need to dip my toes back into the publishing waters. Plus, I’ll put the link to my newsletter in the back and maybe I can get a few organic sign ups while I edit and format my series I’ll release later next year.

Anyway, I’ll keep experimenting and thinking and see what I come up with. A lot of times I’ll think of a concept and then end up publishing a completely different idea. It’s fun to play.

What is the hardest part for you? Title? Cover? Blurb? Let me know!

**Some photos were taken from the Canva Pro collection. Some were taken from DepositPhotos.com. If I like a stock photo found in Canva, I look for the version in Deposit Photos and download it with one of my photo packs I purchased through AppSumo around Christmas last year. I never use a photo that I haven’t paid for.

Fonts are either from Canva Pro or my own personal collection I have purchased through PIxelo or Mightydeals. I also find some free for commercial use fonts here.


Content Marketing, easier said than done.

woman holding coffee cup quote:One of the best ways to sabotage content is to not tie it to your goals. Know why you’re creating content. 

– Ellen Gomes

When we think of content marketing (and really, who doesn’t think about it at least once day) a lot of us probably have no idea what that is. We hear the phrase a lot, especially us authors who have a lot of content to sell and share. At least, we should have a lot of content to sell and share. After all, we’re creators, and we should be creating content on a regular basis.

I had a friend a while ago (we don’t talk anymore–she’s one of those people who have faded off) and she had this problem. She desperately wanted to be part of the writing community. Her debut novel flopped, and her self-esteem took a hit. She was never really the same after that, though she tried. The problem was, and still is, she’s not writing. So you can imagine the difficult time she has trying to fit herself into the writing community when she’s not writing. Or more specifically, she has no content to share on social media. I see her really struggle find her place on Instagram, create her Facebook Author Page, she hasn’t blogged for months, and nothing she has found works. She’ll post, delete her profile, lay low, come back, post, delete her profile, and I feel like I’m on some weird merry-go-round. I can’t imagine how she feels. And lest you think this is me just poking at her for something to blog about, let me be clear, when we were talking, I tried to tell her this. Many many times. You have no content if you’re not writing.

So what is content marketing? Content marketing is sharing content for free, to lead customers into paying for other content. Where does this content come from? See, this is my ex-friend’s problem. If you’re playing the writing and publishing game, I’m assuming you’re creating it. If you’re not, then you have nothing to share. Novels, novellas, short stories, even flash fiction. The best content can be repurposed. Blog a short story for feedback, then sell it. Give away novellas, then box them up and sell them. Take excerpts from your books and make pretty graphics. If you pay for Canva Pro, it now lets you schedule your graphics onto your FB author page and you don’t have to worry about remembering. Blog a first chapter then put the buy link at the bottom and encourage your readers to buy the book to read the rest. Newsletters too, are all about giving your readers something for free and then when you have something to purchase, they will.

What my ex-friend needs to do is stop worrying about social media and start writing.

What else can you post on social media?

*Share books you like. I’m assuming (lots of that going on here) that you write what you love to read. If you think of your FB author page as a community rather than something you have to do, it might help. Share the books you have loved, talk about why you liked them.

*Find a “calendar” of things to post. These are floating around social media–the challenges authors post for 30 days of content. Every day is something new. A selfie and five things no one knows about you. Your favorite writing spot, the pets that keep you company while you write. A favorite quote from a book. This is an example someone posted in an Amazon Ads group I’m in for Instagram. You can grab some of these ideas to help brainstorm. Some of these are more for fellow writers than readers, and you’ll have to be careful you don’t start posting more for your peers than your readers. A lot of us fall into that trap, but the writers I know aren’t the readers who will sustain my lifelong publishing career.

#autumnauthorchallenge daily social media ideas

*And of course, you want to share your works in progress. Talk about your characters, what sparked that idea. Why you’re writing what you’re writing. You can give updates on release dates, ask for reviews, if you have two potential covers for a book, take a vote.

If you’re creating content, actually creating it regularly, you shouldn’t have a problem sharing, even if it’s raw, unedited. Sometimes readers like that content best. They get in on the ground floor of a building and can watch how it’s built, from the basement all the way up to the penthouse.


These are all ideas I need to start doing for myself. Trust me, I only have 128 people liking my FB author page, and for good reason. There’s nothing but tumbleweeds drifting by because I don’t think of my FB author page as a community where readers of romance can come together and chat about books. I feel it’s a time suck, just a place where I have to go to waste time instead of writing. Content marketing doesn’t have to take long, though, and that’s something I need to remember. As long as you are writing regularly, the hard part is already done. Making time to write consistently is difficult for a lot of people because they’ve hit a snag or they’ve lost faith in their abilities. Imposter syndrome can hit hard. I’m not going to say people run out of time, because in 24 hours in a day, if you really want to find time to write, you will. If you have time to watch a television show, you have time to write.

Deleting profiles and putting them back up only to take them down again has a lot of consequences, mainly people will lose faith in your ability to stick it out for the long haul. Every time you delete your profile, you have to start from zero. It’s hard enough doing it the first time. I remember posting my very first blog post and I had zero subscribers. I can’t imagine doing that willingly every couple of months. It also hits your SEO.

woman holding a coffee cup. quote: google only loves you when everyone else loves you first. wendy piersall

Search engines like Google favor websites and content that has been around a long time and that offers current and relevant information to the person using the search bar. Every time you start over, you’re starting you SEO from scratch too, and that’s not a smart thing to do. In a private window, I searched for Chance Carter. A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about the things he’d done to his readers scamming the indie community. If you search for Chance Carter now, my blog post is on the second page of results. He was so popular he still takes up the first page of his own search results, but I find it pretty fascinating that something I wrote about him is still so popular that I get hits on that post every day, and lands me on the second page of Google results. I never would have gotten there if my website didn’t have an online history.

I sincerely hope my ex-friend finds her place. We don’t talk anymore, mainly because like a drowning person struggling in the water, I didn’t want her to take me down with her. These past few months I’ve been trying to make connections with authors who have the same work ethic and visions for their writing careers as I do. Maybe one day she’ll find her path, and I hope she does. It’s hard for me to watch anyone hurting.

She will continue to struggle though, if she’s not creating. Write those books, those novellas and short stories and share them with your readers! Create your content, create your community, and you’ll find content marketing will be a lot easier when you have something, and someone, to share it with.


The Positives and Pitfalls of Writing a Series

Writing a series is hard. And daunting. Not one person can tell you it’s easy. But there are a lot of positives that can come with taking the time to write an intriguing, action-packed series.

Personally, I don’t like writing them. I’m getting used to them, but I like writing one book, being able to edit it, format it, slap a cover on it, and push it out to the world. Writing a series is more involved, but the pay off can be much more than the instant gratification of writing a standalone.

When I started writing my first person book back in December, I had a plan for it to be a trilogy. And it could have stayed that way, but a secondary character needed her story told, and I worried for a while over what that story would be. I laid a shaky foundation for her in the first three books, but now that I’m starting book six, I know highlighting her story was the right choice. At least, I hope it turns out to be.

What are the positives and negatives of writing a series? From my limited experience, I’ll give you my list:

The positives:

  1. Read-through. This isn’t to say that if someone reads one of your standalones, they can’t or won’t go on to read other books in your backlist, but if you can hook them with a solid book one, it’s almost a no-brainer that you’ll have that reader for as long as your series lasts. That means guaranteed sales for you.
  2. The books are easier to write. More than likely, the books after book one will have some of the plot built into the overall story. When I wrote my wedding series, I had to include wedding activities that included the other characters. Not only does that take up space, but readers like when other characters play a role, even if the book isn’t centered on them.
  3. They look great on your Amazon Author Page, and Amazon will create a series page for you to help promote them. This is a silly thing to point out, mostly I added it because I can’t think of any other positives. I’m sure if you enjoy writing a series, you can com up with something more, but I’m all out. A series with nice covers does look terrific on your author page, though, and if you have more than one series, it clues a reader in that you’re in this for the long haul and they can count on you to deliver books well into the future.

    This is the top of my series page on Amazon. If you want to look at the whole page Amazon provides, click on the graphic.
  4. That does remind me that a series has more marketing potential than a standalone novel. You can price a book one free for a time using your Kindle promotion free days you’re allowed every quarter (or permafree if you’re wide), and later when all the books are published you can put them into a box set. A series is good for a reader magnet prequel, too. For my wedding series, I could write a novella about how the couple meets as the series starts two weeks before their wedding. It’s a way to get readers invested and sign up for your newsletter. It would only take me a few days to write a 30,000 word novella to offer as a reader magnet but I’m writing something else right now and I would need to schedule that into my writing calendar. If I’m interested enough to bother with it.

Which brings me to the pitfalls of a series:

  1. The biggest for me is that I get bored. And you know if the writer is bored, so will the reader be. I like fresh characters; I like starting from scratch. In romance, you can write a series with a plot that spans all the books, like the wedding in mine. All the characters are in town for the ceremony, and the wedding takes place at the end of book four, but each book focuses on a different couple. That made it enough for me to write four books, but I was relieved when they were done. In fact, I started writing book one of the series I’m working on now before book 4 was properly finished. It took a few extra weeks because, unfortunately, I had checked out. I was craving something new, even though I saved my favorite couple for last.
  2. The covers are harder. This probably won’t mean much to you if you hire out. But a series is more work, more costly, and you have to keep branding in mind. They need to look like a series. If you do your own covers, that could mean hours looking through stock photos searching for pictures that have the same vibe. Once I knew the basic design of the covers, I could choose a couple and slip the composite into the template I made in Canva. It took a long time for me to decide on the layout, though, because there’s lots to consider, especially if you write romance:
    a) what’s trending? single woman? single man? man chest? a couple?
    b) steam level
    c) overall look for the genre or subgenre you’ve written in
    d) what font to use
  3. You have to make the first book strong or your read-through will fizzle and the subsequent books you write will be for nothing. This happened to me with my trilogy. My first book is weak–I didn’t know a lot about character arcs, conflict, or stakes. With the wedding series, the first couple I chose were also “quiet” and I didn’t think they had enough oomph to encourage read-through. When writing the second book, I realized that couple was stronger than the first and swapped them. This series is still new, so only time will tell if I made the right choice, but that brings me to another pitfall:
  4. Consistency. I hang on to all my books while I write them. I don’t publish them one by one. There are pros and cons to this, but the main reason I do it is to have control over editing. I like being able to make changes if I’m writing later books and a good idea comes to me, or a beta reader catches inconsistencies. But that also means I won’t know how book one will do, or if I’ve wasted my time writing a whole series first. That’s a risk I need to take because I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable enough to write one book at a time and release as I go along.

    This puts me in a position to rapid release, but I’m still so new as an author I don’t have an audience and putting books on pre-order don’t do anything.

    Some authors will release one by one and tie things up if their read-through drops off, or they keep it going if they make a lot of money and readers are enjoying their books. I don’t have either of those options when I hold onto them from start to finish.

I’m getting used to writing in a series and the first person books are going pretty fast. I will have quite the chore editing them, but like I said in a previous post, I’m going to lighten up with these, have fun, and let my characters (and my voice) shine.

Will I write another seres? Sure. The book I’m planning in the back of my mind could very well be a series. Sometimes they come to you without you wanting them to. Secondary characters can steal the show. I think those are the best kinds of series, when characters demand their stories by told. After all, if they demand it, hopefully readers will, too.


If you have a series, or are in the middle of writing one, and want to promote it, Written Word Media has a new promotional tool for authors. When I purchased my Freeobooksy through Written Word Media in July for the first book in my series, I had forgotten they had come out with this. I will definitely check into it the next time I want to run a promo. While it can seem a bit costly, the read-through of a readable series can more than pay for the fee. Good luck!


Author Interview: Romance Author Meka James

taken from Twitter

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for joining me on this fabulous Monday! Today I interviewed romance author Meka James. She’s been publishing since 2014 and has lots of experience in the industry. Grab a cup of coffee and listen in as she tells us about her experiences with indie publishing and dipping her toes in the water of traditional publishing!


You have furbabies, real babies, and a husband. How do you find time to write books and keep up with a blog, too?

**Well, my real babies are older. My youngest is 10, that means they are way more self-sufficient which leaves me time. Plus they are at the age where mom isn’t as “cool” to hang out with. (sad face LOL). As for the husband, he works during the day which also means I have time on my hands. The furbabies sleep 95% of the day. hahaha 

You’re a part of the #turtlewriters on Twitter.  What are the benefits to writing and publishing slowly? Are there any negatives?

**Taking your time benefits because it’s less stressful. I’m slow and a pantser so I need to let the story form as I’m writing it. It works for me, but everyone’s process is different. The biggest downside would be just keeping relevant. We all know the struggles to find (and keep) readers so the longer you go between releases, the more chances you have in people losing interest in your writing. 

You’re a hybrid author, meaning you are both traditionally published and self-published. How did you decide to go this route? Will you look for a book deal in the future?

**I started out team Indie. When I began writing it was always my first choice. I joined up with a group of ladies on Twitter in maybe 2013/2014 and at the time I was the only one in the group not in the query trenches. So one year I decided to do a what the hell, and see what it was all about. I wrote the story Being Neighborly with the intent to sub it to Carina for their dirty bits line. Anything Once (Limitless Publishing) I wrote with the intent to just randomly sub it places never stressing too much if it didn’t get picked up because as I said, going Indie was always the option for me with any book. I do have ideas of subbing again but only to help with some of the cost associated with self-publishing. Between covers and editing, it gets pricey as you know, so letting a press handle that would be nice. 

You genre-hop and write everything from twisted fairytales to erotica. How does this affect your marketing and establishing a brand?

**hahaha I’m supposed to have a brand? LOL no but in all seriousness I write what I feel like. I mean the one thing that stays consistent is that the stories will be character based and steamy. I do feel like I’m coming into my own now and have a direction. I stick with contemporary and play with tropes. I like to think my characters all end up being down to earth with problems and situations readers can relate to. That I *hope* will be my brand.

You’ve played with Amazon ads and have participated in Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Ad Profit Challenge, something I’ve written about here on the blog. How was your experience? Do you have any quick do’s and don’ts for our readers?

**Well, Bryan’s great. He hands out the information in easy to understand ways. I appreciate that. However, I’m nowhere near fully understanding how it all works and how to make what I sell actually sell! LOL I guess my best advice is to stick with it. Keep trying. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and that goes with learning the marketing aspects as well as the writing.

You attended RWA in 2019 in NYC. Can you give our readers some advice on what to expect at a huge conference like that and how to maximize your time and funds? I hope one day we can attend them in person again!

**Oh boy! First, expect to be overwhelmed. Seriously, if you’re not a crowd/people person you need to be ready for the onslaught. It’s a lot. The old RWA offered up a lot of classes, some that conflicted, so plan (not my strong suit) so you can know what you want to attend. Also, don’t go too starry eyed over all the free books at the signings. Seriously I did that at my first convention in Denver and ended up having to pay a weight overage fee on my bag. LOL Don’t be me. But have fun. Yes you’re there to network, but also just enjoy the time. Don’t let it be stressful and think you have to be doing something every minute. Downtime is important. 

You’re involved in an anthology! Congratulations! That’s so cool, and the proceeds go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund which is doubly cool. Besides giving back, how is being in an anthology beneficial to your writer platform and career?

**This will be my first anthology and I’m hoping that it will get my name out there to more readers. That is always the goal, to find new people that may enjoy my work. By teaming up with 28 (I think) other authors, that’s a lot of potential for new readers to read me and hopefully go buy through my backlist.

Did you borrow a book from your already-published collection, or did you write something new?

**The story in the anthology is new. It’s a short only about 6k in length.

That’s great! I’ll be sure to look for it!
You’ve just released two novellas related to the novella published by Carina. How did your launches go? I know every time I publish a book I make a new mistake. When it comes to launches what would you do differently? What worked well?

**Same. Honestly with each release I feel like I’m starting from scratch. The only thing I do consistently is post teasers on social media. I have gotten away from a lot of paid promotions for launches. I mean I’ve had some success with blog tours, and I still like them to help get reviews, but sometimes it can be hit or miss. So far I don’t know that I’ve done anything particularly well during a launch. They’ve all had the same sort of lukewarm reception, but I keep chugging along. At this point, I do what I’m comfortable with which is mostly the teasers. I know a lot of people don’t think social media sells books, but for me it does. 

taken from Instagram
taken from Instagram

What’s next for you in the next six months? What are you working on now?

**I am currently working on my first *planned* series that I’m hoping to publish next year. They are a small town romance that follows three friends, all now in their forties who are falling in love. Like with my Desert Rose novellas, each will have a trope featured.
Book 1: Second Chance
Book 2: May/December
Book 3: Enemies-to-lovers.
I’m also hoping to put out another novella by the end of the year, but that is mostly me being way too confident in my slow writing self. LOL But it goes back to the relevancy thing. My last book was published in May, the idea I won’t have another until 2021 is a little nerve-wracking, but sometimes it is what it is. 

I did that, too. I released a standalone novel in May of 2019, then didn’t have anything until January of 2020, and I’ll be doing something similar–I won’t have anything to release until probably next year but like you said, it is what it is.

Thanks for taking the time, Meka! Good luck with your new series!


After I gave Meka her questions, she blogged about her experience with AUDIO! I didn’t want to bother her with more questions, but you can read about her experience on her blog. Click on the picture and pick up some tips to see if audio is right for you!



Follow Meka:

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Blog

Thanks for reading! Until next time!


Starting At Zero

Hello, and welcome to August! I hope you are staying safe, healthy, and sane. A lot of things are up in the air right now, but I did want to talk about one thing that’s been on my mind. I joined a Facebook Group for Amazon ads. Most of the members are holdovers from the Ad Profit Challenge that Bryan Cohen hosted last month. But I did notice a common theme.

Lots of us are starting at zero.

We all start at zero. Even Steven King started at zero, submitting stories through snail mail, hoping a magazine would publish his work. It’s a little hard to believe that huge writers like King and Nora Roberts, Neil Gaiman, and others started at a typewriter or computer, stared at a blank page, and started writing their books for no one but themselves.

These days starting at zero doesn’t seem so daunting. There are writing groups, publishing groups, publishing conferences, virtual conferences, Zoom rooms, Facebook rooms, and more. Writers have a million places to share links and drive traffic to their book, blog, or social media sites. But even if you have a hundred people starting from zero around you, you’re still in it yourself, and when you feel like you can’t make any traction, that journey seems very lonely.

What’s even worse is starting from zero means you’re probably making mistakes that you don’t know you’re making. Mistakes that could effect you and your business for years to come. Some things can be fixed like a bad cover, some might take longer, like re-editing a poorly written book. One of my biggest is no newsletter.

But there is a ton of information at your disposal, and David Gaughran has helped with that. In his new course, Staring From Zero, he talks you through what you need to do to get your book published, and published well so it sells. The course is free, and I’m half-way through it. It’s a great resource, even for those who have been around for a little while. Things change, and David provides information that’s relevant as of July 2020. I would sign up and watch the videos. He gives you two free ebooks also, and all you need is a little time to make your books better. He doesn’t even try to sell you anything!

I’m enjoying the course so far, and because of Bryan’s Amazon Ads Profit Challenge, I’ve done some of David’s suggestions already for some of my books. What I need to do is take a couple hours and do all the things so I can give my books the best chance of selling as I can.

If only selling your book were as easy as writing it!

Click on the photo for the website to get started! Tell me what you think

Photo taken from David’s Facebook Page

Buzzword: Relevancy

taken from Merriam-Webster.com

Every industry has their buzzwords. Some come and stick around forever, some go in the blink of an eye, some are adopted because they’re trendy, some because an industry leader comes out with a book or a TED talk and they introduce the word and everyone starts using it to sound cool.

If you’re clued in to the independent-publishing industry, you might have heard a new buzzword within those circles:

Relevancy

taken from Merriam-Webster.com

In a webinar with Mark Dawson and Janet Margot, Janet used the word several times while talking about Amazon Ads. This isn’t the webinar I’m referring to, as that replay has expired, but this is something similar with Janet, Mark, and Craig Martelle in a video they did for the 20booksto50k group.

Bryan Cohen also adopted the word in the new Amazon Ads profit challenge I’m participating in right now.

And David Gaughran, in an interview on the Six Figure Author podcast, bandied the word about as well.

Relevancy.

It’s a good word. I try to keep my blog posts on this writing/publishing/marketing blog relevant to the audience I’m cultivating. Not many of my readers would appreciate it if all of a sudden I started blogging about the benefits of going barefoot, or why I love living in the Midwest. One too many and my subscribers would start dropping off.

But why is the word suddenly everywhere and how does it pertain to our books?

It starts with the book itself — maybe before you begin to write it. The tropes should be relevant to your genre. The elements such as world building, magical systems, setting, and character arcs should be relevant. I love this quote by someone in one of my Facebook groups:

No one likes to hear genre advice. People write whatever they want without regard to where their book would be placed on a bookshelf because for us indies, there rarely is a real bookshelf for us in a bookstore. But as I take ads course after ads course, the lack of genre bites a lot of people in the butt. They can’t find relevant categories in which to place their books. After you’ve written it, published it, and thrown money at it, it’s a little late to realize that, yeah?

Book cover needs to be relevant to the genre. Such as in romance. As an example, if the couple has all their clothes on, that could indicate the book is sweet romance instead of steamy. If your couple is fully-clothed but they have more sex than bunnies, you run the risk of angering a lot of readers and that could come through in poor reviews.

When you publish and you enter the seven keywords into your metadata (you can use more than that, separate them with a semicolon), those need to be relevant so Amazon knows what your book is about and they can properly steer the right readers toward it. (Trust me, they want to sell your book just as much as you do.)

The categories you choose should be relevant to your book. That makes it easier is for readers when they search books they’re in the mood for. Some scammers will place their books in far-off categories because it takes only a couple of sales to reach bestseller status. If I were to place All of Nothing in say, a self-help category, or gardening, because Jax happens to buy Raven a plant, would that help sales? Possibly gardeners read romance, but placing a book in a category that’s not relevant will eventually do more harm than good, and could make Amazon mad at you.

If you do all that, your book will be relevant to the audience you want to read your book and your ads will be a lot more successful when you’re advertising to the right readers.

If the keywords (for Amazon) and target audience (for Facebook) you choose for ads are relevant, clicks will be cheaper and sales will be higher. If you don’t set up your ads so they are shown to the right readers, it’s like Coke showing ads to a diabetic. It wastes add dollars and wastes both parties’ time. The sugary beverage isn’t relevant to a person who can’t drink it.


This isn’t new information and I know plenty of writers buck the system, and that’s fine. I find it amusing when authors taking ad classes say their book can fit into several genres and they don’t know which categories to choose for their ads. Your book can’t be all things to all readers. The more you drill down who your reader is, the easier time you’ll have marketing your book.

Make a list of relevant comp authors. Those authors are your squad. Those books would sit next to yours at the bookstore. Their readers are your readers.

I have an AS degree in Human Resources, and HR professionals love buzzwords so it was fun for me to all of a sudden hear this word tossed around over and over again in the indie community. It’s a new way of saying what we already know:

What are your thoughts on relevancy? How have you made your book relevant to your genre? How can you fix it if you haven’t? Change your keywords in KDP? Swap out covers? Maybe add a subtitle? Make a list of comp authors and titles for ads?

Let me know!


Having Fun with Your Characters: Aesthetics

Sometimes I forget how much fun a writer can have with their characters. In the age of writing and publishing as quickly as possible, we forget that there is a lot we can do to help readers dive into the worlds we create and get to know the characters who live there.

I rarely do this because of the time it takes. Writing a character sheet or character interview isn’t too bad, but when you create an aesthetic you can drop down the rabbit hole of stock photos for days. There’s where I lose time, and eventually, if I can’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll give up and I’m angry about all the time wasted.

But these days there are plenty of opportunities for you to share a character sheet/character interview/aesthetic/mood board, and I’m changing my mind about investing some time in doing this.

I also think that this can help me as a writer: dig deeper into character motivation, what drives them to do what they do, why they fight for what they fight for and get to know them for the simple pleasure that they are my creations.

You can share a character aesthetic on your FB author page, your blog, newsletter, bonus material for newsletter signups, or Instagram. Anyplace really, where readers may find joy in getting to know a bit more about the characters in their favorite books.

Using Canva, (look under elements and search grids) you can find an aesthetic grid where all you have to do is plug in the pictures. Save room in a box for a quote from your book that showcases your character’s true personality, or book’s release date, or other information you want to showcase.

You can also use Canva to make a character sheet and save it as a PNG or PDF but for today I’ll write into my blog post and use Canva to make Gage Davenport’s aesthetic.

Gage is my main male character in the second trilogy of my King’s Crossing Serial. Books 1-3 are for Zane and Stella, Books 4-6 are centered around Zane’s sister, Zarah, and her love interest, Gage. I love writing Gage. He’s mouthy, but so kind, and he loves Zarah from the second he sees her. Zarah has a lot of issues, though, and some baddies are after her, but there’s no better man to save her than Gage, a private investigator in business with his dad.


Gage Davenport

Age: 37
Occupation: PI in business with my dad
Lives in: King’s Crossing, Minnesota
Apartment or house: Apartment near the industrial park
Pets: A Husky/German Shepard named Baby
Favorite food: Anything that doesn’t give me heartburn
Vehicle: A brand-new truck that’s almost paid off
Love Interest: Don’t ask
Family: My parents are divorced. My half brother is deceased. My mother remarried to a guy who’s okay, but I’m not interested in forming much of a relationship with him.


Look, I only have time for a few words. I have to take Zarah back to her place, and you know how long of a drive that is. Two full hours on the road. The way there, I don’t mind so much, on the way back, I miss her like crazy, the pull of it stronger as the miles go by. Are we going to end up together? Doubtful. You know she’s rich, right? And I’m not. That usually doesn’t mix well. You’d look at me and think I don’t have any insecurities, but that’s a big one. That and I hate thinking about Pop not being around anymore. I got a lot of time before that happens, but Pop, Zarah, my dog, Baby, those are the big three in my life. Sorry, Mom. I know you miss me, but you’re only on my case because of what happened two years ago. Like I said, I gotta get going. These late nights are killing me. Ciao.

This didn’t take me as long as it could have. I used all Canva pictures because I’m not looking to make money off this aesthetic. Technically, they’re promoting my books, but I’m not using them for book covers. Like I’ve said in the past, I will always buy all my photos for my covers.

With this serial, I’m going to try to have more fun with it, take the time to post quotes and excerpts of all six books while I’m writing them, formatting them, etc. I don’t know if it will help with sales, but I’m going to do it because I love these characters, and I’m tired of writing book after book without taking the time to smell the roses, so to speak.

Do you make aesthetics for your books and characters? What do you do with them, and where do you share? Let me know!


How important is social media if you’re a writer? A published author weighs in.

I have a friend who constantly struggles with social media. She hates it, but not for the idea it’s a time-suck. For now we can all agree that with the JK Rowling stuff, the #publishingpaidme hashtag that’s gone crazy on Twitter, police brutality, COVID-19, and our president, things on social media are more than just a dumpster fire. It’s a raging, out-of-control forest fire. Think Australia. Really, let’s think about Australia since we haven’t heard anything about their fires in quite some time, but they’ll be dealing with damage control for years.

As a writer and author, we can agree that social media is a necessity. BUT as a writer and author, social media isn’t necessary in the way we’re told it is at the beginning of our careers. Namely, we need to be on social media to sell books. This is only partly true, and in the part of it that is true, it takes a lot of scrambling on our end to make it happen. In my 2020 predictions blog post from a few months back, I quoted Mark Coker (the founder of Smashwords) as saying that Amazon ads have stolen the writers’ platform. Why work for reach when you can buy it? Why work for reach when it’s EASIER to buy it? I know for the books I’ve sold in the past year, it’s due to buying ads on Amazon.

And yet. Is social media worthless?

Let’s take a look at social media from an author’s standpoint. Just a quick one, since I’ll start off by saying I’m not doing this but I know I should be. One of the only ways to use social media as an author is to set up a Facebook Author Page. (Ads aside since you need an author page if you want to run FB ads for your book.) The idea is having someplace for your readers to find you. Like your page. Interact with you. Some authors form groups instead of pages, but the downside to a group is that you’re constantly moderating and making sure posters are behaving. That doesn’t sound like fun (and a true time-suck), but an author page is doable. Especially since FB offers a scheduling option for your posts. A downside to this is you’re building your castle on someone else’s property. We know Zuckerberg changes his policies all the time and we’re told it’s better to send your readers to your website or newsletter. The problem with those two options is it’s harder to interact with you. So an FB author page is probably going to be the best thing you can do to use social media to help sell your books. Recommend books in the genre you write in. Host giveaways and post about your books. I’ve seen lots of robust FB author pages with lots of engagement. I don’t give my author page enough love but I should start.

Twitter is bad for selling books and I don’t promo on there. I follow a few industry leaders and retweet the articles I find useful to me. That’s about all I do.

Instagram can be a fun place to hang out, but when you’re a writer, you get sucked into the social circle of other writers. So you’re not going to be selling books on there unless you can crack out of the writer/author bubble and find readers. I don’t post on Instagram with the idea I’m going to sell books. You can run ads on Instagram, but besides paying for exposure, I’ve never sold books buying ad space on Instagram. If you wanna see pictures of my cats, look me up.

So, social media isn’t the best for authors. Unless you’re into content marketing and you’re constantly posting snippets of your books. That might not be a valid option if you’re a slow writer, because by the time you release your book, you’ll have posted every single line already. It’s good for non-fiction. But I’m not a non-fiction writer, and I’m not an authority on anything, nor do I want to be.


So, what is social media good for if you can’t sell books?

This is where my friend, I think, throws the baby out with the bathwater when she cuts herself off from social media.

As a PUBLISHER, there are a ton of benefits of being online. Facebook is where I learn 99.9% of marketing and keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to the industry. My friend says– and I’ve heard this from others too–is why would she need to know about marketing, publishing, or anything in-between if she doesn’t have books out? Isn’t writing the most important part of it?

Sure, you need to be writing to be a writer, to eventually be an author.

But.

What are you gonna do when you’re done with that book? How are you going to learn ads? How are you going to know where to promo your book? You’ve cut yourself off from marketing and publishing groups and now you don’t know what the current trends are. Best practices?

If you cut yourself off from author groups on FB, when you’re done with your book and you start up your social media again, you think you you’re just going to join these groups, guns blazing, demand answers to all your questions because you needed the answers yesterday because your book launches tomorrow and you don’t know what you’re doing? I’ve seen people do that in some of these groups. Some of them are met with kindness and people will walk these authors through what they’re doing to sell books. Many others, though, are ignored because it’s evident that they expect other people to do their work for them. Networking and keeping apprised of industry news is a process. It’s an ongoing process. I’ve said before that being an author/publisher is no different than other professions. Would you want to go to a doctor that didn’t keep up with the newest (and maybe better) treatments? Do you want your children to go to school and be taught by a teacher who doesn’t keep her certification up to date? Do you want to be represented by an attorney who doesn’t keep up with changes to the law? Maybe you don’t feel your publishing company is that important, but suddenly you’ll feel like it is when you want to buy promotions for your book and don’t know where to buy them. And even suckier, don’t know who to ask because you’ve taken yourself out of the game.

I LIKE knowing what’s going on with the publishing industry. I like keeping up with Amazon changes, new aggregators, what IngramSpark is doing. Even if I don’t need the information, I’ve been able to help others, and that’s what networking is all about. My blog would be pretty useless if I didn’t keep my head in the game and pass along information to you.


What are some of the best groups I’ve joined on Facebook?

  1. Six Figure Authors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/504063143655523/ It’s moderated by Lindsay Buroker, Andrea Pearson, and Jo Lallo. It accompanies their podcast by the same name, but you don’t have to listen to the podcast to benefit from the group. Though the podcast is awesome and a lot of the discussions are based on a podcast topic.
  2. Mark Dawson’s SPF Community. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPFsecretgroup/ I like this group because Mark Dawson is very protective of Amazon and won’t let anyone talk shit about them. Amazon did indie authors a great service with the Kindle, CreateSpace (back in the day) and KDP. I don’t know where indie publishing would be without them. I also just love the conversations on there about publishing and marketing.
  3. Level Up Romance Writers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LevelUpRomanceWriters/ Moderated by Dylann Crush, this group is for marketing romance. There are so many generous writers in that group, and it’s a place where I have started to post more and get to know people there.
  4. 20Booksto50k. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/ There are a lot of generous people here, too. They are more than happy to tell you how they are selling books. Craig Martelle is pretty strict with what is allowed and every post is moderated, but I mainly lurk and soak up information.
  5. Vellum Users. https://www.facebook.com/groups/VellumUsers/ I format my books (and sometimes for others) with Vellum. This group is for questions about the software if you run into an issue, or if you want to ask if something you want to do formatting-wise is available. Jody Skinner and Erica Alexander are in touch with Brad and Brad (the creators of Vellum) and they both know their stuff. I learn something new about software capability every day.
  6. Indie Cover Project. https://www.facebook.com/groups/20CoversTo50k/ I’ve gotten feedback about covers from here before. You can develop an eye just by looking at what other authors are doing with their covers and reading the suggestions and critiques. This is a great place for blurb help, too.
  7. Book Cover Design 101. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bookcoverdesign101/ This is a great group if you want to learn tips on how to do your own covers. I find a lot of my fonts here when people post deals. There are wonderful people part of this group and very happy to help you if you have a technical question. Both this group and the Indie Cover Project can point you in the right direction if you want to order a premade or custom cover instead of doing your own.
  8. Launching Indie. https://www.facebook.com/groups/launchingindie/ Cecilia Mecca is amazing. She’s so generous and loves to know the best way to do anything with marketing. I heard her speak at the Sell More Books Show Summit last year.
  9. And no list is going to be complete without Bryan Cohen. Everything I learned about Amazon ads I learned from him. For free. I’m a member of The Five Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge and his other group, Selling for Authors.

There are other groups I’m a part of, about 40 if you want me to be honest, and not all of them have the same level of information as these do. I’m the most active in the ones listed above, when I’m on Facebook, at any rate.

My friend has told me she shies away from social media for mental health reasons. There’s not much I can say about that except I have told her in the past that if she’s having issues, to find help, like anyone should. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media because of my carpal tunnel. If I’m online I like to make my time worth it either by blogging or if I’m on the computer at all, writing and editing my books.

When it comes to social media and your business, they go hand in hand whether you want to admit it or not. The main trouble I see a lot of writers have these days is separating their writer self from their author/publisher self. Engaging with writers while at the same time hoping to find readers. It doesn’t work like that. We tend to join a clique and follow that clique from platform to platform, but that’s not going to sell books.

I take social media for what it is. A place where I can network and find resources for my business.

And I hope you can, too.

Do you have a Facebook group you benefit from? Let me know. Have a thriving Facebook Author Page? Link it in the comments!

Thanks for reading!


2020 Indie Publishing Predictions Blog Series

2020 indie publishing predictions

Sometimes when you’re just beginning, you don’t pay attention to the world around you. You think most news doesn’t pertain to you, or if something cool is happening, you can’t participate anyway.

Maybe you feel ill-equipped to do anything with new information, so why bother to know it? Or you automatically think you’re not going to be able to afford it, because let’s face it, us indies don’t have a lot of money to put toward our books.

With indie publishing, something changes every second, and it’s hard to keep up, weed out the useless information from what could help you get ahead, and apply those things to your career.

This is the the first week of the second month of the New Year. 2020 predictions have come and gone, but we still have a full eleven months of the year to go, and as any pregnant woman knows, eleven months can be a long time, and lots can change.

So let’s not ignore the predictions of the indie publishing industry because there is a lot of time for some to pan out, and time for you to apply some of these tips to your own career if you’re so inclined.

Written Word Media put out its own predictions with some of the indie heavy-hitters weighing in, including but not limited to Michael Anderle, (creator of the 20booksto50k Facebook group and conference, not to mention head of his own publishing empire) Mark Lefebvre, Bryan Cohen, David Gaughran, and Mark Dawson.

Their predictions touch on audiobooks, author collaborations, pay-to-play marketing, and much more.

I’ll also be combining Mark Coker’s 2020 predictions for the indie-publishing industry. Founder of Smashwords, an e-book distributor and publisher, he weighs in on what he thinks is going to happen to the indie-publishing space, and his dire predictions when it comes to Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

I’ll be looking at these predictions through an emerging author’s eye. Remember from previous blog posts, Written Word Media classifies an emerging author as an author with six or less books in their backlast who makes less than 60k a year. Transparency–I made less than $2000 in 2019 with KDP, my short stint wide, and my paperbacks through IngramSpark.

As a beginning author, I’ll give you my opinion on what’s important and what you can put on the back burner in favor of writing more books. Which is usually a better choice.

When you don’t have much money to spend, you need to choose carefully where you throw your money. Not everything is of equal importance, and only when you’re near burnout do you realize how true this is.

Thanks for joining me on this next blog series. I’ll try to keep posting these on Mondays and continue giving you personal updates on Thursdays or Fridays. I haven’t had much to say on those days as you can just assume I’m plugging away at my wedding party series I’m finishing all that up so they are finally published, or working on book three of my first person trilogy.

In the back of my mind with all this going on, I’m wondering what I want to write next. I hate thinking that I’ll either write third person past stuff if my series sells well, or first person present stuff if my trilogy sells well. You should never write for money, and that is not something I want to encourage to my readers. But I have always had the opinion that you need to write what readers want, and it’s always the best when you can combine what you love to write with what readers love to read. In that sweet spot you’ll find your career. I have enjoyed writing first person present. I didn’t think I would, but it was a pleasant surprise. I am also only reading first person present books right now, so I don’t confused myself with other tenses.

Writing to Market

In these days of pay-to-play, I know books only sell as much as you market, and that is one of the predictions Written Word Media goes into that we’ll talk about.

So, sit back, relax, and don’t worry. You won’t need your sunglasses. According to Mark Coker, our futures aren’t that bright.

We’ll be exploring audiobooks first! See you then!


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Happy Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday!

I usually don’t blog without something to say, but today finds me in a good mood, and I’m just going to ramble for a bit about what’s been going on with me.

We’re 21 days into 2020. How is that going for you? Have you started a new project? Wrapped up something you were working on? Or in some cases, just trying to get through day by day because work is a drag, or your spouse is in a bad mood all the time, or you have a sick pet, or a continually sick kid. There always seems to be something, and if you can find an hour to yourself to sip a cup of coffee and do something productive, that’s going to be a win. I’ve blogged before about winter putting me into a slump, but this week we’re supposed to have mild temps–20-30 degrees F, and in January in Minnesota, that’s pretty great. So I’m going to bundle up and make the most of it.

Coming soon!As far as writing news, my quartet is almost done. I’m waiting for book 4 to come so I can proof the proof. My “second set of eyes” finished with the last book as well, and I’ll be incorporating his findings as I proof.

Even though my response to the Booksprout Review Service was lukewarm and lackluster, it did make me think about what a book launch looks like without reviews. So, I published the paperbacks of the first three books in the series, (I’ll do the same with book four as soon as I’m done proofing it for typos one last time) and put up those books onto the service for reviews upon the ebook publication. Will it make a difference? I have no idea. There is a section for a message from you to the reviewer, so I did ask them to be honest with their overall impression, how they like the stories from one to the next, how they all fit together. I’m not sure if it will do any good–from what I hear, a lot of people who read ARCs for Booksprout are only in it for the free books, but it never hurts to ask.

Here are the four completed covers:

Do you know all brunet men with beards look the same?  There is one male model who gets around, and it’s tough finding men who look different. But I think these will be okay for small town, contemporary romance. I looked covers for the top 100 small town contemporary romances and there is no one “set” way those covers look. My books also have older characters, so having a hot 20-something couple on the cover wouldn’t suit, but I can’t have them all fully clothed either, because then they look too “sweet.” When I had clothed couples on my trilogy, they sent a lot of mixed messages, so I’ve learned to keep my men half naked to readers know to expect a little sex. It’s such a strange, weird balancing act when it comes to romance, genres, and the covers.

But I will be glad these are out and then I won’t have to bother you with my griping anymore. LOL

If you want ARCs of any or all the books, let me know. I have them in pdf, generic epub, and mobi. 


In other news, I finally started working on the third book of my first person present trilogy. I’m excited to launch that pen name, and if first person present stays hot, then I might be writing under that name for a while. These have younger characters, are grittier (Think 50 Shades of Grey or the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day but with a little less sex), and features a hot billionaire. The books take place in a fictional huge city that’s a cross among Savannah, Georgia, the Twin Cities in Minnesota and New York. Not as big as New York, and not detailed enough since I have never been there, but I wanted the vibe and the energy, at least.

Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 12.57.53 PM

This is one of the posts that I did for my pen name’s author page on Facebook. I’ve been sharing pieces of the books along with a relevant stock photo and boosting those to get a little attention. I was careful when I picked out my targeting audience, and while my FB author page doesn’t have a lot of attention yet, I can shift my focus when my quartet is done.

I’ve been thinking about what I want my pen name’s “brand” to be. Not with logos, or colors, or what her website looks like, but what she writes. Listening to author panels and getting feedback from my backlist under my own name has made me realize I need to stick with a theme. So my pen name’s theme is probably always going to be the big-city, rich lifestyle. And have the glitz and glamour of that life be the tie that binds my books.

Also, in taking a look at my other plots and characters’ backstories, I do know that a lot of the time a message I send to my readers is you need to be happy for yourself and with yourself before you can be happy with someone else. And another thing my characters find is when they fall in love, they find “family.” I try not to let that be too prominent, in the way falling in love with the perfect man saves the woman from a bleak and unhappy future, but as for the guy, too, finding a woman who will love him despite his flaws, or if he’s hurt her in the past, and building a foundation despite that hurt. How to turn those themes and feelings into marketing will be a different matter all together, but if a reader reads your books and the themes are similar they’ll connect the dots themselves and hopefully leave the reviews to reflect that, too.

I’ll be paying special attention to these covers to make sure that the feeling will travel across everything my pen name writes.

As for what I’m doing for the rest of my day, I wrote 7,000 words yesterday, and usually after a creative spurt like that I don’t get much done the next day.  I would still like to get a couple thousand in later, but I need to run to the grocery store, and tonight is movie night with my sister. We saw Uncut Gems–my pick–a couple weeks ago, and it was not to our liking, so it’s her pick now. I don’t know what we’ll see. Have you watched any good movies lately? I’ve been watching The Witcher at night, one episode, or half an episode, ever evening (I don’t have tolerance for much more TV than that). I tried reading the books a while back, but didn’t care for the 3rd person omniscient they’re written in. I might go back and try again, since I’m enjoying the show.

I hope you all are having a fantastic 2020 so far!


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