How Much Research Do You Do?

How much research do you do for your books_

Any writer knows doing research is critical. Different kinds of papers and essays require different kinds of research. Even some of my blog posts require a bit of research–at the very least I like to add additional links to the ends of some of my posts so my readers can look to other opinions and other resources.

This is where the old axiom “write what you know” comes in. Not to get out of having to do research, but because as you are learning craft–character arcs, plot, finding your voice and wrestling with syntax, grammar and punctuation–it’s easier to focus on learning those things without the added burden of researching and incorporating what you find into the story, too, not to mention doing it in a believable way.

How much research do you do for your books2

Writing a police procedural without any law enforcement exposure would be difficult, I imagine, without immersing yourself in research. The same with writing about doctors, lawyers and any other professional occupation with which you may have little to no knowledge or education.

The last thing you want your readers to say is “That’s not right” or “It doesn’t happen like that” or worse yet, someone who actually does the occupation you’re writing about saying, “That’s not true at all.”

Some professionals who have gone into writing are Tess Gerritsen and John Grisham, a doctor and lawyer respectively.

Wikipedia has this to say about Tess: “In 1996, Gerritsen wrote Harvest, her first medical thriller. The plot was inspired by a conversation with a retired homicide detective who had recently traveled in Russia. He told her young orphans were vanishing from Moscow streets, and police believed the kidnapped children were being shipped abroad as organ donors. Harvest was Gerritsen’s first hardcover novel, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list at number thirteen. Following Harvest, Gerritsen wrote three more bestselling medical thrillers: Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity.”

Wikipedia has this to say about John: “John Ray Grisham Jr. is an American novelist, attorney, politician, and activist, best known for his popular legal thrillers.”

As you can see, it was easy for them to segue into the types of books they started writing because their backgrounds supported the subject matter.

castle_richard_castle_kate_beckett_stana_katic_nathan_fillion_98247_2363x1615Some research is pretty hardcore–think Richard Castle shadowing Kate Beckett in Castle. The chances of a a police department, in New York City, nonetheless, allowing a civilian to shadow a homicide detective seems pretty slim–even if you are a bestselling author who is friends with the mayor. But lots of police departments host ride-a-longs as part of community outreach, and that could be a small in for and of you who wants to write about being a cop. This is what I get when I Google police ride along for my area.

The internet makes research easy–Google Maps can show you pictures of anything in the world. It’s how I wrote parts of Wherever He Goes, when Kat and Aiden were on their road trip. They traveled through states I have never been to before. I even made up the casino they visited in Las Vegas because I have never been to Las Vegas and I couldn’t accurately describe a casino there. I spent hours pouring over photos and descriptions of various parts of the United States to get their settings just right. It was only after they eventually moved into familiar territory that I relaxed.

Settings are hard because not only are you dealing with the actual land formations, you have to think about temperature, climate, and bugs. Kat finds a scorpion in her hotel room. I had to research that, too, because I assure you, I have never seen a scorpion anywhere but behind glass at our zoo. And I plan to keep it that way.

When I wrote Don’t Run Away, Dane owned his own store. I’ve been in a running shoe store many times, but I’ve never run my own business. So I had to talk with someone who had. And yeah, real-life store owners run a tight ship financially–so I wrote Dane broke–but he was doing what he loved.

I’m well aware I’m lucky. Writing a romance ensures I can focus on the romance of the story and not have to get bogged down with details of a character’s occupation.

I like to think I know enough about life in general that if I decide to write a heroine who works at a bakery (or who owns her own) she’s up at 2 am and baking by 3 so she has pastries to sell by the time her store opens at 7. There’s no way she’s going in to work at 9–not unless she has help. And she very well could. Just be sure she can afford to pay her employees.

I’ve written my heroes into occupations I know nothing about, and I’ve done the minimal amount of research required to be able to say, this is what they do, and that’s about it. When I wrote about Aiden screwing up a big case as an Assistant District Attorney, I modeled his case after the OJ Simpson trial. I watched a lot of footage from that trial and read a lot of articles. His story in the book wasn’t about him losing the case, or why, it was about him being able to move past the fact that he did, and what that meant for his career and the rest of his life.

In Romance, their tragic backstories, personal demons, and falling in love take up the most space on the page.

But I’m fully aware that if I ever wanted to stretch my wings as an author (and I know I will want to at some point) or delve into another genre like Women’s Fiction, I’ll need  more than just a romance to carry the plot, and that will probably require more research than I’m used to doing.

I read an interview with Jennifer Egan about Manhattan Beach, and boy, did the woman research. You can read about her process here.

What’s funny though, is when I speak to other writers, they say the more research they do, the richer their story becomes because they have more facts and details at their disposal.

I truly believe this. But as an indie, the pressure to crank out books is stifling, and it’s hard to give up writing time for research no matter how useful it will end up being.

I’m reading A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, and the amount of research and the number of people so spoke with . . . it’s crazy. Not to mention the hours of shadowing she did. It was more than nailing down the details–she was recording thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about the topics she was writing about that she also gained from the research. She has a bibliography in the back of her book two pages (front and back) long, and an acknowledgement section the same length.

This is another reason why I like romance–I love the idea of falling in love, being in love with love. I’ve had my heart broken. No research required to know how it feels when you fell someone you love them, but you don’t hear it back.

How much research do you do for your books3

It’s nothing short of devastating.

I wonder if this is why some indies start out writing fantasy. Everything comes from the imagination. The government, the currency. Magic, laws. The world-building is incredible. Everything from the ground up. This can be liberating–but it can also scare the crap out of you. To create a world from nothing . . . You still may need to research when you write fantasy–how do you saddle a horse, or do your characters ride bareback? What are the parts of a ship? What are parts of a castle called? When I was writing my fantasy, I had to research those things . . . but the magic, the laws, the kingdom, those were all mine.

Starting with what you  know can definitely help keep momentum going if you are a first-time writer. If you do end up exploring an area you aren’t familiar with, ask for help if you can find someone who is familiar with your subject material. At least they can point you in the right direction, or tell you if you are missing the mark.

Where do you go for research?

Let me know your favorite books and websites!

Here are a couple of mine:

If you want to know about any job occupation, did you know the Department of Labor has a list of job descriptions for everything? Take a look here.

Google Maps/Images has can show you everything you need to know about a setting.

YouTube. You can find almost anything on YouTube. Right now for Jared and Leah, I’m “learning” how to fly a little plane.

The How-To Books for Dummies. Immerse yourself in a occupation, and it can carry you for a long time. Like, if you’re writing a series about a lawyer. A little research could help you write many books in a series.

Thanks for reading!

jared and leah for end of blog posts

photo of Tess taken from https://rizzoliandisles.fandom.com/wiki/Tess_Gerritsen and the photo of John was taken from https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/john-grisham
photo of Castle and Beckett taken from http://www.wallpapercraft.com

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When Friends Turn into Business Partners . . . Sometimes it doesn’t work out

friends to business parnters blog post

I’ve never met a community so full of people willing to help. I’ve met authors who will share anything and everything. How they use ads, how they write blurbs and the resources that taught them how. They share their favorite blogs, podcasts, promo sites, non-fiction books. There are even authors who will share how much they make in sales.

So many authors are helpful and generous. (And if you run into one who won’t share anything, well, keep an eye out. I’ve found those people are users, and you won’t get anything in return for the information you share with them.)

I’ve made a few friends on Twitter. Some are better friends than anyone I’ve met in real life. Some have come and gone. Some needed so much hand-holding it was physically draining to be friends with them. Some acted like their work was the only thing worth discussing, and I’ve faded away because I believe friendship should work both ways.

I’ve had some small successes as an author, and I like to share, too. It’s a horrible feeling to be snubbed when sharing something you’re proud of.

friends or enemies

But there are those who stick around–you feel a kinship, support goes both ways, and you settle into an online routine of touching base, reading each other’s blogs, retweeting news and book cover reveals, and helping with book launches.

Inevitably this will lead to your friendship moving more into a business relationship.

You’ll be asked to edit for someone or do a cover. Maybe she needs a critique partner or he needs a beta reader. It could even be as simple as doing an author interview for a blog.

Friendships can easily blur into business and while the transition feels easy and breezy, if you don’t treat that relationship with the respect it deserves, not only are you risking your business relationship with that person, your friendship will be broken as well.

The culprit of all this is the nonchalance and the cavalier attitude of writers. They aren’t treating their business with the respect it deserves, so they see no harm in treating you the same way.

I treat my books as a business. I always have and I always will. When I do something for you, I do it in a decent amount of time, and to the best of my ability. And that’s always what I’ve done.

business peers

But I haven’t always been treated with the same courtesy.

I paid someone to edit for me, and one day she told me she was editing my book while she was having her hair done at the salon. I guess it was too much to ask that she edit my book in a quiet place where she could focus. I paid another, and she waited months before even starting to edit my book. I have patience–I have two children, three cats, and an ex-husband. I have patience. But when you pay someone for a service, even if she’s a friend, you expect them to treat you with professionalism.

Those people were my friends. Circumstances being what they were at the time . . . they aren’t anymore.

What’s funny is recently one of them asked me for a favor. I guess it wasn’t so funny when I didn’t respond.

Most of the time I can separate friendship from business. (I treat my Twitter account as part of my business, and I rarely unfollow anyone for crappy behavior. Most times the only thing that will earn you an unfollow is if you do it to me first.) And I can stay in touch with someone friendship-wise even if we don’t/didn’t work together so well in the business aspect of things.

I edited for someone, and that didn’t work out like I had expected. We’re still friends because I expressed how I felt, and she apologized. I don’t hold grudges, but just like anyone else, I remember how people treat me.

When you treat someone like crap, you’re burning bridges, plain and simple. The author so quick to help you? They may not be so quick to pull through for you next time.

So what can you do to keep your friendships intact if it moves into business territory?

  1. Set boundaries and expectations.
    Before work exchanges hands, hammer out what expectations are. Does she expect to get paid? Is she doing it for free? Are you sure? Is there an expectation you’re going to help her down the road? Is there a deadline? Can your friend meet it? If she can’t, can you change it? If you’re too rigid with what you need, it’s better for your friend to pass. Which brings me to:
  2. Don’t be angry if your friend can’t meet your needs.
    A lot of indie business is trade and favors. Money doesn’t always exchange hands. That’s common when indies operate in the red–especially when just starting out. You may feel desperate because if this particular friend can’t help you, who will? People who know what they are doing, and willing to do it for free or on the cheap are few. If you need her, it’s YOUR job to bend, not hers. If you can’t, understand where she’s coming from, take a deep breath, and move on. While writing is a business, it will always come in secondary to children, jobs that pay the bills, and maybe even an evening of self-care if she’s had a bad day. If your needs are more important than that, hire out and pay for the priority. Your friend helping you isn’t a right–it’s a privilege.
  3. Keep communication open.
    Maybe you think she’s not working fast enough. Or you haven’t heard from her in a couple of days. Or worse yet, you haven’t heard from her, yet she’s posting on social media. It’s easy to go from simmering to boiling if you expect her to be working on your project but she’s posting a new blog post every day. It’s easy to get annoyed–trust me, I know. Maybe she already had them scheduled, and she IS working on your stuff. You won’t know unless you ask. If you need constant reassurance like daily updates, request it before you give her the project. That way you can remind her you asked.
  4. Keep social media in mind.
    When I edited for my friend, she never stopped posting her publication date. She was building buzz–I get that. But her manuscript needed work, and the more she posted and the more I edited, the angrier I became until eventually I felt like I was doing it for nothing. So remember–you are friends and she can see what you tweet, post on your Facebook author page, blog, and anything snarky by way of a bitchy meme on Instagram. But the same goes for her. If she’s tweeting she’s editing a pile of garbage, or the person she’s editing for is dumber than a box of rocks . . . you may need to rethink if you want her working on your project. A good friend doesn’t necessarily translate into a good business partner. (I would rethink my friendship with anyone who would put something like that out into the world, anyway.)
  5. Know when to quit.
    Ideally, you want to work things out before this step. If you can’t, the next best thing is to back out before your business relationship destroys your friendship. Be clear why you don’t want to work with him anymore. Try not to let hurt feelings muddy the water. He may have hurt your feelings, but that is only as a bi-product of unprofessional behavior that may not have been intentional. And don’t flip out if he has to back out on you. Maybe it has nothing to do with professionalism. His private issues are none of your business unless he wants to divulge them. That depends on how good of friends you are. But if it is due to not being able to work together, learn from the experience and move on. Having a truthful “We make better friends than business partners” talk can salvage a friendship. Don’t be defensive.

Not all friendships cum business relationships are going to fail. I’ve heard of several people who have worked together for years. There relationships are based on respect and a mutual admiration of each other’s work.

It’s up to you how much you can take–and it’s up to your friend what her limits are if you’re the one behaving badly. Publishing is scary and stressful, but alienating people who want to help you makes it more so. And it won’t do your career any good if someone labels you as difficult to work with. You may be passed up for opportunities and you won’t even realize it.

stressed out

If you’re the one slighted, do your best to move on. If that means you’re no longer talking to that person, so be it. Publishing IS stressful, writing, emotionally draining. You need to protect your mental health, too.

Friendships can come and go, but it’s difficult to repair a business connection.

Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’ll have to circle back.


To be clear, I didn’t mention any of my experiences to throw my friends and acquaintances under the bus. I mentioned them to demonstrate I know how it feels to be treated in a manner that is hurtful and unprofessional. I have other examples of people using my generous nature against me–to the point of a friend of mine saying I should stop helping people.

I couldn’t do that, though. For every one person who ignores what I offer, five people appreciate any information I can give them. Be it my favorite stock photo sites, or a reminder that KDP Print offers templates to format the interiors of paperback books.

For every one person who ignores my edits, another person’s writing is brought to the next level.

I’ll probably never stop helping people. I enjoy it too much. But neither am I a doormat, and if you treat me poorly, that’s on you, not me.

If you treat anyone without respect and kindness, you need to look inside yourself and figure out why. But the secret is no one has to be friends with you, no one has to do business with you, and one day you may very well find yourself alone.

being helpful

If you enjoy helping and being part of the writing community, don’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel. There are lots of people out there who need help–and one day you’ll find yourself in a group of friends you can trust to help you in return.

That’s what the writing community is all about.

photos taken from pixabay or canva. graphics made in canva.com

jared and leah for end of blog posts

Book launches, book anniversaries and other musings about three years of hard work.

This morning I was reading a blog post my by friend, Sarah. It’s her book baby’s birthday today, and she’s celebrating her book turning one! And while I admit I’ve never celebrated a book’s birthday–hell, I rarely announce a launch–her blog post encouraged me to take a look back at my publishing milestones.

I don’t have my publishing dates memorized or anything like that, so I’ll need to go on to Amazon and take a look:


Under lock and key

I thought The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was my first book I published, but according to the dates, I actually published Under Lock and Key a week before on July 7th, 2016. It’s a novelette that I wrote from a writing prompt a dear friend of mind, Liz, tweeted one day. I haven’t read it for a long time, and no doubt it needs another edit. When I go wide, I’ll put it everywhere for free. It’s gotten some so-so reviews, but I can’t expect anything too great as it was the first thing I published.

 


the_corner_of_1700_h_cover_for_kindle

A week later, I published The Corner of 1700 Hamilton. This is a trainwreck of a book, as first books are wont to be. The original cover was horrible, and even with a beta reader and an editor, it still wasn’t up to par. Recently I went through one of my old paperbacks and edited both novellas, but I’m not sure if or when I’ll ever put them in. Even the “new” cover needs work,  but my mantra has always been “always look forward.” Having a sub-par book for sale doesn’t make me want to celebrate, however. So I may try to find time one day to fix it up.

 


I was still in novella mode when I decided to try my hand at erotica, and I wrote six novellas back to back for a total of (approximately) 155,000 words. I wrote all of them at once, hired an editor and published them together. Summer Secrets is about a group of friends who have sex, party, fight, and make up at a small lakeside resort during their summer vacation. For what they are, I’m actually quite proud of these; I had found my voice, and the interconnecting plots stand even without the sex.

Summer Secrets was a lot of work, but they made me a better writer. While I won’t be writing any more erotica, I don’t have any regrets taking the time to write these. They were published in August, 2017. I guess I didn’t realize I took a whole year to write them, edit them, format them, and do the covers, but at 155,000 words, I guess that’s not so bad, either. I redid the covers not long ago, and reformatted the insides using Vellum. I was even able to add the embellishments I tried for the first time around. They are pretty, and it’s too bad they aren’t in a genre I want to write anymore. I don’t consider them part of my backlist, but I won’t bury them the way I kind of blur over 1700 when asked about my backlist.

The covers look better, and the paperback covers look a lot nicer. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, and I think it shows.

Summer Secrets Novellas 1-3 New Cover

summer secrets new cover 4-6

 

summer secrets chapter starts


I had Don’t Run Away done while I was doing these, and I can’t even say when exactly I fixed it up and decided to make it a trilogy.  I published the first on November 17th, 2017. I do remember while Summer Secrets was being edited, I wrote the second book of the trilogy. Later that became Chasing You which was published on December 14th, 2017. Running Scared was published in January of 2018. All I can say is when I look at those dates is holy crap. It helped I had Don’t Run Away done, and that was one tough book. It went through a lot of edits. I added POVs, took them out. Rewrote large sections. This was before I started listening to my novels as part of my editing routine, and I have no idea after the first one was beta read/edited, what I did with the others. I think by then I was confident in my own editing skills, but I doubt I was at the point I am today.

At any rate, they do okay, and during a Freebooksy ad, I gave away over 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away. That promo led to the first wave of readers whom I hadn’t met via social media (AKA strangers), and I’m happy to have done it. I also proved that even though it feels like a quilt, all patched together, the book was strong enough to get decent read-through to the others. If you want to read about my Freebooksy promo results, look here. If you want to read some of my reviews on Goodreads, look here.

The best lesson I learned from writing the trilogy is to MAKE THE FIRST BOOK STRONG TO ENSURE READ-THROUGH. It won’t matter how many books you have in a series if your first book won’t carry them.

I’ve redone the covers, though they aren’t a drastic change, and I reformatted the insides using Vellum.

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I can tell you I was done with those characters by the time I finished Running Scared, and I didn’t think I’d ever do another series. I don’t want to say I was bored, because what would that say about my writing? But I will admit it’s nice to move on.

Wherever He Goes was published on June 1, 2018. It was the first stand alone novel I’d ever written–up to that point, even my novellas had been connected stories. I haven’t done much promo for that, though I did do a paid Bargainbooksy that didn’t do anything. Looking back at stats, I don’t even think the sales paid for the promo. If you want to look at my blog post about my results, look here.

There were a few firsts with this one: I had more beta readers, and I did the entire paperback cover in Canva. It looks amazing, and is still one of my favorite covers to date. I’ve had good feedback about the novel, and I enjoyed writing it. I need to do more promo for it, as I think it’s an enjoyable contemporary romance that should have more readers than it does.

Wherever He Goes (1)


All of Nothing, I feel, is my strongest book to date, and I believe in it so strongly, I entered it into the RWA RITA awards contest. It can more than hold its own against some of the traditionally published books out there, and when I did a Freebooksy promo for it, I gave away over 6,000 books. (If you want to read about those results, click here.) I love the way my ad for it looked in their newsletter, and bless them for making it the first book!

freebooksyadallofnothing

It didn’t place as high as Don’t Run Away on the free lists, simply because they are in separate categories. (Don’t Run Away is a sports romance.) But the book has more reviews than any other of my books. Published on October 16, 2018, it took me four and a half months to write it, edit it, format it, and release it. I had it beta read and proofed, and I’m very proud of how it turned out–from cover to cover.

All of Nothing Paperback Cover


The Years Between UsI don’t have any more published work out right now, though The Years Between Us is finished. I could have had it published already, but I’m working on a series that I won’t release until they are all done. I’ve been taking my time editing The Years Between Us, but at 74,000 words, it is a complete and finished novel. I don’t have the full cover completed, nor has it been fully edited, but I do plan to have it out into the world maybe by the end of March, or early April. There is no rush, as I don’t see my series being released until Christmas of this year. The first draft of the first book is finished, however, though I admit getting out of my recovery rut has been harder than I expected.


Anyway, so looking at those dates, seeing how hard I’ve worked . . . what have I learned through these two and a half years of publishing?

  1. Not many people care. Sure I may have a lot of followers on Twitter, may be a part of a lot of writing groups on Facebook, but unless your books are actually doing well, and you can prove it through sales, no one cares what you’re doing. Only a handful of my friends have patted my back, and that’s fine. My progress is for myself. I know I’m working hard, and I hope I can be an inspiration to others, whether my books are selling or not.
  2. You have to keep moving forward, or you’ll feel like you’re on a going down escalator trying run upstairs. With indie publishing, everyone is faster, quicker, doing more than you. Some are doing this in a legit way, and some are not. But for you, yourself, if you want to make any headway in the industry, always be moving forward. Don’t get caught in a rut because days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Just like my friend Sarah says in the blog post I linked to at the beginning, all of a sudden a year had gone by and she has nothing to show for it. 500 words a day over the course of 365 days in a year can net you 182,500 words in a year.
  3. Even when you’re doing the work, it will feel like you’re in quicksand. The harder you struggle, the faster you sink. I’ve done a lot of work these past couple of years, and if I kept track of my hours worked versus the time and expense, I would be negative in return on investment. You can’t let this get you down, or you’ll stop. Write for the joy of it first, so you always keep working at your dreams. And let success be a secondary motivator. My success will come–I’ll make sure it does. But I can’t guarantee when it will. All I know is if I stop working for it, I definitely won’t have it.
  4. It might be your baby, but after you publish it, it’s not your baby anymore. MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU. This reasoning is probably why I don’t celebrate my book birthdays. I don’t think of my books as babies. I think of them as products to be sold to help me make money. I do enjoy writing, or I wouldn’t do it. But I also want to make a profit so I can keep doing this, for the long-term. While I’ve stated I like my job, and yeah, my free time at work as helped me with my publishing speed, I would love to earn a living on my writing only. I can’t be precious with my work. I’m always learning about craft, always keeping up with the latest thing about publishing. Even if you’re persistent and want to keep comparing your books to babies, eventually you expect your children to go out into the world on their own and make their own money. Even real-life children grow up.

Thanks for sticking with me–this is probably one of the longest blog posts to date. I doubt I’ll do a recap again; as my backlist grows, it will just get too time consuming. But the look back was fun, and thank you again for joining me!

If you  want to read any of my books, you can check out my Amazon author page, here.

Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing have recently been added to Kobo, and you can find them here and here.

Thanks for reading!

Laying the Groundwork for a (Romantic) Series

Series sell. Us indies are told this all the time. Write a strong first book in a series, hook the reader, and have natural read-through to the next three or four or five plus books. While my trilogy hasn’t taken off, (i.e. I can’t pay the rent with royalties yet) I do have some read through–people I have reading book three who wouldn’t be around had the first book been a standalone.

But there are a lot of questions to consider when thinking about a series:

  • Where is it going to take place?
    You need a setting that is interesting enough that the place of your books will hold

    interesting setting

    An interesting setting becomes a character in and of itself.

    the reader’s attention for that amount of time, lends plot potential, and is a place that you won’t get sick of as an author. A detective series could take place in a large city. There’s enough fodder for lots of crime, and the possibility of cops sitting around playing poker in a city full of millions of people is low. Lots of romances take place in small towns, but if you’re working with a small town, you need to make sure your characters have something to do. A town with one stoplight, where the only gas station closes at 8pm, doesn’t leave much opportunity to use setting as a character, unless something happens like a natural disaster such as a tornado. So when you’re planning your series, you have to keep the setting in mind. Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series is based in a town called Fool’s Gold and its Mayor proves to be quite the matchmaker.

 

  • How many people are you going to start with at first?
    A series will evolve and change as you write (new characters will be introduced, for

    group of people

    Plan your characters.

    instance), but when you sit down to write the first book you’ll need to keep in mind where you want the first few books to go so you can lay the groundwork. Weaving future plots and characters into current narrative will clue your reader into the fact that yes, there will be more books about the characters they will come to care about, and yes, they will want to read the next and the next and the next. But you can only do that when you know what’s going to happen in the first handful of books. It can be a woman and her three best friends, or a guy and his two sisters. Nora Roberts does this well, and my Four Bridesmaids Quartet I’m planning is modeled after her Bride Quartet. (I’m not copying her–I’ve read Nora since I was a teenager, and I admire her plotting skills and the construction of her books. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today had I not read so much Nora Roberts growing up. She’s definitely influenced my writing for the better. :))

 

  • What are the characters’ backstories?
    Your characters’ backstories need to be related to the plot somehow. Say your three sisters had an abusive mother and their relationship with her bleeds into their relationships with their boyfriends. If you go bigger (a longer series) and it’s your town that has the problems, like a tornado, or hurricane, or a flood, your characters need to have personal problems associated with the town to create conflict. A popular romance trope is a stranger comes to town, and he’s got a ton of secrets. Only the widow in the falling down ranch house can breech his rough exterior to his secrets beneath. But he’s he’s also an electrician and can help rewire the school after the fire! That helps the town accept him and he feels like he belongs and he stays after he falls in love with your FMC (female main character).

 

  • What is your plot?
    Is your main plot going to be wrapped up in each book (like the detective solves the crime, and the next book would be the detective solving a new crime?) or is your main plot going to arc over a few books? If you’re hoping to write so a reader can pop in at book eight and not feel like they’ve missed anything, you’ll need to wrap up the plot at the end of each book while foreshadowing your next story. This is why it’s always best to know what your next book is going to be about so you can weave in those clues.

 


Publishing Your Series

The bullet points above are the writing part of it, but before you begin a series, it’s best to have some kind of idea about publishing.

  • Your publishing schedule.
    As an indie, you have complete control of your publishing schedule. Are you goingwaiting for a series to publish them as you write them, or are you going to save up a couple and publish them together? A week apart? Two weeks apart?In this case, being an indie author is definitely a perk. You don’t have to make your readers wait a year between books like the traditionally published authors do. But because of impatience, many indies publish as they write, without a thought as to making a reader wait for the next book. I haven’t met one author who likes to sit on books. (But I have heard of plenty of stories about the benefits to the authors who do.) The minute the book is ready, they hit publish. But what does this mean if you’re writing a series? How fast can you write the next book? Do you do this full-time and can publish the next one in two months, one month? Do you have a team that will edit and format and do your covers for you? What is the point of publishing a book one if it’s going to take you two years to publish the next?

 

  • Consistency.It’s really hard to go back and make changes to a book that’s already been
    changes

    This is a pretty kind of change. The kind made to your book after already publishing isn’t this pretty, and it’s time-consuming.

    published. Not that it’s hard from a technical standpoint–just make the fixes and upload the new file. But what about those readers who have read it already? Your plot and characters are already in their heads, and you want to ask them reread your book for the new information so the next book will make more sense? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. If you write a book one, and something happens in book two to make your consistency fade away like fog in the sun, you’ve got a problem, if you’ve already published. But if you haven’t–good news! Just make the changes. As you add to the series, this isn’t realistic, I know that. You’re not going to sit on seven books. No one would. But in all practicality, sitting on two or three books to make sure your plot is going smoothly and you don’t have any big plot holes or changes that need to be addressed is pretty darn smart.

 

  • Covers 
    If you’re doing your own covers, or if you’re going to be buying premades, orbride_quartet nora roberts working with a designer, it’s very very very important that your covers not only fit the genre, but that your series will look like a series. That means your author name looks the same, that your pictures you choose are cohesive. It means that the series name is on all the books.Here’s Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet I was telling you about earlier. It’s a lot easier to plan how your covers will look–at least the first few, if you wait to publish.
    It’s also helpful with titles. If you’re doing a trilogy, or a quartet, or even a quintet, it will give you a chance to think of titles that match the theme of your plots.

 

After my May/December romance, I am going to write a quartet. Yes, I will wait to publish until they are all done. I will do my own covers, and I’ve already thought of titles that will match the theme of the books. I have my town chosen, I’m mulling over characters now. It will take a lot of patience to write this series, but as I stated at the beginning of the post, series sell. I’ll have a trilogy and three standalones in my backlist, and it’s time for another series.

Are you writing a series right now? Are you publishing as you go? How much time is between them? Let me know!

 

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Happy November!

Happy November

 

November is finally upon us, and that means we only have 61 days until the New Year!

I’ve been moving steadily along with my goals. In fact, I disappeared from social media for a bit while I released my new book, All of Nothing.

Here’s the lovely cover:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

I did the entire cover in Canva, and I bought the photo on Canstockphoto for seven dollars. It’s not very fancy, but I do take pride in the fact that I did it myself. and it printed just as nicely as it looks online. It’s in KU, and I’m running a free promotion on it November 9th. It will be included in the Freebooksy newsletter that day. Because  I tried a Bargain Booksy on Wherever He Goes that didn’t do too well, I’m also putting that book for free that day to see if I can’t piggyback some downloads from All of Nothing‘s promotion.

As an early birthday present, a dear friend of mine gifted me a Mac and the formatting software Vellum. I was very excited in that since I had been doing all my own formatting, I could replace the interiors of all my books, and that’s what I’ve spent the last three days doing for Summer Secrets, my erotica novella series, and my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Because formatting is so easy with it, I put together a box set of my trilogy, so that is finally being offered on Amazon as well.

Nothing is ever easy though, and since I was doing the covers and insides, I went ahead and moved my trilogy over from CS to KDP Print. I hadn’t done that yet, so I wanted to get it all out of the way.

The second book in my series got lost in the conversion, and it took KDP four days to find it. It was over the weekend, and they did eventually restore it, so I was grateful for that. 🙂 If you haven’t moved your books over yet, I recommend you do so. My book was still for sale on Amazon, so it didn’t completely disappear, but it’s better to get all that taken care of sooner rather than later.

But I did redo the covers for Summer Secrets, being that I’m a bit better at covers now, and I redid the box set I created, inside and out. Though someone pointed out a typo on the first line of the first paragraph, {rolling eyes hard here} I’m still very happy with they turned out:

 

 

It wasn’t a big change, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, nonetheless. I didn’t get so different with my trilogy, so I won’t post them here. But I did redo them in Canva, which gives them a higher quality than when I used to do my covers in Word. A very warm shoutout to my friend Aila Stephens who told me about Canva so long ago. She’s just starting up a blog series about covers herself, so make sure you follow her blog for indie tips and publishing tips!

Anyway, so next up for me is my May/December romance that I’m already 8,000 words into. I’m so excited for this book! I’ve been thinking about a May/December romance for a long time now, and I was delighted when a plot popped into my head. All of Nothing is over 80,000 words long, and I don’t think Matthew and Zia (my book doesn’t have a title yet) will end up being quite so long. But I’m still excited to be mulling subplots and backstory as I get into writing.

 

This kind of sums up the whole story, and as a contemporary romance author, you know I’ll always dish up a nice happily ever after. I just make my characters go through hell to get there first.

In other news, I’m going to submit All of Nothing into the RITAs, a contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. The contest is open to both trad-pubbed and indie-pubbed authors, so in reality, I know I don’t stand a chance. But if my book could move on to a second round, or if the judges have some good feedback for me, I’d consider it a success. At any rate, it something I’m going to try, and I think All of Nothing is a solid book. It’s getting good feedback already, and my betas didn’t have anything bad to say about it. So, wish me luck!

Along with entering the contest, you also have to judge books in the first round, so I’ll be needing to dig out my Kindle and settle in for some serious reading coming up. Which suits, because I’m going to have carpal and cubital tunnel surgery on my left hand/elbow in the middle of January. I’m going to try to get Matthew and Zia at least written by then, so while I recover I can do some small edits. It will do me good to rest my hands while I help in the judging of the first round. I’m very much enjoying being part of the romance writing community!

What else is going on? NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow! I won’t play, I haven’t played for a couple years now, but I may meet up with my group. Sometimes it’s nice to see people in person, talk shop. Catch up. I used to work with a couple of the members, so it will be fun to see them, too. But after the colder weather hits (I’m in MN) it gets harder to get out of the house. Even for pie and coffee at the local coffee shop.

I guess that’s all I have to report! I hope you all are doing well, and tell me what your end of the year goals are! Remember, you have 61 days! Do your best!

2019 is right around the corner! What do you have left to do in 2018_

 

Drop me a comment, and have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

My not so happy review of the Happy Book Reviews service

I listen to the Sell More Books Show podcast. I love listening to the self-publishing indie news they cover every week. Some weeks are lighter than others, but it’s a great way to keep up with all the changes in the industry.

The show is hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral who are also hosting the 2nd annual Sell More Books Show summit I’m delighted to attend next year in Chicago.

Bryan does a lot for the indie community. He’s published several non-fiction books including How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis,  a book I recommend regularly, as I use it every time I need to write a blurb. He also runs a business based off that book, in case you ever feel like you just can’t write another synopsis.

Jim Kukral also does a lot for the author community: creator of Book Marketing Club, he also founded and curates the Happy Book Reviews website.

I went into the brief history of these gentlemen because I trust them and I admire all the hard work they do for us indies.

But sometimes things don’t work as well as they could, or should, and Jim’s Happy Book Reviews is one of those things.

feedback-2800867_1280

As indies, we all want those five-star reviews for our books. 

At $25.00, he promises to put your book in front of thousands of readers who want to download your book for free and leave a review. This sounds great! At this low fee, my book was available for twenty-five downloads on a first come, first serve basis, to people who would read it and review it with no obligations for me to do the same.

It really could be a boon for us authors who need reviews for that social proof we’ve written a good book.

But my enthusiasm waned the moment I received the email that contained the newsletter that featured my book.

In the whole month my book was available for download, my book was downloaded twice. Yep. Twice. Out of twenty-five copies available.

There were, in my opinion a few reasons for this:

When you sign up, you’re encouraged to sign up for the newsletter. This seems like a no-brainer because you want to see what your book looks like in the newsletter. But as my friend Aila points out–if all the recipients of the newsletter are other indie
authors . . . writers don’t read. If they do, they are helping out their friends by beta-reading or acting as a critique partner. Jim promises he’ll put your book in front of readers, but I suspect that what he’s doing is putting your (and my) book in front of a whole lot of indie authors. Who don’t read other indies, at least, not for pleasure.

The first email went into my Promotions tab and not my inbox. You can fix this, of course, but how many emails do people miss because their email marks the newsletters as ads? (Which, technically, they are.)

Happy Book Reviews will take anything. I’d never speak negatively about someone else’s work, but I have to admit, I was appalled at the company my book kept. I try to be professional in all ways. And while my books may look indie (there’s really no help for that no matter how good you are) some of the books featured in that newsletter looked downright cruddy. Jim will accept any book when what he should be doing is vetting them. While the information isn’t available to me, I wonder how many readers unsubscribe when they see the lack of quality in these books.

quality control

Someone needs to be in charge of quality control

 

**I can understand why he doesn’t do this. Jim and Bryan frequently talk about gatekeeping and I realize Jim doesn’t want to be in the position of determining what is “good.” But I don’t think this is any different than any other promo site where they only allow in quality books. They have a readership to keep happy, and offering them schlock is not the way to go about it. Someone, somewhere, will always play God, and with the products and services Jim, as a book coach, offers, he’s in a better position than some to determine what is “good.”

Only the blurb is available. I know it would take up more space or cost more to send it out the newsletter, but it would help if a potential reader could read the first couple pages of the book they’re considering downloading. It would have helped me avoid the boring contemporary romance I downloaded 1) because I wanted to try the service myself and 2) the cover and blurb looked okay.

The newsletter isn’t broken up into genres. My book sat next to children’s books, paranormal romance, thrillers, and history books. If he could separate the books into genres that could help readers find the books they like. I had a positive Freebooksy experience because of this.


The time for my book has run out, and there’s no time limit for those two people who have downloaded my book to leave a review. So I’m not even sure if those two people who downloaded my book will come through. But $25.00 for two reviews is too much.

I know why Jim will never do any of my suggestions–it’s too much work. He’s a savvy businessman, and I’m sure these suggestions have been brought up to him by other people in the past.

But it must work for some authors, or he’d close down the website. Everyone who uses his service can’t have the experience I did, or his inbox would be full of complaints.

Maybe I’m a black sheep, but somehow, I don’t think so. Wherever He Goes is a solid book. Anyone who reads the first page knows I don’t head hop, I don’t have any typos, and my inciting event happens on the first page of the book. Not Chapter 4.

Unfortunately, I do not feel like my book fit in with the others featured, and unless he makes changes, I won’t be using his service again.

You may have a different experience, and at $25.00, it’s a cheap risk. But I’m also aware that $25.00 could buy you two paperback books, five Starbucks coffees, or could reimburse a beta-reader for her time. If you’re poor, $25.00 can go a long way, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the risk.

My blog is about my experiences with the services offered to indies, and my adventures in publishing my books. I want to help. This was my experience, and unfortunately, it could have been better.

I’ll still listen to the podcast (and I encourage you, too) and I’m looking forward to the meeting Jim at the summit.

But the Happy Book Reviews feature isn’t for me, and I wish you luck if you decide to ever give it a go.

October through the end of the year goals.Whatever.

Everyone is doing October/end of year goals, so I thought I would, too.

I don’t have many.

  1. Finish All of Nothing. This includes finishing the editing, writing the blurb, doing the full cover for the paperback, formatting for both Kindle and paperback. Sending it out for betas and hopefully publish by Halloween. It was my target goal from the beginning, with Thanksgiving being the ultimate maximum amount of time I wanted to take. It looks like Halloween is more than doable–at least for the Kindle. Using KDP Print for the paperback takes longer, just for the simple fact ordering and waiting for a proof is a lot more time consuming than it used to be through CreateSpace. If you’re launching a paperback by a certain date, be prepared and give yourself plenty of time for the KDP Print hassle.

    Here’s the working cover I made in Canva. We’ll see if I stick with it.

    allofnothing
    Made with a Canva template and a photo I purchased from CanstockPhoto, it’s a simple cover which I hope conveys the darkness of the story.  No chick lit for this author. 😛

  2. I have 2,000 words into my next book (a beautiful May/December romance that will be a counter to the dark romance I’m editing now) already written, and a few pages longhand that I need to type up. I would at least like to get the handwritten stuff typed up this month. I would love to get the whole thing written and published by March of next year. I have a bookselling summit I’m attending in May, and the more in my backlist, the better.
  3. I did a Happy Book Reviews feature for Wherever He Goes that I am not terribly impressed with. I’ll do a full blog post on how it turned out. But for now, it’s safe to say, don’t waste your money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  4. In my other blog post about marketing, I said I was writing a non-fiction book on self-editing. I’m going to be working hard on that in the coming months, and hopefully have that ready to go by no later than this summer. My fiction comes first, and I want my new book to be ready by the summit, but depending on my health (see number 5) I’d like to get the editing how-to book done by June.
  5. I have carpal tunnel and I’ll be going for a nerve test this Thursday. My carpal tunnel runs from my elbows into my neck, shoulder blades, and back. Meaning, I’m in a ton of pain a lot of the time. I let it go too long. I know. And I’m paying for it now. But the truth is, I’ll more than likely be having surgery and the recovery time for both arms will set me back. I know voice-to-text can be a life-saver to some, and I may still be able to blog that way for a bit, but chances are, I won’t be able to work on my fiction for a while. The break is much needed, but not that wanted. We’ll see how it goes.
  6. These are lofty goals when I have a new kitty to play with! My husband moved out, and the kids and I replaced him with a new kitten named Blaze. It wasn’t really like that (LOL) but it’s hard to resist playing with her, or snuggling with her when she’s sleeping. She’ll be a good recovery pal. Here’s a pic:

    blaze
    It’s tough not to share pictures of her all the time, so if you follow me over on Instagram, you can see a lot more of her. 🙂

Those are pretty lofty goals for the next few months, but I’m hoping it’s nothing I can’t get accomplished. All of Nothing is the big item on my plate right now, along with keeping this blog going with indie news and writing tips.

Also, since I will be working on my editing book, if there is anything you struggle with when it comes to self-editing LET ME KNOW! I would love love love to include anything and everything indie writers struggle with.

Happy Fall, Everyone!

book and fall leaves