I’m back on Facebook…But only for the writing groups.

I’m only making this post in case someone on Facebook sees my new profile and thinks it’s an imposter. I’ve had incidences of people pretending to be me over the past few years.

I searched around for good writing groups where I could keep updated on the latest stuff happening in the publishing industry, tips on fine-tuning writing, and different promotional techniques, but it turns out, Facebook has the best groups for this information. So I bit the bullet and created a new account.

This account is strictly for business. I’m not going to engage with anyone in a social manner where I go to their timeline and comment on their posts. I have MeWe for that. Facebook will be for my books and that’s it.

I know Facebook is supposed to be for social engagements, but that part of it is too divided with a lot of fighting. That’s why I left. I’m going to give this new strategy a try.

Everything I do on Facebook is going to be business all the time. Some authors get reported on Facebook for promoting their books. Some authors don’t. I don’t know what triggers the system. So, if you are the type who gets annoyed by authors promoting their books all the time, do not friend me over there.

That disclaimer aside, here’s my new profile. I’m starting from scratch. I feel it’s best to have everything brand new. The old account is completely wiped out, and for that, I’m grateful. So we’ll see how things go.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of a good writing group over there, let me know.

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My Thoughts on a Survey about “How Readers Pick What to Read Next” (This is a Post for Writers)

I love Written Word Media. It’s my favorite place to run ads. I use their Freebooksy ad option a couple times a year. They have other promotional opportunities, too, but that’s the one I’m familiar with, which is why I mention it.

Anyway…

Once in a while, they will run surveys and share their findings to authors. These findings can help authors with marketing. I thought this particular survey was interesting, so I decided to add my two cents from the viewpoint of a writer. This survey was on how readers pick what to read next.

Without further ado, here we go…

1. A book’s description and cover trumps the reviews.

This is good news since we can’t control who reviews our books or what those people say in the reviews they leave. If your book gets enough readers, you will end up with someone who doesn’t like it. Why? Because taste is subjective, and there isn’t a single person in this entire world who likes every thing they come across. Since reviews aren’t the key factor in whether readers take a chance on a book, this should give us all a sigh of relief.

We can control the book description and the cover. Between these two, book descriptions were more important than covers. That tells me that our time will be best spent tweaking and improving our book descriptions. Some authors have an easy time with book descriptions. I don’t. I struggle with them. I’ve even had outside help. But if you’re going to devote time and attention to one thing to get a reader’s attention, the description is where you want to focus your energy.

2. A reader’s enjoyment of a book depends on the story.

Okay, at first glance, this is a “duh” statement, right? But when you consider the debate of writing to market vs. writing for passion, this takes on a whole new dimension. The article from Written Word Media specifically says this, “Books with robust plots and interesting storylines will resonate with readers.”

The keywords here are “robost plots” and “interesting storylines”. In other words, these are not cookie-cutter stories that have been done to death. Books written to market are cookie-cutter stories. The reason they are cookie-cutter stories is that the authors writing them are piggybacking off of tropes and trends that are popular. These authors are not going to take risks. They are going to play it safe. In the long run, safe is boring.

Writers who embrace passion will take risks. They will venture into new territory. They will turn stereotypes upside their head. They will pick storylines and characters that aren’t done all the time. They will create the stuff that is far more memorable in the long run. They will offer something different and fresh. In my opinion, they will create the stories that readers will enjoy the most.

Now, you still have the issue of getting people to take a chance on you, but once you do, and if you deliver a story that a reader loves, that reader will buy your other books. It’s not about getting into a bunch of people’s hands as soon as you publish something. It’s about building a loyal fanbase by offering something of value. This is why I think it’s key to embrace passion. If you write a book that excites you 100%, chances are the right reader will be 100% excited by it, too. Writers who are motivated by writing to the market are writing for other people, and they will not be 100% invested in their work. They might get enjoyment out of it, but there is a world of difference between the quality of your story when you write for yourself (which is passion) verses writing for money (which is the market).

3. Average review score is important.

The average is how the book rates overall. It’s not looking at the individual reviews but at all of them together. The way you get a good average review score is by getting enough readers who enjoy your specific genre to read your book. There are three hassle-free ways of getting reviews for your book.

One, offer the book for free. This comes with some risk. Readers who don’t even like your genre will grab the book. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve seen this happen because they’ll leave reviews like, “I don’t even like this genre”, when they leave the 1 or 2-star review. Those reviews aren’t helpful because they come from people who don’t like the genre. But they will leave stuff like that, so be prepared. Overall, though, this has been the best way I’ve been able to boost up the number of reviews on my books.

Two, use a site like Booksprout that will allow you to post ARCs of your book that people can read with the expectation they’ll leave a review. This has boosted my review count. Not everyone who claims an ARC will leave a review, but some do. I believe you can block people from getting future ARCs if they don’t leave a review. The nice thing about Booksprout is that it delivers the ARC to the reader for you. It means you don’t have to find the readers yourself, and you don’t have to explain how to upload a book to their device. Their service is free to use, but it also has paid plans that will give you more features. BookFunnel is another site you can use, but there is no free option with this one. You have to pay for it. BookFunnel does offer other promotional things like newsletter swaps and sales.

Three, ask for reviews at the end of the book. I don’t feel comfortable using this method, but for authors who do, they have told me they get more reviews this way.

Now, a hassle method of getting reviews is to offer free books directly to readers in exchange for an honest review. The reason it’s a hassle is that you have to find them yourself, and most of the time, they never review. So you’re doing a lot of work and not getting much of anything in return. I stopped doing this method years ago.

Whatever you do, do NOT pay for reviews. This is going to earn you a bad reputation if you get caught.

4. Readers are interested in the inspiration for characters and storylines.

If you’re looking for something to make a blog post about or something to share on social media or in an email list, consider doing some kind of trivia to go with the book. Examples would be, how you came up with the plot, how you came up with a character, anything in the book that reflects something in real life, or if there was a sudden change in the story that went against your original plan.

I didn’t think this kind of thing would be interesting to readers until I did a trivia post. I did it on the whim after reading trivia on a movie. I enjoyed the trivia that went behind the movie, so I thought, “Why not do it for one of my books?” I was pleasantly surprised by the positive responses I got.

You can do this on a social media site like Facebook, Twitter, MeWe, or Parler by doing something like, “Book X’s plot was based on a dream I had two years ago. In this dream, I was being chased by a group of wild animals,” or “Character X was named after an old friend who liked to ride horses.” These little trivia bits don’t have to be in one long post. You can separate these trivia bits out. Or, you can put them in a newsletter.

5. Many readers are Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.

That’s not a surprise for most of us. We’re aware of the perks Amazon has rolled out for readers. Depending on your genre and your goal for your books, you may or may not want to put your book into Kindle Unlimited at Amazon. But please beware that if you put your book in KU, it can only be on Amazon. Trying to get away with putting it in KU and on other retailers will run you the risk of getting caught, and if you’re caught, Amazon may do something with that book or even your account that won’t be pleasant.

It’s fine to be in KU, but exclusivity isn’t for all of us. I never liked the idea of only being in one place. I like to be in as many places as possible. The good news is that not every reader is on Amazon. There are those that prefer other retailers, and they are loyal to those retailers.

Where will you make more money? There’s no way to know for sure unless you try KU and then try wide. This is going to vary for every author. Some authors make more outside of Amazon, and other authors make more on Amazon. Some of this is dependent on the genre you write and how frequently you publish books. In the end, though, it’s also about whether your book takes off or not. It’s like tossing a coin. In my opinion, what matters most is your comfort level. How comfortable are you being reliant on one retailer? If you’re fine with it, then go into KU. If it makes you squeamish, you might want to try wide and see how things go.

6. Ads Matter.

Ads from places like Freebooksy, Amazon, Facebook, etc, do help you gain visibility. Remember, visibility is your biggest obstacle. People won’t buy your books unless they know you exist. But what I found interesting in this survey was that most people look at newsletters like the ones Freebooksy sends out in order to find new books to read. This is more effective than a search on Amazon, Goodreads, referrals from people one knows, and even social media. My guess is that this is because the newsletters go directly into the inbox.

I feel the need to add a word of caution. Never go into debt to buy an ad. Debt is not your friend. I’ve heard of authors putting ads on their credit cards and not selling enough books to cover that expense. For example, I recently found out someone paid $1000 for an ad but made about $450 in sales. Imagine having that happen and seeing the credit card statement come in with an interest rate of 18-29% for that $1000. (I’ve had credit card offers with interest rates that high, and it’s just insane. I don’t have credit cards. In my house, we are not good about always paying them off every month. So we just don’t use them.) But when I hear of authors who go into debt for ads that end up not paying off, my heart hurts on their behalf.

What I recommend is tucking aside money until you can afford the ad. There are two times when I think ads are most effective. One, is when you’re not going to have a new release for a while. This helps your sales to be steady between the last book you published and the next one you’ll have out. The dip in income won’t be so hard if you have that visibility boost. I’ve found ads on free books to be the most effective, especially when they are the first book in a series. Another time I think ads are most effective is when you have a new book out in a series. They key is to promote Book 1. The hope is then that people will get hooked on Book 1 and will buy the other books in the series.

7. Most readers spend up to $15 a month on books.

I’d like to know if this factored in KU subscribers. Do KU subscribers pay for the monthly fee (which I think is $9.99) + $15? Or do these KU subscribers only pay $5 once they are done paying the monthly fee? I’ve had KU readers tell me that even my $0.99 books are “breaking their bank”. So I’m inclined to say that the KU readers in this survey were including the KU subscription fee into the $15 they are willing to spend on books each month.

Regardless of the situation, there are two things that I, as a writer, take away from this information.

One, each book you write should represent your best work. There’s a saying I used to hear a lot from my English teacher: “An author is only as good as their last book.” I don’t know who originally said it, but it makes sense. If you have a really good book, people will want to read more. Writing a mediocre book isn’t going to cut it for long-term readership.

Two, it’s a good idea to let people know you have other books out at the end of the book they just read. If they want to read more books you’ve written, the end of the book is the best time to let them know you have other books. This is especially true for a series, but I think adding a list of all the books you have out is also good. It might not be a bad idea to mention an email list since a few readers like them or to mention a website or place where they can find you. If this is an ebook, put in the links to the email list, your website, and your social media sites so that the reader can click directly to those places. I neglected to do this early on, but I do it with every book now.

***

Okay, that sums up my thoughts on the survey. This took me a lot longer than I expected. Sometimes I start rambling and just can’t stop, especially when I’m on a topic I really enjoy. I hope there’s something helpful in here for you to use in your future promotional plans. 😀

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What Nathan Wants Trivia

One of the few contemporary romances I’ve written.

I’m currently going back and reading this book again, and since it’s fresh in my mind, I figured I’d do trivia on it today.

The idea for the book came to me because I thought it’d be fun to write a “marriage by proxy” story. In order to have a plot (because every book needs conflict somewhere), one of the characters had to be an unwilling participant. Hence Amy’s resistance to the marriage for a good portion of the book.

I wrote most of this book at the school playground in town while my kids (4, 5, 6, and 8 at the time) would play. So whenever I go back to this book, I remember sitting on the ground with my laptop with my back pressed up against the side of the school. This was during the summer. I wrote this book within a month. This was one of those books that pretty much wrote itself. Most books take about 2 months.

There is a real building in downtown Omaha that serves as the inspiration for the building in the story where Nathan works. Every time I drove by it, I would think, “That’s a fancy building. What kind of person might be the head of that company?” This is also how Nathan’s character was born. And, if memory serves, the building was for an insurance company, not a travel one.

For some time, I did live in Florida in the Fort Walton Beach area which is along the Emerald Coast (aka the Gulf of Mexico). So the way Amy describes the beach and the water reflect my opinion of that part of the country. While it was beautiful down there, my heart is in the western part of the US, hence why I write so many historical western romances and currently live in Montana. I love the open landscapes in the Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana. It’s been that way since I went to visit a friend who lived in North Dakota during my college years. Once I saw that state, I was hooked and began to read and do some writing in the historical western romance world.

Danielle was my favorite character in the book. Actually, she’s one of my all-time favorite secondary characters. In my opinion, she had the best lines of any character I’ve ever done. She is the reason the book is as funny as it is. Nathan had some good lines, too, but no one comes close to Danielle. Her character was also named after a good friend I had in high school who was a lot of fun to be around.

The funny events in Amy’s life that her parents told Nathan about also happened to me. For example, I used to pretend I was Wonder Woman when I was a kid. I was born in the 70s but was in elementary school and junior high (that’s what middle school was called back then) in the 80s. I used to watch Wonder Woman (starring Linda Carter) reruns on the TV every day after school when I was in the first and second grade. When the show was over, I’d put aluminum foil around my wrists for the bands she wore to ward off bullets, put my headband over my forehead, and use my jump rope for the lasso of truth. Then I’d pretend to go around and catch the bad guys. As another example, when I was in the 7th grade (or 8th), I did leave the curling iron too long in my hair and ended up burning my bangs. There are a couple of other examples that go back to childhood, but off the top of my head, that’s all I can remember.

Some men won’t change their children’s diapers, but my husband was one of those who did, which is something I totally love him for. I have a soft spot for a man who will help his wife out.

In this story, Elizabeth (aka Beth) had a c-section. I didn’t have twins, but I had a c-section with each of my kids. In the story, Ryan said this about the c-section: “I’m not saying it made me pass out, but I never realized Beth’s insides were that colorful.” My husband told me that after our first kid was born, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Danielle’s thoughts of being pregnant are mine, too. “I enjoyed being pregnant after the morning sickness phase passed. There are no real benefits to the first trimester, except for being able to see that positive reading on the pregnancy stick. The second trimester is a lot of fun.  That’s when you first feel the baby kick and start to show. I know some women complain about the last month, but I still enjoyed it. I know I can’t explain what it’s like to carry another human being and feel him moving around, but it was probably the most amazing thing I will ever experience.” One of the best things that ever happened to me was having the privilege of bringing a human being into the world.

Shady Forest is based on a real place my family and I went to quite a bit while we lived in the Omaha area, and there was a spot to sit where you could look out at the Missouri River and see downtown Omaha. And yes, I even saw that large building that made me come up with Nathan’s character.

The mini-golf course Nathan plays at with Amy’s dad is one that really exists in Fort Walton Beach. I went to it once.

Nathan and Amy named their daughter Amber. Amber was another good friend I had in high school. In case someone is wondering, the reason a writer will pick names of people they like in real life is so that the memory of those people will live on in their work. We might adjust the spelling of the name or give the character different features, but we know who the person really is, and we put that person in the story as a testament to the relationship we have or had with them. Since I’ve moved around so much in my life, I have lost touch with 90% of the people I used to know. But when I put them in my story, they are still with me, and it makes me smile to remember them and the joy they brought to my life.

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