Taking The Leap: Zoe York on Series Plotting, Marketing Plans and Writing Full-Time

By Zoe York

In May, I made the exciting and scary decision to transition to writing full-time. I’ve always thought of myself as a professional writer, but for the first time I actually started to look at writing as my business. The first thing I did was a quick analysis of my book list and compare it to the book lists of authors with similar reader bases. One common element is that most authors I’d like to sit next to on the digital shelves have multiple series on the go. (And if you aren’t convinced that you should be writing series, we need to chat.)

That so many were writing two or more separate worlds surprised me, because I’ve often heard the advice, focus on one series. And I get it: sales really take off with the fifth title. But when I thought about it, multiple series written in the same or similar worlds allow readers multiple entry points to that author’s book list.

So that changed my plan in a big way.

What Once Was PerfectStarting with my first book, What Once Was Perfect, I’d crafted my Wardham books to be exactly the type of romance series I wanted to read: sexy, Canadian, and with characters that are a bit unexpected. They’re quiet books, tightly focused on the developing relationship, and I love reading them. Mission accomplished!

But after the success of our bestselling military romance superbundle, SEALs of Summer, I was reminded of the broad appeal of a high-concept hook. And I like to read those books too! Give me a billionaire who stumbles when he falls in love and I’m a goner.

It’s hard to look at books you love, books you are proud of writing, and realizing that they lack a certain accessibility. That’s what high-concept means: that readers will get what the book is about in the two seconds they give your book page. It starts with a succinct description: some call this an elevator pitch, a tagline, a log line. And many try to figure it out after the book is written.

That’s what I did with my Wardham books. I wrote them, then I tried to figure out how to market them.

Crafting a book from the beginning to be high-concept means starting with that tag line. “Six years. Two break-ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.” That in a nutshell is Love in a Small Town, and it was one of the first lines I wrote down when brainstorming my new series.

A successful high-concept book is going to deliver on that promise to the reader from the inside out. A well-branded cover can tell the reader everything they need to know about the story, hook them in an instant. My friend Cora Seton does this so well with her Cowboys of Chance Creek series.

Two self-publishing rules butt up against each other here: how can I stay committed to the Wardham series if I’ve taken a hard, business-minded look at it and found it lacking? (Hint: I haven’t … not all readers want high-concept books, and I’m happy to write different series for different audiences.)

While writing Beyond Love and Hate in May, I fell in love with the brother of the hero. Unlike Finn, Ryan Howard doesn’t live in Wardham.Beyond Love and Hate I sat in Starbucks for days, writing Finn’s story, the whole time growing more and more interested in Ryan’s story. So I pulled out my idea notebook and sketched out a bit of his story, and a new series was born.

Connected, but different. Higher-concept hooks. Wardham, but with choppier waves and craggier bluffs, I told a fan, and the description has stuck in my head ever since.

Pine Harbour is a fictitious town halfway up the Bruce Peninsula. It was named by my Facebook reader group, the Wardham Ambassadors.

It turned out that Ryan’s story wasn’t the first romance that needed to be told in Pine Harbour. As I plotted and wrote, two books popped up before Love on a Spring Morning, which will be Ryan’s story, coming next March. The first book, which I wrote in five weeks and I absolutely love, is called Love in a Small Town.

I love this book so much that I’ve done nothing but talk my writer friends’ ears off about it all summer. Rafe and Olivia Minelli are divorced, but they never fell out of love with each other. Now Olivia’s thinking hard about leaving her adopted town, and Rafe’s finally realizing that something—many things—will need to change if he’s going to convince his wife to give him another shot.

One writer I spoke to, Lexi Ryan, is a self-published author I greatly admire. She started in contemporary romance, and now writes very popular crossover New Adult/contemporary romances. With her latest series, Here and Now, Lexi used a marketing plan to show online book retailers how serious she was about launching her books with a bang. The term marketing plan sounds dense and daunting, but Lexi really helped me see that it’s not much more than we already know. “Writing a marketing plan isn’t as scary as it sounds. It shows vendors that you approach your book releases and promotion strategically,” Ryan explained. “That little bit of effort can go a long way, and most of us already have our strategy in mind. The official plan simply puts it in a form that can be shared with others.”

I was sold.

I put together a Love in a Small Town Marketing Plan and shared it with a few friends who pointed out obvious things that I had missed (see my complete list MarketingPlanKobo (2)below). Looking at the final document, I understood Lexi’s point: it was everything that I hoped for my series, objectively laid out. And it gave me confidence that I was approaching the launch of this new series in a logical and strategic manner.

Even for a brand new author, documenting a release plan like this can be a useful way to milestone your career. Compare marketing plans release to release to see growth in your social media platform and advertising reach—and if you’re not seeing any growth, figure out why.

Marketing Plan Must Haves:

  • book and series information; I broke this into two sections
  • promotional plan for pre-order and release week (blog tours, ad buys, social media plan)
  • author platform numbers, including newsletter and social media reach
  • author bio
  • upcoming release schedule for future books in the same series, and all upcoming author titles, including collaborative projects

Zoe YorkZoe York is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

 

 

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 020 with Pamela Fagan Hutchins

In our latest podcast, KWL US Manager Christine Munroe interviews bestselling author and self-publishing expert Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Pamela has written the book on self-publishing, WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO? In the summer of 2013, she embarked on a 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, which she organized herself (with the help of her supportive family), so she has plenty of insights and advice for working successfully with bookstores.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Pamela and fans at a bookstore event.

Listen in to Episode 20 as Pamela shares her thoughts on:

  • Her mission to serve as an exemplary self-published author, in particular when working with bookstores, so they will open the door to fellow writers.
  • Stories from the road during her 60-cities-in-60-days book tour, including the day when a book club showed up to her Boston reading… despite tornado warnings!
  • Keeping it in the family – her husband, the five children between them, and her mom all joined her on the road to help support her work.
  • Looking at self-promotion with a long-term perspective. “I’m hoping for a 10-year return,” she says. Pamela recommends focusing on how to build your email list of people who welcome hearing what is next. Also, don’t abuse that list – send a maximum of 2-3 updates per year.
  • Promotion is 1/3 of the game in terms of your success. The other elements? Writing, of course, and giving back to the author community.What+Kind+of+Loser+Indie+Publishes,+and+How+Can+I+Be+One,+Too?
  • Pamela’s free strategy: giving away books is an amazing way to get those crucial reviews. Pricing the first book in your series for free is a great way to get started. Read her blog post on this topic here.
  • What she wishes she would have known when she started, including thoughts on exclusive programs, and why moving books in and out of various platforms hurt her more than the benefits of exclusive helped her.
  • Pseudonyms. Pamela believes, “I don’t want to make it hard for someone who discovers me, to discover other things about my writing that they might like.” However, that might not apply for writers who work in vastly different and contradictory genres, like erotica vs children’s picture books.
  • Hints about what’s to come in Pamela’s forthcoming novels.

PamelaPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries and hilarious nonfiction, and moonlights as a workplace investigator and employment attorney. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start. 

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Pamela’s website, and her blog

Grab the first book in the KATIE & ANNELISE series for free on KOBO!

Don’t miss Pamela’s guide to indie publishing: WHAT KIND OF LOSER INDIE PUBLISHES, AND HOW CAN I BE ONE, TOO?

Twitter: @PamelotH

Facebook: http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author

 

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically capture episodes as they go live (and even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog), feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform such as iTunes, etc using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast

One Fictitious Moment: Writing a Series

By Angela Misri­, author of Jewel of the Thames

Writing in a series is very different than writing a stand-alone novel. A stand-alone has its own benefits and issues – like that you have a limited time to tell an entire story and getting people to fall in love with your characters over a mere 80k words. But when you’re writing a series there are definitely things to keep in mind – check out my latest video to find out more!

Watch for more writing videos on this blog, or you can subscribe to my Youtube channel One Fictitious Moment.

Amgela MisriAngela Misri is a Toronto journalist, writer and mom who has spent most of her working life making CBC Radio extraterrestrial through podcasts, live streams and websites. Her first book Jewel of the Thames, was published by Fierce Ink Press in March 2014 and is the first in a series called A Portia Adams Adventure. Check out Angela’s website to learn more about the Portia Adams series.

On Daydreaming: A Writer’s Perspective

By Shayna Krishnasamy

Remember when you used to be scolded for daydreaming? Dreaming rather than paying attention in class was a real no-no in my elementary school. Daydreaming the afternoon away was also frowned upon when there were chores or homework to be done. To this day, being labelled a “daydreamer” is similar to being called “special”—not exactly a compliment. We’re taught to view this activity as lazy and a waste of time, something with little value. “Stop daydreaming and help me bring in these groceries,” your spouse/roommate/parent might say, and you jump up and comply, duly chastened, fully complicit in this vast conspiracy that daydreaming is of no importance.

Well, I’m here to tell you that everything you’ve ever been told about daydreaming is a total LIE.

DaydreaminDaydreaming_(1)g is essential to being a writer. If there weren’t authors the world over walking around bumping into things because their minds were so fully immersed in their stories, there would be no novels. Have you ever been told that plotting is an important aspect of writing a book? Well, guess what plotting is: Daydreaming! Every plot and character, every line of dialogue and setting and description has to be dreamed up by the writer before it can appear on the page. As a writer I spent lots of time staring at a computer screen, but I spend an equal amount of time staring into space figuring out what I’m going to write next.

In this day and age it isn’t easy to get in some good daydreaming time, what with the naysaying masses on all sides and the demands of kids/job/family/friends/life. Here are some tips on how to be the best daydreamer you can be:

Disconnect

Do you have a smartphone within arm’s reach at every moment of the day? Do you bring your iPad into the bathroom? Is there a television set blaring through every meal, and a laptop glowing in every room of your house? Technology may make life a lot easier for us, but it also makes it pretty hard to have some quiet time with your thoughts. If you want to have some time to think up what’s going to happen in your next chapter, I suggest turning your phone off. (Yes, smartphones can be turned off. It’s a real thing.) Take back those quiet moments sitting in your backyard or on your deck just thinking, without a laptop to distract you. Tell your family you’re going out for a walk and don’t take your cell with you. Make the time to be quiet and think about your story, because a well thought out story is far easier to write than one you haven’t thought through at all.

Focus

Even whendaydreaming-300x198 you’re in thinking mode it’s easy to get distracted. I like to think about my book while I’m in the shower but, countless times, when drying off, I’ve realized I just spent twenty minutes re-playing an episode of The Good Wife in my head instead. That argument you just had with your sister might be at the forefront of your mind, but it’s important to learn how to make thinking about your book a priority. I’ve learned to keep reminding myself to re-direct my thoughts toward my characters and my plot when my mind wanders to easier topics. Usually I only have to do this a few times before my imagination gets hooked on one aspect of the plot or another and within a few minutes I’ve come up with new ideas, new sub-plots, a whole conversation full of witty dialogue. Sometimes your brain just needs a little reminding that it really does want to think about your book—and if your imagination isn’t piqued by your own story, maybe you should think about why. It’s possible you’ve taken your plot down the wrong path, or you haven’t made your characters interesting enough. If you can’t get yourself to pay attention to your own story, it might be hard to keep your reader interested.

Don’t Save The Best For Last

It can be tempting to leave all your daydreaming to the end of the day, when that comfy bed is just waiting for you to curl up on it and dream. Personally I like to lie in bed, stare out the window and contemplate my story, but I try to avoid doing this at the end of the day. This might seem obvious but it needs to be pointed out: daydreaming is not the same as dreaming. Daydreaming keeps your brain awake, it winds you up 4633972431_4d1e24ec0b_bwhen at the end of the day you should be winding down. You don’t want to keep yourself awake thinking about your plot when you should be getting some much-needed rest. It can also be difficult to shut your brain off when it really gets going, and the next thing you know you’re turning on the lights and getting out your notebook to write down your ideas, or even running to your computer to begin writing your next scene. Do you really want to be doing all this in the middle of the night? If you value your sleep, avoid daydreaming in bed. It’s for your own good.

 

My mother used to call me a scatter-brain because I was always forgetting to do my homework and misplacing things. I used to be ashamed of it. I used to try to force myself to stop being a silly little dreamer. But that was before I saw the value in my dreaming ways. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I’d stopped daydreaming. I wouldn’t be a writer at all. So, to all the distracted, zoned-out, lay-about daydreamers out there I say, good for you! Dream away! There’s no knowing where your dreams might take you.

my photoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

Joanna Penn visits Kobo HQ!

Last night, the Kobo Writing Life team was thrilled to welcome Joanna Penn to our Toronto office. Joanna is a bestselling author-entrepreneur and professional speaker, and she shares invaluable information with the self-publishing community on her blog and podcast, The Creative Penn.

Joanna Penn speaks to a crowd of local authors at Kobo's Toronto headquarters.

Joanna Penn speaks to local authors at Kobo’s Toronto headquarters.

A packed house of local authors chatted with Joanna over drinks and snacks, then she took the stage with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre to speak about self-publishing and answer questions from the audience. The advice she shared was incredibly helpful and inspiring, so we wanted to share a few key takeaways with you here.

  • Remember that this industry is global. You can build a platform from anywhere in the world and reach an audience in countries you may have never heard of before!
  • Book publishing and marketing are processes that take time. Set long-term goals—we’re talking years, not days. Don’t give up if you do not see a return on your investment immediately.

    Joanna signs Kobo's Author Wall of Fame.

    Joanna signs Kobo’s Author Wall of Fame.

  • It’s ok to fail. The Creative Penn is Joanna’s third blog effort.
  • Take your work and yourself seriously as a business.
  • Do a little bit every day.
  • Be true to yourself and what you love in terms of your writing and marketing.
  • Think about every opportunity for every book, including print on demand, audio, and translation. You can turn each book into multiple product streams, such that ten books multiply to become 50 potential income sources.
  • Publish directly wherever you can. Every platform—KWL, iBooks, KDP, Nook, etc.—is a potential business partnership and can bring you new opportunities for success.
  • The writing life does not have to be lonely. Get online and engage with other authors on social media, join ALLi, or go to a conference. Even if you’re introverted, don’t be afraid to join the author community.
Joanna with the KWL team, from left: Operations Manager Jodi White, Director Mark Lefebvre, Coordinator Tara Cremin, Content Specialist Christina Potter, and US Manager Christine Munroe.

Joanna with the KWL team, from left: Operations Manager Jodi White, Director Mark Lefebvre, Coordinator Tara Cremin, Content Specialist Christina Potter, and US Manager Christine Munroe.

We are so grateful to Joanna for sharing her time and knowledge with us.

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Grab J.F. Penn’s newest release, DELIRIUM!

If you haven’t listened in to our podcast interview with Joanna, you can do so here.

KWL is a proud sponsor of The Creative Penn Podcast, which we can’t recommend highly enough.

 

Joanna PennJoanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers on the edge, as well as non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013.

Twitter: @thecreativepenn

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JFPennAuthor and  http://www.facebook.com/TheCreativePenn

Write Away

By Kerrie L. Flanagan and Jenny Sundstedt

Write_Away_FrontCoverWRITE AWAY: A Year of Musings and Motivations for Writers combines monthly insightful and humorous stories with tips, tools and interactions that encourage writers to reflect on where they are and where they want to be. From “Writing Naked” to “Writing an Effective Query Letter,” these essays remind readers of the unique nuances in the life of a writer and provide practical advice for strengthening skills and knowledge. Each month opens with a place to record goals and action plans. A back section provides resources and tools to help readers stay on track and stay informed. Inspirational quotes, reflective questions, and short exercises keep motivation and energy flowing. Here are a few excerpts:

“Time to Get Rid of Excuses”

By Kerrie

One of the biggest issues I hear writers bring up is that they find it difficult to find time to write. The bottom line is that if you want to be a serious writer, then you must make the time to write. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we all have the power to decide how we are going to use those hours.

If all you can spare is 30 minutes a day, then commit to those 30 minutes. Don’t let anything get in your way. Think about it—a half hour a day, five days a week, is two and a half hours a week, which then equals 120 hours a year. That is definitely enough time to make a dent in your novel or write a dozen poems or a few stories or a picture book or two or a dozen articles . . . you get the idea.

Here are some quick tips to help you find success in organizing your time.

  • Make a daily/weekly goal for the number of hours you are going to write.
  • Schedule your writing times and mark those times on your calendar.
  • Stick to your commitment. If someone calls to try to schedule something during your writing time, nicely say to them, “That time won’t work for me, I have a prior commitment.” No further explanation is necessary.
  • Reward yourself after one month of sticking to your plan.

What is one way you can be better about honoring your writing time?

“Take A Leap”

By Jenny

Poor February. It’s the little brother of the calendar, never quite matching up to the longer months. But every four years, it puffs up its chest a bit with the addition of an extra day. I love the novelty of Leap Day, even though it occasionally gyps me out of a coveted Friday or Saturday birthday.

February 29 is a bonus day, but, as such, how should one choose to spend it? Is it a do whatever you want because nothing counts day (i.e., whatever happens on Leap Day stays on Leap Day), or is it a day to take a real shot at something meaningful? Or maybe a little bit of both.

We’re told how to celebrate most holidays, whether it’s with candy and flowers, fireworks, or green beer. But I say that Leap Day should be celebrator’s choice. So, writer friends, it’s up to you. If you’ve been working so hard on a manuscript that you’re revising it in your sleep, perhaps your Leap Day should be spent with crossword puzzles and a bottomless cup of tea, or a double feature of completely mindless entertainment at your local movieplex. Cheesecake for lunch is also a viable option.

But if your writerly self has lately been feeling hampered by self-doubts, intimidated by the prospect of success and/or failure, and generally reluctant to strike off in any direction, then perhaps February 29 is your day to take a leap of faith. Send a query. Enter a contest. Register for a conference or sign up for a pitch session. Write a first word, a first line, a first page, a first chapter. You may like it so much that you’ll want to treat every day like it’s Leap Day. Except for the cheesecake for lunch part.

My leap is sending off one of the short stories I’ve been sitting on for a while. What will your writer’s leap be?

For more helpful tips and motivations, get the WRITE AWAY eBook here!

About the authors

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Authors Kerrie and Jenny at the WRITE AWAY book launch.

Kerrie Flanagan is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers (NCW), writing consultant, and freelance writer with articles in regional and national publications including Writers Digest and The Writer.

Jenny Sundstedt is a member of NCW and serves on the creative team for the annual NCW Writer’s Conference. She writes long and short fiction, essays, overly ambitious to-do lists, and since 2010, has been a regular contributor to the NCW blog, “The Writing Bug.”

 

So, About That Cover: Book Cover Design Tips From a Merchandiser

By Shayna Krishnasamy, Kobo Writing Life Merchandiser

As the merchandiser for self-published eBooks at Kobo, my job is to judge books by their covers. Okay, that’s not my whole job, but you might be surprised at how much of my day is spent scrutinizing, arguing about, praising, sifting through, staring at, and judging (oh, and also mocking. Yes, sometimes a cover practically begs to be mocked) self-published book covers. Book cover design is an immensely important part of the digital self-publishing process. I really can’t emphasize this enough. A professional book cover will get your title the attention it needs and will make it more likely to be awarded merchandising space on our website, in email newsletters, and in promotions. An amateur book cover, on the other hand, will do exactly the opposite. That your book’s success depends so heavily on something that has nothing to do with its contents might be a hard nut to swallow, but it’s a reality that can’t be ignored. So, before you sit down to make your next book cover using a photo you took last summer of your friend Matt’s cottage, let me share with you my list of Dos and Don’ts of digital book cover design.

DO Your Research

Every genre has its book cover hallmarks. While you don’t want your cover to blend in with the rest so completely that it gets lost, you also don’t want to create a cover that is so different from the other books in the genre that it confuses the reader. The book cover, even more so than the title, is the thing that’s going to sell your book. You need to make sure the reader can tell, at a glance, what kind of story you’re telling.

The easiest way to make sure you don’t mislead the reader is to check out other books in your genre, both self-published and traditional, to get a feel for the kind of cover you want for your book.

New Adult Romance covers tend to feature couples and cursive fonts:

Between UsReckless TogetherPerfect RegretWait for You

But not always:

Kiss Me Like This: The MorrisonsDamagedLosing HopeTen Tiny Breaths

The covers of Thrillers are known to have weapons, buildings or vehicles, and apparently orange is a popular colour. Faces are less important:

Panic: A Leopold Blake ThrillerSaint DeathWild StormWasted Justice

Sometimes just author and title is enough:

Act of WarPersonalBad PennyInside Man

Whichever genre you’re writing in, you should incorporate at least some of these familiar elements into your cover to ensure the reader is getting what they expect.

DON’T Make It Yourself

Unless you’re a graphic designer by trade, and therefore know what you’re doing, do not make your book cover yourself. This is where so many authors go wrong. In order to save costs, because of a false sense of their artistic ability, or just due to a misguided belief that book covers are easy to design, so many authors end up designing their own covers, often with disastrous results.
I’ll admit, I did this myself back in 2010. Here’s the cover I originally made for my first novel, Home:

Home CoverI still like a lot of things about this cover. I like the image and the colour scheme. I like the font I found for the title, and the way I was able to fit it between the branches. But this is, very obviously, an amateur attempt at book cover design. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” like using Times New Roman font for the author name. The novel is a historical fantasy for young adults, which isn’t at all clear from looking at the cover. This cover is a good effort for a first try, but it is definitely not professional. It just isn’t good enough.

 

Here’s another example of the type of cover I come across all the time:

Bad cover (2)There are many things very, very wrong with this cover. To begin with, the dimensions are wrong. The image is obviously a personal photo taken while on vacation. It’s a beautiful photo, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make a beautiful book cover. The title is in some weird font meant to mimic handwriting. Points are awarded for not choosing Times New Roman and for the nice centering, but that’s about it. The colour of the author name makes it unreadable and it’s also placed way too close to the edge of the cover. And then there’s the cut and pasted dog.

I would never merchandize this book.

You want your cover to represent the brilliant book you’ve written, to draw in customers who might not have considered reading your stuff otherwise, to wow the merchandiser. If you’re considering designing your own cover, ask yourself if whatever you might create will have this kind of power. An adequate cover isn’t good enough for your book. You want your cover to be the BEST!

I’ll say it again: Don’t Make It Yourself. Hire a professional book cover designer.

DON’T Put It On Repeat

If you’re writing a series, it’s a great idea to use the book covers to link the titles in the series together. When looking at a list of your books on the retail site, you want the reader to be able to tell right away which three of your five books are a part of your series, especially since not all readers check if a series name is listed. Similar images, colour schemes and font choices on the covers can do this job quite well.

H. M. Ward (who, incidentally, creates her own covers, proving that there’s always an exception to the rule) achieves this quite nicely with her The Arrangement series:

The Arrangement 7The Arrangement 8The Arrangement 9 (Ferro Family)The Arrangement 13 (The Ferro Family)

What I don’t recommend is getting one cover professionally made and then using it for every title in the series by changing the book title only. I’ve seen many authors do this, and I believe it causes confusion with the reader and makes for ugly merchandising. If the series number (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, etc.) isn’t clear enough the customer can end up purchasing the wrong title. It also implies that you didn’t care enough about your book to get a new cover made.

Though repeat covers are by no means a deal breaker—they are far too common for me to exclude them from merchandising entirely—I feel that series covers pack the most punch if they are similar but distinct.

DO Reserve The Right To Change Your Mind

One of the great things about self-publishing is that the author has complete control over the book cover, which is certainly not the case with traditional publishing. Not only can you decide what your cover will be, but you can also change that cover whenever you wish. Naturally, you don’t want to confuse your readers by putting up a new cover every other week, but if you feel your current cover isn’t working, why not try something different? Do your readers continually mention that they were expecting your book to be more of a romantic suspense, when it’s actually a straight contemporary romance? Are you getting a lot of returns? Have you noticed that it’s hard to read the title when you’re looking at your cover on the retail site? All of these problems could possibly be solved by changing up your book cover. Even better, if you don’t like the resulting sales of the new cover, you can always change it back! Such is the freedom of digital self-publishing.

Do you have a favourite book cover designer to recommend? Let us know about them in the comments!

Shayna's PhotoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

How to Beat Boxed Set Burnout: Making the Summer Lovin’ Series

By The Summer Lovin’ Authors

Being an author means more than writing a book. Authors are businesswomen, just like any other person who creates a product for sale. Part of our business is delivering a high-quality product—in our case, a great book!—and another part is finding ways to enhance the reading experience for the reader.

When our group first began talking about writing a project together, it was in response to the prevalence in the romance market of themed box sets. Since box sets are a fabulous waysummer lovin to introduce readers to new authors at a bargain price, we started off considering that approach. However, the conversation quickly changed after we talked about how some of our readers were experiencing what we called “box set burnout,” which meant that they either purchased a box set but never read all of the stories because they simply found the number of books overwhelming, or they felt the set wasn’t as fulfilling a read as a single author’s series featuring recurring characters in the same setting.

After a little more discussion, we decided to address box set burnout by writing a linked series instead. The Summer Lovin’ series features six category-length works by six different authors, each releasing two weeks apart. All books are set in the same location—at Stone Cliff Resort in the fictional town of Deerfield, Canada (modeled after Banff)—and each book has overlapping characters with at least two other books, but could easily be a standalone read, as well.

Crashing Down, New Adult RomanceLosing ItLoving Lies

This approach allows us to create a better reading experience, not just by offering a fun way to introduce readers to new authors, but also by giving readers time to read and digest each book without feeling overwhelmed. We each came up with a synopsis and a cast of characters, (even the town itself became a character) then we used Springpad to set up an online group data storage system to make our bible. Using all this information, and sharing ideas back and forth on a daily basis, we honed the story lines until we felt we had built a solid world! Then, it was writing time. We each wrote independently, based on the plots we had discussed, and then read over one another’s work, tweaking characters and setting descriptions to make sure everything in the books flowed together. Writing this way can be a challenge, since everyone is very close to their own story, but we were all willing to make changes to ensure description/characters fit with the rest of the stories because we all cared about the final produce, and ultimately the reader experience.

Our cover artist, Croco Designs, created covers with the same Summer Lovin’ logo and summer-by-the-lake theme, and before we knew it, the linked series was ready to go!

Taming Tess, New Adult RomanceSurviving NikkiSaving Sullivan

We’re so excited to offer this series of six books by Cathryn Fox, Audra North, Renee Field, Jan Meredith, Lilly Cain, and Sara Hubbard.

Check out the Summer Lovin’ Series here!

Connect with the authors on Facebook here!

One Fictitious Moment: Two New Videos

By Angela Misri­, author of Jewel of the Thames

Writing mysteries is one of those specialized crafts that requires a constant escalation – in tension, in speed and in exciting your reader. There are two key ways to do this – by Creating Tension and by Writing Great Dialogue – check out some key tips below!

 

Watch for more writing videos on this blog, or you can subscribe to my Youtube channel One Fictitious Moment.

Amgela MisriAngela Misri is a Toronto journalist, writer and mom who has spent most of her working life making CBC Radio extraterrestrial through podcasts, live streams and websites. Her first book Jewel of the Thames, was published by Fierce Ink Press in March 2014 and is the first in a series called A Portia Adams Adventure.

Dear Writing, I Hate You: How To Be A Writer In The Real World

By Shayna Krishnasamy

Whenever I’m asked what I’m most passionate about, I answer, automatically, writing. I feel a certain amount of pride in being able to give a confident answer to this question that often stumps a lot of my friends who are still searching for their “thing.” I am a writer. Writing is my passion. It sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it? Of course, this easy answer doesn’t tell the whole story, and it’s the inevitable follow-up question that makes this clear. Here it comes:

frustrationSo, what do you love about writing?

Love? Who said anything about love? I hate writing with a passion. That’s where all the passion comes from—hate.

I realize that not all writers feel this way. Some writers live in a bubble of serenity in which words flow from their fingertips to the page with ease, ideas are plentiful, inspiration is constant, and self-doubt? Such a thing doesn’t even exist. But the rest of us, the non-bubble dwellers, who live in the real world of mortgages and stress and uncooked dinners, the act of writing can sometimes, not all the time, okay maybe about half the time, be a little unpleasant, and other times, once in a while, okay maybe half the time, be downright painful.

Let’s face it, writing can be hard. To begin with, unless you’ve already hit it big, you’re doing it on top of working a full-time job, which means any time you devote to it is cutting into your time with your husband, your kids, your friends, your fun. You have limited time to actually write, and when you do find the time, you need to make it happen on the spot because there’s no time to dilly dally around waiting for inspiration. Now it’s summertime and your friends are all off at the beach or the park or Mexico, and you’re stuck inside, writing. On top of which you think you’ve lost track of the plot, your characters aren’t fully-formed, you’re pretty sure you aren’t any good at this, the book you self-published last year isn’t selling, like at ALL, and nobody, I mean nobody you know actually understands WHY you’re spending so much time on this “book” when you should be training for that marathon and making sure your kids eat balanced meals.

First, let me just say: I know. I’m here for you. Let’s avoid writing together by going out for coffee to discuss it.

Or, even better, for all the miserable writers out there, here are some tips from me to you to help you make your life as a writer just a little, not completely, but maybe about 10% less miserable:

You’re Overworked and Underpaid – Tell Everyone!

It can be hard for non-writers to understand the agonies of writing, and more specifically the amount of time it takes up in your life. Friends may become irritated when you have to turn down their dinner invites and Friday night get-togethers because you have to write. Imagining your buddies having fun together while you’re holed up in the basement hunched over your computer isn’t much fun for you either.frustrated-writer-4-e1322631376404

To combat the idea that you’re blowing everyone off and wasting your time, start telling yourself and everyone else that you have two full-time jobs. If you have kids, you can even boost that to three. Three Jobs! That’ll shut them up.

If you’re serious about writing, never call it a hobby or a side-project or a pastime. Writing is work, hard work. Sure, you’re doing this work voluntarily, but that doesn’t make it less difficult or deserving of respect than your salaried job. As a writer, your free time is precious and limited, and anyone who gives you grief about how much you have or how you spend it should go out and get a few extra jobs first. See how they like it!

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper, Mister

It’s really difficult to stay positive about your writing when you’re always comparing yourself to other writers. Sure, it’s important to read great novels and aspire to that kind of greatness yourself, but only if it doesn’t turn you into a weepy puddle of self-doubt. Thinking you’re not good enough is a common problem for writers and can be crippling.

To keep your confidence up, remind yourself that the book you’re reading is a finished product. You don’t know how many awful drafts there were before it was published. Maybe this book you think is so spectacular went through 20 drafts and a few severe edits before it became the tome you know so well. It isn’t fair to compare the second draft of your novel to a polished book, so don’t even go there.

That goes for writing speed as well. Many of the more successful self-published authors are releasing four or five books a year, and here you are slaving away at your manuscript for a third year. Nothing good will come of comparing yourself to these speedy authors, so why do it? There are plenty of famous authors who wrote more slowly (J. R. R. Tolkien, for one, ever heard of him?). The important thing is to write the best book you can, no matter how long it takes.

Be Trendy Only If You Really Love The Trend

writers-block21When you hear reports that authors are really raking it in writing about vampires or apocalypses or naughty sex, it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon. There’s nothing wrong with branching out—I’d even say it’s a good thing—but trying to force yourself to write a book about time travel for teens when your niche is really historical romance can be disastrous. Some writers are good at genre hopping and can write equally well in a variety of styles, but it’s not for everyone, and writing in a genre you don’t enjoy can suck the soul out of you in a jiffy. If you really want to be a happy writer, ignore the trends altogether and write what you want to write. You never know, maybe your idea will end up spurring a trend of its own!

Give Yourself a Break

Write every day. You’ve heard this rule, we all have. Given the famous tendency of authors to procrastinate, I understand why the rule is useful. You’re never going to get the book done if you keep marathon-watching Mad Men instead. But the rule can also be confining and has lead me to feel that I was failing as a writer because I couldn’t manage to get my butt in that desk chair two times this week, or because I took the day off to take my nephews to the amusement park, or because I wanted to go shopping.

Life doesn’t stop because you have a book to write, and I don’t believe you should cut yourself off from all human contact just to get your book indexwritten. You’ve heard of work/life balance? Well, I believe in life/write balance. You may not be able to hang out with your friends and family every night of the week if you want to finish your book, but you don’t have to stay home every night either. You can pick and choose.

I’m not saying don’t try to write every day, because you absolutely should. I’ve found it much more difficult to get back into my book when I haven’t engaged with it for several days in a row. What I’m saying is beating yourself up when you have to skip a day is a waste of time, and giving up everything else in your life to write your book, though it might get the book finished pretty quick, isn’t the best formula for a happiness. Your writing should be a priority in your life, but so should your life. If you stop living to write your book what in the world will you have to write about, anyway?

 

So, as you can see, when I say I hate writing, I don’t really mean it. It’s not writing that I hate, but rather all the challenges that come along with being a writer today, challenges which can ruin the act of writing for us, if we let them. It’s hard enough coming up with a great story idea and making the written product actually resemble that idea, and be coherent, and brilliant, and marketable, and exactly what you want it to be. Doing it while also missing out on all the fun things in life, being resented by your friends, feeling like everyone is writing better and faster, writing a story you don’t even care about, and feeling like crap because you aren’t writing enough—well, I’d say that’s practically impossible.

Being a writer in the real world is hard, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. Next time you want to punch writing in the face, maybe go get an ice cream cone instead. And remember, if you really are a writer, there is no cure. You can give it up and become a circus clown and believe that’s the end of it, but writing will always come back to haunt you. It’s like an ant infestation that way. So, buck up, soldier, you’ve only got about 50 or 60 more years of this to go.

Now, didn’t that make you feel better?

Shayna's PhotoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

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