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Tag: Nashville

Word of Mouth Marketing for Authors

logoI took part in this year’s online Romance Festival again this weekend organised by Harper Collins and the really wonderful thing was that this time, I was able to do so as an author! I was able to submit an author Q&A for display on the Romance Festival site and I also submitted one of my blog posts entitled ‘5 Things I Have Learnt from Writing my Debut Novel’ which you may have read on my blog recently. They were both viewed and shared many times and that felt really satisfying.

Not only that but from 2 – 8pm on both days of the weekend, there were Twitter and Facebook chats, virtually every half an hour by famous authors and industry people with tips to share, and there were also Google Hangouts with a number of different authors. I learnt so much from all these people but most of all, I had a lot of fun! I was struck again and again by how much time these people were willing to give up to help aspiring authors or to talk to their readers. It was not at all sales orientated but you can bet that sales will go up for these authors or business will go up for the trade people who took part because people like me will talk about them to others, just like I’m doing here today.

One of the Twitter chats was actually about Word of Mouth marketing and was run by a lady called Molly Flatt. Her Twitter page is here. She began by saying that WOM marketing is about getting other people talking about you, inspiring their thoughts, rather than just throwing messages at them. She went on to say that an author talking about their book on their Twitter feed isn’t WOM. Others discussing it on THEIR feeds (or at their dinner tables) is. Her main idea is that WOM marketing isn’t really even marketing at all. It’s about building relationships with people and that has to happen over a long period of time of course, it can’t just happen overnight. The phrase that really struck me was ‘You have to give to get’ because I think that so many of us are doing this without maybe even realising it! Just look at #MondayBlogs for example. I have met so many wonderful, supportive friends through having my blog posts shared on Mondays and by sharing those of other people.

So how would this work for the readers you are trying to attract? Well, she suggested that the first step is to find people online or offline who share your subject matter. You can do a Twitter search for this if you’re starting with an online approach. Then tap into their shared passion. I have met a few people because of my love of country music, for example. Once you meet them, let them get to know you and they may check you out as a result and find that you’ve written a book and hey presto! After this, you can think more about what would inspire them to engage with you. I haven’t really explored this yet because I’m really worried about hassling people so this is something I’m going to take slowly but I like the idea of it very much.

There is now only one week to go until my debut novel From Here to Nashville is published and I want to tell you how lucky I’ve been with some of the friends I have made online. Firstly, Emma Wicker, another Indie author featured my book on her blog last week and she’s doing it again for me next week. Then I was able to get a feature on the Alliance of Independent Authors Members’ Showcase which goes up every Saturday. Then I was featured in Sonya’s round-up of book news on her website here. As I’ve mentioned, I also had a lot of exposure through the Romance Festival this weekend too. Today, my RNA friend, Heidi-Jo Swain is featuring me on her blog for #MondayBlogs and I really can’t tell you what a good feeling all this support gives me. I have quite a few other blog posts lined up in the coming weeks and I count myself really blessed to have made so many good friends via social media. This is what word of mouth marketing means to me right now and I look forward to being able to do the same for these friends in the future.

Thank you all for reading and I’ll see you next week on Publication Day!!! Please do leave a comment below if you’ve tried WOM marketing in another way that’s worked really well for you. Have a great week everyone 🙂

How To Set Up a Goodreads Author Page

goodreads_icon_200x200-8b5b322a54ffbe04db26585de0830763Another week has gone by and we’re already in February. My publication date for From Here to Nashville is just two weeks away and, having worked through all the amendments from my proofreader, I will be able to meet my deadline to upload the final version to Amazon before the end of this week. As always, I have been juggling a few other things during the week as well. Mainly, I have been liaising with a number of lovely people about interviews on their blogs and I also contacted the organisers of the Romance Festival 2015, taking place online next weekend about a Q&A with them and a blog post. Once the final version of my ebook is ready, I will also be contacting some book reviewers to see if they would be able to review FHTN for me.

One of the other things on my to do list during the week was to set up a Goodreads Author Page. I have been on the site as a reader for quite a while now so it made sense to get my Author Page set up too. I have heard from quite a few people though that they find the site a bit of a nightmare to use so I was prepared for it to be a bit tricky. And it was! So I thought some tips might be useful for readers of my blog for when the time comes to set up your own page.

1. You have to wait for your book to be available somewhere, either for pre-order or actually published, before it will show up on Goodreads. I tried to join the Author Program but because my book wasn’t there, nothing would happen. Once my book was available for pre-order though, it automatically showed up on the Goodreads site because it’s owned by Amazon. Then all I had to do was to click on ‘Author Program’ which is right at the bottom of the page and search for myself and my book. Once you have done this, it asks whether this is you and you can ask to join the program. My situation was slightly  complicated by the fact that there is another Julie Stock out there and I was showing as the author of her book as well. It was very easy to contact Goodreads though to explain and now I’m no longer associated with that book. Just as well because it was a Breastfeeding Manual and this is not something I excelled at, I’m afraid 😉 Hope that wasn’t TMI on a Monday. One final thing, it takes a while for them to get back to you to say you are set up as an author so you may need to be prepared for that.

2. How to upload your own photo. When I’d had to contact Goodreads about the other Julie Stock, I had managed to get to know a very helpful Librarian there who was happy for me to pester her with other questions. The first one I had was how to upload my photo, which I hadn’t been able to work out on my own. For this, you need to go to your Author Page and click on edit data, not on edit profile, as you might have expected. Then you will see the options for uploading a picture of yourself.

3. Your Author Bio. This is also uploaded under edit data. One tip is that when you upload your bio, make sure to include a link to your newsletter sign up page right near the top. This makes it easier for readers and, in my case, will take them to my website too. I do have the links for my website, Twitter and Facebook all there too. On this page, you can also add a video and it’s recommended that you do. I have uploaded my book trailer there and I did that without having to ask any questions! Goodreads also sent me some questions to answer for the benefit of readers stopping by my page so I answered a few of those as well. I have also linked my blog to my Goodreads page, although it isn’t showing any pictures and is only showing ten posts so I may have to come back to that one.

4. To giveaway or not to giveaway? Once you have done all this, you can click on your book and see all kinds of information about it and who wants to read it etc. Goodreads is very keen for me to list a giveaway of the book too and I have given a lot of thought to this for the purposes of visibility. However, after reading this article by Roz Morris at the weekend, I had a very interesting discussion with some writing friends on Twitter about the whole idea of giving work away for free when you only have the one book out. The conclusion was that it just doesn’t make sense at this point for me to do it. When I have more than one book out, I will consider the idea again because that could then add value for me. So, even though it’s tempting, think carefully before giving away your work and make sure that if you do, there’s going to be something in it for you too 🙂

I hope these tips are helpful for you and if you’d like to go on over to my page to see what it looks like, here’s the link. You can click on the Want to Read button there too if you feel so inclined 😉 Thanks for reading as always and do leave me a comment below if you’d like to talk about any of these points a bit further.

The Multi-Tasking Life of an Author

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Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

I bet if you ask any woman around the world how much she has to juggle in her 21st century life, she will roll her eyes before reeling off a list as long as your arm of things she juggles every day, from children’s lunches, school uniform, taking them to school, other appointments, doing the housework, looking after pets, sorting out home affairs like tax, insurance etc, liaising with husband/partner about most of these things and of course, going to work herself (either in the home or outside it)! The modern day woman is a superhero in the purest sense. I hope women reading this can picture themselves doing this every day. Some of us, like me, are lucky enough to have partners who help with all this stuff and can juggle along with the best. I’m going to come back to how great men can be at multi-tasking too in just a minute so please bear with me 😉

As if my life wasn’t already busy enough, I decide to write and self-publish my own book! Whose crazy idea was that? Well, yes, it was mine and this past week has shown me just how many extra balls I am now going to have to juggle as a result of making that decision. This week should have been a good week. ‘From Here to Nashville’ is with the proofreader and bar a few minor queries, everything was going fine there so I should have been all set to get on with finishing the first draft of book 2. You know there’s a but coming, right? Yeah.

During a quick chat with one of my writing friends, one of my beta readers, in fact, we started discussing potential names for my publishing company if I decide to buy ISBNs for my paperback version of FHTN. We thought that my main character’s record label name would be brilliant until my friend came back and said ‘You know that company name already exists, don’t you?’ Cue three nights of my life spent trying to get advice, thinking of a different but equally brilliant name for the record label, only to abandon it all in the end to just make a couple of changes to the existing name. I was a woman possessed. We’re not talking big-league names here but the law is murky on this and I don’t want to get into a mess over this issue with my very first book.

As a result of this spanner in the works, I have done almost nothing on my second book all week 🙁 However, it has been a trying week in other ways too. My husband has been away at a music convention in Los Angeles and whenever he’s away, I realise just how much he does around the house. Not only that of course but he’s the one I turn to when I have something like this to sort out and only being able to talk to each other for a few minutes each day over Skype isn’t quite the same. By the way, I have two teenagers in the house as well but they are soooo not interested in my crises. So I had to try and sort it out for myself and I was lucky enough to have some help from some good writing friends.

During the week, I read the latest vlog by another author friend I have made on Twitter, Michael Cairns. Mike is a full-time teacher and a writer as well. He has two small children so he doesn’t get a lot of sleep either. On top of all this, he has set himself an enormous writing challenge this year. This challenge is to release 15 novels in 2015, writing 1 million words of original fiction and he’s also vlogging about it every single day! You can read all about it here. He writes and edits every day and I just don’t know how he does it. I do know that it is very inspiring to see what is possible when you set your mind to it and after chatting with Mike, I realised that I do have to change my mindset as I go forward into my published writing career.

Right now, my mind is flitting from one thing to another all the time. I am trying to finish off the writing and editing process for ‘From Here to Nashville.’ I am communicating with the proofreader and have just started contacting and liaising with a few lovely people who have offered to host me on their blogs around the time of publication. Preparing for these blog posts is important but it also takes time if you want to do it properly. I realised that I needed to have all this information ready to send in an email and on my web page, whenever anyone asks. Not only that but I have been trying to get to grips with a paperback version of FHTN. This involves a bit of research but I can’t really make much progress until I have the final copy back from the proofreader, yet I’m still fiddling about with it.

I’m trying to plan some marketing for FHTN as well and once again, this takes time and research. And last but not least, I’m trying to write! I have put pressure on myself again by re-joining the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme so I must have a completed first draft at least to send in for review by the end of August. But that’s months away, you say. It is still quite a long way away but I need to get some sort of better time management in place now if I am to get that done in time. I’d also like to be getting on with a novella to send out when people sign up to receive my newsletter so I need a plan and I need it now. Step one, I think has to be a change of mindset but how to do it?

If you have any tips to help me manage my time better (apart from getting a new brain 😉 ), please let me know in the comments as always. Thank you for taking time to read my blog today – we are all superheroes for what we manage to fit in each and every day 🙂

Update: Since writing this post, my book has gone up on Amazon for pre-order! This is earlier than I’d planned but I’m still very excited about it! Here are the links: Amazon UK and Amazon US

5 Things I’ve Learnt from Writing my Debut Novel

strasbourg-90012_1280Now the euphoria of having sent my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the proofreader has died down a little, I have no more excuses to stop me from starting the rewrite of book two. Just to refresh your memories, this is the book that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2013, yes, nearly 14 months ago 🙁 After NaNoWriMo and a few more writing chunks some months later, it stood at 80,000 words. Not bad for a first draft, I hear you cry!
However, when I got to that point and read it all through, I could see that the story had veered off in the wrong direction and that I was really going to have my work cut out to get it back on track. So it has been really easy to put off doing anything to move book two forward, especially as I’ve been so busy with finishing my first novel and getting it ready for publication next month.

This weekend, I decided I had to get on with it at last. I have been thinking about it on and off for weeks and adding new thoughts to my outline so when I went back and reread it, things didn’t seem so bad. By the end of the day yesterday, I had almost finished my first rewrite of chapter one and I was buzzing with excitement for my new story, which was a great feeling. I could also see that I’d grown as a writer since the very first rewrite of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and it was a pleasure to implement some of the things I’d learnt from that experience as I was actually writing.

So here are some tips I’d like to share with you today.
1. You don’t need to write your characters’ names into every single line of dialogue. As long as it is clear who is talking, your reader will be fine without the reminder. When you think about it, you hardly ever say the name of the person you are talking to because it’s not necessary. I only use my husband’s name for example, if I’m calling him from afar. I certainly don’t use it in texts or on the ‘phone but my writing was littered with names. I have been really brutal about cutting them out and the result is much more realistic dialogue. Similarly, don’t put in too many examples of ‘er’ and ‘oh’ etc because they clog up the dialogue.

2. The reader does not necessarily need to have the timeline spelt out for them, even if you need to know it to make sure it’s consistent. I had put in dates for all my scenes in ‘From Here to Nashville,’ partly to help me keep on top of the timeline but also to show the whirlwind nature of the romance. I have now taken them all out because I could see that I had explained the timeline in other ways so the dates weren’t necessary. I have also put days into my second book which I’m going to keep there for now but as I progress through my drafts, I will finally remove them. As well as this, my scenes often started in the morning and ended in the evening to give me a structure to work through and to show time passing so I had to work hard to vary this and not start and finish the same way all the time.

3. To help with pace, it’s a good idea to check the length of your sentences and your paragraphs. A shorter sentence every now and then moves the action forward and keeps your reader reading and if you start a new paragraph every time a new action occurs, it makes reading easier and maintains the pace and excitement for the reader. You don’t need an empty line between paragraphs either, you just need to go to the next line. This formatting issue took me ages to put right. An empty line signals a new scene.

4. As a new writer, it is very easy to fall into the trap of over-describing physical movements. By this I mean, the ‘then I did this, then I did that’ style of writing. More often than not, you can cut this and jump straight to the action because that is what your reader will do and if they’re skimming your words, not reading them, they’re going to feel disappointed when they get to the end of the story. This is especially useful at the start of chapters, which don’t need to be bogged down with interior monologue like ‘The next day dawned bright with another beautiful blue sky,’ for example. Instead, jump straight to the action and draw your reader in.

5. Even by the time I sent my book to be professionally edited, I still hadn’t included enough detailed description of people and settings. Even my hero, Jackson needed to be better described the first time Rachel saw him. I think that I’d made it a glimpse for the reader like it was for her but the reader wants more than that so I had to rewrite that first sight of him to include a lot more detail. Similarly, I needed to develop some of my descriptions of settings, from quaysides, to weddings, to apartments and much more detail about Nashville and its iconic sights.

These are just a few of the things I had to deal with when I got my final edit back but they are all things I’m taking on with me to book two. The new book is set in France, in the picturesque region of Alsace which is near the German border (see the photo above). It is a story about self-discovery, as well as being a romance and I look forward to telling you more about it as I progress. I hope you find these tips helpful and I would love to hear your comments on them. Thanks for reading as always and have a good writing week 🙂

My Piece of Sky

DSCN3409A long, long time ago, I sat down at this computer to start writing a story. The date was Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 to be precise and fuelled by the TV programme ‘Nashville,’ I’d come up with an idea for my own story. I had no idea whether I would get to the end of the story or not at that point, I just wanted to write it all down before I forgot it! 😉 Today, 642 days later, I’m about done with my story and I’m just a few weeks away from self-publishing my first novel as an ebook in the first instance, followed shortly after by a paperback version.

I have spent a fair bit of time over the holidays (understatement of the year!) wrestling with formatting my novel in Scrivener, accompanied by the brilliant book ‘Scrivener for Dummies’ by Gwen Hernandez. It is now formatted to my satisfaction, I think (eek!) I have also worked my way through my own and my beta readers’ edits and got to the end of them without doing myself an injury. Finally, I contacted my proofreader to see if it would be possible to send it to her a bit earlier than we had planned. Her answer to this was yes and all of this means that I can look at a publication date of sometime during the week of the 16th February, 2015 which will be half-term week for me and therefore, a bit easier to manage. As it can take a few days for your book to upload to Amazon though, I’ll probably aim for a ‘soft’ launch in the week before to deal with any major upsets before the proper publication day.

My next task then is to send out my first newsletter. I have already started designing this and it will include my Cover Reveal and also the Book Trailer I’ve been working on. If you want to see both of these before anyone else, don’t forget to SIGN UP to my newsletter! All you have to do is click on the link. I will be doing a blog post soon about how I made the book trailer as well.

The next major thing to think about is marketing: yes or no? I have taken part in some giveaways myself run by authors and I even tried running one a while ago on my Facebook page but there wasn’t much take up. Similarly, although I have enjoyed ‘attending’ a number of Facebook launch parties, the attendees always seem to be other writers so I’m not sure how useful they are in terms of sales to new readers. Finally, there’s the issue of book blog tours. I know of many lovely people running these but I have no idea how useful they are to writers. Obviously, we all want to make our book stand out in a veritable ocean of others out there. So, if you have any advice on this topic, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Some of the more experienced self-publishers believe that the best marketing is to get on with your second book and don’t worry, I fully intend to do that! I feel that some other marketing is necessary though and should be fun.

This is where I’m at for the start of 2015 then, folks. Thank you for accompanying me along the path so far. I hope you’ll keep on reading over the next few weeks and holding my hand as I edge closer to publication. Thank you for reading and supporting me with your advice and I look forward to reading your comments 🙂

Face the Fear and Set those Writing Goals for 2015!

DSCN9096Having reviewed my writing year in last week’s blog post, I am going to set some new writing goals for the coming year this week. These were my writing goals for 2014:

  • To finish editing my first draft of ‘From Here to Nashville’.
  • To have it professionally edited.
  • To work hard with my critique partners to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
  • To finish the first draft of my second novel too.
  • To attend a writing course or two.
  • To take a proofreading course.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have achieved all but one of these goals and I am very proud of myself for that. Now, as I stand on the brink of publication next year, I don’t know what I’m more frightened of: the fact that I’m about to publish my debut novel or that I haven’t even finished the first draft of my second one.
Well, on our summer holiday in the French Alps this year, I went on a cable car ride with my younger daughter. This was something we’d both been quite frightened of at the start of the holiday but we went along and faced the fear. By the time I took the picture you see here, we were on a cable car on our own feeling super-confident and wondering what it was we’d been so worried about before. As we approached the top, we prepared to get out of the car…only to find that we were only halfway up and had a lot further to go up an incredibly steep mountainside. Sound familiar? 😉

Some of you will wonder what I’m worrying about, I know. If I’m self-publishing, I can set the schedule, right? However, I have signed up again to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme and I have to submit my book by the end of August for them to review. When I told my husband this, he laughed telling me that was loads of time! If you write, you will know how months have an uncanny knack of passing in what seems like only a matter of days and you will understand that I have a lot of hard work to do to get this first draft into some sort of shape. I wrote it in NaNoWriMo 2013 (!) and have fiddled about with it since then but made very little progress towards the story I want it to be.

This is partly because ‘From Here to Nashville’ has dominated my life and my time for most of this year. Yesterday though, I got my comments back from my beta readers and when I have dealt with those, my first novel goes off to be proofread and that will be that!

So what will my goals be for 2015?
1. Publish ‘From Here to Nashville’ in ebook form to Amazon, followed by a paperback version a few months later.
2. Finish the first draft of book 2 and send it in to be reviewed by the RNA.
3. Take part in NaNoWriMo with a full outline of book 3.
4. Keep blogging weekly about ‘My Writing Life’ and building up my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature for other writing friends.
5. Start sending out my newsletter to people who have signed up.

I think this is a manageable set of goals to be getting on with and I feel pretty confident that they are all achievable. I hope that you will stay with me for the next part of my roller-coaster ride and if you’re interested to know what’s coming up, just a bit ahead of everyone else, why not sign up to receive my newsletter? You can do this by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. I will be sending out my first one early in the New Year.

Thank you all for reading, as always, and thank you once again for your support. Wishing you all a Happy New Year and the best that 2015 can bring.

5 Highlights from My Very Busy Writing Year – 2014

DSC_0503Looking back at the blog posts I have written this year, I am amazed at what I have managed to pack in. So, as the end of the year approaches, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the highlights.

1. The year began with me successfully joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS). There are only 250 places on this scheme available each year and I knew it would be hotly contested so I was very excited when I found out I had got a place. I went on to submit my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the NWS and received a very positive report back from my reader. There was still a lot of work to do but I had made a good start.

In addition to this though, I have made many new and lovely friends by joining the RNA and attending events like their Summer Party, the annual Conference, my local RNA group lunches and being invited to events by established authors like the lovely Phillipa Ashley. The support I have received from this network of writers has been wonderful and I can’t thank them all enough. I will be rejoining the RNA next year and look forward to another wonderful year with writing friends, old and new.

2. I finished ‘From Here to Nashville’ at last! When I say that, I really mean it as well. After I got my report back from the RNA, I rewrote and edited some more before seeking a professional edit. I finished those edits just a couple of weeks ago and now my beta readers and I are giving it one last read through before it goes to the proofreader in January. I am pleased with how it’s looking from my read through so far, with only minor changes looking likely. I have had a professional cover designed which I’m really happy with and I am cracking on with the formatting for Kindle. I know now that I will publish my debut novel early next year and I am so excited about that.

3. I have attended three writing courses this year, as well as taking part in an online course run by Future Learn. In February, I went on a course called ‘Passion on the Page’ run by Write Stars. It was a great course, run by romance author Katherine Garbera and I learnt a lot from it that I could use in my writing. Then, at the end of March, I went on another Write Stars course led by romance author, Sue Moorcroft, ‘How to Write a Romance Novel in a day.’ Once again, it was a very useful course and I learnt lots from Sue and the other attendees. I signed up for the Future Learn course ‘Start Writing Fiction’ in April and although this was a course for beginners, I found it useful. I also started a writing journal as a result of being on the course which was one of the best decisions I made all year! Finally, I went on a Short Story course, run by Woman’s Weekly magazine in October. The course was led by Della Galton, another experienced author of both short stories and novels and it was clear that she really knew her stuff.

4. I established my author platform this year. By this, I mean that I worked out which social media was proving useful for me. I started out on Twitter and I now have a solid following there of about 1,000 people. I’m happy to keep it around that number because I want to interact with my followers as much as I can and this number seems manageable.

I have seen my blog go from strength to strength this year, receiving no less than five awards and I love writing my weekly post and engaging with readers as a result of it. The #MondayBlogs has been incredibly useful for my blog and I really enjoy participating in it. There are a number of other hashtags I could get involved in but as I work part-time, I’m not sure I could keep up with it. I do use Tweetdeck on Mondays to help me manage all the retweets and faves. I like to thank people for being supportive and I know that they appreciate it so Tweetdeck helps me keep on top of everything (Thanks to Liz Harris from the RNA for that tip!) I have also enjoyed taking part in various blog tours and have recently started a Cover Reveals feature once a month to help other new authors, which has proved popular.

This year, I also managed to set up a Facebook Author page. It is building slowly and may not prove that worthwhile longer term but I have found having a personal page lots of fun and I enjoy supporting other authors at their virtual events. If you’d like to make contact on Facebook, do go on over and like my page so that you get my updates.

I do also have a Pinterest page but I know I’m not doing much with it yet so that will be one to work on for next year perhaps. Here’s the link though if you want to see what I pin and follow me. Beware though, you will waste hours on there!

5. I have learnt so much this year, I can hardly believe it. I have written posts about writing a synopsis, Point of View, rewriting, editing, outlining, show not tell, how to write a blurb, working with a cover designer, self-publishing, proofreading, formatting, creating a newsletter, Evernote and Scrivener! I feel exhausted just reading that list but I know it shows how far I have come in my writing life over the past year.

I’d like to finish with a big thank you to all those of you who read my blog every week and take time to comment and share my posts. It has meant a lot to me and I hope that you’ll join me as I move into 2015 and finally publish my debut novel 🙂 Merry Christmas to you all!

Let’s talk about sex, baby…

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

This week, I have been mostly trying to ‘sex up’ my story as I continue through my final edits of ‘From Here to Nashville.’ Despite my age and vast experience, it has not been an easy task 😉 It is one thing to have experienced romance, love, kissing, sex (eww, as my teenage daughters would say) but it is quite another to write about it. Not only that but there’s not much help out there for inexperienced writers either.

I had lots of great advice on my blog last week (thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments) and one of the first things I knew I had to decide on was the level of sex scene I am comfortable writing about. How to do this? I know I like to read all kinds of romance, from what I would call ‘closing the bedroom door’ romance to E.L. James, if you get my drift 🙂 However, I know that I’m looking to write something in the middle of these two extremes and I am certain about that. It was clear though that I hadn’t really achieved that in my book as yet.

As I said last week, I went on a course earlier this year which was designed to help writers put passion on the page. However, in a day, we only got as far as kissing! Crikey 😉 Still, I wrote a first kiss scene that I was happy with and it is still in my book almost exactly as I wrote it back in February. Apart from that though, my romantic scenes were very generic – ‘the kiss deepened’ – sort of thing and although I did have a scene where my characters finally made love, it was too far into the story. My editor wanted it to be a lot sooner and a lot more sexy!

I went to find my notes from my course and remembered the handout we’d been given about ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris, from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ You can find the list by Googling it but I’m going to reproduce it here for you to see what I did with it. The other advice my editor gave was to make sure to incorporate each of the five senses in every description of their romantic encounters. This wasn’t new to me. I just wasn’t doing it.

1. Eye to Body
I wrote this into my first chapter as the first time they see each other from a distance. They give each other a quick glance and register an initial attraction. This doesn’t have to be too detailed but needs to give the reader the idea that they want to get to know each other better.

2. Eye to Eye
In the same chapter, my two main characters meet and pick up more details. They now know they find each other attractive enough to begin flirting.

3. Voice to voice
It helps if your male character is from Nashville of course and has a sexy southern drawl. There aren’t many synonyms for ‘drawl,’ I can tell you. Otherwise, they just need to talk to each other and this is where you can really get going on the senses. Again, this all happens in my first chapter when they first meet.

4. Hand to hand
This could be a handshake during their first meeting or it could come later. I do both and it is the touching of skin that is intimate and charged.

5. Arm to shoulder
This one has to come a bit later when they know each other better in my view. It was during my characters’ fifth meeting. During the previous  three meetings, I went through stages 1 to 4 above again to reinforce their building attraction so that by the time he puts his arm round her to comfort her during their fifth meeting, it should seem quite natural. This closeness allows you to bring in things like your male character’s smell and you will find yourself wasting hours on the internet looking for ways to describe him that don’t sound weird 🙂 I liked this article, from Vogue here. It’s called ‘How Women Want Men to Smell.’

6. Arm to waist
I included this in their first kiss which comes on their first proper date, although it is about the sixth time they’ve met each other. She slips her arms around his waist as they move in closer for the kiss.

7. Mouth to mouth
This is their first kiss and needs to build on everything that has gone before. This takes place in Chapter 6 in my novel. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

‘As I looked into his dark eyes, he leaned towards me, tilting his head to one side. My heart beat a little quicker in anticipation of a kiss and suddenly, his warm lips were on mine, brushing them gently at first. His kiss was so inviting that I responded naturally, moving closer, taking in his wonderful masculine scent. I was very aware of his hands, one resting on my hip, the other clasping the base of my neck. I slipped my arms around his waist and the kiss deepened. He traced my lips with his tongue and when I opened my mouth a little, he took the hint and started to explore further.

I closed my eyes, and a moan of pleasure escaped me. He groaned too, pulling me closer. The stubble on his cheek tickled mine and I wondered what it would feel like if he was kissing other parts of my body. My face burned at the thought of it.’

8. Hand to head
The first kiss I have written also includes this step and according to the 12 steps of intimacy, this is really quite high on the list!

9. Hand to body
As Jackson’s hand is on her hip during the kiss, this is also achieved at the early kissing stage. However, it could obviously mean many other things.

10. Mouth to breast/11. Hand to genitals (blushing yet?)/12. Genitals to genitals
I knew for me that this was the point at which I wanted to stop. I don’t want to write about full-blown sex, although my characters do have it. I didn’t run and hide from it either, by closing the bedroom door and leaving it to my reader’s imagination. I just went for somewhere in the middle, leaving the reader in no doubt of what was about to happen. My characters make love for the first time now in chapter 8, much earlier than they did previously and I know that makes more sense.

There is no doubt that this is one of the hardest things for a romance writer to do. For most of us, it’s so personal and intimate that putting it on the page in a way that is enjoyable for a complete stranger just seems a bit strange. However, as romance readers, we expect it and so that means we have to learn how to write it. As I have gone through my novel, I have used these 12 steps again and again to help me write convincing scenes. I have looked up all kinds of things from male scents to signs that your date really likes you. Yesterday’s research was probably the best fun so far though – I was writing about great make-up sex! Oh the fun you can have sitting at your writing desk 🙂

For another useful viewpoint on writing sex scenes, see this post here.

Thank you for reading as always. Please do leave me comments about how you find writing this kind of scene and any tips you have for me or readers of my blog.

Choosing and Working with a Book Cover Designer (part 2)

9397638640_fb0f268225_mA few weeks ago, I wrote my blog post about the process I had gone through for choosing a cover designer for my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville.’ At that point, I had only just started working with the company I had chosen and I promised that I would come back when the process was all over and tell you how it had gone. I now have a professional cover for my novel and I am really pleased with it. It was a learning curve for me though and as always, I would like to share with you the most valuable things I learnt.

1. Use of Photos
The first proof the designer sent me used a photo on the cover. Nothing unusual in that you may say and I was more than happy to have a photo on the cover. Unfortunately, it turned out that the same photo had been used on another book already and although that book isn’t well-known, I didn’t want to use the photo on mine and run the risk of it turning up in competition. What I learned was that you cannot get exclusive rights to the use of a photo without expecting to pay a huge amount of money for that privilege and although it doesn’t happen often maybe, you have to be prepared for someone else already having used the same photo. I realise that maybe I seem naive but I just hadn’t come across this situation before and so it did surprise me. If you want your book to look unique, then maybe it’s best not to use a photo unless it’s one you’ve taken yourself. For some of you reading this, this may not be a concern but it was for me and I have learned that lesson for the future.

2. Choose Three Key Messages
Before the next set of proofs, I had to think very specifically about what I really wanted to see on my cover. To help myself focus, I chose the three key messages I wanted the cover to convey. They were: romance, country music, the Nashville setting. The designer came back with three new proofs for me and the next thing I had to learn was that it’s best not to over-clutter your cover with too many messages. For example, I liked the idea of a silhouetted couple to show the romance element of the story but in practice, this was hard to achieve along with the other messages. So all three proofs had the Nashville skyline, two had a guitar and one had the silhouetted couple on. I can’t show you the proofs because they remain the designer’s property but what I can say is that I loved all three covers in their own way and so I had to choose the elements I liked best to combine for the final cover proof. You will have to wait a little while longer for the cover reveal but I hope you’ll agree that the designer did manage to include all three elements that I wanted in the final design and it was their vision that gave me the opportunity.

3. Have a Strapline ready to use
When the designer asked me if I had a strapline ready, I said that I hadn’t planned to use one as I’d looked at a lot of other covers and I’d seen that it wasn’t something every author did. However, as time went on, I changed my mind about it. I’d been preparing to enter a competition and was trying to distil the essence of my story into a tweet and doing this made me realise that I had actually written a pretty good strapline for the cover. This was my first attempt: ‘Two worlds, 4,000 miles apart, Can music bring them together?’ In the end, I changed it a little so that the words could fit into one line and I am really pleased with the final result. It also helped that I had written my blurb for the story by then because that gave me a starting point to work from.

The company I used for the cover design is called ‘Design for Writers’ and they can be contacted via their Facebook page here. I found them a professional company to work with and I learnt a great deal with their help so would gladly recommend them to other indie authors. In the end, I had to pay a bit more than I quoted last time because of paying for fonts and illustrations but this was all explained to me at the start so was not a surprise. I will be going back to Design for Writers for the print version of the cover because after consulting with a number of other authors, I now see that I should offer a paperback copy of the story as well. When I asked the designer what I would need to provide for this, I was amazed at just how much information they can include on a print cover. This is what he said: ‘The content you require on the back cover varies, but often includes a selection of teaser text, blurb, bio, author image, web url, twitter handle and Facebook page name.’ That will keep me busy for a while 😉

Thanks for reading as always and please do comment with any thoughts or questions.

Choosing and working with a Book Cover Designer

Nashville Book CoverAlmost as soon as I started writing my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ last year, I had a strong idea in mind of what I wanted the cover to look like. As it’s a contemporary romance with a country music theme, I knew it had to have a guitar in there and something to suggest it was a love story but at that point, that was really all I had come up with. I found a photo on one of the stock photo sites that I liked, paid for it and downloaded it. My daughter helped me insert some writing on to it and lo, my provisional cover was born. Regular readers will be familiar with it and I have also asked friends and followers on Facebook for their view of the cover. I didn’t get many replies but those that did reply said they liked it.

However, one of the pieces of advice I picked up early on is that your cover has to be brilliant, especially if you’re going to self-publish and as much as I still like my own cover, I have known for a long time that it wouldn’t compare to a professional cover design. So, I started building a list of potential cover designers very early on. ‘Where from?’ I hear you cry! Well, one place I began to find the same names appearing was on Joel Friedlander’s ‘The Book Designer’ website, where every month, he holds an ebook Cover Design Awards ceremony. Here’s the link to last month’s:   I watch out for this every month because I love looking at all the covers and reading his comments about them. It is a very rare thing for a self-published cover to receive praise but they do sometimes and you can see what things he thinks they have done particularly well. I noticed over the months though that the same design companies came in for regular praise and I started bookmarking these companies for the time when I might need them.

In addition to this, whenever I noticed a book with a good cover, I would check the first few pages to see if the cover designer was mentioned and if they were, I would bookmark their company. I looked out for recommendations from others and read articles with interest about people’s experiences. So when the time came for me to choose a cover designer, I already had a good list of about 6 companies to choose from.
The next stage was finding out how much they would charge. Unfortunately, I am finding that self-publishing can come at quite a high cost and therefore, getting value for money is really important. I am obviously happy to pay for professional work but there is a limit for everyone and if, like me, you don’t really even have a budget (!), every penny is going to be important. What I found is that the larger companies wanted me to sign up to a package, typically priced at around £250 for just an ebook cover. This seemed like a lot of money to me for a service that didn’t look very personal. I wanted to work with someone that I could build a relationship with, as I thought that would be very important if they were to stand any chance of understanding what I want from my cover. This was why I didn’t choose the company 99designs.co.uk in the end, even though they are priced very competitively. I came across the site via a recommendation from Jericho Writers because one of their writers was holding a contest for the design of their book cover. It is a clever idea in that you submit your brief, choose how much you’ll pay and then designers submit their designs to your contest and you choose the one you like the most after 7 days. I just didn’t feel that this was personal enough for me but it might work for you so you should take a look if you like the sound of it.

After a fair bit of research then and keeping my ear close to the ground for over a year, I came back to a design company that I had bookmarked right at the very beginning. We exchanged emails a few times to clarify what I was looking for in the broadest sense and to finalise the price and I started working with them last week! Since then, I have filled out a very detailed questionnaire, which asked me very searching questions about my story, things like genre, setting, themes, tone, point of view, key words and target market. I have also been able to upload a file of images I have put together containing ideas and inspiration about my cover, as well as my synopsis. The hardest bit was specifying what I think is good design and what I think is bad design, with examples from Amazon. That took me absolutely ages! It was also hard to explain which sort of reader I feel would read my book in answer to the question, ‘Perfect for readers of….’ It probably took the best part of last week for me to answer the questions and upload my files. Now it’s on to the design process which will allow three rounds of revisions and be final by 17th September. The cost for the ebook cover is £149 and I have the option to go back for a print cover later if I need it. I know you want to know who the company is but I’m going to hold on to that information until the design is ready. When it is, you can tell me what you think and I’ll tell you who they are so do keep checking back and in the meantime, keep looking at other people’s covers for inspiration 🙂

Thanks, as always, for reading and let me know in the comments below, if you have any questions you’d like to ask.