Guest Post: Making Promo Fun

It’s May Marketing Month, and we’ve got a post from Michelle Hazen with some advice on how important it is to have find some enjoyment in book promo!

Marketing plan: if you’re like most authors, these are your least favorite words. They always put me in mind of a very wise saying I like to apply to marketing: the healthiest kind of exercise is the one you’ll actually do.

If promoting your book makes you feel like this:

Mad Cleaning Person Continue reading

Guest Post: 5 Things To Know Before Launching Your Career

It’s May Marketing Month, and Kate McMurray has tidbits on how to handle being on the cusp of a writing career!

When I decided I was finally ready to start submitting my first novel to publishers, I had a little bit of a leg up because I’d been working in the publishing industry for about 7 years by that point. I’d sat in on editorial board meetings, I’d taken a few books from contract through publication, and I’d mailed so many review copies out that I could fill out FedEx forms in my sleep.

It takes a lot for publishing to surprise me. In other words, I sometimes take for granted that not everyone has this insider knowledge. So I thought I’d share a few things you should know as you’re getting your career started, from a publishing insider’s perspective. I tried to pick things that are common misperceptions, so hopefully I can set the record straight and let you know what to expect.

  1. The First Rule of Publishing Is “Hurry Up and Wait.” Everything takes more time than you think it will. Everything is also always on a rush schedule. Here’s why: every single person who works in publishing is juggling, like, eight projects at a time. In any given day, your editor probably has to edit a manuscript, read a few submissions, attend a couple of meetings, and stare forlornly at her email inbox as the messages pile up faster than she can respond to them. So while you wait for edits, your editor is doing a zillion other things.

If you have a print deal, the deadline is the deadline. Publishers schedule time at the printers months in advance. So the end dates are not flexible—if you miss the file-to-printer date, the book might not get printed. Digital has some flexibility, but publishers also schedule out their books to have a set number of releases per week.

Bottom line: publishing is a deadline-driven industry. Things have to get done when they have to get done. So what often happens to authors is they sit around waiting for things to happen, and then a lot happens all at once.

  1. It’s Cool to Ask Questions. In Fact, You Should Ask Questions! This applies to everything from contracts to the editorial process. Even if you have an agent, it’s worth it to carefully read through your contract and make sure you understand what it’s saying. Contracts are written to benefit the publisher, but many clauses are negotiable to a point. It’s your agent’s job to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal. If you don’t have an agent, it’s worth it to get an intellectual property lawyer to read through the contract and make sure there aren’t any traps. But bottom line, anything you don’t understand, ask about. It’s important to know what your rights are.

With editorial, it’s better to ask than to guess. If your editor is asking for a change you don’t understand, if there’s some part of the process that feels mysterious, do speak up and ask for clarification. The staff at a publisher are human; you will never be penalized for asking for clarification. In fact, your editor wants you to ask, because it will decrease the number of rounds of edits you have to do to get it right.

  1. Editors Are Not, In Fact, Trying to Wreck Your Soul. Art is a tough thing. We spend time on it. We put blood, sweat, and tears into our novels. Then an editor comes along with a red pen and tells you everything wrong with your book.

Fact: The editor is not trying to destroy or shame you. She’s trying to make your book as good as it can be. Edits are suggestions to improve the book.

Fact: You can dispute changes you disagree with.

Probably you’re not going to argue about grammar and punctuation. (Although I recently got into a bit of a tiff with a copyeditor who wanted a word to be lowercase that I knew should be capitalized. I got out my Chicago Manual and gave her citations, because I’m a dork. I was right. She let it stay.)  But if an editor suggests a line of dialogue that is not at all what the character would say, or suggests a scene that doesn’t make sense in the context of the plot, or if she wants you to change something you feel strongly that you don’t want to change, it’s okay to leave a comment for the editor explaining that you won’t be making the change and why. I do, of course, recommend trying not to be defensive and to give each comment the benefit of the doubt; if you get an editorial suggestion that makes you balk, mull it over before quashing it. But as long as it’s not a house style or convention of the imprint, often you can say, “I don’t want to make this change because…” and the editors will go along.

  1. A Lot of Marketing and Publicity Is Invisible. It seems to be conventional wisdom that authors have to do all the publicity heavy lifting these days, but I think a lot of authors don’t actually understand what publicists do, and also, it’s in the publisher’s best interest for your book to sell like gangbusters—if you make money, they make money—and they will do what they can to make it happen.

If you’re being published by a large publisher, you will likely be assigned a publicist. Smaller presses have smaller staffs, so there might be one or two publicists for the whole company. A lot of what they do, you won’t see. Publicists send books out for review. They put catalogs together to distribute to librarians and booksellers. They talk directly to book buyers for both indie bookstores, bookstore chains, and big box stores. A lot of that is not splashy and you don’t see it, which I think is what has led to the perception that even the big pubs don’t do any publicity for authors. Just what I’ve described there is a lot! But often they are also working on social media campaigns, attending conferences, making print ads for websites and magazines, designing promotions, etc.

Obviously, the expectation these days is for authors to do some of the work, too: you should have a website, a couple of social media accounts, and you may wish to sink some of your own money into advertising. But publishers do a lot you don’t see, too.

  1. Writing Is Never Easy Money. It’s possible your first novel will be a runaway bestseller. That’s awesome if it is! But don’t quit your day job just yet. Consider this: If you get an advance, which is increasingly rare, for a first novel it’s usually only a few thousand dollars. You probably won’t get it all at once; publishers usually do part on signing and part when the manuscript is turned in. Then remember the hurry-up-and-wait thing? A digital-first book has a production schedule of about six months; a mass market or trade paperback of about a year, give or take. Publishers pay out royalties on varying schedules; some pay monthly, many pay quarterly, some only once per year. There’s also a lag on third-party vendor payments, usually 2–3 months. So figure, once the book goes on sale, you won’t see any money for it until at least a quarter/3 months after it’s been published, and probably longer. And if you did get an advance, your royalties go toward paying it back until it’s paid back—it’s an advance on royalties, after all—so you might not see any royalties at all for a while.

Which I say not to discourage you! It’s definitely possible to make decent money from writing, and I know a few authors who have quit their day jobs. But I recommend being smart about it and waiting until you have some books in your backlist, which helps make the income stream a little more predictable.

Hopefully I’ve clarified what to expect for you, but feel free to ask questions in the comments!


erinKate McMurray writes smart romantic fiction. She likes creating stories that are brainy, funny, and of course sexy, with regular guy characters and urban sensibilities. She advocates for romance stories by and for everyone. When she’s not writing, she edits textbooks, watches baseball, plays violin, crafts things out of yarn, and wears a lot of cute dresses. She’s active in Romance Writers of America, serving for two years on the board of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter, and three—including two as president—on the board of the New York City chapter. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with two cats and too many books.

Buy Links for Damage Control (out in June):

Guest Post: Let Them Eat Cake, The New Show Don’t Tell

Michelle Hazen has some wise words for us on the essence of the SHOW DON’T TELL principle! (This post was originally published on Michelle’s blog.)

Everybody’s heard of show don’t tell, right? That’s so 90s. I say, stop abusing your readers. Let them eat cake!

Before you click out of this blog, grumbling, “There goes Michelle, off topic as usual,” think of it this way: what are your readers here for?

If you write fiction, your readers are here for a good time. A vicarious experience. So why would you short-change them by giving them the literary equivalent of Cliff’s Notes? That’s what you’re doing every time you SUMMARIZE (They sat down and chatted for a while, laughing easily as they got to know each other) or TELL (He was in love with her. More in love than he’d ever been.) Continue reading

Guest Post: From Pantser To Plotter, Sort Of

To get ready for our Project Management Chat, our guest today, Jemi Fraser shares her journey from pantsing (writing “by the seat of your pants”) to plotting a story in advance.


When I started writing, it was totally for me. As a kid, I’d created many, many stories in my head. When I had two little kids running around my house and a full time job, I decided to try writing down a Star Trek story. Over the months, every last angsty, over-the-top word poured out. I had a blast!

A year later, I wrote another story. This one was to be the first in a series with a slow-building love interest. The MC was a reporter, the hero a cop. That story poured out as well.

And thus a pantser was born.

If you haven’t heard the term, pantser applies to those who write without a plan, by the seat of their pants. This is in contrast to plotters who enjoy working with outlines and other devices of torture.

Over the next few years, I wrote a few more stories and at one point I thought I should try to write a Real Book. I discovered NaNoWriMo on October 31st that year and wrote my 50k during November, then wrote another 120k to finish the story.

That overweight story had some potential, so I ventured online and found out about agents and queries. I had no idea that so many people wanted to write novels and I was thrilled to find other aspiring writers. Then a critique group. And finally, FINALLY, I found out about revision. We’d had no creative writing courses in school and despite the thousands of words I’d written I knew nothing about revision. And the idea of plotting out the story in advance? Shocking!

Eventually I wondered if those crazy Plotters might have discovered something rather helpful. Maybe plotting wouldn’t take the joy of discovery out of the story. Maybe it would help with the ENDLESS rounds of revision I’d been working on.


With a little trepidation, I tried my own idea of Plotting.

  • Character names, jobs, and major personality traits
  • Setting
  • Crisis moment
  • Ending = HEA

Altogether, my plotting encompassed about 150 words.

It worked. Sort of.

Yes, I had a better idea of the shape of the novel, but it still left me with too much clean up.

I tried a few craft books. They hurt my head. I don’t make To Do lists. I think Big Picture and work mostly on gut and emotion. These books with their lists, questions, arcs, and bullet points probably work really, really well for people with more linear brains. My poor global brain did a lot of whimpering. Imposter Syndrome set in. Hard.

Then I stumbled across Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker. This book helped my brain relax a little bit. Libbie’s style wasn’t a perfect fit for me (are any two brains really alike?) but it was a better guideline. Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes added another layer.

Before I started my current draft, I thought a lot about my characters and their flaws. I thought about how those flaws would contribute to the plot and the problems they’d encounter along the way. I made a separate Path for each character. I blended the Paths together.

As I’m writing this, I’m nearing the end of that draft and feeling pretty good about it. I’ve tweaked the Paths as I’ve written, but I haven’t strayed too far. The biggest advantage is that the conflict is much easier to maintain.

Now I just have to wait and see how many revision rounds this story will take. Who knows, maybe it will be the one to kick start my querying process!

Continue reading

Guest Post: Engaging on Twitter Outside of #RWChat

shutterstock_321433031We’re talking about social media marketing all month long and the wonderful and ever-talented Harper Miller wrote us a little something about building up engagement on Twitter!

Social media is my jam, and it’s probably because I’m a social butterfly outside of the World Wide Web. It’s no secret I want to know all the people! Every author is told that to build a following, you need accounts on the Top Three Social Media Websites: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I have accounts on those platforms, and a few others, but sometimes those additional platforms can be tedious, so I barely use them. My Holy Grail of social media platforms is Twitter. Continue reading

Guest Post: Consent Is Key In Romance

Tamsen Parker took on the tough topic of consent in romance, as per our chat this Sunday, and she makes some great points for us to think about.

Consent has become a bigger part of the romance conversation than ever before, and it’s a conversation that is essential to have. We don’t live in the era of the bodice ripper anymore when I’d argue that women were demonstrating agency by writing stories in which they could still obtain sexual pleasure without receiving society’s censure for acting “unladylike,” or for, heaven forbid, admitting that they wanted sex. We don’t have to do that anymore. Which raises the question: what is our responsibility in regards to consent in the romances we pen?

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Love Scenes Guest Post: Don’t Speak

sexy couple drinking wineIt’s Flirty February! This week on #RWchat, we’re talking about love scenes! Regular participant LaQuette (author of the Queens of Kings series) is known for writing extra hot love scenes, so we asked her to handle this week’s guest post. Take it away, LaQuette!

I love romance novels. To my way of thinking, that should be a given since I write them for a living. I love the excitement of experiencing the couple’s journey to love. I love knowing I’m going to get a happy ending when it’s finished. And yes, I even love all of the sizzling parts that make me put down my reading device and fan myself because the chemistry and/or love scene is so hot (if you’re not having this experience while reading a romance novel you are missing out on everything that is good in life).

Now that you know I love romance novels, you should also know there is one thing that irks my reader’s brain while reading one. The one thing that will make me roll my eyes, and snatch me out of the reading experience quicker than anything else is too much dialogue during a sex scene.

For the love of all things holy, please, just NO!!

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The Impact of Setting on Story

RWchat setting graphicThis week on #RWchat, we’re talking about writing strong settings. Regular participant Kate McMurray (What’s the Use of Wondering?) teaches workshops on setting, including one that starts today, so we asked her to write a guest post for us on the power of setting. Take it away, Kate!

When we talk about craft, we often talk about plot and character, and these are of course vital parts of any novel. But so is setting, which I think often gets overlooked in the planning phase. I’d argue that setting is just as important as plot and character, and that the intersection of these three ideas is what we call story.

Your setting shouldn’t be incidental, in other words. Where and when the story takes place has to be the only place and time that your story could take place. It should influence the plot and characters. It should be a living, breathing part of the story.

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The ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ of the Author/Reviewer Relationship

RWchat romance writer chat reviews graphic

We appreciate when reviewers and librarians chime in during #RWchat to share their insights, so we’re thrilled to share this post from Maria Rose on how to build a good relationship with book reviewers. Also make sure to check out Frannie’s post on Making the Library Your *Fan(girl).


Hello everyone! My thanks to Alexis Daria for inviting me to write a guest post for RWChat on the topic of book reviews. Hopefully it will give you some insight into the reviewer perspective of what should be a positive and mutually beneficial reviewer/author relationship.

A little bit about me: I’m a long time reader of romance and in 2014 I started writing reviews for Goodreads (a book review site owned by Amazon) and book sale sites. I now write for 3 main review sites as well as guest review for others. There may be other reviewers with different perspectives than mine, but these are some of the issues I’ve seen come up with authors and fellow reviewers that I think are worth discussing. Note that my thoughts relate to non-professional book review sites/blogs, not RT, Library Journal, Kirkus etc.

Whether you are a new or established author, self-published or traditionally published, everyone can benefit from having their book reviewed. As part of a marketing plan, reviews can help bring visibility to your story, your name and your brand. Here are some tips to make your book stand out in the crowd.

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What’s in a Name?

romance writer chat name tag graphicThis week on #RWchat, we’re talking about heroes and heroines, and today’s guest post comes to us from LaQuette. We asked her to talk about the thoughtful and meaningful names in her Queens of Kings series. Take it away, LaQuette!


Hello, I’m LaQuette, your friendly erotic romance author, embracing my crazy…one character at a time.  Speaking of crazy and characters, I’m here to talk to you about my process of name selection for the crazy folks running around in my head.

I was attending a reader/writer event last year when a reader by the name of Shona asked me a thoughtful question about my characters.  She’d read my romantic suspense series, The Queens of Kings, and asked, “You named the Amare family members, Hunter, Law, Free, Justice, True, and Heart.  How did you come up with such unusual names, and what if any significance did the selection of those names have?”  If I didn’t mention that I have smart and perceptive readers, let me tell you now, my readers are the business.

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