Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, marketing, publishing, query letter, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Writing a blurb that catches reader’s attention

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It’s always a challenge to boil down and entire story into a few hundred words when writing a blurb. Most writers hate this part of publishing. We took all this time developing details and intricacies and now we have to take all of that back out and convince someone to buy it in two paragraphs or less.

How do you do that well?

Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years.

A blurb is a sales pitch

The first sentence must grab the reader’s attention. Think of this sentence as an elevator pitch. It should capture the most interesting part of the story. That may be the conflict, mystery, romance, etc. Whatever it is that will most make readers want to check out your book, mention it in the first line.

This first sentence often sits by itself before the bulk of the blurb, giving it a better chance to catch the reader’s attention. The preview on most ebook retailers barely gives you more than a sentence or two before readers have to click “read more,” so make that first sentence count.

Format the blurb according to genre conventions

Contemporary romance tends to use short, 1-2 sentence paragraphs that highlight main points of the storyline. Historical romance tends to use longer paragraph with a more in-depth summary of each point of interest. Study blurbs on Amazon in your genre to make sure you’re formatting correctly.

Of course, sometimes you need to break out of conventions and do your own thing. Just make sure there’s a reason for using a unique format and that it conveys the tone or action of your story.

Typewriter illustrationStart with a formula that works

First, introduce the situation, then tell readers about the main problem or source of conflict, and indicate the twist without giving too much away. Effective blurbs often end with a question or with a sentence that sets the overall mood of the story.

Don’t give away the ending. This isn’t a synopsis. It’s a tease.

Leave the side characters out of it

Introduce the main characters and leave the side characters for the reader to discover once they start reading. It’s important to get readers interested in the characters right away. Give their name, a few important traits that make them unique or interesting, what their situation is, and what dilemma or conflict they’re going to face.

Don’t try to introduce side characters in the blurb. It only clutters the pitch and may make readers lose interest.

Use a cliffhanger

This isn’t a must, but for many stories a cliffhanger ending in a blurb will be a good nudge toward purchasing. Avoid giving away too much in a blurb. Present the problem and leave readers wondering how the character will overcome it.

This answer shouldn’t be too obvious, though. Even with books that are more formulaic, it’s important to make the reader curious about how this particular story will unfold. Most romances end in a happily-ever-after scenario, but they don’t all reach it the same way.

Open Blue BookChoose your words carefully

Communicate the tone of the story with words that fit the genre and situation. A dark thriller will use more intense wording while a rom-com will use light, fun words. Word choice should also match the time period and regional setting. It’s also all right to use hyperbole when appropriate, such as “unimaginable” for a shocking crime or “intoxicating” for a sudden and passionate romance, but don’t overdo it.

Keep it short and to the point

Blurbs should run 100-150 words in most cases. Don’t try to tell the reader everything you think might interest them. Stick to the important highlights.

It may be helpful to start writing a blurb with bullet points to sift out what should and shouldn’t be mentioned.

There’s no one correct way to right a blurb that will help sell a book, but starting with proven tactics and expanding from there can help you craft an enticing blurb.

Posted in journalism, publishing, query letter, writing

Getting to the editor

Working as the editorial assistant for a newspaper has given me some insights about getting past the general email account and to the editor’s virtual desk.

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I work for a small, local paper, but we still get a crazy amount of submissions and requests for op-eds and guest columnists. It was pretty overwhelming at first to learn how to filter these. The editor gave me the basics my first day and spent a couple weeks answering my questions about what was important and who was interested in what. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it pretty well now, and it’s taught me a few things that can be applied to both submitting fiction and articles.

Dear Editor

This isn’t a new realization, because this is the first thing I learned when I started querying fiction, but being on the other side of the query has impressed the importance of this piece of advice.

Figure out who you’re sending your query to!

Addressing an email to Dear Editor, the name of the paper/agency, hello everyone, or no salutation at all is a waving red flag to click the trash button.

Why?

For one, it shows the sender didn’t bother to do two minutes of homework to find out who they should be sending their query to. Second, it’s a clear indication that the sender used the BCC to hide that it’s a mass email to every publication they could find contact information for. Laziness, on both accounts. These types of emails are the first ones I weed out in the morning.

Why would I care about this?

Then next thing I look for when culling emails is relevance. As I said, I work at a small, local paper. Aside from AP wire stories, we only cover local issues and events. The first thing I check on media releases and PSAs is the dateline. If it’s out of our coverage area…trash.

The next thing I look for is whether or not it’s relevant content. For the newspaper I work for, this means it not only has to be a local issue, but it has to fit into one of our sections. We don’t have a technology section, or an aging gracefully section, or a rap music section. I still get emails about random topics or locations we don’t cover every day.

This applies to fiction publishers as well. If the agency or publisher doesn’t work with your genre, don’t waste your time querying them. It’s annoying and wastes their time, too. Your query is not going to make a publisher suddenly decide to take on a new genre any more than it will make a newspaper add a whole new section their readers aren’t interested in. Do your homework.

The lonely link

I am not clicking on random links. I’m just not. If some sends me a link or list of links saying So and So Author has a new article available, I am not clicking on it. To the trash it goes. Same goes for attachments with no description or information.

Let me tell you how to do your job…

There is a difference between doing your research and providing all the pertinent information (section, date, topic, etc.) and attempting to tell someone how to do their job. Emails demanding I place a certain PSA in a particular section on a particular day when neither matches up with our publishing schedule and section requirements is a quick way to irritate whoever is reading your email.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Do your research! And be polite. Demands rarely go over well with anyone, and certainly not publishers and papers who receive dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions a day and have rules and requirements for every inch of the paper.

Be direct

Unless submission requirements specifically direct you to use the general account, send you query directly to whoever should actually be reading it. Newspapers, agencies, and publishing houses have specific people who deal with specific topics or genres. It takes more effort for me to figure out who should be looking at something, and it’s much more likely to get deleted.

If there’s a list of who handles what, and you’re invited to submit directly, for the love of God, figure out who might be interested in your work and send it directly to them! Your chances of it being seen will be much higher if the person who makes the decision sees it first. I don’t think I’m alone in prioritizing emails specifically sent to me over ones that are forwarded.

So, what should you do?

Basically the opposite of everything I just said.

  1. Address your email to the right person (and spell their name correctly).
  2. Only send relevant content the organization has stated they have an interest in.
  3. Provide a full and interesting description/query, not just a link or lazy “Are you interested in this?” with an attachment.
  4. Provide all the relevant or requested details without being pushy or demanding.
  5. Send queries to the right person.

Basically, put the time and effort in to figure out how to query an organization correctly and be polite about it.

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Posted in book covers, books, contemporary romance, cover design, date shark, date shark series, ebooks, editing, publishing, romance, writing

Re-releasing the Date Shark series

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Earlier this year, I got the rights back to my Date Shark series, and I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as simply republishing them for several reasons.

The editing on the first book had been horrible, and I realized when I started re-editing that the edits I had sent back to the publisher five years ago had been ignored. I’d received multiple complaints about the editing from readers when it first published, but it was out of my hands at that point.

The editing did improve over time as the publisher I was working with upgraded their editing staff, but there were still enough errors remaining that I knew the entire series needed to be re-edited. That process took me almost five months because I didn’t have a lot of spare time after starting a new job at the newspaper and taking on a few too many freelance projects.

I also needed new cover art before I could republish the series. I was happy to redo the first book’s cover, but I had chosen the model art for books two through four, so at least I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. My main challenge was not being able to use the cool shark fin A in the original cover art and trying to find something comparable. My husband helped me choose a new font and rightly steered me away from trying to include any water-like effects and just go with the sketched shark logo instead.

My next challenge was when to re-release each book. I asked other authors and got advice on scheduling, but in the end, it took me so long to format each book that they ended up spacing themselves out well enough, for the most part. Books two and three released within days of each other because, honestly, I was sick of working on them and just wanted to be done.

Going back through these books was actually a fun experience overall. I hadn’t chatted with these characters in almost three years and had forgotten how much I loved them! Sabine and Michael’s story is still my favorite of the series, and rereading the books reminded me that poor Leo never got to have his own story.

I had planned to give Leo a voice as the final book in the series, but because of issues with the publisher and limited writing time back then, I stored the idea away for later. I do have some other projects that need attention, but I want to eventually come back to Leo’s story and finish off the series by giving him his own happy ending.

For now, the series is back up on all the major retailers and ready to meet new readers!

You can find all the links here.

Posted in books, publishing, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

#AuthorChat with @TS_Krupa

Last week I was able to try something a little different!

https://blab.im/ts-krupa-authorchat-with-delsheree-gladden” target=”_blank”>TS Krupa, author of “The Ten Year Reunion,” invited me to chat on a new-ish platform called Blab. The neat thing about this is that you get audio and video, split-screen, as you watch the chat session. It was so much fun!

The replay of the chat is stored on the site and available to watch at any time!

https://blab.im/ts-krupa-authorchat-with-delsheree-gladden

author chat

Posted in ebooks, publishing

Google Play: God of eBooks? I think not.

Amazon gets a lot of crap for their relations with indie authors at times. In my personal dealings with Amazon, they’ve done a great job of helping me when I need help, fixing things that get screwed up, and answering questions. I don’t love every single thing about Amazon and how it works in relation to ebook publishing, but I’ve had a very good experience with them.

Play StoreEnter Google Play…

I feel like I should follow that up with a “dun, dun, dun” because the experience I just had with them certainly wasn’t pleasant nor the kind of thing that would lead me to recommend their service to, well, anyone.

What drove me to Google Play?

Many of my Wattpad readers aren’t in the US. In fact, a hefty majority of them are not. Not everyone can get on Amazon and order books. The Play store is easier for some of them to use and several mentioned their parents had set up monthly allowances for them on the Play store and they could buy my books there if only they were available. So, I went on a search to figure out how to add my books to the Play store.

That seriously took forever. The setup when I first looked into it was ridiculously complicated and the system was pretty buggy. I gave up after a while. Recently though, I got asked again if my books were on the Play store and re-investigated. Surprisingly, the platform had improved enough that I could at least get through the process of adding all my books.

Done, right?

Not quite.

The last few months I’ve noticed my sales figures on Amazon dropping bit by bit. That happens pretty much every summer, so I didn’t think much of it at first. But it kept dropping.

This summer has been super busy for our family so I wasn’t paying great attention to what was going on with my books on Amazon until I went in to setup and price my Aerling Box Set and realized several of my books were being pretty steeply discounted on Amazon.

Given that I hadn’t changed the price on any other platform for Amazon to price match, I wondered what on earth was going on? I shot off an email to Amazon asking what the deal was, and as always they sent me back a quick reply saying the book in question was currently discounted more than $1 (That’s a lot in ebooks) on…you guessed it…Google Play store.

So, of course, my next online stop was my Play account to figure out how the price had gotten changed. Hacker? Kids playing around when I left my computer on? Magic?

Question MarkThe answer…?

Google Play Store itself. Yep. They apparently think of themselves as the GOD of ebook publishing. Every single one of my books that wasn’t already free had been discounted between 0.50 and $1. You can bet I was pissed. A quick internet search and a Facebook post brought back some interesting answers.

Buried inside the user agreement for the Play store it says, Play gets to price your content however it wants. You can set your own price, sure, but they’re going to ignore it. Thinking, surely that can’t be true, because what kind of company tells their content producers that sure you can sell your stuff with us, but we get to pick the price and you just have to live with it even if it negatively affects your sales with other merchants?

Surely not, right?

Surely YES.

When I opened up a chat session with customer service and put the question about the discounting straight to them, their answer was, “WE’RE GOOGLE. WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT.”

Okay, that wasn’t the exact wording, but it was indeed the answer to my question. NO they would not change the price back. NO they would not compensate for royalties lost because Amazon price matched them. NO they didn’t care that this might be an adverse effect of their pricing policy. NO. Just NO.

My answer to them?

NO

See ya later Google!

I pulled all my books as soon as I closed the chat and I will no longer be offering any of my books on the Play store or any platform that so blatantly disregards and takes advantage of the people providing them with content. I’m far from the only person who’s had to deal with this–as I found out after posting the question on Facebook–and I won’t be the last.

I know I’m not the kind of author who can say, DON’T sell your books on Google Play and suddenly everyone will abandon it, but I help authors get started in indie or hybrid publishing fairly often. I teach publishing and writing class at our local community college–which I know isn’t a huge deal–but you can bet I will never again include Play as a legitimate and worthwhile publishing platform in my recommendations or classes.

Thank you for the lesson learned Google Play.

Posted in publishing, query letter

Writing a Query Letter: Part 1

The query writing process incorporates some of the most frustrating aspects of publishing.

But…it’s necessary no matter what publishing option you choose

Typewriter illustrationWhat is a query letter?

According to Jane Friedman, the CEO and co-founder of Open Road Integrated Media, this is the definition:

To seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.

In other words, it’s your pitch to agents, publishers, and readers.

Query Letter Basics

◦ONE PAGE

◦Pitch to “sell” your book

◦Professional letter

◦First impression

◦Book MUST be finished!

But First…

How to sift through the billion search results to find an agent to query?

Blond Business WomanQuery Tracker

Agent Query

Publisher’s Marketplace

Preditors and Editors

Dark Markets (Short Stories/Mags)

◦Agent Interviews

◦Be as SPECIFIC as possible

◦Social Media Stalking 😉

Nest week I’ll be discussing the parts of a query letter in detail, or if you want the full lecture now, check it out out on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast now.

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

Posted in publishing

Publishing Primer: Publishers Part Two

Today we’ll be discussing some of the disadvantages of working with a publisher. To find the post discussing the advantages, click HERE.

So, let’s talk why you might not want to work with a publisher. With every publishing track there are negatives and positives.


bb5f5-clock2balarm2bclockTime

Publisher’s timetable
6 months to one year +
Bigger publisher = slower
Sequels or other books may be delayed to accommodate other authors
Publishers have to prioritize (money is a big deciding factor)


c4223-robotcartoonMarketing

Majority of the marketing (time and cost) will fall to you
Small publishers have limited budgets
Large publishers have larger budgets, but it’s funneled to large projects
Results of marketing (time and money) is split with publisher


Rope 2Loss of Control

3-5 years is not uncommon (may be less)
Lose ability to post or publish your work in any other capacity
Book production is up to your publisher’s discretion. You may be asked for input, but the final decision is theirs
Future works may automatically fall under the control of your publisher as well\


Dollar SignMoney

Royalty rates TO THE AUTHOR vary
Large publisher: 5-25% (5-15 on print, 25 on ebooks)
Small publisher: 30-40% (all formats)
Hybrid publisher: 40-50% (ebook only)
Royalties help publishers recoup the initial expenses
This can be a large percentage of money the author will never see


Choosing whether or not to work with a publisher is just as important and choosing a publisher. Research is key!