Kitten in tall grass with text: Are Shiny Ideas Stalking You?

Me: 0. Poor planning: 1

Before I left for the Romance Writers of America conference, I ran a Bonus Contest using comments with blog post ideas as the way to enter. Great! I’m always on the lookout for suggestions, and even though I haven’t run out of ideas after six years of solid blogging, I still fear the possibility. *smile*

But then—as what always happens when I attend a writing conference—I came back from San Diego with a ton of ideas for posts as well. So now I’m drowning in ideas and struggling with deciding which ones to tackle first.

The same is often true for us with fiction. We might have multiple story ideas, so how do we decide which one we should write next?

We need a way to choose which story to develop that will prevent us from second guessing our choice. (Well, we’ll probably second guess ourselves no matter what, but we might avoid a debilitating level of indecision if we have a plan. *grin*)

We want to pick one that we feel strongly enough about that when the going gets hard—and it will—we won’t be tempted by a different shiny idea. So how should we decide?

There’s No One Right Answer

As with most things writing, there’s no one right answer. The best story idea for one author’s career path or goals or voice isn’t going to be the same for another writer. So it might not do us any good to get advice from those around us.

Instead, we can think about some of the factors that we should consider. These factors might help us develop and weigh our lists of pros and cons for our various ideas. Let’s take a look…

Story Ideas: Factors for Our Decision-Making Process

What Are Our Contracts and Other Obligations?

One problem many writers along the traditional-publishing path run into is having to deliver a book in X series because they have a contract deadline, and yet they’re really in the mood to work on Y. Usually, we can’t get around those obligations unless we’re willing to forfeit our contract and any advance.

In that situation, the best we could do is find a way to be excited about X or work backward from our deadline to figure out how many words a day (or week) we need to write. Then we could let ourselves play with our preferred story after we’ve met that word count goal on our contracted work.

Here on my blog, my Tuesday/Thursday post schedule is a similar obligation. Although it’s thankfully not a legal obligation, I’ve taken that posting schedule seriously for six years, and I don’t want to mess with my readers’ expectations or my reputation for reliability.

I have a love/hate relationship with that obligation, however. Many times, I would have preferred to skip that post, but at the same time, I know my laziness would get the best of me if I weren’t strict with myself about it.

For example, yesterday afternoon, as I was figuring out what to write for this post, my surgeon discovered that all the work we’ve done to rebuild my mouth after my jawbone infection has to come out. Yep, the infection that flared up last week and never went away—even with several antibiotics at once, at least one on the MRSA-fighting list for being extra strong—means the past six months of surgeries to remove the original infection and rebuild the bone didn’t fix anything, and we have to start back at square one. *weeps*

I came home and stared at my computer with several variations of “Crap, I still have to write my blog post” going through my head. If I didn’t have that feeling of obligation, you can bet I wouldn’t do the work.

For this instance, I’m sure my reason would be forgivable (I’m probably in surgery to remove the infected bone graft as you’re reading this), but life always happens. What about the next time, when I’m simply feeling sick? Or the time after that, when I just don’t feel like it?

If we let one thing slide, it can be easy to let other things join that pile. Even self-published authors often set deadlines just to force themselves to get things done. So we can have a positive attitude about obligations.

Whether we feel like working on it or not,
everything we finish is an accomplishment
.

What Would Be the Best for Our Career?

If we don’t have obligations, our decision process can get a little murkier. Even so, depending on our goals, we might be able to pick one option over another.

If our goals are focused on income

  • we might pick the story idea that works with current trends,
  • we might work on the next idea for the series that’s bringing in more money,
  • or if we have two books in a series, maybe we’d write a third so we can add another product to our list with a box set of all three together.

If our goals are focused on keeping our readers happy

  • we might pick the idea that our readers are asking for right now,
  • we might work on the idea they’ve been asking about the longest,
  • or we might work on the idea they’re asking for the loudest.

If our goals are to expand our reach, explore a new genre, or otherwise develop our career path along different lines, we might choose something that others wouldn’t expect. That’s why we shouldn’t always follow others’ advice for this question.

If our goals are simply to feel accomplished by finally finishing one of our stories, we might need to examine why we’ve dropped our other stories partway and see which idea doesn’t suffer from the same problems. Or maybe we’ll feel more accomplished if we complete a trilogy that’s been hanging around, begging for closure.

Yet we should also note that these goals (and there are many others—this isn’t an exhaustive list by any means) aren’t exclusive. We could pick a story idea that allows us to explore a new genre that’s trending right now.

Or maybe we want to keep our readers happy and focus on income or finishing a series. In that case, we could brainstorm ways to make more money with the story our readers are asking for (such as the box set example) or combine our sense of accomplishment with their happiness.

Whether others share our goals or not,
we have to decide what will help us the most.

What Do We Feel Passionate about Right Now?

If we don’t have obligations or if any of our ideas would help with our goals, we might be stuck with deciding based on gut instinct. In general, it’s hard to feel accomplished about a series of dead-end story beginnings. So our goal might be to pick a story idea that we’ll be able to see through to the end.

We can ask ourselves if there’s one idea we’re more excited about. If so, why are we excited?

  • Is one a stronger story idea (“stronger” could be high-concept, more hooks, more unique premise, etc.)?
  • Do we have one more fully developed than the others?
  • Does one idea resonate more with us plot, theme, or character-wise?
  • Do we feel more confident that we’d be able to finish one more than the others? Or that we’d get less distracted by tangents with one?
  • Does one speak to our current mood more? Or seem more helpful to our current mood?

When it comes to my blog post ideas, my decision often comes down to this last step. While I have the expectation from others to write a post, I don’t usually have topic-specific obligations, and with two posts a week, I can usually put off a subject until I feel like writing it.

My decision process consists of me scanning my list of blog post ideas (yes, we should keep lists) and seeing which ones I feel most excited by. Are there any ideas that strike me as more cool, or interesting, or topical than the others?

Sometimes the answer is “none of the above,” and that’s when I end up writing my post late into the night when the obligation aspect finally kicks in with the “must do”-whether-I-feel-like-it-or-not step. *smile*

Conversely, if we’re in the middle of drafting a story idea, and we find ourselves tempted by a shiny new idea, we need to ask ourselves why. Why are we more excited by this other idea?

  • Is it just that we’ve gotten to the hard part of our current idea?
  • Are we scared we won’t be able to pull off our current idea?
  • Are we suffering from writer’s block on our current idea?

If so, we’re distracting ourselves with shiny. Trust me: The shiny idea will have a hard part, a scary part, and a stuck part too.

In that case, we might be better off thinking about what made us excited about our current idea to begin with. Maybe we lost our way from our original premise. We could also brainstorm with others to get past the hard part or block, or we could ask for cheerleading that we’ll be able to pull off our idea.

Or maybe we do need to let that current idea percolate longer to find its essence, and another project in the meantime is the perfect thing. Or perhaps the shiny new idea is noticeably stronger or better (and not just because we’re making excuses for ourselves).

For example, I started my debut novel, Treasured Claim, when I was frustrated with the revisions of my currently-trunked story, and I ended up never going back to my original idea (yet). But switching to a new story and characters helped me discover my voice (and let me explore a different genre). So it’s possible for it to be a good thing to follow the shiny idea, as long as we don’t make a habit of not finishing stories.

Whether we’re passionate about an idea or not,
we can’t let that aspect allow us to make excuses.

Final Thoughts…

The reason we often struggle to decide and/or second guess ourselves is because there usually isn’t a right or wrong answer. We can work on multiple ideas at once, we can make decisions that fulfill many goals, and while we can fix most issues in a story, sometimes letting it go might be the better thing to do.

But that’s one reason why writing is such a great career. Many decisions we make aren’t permanent.

We can revise our not-quite-right prose, we can tweak our story arcs and themes, and we can either promise ourselves to work on that shiny idea after we’ve finished our current idea, or we can switch right now to the idea that speaks to us.

As long as we’re finishing stories, it usually won’t matter if we finish a story this month or three or six months from now. As long as we’re finishing stories or learning how to make stronger ideas from each abandoned story, we are accomplishing something—and that means we shouldn’t beat ourselves up or second guess ourselves too much. *smile*

Do you often have many story ideas to choose from? Do you struggle with deciding which one to work on next? Do you second guess yourself midway through a story? How do you handle the problem? Do you have any other suggestions or factors to keep in mind for our decision?

(And what do you know… Writing this post distracted me from my surgery worries. There’s the love in this love/hate relationship. *smile*)

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Conference Recap & Bonus Contest Winner!

by Jami Gold on July 19, 2016

in News

Stone plaque of Jami's win of the National Readers' Choice Award for Ironclad Devotion

I’m back from beautiful San Diego and the Romance Writers of America National Conference exhausted but happy. I want to thank Devika Fernando for filling in for me while I was gone with her post about writing multicultural stories. Be sure to check it out!

I’m going to try to make this a short post because I got only 3-4 hours of sleep each night of the conference, and I’m still struggling with my surgery recovery too. So that brings me to my quick recap of the past week…

The Bad…

Before I left, I was worried about how well I would survive the conference while still suffering from all my recent health issues. Some things weren’t too bad: My hives from the allergic reaction to my medication mostly cleared up, and my roomies were understanding of my limitations with walking due to my foot/ankle braces and the underlying nerve damage.

However, the day before I was supposed to leave for San Diego, I woke up with an infection raging at the site of my jaw surgery from a couple of weeks ago. This was the same surgery that was the next step in rebuilding my mouth after the surgery earlier this year was supposed to remove the infection in my jawbone.

One emergency trip to my surgeon later, and he put me on several antibiotics simultaneously. So I was over-medicated the whole time, and the infection still isn’t completely gone, even after nuking it. *fingers crossed* that my surgeon will figure out something, as several rounds of antibiotics over the years and old-fashioned cutting it out haven’t worked. *sigh*

The Awesome…

Even before the flare-up of the infection-that-refuses-to-die, I started off with a great sign for the week by hitting my first number one bestseller status with my free short story, Unintended Guardian. Yay!

Unintended Guardian, a #1 bestseller

At the conference itself, I got to meet tons of new people (including Rebekah Ganiere, who I loved chatting with for over an hour even though my feet were killing me *grin*).

I also didn’t die of embarrassment from hearing all the authors who thanked me for saving their stories with my beat sheets. Trust me—I’m honored to be a part of so many writers’ journeys. *smile*

The conference started off with a bang on the first full day when I won the Paranormal Romance category of the National Readers’ Choice Award for Ironclad Devotion! Woo hoo!

Jami Gold holding her NRCA for Ironclad Devotion

Yes, that’s an engraved stone plaque. Very impressive!

(Note to Newsletter Readers: Click through to the post to see pictures!)

Just a few hours later, I had my first book signing at the Indie Book Signing for my debut novel Treasured Claim. Unlike my fears of an hour and a half of twiddling my thumbs, people were constantly stopping by until I was hoarse. *grin*

Jami Gold at the Indie Book Signing

But even with all that awesomeness, the highlight of my conference was on the last night when my writing bestie, Angela Quarles, won the RITA award for Paranormal Romance for her time-travel romance, Must Love Chainmail. The RITA awards are like the Academy Award Oscars in the romance-writing world, complete with a gold statue.

If you happened to watch the live-stream broadcast of the ceremony, I have a story to share about why it took her so long to come to the stage. *cough* It’s my fault…

At her VIP table for the fancy-dress ceremony, Angela wasn’t nervous because she was convinced she wasn’t going to win. After all, she was up against La Nora. (Nora Roberts is so famous of an author that she gets a one-word name and non-romance readers have heard of her.) Angela even tried waving me away when I held her hand for the “And the winner is…” envelope-ripping. *pshaw*

When they called her name, Angela’s jaw opened, and I screamed loud enough to be heard over the live-stream broadcast. She backed up her chair and just laid her head on the table for a minute.

Once she finally stood up, I…er…tackled her in a hug, smudging her glasses. So on her trip up to the stage, she had to stop and wipe away the smudge on the jacket of our developmental editor, Jessa Slade. Oops. *grin*

Earlier in the conference, our other roommate (Marlene Relja) and I had reminded Angela to write up a speech for in case she won. And although she only had bullet points because she was so convinced she wasn’t going to win, she sounded coherent and gave several shout outs to me (and my beat sheets!) from the RITA stage. How cool is that?

Between those two awards for Angela and me, along with more RITA wins by self-published authors in other categories, I think it’s safe to say that indie publishing can be just as high of quality as traditionally published books. *fist pump* But we all knew that already, right?

…and the Bonus Contest Winner!

I want to thank everyone who left comments on my post last week with suggestions for topics they’d like to see covered here on my blog. The ideas were all fantastic, and I’ll do my best to either write about them myself or find a guest poster who could help us all out. Thank you!

But only one of those ideas can win the Bonus Contest, and random.org says the winner is…

Lollyletsgo

Congratulations! You should receive an email from me within the next day, so start thinking about what prize you want from my Blogiversary list or something else that appeals to you.

Now I’m going to collapse and save up energy to start putting together a more insightful post for next time. *smile*

What’s been the highlight of your writing career so far? Do you have a writing friend who you’d be more excited for than for yourself? What’s your impression of self-published books and their potential for high quality? Have you struggled with illness while writing? How do handle the problem?

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Figures holding hands in front of international map with text: Exploring Different Cultures

Sometimes we can burn out on a certain genre or type of story as either a writer or a reader. Maybe in a series, we struggle to come up with new concepts that we haven’t already explored in other books of the series.

Or as a reader, maybe we’ve read so many of one type of story that the plots and characters all start to blend together. Whole parodies (and Twitter accounts) have grown up around the many dystopian young adult books. I tend to binge-read series, which exacerbates this problem as well.

Either way, unique stories, situations, characters, and premises are valuable. Yes, some say only a handful of stories exist in the world, but they don’t have to feel that way.

In addition to finding unique stories in different types of characters, situations, etc., we can also explore different cultures. As a special treat while I’m in San Diego at the RWA National Conference, Devika Fernando, my guest today, shares her advice on writing about different cultures.

I love the unique premises for Devika’s multicultural stories, and she’s here today to share her tips. Although she writes romance, her insights apply to any genre. Please welcome Devika Fernando! *smile*

*****

Want to Write a Multicultural Story?

First of all, a huge, smiling thank you to Jami Gold for having me on her amazing blog. I’ve been following it for years, and it’s a real treasure trove for writers, maybe even worth more than gold.

I feel strongly about diversity in writing, in more than one sense… which might be because I’m half German, half Sri Lankan and have always lived with half of my brain and half of my heart in each country.

I also find it sad that while we are so readily accepting ‘foreign’ aspects in all other areas of our life (food, fashion, music, movies), writing still lags behind. Especially interracial and multicultural books are few and far between.

Personally, I love reading and writing this kind of romance because it’s so full of possibilities. That’s not to say that I haven’t run up against a few walls.

Here’s an overview about the pros and cons, the fun and challenges of writing multicultural romance:

The Pros: Two Cultures – Twice the Fun!

  • Unique Settings:

I love picking an exotic setting for a book. And with my multicultural romance novels, I make sure that the country is where one of the protagonists is from. It opens up a whole world of plot ideas and a way to make them meet. If one of them is new to the experience, it can highlight the conflict on the one hand and give them an opportunity to get closer on the other hand.

In my first interracial romance novel, Saved in Sri Lanka, the heroine is a tour guide from Sri Lanka, and the hero is a tourist from Ireland. It seemed like the perfect set-up for them to share all kinds of adventures and fall for each other along the way.

  • Extra Sources of Conflict:

Romance novels live on the premise of a good conflict, a valid reason why the relationship won’t work (at first glance) or why the characters think they’re not suited for each other. And what better conflict than to have two cultures clashing?

The hero and heroine could have totally different opinions on something important, simply because they grew up in different surroundings. I love writing about little misunderstandings that can sometimes add either humor or drama.

Even if both people are from the same country and just different ethnicities, you’ll never be short of ideas for clashes. And it’ll make their connection seem deeper and more genuine if they have things in common and fall in love despite the differences.

  • Play with Language and Context:

I’m a bit of a language nerd and closet linguist (I know 8 languages, though with half of them, the knowledge is only very basic). An international romance novel gives me the chance to include snippets of another language to give the characters more authenticity. That in itself can be a challenge, though.

Firstly, you need to make sure you don’t just rely on Google Translate and end up using totally wrong words. If possible, check with a native speaker.

Secondly, you shouldn’t overdo it. If you write whole sentences in a foreign language, you’ll need to provide the translation, which reads awkwardly. It’s better to stick to commonly known words and self-explanatory phrases or embed the words in a context that makes the reader guess what’s being said.

  • Learn New Things:

As a reader, I love learning new things—and as an author, I love sharing new things. Multicultural romance novels are perfect for that, even more so than contemporary romance that is set in a certain country. It adds an exotic appeal to the whole thing that makes the story linger in the reader’s mind.

The Cons: Two Cultures – Twice the Work!

  • Over-Researching for Dead-End Details:

I’ve had readers tell me that they love to read about different countries, especially if they get to see them through the eyes of the character(s). My only problem is that I tend to fall in love with the setting so much that it takes up a life of its own.

I think it’s a trap a lot of authors fall into: We do so much research and we feel like we’re living somewhere, so we end up including all the little details and waxing lyrical, with long descriptions or funny anecdotes which aren’t essential to the story.

It’s something authors need to be extra-careful about if they write interracial romance set in a different country. If you want to show off a landmark, have the protagonists travel there and interact with it. If you want to write about local cuisine or customs, weave it into the story and let it tie in with or even advance the plot.

  • Need to Fill in the Blanks of Our Experience:

Again and again, I hear the age-old advice “write what you know.” When it comes to multicultural romance, that’s a bit difficult.

You probably only know the background and backstory of one character (the one who shares your ‘race’ or citizenship), and you’ll be left in the dark with the other one. Then again, if we all only stuck to what we actually ‘know,’ a million books would never be written.

It’s like approaching fantasy or paranormal romance: Just allow yourself to be the character. Sink into his or her skin, and above all, do your research.

You’ll get a feel for things and be able to identify enough to tell the story, even if a lot of things might seem unfamiliar at first. The good thing about it: Readers will most likely have the same experience.

  • Extra Work to Get Things Right:

It can be scary to write about a place and ethnicity you don’t know, and even with the most intensive research, you’re bound to get some little detail wrong or have people from said country point something out to you.

Don’t let it get you down. Even writing about your own home town doesn’t mean you’ll get everything right. Give it your best, and dare to be different.

  • Watch Out for Stereotypes:

Stereotypes will jump all over you when you embark on writing interracial romance. Avoid them like the plague (sorry, pun intended).

A small amount of them will crawl in automatically, and that’s unavoidable precisely because you want to highlight what’s typical about a certain group of people or setting, and because you rely on research rather than hands-on experience.

Used the right way, a stereotype can pull readers in who are looking for something specific or enjoy a certain trope. A hot Spanish Latin lover hasn’t hurt anyone yet…

Just don’t overdo it and don’t paint a picture of what you see or think people want to see, but stick to the facts. For my second multicultural romance novel, Seduced in Spain, I asked a friend from Spain to be my beta reader, and she pointed out things that were a bit too clichéd and also gave me some wonderful tips about what is and isn’t typically Spanish.

  • Prepare for Book Cover Issues:

I do my own book covers, and that has led me to a sad discovery: It’s nearly impossible to find a cover that will have an interracial couple that looks just right.

While there are always some token “black and white” couples (no offense intended at all), finding a mix with one of the partners being Asian or a different kind of European than the standard Caucasian look is like searching a hay stack for a needle.

If somebody asked me whether it was more fun or more challenging to write an interracial romance novel, I’d answer with “definitely more fun, but not a walk in the park.”

I’m planning a third novel for my ‘Romance Round the World’ series, because when it boils down to it, any kind of writing involves research, a lot of thought and a couple of hurdles thrown into the author’s path. And like my readers, I just love the thrill of the ‘exotic.’

*****

Devika FernandoAlmost as soon as Devika Fernando could write, she imagined stories and poems. After finishing her education in Germany and returning to her roots in Sri Lanka, she got a chance to turn her passion into her profession.

Having lived in Germany and in Sri Lanka with her husband has made her experience the best (and the worst) of two totally different worlds – something that influences her writing. Her trademark is writing sweet and sensual, deeply emotional romance stories where the characters actually fall in love instead of merely falling in lust.

What she loves most about being an author is the chance to create new worlds and send her protagonists on a journey full of ups and downs that will leave them changed. She draws inspiration from everyone and everything in life.

Besides being a romance novel author, Devika is a faithful servant to all the cats and dogs she has adopted. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or thinking about writing.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Google+ | Goodreads | Wattpad

*****

About Saved in Sri Lanka:

Some people are destined to meet.

It sure feels that way when Sri Lankan tour guide Sepalika meets Daniel. The mysterious tourist from Ireland steals his way into her heart and makes her question everything her life is built upon. Instant attraction turns to love – but does he feel the same? And what about the secret she’s hiding from him?

Follow the two on their quest for a happy ending amid the beauty and wonders of the tropical island paradise of Sri Lanka.

Collage of Devika's covers with text: Just You & Me -- We'll prove to the world that true love knows no boundaries, no colours, no limits.

About Seduced in Spain:

Sometimes all that two people need to make things right is a second chance…

Nine years ago, Alejandro broke Emily’s heart, but a business trip to Spain forces her to be in his company again. Old wounds are reopened and new temptations complicate things even more. When life leaves her no choice, she realizes that sometimes the heart doesn’t listen to the brain.

Will Emily win the battle against her forbidden desire and Alejandro’s charm, or will history repeat itself?

*****

Thank you, Devika! As you know, I’ve run into many of these same issues with my books (like the problem of finding stock book cover images), but I’ve also enjoyed many of those pros as well, so your run-down of the pros and cons is spot on. *smile*

While we don’t want to latch onto multicultural, interracial, or diverse stories just because we think it’s a “trend” (since when has reality been trendy?), we don’t want to ignore the possibilities of exploring cross-cultural stories either. With this list of pros and cons and a high amount of empathy for the differences we might encounter, we’ll hopefully be able to fairly portray an unfamiliar culture and be true to our characters at the same time.

Like Devika, I think the benefits of working on a unique story and situation make up for any extra work. I love coming up with stories that aren’t just a retread of something we’ve all seen before, and we might appeal to readers who feel the same way. *smile*

Do you have any questions for Devika? Have you ever written or read interracial / multicultural romance? What made it special to you? Do you think it’s important to stretch ourselves to come up with unique stories? Can you think of other pros or cons for writing multicultural stories?

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Blogiversary Winners & a Bonus Contest!

by Jami Gold on July 12, 2016

in News

Tic-tac-toe game with winner and text: It's Not Over Yet... A Bonus Contest!

Woo hoo! I officially made it to the six-year mark on my blog, and now I’m looking forward to another year with all of you. *smile*

On my post announcing my annual Blogiversary Contest, we had enough comments to earn three winners. In fact, we were just a couple of comments away from earning four winners.

So. Close. *sigh*

I always struggle with the part where random.org selects the winners because I wish I could give everyone a prize. And this year, when we were so close to earning another winner, doubles that issue for me.

I’ve said it before, and I really mean it. You’re the reason I blog, and I appreciate you so much that I wish I could do something for each one of you.

So… I’m going to do a bonus level of the contest.

In addition to the three winners of my Blogiversary Contest, I’m going to award a fourth prize, but there are strings… *smile*

Introducing…The Bonus Contest!

On my original Blogiversary post, the rules were simple: Just leave a comment—any comment—to enter. For this bonus fourth prize, the comment has to be a bit more serious.

To enter my Bonus Contest and have a chance at the fourth prize, you have to leave a comment on this post with a question, request for a worksheet, insight, etc. that gives me an idea for a future post that I can write and share here at my blog.

Just like with my original Blogiversary post, I don’t want to leave out readers of my books, so the comment doesn’t have to be a writing craft or publishing question. Readers (or writers!) are welcome to comment with questions about my books, characters, inspirations, etc. as well.

I’ll leave this Bonus Contest open until midnight Eastern time on Sunday, July 17th, 2016. The winner will be chosen by a combination of being a valid entry (with a good or interesting future post idea) and random selection. That is, the winner won’t necessary be the best idea, but their comment does have to be a valid idea for a future post.

(Unlike my Blogiversary Contests, I won’t close comments here at the deadline so that readers coming across this post later will feel welcome to ask questions, but only comments left before that time are eligible for the contest.)

Blogiversary Contest Winners

And now, the part you’ve all really been waiting for…the winners from my 6th Annual Blogiversary Contest!

C.C. Cedras

Mary Stewart

Liz Searle

Congratulations to you all!  You should receive an email from me within the next day, so start thinking about what prize you want.  Should I be worried? *smile*

Do you have any questions for me? Any requests for worksheets? Any ideas for future blog posts? Any suggestions of which prize the winners should pick? *grin*

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Stick figure at a chalkboard with text: What's Your Reader Retention Plan?

It’s time once again for my monthly guest post over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. We’ve been exploring the choices for what path we want to follow in our indie publishing career, and today, we’re digging even deeper into how to walk our chosen path.

My series about Indie Publishing Paths at Fiction University has highlighted some of the choices we have to make and given us a few guidelines for figuring out how to make the best decisions for us.

We started off talking about knowing our goals. The retailers’ “rules” and best practices for self-publishing are ever-changing—and the advice is ever-conflicting—so we need to have an understanding of why we’re choosing certain paths so we can adapt as the industry changes.

Depending on our priorities, we might make different choices about distribution, release schedules, or pricing. I focused on each of those areas in the previous segment of the series, calling them the where, when, and how much of our decision process.

My current posts in the series are focusing on how to make the most of those choices we made. We’re in the midst of a discussion on how to keep our readers after they finish our book.

Janice Hardy's Fiction University banner

Today’s Part Five digs deeper into another option we mentioned in Part One for how to keep our readers from one book to the next: offering extra content on our website.

Bonus content on our website encourages our readers to engage with us or form a deeper connection with us. Either way, an engaged and connected reader is more likely to stick around, remember our name, want to support us by purchasing our books, etc.

Sounds great, right? But how do we do it?

In this month’s post at Fiction University, I’m covering the basics of what our website should include as well as giving a brainstorming list of ideas for extra content we could offer.

  • The Basics: Do you know what three questions our website must answer? Do you know what goals we should focus on when including those answers?
  • The Extras: Whether we’re at the beginning of our publishing career or have a ravenous fanbase clamoring for our next book, something on this list is bound to give us ideas.

Unless we’re a web-programming wizard, we probably don’t want to take away from our writing time to create a complicated website. Luckily, many of these ideas don’t take much time at all.

For example, I love Pinterest and often save images that inspire or remind me of my stories (which I do use while drafting the story), and it doesn’t take any time at all to make those Pinterest boards from each book public. Then, with just a minute of my time, I can embed a widget of each board onto that book’s page on my site.

For instance, on my page for Treasured Claim, I have a teaser of that book’s board:

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Treasured Claim on Pinterest

 Follow Jami Gold’s board My Books: Treasured Claim on Pinterest.

(Newsletter readers: Click through to this post to see the widget image.)

So this step doesn’t have to be a time-stealer—unless we want it to be (putting together some of these extras might be fun for us!). From book-specific extras like deleted scenes that would otherwise go to waste to general extras like photos of readers holding our book, we can entice our readers to connect and engage more deeply with us and our books—all while keeping our writing time in mind.

I hope you’ll join me at Fiction University for this month’s post!

Have you thought about what bonus or extra content you could include on your website? Do you have some on your website already? If so, what do you have? What bonus content do you most enjoy as a reader? Has it worked to get you more interested in the author, signing up for their newsletter, their future books, their story world, etc?

P.S. Last call to enter my 6th Annual Blogiversary Contest!

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The Ultimate #RWA16 Conference Packing List

July 5, 2016 Over-Achieving Perfectionist
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I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again, and I’ll be doing my first book signing, but the stress? Ugh. It’s a good thing I have my handy-dandy ultimate packing list from the last time I went to RWA National.

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Strengthen Your Writing with Rhetorical Devices

June 30, 2016 Writing Stuff
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If you’re anything like me, and your English or grammar instruction was less than ideal, you might not be familiar with the term rhetorical devices. But once I did learn about them, I quickly became aware of how using rhetorical devices can strengthen our writing—even if we’re writing genre stories.

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6th Annual Blogiversary Contest — Prize: Me! Wait…er, What?

June 28, 2016 News
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It’s that time of year again. My six-year blogiversary is coming up on July 12th. And I’m once again amazed by the fact that I’ve been writing this blog for six years. How can something feel like yesterday and forever at the same time?

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4 Steps to Break Grammar Rules with Style — Guest: Julie Glover

June 23, 2016 Writing Stuff
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While we need to learn grammar rules for our writing, if we follow the rules too strictly, we can strangle our voice,. Today, Julie Glover shares her tips on four steps to break grammar rules in a good way.

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Why Is “Unlikable” Often a Deal-Breaker for Readers?

June 21, 2016 Random Musings
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A recent article about unlikable heroines pointed out that likability is often more of a problem for female characters than for male characters. While I’ve learned how to minimize those issues with my characters, the problem still rankles me.

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