A cupcake stand filled with decorated cupcakes with text: How to Plan a Book Launch Party (for Online or Off!)

When many of us first start writing, we might have dreams about what our life as an Author will be like. We might imagine our life changing, being more dramatic, or that we’ll become famous.

Of course as we get more involved with the writing community, we learn that’s not how it usually goes. In fact, most authors say their release day is much like any other. Some tweet and Facebook their news and promo with unwashed hair and an unfashionable T-shirt. (Not that I have any personal experience with that. *shifty eyes*)

But it’s okay to want more. To want to celebrate our accomplishment. To stop and appreciate what we’ve done. Because it is awesome, and it deserves to be celebrated.

One way we can feel good about our accomplishments and get more from the experience is to hold a book launch party. The best thing is that we get to decide what kind of party we want: a small inexpensive in-person party with our biggest supporters, a huge online extravaganza, a fun get-together with trinkets and decorations, etc.

Today, my vacation-fill-in guest poster is an expert at all types of launch parties. Tamar Hela has the best Pinterest board, filled with ideas from the web and examples of what she’s used at the parties she’s organized.

Her ideas look so fun that they’re almost enough to make this extreme introvert sorry she didn’t have a release party for her debut. *grin* Today’s post is long but a keeper—filled with tips and to-do lists for all kinds of parties. Please welcome Tamar Hela!

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How to Plan and Host
a Successful Book Launch Party

So you’ve written your book, had it edited and polished to perfection, and now it’s ready to launch. That was the easy part.

Now comes the marketing, promotion, sales tracking, etc. But before you start your campaigns and draft Excel sheets to measure ROI and advertising results (and all that other marketing mumbo jumbo), you need to celebrate all the hard work that went into making the book in the first place.

A.K.A.: You need to have a party!

After all, you’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into your amazing book, so it’s time to celebrate. There are two ways to host a party for your book: host one online, or host one at a physical venue. I’ve hosted both types of parties, so I’m going to share my experiences and best practices for hosting a successful book launch party.

Online Book Launch Party

Definition: An online party to celebrate the launch of your book on: Facebook, your website, Twitter, Google+, etc.

Tamar Recommends: Hosting a launch party on Facebook to take advantage of the “Create Event” feature.

What to Do Before the Launch Party

If you’re independently published, you’ll need to make sure you have a concrete launch date to plan accordingly. If you’re traditionally published, keep your launch date in mind when planning all of your pre-release activities.

Assuming you already have an author platform that includes a Facebook fan page for your brand, use that page to create the event. Since many of you, I’m sure, are visual learners, I’ve taken screenshots to demonstrate how to make an event.

(Jami’s note: Newsletter readers will need to click through to the post to see the images.)

  1. Head over to your Facebook fan page and find the “Create Event” button.

Screenshot for Create Event

  1. This is the screen you’ll get once you click “Event.”

Screenshot of Create Event dialog box

  1. Next, fill out the details for your event. For the time period you choose, be sure that you can actually preside over the event for that whole time. I didn’t do so until recently, and being able to check in often actually helped the event to be more successful. Below is a simple sample of mine:

Screenshot example of Create Event dialog box

  1. Once your details are there, the actual event Page will pop up. Check the details, upload a cover photo for the event—never leave the photo area empty!—and decide if you want to spend some money on promoting your event by paying for a Facebook ad. (See my notes on the picture.) You can also start to invite your guests. Either invite everyone, or be more targeted in your approach.

Note: Sometimes I just invite all the people on my friends list, expecting about 20% of them to even respond; other times, I target the guest list to those I know are my readers, etc. If you make the event public, then you can have a larger reach as well, and even allow guests to invite others.

Screenshot of FB Event Page

  1. During the lead up time to the event, you can input teaser posts, getting guests excited for the launch. You can even post excerpts of your book, etc., do some giveaways, or put up links for pre-ordering your book. Here’s a simple post I made on my event page (for now):

Screenshot of FB Event posts

Other things to consider before the actual launch event:

  • Think of some giveaways. You can use something like Rafflecopter to gain more followers on your social media sites, or you can do polls/quizzes/trivia and pick a random winner.
  • Think of conversation starters. Just because you can’t see your guests face-to-face doesn’t mean you should stay radio silent on the event page. Let guests know that you’re hanging out on the page, make some posts, and get some conversations started.
    For example, you can use an icebreaker like: Hey, everyone! Tell me what your favorite book is.
  • Invite other authors to join you. By now, you should at least be friends (online friendships count!) with one author. Personally, because I write YA, I have a sizable network of YA authors in my network. They are the ones who I would ask to be a part of the event.
    How, you ask? By asking them if they want to do a “takeover” on the event page.
    Example: I send a message to my writer friend, Jane Writer, and ask her if she wants to “host” on my event page for 30 minutes. She can talk about her book, do giveaways of her own, and network with my readers.
    Why would I do that? Because it always pays to give back, and because she can invite her network to my event, thus exposing me to new readers. Smart, right? :)
    Before the event, be sure to follow up with the participating authors to remind them of their commitment.
  • Create a quick video to invite people to the event, or even just talk up how excited you are for the event. When your enthusiasm comes across loud and clear to your invitees, they’ll get excited, too.
  • Besides conversation starters, draft a list of topics to discuss and shape it into a schedule. You can figure out how many teasers or excerpts to share—chronologically or otherwise. You can come up with a list of questions about your series, or books/literature in general.
    Pretend it’s just like an in-person event, where you can mingle with the guests and talk about many different things. The possibilities are endless, and for those of you more introverted, there’s less awkward sipping on your drink. ;)
  • Blog about it. Let your readership and social media followers know about the event and invite them to join in on the fun.

During the Actual Event

The actual event is probably the most exciting part. Your book is now live on online sales channels, and the entire world has access to it.

Since you’ve done a lot of prep work, this day should run pretty smoothly. Keep the conversations going, interact with your guests, and announce when other authors are about to take over the event.

Since you have a captive audience, remind them to purchase your book, enter any giveaways you may be hosting, add your book on Goodreads, etc. Throughout the event, also make sure to thank them for participating.

After the Event

Always follow up after an event. Always. This is a good practice for any business, any party, any relationship. From a young age, my mother constantly taught me to express my gratitude to others, and part of following up after an event is just that.

Yes, doing so involves reminders that you are selling a book and essentially want people to buy it, but it’s also about thankfulness and acknowledging that people took time out of their day for you.

Other Ideas:

You could also try hosting your book launch party on Twitter or Google Hangouts. As I have yet to do either, I don’t have any advice, but thought it might be nice to suggest other avenues for you to consider and experiment with.

Download my Online Launch Party Checklist here

Now, let’s take a look at hosting a book launch party at a physical venue. This will be very budget friendly, so it works if you have nothing to very little to spend, or even a lot of moola to push around.

Physical Venue Book Launch Party

  • Definition: A party to celebrate the launch of your book at a physical venue: your house, a local coffee shop, wine bar, party/events hall, etc.

What to Do Before the Launch Party (in no particular order)

  • Secure a venue, date, and time. Here’s how I saved in a huge way. Through a friend, I had a connection to a posh wine bar one city over—just about 20 minutes away.
    They agreed to let me have my party at the wine bar, in exchange for an order of appetizers. I purchased the smallest appetizer plate—$120 worth of meat and cheese—but was allowed to bring my own dessert.
    I also promised to tell my guests to purchase drinks to support the bar. And, I agreed to have my party on a weeknight, Tuesday, which was a day that was typically low in patronage.
  • Determine your budget. I didn’t want to spend more than a few hundred bucks on my party, but I also didn’t want to be too cheap since it was my first book. Including ordering my paperbacks, I spent less than $300 on the entire party, thanks to connections and DIYing.
    You don’t even have to spend a few hundred dollars. If you host the party at your house or a friends, that’s a huge savings right there. You can also reduce cost by making it a potluck, etc.
  • Have a team. Even if it’s your mom, dad, sister, best friend, partner . . . whoever. You need a team for this party to be successful.
    I had two good friends, acting as my assistants, who took care of lots of details for me: from booking the venue to purchasing flowers and candy, to posting flyers about the party around town. They were my peace of mind.
    My mom was my cupcake lady, which saved me money on dessert. And, since I had a hair appointment the day of the party, my hairdresser was part of my team in helping me to look fabulous. :)
  • Make your guest list. I invited about 120 people and 85 showed up—which is above the average for people showing up to a party. The more people who come, the more books you sell.
    What you have accomplished is huge, and people want to celebrate that with you. Keep this in mind while drafting your list. (I even invited my physical therapist to my party!)
  • Make or print invitations. To save money, but still keep things classy and avoid the whole Evite thing, I made my own invitations. Including postage, everything cost less than $50.
    However, it’s perfectly fine to save time and money and send an Evite if that works for you. As I like to say: You do you.
  • Come up with a theme. You probably want to stick with a theme relevant to your book. Because my first book takes place in a jungle, I asked the wine bar if they had a wine that could be categorized as “tropical.”
    They had a crisp white wine that fit the bill, so I listed it on my invitation as the wine of the night and many of my guests bought a glass or two.
  • Think about food—appetizers/snacks/dessert/drinks. As I said, I purchased a platter of appetizers and enlisted my mom to make cupcakes. The drinks could be purchased at the wine bar, so I didn’t have to worry about that.
    Keeping everything simple saved me time and money, and it was nice to not have to clean up a lot of dishes, etc., after the party. But you have to think of what works for you.
    Perhaps a potluck would save you money. Or, maybe you’re a food genius and can come up with a great menu that matches your party theme. Be creative, but don’t make things too complicated.
  • Order your paperback books, with plenty of buffer for delayed shipments or other issues. When I was independently published, I used CreateSpace for my printing and distribution. I cut it pretty close—I’m talking about half of my book shipment arriving the day of my party—so don’t do what I did. Order your books weeks in advance to reduce your stress and have everything ready to go.
  • Be sure you can take credit card payments, but have cash on hand. I use Square and its app with my iPad for all my book events. Square provides you with a free card reader that plugs into your smartphone or other electrical device.
    Because the wine bar I had my party at had WiFi, I was able to use my iPad for transactions. I also made sure I had plenty of change for guests who wanted to pay in cash.
  • Make some flyers to advertise your party. Because my party was going to be at a wine bar and wasn’t necessarily a private event, I made some flyers to post in and around local businesses close to the wine bar. It had my brief bio, the book’s summary, and the party details. Yet another way to bring your book some exposure.
  • Post event notices online. If you have your party in a public venue like I did, it’s not a bad idea to post a notice online for more exposure. This, of course, depends on your comfort level in regards to letting just anyone know about your party.
    I used a local newspaper service that allows people to post public events for free on their events site. See if you city has something similar by doing a simple Google search.
  • Notify local press/send invites. One of my assistants notified the local press, along with some Barnes & Noble reps of my party. The B&N reps were actually planning on coming, but something had come up and they couldn’t make it. Still, it was a nice gesture that helped to build rapport with my local B&N.
  • Give a copy of your book—signed—to the venue provider (unless it’s your own house, of course).
  • Have pens, placards, business cards, and other promo items. For the purposes of my party, I had a placard with my bio and book information at my signing table, along with my pens, guest sign-in book, business cards, candy, and flowers. With each book I signed, I inserted a custom-made bookmark (I made them with a free template in Microsoft Word and printed them on semi-glossy cardstock at Kinko’s) that reminded readers to leave me a review.
  • Secure a photographer. I lucked out with this one. I am a self-proclaimed “people collector,” so I know a lot of people in a lot of different industries.
    One of my friends is a photographer, therefore, in exchange for helping him with some of his business needs, I asked him to take professional photos at my party. These photos now double as some of the awesome pictures I have on my website.
    But you don’t need to know a professional photographer to get decent pictures. Ask a creative/trusty friend who will be at the party to capture photos for you. Trust me . . . you’ll want photos of the memories, and it’s a cool way to showcase an achievement.
  • Confirm everything at least 48 hours in advance. This is a no brainer and good business practice. Do your part to make sure everything is on track so you have plenty of time to prevent and/or fix any impending mishaps. You’ll be less stressed and will have a good time at your party.

During the Party

This is the really fun part. I mean, who doesn’t love a party that’s for them?! Here’s what I did for my party:

I treated myself to a haircut and had my support team take care of final details like picking up cupcakes from my mom and flowers for the party. (We met a week before the event to discuss everything.)

That way, all I had to do was arrive early to the venue and make sure that everything was ready to go. I brought my party dress to my hairdresser’s and got ready there after I was finished getting my hair cut.

When I arrived to the wine bar, my two trusty assistants were already there, getting things set up. Some early birds were there too, but most every one came right at the official start time.

I chose a position in the wine bar where my guests could line up to get my autograph and then purchase the book from one of my assistants.

I had a guest book for people to leave their name, email address, and a note for me. It served as a sort of guest book that one might have at a wedding reception, but was also practical for gathering email addresses for my website/newsletter.

After I signed about 100 books (!!!), I finally was able to mingle with my guests and enjoy some wine. But, because I was on such an adrenaline high, I didn’t have much of an appetite. That’s something I would have changed—I probably would have made sure to eat a little before the party. Regardless, I had an amazing time and floated on that euphoria for days after my party.

Tamar Hela's signing party

Photo of me signing books at my launch party. (That’s my grandma in the photo with me, by the way.) You can see the extra pens, my bookmarks, candy, and info flyer.

After the Party

Follow up after the party. Always. I can’t stress this enough. Here are just a few ways to do so:

  • Send thank you notes or an email to partygoers. I chose to send a mass email, thanking all my guests for coming (use the BCC option so as not to violate the privacy of others).
    I mean, it would have been a bear to write 85+ thank you cards, and the email worked well. I also created an email group from my list so I could use those emails for my newsletters, etc.
  • Thank the venue. Write a simple thank you note and mail it or hand deliver to them. You never know if you’ll be hitting them up to host another book launch party in the future.
  • Remind partygoers to leave you a book review. I put this reminder into my thank you email. Reviews are so important for authors to get, so don’t be shy about reminding your readers to leave you one.
  • Blog about it. Let your readers know about the party and how fun it was. Let them get to know you and share your photos.
  • Start writing your next book. Now, it’s time to get back to work. :)

For visual inspiration,
visit my Book Launch Party Ideas board on Pinterest

Follow Tamar Hela’s board Book Launch Parties on Pinterest

Other Ideas:

You can opt to read an excerpt or several excerpts during your party. I personally did not do so because I wanted to focus on signing books and mingling with partygoers. But it’s up to you. If it feels right, go for it.

To really stick to your budget, consider splitting the cost and sharing the party with another (local) author—even if their book has already “launched.” You’ll then have access to their readership, while cutting down on the bill.

I am lucky to have a very good friend and writing partner who writes in my genre. She and I live in the same area, and we’re planning on doing a joint book launch party this summer at a local coffee shop.

Download my In-Person Launch Party Checklist here

Pros & Cons of an Online Launch versus a Physical Venue Launch

So, why would you choose one over the other?

  • If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands or extra cash to put a party together, then an online launch party is ideal.

Just be aware that if you’re going to run some giveaways, you will be spending a little bit of money. When I do eBook giveaways, I like to gift the winner directly through Amazon, etc. It’s a safe way to ensure that my book won’t land in piracy land. You can also opt to do a paperback/hardcopy giveaway, which will include print costs and shipping.

The downside is perhaps not generating as many sales because not everyone you invite to an online launch can (or is willing to) participate. Many people would rather go to a cool party where they can see you and get a signed book that’s personalized.

  • If you do have some time and cash on hand, an in-person launch party is awesome.

It makes quite the splash, and all the people who care about you and your success will be in one place to celebrate your book. Personally, I also made a decent amount in sales. Many guests purchased a second book for friends/family, and the price I paid for printing and shipping costs was more than covered.

The downside is that it’s going to cost you more than just time. There’s also more planning and details that go into this type of party versus an online launch. But, I’d venture to say that it’s all worth it. :)

Who says you only have to do one or the other? Why not both? If you can spare the time and have a supportive team behind you, do both! Test which method works best for you and go for it. You’ll never know what’s going to happen unless you try.

Good luck with your party planning!

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Tamar HelaTamar Hela, an editor and writer from California, has always had a knack for words, loving the art of storytelling. As a musician and artist, she understands the importance of captivating an audience through various mediums, but especially loves using words to create visual images for readers. When she’s not writing, drinking coffee, or traveling to someplace cool, she can be found curled up with a good book.

Her Young Adult Spirit Lake Series was acquired by Cosby Media Productions this year. Spirit Lake, formerly titled Feast Island, was released in April 2015. Its sequel, The Wrong Fairy Tale, was released in June. Tamar is also partnered with Cosby Media Productions as the Publishing Director and Chief Editor for their Print Division, and has worked with Amazon best-selling authors like Mike Clemons and CF Waller.

Find/hire her at: http://www.tamarhela.com

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The Wrong Fairy Tale coverAbout The Wrong Fairy Tale:

Being a hero is not such an easy job after all.

It’s junior year, and Alex and her friends are just trying to survive high school: boring homework, detention, crushes…and a fateful journey through a portal to another planet—you know, the usual. Despite being average California teenagers, this group of six finds themselves on a return trip to the strange land of Cantelia, where their Spirit Guide, Goden, has sent them. This time, they appear near the Alfaran Forest: a place, where, once again, many inhabitants claim these kids are the Chosen Ones and that they will help to find a solution for ridding the forest of a new kind of horror.

Will the teens have the courage to fight the real enemy? Or will they be forever trapped on Cantelia?

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Thank you, Tamar! You make any kind of party look like a fun way to celebrate our accomplishment!

It’s great that you covered both types of parties. And I especially appreciated your advice for the pros, cons, and reasons for why we might want to choose one type over another.

As with many things writing, the best choice for us might depend on our personality and our goals. Do we want more of a…:

  • fun celebration or pat on the back
  • opportunity for book sales
  • acknowledgement of those who have supported us
  • something geared toward ebooks or toward print
  • party within a budget, etc.?

I’m not sure how my extreme introversion would handle being the center of attention, but Tamar’s suggestion of a joint party might be perfect for me. Now to find the perfect partner in crime… *smile*

Have you ever had a book launch party? What type did you have? What worked and what didn’t? Would you do anything differently next time? Or, if you’re still unsure about hosting a party, what’s stopping you? Do you have any questions for Tamar?

(P.S. Don’t miss my 5th Blogiversary Contest!)

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Baby crying with text: Help for No Tears Revising

I’m heading out for vacation this week and next, but don’t worry. I have a great selection of guest posts ready to fill in for me that I’m super excited to get to share with you. *smile*

First up, let’s talk about revision. Ack! If you’re anything like me, you might have a love/hate relationship with revisions.

I love seeing my story strengthen and improve. But sometimes I hate the struggle to make the ideas of the first draft fit into a solid story.

Today’s guest wants to help us find the important aspects of each scene so we can revise without tears. Even better, Rachel Funk Heller is sharing a worksheet with all of us from her Writer’s Coloring Book.

A coloring book for writers? Is it just me, or does that sound like fun (and might be just what we need to avoid those tears)? *smile* Please welcome Rachel Funk Heller!

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The Master Scene Profile:
Planning the Next Big Revision

You’ve heard it said so many times it makes your head hurt: writing is re-writing. You know that revision is the key when it comes to crafting your best work.

But what they don’t tell you is how nerve wracking, intimidating and daunting this task is. You want to make this book rock. You want it to translate that great mind movie you see in your head.

You’ve got your notes back from your editor, or you’ve just re-read your latest project and you know it needs work, but where to start? How to start? You know you need a plan, but where do you start planning your plan?

Because I hated the frustration that comes with this vital part of the process, I created a worksheet to help me come up with a strategy. I wanted a way to make a laundry list of all the great elements that I wanted in each scene, but didn’t want to do countless revisions of my revisions.

Introducing the Master Scene Profile Worksheet

So I created the “Master Scene Profile.” (Click the link and then scroll to “Download Sample Worksheet” to download a free copy along with a set of instructions.)

Image of Master Scene Profile

I used to be a television producer and when you work on a large production, you create what’s called a “call sheet.” It is a daily list of cast, crew, and equipment needs for each day of shooting. I took an old call sheet and created a form that helps me to list everything I want or need in each scene of my book.

Now, I can already hear some of your reactions: “What?? I need to fill out a form? I have to do paperwork on top of revising my book?”

Yes, it sounded silly to me too, but I soon discovered that taking time to fill out the form took the pressure off making sure I got everything right the first time around. Part of my brain said, “Oh, it’s just a form to fill out. It’s not writing.” It may also feel like procrastinating, but you are doing real, honest work to make your project better.

Understanding the Master Scene Profile

The form is divided into several sections. I suggest you fill out one form for each scene in your book. I’ll go over each section in a little more detail:

Scene Name:

It’s a good idea to give each scene a name like “the confrontation at the ranch” or “Joe breaks into the underground vault.” It gives you a snapshot of the action and helps track your plot sequences.

Scene Number:

Once you’ve shuffled all of your scenes and have them in the order you want, it’s a good idea to number each scene. If you realize you need to add a scene later you can add a letter like Scene 9A.

First Table:

This first box I refer to as “Housekeeping.” It’s the basic information:

  • Fill in the boxes for location and day/time to plant your scene in time and place. I have also included a box for lighting/mood to get you thinking about the general mood of this scene.
  • Next, if you are writing a novel using third person and have several POV characters, list the name of the of the main POV character in this scene. This is a good reminder not to “head hop” or change POV characters.
  • List other characters that appear in the scene.
  • List all of the objects in the scene: a cell phone, a stolen watch, a set of golf clubs, a thumb drive, or a time bomb. These are items that your characters will interact with in the scene.
  • Finally, in the Storyline box, make a note if this scene is from your main story line or from a subplot.

Sensory Detail:

To make your story lifelike and anchor your reader in the reality of your story world, engage their senses: sights, smells, textures, sounds, and flavors. Don’t rely on generic locations, like “an office building.”

Make your scene pop off the page by adding specific and unique details and describing how your characters react to them. Describe the sounds she’s hearing, or describe her reaction to the food she eats.

And you don’t have to be too wordy here. Read the following list: rotten fish, moldy cheese, and week-old pizza. Is your nose itchy or your stomach turning? Be specific.

Objective and Obstacles:

This is where you list your character’s objectives, obstacles, and adjustments. At the beginning of the scene, you should know exactly what your character wants and why she is going to the specific place. What is her objective when she arrives at the scene?

In good stories, the character never just gets what she wants. She always hits at least one obstacle, maybe more. It could take the form of other characters that are competing for the same thing she wants. Or, maybe, they just don’t want to see her succeed, and they get in her way.

If you find out that there is no clear objective or that the obstacles are too easy for your character to overcome, you need to re-think this scene. Maybe it can be folded into another scene, or maybe you need to re-examine this particular plot line.

Main Plot Actions And Emotional Reactions:

In this box, list the series of actions and reactions that take place in the scene. It’s easy to list plot actions, but if you don’t track your character’s emotional journey, your scenes move the plot along, but they don’t grab the reader emotionally. And that is what your reader craves.

It also helps you to revise your scene with subtext in mind. You can figure out ways to communicate the emotions by “showing” them and not “telling” them.  I know, this will take time, but the time you devote to this process will save you at least one major revision of your project.

Make sure you have everything you want this scene to accomplish. Heap on the conflict, highlight the emotions, and put your character through the ringer.

Offstage:

For those who are writing tightly woven plots, this next section is very helpful. It tracks important events that are happening offstage.

As an example, let’s say you’re writing a murder mystery, and in this scene, your detective is interviewing a suspect. While this interview is going on, the real killer is doing something dastardly to cover his tracks—killing someone else, getting rid of the murder weapon, or planning his escape.

For stories with many time lines, this is a great way to remind you of what is going on with other characters while this current scene unfolds.

What about the “Coloring” Part of the Book?

Now, you may have noticed some interesting graphics that run along the side of the form. The symbols are from other worksheets in The Writer’s Coloring Book, but I’ll give you a quick rundown of what they mean.

The twisting lines that look like a DNA double helix that runs down the page, one line is a symbol for time and the other is theme. Each little pocket, or oval stands for one scene in your book. It’s to remind you that want to weave time and theme elements together in your story. Each scene should contain some element that speaks to the larger themes you are exploring in your work.

Next, you notice there are diamond shaped symbols and then a more complex set of boxes and a small circle. This symbol stands for what I call “Big Moment” scenes, or what you would call plot points. That’s where the action in this scene turns the story in a new direction.

The diamond shape symbolizes what I call “linking” scenes. They are necessary to keep the story moving. They show scenes that are subplots in the larger narrative.

In the first diamond shaped you see little feet and tiny explosions. This is a visual rendering of the objective and obstacles.

At the top of the diamond, your character enters the scene. Then she encounters her first obstacle. Because of this she has to adapt to this new situation, so she turns around. But soon she encounters another obstacle. She changes tack once again. Then she leaves the scene, she is now different then when she entered the scene.

Remember, every scene in your story must have conflict and tension. Use this little reminder to make sure your scene is as effective as you can make it.

Make the Master Scene Profile Work for You

There you go. Please feel free to adapt the Master Scene Profile to meet your workflow, and create a great master plan for your next big revision.

Again, take the time to fill out one form for each scene in your book. Next take the time to read through the forms and come up with the best order for your scenes. Shuffle them around, play with them, and experiment to your heart’s content.

If you discover there are missing scenes, fill out a blank form with all the information about that scene and what you want to happen in it. This will be a much more effective use of your time than if you tried cutting and pasting whole scenes in one long document. When you are happy with the scene order, go back in and number all of your forms.

When you are ready to sit down and write, I suggest you start each writing session by taking up one completed MSP at a time. Review it, write any last-minute details that you want to add, and then focus all of your concentration on this one scene. It will be easier to do because you won’t have to worry about how this scene meshes with the next. You’ve already decided on your plot sequence ahead of time.

An Example: How to Use the Master Scene Profile

Let’s look at an example of a completed form. Let’s have some fun and play around with a nursery rhyme. In this case, let’s use “Little Miss Muffet.” Here it is to refresh your memory:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away!

We’re going to expand on the story elements here and turn it into something more current. Let’s say Little Miss Muffet has just read Sheryl Stein’s book Lean In and she wants be more of a leader. She doesn’t want to be frightened.

We also want to add more modern touches. So, let’s dump the curds and whey, because hey, dairy is hard to digest. And what is a “tuffet” anyway? It’s kind of a puffy footstool.

Let’s put Miss Muffet at a nice outdoor cafe, and she’s eating a delicious acai berry bowl when along comes this spider. What is he really doing there? Could he really be there to pass on the secret combination to the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Vault?

Here is my version of the MSP:

Example of Master Scene Profile

(Click the image to see full size)
(Note: Newsletter readers will have to
click through to the post to see the image.)

With all of that information, you can see how the scene is set up, and from here on in it almost writes itself. That is one of the benefits of using this form.

You do all of your experimenting here, add all the details, ideas, back story on this page. Get all those possibilities out of your brain, and then write the scene. You may not use all of these details in the final rewrite. What you use is up to you. Now you can concentrate on really making your scene pop off the page.

I hope you find this helpful. I want to take a moment and thank Jami for being such a generous hostess and for providing so much great information in her blog. I’m honored to have earned a spot here. If you have any questions, feel free to find me on Facebook or Twitter.

*****

Rachel Funk HellerRachel Funk Heller began her career as a journalist and worked as an independent television writer/producer for over two decades. She is a former CNN producer who worked in both the Atlanta headquarters and the Washington D.C. bureau. She is the author of The Writer’s Coloring Book® available at writerscoloringbook.com.

*****

The Writers Coloring Book coverA unique writing guide for novelists, screenwriters, and playwrights that provides a visual playground for both sides of a writer’s brain: the passionate dreamer and the rational organizer. This is not your grandmother’s “how to write” book.

The worksheets and exercises help you create complex, multi-faceted characters in engaging, stay-with-you-forever stories. The exercises in The Writer’s Coloring Book® allow you to create sophisticated and deeply layered plots no matter what genre you’re working in.

These highly visual exercises allow you to see all your story elements before you write that first draft. And you can use them to trouble-shoot a project that needs help.

*****

Thank you, Rachel, and thanks for the Little Miss Muffet laugh! I love finding new tools that I can try when I revise. I especially love the idea of thinking about what we want to get across when we revise, from subtext to sensory information, because revisions are the perfect time to add those layers to our story.

I’ve seen (and probably suffered from this myself) authors revise to fix one issue, and instead they introduce several new problems. Often those problems are the result of focusing on the specifics of the initial feedback or feeling of what might be off, and therefore losing sight of the big picture goals for the scene and how it fits into the overall story.

So a process where we capture the purpose of the scene and all the specifics we want to keep, expand, or add sounds like it could be just what we need to help us avoid introducing new problems. *smile*

In addition, this worksheet gives us a great snapshot of all the things we’re supposed to emphasize in our writing:

  • sensory information,
  • goals and obstacles (conflict),
  • moving the plot forward, and
  • showing our character’s journey.

The next time I have a tricky scene to rework or one that feels flat, I’ll definitely be giving this a try. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us, Rachel!

Have you struggled with knowing how to start a revision? Have you ever made things worse or introduced new problems when revising? Do you have any additional tips for how to avoid that issue? Do you think this Master Scene Profile might help you come up with a revision plan? Do you have any questions for Rachel about the MSP or her Writer’s Coloring Book?

(P.S. Don’t miss my 5th Blogiversary Contest!)

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Pile of books with text: Exploring Print on Demand with IngramSpark

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how we can offer a print version of our book, even if we’re self-published. I have Treasured Claim available at Amazon through their CreateSpace service, but my plan for other retailers is to use IngramSpark for distribution.

Many authors stick with CreateSpace because, as with much of their business approach, Amazon makes things easy and user-friendly. If we check off “Expanded Distribution” in our account, CreateSpace can distribute to other channels, such as bookstores and online retailers.

However, it seems to be hit-or-miss whether bookstores actually want to work with Amazon (the enemy! *smile*) for print copies. So a few authors are now combining what they see as the best of both worlds.

Depending on the specifications of our book, Amazon/CreateSpace’s royalty for in-Amazon sales is often better than what we’d receive for Amazon sales through another distributor. So some authors are sticking with CreateSpace for Amazon sales but distributing to other retailers through the “neutral” IngramSpark, which is part of Lightning Source.

I’m still working on the second part of that plan for the non-Amazon distribution, but my friend Kerry Gans recently went through the print-on-demand (POD) process with IngramSpark, so I asked her to stop by today and share her insights and tips. Please welcome Kerry Gans!

*****

How Lightning Source’s IngramSpark
Compares to Amazon’s CreateSpace

I recently wanted to self-publish a genealogy book for my father’s family. My first stop was Amazon’s CreateSpace, since most people use that service. It seemed simple enough—until I found out that their page limit for color books was 480 pages. My book was 504 pages.

CreateSpace was a no-go.

I then turned to Lightning Source, which I had also heard good things about, although I had been told they were more for small presses, not geared toward self-publishers. However, Lightning Source had recently launched IngramSpark, a service aimed at self-publishers and more user-friendly than Lightning Source proper.

Here’s how the two POD resources compare:

Upfront Costs

The main difference I found between the two is the upfront costs to the service. Spark requires much more upfront money than CreateSpace.

Ingram Spark: Set-Up Charge & Distribution Fee

Spark has a $49 set-up charge for print books and $25 for ebooks (this fee is waived if you have an initial order of 50 books or more). There is also an annual distribution fee of $12 (this fee is waived under certain conditions described below).

IngramSpark: Bring-Your-Own ISBN Required

The largest fee for most self-publishers (at least for those based in the U.S.) will likely be the ISBN fee. Unlike CreateSpace or Smashwords, who allow you to purchase an ISBN through them for a nominal fee, you must provide your own ISBN for Spark.

Buying 10 ISBNs through Bowker cost me $250. But since I know I will use them all eventually, I don’t feel cheated. Honestly, if I had more cash lying around, I would have bought more ISBNs, as the price per ISBN decreases the more you buy.

CreateSpace: None of the Above

I did not get to go through the entire process with CreateSpace, but I believe they were charging $10 for the ISBN and nothing for anything else, so that’s a large difference. (Jami’s note: CreateSpace also allows us to use our own ISBN, so if we choose that route, the ISBN costs would be the same.)

Total for IngramSpark

So, for me to create my genealogy book (printed, not ebook), I paid $299 up front. If you choose to be your own distributor with Spark (known as “short run” distribution), they waive the $12 distribution fee, since you are not using their distribution network. Since my genealogy book is for my family only, this is what I did.

Book Creation

The actual building of your book is very similar in Spark and in CreateSpace. You start by plugging in the metadata they ask for, then upload your interior and cover files.

Your interior for both will be a PDF (based on the submission guidelines they provide). Then you can use their Cover Creator templates to create your cover. While this requires attention to details such as margins, gutters, and bleeds, it is not a difficult task if you take your time.

Book Approval

The e-proof (a PDF) was easy to manipulate, and Spark gives you 3 options: Approve, Approve but don’t distribute until I review a physical copy, and Don’t approve. I ordered a physical copy prior to distribution, and shipping of my order was fast.

When I held that book in my hands, with my name on the cover, representing 20 years of work and reflecting the vision I had for the presentation of all that data, I got chills!

The quality of the final book itself was very good. I am quite pleased with how everything looks. The paper is thick, and the paperback cover is high quality.

Some of the photos were a bit red-yellow, but the ones that looked off were from source materials that were themselves not of the highest quality (such as pictures over 100 years old!), so I suspect the fault was in the source, not the printing. But they were still clear and crisp, and most of the photos and other reproductions were gorgeous.

Distribution

Ingram Spark’s distribution network does get your book where it needs to go: Amazon, B&N, Baker & Taylor (for libraries), and, of course, Ingram itself.

For distribution, Spark requires you to use a wholesale discount of 55% (you can use 40%, but this is discouraged), and you can choose whether to allow returns or not.

I am putting two versions of my genealogy book out to the public—one hard cover, one paperback. The hardback’s cover price is $55; the paperback is $40. If someone bought it directly from me, the price would be closer to $35, depending on shipping. These prices will net me roughly the same profit per book. So if your goal is to get your book to customers at the lowest price, you may need to wear your distributor hat.

If price to your customer is a primary concern for you, take note that I compared the pricing with CreateSpace vs. Spark. Since the public version of this book is only 414 pages, I could use CreateSpace, which was my plan. But when I checked the final price, I would have to charge $60 for the paperback in order to make the same profit as the prices above.

Since CreateSpace does not offer a hardback option, I had to use Spark for that. I couldn’t bring myself to charge $60 for a paperback and $55 for hardback. So even though it cost me a little more up front, I used Spark for both.

Overall Conclusion

Spark has some nice features, including printing calculators and publisher compensation calculators. Although I have found that their FAQs don’t always address my questions (hopefully they will continue to modify them as they get more feedback from clients), I have found their Help staff courteous, knowledgeable, and responsive. You can email them or request a callback. Believe me, I have used their Help staff many times, as I think I have made every mistake possible during this journey!

So this has been my experience with Ingram Spark. It is not quite as user-friendly as CreateSpace, and has more upfront costs, but the support staff was great and the final product was of high quality. Also, Spark seems to have more flexible print options, which might be the key for you.

As to the extra money? The question you need to ask yourself is this: Will I be happy changing my book’s presentation to fit CreateSpace’s needs, or do I want it to be exactly the way I envisioned it?

Ingram Spark will have a lot of work to do to steal market share from CreateSpace, but they have good points that make them a tempting alternative, in spite of the price. They did a good job for me, and I love my book!

*****

Kerry GansKerry Gans is the author of the middle grade fantasy The Witch of Zal. She is a chocoholic theater geek, believes libraries are magic, and considers Chincoteague Island her perfect writing retreat. When not writing, she haunts cemeteries and dusty archives in search of long-dead ancestors and pursues her most important work-in-progress, her daughter.

On The Goose’s Quill, she blogs about her journey toward publishing while parenting, and she also writes for the group blog The Author Chronicles. Kerry’s recent publications include the short story Dying Breath and a genealogy reference book The Warren Family of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and their Ancestors.

For more info or to contact Kerry, check out her website, personal blog, group blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Goodreads.

*****

Youth Imagination ezine coverDon’t miss Kerry’s free YA short story, Dying Breath, available for free online through the Youth Imagination ezine. (Jami’s review: It’s beautiful, touching, and made me cry. *smile*)

A teenage girl with cystic fibrosis gets a miracle—at the price of her estranged brother’s life. Can she find peace even when she feels the wrong sibling died?

*****

Thank you, Kerry! This was a great overview of the pros and cons for dealing with IngramSpark.

I’ve also heard that IngramSpark is the way to go for international print distribution. I believe Amazon currently prints only in the U.S., which requires international shipping to Europe, Australia, etc. However IngramSpark can also print in the UK or Australia, reducing the cost for many international customers.

Also, depending on the specifications of our book, such as number of pages or a color or black-and-white interior, Kerry’s note about Amazon’s costs for printing being higher might not apply for sales within Amazon’s system. (For example, my royalties for CreateSpace print sales within Amazon’s system are over twice what they would be if I went only with IngramSpark and used them to distribute to Amazon.) So be sure to check the specifics for your book before making final decisions.

As with all things in the writing and publishing world, we have to decide what paths and choices makes the most sense for our goals. Hopefully learning more information like this will help us make better-informed decisions. *smile*

Have you considered using IngramSpark? If so, why—what pros and cons have you heard? How does it fit into your publishing strategy? If you’ve worked with IngramSpark, how would you compare the two? Do you have any questions for Kerry?

(P.S. Don’t miss my 5th Blogiversary Contest!)

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Gift box with text

It’s that time of year again. My five-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 five years. How can something feel like yesterday and forever at the same time?

Mostly, I’m amazed I found that much to blog about, not just in the number of posts (over 500!) but the length of my posts. (I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve come up with a blog topic and said, “Oh, this one will be short,” and ended up between 1500 and 2000 words. *sigh*) Between my posts and my replies to comments, I’ve easily written over a quarter-million words on my blog in the past year.

And I’m not the only one. During the past year, my readers have left several thousand comments on my blog. That’s an amazing amount of conversation and shared stories and tips, and it’s all thanks to you. You’re the reason I blog.

To thank you, I’m celebrating by holding a contest. For those who weren’t around last year, let me back up…

A blogiversary contest—that’s pretty normal, right? But there’s a reason I call myself insane. There’s a reason I write paranormal. There’s a reason my motto is “Why be normal?”

I don’t want to do normal.

So for this contest celebrating this blog and all the readers that make it awesome, the prize is…me.

Well, not “me” literally, but my time and/or money. You get to pick what that means. (Disclaimer: Subject to reasonability, privacy concerns, and legality. I haven’t landed in jail yet, and I don’t intend to start now. *smile*)

I want this contest to be for all my readers, whether you’re a writer or not, whether you’re published or not, whether you’re a newbie or not. If you win, you decide how I can be most helpful to you.

Some ideas:

  • Signed copy of Treasured Claim and Pure Sacrifice (the latter will probably arrive before the official publication date *smile*)
  • $25 Amazon gift certificate
  • Free registration to any of my online workshops, including my Lost Your Pants? An Impatient Writer’s Guide to Plotting a Story workshop (will be offered this fall)
  • Critique of your first chapter up to 5K words (Note: I write honest and detail-oriented critiques, and I’m a grammar-Nazi. You’ve been warned.)
  • Critique of your synopsis and/or query letter
  • Beta read up to 25,000 words (includes feedback on overall premise, characterization, and pacing, but not in-depth editing or grammar)
  • Analysis of story structure and story/character arcs for overall development and “book doctor” feedback
  • Mentoring/walk-through help on one project (blog/website, developing a premise, business plan, social media platform, etc.)
  • Email brainstorming (story ideas: digging out from plot hole, branding ideas: coming up with tagline, etc.)
  • Copies of (and help with) all of my MS Word polishing macros
  • I’ll write a guest post for your blog
  • You’ll get to write a guest post for this blog (subject to my guest post policies)
  • Three books from my general blog contest collection (books I’ve picked up from conferences)
  • Pick my brain about anything (grammar questions, copies of the writing advice documents I’ve collected, a list of the writing advice bookmarks I’ve saved, etc.)
  • Or anything else you can think of…within reason. *smile*

To enter, leave a comment. It’s just that easy. (Yep, that means those of you reading this via RSS or newsletter should visit my site so you can wave hello in a comment.) And yes, even if you’ve won in previous years, you’re welcome to enter again!

Maybe tell me what you’d like to win, or make up a funny choice to amuse us all. Introduce yourself if you’ve never commented before. Or tell me how stupid you think this contest idea is. Whatever. It will all count.

Also, I’ll pick an additional winner for every 50 commenters (not including my comments). So if 1-50 different people comment on this post, I’ll pick one winner. If 51-100 different people comment, I’ll pick two winners. And so forth.

This contest will close at midnight Eastern time on Sunday, July 12th, 2015. The winner(s) will be chosen randomly and announced on my official blogiversary post on Tuesday, July 14th. Good luck!

Do you want to win something? If so, tell me about it!

P.S. Don’t panic if you don’t see your comment show up. There are multiple pages of comments (see the “Next Comments” link), and that also means we’ll have multiple winners! Yay!

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Save Money by Designing Your Own Promo

by Jami Gold on June 18, 2015

in Writing Stuff

Wooden box filled with money with text: Save Money with Promo Design

Yesterday on social media, I shared a link to a sale going on for DepositPhotos, one of the stock photo sites. I mentioned that I’d picked up that same deal when it was offered last year (and I bought another package this year because I love hoarding never-expire photo credits *smile*).

Those shares led to several conversations on both Facebook and Twitter about how I used those images. For example, the cover models for Treasured Claim and Pure Sacrifice, as well as the basis for the background designs for both of those covers and for Unintended Guardian, all came from DepositPhotos.

(There’s not anything special about DepositPhotos. Other popular stock photo sites, such as Shutterstock, iStock, Bigstock, carry many of the same images. I just happened to have the credits for DepositPhotos.)

Some of those conversations turned into discussions about my bookmarks, which are starting to make their way into the world. While I paid for a cover designer for my books, I created the bookmarks on my own.

When we compare them side-by-side, however, we can see that they have the same “feel”:

Treasured Claim book cover and bookmark

(Newsletter readers: You’ll have to click through to today’s post to see the images.)

Two main questions emerged from those conversations:

  • Why did I design my own bookmarks? Easy, to save money.
  • How did I design my own bookmarks? Hmm, that requires a longer answer…

Several people then asked me to post about the topic, as saving money is always a good thing. *smile*

Disclaimer #1

I’m not a designer, and I’m sure professionals could do a better job. So this is not a slam against designers and their ability to make a living.

However, authors—especially those without a big publisher budget behind them—have to prioritize where their money goes. For indie authors in particular, many things might be higher priority than paying to have bookmarks or other promo made, such as editing or the cover itself.

Disclaimer #2

Cheaper does not mean without cost. My method cost extra on the front end, but saves me money with every promo item I choose to do myself—for all time.

Got all that? All righty, let’s go…

How to Make Our Own Promo (and Hopefully Save Money in the Process)

Some indie authors design their own book covers, and the latter steps of this post are old hat for them. They already know what they’re doing, and they already have all the pieces and parts to create their own images. Anyone who can handle their own cover can handle a little bookmark. *smile*

This post is mostly for those who are either with a publisher or who pay a designer to create a cover. In other words, this post is for those who would normally get a cover image as the end product and that’s it.

Step #1: Think about Branding and Consistency for Our Book

I use the same avatar across social media so I’m always recognizable as me. In the same way, we want to be as consistent as we can with the branding of our books.

Why? Because as I’ve mentioned before, branding creates better recognition of our work:

Research has found that we remember new items better if we can “attach” those new memories to existing memories. … Context—how brain connections relate to each other—is huge when it comes to branding. One impression creates a hook in our brain used to connect later impressions. The impressions add together to create a sense of the brand.

Let’s take a publishing example. We hear on Twitter about a great new book. Impression #1. Then our friend tells us over lunch about this new book they loved.

If we remember that we’ve already heard about the book, our friend’s recommendation will connect to that first impression and become Impression #2. However, if we don’t remember that we’ve already heard about the book, our friend’s recommendation will stand alone as a new Impression #1.

Which recommendation will stick better in our memory? The connected impressions. Those two impressions will multiply their impact and be stronger than two unconnected impressions.

That’s why companies use shortcuts to trigger memory. That’s why in most cases, authors should use consistent avatars and our books should use consistent covers, tag lines, or blurbs. They’re shortcuts to making sure any impressions about us or our books are connected.

Marketing folk often talk about how it takes X number of impressions before a customer decides to purchase something. If we’re not being consistent, the impressions might never be connected.

Each time a potential reader hears about our book, it might stand alone as a new Impression #1. They might never get to that X number of impressions to decide to buy.

However, if we’re consistent, those impressions are more likely to attach to the previous ones. If there is an X number of impressions that will push a customer to buy, we’re more likely to get there if we keep branding in mind.

Step #2: Analyze the Elements of Our Cover

During the cover design process, we should pay attention to the various elements that make up our cover. In the case of my covers, these elements are:

  • Modified Cover Model: Background removed, paranormal eyes, and other touch-ups
  • Title: The book title formatted with font, colors, layout, etc.
  • Background Image: The background of my covers hints at the paranormal character’s true nature—such as a shapeshifting gryphon, dragon, or unicorn.
  • Background Design: The full background with colors, pattern, etc.
  • Other: My name font and layout, series branding, colors used, etc.

Many of these elements might be ones we want to duplicate on promotional items, website headers, social media banners, quote teaser images, etc., so we can be consistent. So we want to think about which ones might be good to have for future use.

Step #3: Pay Your Cover Designer to Send You Files of the Elements You Want

I requested the elements I wanted as .png image files. Unlike .jpg (or .jpeg) files, .png files have a transparent background, which means I could layer them over each other without a white box around them.

Yes, this is where the upfront cost comes in. It takes time to put together those files, and this request is above and beyond the normal files sent to clients. So it’s only fair to pay for our designer’s time to send these additional files. (Think of it as a PITA surcharge for being a Pain In The A**. *grin*)

If we’re with a publisher, we might not be able to get these files. But if we explain our plan for consistent branding and promotion, they might cooperate. (Heck, give them the link to this post if it would help. *smile*)

If we’re an indie author, our designer should be willing to send the files if we offer to pay for their time. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Step #4: Decide on an Image Program

I don’t have a specific recommendation for a program. The program I use is ancient and barely works on my computer, but it’s the program I know, so I stick with it. *shrug*

Some might go fancy and use PhotoShop, others might use a free program. Free options I know off the top of my head are Gimp, PicMonkey (or use this PicMonkey link to get a free day of their Royale benefits), and Canva. I even know some people who use Microsoft’s PowerPoint and then Select All and do a right-click Save as Picture when they’ve gotten everything how they want.

I haven’t used Gimp or Canva, so I’m not sure what they’re capable of. Here’s my post with my experience with PicMonkey, as well as the guest blog post I did for Writers Helping Writers about PicMonkey.

The main features I used when creating my promo items were overlays (layering one image over another, sometimes with different levels of transparency) and the ability to pick specific colors.

Step #5: Plan Our Promotional Items with a Focus on Consistency

So we already know that consistency helps build our brand. What does that mean for our promotional items?

Think in terms of reusing visuals, fonts, layouts (how things are lined up), colors, etc. Every time our book title appears in an image, we should use the same font and layout (and maybe color if appropriate), etc. Here are several examples of how I reused elements for promotional items and the book interior.

The quote teaser promo images I designed have many of the same elements as the book cover or interior:

Treasured Claim quote teaser: "Should she see how things played out with the man whose touch strengthened her heart and weakened her knees?

Treasured Claim quote teaser 2: Energy from his touch warmed her body, and she longed for more. Much more.

The font of the quote itself is the same font as my chapter headings. The dragon background pattern and cover model are the same as on the cover, the title and my name are the same layout, etc. (And I have to give credit to my friend Angela Quarles, who helped me out with these on my first book and came up with many of the initial ideas. *smile*)

The chapter divider design in the interior uses the same background dragon image:

Treasured Claim's chapter divider

That same divider design and title layout show up on the Treasured Claim webpage as well. The series branding elements show up all over my site here, from the header to my home page, as well as on my social media banners, like Facebook and Twitter.

The title page in the interior uses the same title layout and series branding:

Treasured Claim half-title page

The same title and series layout is on the top of the bookmark, and the rest of the bookmark uses the same images for the cover model and background:

Treasured Claim bookmark - Front

The series name element appears on the back of the bookmark with a thumbnail of the actual cover, and a subtle grayed-out version of the dragon design adds texture as well (click these bookmark images to see larger versions):

Treasured Claim bookmark - Back

What does that all add up to? A consistent image of the book that helps readers recognize the story, creates a sense of a brand, and helps my work look professional.

Step #6: Create Promotional Images

So we have our elements, we have our program, and we have our branding plan. Now it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together.

Remember these keys:

  • Make things look connected.

Although I didn’t exactly duplicate the ribbon where my name is on the cover, I hinted at that element on both the quote teaser images and on the front of the bookmark.

I asked my designer for the Hex color names of my cover’s background, text, and badge and ribbon. So I was able to use those colors (or complements of those colors) on the promo items.

The purple for my name on the back of the bookmark is the same color I use here on my site. In other words, that’s my branding, rather than my book’s branding. But the font matches my name on the book cover.

Make things look similar enough that they act as echoes for other impressions.

  • Include an “action item.”

Have a plan. How will people who come across our promotional items be able to take the next step?

99% of the promo images for books I see on Facebook don’t include a link for where to purchase or learn more. The authors usually include those links in text above the image, but what if the image is shared or forwarded or otherwise separated from the text?

On a physical item like a bookmark, use a QR code. QR codes can be scanned from a smart phone and take people to a link. I have mine directed to my Books page, but I also have my website address printed alongside the code in case people don’t have a smart phone.

Our promotion should be self-contained to help potential readers find us and our work, no matter how it’s shared.

Take Ownership of Our Book’s Brand

Whether we decide to do the work ourselves or not, we’ll have the freedom to choose if we take ownership of our book’s brand. That means getting our hands onto those element files if we can.

With those files, we’re not locked in to using the same designer to do everything for us. I know of one very popular cover designer who does great work on covers, but who comes up with boring and blah bookmarks.

So it’s good to have the ability to choose. Even if we find someone cheap on Fiverr to create quick promotional images for us, we’re still probably going to need those files with all the elements. (Or if we have the original layered Photoshop file, we might be able to pay someone else to create files of the elements we want.)

Also, no matter what we decide, we want to make sure there is a branding plan. If we go with various resources for different promotional items, our plan will help keep everyone doing consistent work for our overall brand.

But for me, until I’m making a lot more than I am now, it’s best to do the work myself. If I’d paid someone to create those quote teasers, social media banners, bookmarks, and book interior images, I would have less money to pay for editing or something else.

A quick check of one designer added up to $400 for all of those items. That’s a lot of money I’d rather be using for something I can’t do on my own. *smile*

Have you noticed any books with good branding? What made them stand out? Have you created your own promotional items before? Did you have branding or consistency in mind? Do you disagree with any of my suggestions? Do you have any additional tips or suggestions?

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Character Psychology: 9 Common Errors — Guest: Kassandra Lamb

June 16, 2015 Writing Stuff
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If we don’t want to write characters who are too perfect, we have to layer in a few flaws. That means we might be writing characters who are “broken” in some way, and we don’t want to get the details wrong. Luckily, I know just who can help us get this right.

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Romance Writers: New Scrivener Template!

June 11, 2015 Writing Stuff
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One of my most popular posts is for my Romance Beat Sheet, but one of my readers asked if I could create a Scrivener template to go along with the Romance Beat Sheet. Yes! If you’re a romance author and use Scrivener for drafting your stories, today’s post is for you.

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The Writing Community: What’s Your Expertise?

June 9, 2015 Writing Stuff
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A writing career often doesn’t pay well, so many of us have day jobs or transitioned to writing after doing something else. To my mind, that’s a good thing. The non-writing experiences we have will enrich our writing and can provide benefits to our writing career as well.

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Point of View: What Does Your Character Know?

June 4, 2015 Writing Stuff
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When it comes to learning about point of view and how to avoid issues like head-hopping, it doesn’t help that half the information out there is confusing and contradictory. Let’s take a closer look at how we can find and fix these issues.

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Formatting: From Manuscript to a Print Book with MS Word

June 2, 2015 Writing Stuff
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There’s nothing like being able to hold your book in your hands to make this “being published” thing feel real, but print publishing can require us to make countless decisions. So even if we’re not ready for print publishing yet, it doesn’t hurt to think about these issues in advance.

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