All the Janes from See Jane Publish recently attended Rose City Romance Writer’s annual Writing Conference. This year the presenters were Allyson Longueria, Farrah Rochon, Amy Liz Talley, and Cecilia Tan and we decided that each of us would write about our lessons learned from each class. It’s my privilege to share with you my admiration for Farrah Rochon and our mutual love for Sticky Notes.
Farrah’s presentation was called “For Serious Plotters Only: How to go from an idea to a fully-developed plot before you ever type Chapter One”. As a reminder, there are generally three types of writers:
Pantsers: People who write by “the seat of their pants”. They don’t outline their stories. They feel like if they know where the story is going, it’s not fun to write it.
Plotters: People who like to plot out their story before they begin to write their story. They enjoy the security of knowing exactly where their story is headed on the pages.
Both: People who do a little of both methods. They do some plotting to jumpstart their stories but leave gaps for creative inspiration.
The way people write their stories is part of their own personal process and there isn’t a specific method that works for all types of writers but there are some universal tips to help train your brain to bring out your best story. In Farrah’s presentation, we learned about the power of post-it notes. With my Type A personality, I was immediately drawn to the idea of color coding my thoughts to double check that my storyline and character arcs were fully developed and left nothing unresolved for the readers.
Farrah walked everyone through her process of taking an science project tri-fold heavy-duty poster board, which would naturally break-up the white space into 3 sections and create chapters with two different color notes, one for the heroine and one for the hero. This gave her an overall view of her story and allowed her to make sure both characters were active participants in their happily ever after. I had seen this process before and it was within my writing comfort zone.
My ah-ha moment was her other example. When she was under a tight deadline, she did the opposite process. After she wrote the story, she used the post-it process to make sure she covered all her bases. She went beyond a two color system and even used different shapes to cover certain subplots and additional characters.
The post-it note plotting process can be used to create your story and then validate that authors included all the necessary elements. I love plotting stories and the fact that I can do it twice made my heart happy. Of course, there is a danger is that I will spend too much time plotting and not enough time actual writing but for now, I am having the time of my life covering my wall like a television detective trying to solve a homicide.
Now for those who are still following me down the rabbit hole, there is a whole new level of plotting for the extremists. Did you know that there is actual dry erase paint? You can paint an entire wall with a material that will allow you to write from base to ceiling with dry erase markers. I feel like I have found my summer home improvement project. If you have already done this to a wall, please share your experiences with us.
Up until this past weekend I’d never heard of Allyson Longueria, publisher of WMG Publishing, but as it turns out she’s a force to be reckoned with, and she has strong opinions on what authors and should and should not do when it comes to marketing.
At the annual RWA Rose City Romance Writers Spring Fling Allyson presented her BEST tips over three hours. It’s been a couple years since I’ve actively marketed my books, so the refresh was great, but the Amazon Ad words advice caught my interest.
Here are my top takeaways from Allyson’s class:
Series always sell better than stand alones, so think about using multiple starting points within your series. If your series has been around for a while consider marketing “anniversary” editions as on-ramps for new readers.
Amazon Ads: YOUR BOOK COVERS need be as chaste as possible – no skin showing or your book will be bounced! “Active Covers” sink in the algorithms, too – classic embrace, dangling bra strap, etc. MORE on Amazon Ad Words later.
As an extreme example– If this was your book cover, it might never see the light of day over at Amazon.
Amazon: Quotes and reviews placed after the blurb, not within the book description. Again, it’s all about the algorithms (until the algorithms change, again).
BundleRabbit is the latest greatest resource for authors who want to curate anthologies and “series starter” bundles with other writers.
Yasiv is another great site you should check out!
Reminder: Your eBooks are a long-tail investment. Don’t spend hundreds on a great cover and skimp on the formatting. The entire package needs to be professional.
Back to Amazon Ads:
We used the Product Display Ad in class.
A daily budget of $10 is standard with click buys between 25-50 cents.
ALWAYS choose manual targeting—auto is too generic.
Add your own key words—things got interesting here! A few dozen keywords? Forget it. To move the needle you need somewhere between 400-600 key words. One attendee said anything less than 700 was useless.
What to add in your 700?
Along with all the usual suspects like “romantic heroes”, “Godesses”, “Witches”, etc. your net should also include:
Authors similar to you, and popular misspellings of their names
Misspellings of your author name
Misspellings of pretty much everything commonly misspelled, as long THE KEY WORD IS RELEVANT TO YOUR BOOK.
Sneaking in non-relevant words is a no-no that will sink your ad in the algorithms.
Finally, real Amazon Ad Word numbers from an editor who does this every day: Allyson shared her data. For around $4.00 she accessed 78,000 views and that equaled 30 clicks.
So far, on all of her campaigns, her authors have earned back the money spent in promotion. When it comes to discoverability, Amazon Ad Words is a new tool that most authors should be considering.
Do you have any additional tips on using Amazon Ad Words? Please share in the comments.
I like this photo for all its differences. Not just skin tones, but strong hands and slender fingers, painted nails and bare, jewelry or not, and is that one faintly hairy wrist? All reaching to the center. Go, Team Women!
When I create characters, I often start off thinking of them in archetypal terms: hero, villain, leader, trickster, warrior. Even as I flesh them out with unique characteristics, some of that primal core still shines through.
For me, one of the “base line” characteristics is — especially in a romance! — who is the hero and who is the heroine. But though the words (and sexes) are different, the arcs are strikingly the same: both have wounds, both have hopes and fears, both have dreams they don’t quite dare reach for. I like to play with giving the “hero” traditionally feminine characteristics, while the “heroine” explores some masculine traits. From that, I’ve seen that men and women are more alike than different even while their differences add to the diverse beauty of our world.
So today, I hope women are empowered to pursue all their potential. And I hope men get a chance to cheer for the women in their lives — and maybe consider the archetypal heroine in themselves. And for anyone who identifies somewhere in between or outside those binary poles… We’ve got a long way to go, baby. But meanwhile, Happy International Women’s Day to all Janes everywhere.
Love stories abound this month, but I know you’re busy. So on a practical, and succinct, note I’ve curated the best stories. Quoted and paraphrased for brevity. Here we go, 60 seconds of IRL love:
“Costco. Bought one tire at a time until I worked up the courage to ask him out.” (17 + years together )
“She was my student. Adult ESL.” (9 years)
“It was after the war. My best friend’s boyfriend’s buddy needed a dance partner.” (50+ years)
“1965 anti-war protest. I was studying to become a priest.” (40+ years)
“Scattering the ashes of deceased husband.” (3 years)
“Knew him from square dancing. We were doing dishes when he threw the dishtowel over his shoulder, got down on one knee and proposed.” (20+ years)
“On the job. Funeral home.” (25 years)
“On the bus, commuting to work. Saw each other every day.” (30+ years)
“Conference. Slept together before our first date.” (15+ years)
“Too broke to take a vacation, I played tourist with my best friend and an acquaintance set up a sailboat trip for us. Met the love of my life.” (50+ years)
“Overseas. Volunteer relief work. I was drawn to his compassion.” (20+ years)
“She put her paw in my hand. Everything went still in that moment.” (6.5 years)
‘Tis February — the month of Valentine’s Day! So I thought I’d share a few things I love. Because, er, the world needs more love, yeah?
First, even though I’m a little behind on newfangled music, I stumbled over this song from a country-western singer (!) that I loved. It has an odd sci-fi quality to it I thought. Plus…love. Apparently the heroine in the video is also the singer’s wife. How delightful is that?
Second of the things I love… I finished a book! The first of 2017. 🙂 Man, I LOVE the feeling of finishing a book. It’s a new title from one of my pen names, Jenna Dales, who has been sadly languishing on a far back burner while I cavort with my other pen name, Elsa Jade. I’m tempted to pit them against each other in a Thunderdome-style write-off. But that wouldn’t be very loving, would it? So in the interests of fairness, sisterhood, and romance, Jenna Dales’ story is off to New York and while we wait to hear back, Elsa Jade is going to write the next story. Wish me lucky in love, and we shall see whom readers love more!
And thirdly, for a touch of real-life romance… Here are my two best beloveds, both of them smiling.
Happy almost Valentine’s Day!