Time saving tip for book marketing #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #AuthorMarketing

When it comes to marketing your book, you need one-liners, tears, excerpts, taglines… The list goes on and on. While writing, you’ll want to some great one-liners to share on social media. Then, when it’s time to launch, you’ll need teasers and excerpts. And after the book launch, you’ll need dialogue for Facebook ads, snappy lines for Amazon ads, taglines for Bookbub ads. You get the idea. Marketing your book can be a real time suck. It’s even worse when you haven’t prepared properly.

What do I mean by preparing properly? Instead of waiting until it’s time to market your novel to come up with those great snippets from your novel, prepare while you’re actually writing. While writing and editing, make a second document with all the possible teasers and excerpts. Something makes you laugh? Copy and paste it to the document. Something makes you swoon? Again, copy and paste it to the document. Then, when it’s time to come up with teasers, excerpts, whatever, for your book marketing, you’ve already got a list of ideas ready. Because who has time to re-read their manuscript!

A word of caution – make sure to include some excerpts and teasers that are PG-13. I’m currently working on the marketing of my latest novel, About Face, and one of the bloggers asked for a PG-13 excerpt. When I went to my document of potential excerpts, I realized I didn’t have anything that didn’t include talk about sex. Oops!

It’s also important to include a variety. My novel is a romantic comedy, so I made sure to look for excerpts that were not only funny but also a few that were romantic. When I make teasers, I always make sure to include at least one of each. Romantic comedy readers love to laugh, but they also want all the feels!

How do you save time on book marketing?

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

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Why I changed my book covers yet again #WriterWednesday #BookMarketing #BookCovers #CozyMystery #AmWriting

Blurb and cover. Blurb and cover. The so-called experts tell us that if our books are not selling to go back to the basics and look at the blurb and cover. (There’s also the matter of having enough reviews, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.) Despite being one of my favorite series, my Death by Cupcake series doesn’t sell – at least not as much as I’d like. I’ve tried Facebook ads, Amazon ads, even Bookbub ads (FYI – those are super expensive), and nothing was bringing in the sales I want (let alone the sales I’d hoped for). So, I decided to go back to the basics.

In the past year, I’ve changed the blurbs for each of the books in this series. I’m assuming, therefore, that the blurb isn’t the problem. Time to take yet another critical look at the covers for this series. I already changed the cover of the first novel in the series, Never Trust a Skinny Cupcake Baker. (You can read about that here.) But perhaps that wasn’t enough?

Honestly, I like the book covers. They’re fun, cute, and obviously all within the same series.

 

But when I took a look at the covers of other cozy mysteries, I realized my covers were different than the others. A bit too simple, a bit too sexy. Looking at the top 100 culinary cozy mysteries, the majority of the covers can be (very simplistically) divided into two categories:

Those with located into a bakery or restaurant:

 

And those with food on the cover:

 

I decided to go back to the drawing board with my covers. I wasn’t going to make a cover that was different or special. We all know those don’t work. As I think covers of bakeries or restaurants seem a bit crowded, I decided to go for a cover with food. Since the Death by Cupcake series is obviously about cupcakes, the cover ended up being a big cupcake.

 

 

I only uploaded the new covers yesterday, so there’s no telling if the change is working. To be continued …

My week in reading #MondayBlogs #AmReading #Bookreview

asymmetryI had planned on reviewing Asymmetry from Lisa Halliday today, but I simply can’t. I have no idea what the book was supposed to be about. I have no idea how this book supposedly all came together in the end. Really? And how did the whole middle part about the man stuck at a London airport connect with the rest of the story? I’m obviously not intelligent enough to get this book.

So, instead of reviewing Asymmetry, I thought I’d do some short book reviews of the books I’ve read this week. I read a bit less than normal last week as I was in Spain until Tuesday night. Wednesday night I ended up filling in for someone in the tennis competition. I did not expect to get home after midnight! Thursday night I may have had an evening out with entirely too much drinking (I seriously can’t help it when they keep pouring me the good stuff!). Of course, Saturday was spent driving to and fro Germany. So, yeah, not a whole lot time to read.

the fearless kingThe Fearless King by Katee Robert. I was lucky enough to snag this one from NetGalley a while ago. Unfortunately, I started reading it a dozen times. Only when I forced myself to read thirty minutes straight did I start to feel involved in the story. I didn’t love it, though. There was entirely too much introspection. Ugh! Brooding, brooding, brooding. The dialogue was also very strange. It felt like there were sentences missing. The characters kept making inferences that didn’t make sense and just caused trouble. I also didn’t find the story line believable. People can be cruel, yes, but this went way beyond that. I still consider Robert one of my go-to writers. This book just fell short.

her cherryHer Cherry by Penelope Bloom. I loved William in Her Bush, so I wanted to read his love story. Unfortunately, although I loved William in Her Bush, I found him over the top in Her Cherry. If I were Hailey, I’d have run in the other direction. I also found the jokes about ‘cherry’ got a bit redundant.

her bushHer Bush by Penelope Bloom. This was my first novel from this writer. It made my laugh out loud and forget my troubles for a while. Exactly what I look for in a romantic comedy. Of course, the instalove and jokes about ‘her bush’ were a bit overdone, but I don’t mind that sort of thing in a quick romcom read.

downfallDownfall by Jay Crownover. I read this novel on the flight home from Spain. I hate to say it but I would not have finished this book had it not been free and I was not stuck on a plane without any other reading material. (Note to self: Make sure to download books on kindle before trip in case the hotel’s WiFi is out). Nothing felt believable about this story. The reason Orley ran away was frankly a bit disappointing. I was expecting some big reveal. And there was a big reveal, it was just more of a ‘ah okay’ reveal.

What have you been reading? Anything good? Please share.

Stopping for a potty break in East Germany #Memoir #Nonfiction #CreativeNonfiction #Travel #Adventure

travel pictureAfter boatloads of tears, tons of screaming and more than a bit of haggling, I managed to convince my parents to allow me to spend my final year of high school in Germany as a foreign exchange student. They kept possession of my passport and plane ticket, though, which meant every time I was out of line in the summer before school started, I’d be told that ‘I’d better behave myself or the Germany trip was off!’

I’m sure my parents wish the Germany trip never happened as I developed a case of wanderlust in Germany that will never be sated. Never. I’ve spent more than half of my life living abroad and have no plans to return to my homeland except for visits.

It’s standard practice in Germany (and in the Netherlands for that matter) to go on a senior school trip. I wasn’t technically a senior as German college-prep high schools (gymnasiums) have thirteen years and I was in 12th grade. My exchange family wanted to ensure I got to go on a trip, though, and thus it was arranged I would go to Poland with the history class.

The trip to Poland was awesome. You’ll be reading more stories about it in future blog posts. Today, I’m focusing on our return journey. At the time, several decades ago, Germany was still divided into West and East Germany. As we took a bus on our trip, we had to pass through East Germany. On the way to Poland, it was no problem. On the way back, it was a bit of an adventure.

east germany toilet trip 2For those of you who haven’t crossed a border in the former Eastern Block, let me explain. First, you arrive at the border to discover half of the light bulbs in the world are being used to make sure the astronauts on the space station can see the border. It is shockingly bright when you’ve been passed out on a bus for several hours. Nothing looks good under lights that bright. Nothing. And now you join a line of vehicles which depending on the time of day can either crawl forward or come to a complete standstill.

I’ll admit I was a bit nervous at the border. First of all, I was the only person with an American passport. The rest were Germans. West Germans but still Germans. I, however, was holding the blue passport of the country most hated by those in the Eastern Block. Just as we were taught in school how horrible the Soviets were, so too were they taught that Americans were greedy capitalists who would sell their own souls for money and privilege.

My other concern was the sheer amount of alcohol this group of forty-something seventeen and eighteen-year-olds had managed to buy. The entire overhead compartment was lined from front to back on both sides with bottles. Every curve and corner the driver took caused the bottles to roll outward and then back inward. I was convinced I was going to get a head injury when a bottle of ‘fake’ Soviet champagne fell on my head. Now, I realize eighteen-year-olds can legally buy and drink alcohol. But the bus had a bunch of seventeen-year-olds in it as well. Would the border control call us out? (On a side note, I still have one of the bottles I bought then as the bottom of the bottle is imprinted with ‘Made in the USSR’ I couldn’t part with it.)

We finally managed to make our way to the front of the line. The kids sleeping in the aisle got up grumbling and made their way to seats. The teacher handed the border control officer our passports. While one guard took off with the passports (which nearly gave me a heart attack), another guard walked up and down the aisle. I may have peed a little at this point.

Luckily, fifteen minutes later we were on our way. Only we had another border to maneuver our way through. We’d only left Poland. Now, we needed to ‘enter’ East Germany. This control took little time and we were off.

At this point, it’s important you know that you needed a visa to enter East Germany. We didn’t have those visas. No, we had visas for Poland and were ‘allowed’ to travel on one major highway to make our way back to West Germany. But the toilet on the bus was broken. No one way were we going to make it the entire way across East Germany without stopping.

The bus driver stopped for fuel and the students climbed out to use the facilities. This caused the bus driver to scream at us. German is a terrifying language to be yelled at. Terrifying. The other students were way braver than me and ignored him. Good. I really had to pee at this point.

east germany toilet trip 1

The lock on the toilet door looks something like this, except in German – obviously.

Now, we encountered our next problem. Toilets in most of Europe at the time required you to not only pay for them, but they had a box for payment attached to the handle. You couldn’t get into the actual toilet without paying. Of course, the payment required here was East German Marks of which we had none. You can’t just climb over and under to get into a stall. Nope, stall doors are from floor to ceiling. I don’t know how she managed it but on of the girls managed to get a door open. We all stood in line for the one toilet we now had access to.

East German guards wait for the official opening of the Brandenburg Gate.

Not nearly as scary looking in daylight!

The entire process took way too long. So long, in fact, that an East German police officer pulled over upon seeing the West German license plates and proceeded to shout and scream at us. I have no idea what he said. I was scared and thanking my lucky stars there was no liquid in my bladder at this point. The driver managed to calm him down and we all rushed into the bus and off we went. We didn’t stop until we reached West Germany.

Using automatic Amazon ads #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing

One of the most difficult parts of running Amazon ads is trying to find keywords. And, yes, you should try to find 1,000 – the maximum Amazon allows – for each ad (read my blog article about finding keywords here). But what if you let Amazon choose for you? How does that work? I decided to try a few automatic ads on Amazon and see how it went. Before I tell you my thoughts on my results, here is how you set up an automatic ad.

First, it’s important to understand I’m talking about Sponsored Products ads. I haven’t tried a Lockscreen Ad and don’t plan to as there has been nothing but bad press about them thus far.

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When you have the amazon dashboard open, you’ll see an option under targeting called ‘automatic targeting’.

amazon ads auto 2

Instead of using custom text, I also choose for this experiment to use standard ad without custom text.

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I made several ‘automatic’ ads for my books and what I discovered was this:

  • Automatic ads work well for books that are already selling well. I assume this is because Amazon finds it easier to target the book as there are several ‘also reads’.
  • Automatic ads also seem to work well for novels in larger categories. The novel I tried an automatic ad  with is in the category of romantic comedies. As this category is huge – HUGE – Amazon had lots of possible keywords from which to pick.
  • Automatic ads don’t work as well for books that are in smaller categories. I tried automatic ads for two of my cozy mysteries I was having a hard time finding keywords for. These didn’t work well at all. In fact, Amazon is barely serving these ads.

Based on my findings, I will try some more automatic ads for my other romance novels but automatic ads for my cozy novels seem to be a waste of time.

Has anyone else tried automatic ads? What were you experiences?

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

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Review of The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff #MondayBlogs #BookReview #HistoricalFiction #AmReading

I was super excited to read this book for book club this month. I love anything having to do with history, especially the Second World War. And bonus! The Lost Girls of Paris is about the women who helped the Allies win the war. It seemed, then, to be a guaranteed home run. Spoiler alert! It wasn’t. I was beyond disappointed by this novel.

~ The Lost Girls of Paris ~

1946, Manhattan

lost girls of paris 1One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

~ My Review ~

I loved the concept of this book. It is based on real history. A history almost forgotten of how women were also dropped behind enemy lines during the Second World War knowing the chance of survival was low. This type of novel is right up my alley, but I ran into problems almost immediately. The idea that Grace was obsessed with finding the identity of women in some photographs she happened upon in a train station didn’t ring true. Why was she obsessed? Maybe it was meant as some type of escapism for Grace from her life but for me it fell flat.

Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with any of the female protagonists in this novel and boy did I want to. There’s nothing I like more in a novel than strong female leads. But – in my humble opinion – each of the main female characters – Grace, Eleanor, and Marie – felt one-dimensional and underdeveloped. Their motivations were lacking. Why, for example, did Marie leave her daughter to go fight in a war from which her chances of returning were minuscule? It was almost as if the writer threw together characteristics of several people into these three main women making them feel anything but real.

lost girls of paris 2Although this novel is based on a true story (you can read the biography of Vera Atkins in A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm), the novel itself didn’t feel realistic. When being recruited, Marie asks Eleanor if her work would be like the code breakers at Bletchley Park. But no one knew what the people at Bletchley Park were doing until well after the war. And how the heck did Eleanor manage to talk to a Nazi being sent to trial in Nuremburg? Although the real Vera Atkins did manage this, I didn’t believe the Eleanor portrayed would have managed to even get into the same compound let alone into a prison cell to perform an interrogation.

Jenoff didn’t make the time and locations come alive. Instead of smoothly filling the reader in on the historical background piece by piece and, thus, making the reader feel as if she were in France or New York of the 1940s, information was unceremoniously dumped on the reader. It made the novel feel choppy.

The love affairs the characters had didn’t ring true either. Marie fell almost instantly in love with Vesper, a man who initially treats her like an idiot. Their final scene together was unrealistic to the point it would have fit nicely into a second rate Hollywood romance. Grace’s ‘affair’ with her dead husband’s best friend was unbelievable.

Unfortunately, I must conclude by saying I wouldn’t recommend this novel.

Claustrophobic? Me? Nah… Adventures with gas masks #ArmyAdventures #BeAllYouCanBe #Memoir #Nonfiction #CreativeNonfiction #ThisIsMyLife

I’ve never been great with elevators or tight spots, but claustrophobic? Nah, not me. Or at least that’s what I thought. More likely, at the age of twenty-one, I hadn’t had many opportunities to be in tight spots (pardon the pun). I got my bachelor’s degree when I was twenty. I was busy with other things – not worrying about claustrophobia.

protective gear

Aren’t we stylin’?

And then I joined the Army. One day during Basic Training, we stood outside of the barracks and a drill sergeant yelled the dreaded words: “Gas! Gas! Gas!” Crap. It was time to put on our protective mask or – as you civilians call them – our gas masks. I’m not embarrassed to say (okay, I’m a little embarrassed) that I lost my shit. Lost. My. Shit. I couldn’t breathe. The gas wasn’t going to kill me. A panic attack was. The drill sergeants thought I was fucking around and started screaming at me. Great help. Not.

I literally have no idea how I made it through that day. A day in which we were not only forced to wear our protective masks but also our protective gear for twenty-four hours straight. I can tell you this. I went to the toilet a lot – A LOT – during those hours. And yes, I’m a sneaky bitch who took her mask off and sat on the toilet trying not to freak the fuck out.

Somehow I survived that day, but it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. Nope. We also had to do the dreaded gas chamber. They actually call it a gas chamber. Talk about freak out. It happens like this. They line you up in groups and off you go into the gas chamber. First, things are relatively okay. You have your mask. You can breathe (relatively) well without inhaling gas. But then – bam! It’s time to take the mask off. And no, you don’t get to simply run outside afterwards. Nope, you have to stay inside and sing a children’s song. Only when you manage to get through a verse without stopping are you permitted to leave.

exiting gas chamber

This is me exiting the gas chamber during Basic Training, several lifetimes ago.

I managed to not only survive Basic Training and AIT, but I actually graduated and off I went to various military bases throughout the world. Well, guess what? That gas chamber shit was not over. NO!! Fortunately, I’d become even more sneaky. I have a very small head (go figure!), but each time I was issued new gear upon relocation, I asked for a medium-sized mask. Of course, it was impossible for me to seal the mask as the thing was too big! And voila! I never went into a gas chamber (or did any gas mask training) again.

So, yeah, it turns out I’m a bit claustrophobic. One of these days, I’ll write about the time I had to go through a tunnel in AIT. I shiver thinking about it.

Go Army!