Why you should have a professional author photo #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing #AmWriting

I’ll be brutally honest – I didn’t think much of the whole author photo thing when I started developing my author platform. And, yes, I still hate those words ‘author platform’ now as much as I did in 2013 when I published my first book and started researching all this author marketing stuff. Like most self-published authors, I used a favorite personal photo for my author profile. In my case, it was a picture taken during my 12 ½ year anniversary party (12 ½ year anniversary is totally a thing). When I started using that picture, it was already a few years old. At some point, I had to admit that it didn’t really look like me anymore. At that point, I grabbed a vacation photo and used that. But then that photo started looking a bit dated as well. I’d be damned if I yet again updated my author profile picture. No one needed to know I aged, right?

But the unfortunate truth was – I had aged. Not only that but I’d now written and published eleven books – twelve if we’re counting the book I personally translated. I was getting more and more serious about this whole writing thing. I even dared to tell people I’m an author when they asked what I did for a living. (Even though I still cringe a bit inside when I say it.) Darn. Maybe it was time to have a professional take an author picture after all. I had the thought and then – like so many things in life – I did nothing about it. But suddenly I found myself attending a gala (peer pressure sucks). I’m completely useless when it comes to applying make-up and making my hair look fancy so I made appointments to have myself made ‘pretty’. That’s when I remembered the whole author profile thing. If I’m spending the day getting all dolled up anyway, why not have a photographer come over and have a professional photo taken?

I thought all photographers had the magical power to make the subject of their photos look younger, prettier, or thinner. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Once I got used to the fact that my chin is more than leaning towards double-chin territory and those bags under my eyes are permanent, I was pretty happy with how the pictures turned out.

Through this whole process, I’ve continued to update my Readsalot blog on a daily basis. Naturally, I started to pay more attention to author photos while blogging and choosing which book I was going to read next. I was frankly shocked by how many authors don’t take the author picture seriously. There are a bunch of authors who don’t even bother to have any picture. What are they trying to hide? And then there are those who have cutesy gifs or cartoon characters. Really? That’s how you want to portray yourself as a writer? And finally, we have the authors who take a vacation picture and turn it into a profile photo.

I admit I made the above mistakes again and again over the years. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from my mistakes. I initially started the process of getting a professional photo because I’d aged. But when I told people of my plans, everyone (seriously, every single person I talked to and I talk A LOT) said it was a great idea because I needed to look professional. And after I’d gotten the pictures done and uploaded them, I received tons of compliments as well as comments about how professional they looked.

There was that word again – professional. I guess the question is – do you want to be taken seriously as a professional author? If so, it may be time to get those professional pictures taken. Still uncertain? Just check out the difference between the two sets of pictures above. ‘Nuf said.

Why I don’t want to be Queen (Or How I’m trying to adult today) #ExpatLife #MondayBlogs

not queenLike most little girls, I wanted to be a queen when I was growing up. I didn’t want to find my fairy prince or marry a king. Oh no, not I. I wanted to be queen because I wanted to be in charge of the world. Yes, the world. I’m now way past the age of falling in love with a fairytale prince (because, duh, they don’t exist) or marrying a king and, although I’d still like to rule the world, I’ve come to the decision that I don’t want to be the queen. Here’s why:

not queen 3Hair. Your hair always has to be styled and looking perfect if you’re the queen. I’m lucky if I manage to comb my hair before pulling it up in a bun or ponytail and heading out the door to walk the dog.

Make-up. Most days I don’t use any make-up at all. If I do wear make-up, I usually forget to clean it off before going to bed and end up walking the dog in the park with mascara smeared under my eyes. The queen, on the other hand, always has to look perfect – including perfect make-up. I don’t even know how to apply the perfect make-up. I have to go to the beauty salon to get my make-up done for any important events. Luckily, those are few and far between.

Clothing. Although I’m sure it’s nice to have a wardrobe of all kinds of awesome clothes, the queen has to be properly dressed all the time. I, on the other hand, throw a fit every morning when I have to get out of my pajamas and walk the dog. Ripped jeans are the norm for me. My hoity-toity neighbors don’t know what to think of me.

Pantyhose. I hate pantyhose. One of my favorite things about giving up corporate life is the lack of pantyhose. Yes, I hate them that much. The queen doesn’t get a choice. She has to wear pantyhose All The Time. Um, no thanks.

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I could only manage an hour of boogeying in these. And yes, I know they’re not that high.

High heels. Although I’m sure there are times when royals don’t have to wear high heels, there are entirely too many occasions that do call for the torture devices than I care to think about. I can barely manage to walk in running shoes without tripping on my own feet, how do they boogey the night away in those spikey things?


Protocol. A royal has to follow the protocol handbook the majority of the time. I’m pretty sure walking up to the acting American Ambassador to the Netherlands and asking him Where’s the alcohol? isn’t allowed. (And yes, that happened.)

Politically correct. Even if you think the ruler of some country or a fellow royal is a right arse, you can’t just blurt that out to them. I can’t imagine sitting across from certain controversial figures and not taking the opportunity to give them a piece of my mind.

Etiquette. I haven’t seen it written down in any rules or anything, but I’m fairly certain it’s not proper etiquette to get wasted at a state dinner. I’ve heard it’s frowned upon to wave at a waitress with your empty wine glass and yell Fill ‘er up.

You won’t catch me reading any romances about silly girls falling in love with an incognito prince from some heretofore unknown kingdom. Nope. Not I. The King’s brother saying hi to me in the supermarket is as close as I’m ever going to get to being a royal.


Biking in Holland – from chicken sh$t to bad a$$ #ExpatLife #Holland #Cycling

The Netherlands has more bikes per capita than any other country in the world. Yep, that’s right. More than China, Japan, or any of those other Asian countries from which numerous famous photographs emerge with dozens of bikers waiting at stoplights. There are 16,652,800 people in the Netherlands and 16,500,000 bicycles. One in four persons goes to work on a bike. Amsterdam is considered the most bicycle-friendly large city in the world with 400 km of bike lanes.

bikes 1Just to give you a picture of how ubiquitous bikes are in the country, consider these facts. Mail is delivered by a postman on a bike. The bike is provided by the postal company. Fast food delivery is done by young people on bikes – the kind you pedal. You can even take a tour through Amsterdam on a bike taxi.

So, you can imagine my trepidation at getting back on a bike after a ten-year hiatus from Holland. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t bike much when I lived in Holland before. We lived in Haarlem in North Holland, and I worked in The Hague – definitely too far to cycle. I mostly trained to work. Although I could have biked to the station, I often didn’t because it literally took me longer to find a parking space for my bike than to just walk to the station. (Please note: The train station in Haarlem has been completely renovated since then.) And when I arrived back in Haarlem after a twelve-hour day I often couldn’t remember where my bike was parked. I started walking to the station and never looked back.

bikes 3It took me eight months of living in The Hague before I dared to even buy a bike. In order to keep things simple, I got what the Dutch call a grandma bike – an old-fashioned bike without gears or hand brakes. It took another week of the bike sitting in my hallway before I got the nerve up to take it outside. That didn’t go well. Before I managed to get past one street, my a$$ was killing me! After that trip, I waited for my Dutch husband’s return from Istanbul before cycling again. He helped me – okay, he did all the work – adjust the seat to minimize soreness in the rear region.

Then, a bit of good luck. The Dutch schools were out for two weeks of May vacation. A perfect time to adjust to biking in the city while the vast majority of cars and bikes were AWOL. I’m glad I had time to practice because the first day I cycled after the vacation was nearly disastrous. The main road into the city is blocked due to construction causing tons of extra traffic in my neighborhood and making all the locals into angry drivers. It was a miracle I managed to bike to the tennis courts without getting hit. I got winged with a car mirror but that’s a pretty normal occurrence.

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I totally biked in this dress and heels. Wind blowing up my dress be damned!

After I managed to bike to tennis while weaving in and around rows of cars lined up in traffic, I decided I got this! I can totally bike wherever, whenever. I tested this theory yesterday when I biked through the construction zone in a dress while wearing heals! Just call me the badass biker.


Ideas for Guest Blog Posts about your novel #MondayBlogs #AmWriting #Marketing

I try to blog three times a week, but sometimes I can’t come up with a blog idea for the life of me. And then there’s those blog tours that want guest blog posts. Of course, I’m a glutton for punishment and also offer to write blog posts for other blogs to promote my books. Help! Calgon take me away!

calgon take me away

I don’t have a bathtub so Calgon is never going to take me away. Instead, I’ve developed a list of ideas to use for blog posts about my book. And because I’m super supportive of my fellow writers (but mostly because I couldn’t come up with an idea for today’s blog post), I’m going to share my list with you. Here goes:

Character Interview. Tried and tested. Never fails.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About (Protagonist). I find this one more fun than doing a character interview.

10 Items of (Protagonist’s) Bucket List. You can have all kinds of fun with this one.

Cast of Characters in a Hollywood adaptation. Add some pictures and voila, you’ve got a blog post.

Something specific to the book itself. My current novel, Fat Girl Begone!, is about dieting and body image. There’s a lot I can write about that!

How did the cover come about? Assuming you helped design the cover, of course.

How was writing this book different from your other books? This is a good one if you write in multiple genres.

Favorite thing about writing this genre. What’s fun about writing murder mysteries? Or romantic comedies? Or whatever?

Channeling a gay man, an abused woman, an alcoholic. What characteristic is specific to your protagonist or antagonist? If that characteristic is far removed from your own personality (for example, me – a straight woman – writing a novel in which the protagonist is a gay man), how did you channel that person?

Particular inspiration behind this story. This works well if your novel has a moral to it.

Deleted scene. I actually never delete scenes entirely. Or – if I do – it’s so early in the writing process that I just delete and move on. I have, however, written ‘deleted’ scenes for blog posts. I usually have a list of chapter ideas I use as a rough outline when I’m writing. Sometimes I don’t get to all of the ideas before the story finishes. I then use the leftovers as deleted scenes.

Do you have other standard guest post ideas you use when promoting your novel? I’d love to hear about them!



Dutch Remembrance Day #ExpatLife #LivingInHolland #History #WWII

Freedom! That’s what we’re celebrating today in the Netherlands. Even if we’re not doing it with blue and white stripes painted on our faces or screaming Freedom! at the top of our lungs. I’ve obviously watched Braveheart one too many times. Before we can celebrate freedom, however, we need to spend a moment remembering the men and women who made that freedom possible.

Yesterday, May 4th, was the day in the Netherlands when all victims of wars and/or military actions from World War II onwards are remembered. The Germans capitulated in the Netherlands on May 5th and thus the previous evening is set aside as time of remembrance. Several remembrance ceremonies take place across the country. The King attends the ceremony at the Dam in Amsterdam.

rembrance 1The Dam is an oblong-shaped square in Amsterdam with Royal Palace of Amsterdam on one side and a memorial on the other. The Dam is called the ‘dam’ because it was actually a dam in the Amstel river built somewhere between 1204 and 1275. There was a lock in the dam to protect ships. The famous road leading from the train station to the Dam square – the Damrak – was actually a port that eventually became filled with sand from water being forced through the locks on the dam to the IJ river.

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People seeking cover during the shooting.

On May 7th, 1945, two days after the Germans capitulated in the Netherlands, a massacre occurred on the Dam. Thousands of Dutch gathered there to await the arrival of Canadian troops. In a club around the corner, members of the German forces watched as the crowd below their balcony grew. They placed a machinegun on the balcony and started shooting into the crowd. The shooting ended when a member of the resistance climbed into the tower of the palace and started shooting onto the balcony. At the same time, a German officer and Resistance commander forced their way into the club and convinced the men to surrender. Numbers vary but at least thirty-one died and more than one-hundred were wounded.


rembrance 2Eventually, a memorial was placed on the Dam to memorialize the dead from the Second World War. The memorial consists of a semicircular colonnade. There are eleven urns containing soil from World War II execution grounds from each of the Dutch provinces contained within the wall surrounding the colonnade. A twelfth urn was later added with soil from Indonesia – the former Dutch East Indies. Officially, the monument commemorates the dead from World War II, but on May 4th, all Dutch victims of war and/or military actions are commemorated here.

remembrance 8At 7:45 p.m. on May 4th, the King, Queen, Prime Minister, and military representatives walk out of the Royal Palace and cross the Dam to the monument. They place the first wreath at the monument before the entire nation falls silent for two minutes. We are silent for two minutes to remember those who have given their lives so that we may live in peace and silence.

After the two minutes, the ceremony continues with various persons laying wreaths at the memorial. There are always governmental representatives like the Prime Minister and the chairpersons of the houses of parliament. The interesting part is when survivors of various military actions are given the chance to lay wreaths. On huge screens behind the memorial, a short background is given of the survivor – usually by a close relative – before the wreath is laid. This brings history to life. Something that is ever so important in these times. There is also a poem read by a high school student. Every year, there is a national poetry competition to choose the student who will read the poem.

rembrance 4At midnight, the official national remembrance day turns into Liberation Day. The liberation fire is lit on May 5th Square in Wageningen. Runners light torches from this fire and bring the liberation fire to seventy places in the Netherlands. Over 2,000 runners are used. The liberation fire is brought to the capital where later on the 5th the official opening of Liberation Day takes place in the presence of the Prime Minister.

In contrast to the quiet reflection of Remembrance Day, Liberation Day is a day of festivals with podiums containing live music throughout the country. So, today we party to celebrate our freedom. And if that’s not a good reason for a party I don’t know what is.

remembrance 6

How to make a book teaser #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing #Marketing

I love teasers. Not only are they are great way to promote my own books, but I often choose a book to read after seeing a cool teaser from the author. But not all teasers work for me. I’m not an author marketing guru, but I do know what works for me as a reader. And since I buy at least one e-book a day, I’m going to assume my opinion matters to writers looking for readers. (Big assumption. I know.) I’ve recently jumped on the Instagram bandwagon (and am loving it, by the way) and have noticed some ‘typical’ problems that will cause me to scroll right past a teaser.

Legibility of text. The biggest problem I run into is too much text. I’ve seen more than one teaser in which the picture is completely covered by text. You couldn’t see the photo, let alone what the photo was supposed to portray. Although I love this teaser from Molly’s Misadventures, I now realize that there’s too much text and the text color makes it difficult to read.

Mollys misadventures_teaser 2

If you’re having a hard time trimming the text, ask for a second opinion from friends or beta readers. My husband is great at picking out the kern of the text. I always print out a couple pages of possible teasers for him to look at. He often surprises me with what he chooses and how he thinks I should shorten the text, but he hasn’t lead me astray – yet.

Pictures. I’m not saying that you need to use the same cover model for each teaser, but the models should at least bear a resemblance to each other. Having the same ethnicity and hair color are a minimum. And if your book features a plus-sized heroine, please (PLEASE!) do not use a skinny model. Seriously, I’m begging you.

Book title and author name. I like your teaser. It looks awesome. But what book are we talking about? Who is the author? If I have to spend time looking for these aspects on the teaser itself, I’m going to keep on scrolling. I like to use a different font and color for the title and my name – anything to get name recognition, right?

Mollys misadventures_teaser 1

Reflect the book. I can’t stand misrepresentation. A synopsis that doesn’t indicate a book has a cliffhanger will cause me to go into a rage. (Okay, I have anger issues, but you still get my point.) A teaser should also reflect the content of a book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased a book based on witty dialogue in a teaser and discovered that was the ONLY witty conversation in the entire book. Grrrr….

Here are the teasers for my latest novel Fat Girl Begone!. What do you think? Did I follow my advice or do you see reason to give me a hard time? Go for it. Comments are open.



Should I still do a blog tour for my new release? #MondayBlogs #BookMarketing #AmWriting

Since my new book, Fat Girl Begone!, released this morning AND I started a new blog tour for this release this morning, today is the perfect day to discuss whether you should do a blog tour for your new release. First of all, let’s do a reality check. Blog tours are no longer the end-all be-all of book marketing (although nothing should be the end-all be-all when you’re talking about marketing). The market is saturated, and writers report fewer and fewer sales from blog tours.

That takes me to my first point – sales. Blog tours do not immediately lead to tons of sales. I can see you roll your eyes and hear you muttering ‘then how is this marketing?’. Trust me, I get it. But blog tours have always been about the long sale. What do I mean by that obviously stock market reference, which doesn’t seem to work in this situation? Simple really. Blog tours are about getting your author name and books in front of readers. Maybe they won’t pick the book up right away, but if there is enough buzz about the book (because the book was mentioned on several blogs over several weeks like, for example, during a blog tour), they may decide to check it out.

But if blog tours are all about the long sale, shouldn’t I just build up my author platform instead? Sure, you can do that, but I like to do both. Here are my reasons:

authors-platform-pride-v11Supplement your author platform. I work hard on building my author platform, but – make no mistake – it is work. I spend a lot of time and energy on finding new bloggers, readers, reviewers, etc. But there’s an ‘easy’ way to give your author platform a boast – a blog tour. The easy part is running a giveaway attached to the blog tour. You can gain new followers by having extra giveaway entries for each ‘follow’ (follow on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.). This is a great way to gain an instant boast to your author platform. I also stalk each blogger who takes the time to post a spotlight, review, or interview during my blog tour. I follow them on every social media platform. The vast majority will follow back. I’m constantly trying out new blog tour operators to ‘meet’ new blogger contacts.

blog tourReviews, reviews, reviews. Let’s face it. If you don’t have a well-known name (whether it’s as an author or other type of famous persona), you can shove your book in front of people all you want, but you won’t be selling many books unless you have some reviews. Readers want some assurance that someone else has read your book and found it an excellent read. If you’re self-published, this is even more true. A lot of readers are less than enthusiastic about self-published authors. I can’t blame them. There are way too many self-published books out there that are not properly edited. *Cringes in the name of all authors everywhere* That’s where the reviews come in. And where is one of the best places to get reviews? Blog tours! Blog tour operators have tons and tons of contacts. They will contact their bloggers and beg … er… ask them to read and review your book. Sure, I send out tons of review requests myself, but if you haven’t had previous contact with a blogger, the chance they will read your book is slim. In my experience, bloggers are quicker to say yes to a new-to-them writer if the request comes from a blog tour operator.

That’s it, folks. The two main reasons I continue to do blog tours. Thoughts, comments? I’d love to hear about your experiences.