Switching Newsletter Providers ~ A To Do List #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #AmWriting #AuthorMarketing

I switched from MailChimp to MailerLite in December. I did not go into the switch lightly. I knew it would be a lot of work. How much work? Read on and you’ll get an idea.

I’m not going to discuss the reasons why I choose MailerLite. There are tons of blogs already out there, which outline the pros and cons of the most popular email providers (MailChimp, MailerLite, Constant Contact, etc. etc.). Instead, I’m going to outline the gazillion (slight exaggeration) steps necessary to effectively switch email providers.

So, without further ado, here are the steps necessary – at a minimum – to switch providers:

Step 1. Set up Landing Page

The landing page is where potential subscribers are sent to when they click on your ‘join my newsletter link’. Here’s what mine looks like:

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Step 2. Design Success Page

This is the page subscribers see when they have successfully subscribed. You can use the standard provided by your newsletter provider or design one yourself. I decided to design something myself to showcase my ‘voice’ (I write romantic comedies and humorous mysteries).

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Step 2a (optional). Design double opt in language.

Most newsletter services allow you to change the language in the double opt messages subscribers see. I opted to change the language in the hopes I would stand out from the crowd.

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Step 3. Design Automation Workflow (aka Onboarding Sequence)

Now we’re getting to the meat of the matter. One of the reasons I switched newsletter providers was the ability to do an automation workflow. What the heck am I talking about? Basically, an automation workflow is a series of emails new subscribers receive upon subscribing. This idea didn’t turn me on. After all, when I subscribe to a newsletter, I want the newsletter – not a ton of onboarding messages. But one thing all the experts harp on and on about is ‘you are not your reader’. Okay, fine. I’ll make a stupid onboarding sequence.

I designed two workflows. One is for when subscribers land on my landing page from a link in my books or on social media. The second workflow is for when subscribers subscribe as they’ll downloaded my free story. Designing these automation sequences took loads of time – loads. One you use more than one onboarding sequence, you’ll first need to divide your subscriber list into groups. Please don’t ask me how long it took before I figured that part out. *hangs head in shame*

Step 4. Change subscription links – everywhere.

And I do mean everywhere. Every single place you’ve ever advertised your email subscription sign-up page needs to be changed. For example,

  • Email footer,
  • Twitter header,
  • Facebook profile,
  • Website,
  • Novels,
  • etc.

I’m still updating all my novels. This is the language I use at the front of all my novels:

Are you reading diva? Join my reading diva squad (aka newsletter) and I’ll send you a FREE romantic comedy just because. Each month you’ll get a peek into my bookish life. I’ll also share exclusive content from my books such as deleted scenes, extended epilogues, and brand spanking new stories. PLUS a whole slew of book sales from other authors who write cozy mysteries and romantic comedies. I won’t spam you. Really, I won’t. And, if I bore you, you can unsubscribe. I’ll try not to bore you. Pinky promise.

Step 5. Convert subscribers.

This is super easy – at least in my situation. MailerLite has a tool to add all your MailChimp subscribers. I simply clicked the button and viola!

Step 6. Integrations

If you make use of BookFunnel and/or StoryOrigin (and you should!), then you’ll need to integrate you’re new list. This is also super simple. On BookFunnel, simply hit the add integration button. The same is true for StoryOrigin.

Optional. Change unsubscribe language.

Depending on your email provider, you may be able to change the unsubscribe language as well. Newsletter Ninja suggests changing the language to encourage unsubscribers to follow you on social media.

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Eights steps doesn’t seem like much work. Wrong. It’s a ton of work. What about you? Have you switched email newsletter providers? If so, have I missed something?

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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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A Review of The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder #MondayBlogs #BookReview #AmReading

January’s book club selection was The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. As a lover of Our Town and fellow Wisconsinite, I’ve had this book on my TBR pile forever. Well, maybe not forever, but certainly since high school, which is way closer to forever than I want to admit. What’s the 1928 Pulitzer Prize winning novel all about?

~ The Blurb ~

review of san luis rey 2On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below. With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.

~ My Review ~

While this novel started out as a fast read, I quickly got bogged down in the details. The characters – The Marquesa, the Perichole, Manuel and Esteban, Uncle Pio –all seemed like types rather than flesh and blood characters. A mother, a young girl, the embodiment of evil … all stereotypical types, not persons who came alive on the pages.

There is also more than a touch of sentimentality to Wilder’s work. The Marquesa (aka the Mother) is the embodiment of this. She writes letters to her daughter who has fled to Spain to escape her mother. The letters, although the reader only gets glimpses of them, are sentimental to the point of embarrassing her daughter.

If I were to merely look at the various lives discussed during the bulk of the novel, I would declare the novel sentimental and move on. There’s more here, however. Brother Juniper uses the collapse of the bridge as a jumping point for to investigate why someone dies. Is there a reason behind death? Do some deserve death more than others? For his efforts, he is burned as a heretic. As a reader, I couldn’t help but investigate the lives lost at the bridge and wonder the same things the Brother did.

The novel is full of writing that takes one’s breath away. The novel ends with a monologue by the Abbess who struggles to understand the meaning of life. It is in this monologue that we discover the depth of Wilder’s writing abilities:

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Start Where You Want to End Up ~ Advice to Starting Writers #WriterWednesday #WritersLife #AmWriting

I’m often asked what advice I would give to writers just starting out. The question always leaves me stumped with my mouth gaping open like a fish. What kind of advice could I possibly give to writers? In the past, I’d mumble something and quickly move on to the next question. In the past few months, though, I’ve realized I do have an answer to the question. Because I’ve spent the past months doing things I should have done at the start of my writing career. So, here’s my advice – start where you want to end up.

Jan 2020.3

What the heck do I mean by that? It’s simple, really. Set up your writer business as a professional from the get go. Here are some examples:

Newsletter. When I started a newsletter, I went with MailChimp. It seemed like a no-brainer – you can have up to 2,000 subscribers for free. BUT you can’t do any of the fancy things like have a on-boarding sequence or divide your list into different groups. I don’t need that, I thought. Well, let me tell you, at some point you will need all that fancy functionality. I know what you’re thinking – I’ll just change over when I need it. Take it from someone who spent an entire month switching from MailChimp to MailerLite (more on that in the coming weeks), DON’T DO IT.

Amazon categories. When you publish your novel on KDP, you are allowed to choose two categories. Turns out you can actually have your novel put into ten (10!) categories. I thought this wasn’t a big deal and let it slide. Then, I suddenly found myself with almost twenty published novels and wanted to add them all to more categories. It’s recommended that you only add one new category a day (don’t want to anger the Amazon gods), which meant it took me months to get my books added to the categories they belonged in.

Covers. Get it right the first time! Do not go for the easy solution. Spend some time – a LOT of time – researching your genre to discover the types of covers readers of the genre expect. Do not do like I did and make covers you like that don’t sell. Trust me, you will lose sales. (More on book covers and all the mess ups I did here and here)

Editor. You absolutely, positively no doubt about it must have an editor review your novel before publishing. No matter how great your English is or how educated you are, you will miss things and make mistakes. Trust me, I know. I published my first two novels after only doing self-editing. Those bad reviews due to poor editing will never disappear. Plus, you lose potential readers of your future books by publishing a poor product.

Website. Research website providers. Stalk other authors and see what provider they are using. When I started my website, I had already built a website for my B&B. Naturally, I thought I knew what I was doing. *Slaps forehead* I had no idea. Every business has different needs. For example, I didn’t have a blog for my B&B website. When I wanted to add a blog to my writer website, I had to add functionality. I had no idea what I was doing and it showed.

Blurb. The mistakes I’ve made with blurbs. *Shakes head* I recommend listening to podcasts and reading blog posts about how to write a blurb. I didn’t do this. Of course, not! I know how to write a summary. Why would I need to study blurb making? Um, because a blurb is completely different than a summary.

So, that’s it. My advice to starting writers or, as I like to call it, the list of many of my beginner mistakes. Beginner’s luck. Nah. That I know nothing about.

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes #Culinarycozymystery #Cozymystery #Recipes #Foodporn #Yummy #Baking #MondayBlogs

hot cocoa 6Being a cozy mystery writer is tough sometimes. Especially when you have to spend a morning baking cupcakes. Oh, yeah, it’s a hardship. But I persevered and made these cupcakes on Saturday for a party.

Those poor party-goers. I was relentless chasing anyone who tried one. What did they think? How did they taste? The conclusion? They were yummy, but almost everyone thought the frosting had a more butterscotch flavor than hot cocoa. I’m going to blame that on using whipping cream (not whipped cream but heavy cream used to make whipped cream) as finding any other heavy cream would necessitate yet another trip to the American store.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for a store where I can find American and British products. I’m less happy with the prices, and even less happy with the temptations the store contains. All those yummy things I don’t need but make me nostalgic especially this time of year. I never could resist temptation.

Ingredients – makes 14 cupcakes

For the chocolate cupcakes:

  • ½ cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour (I used wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar (I didn’t have any light brown sugar and used dark without any problem)
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk

For the frosting:

  • ½ cup dry hot chocolate mix (with NO marshmallows)
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup (169 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 – 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Make the cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Line muffin time with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat together the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil and vanilla extract until combined. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk to batter. The batter will be somewhat thin.
  4. Pour batter into the prepared cupcake tin. Fill each paper liner halfway. Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before frosting.

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Make the frosting

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the hot cocoa mix and heavy cream. Heat until warm, stirring often. Remove from heat and cool for 20 minutes or until at room temperature.

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  • Beat the butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in hot cocoa mixture. Once combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute. For a thicker frosting, add more confectioners’ sugar. If your frosting is too thick, add more heavy cream.

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  • Decorate cupcakes with frosting. Garnish with mini marshmallows.

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I had tons of leftover frosting, which was not a hardship. Not at all. Let me know if you give them a try.

Just be you! Time to stop comparing yourself to other writers #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #WritingCommunity

stop comparing 2I listened to several podcasts yesterday as I was stuck driving in traffic for a few hours. (Don’t worry – I’ve already whined and complained about that!). One podcast discussed writing 10,000 words a day. Yes, you read that right – 10,000!  That’s pretty much my weekly goal. As I got more and more depressed listening to this podcast while stuck in my car, I realized I need to stop comparing myself with other writers. This applies in particular to two areas – writing tempo and success.

Writing Tempo. For some reason, I’ve been hearing a lot about time management lately. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of time management. I am not someone who can handle chaos well. As in, not at all. Unfortunately, many of these time management podcasts, blogs, articles, etc. can be boiled down to one suggestion – write faster. Like, obnoxiously fast.

stop comparing 1If you can write 10,000 words a day, then go for it! You are awesome. But, you know what? You are also awesome if you write 1,000 words a day. I recently experimented with improving my daily word count. I used to aim for one chapter a day. I decided to try for two chapters a day three days a week. To my surprise, not only did this work, but I can maintain this tempo quite easily.

Slow and steady wins the race! I may not be writing 10,000 words a day, but based on my current tempo, I do plan to publish four books and two novellas next year. That’s a pretty darn good year in my opinion!

“Success” aka Book Sales. I’ll be totally honest here. I started out the year with a goal to increase my book sales five-fold. Yes, five-fold. And initially, it was working. I was selling more in one month than I’d sold in the previous twelve months! Around May, however, sales started slowing down and I was spending more and more time on marketing. I was also spending more and more time being stressed and depressed. Why can’t I make as much money as all those success stories?

stop comparing 3In September, I finally gave myself permission to stop. Because here’s the thing – what works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another. Also, it’s important to note many of those success stories are based on the ‘glory’ days of Kindle when there was a fraction of the number of books and authors as there is now. And then there’s the fact that those success stories are often the outliers – not the experience for the everyday writer.

Instead of spending hours and hours on Facebook and Amazon marketing – checking my ads, my sales, readjusting things time and time again – I am now concentrating on writing and publishing more frequently. This will not make me a millionaire. Guess what? I’m okay with that. Daydreams of being a millionaire notwithstanding.

Be you. Not anyone else. What is the lesson to be learned from all of this? It’s simple, really. We writers need to stop comparing ourselves with other writers. I know it’s hard in this day and age when information is not only readily available but constantly shoved down our throats, but I believe if we are conscious of this decision to not compare ourselves, we can do it – or at least stop with the constant comparisons.

What about you? Do you compare yourself with other writers or other writer’s success?

Candy Cane Oreo recipe from Christmas Cupcakes & A Caper #culinarycozy #recipes #foodporn #yummy #baking

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Anna, from the Death by Cupcake series, thinks she can solve crimes with cupcakes. Well, I don’t know about that. What I do know is eating her candy cane Oreo cupcakes makes me forget about my problems. If you’re looking for a fun but not too time-intensive cupcake recipe for the holidays (I cheat with this one and use a cake mix), I recommend this recipe from Christmas Cupcakes & A Caper.

 

 

Ingredients (for 20 cupcakes)

Cupcakes

  • 20 Oreos
  • 1 box Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup sour cream

Frosting

  • 4 candy canes
  • Oreos (leftover from above)
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) butter softened
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese
  • 3 – 4 Cups of powdered sugar
  • Milk, if needed

Directions

  • Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and line 2 cupcake trays with cupcake liners.
  • Twist Oreos to break apart and put the side with the most cream, cream-side up into each cupcake liner.

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  • Add eggs, oil, milk, and sour cream to cake mix. Stir until smooth. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full.
  • Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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  • While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
  • Finely crush candy canes (I used a mortar and pestle) and finely crush the other half of the Oreos.

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  • Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until you get the desired consistency. If it gets too thick, add a bit of milk. Fold in the finely crushed candy canes and Oreos.
  • Frost cooled cupcakes and top with extra Oreos.

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These were a big hit with our dinner guests and my in-laws, although my husband said there was too much frosting. As if. There can never be too much frosting!

Short, short reviews #MondayBlogs #AmReading

The busy holiday season is upon us. My December calendar looks like someone’s pen exploded – it’s chock-full of parties and drinks get-togethers. But no matter how busy I am, I always (!!) find time to read. I’d explode if I couldn’t get a bit of reading in every now and again. I may find time for reading, but I don’t always have time for writing reviews. As a writer I KNOW how important reviews are, however, which leads me to my short, short reviews. Here’s what I’ve been reading and my thoughts on those reads

~ Dark Alpha’s Temptation by Donna Grant ~

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There is no escaping a Reaper. I am an elite assassin, part of a brotherhood that only answers to Death. And when Death says your time is up, I’m coming for you…

For centuries, my loyalties lie with Death. She is my mistress and master. I am alive only to do what pleases her. And for Death, I shall battle the evil among us until the bitter end to keep her safe.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 4 stars

This is my second novel in Donna Grant’s Reaper series and I am planning on going back to read ALL the novels in the series. And probably every series Grant has written. Dark Alpha’s Temptation has everything one expects in a paranormal romance – lots of mysterious happenings, some great suspense, and hot-burn-your-sheets-up sexy times. Mmmm….

I’m pretty sure Kyra and I would be great buddies. I especially liked how she did things the ‘human’ way. She’s humble, but knows she can kick some ass when necessary. And Dubhan? He can eat crackers in my bed any time. I liked how the story of him becoming a reaper is interwoven into this story.

And now I need to read the next novel, because Grant may have given us a HEA with Kyra and Dubhan but there are still things amiss amongst the Fae and dragons. Impatiently waiting ….

Baiting Him by Aurora Rose Reynolds ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.2Chrissie doesn’t have time for guys, hot or otherwise; most days, she barely has time to sleep. With a thriving bakery that demands her attention and plenty of proof that relationships aren’t worth the trouble, she’s content to go it alone. Too bad she’s unwittingly baited Mr. Tall, Dark, and Way Too Gorgeous—and he’s just waiting for a chance to bite.

Gaston is used to getting what he wants, but he also knows nothing good ever comes easy. From the moment he meets Chrissie, he realizes that this woman who makes him laugh, smells like cupcakes, and looks like a tasty snack is going to be his greatest challenge. And if he’s lucky, she’ll be his biggest reward.

But someone else wants to catch Gaston at all costs—even if it means endangering the lives of the people he loves. Somehow Gaston must thwart danger and convince Chrissie that he’s the perfect catch.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 3 stars

Baiting Him is typical Aurora Rose Reynolds. Instalove and a bit of suspense all wrapped up in a sexy package. Yes, please! I love me some instalove and sexy times. Unfortunately, this story didn’t capture me as much as previous stories from Reynolds. (The Underground Kings remains my favorite series.)  Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Chrissie and Gaston’s story and ate it up in one sitting, but I didn’t find the dialogue as witty as usual and the suspense was predictable.  I will continue to devour her stories but this wasn’t my favorite, although I still recommend it to die-hard readers of the genre.

~ Chosen Mate by Katie Reus ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.3Her past has taught her to be wary…

With an abusive relationship behind her, wolf shifter Leslie is quietly raising her young son in the Kendrick pack. If she’s occasionally lonely, it’s a small price to pay for her son’s safety. And if she’s secretly longing for pack alpha Malcolm Kendrick, well…she’s keeping that fantasy to herself. Experience has made her a realist, and they’re far too different to work.

This alpha is about to stake his claim…

She has no idea Malcolm wants her just as fiercely. That he’s been subtly courting her for a year. But subtlety has gotten him nowhere—even if he thought it was the best choice after what she’d been through. He wanted to make sure Leslie didn’t feel obligated to him, that she was truly ready to move on. Now that he knows she is, he’s determined to make sure it’s with him. And when a threat from her past surfaces, he’ll eliminate anyone who would dare to hurt his mate.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 4 stars

I love me some paranormal romance, and Katie Reus happens to be one of my favorites. Gimme. Gimme. The Crescent Moon series is made up of several novellas that are less intense than her usual fare (e.g. the Darkness series).  Leslie is coming off a bad relationship – the worst – and Malcolm knows she’s his true mate but has to ease into things with her. Malcolm sucks at easing into things. There is a bit of suspense, but this story is mostly about Leslie and Malcolm. It’s nice and short. Perfect for the busy holiday season.

Bishop’s Queen by Katie Reus ~

Monday Blog 2 dec 2019.4He doesn’t believe in fairy-tale endings…

They used to call Evan Bishop the golden boy. He had it all and was about to close the business deal of a lifetime, then marry the woman of his dreams. But everything goes to hell when a faceless enemy wants to destroy his family’s empire and see him dead. Except the bomb meant to kill him fails. He wakes up from a coma to find his face scarred and his brother missing and wanted for murder. Now that he’s damaged, he hides away from the world—including the woman he loves. He refuses to be a burden to her, so even though it destroys him, he sets her free.

She’s about to prove him wrong…

Isla MacDonald isn’t walking away from Evan just because he’s decided to shut her out of his life. He blames himself for the bombing that got her father killed and nearly killed him—but he’s wrong. After all attempts to see him fail, with a broken heart she tries to resume her life and take over her father’s firm. Though it’s not her dream, she wants to honor his legacy and finish the deal that will save thousands of jobs. But when someone tries to kill her—twice—she needs a bodyguard. To her surprise Evan steps up and insists on protecting her, putting on a show as the caring fiancé. But he won’t let her back into his life or into his heart. To have any chance at a future together, they’ll have to resurrect the past and stay alive long enough to expose the man determined to see them both dead.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 4 stars

Another Katie Reus novel? Yes, PLEASE! I loved Bishop’s Knight and could not wait to get my hands on this next novel in the series. Reus had done an excellent job in the previous novel of whetting our appetite for the next installment – little teases here and there. Gimme! Gimme!

Oh boy is Evan a jerk! Ugh! You are in love with Isla, show it! And not by taking all the decisions away from her. And Isla? Come on, girl! Demand his love or walk away. I did feel there was slightly too much introspection with their love story. The self-doubt and self-recrimination drove me batty at times. I also didn’t understand why Reus made the couple have a large age gap. It never affects the story except to drive me batty in regards to Isla running this huge company. At her age? Yeah, no, I wasn’t buying it. But the sexy scenes? Oh yeah. I’ll take more of those, please.

The bad guy is a tiny bit predictable, but that’s okay. It didn’t affect the suspense one bit. The suspense and mystery aspect were the best parts of the novel.  I’m now anxiously awaiting Bishop’s Endgame.  I recommend this one for lovers or romantic suspense.

What are you reading this week?