How to Build an Author Newsletter Mailing List the RIGHT Way

Do you wonder how to stay in touch with your readers? How you can let them know you have a second book out? How you can market to them in a non-slimey way?

How about a mailing list? In other words, an author newsletter.

Okay, okay, before you falling over moaning and groaning, keep reading.

Why Authors Need a Mailing List

Basically, a mailing list is an email newsletter. It doesn’t have to be fancy, in-depth, long, frequent, or anything majorly time consuming. But if you are serious about publishing and want to stay in touch with readers between books, a mailing list (also called permission marketing) is a great, inexpensive way to go.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and a major publisher had done a study to find out which led to more sales: marketing on Facebook, Goodreads or an author mailing list. The mailing list won hands down. So, if you want to stay in touch with your fans and sell more books, try a mailing list.

In essence, a mailing list is THE way to stay in touch with your readers so they don’t forget about you. Think of it this way. When was the last time you missed tweets on Twitter? When you ignored status updates on Facebook? Now think about your email. When was the last time you ignored mail in your inbox? When was the last time you didn’t even read the subject line and just blew it away?

And the best part about a mailing list? It’s yours. Facebook could vanish tomorrow and if that’s what you’ve been using to stay in touch with your readers, then guess what? You may have just lost them! And yes, there are flaws with a mailing list, but not to the same extent.

Mailing List Success Basics

I’m going to assume I’ve convinced you to try building a mailing list and I’m going to jump right into how to rock your mailing list:

1. Put your sign up link everywhere your readers hang out. Get a pretty URL if your mailing list program gives you a really long one (my pretty link is www.jeanoram.com/signup) and list it everywhere your readers might be like on Facebook, in your email signature, on your business cards (if appropriate), on your website, etc. But remember: you don’t want just anyone signing up. You want to build a list of fans. Of people you can rely upon. People who will open your emails and look forward to your content. You don’t want a cold list where people don’t read your emails and couldn’t care less about it. Especially if you are over the free first 2000 subscribers and are paying for the size of your list. (Don’t pay to reach people who don’t care!)

2. Get a reliable service like MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact. Those are three big ones I’ve heard about. Make sure you have one where you can back up your list and export it. This list is gold. You do not want to lose it. As well, list services will also help you stay within SPAM laws. If you don’t follow laws, your email address could be marked as SPAM and goodbye! As well, many of these programs have a free entry level list where you pay after you have 2000+ subscribers. They also usually have wonderful templates–including mobile templates that will help you look professional. (Templates break up your text and keep things pretty, making it sooooo much easier to read!) They can also track your open rates, etc. Well worth it!

3. Facebook app. Get your signup list on your fan page so those folks can stay in touch–leverage that platform! (P.S. Facebook is always changing things–if you’ve noticed the engagement on your page has declined lately–it’s because Facebook is actually hiding some of your content from your likers in hopes that you will pay to ‘boost’ your posts. Nothing is flawless–especially if you are using someone else’s free platform. It’s called digital sharecropping. You are the sharecropper, they are the land owner.)

4. Use compelling language. Some emails make you click to open them because you are curious about the subject line–that’s something you should be doing too! Experiment. Play. Learn.

5. Offer rewards. Why should the reader sign up? They want rewarding, compelling content in your newsletter. They don’t want five pages of you babbling every two weeks and you saying “BUY BUY BUY MY BOOK!” Make it an experience. Something to look forward to. (Chris Brogan does a fantastic job of this.)

6. Never make it about you. It’s always about the reader and what you can do for them.

7. Never spam. This should go without saying, but you would be shocked at how many people have added me to their mailing lists without permission from me. That is SPAM! And it makes people angry (and can get you in some hefty trouble). This is NOT smart marketing. Be smart. Allow people to opt in on their own!

8. Never share list. Ever. That is your list. You’ve made a promise to your readers to keep their email address safe.

9. Use different coloured font for your sign up link on your website, etc. Make that baby stand out and get noticed! Put it where people are going to look!

10. Tweet it. Started a list? Know you have readers following you? Let them know you started a newsletter that will ______. (Fill in the blank. Eg. Let them know when you next book is released. Let them know when you are having an exclusive giveaway. Share other free romance reads with them. Etc. What can you give to them that they will appreciate/want?)

11. Do as you say you will.

12. Make your sign up front and center on your website. Make it easy to find. Easy to subscribe. Easy to unsubscribe.
I’m on a mailing list right now where they nag me to do something EVERY other day. I kid you not. And there is no way to get off their list. You can guess that yes, they have lost my business. This has become harassment. Don’t be like that. Please.

14. Be patient. The first 20 subscribers may take time and you might itch to do something BIG that will up those numbers. But again, you want true fans. Not any old joe. It does matter. It’s your audience. Think of public speaking. You want to be in a room where everyone is hanging off your every word, not texting their boyfriend and ignoring you.

15. Talk to people. When they ask when your book is coming out direct them to your mailing list. Or ask! Ask if they would like an email when it is out when the topic comes up.

16. Put it in the back of your book!!!!!!! This one is HUGE! (It’s where I have gained the bulk of my subscribers.)

17. Keep it relevant. If people have signed up for your romance updates, don’t send them your opinion on the tar sands. Unless, of course, it is somehow related.

18. Give them exclusive insider bits. Sneak peeks, reader appreciation sales, etc. Make ’em feel special!! That is a huge reason why people sign up. They believe it will be something they can’t get elsewhere–like your website, etc.

19. Mention your sign up link on your Amazon author page.

20. Teasers. Tweet about your newsletter and put teasers for the upcoming newsletter on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Make sure you include the sign up link!

21. Readers like knowing something special and uncommon about an author. Such as the writing process. Something behind the scenes for a book that is out or coming out. It’s exclusive. Special! Make it so!

Some Mailing List Thoughts

Some mailing lists send out emails all the time–such as BookBub and Amazon. Others only send out an email when they have a new product (book) out. The big thing is to decide how much time you want to spend on this and what your payoff is. Would a monthly newsletter suck away your time and not increase your sales or connections with your readers? Or would it be a pick-me-up and really help you connect? It depends.

(P.S. For my Kid’s Play newsletter–it comes out every 6-8 weeks–my subscribers can access old newsletters when they sign up via MailChimp–so there is something they can access right away. And the freebie too–a free ebook of travel games.)

A Nerdy Note About Mailing List Companies

Most mailing lists will allow you to build or import your own template. (Note: if using images, they will make sure that your email doesn’t end up so big it can’t get through. Nice!) A template is a timesaver. You can use a nice, professional header, keep consistent colours (branding!) and also stay within SPAM laws. For example, they include a required footer with your mailing address automatically–to comply with SPAM laws. (I recommend a PO box for privacy reasons if you can swing it. If you have a literary agent or publisher they may allow you to use their business address.) As well, you can send to portions of your list instead of everyone. Check open rates, check click rates for whether people actually click on the stuff inside your emails, and other such helpful stuff. You can also batch send emails which is nice if you end up with a mega list–that way not everyone opens at once and then immediately clicks to your website and crashes your server. Little things we might not think about on our own!

Newsletter Content

I suggest you pick something you are passionate about and will be able to talk about a lot. Something that will be easy to write about frequently–or less frequently–for your newsletter’s theme. You also want it to be unique and stand out, if you can. Make it special like you! I.e. mythogical authors could talk about myths, erotica authors about spicing up your love life, etc. Some little theme that carries through not matter what each newsletter is about.

Some authors are very plain about their lists and tell subscribers they will only email when a new book is coming out. And that’s all they do. This works, too. Other authors share everything under the sun, but good ones will bring it back to what their readers want. I’m experimenting by sharing other romance type stuff–I guess that is my theme. I don’t have a regular schedule, but I want to send them out often enough that my newsletters aren’t hit and miss and people are forgetting they’ve subscribed, but I also don’t want it to be so frequent they stop opening them because I’m annoying and time consuming.

Open Rates and Subject Lines

You want readers to open your author newsletter, right? Well, juicy keywords used in the subject line help increase your open rate. Words that don’t sound selly-sell-sell help. But you have to watch SPAM filters. If you have ‘free’ a lot you might run into issues (same with if you have some hot romance keywords). And oddly enough titles with ‘&’ have better open rates. It’s like you are trying to stuff in so much goodness you have to shorten words. Weird I know.

Speaking of open rates, studies show that sending on weekends lead to higher open rates. Sending on Tuesdays and Wednesdays tends to lead to higher unsubscribe rates.

Closing Notes

But the big thing is for you to experiment. Watch and learn. Get to know your individual audience. As well, subscribe to lists and discover what you like and what you don’t.

Here’s an example of an experiment I did. Notice the very subtle difference in where I placed my social media links. By moving them I increased my Facebook likes, just like that. Seriously! There is value in playing around and experimenting. Get your geek on–it’s fun! (And the rewards help build your profile, too!)

My social media buttons before. (In my author newsletter.)

My social media buttons before. (In my author newsletter.)

Increase social media engagement through the location of your buttons in your author newsletter.

My social media buttons after. This small movement in their location increased my Facebook likes!

 

Okay. What did I miss? That was a biiiiig info dump. Any questions? Things to add?

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Vulnerable Characters: How to Write Compelling Characters

What makes a character so compelling you have to laugh and cry with them through the book’s adventures? That you get so involved in it all that the author creates a fan instantaneously?

One of the things that really works–particularly in romance–is a vulnerable main character. If you don’t believe me…think of Wolverine from X-Men. In the movies he has a vulnerable side that makes women swoon.

To quote author Julie Farrell “Both Beth and Mandy [from Jean Oram’s Blueberry Springs series] have a great balance of being ‘feminine’ and powerful. And sometimes being strong means making yourself vulnerable. It’s not just about arm wrestling! … Those are the times where the rewards are greater. When you go to the place where you confront what you fear the most, you’ll come out the other side totally transformed.”

Didn’t she put that so well? It struck such a cord with me and really put words to what was swirling around in my head. In fact, our conversation lead me to look at the books I was currently reading and which heroines had really dragged me into their journies lately.

And yep. Vulnerability was top of the list.

How to create a vulnerable character in your novel. Writing tips for compelling characters.

I would argue that making your character vulnerable at some point is vital to making them intriguing, multi-layered, and someone the reader can really empathize with. Thereby giving over their heart and becoming involved in the story.

That’s the why of it.

What does being vulnerable look like?

First of all, being vulnerable does not mean being weak. It means being a character that has something to lose. Something eating them emotionally. Some tender bit they need to get over in order to get what they need and want.

For example: Believing you aren’t loveable. A recent death that has you torn up inside. Believing you aren’t good enough. Aren’t pretty enough. That you will be used if you give up your heart. It’s that little something inside that the hero or heroine will protect and try to hide.

It’s that little doubt inside that on a bad day makes you want to cry.

That.

Why does being vulnerable matter?

Characters have to grow and change in a story–that’s the whole journey. The reason for the story. In order to do that they have to smack into walls and fall into pits and confront and wrestle with their biggest fears. It has to knock them down so when they stand again they will be that much stronger, that much taller. Characters have to let down their barriers and let change into their lives.

Think of it this way: When we exercise we tear down our muscles. We actually rip and tear them. We stress them. Put strain on them. But that process makes them stronger. When they repair, they make themselves bigger, stronger, more powerful. By tearing them down we enable them the opportunity to come back stronger.

That’s why action movies are so exciting. We get to watch (in a physical manifestation) the hero battle demons (sometimes real!) in exciting and thrilling ways. He has a vulnerable side that the bad guy tries to exploit. And only be moving past that and becoming stronger can the hero best the bad guy and win.

We love it because for the duration of the movie or book we get to be that person battling our inner demons, our vulnerabilities. We get to believe that we, too, could be heroes and win the battle.

And that’s why we need strong characters with a vulnerable side. If you want to read more about strength in characters and what that can look like you might want to check out the post I wrote over on Alys B. Cohen’s blog. Like Julie pointed out, there is vulnerability in strength. And one could argue, strength in vulnerability.

Talk to me. What character has made you laugh or cry or get completely swept away lately? Was it a romance? Action adventure? Share what grabbed you in the comment section.

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How to Write a Killer Ending

Wrapping up a seventy thousand word journey in a way where everything feels completed and leaves the reader feeling satisfied is a definite balancing act.

Too much wrap up? Barf. Who wants that nice bow double knotted? Get it done and get out!

But not enough warp up and the reader is going what? Wait? It’s over? What happened? What happens next? Did I miss something?

So, yes, writing a killer ending involves wrapping up the plot points, the story questions, the character’s growth, and achievement of their ultimate goal. But it also means continuing the entertainment value and pulling at those heart strings so the reader goes away with a smile and an ‘Ahhhh. That was good.’

How to write an ending

Tips on How to Write an Ending

1. The last battle of the story needs to be the biggest one. The one where the main character gets to demonstrate that they’ve changed. That they have mastered the lessons dished out earlier in the book. That they can stand on their own two feet. This is the climax. In the movie, this is where you are gripping your seat. You don’t know if they are going to win. You are hoping, hoping, hoping. There’s less than fifteen minutes left. They’ve got to win!

Note: By ‘battle’ that means whatever they have been fighting against in the movie. Recognition from their boss. Slaying the dragon. Fighting for their lover’s affection, etc. It’s that turning point in the story where things flip in their favour so things can be wrapped up. This is the beginning of your end and should comprise about the last tenth (or less!) of your story. (Not more than 25% or it really isn’t the ending any longer.)

2. All minor story threads need to be tied up before the ultimate ending — shortly beforehand is good (the last 10-25% may work for you). For example, the ailing grandmother passes on or makes a recovery.

Do note that a good ending leaves at least one unresolved plot item for the final pages. This should be the major story question that has been left unanswered. This is the one where we’ve been wondering if the main character will get their ultimate ‘treasure.’ The one where they went through such pains and such growth to try and reach. Such as: will the two lovers be reunited? Will Indiana Jones get the treasure back?

If everything else hasn’t been checked off as completed by the final scene, it can take away from the ending and give readers too abrupt of a finishing off. This can make them feel manipulated. An example of this would be a story where the teenager finds he is suddenly not grounded, can go to the dance after all, gets a brand new car, the girl of his dreams wanders by and says yes to going to the dance and his teacher pops by to say he got an A on the paper that was keeping him from playing on the football team. That’s a lot for one scene, isn’t it?

3. The opposite of this is that the ending should feel like an ending. You, the author, should feel a smile tugging at your lips. You should feel thrills in your chest and be saying things like: YEAH!

If you don’t feel as though the ending is right, chances are it isn’t. It should feel like things are resolved.

Note: If you are writing a series and the books hinge on each other, a little cliffhanger (an unresolved ending) is okay. Enough to make them keep reading the series, but not enough to piss them off. Throw them a sizeable bone. Tie up a majority of the story threads. (I’ve read series endings where it is abrupt as if the author stopped mid-sentence. This doesn’t give the reader satisfaction in completely the story. They can’t put the character to rest. This is good…but also bad. You must treat cliffhangers very carefully because you don’t want to piss off the reader…just keep them hooked!)

4. The true ending may need another thousand words to follow it in order to show the main character in their new life. Maybe. If you feel as though the ending cuts short, you might need a bit of a bow at the end. This also varies by genre. Romance readers want a bit of a bow. They need to feel secure in the main character’s new life. That things really did change for the main character and that they did get what they wanted.

5. A good ending will circle back. If you can throw in little things like sayings, jokes that refer back to other parts of the book in your last five hundred words or so readers will have a stronger feeling of having come full circle and therefore, a feeling of completion. This is especially true if you can link back to the beginning in some way.

6. The main character should be transformed and show it in your ending–it’s a completion of their journey. They can’t get to the end without changing so be sure to show that change!

7. If you can, leave the reader with something to contemplate. Again, this varies by genre. Some genres this is a must–like literary fiction–but not so much in escape reading.

 

So? What do you think? Read any good endings lately? Have some good ending tips? Share them in the comment section and help another writer.

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How to Be an Author

Treat day! We’re going to fill your brain with lots of helpful writing tips such as: How to create romantic tension! How to use Facebook to increase reader interaction and engagement! How to succeed in the world of independent publishing! And the truth about self-publishing! All for you!

I apologize for having gone missing lately. I’ve recently released book two in the Blueberry Springs series, Whiskey and Gumdrops, and have been blogging on other blogs. So, today, I’m going to share those links here so you won’t miss out on the helpfulness I’ve been spreading around the Internet.

How to Create Romantic Tension

So…how the heck do you create romantic tension if your character don’t get together until the end of the book? Jemi Fraser asked me to discuss how to create romantic tension over at her great blog. Here’s a sneak peek:

I decided while writing my latest book, Whiskey and Gumdrops, that I needed some significant romantic tension between the hero and heroine. But how could I do that when they don’t even ‘get together’ in the book in an x-rated way? How could I give them a few kisses, but not let them get together? How could I keep them battling each other but not let the heroine give in until the end of the book? (Oh damn, that was a spoiler, wasn’t it? Oh, let’s face it. It’s a romance! You know they’re going to get together!)

First of all, I had to give them history. They’d dated in the past but had been ‘just friends’ for eons.

Then I had to give them different wants.

Keep reading over at Jemi’s blog and get more tips on how to create vital tension.

Have readers noticed the romantic tension? I think so! Amazon reviewers Jessie Bollen Redding says: “…she does a fabulous job of keeping the books steamy while giving them an actual plot.” That steaminess–that’s the romantic tension at work seeing as all they do is share a handful of kisses!

How to Use Facebook to Increase Reader Engagement

Ever wondered what Facebook was good for? Ever wondered about launching a book using Facebook? Ever wondered how to get readers to like your author page and then interact with you? Over on author Michelle Hauck’s blog I share the insider tricks I used to increase engagement on my Facebook page as well as in my Facebook event–an online real-time launch party for my new release, Whiskey and Gudmrops. Here’s a sneak peek:

Facebook is a platform that allows readers to jump to one place and interact and see the whole string of a conversation. It’s easier to interact than, say, Twitter, where using a hashtag can be unreliable (you see the same tweets more than once, or you miss some). In my case, a lot of romance readers are on Facebook. I didn’t use Facebook much before releasing my book, but now that I’ve figured out that is the best place to interact with my readers, it is where I spend the bulk of my social media time.

You can keep reading about how I doubled my Facebook likes, and flooded Michelle’s inbox with notifications right here.

How to Succeed in the Indie Publishing World

I share tips that helped me get my free book into #1 status on Amazon.com in the women’s fiction humor free category as well as on the first page for searches of ‘chick lit’ and the like over on author Julie Farrell’s blog. (make sure you check out part 2 of the interview which is about launching a book and online launch parties.) Here’s a sneak peek:

5) Don’t spend a ton of money on advertising unless you are VERY certain it will pay for itself in book sales. The amazing thing about indie publishing is that it doesn’t have to cost a lot!

6) Expect to be pirated. Think of it as free marketing by people who wouldn’t buy your book anyway. But if copies of your book show up on legitimate book vendors and you didn’t put it there report it. Immediately.

7) Make writing the next book a priority. That means write. Even if you have to do it in an ER or tire shop or with your two-year-old stuffing muffin down your shirt.

Read more tips such as the importance of choosing your book’s keywords and categories on Julie’s blog.

The Truth About Self-Publishing

And finally, one more post about writing. Over on author J. Lea Lopez’s blog I’m dishing the truth about going the indie route and more! Here’s a sneak peek:

How much time do you have? How much work are you willing to do? How much do you enjoy learning? If you don’t mind working hard, learning lots, experimenting, and spending your time on publishing then self-publishing is great. I’ve met self-publishers who are surprised their books aren’t selling, but it is almost always because they haven’t learned the business, haven’t put the work in to ensure success. In self-publishing you are every person and get to control your avenues quite heavily. If that thrills you, then self-publishing might be right for you. I feel like I should be one of those drug commercials right now: Self-publishing might cause, insanity, anxiety, hives, freak outs, melt downs, excessive worrying, and other symptoms. Talk to your doctor to see if self-publishing is right for you.

You can keep reading about symptoms and remedies over on Jen’s blog.

There you go, four posts to make up for my silence here on The Helpful Writer. Which post did you find most helpful? Is there anything you are curious about and would like to me to blog about next week? Let me know in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

P.S. If you have been waiting for Whiskey and Gumdrops or want to check out the romantic tension first hand you can get your copy for only $2.99!

Whiskey and Gumdrops: A Blueberry Springs Chick Lit Contemporary Romance

Get your copy!

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All Romance

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How to Make Your POD Look Legitimate: Library of Congress Cataloguing Data

With the surge in writers taking their writing careers into their own hands and self-publishing their books as ebooks, one of the things they find their friends and family miss is a print version of their book. With print on demand companies such as LightningSource and CreateSpace printing nice books at a decent cost, more and more indie writers are adding print to their format list. But there is a problem.

How do you make it look less like a self-published book besides cover art, a good book description, nice layout, etc.? How do you make it look legit to your local librarian who is clamoring for local content? With Library of Congress Cataloguing Data.

Oops. Did you just faint?

Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be that scary. Here’s a quick break down of the why followed by the how. As well as a secret most people don’t know about libraries and book visibility.

P.S. POD stands for Print on Demand which is what kind of book you are creating if you use a service like CreateSpace or LightningSource–they print when there is demand.

Why Your Print on Demand Book Needs Library of Congress Cataloguing Data

1. It makes your book look legit.

2. Because nobody is going to do it for you and therefore will be missing if you don’t add it!

3. it’s an easy step to make your book more library-friendly.

4. Librarians are your friend. Make their lives easier. (And it might just sway them into accepting your book–you never know!)

5. It will get your book on library shelves faster.

6. It will help ensure your book can be found in a library system with thousands of books.

What is Library of Congress Cataloguing Data and What is it Used For?

If you flip to the front of a traditionally published book you’ll (hopefully) see a page (likely also the copyright page) with Library of Congress cataloging data. Some of the more recent books don’t have Library of Congress info because apparently they think with all their cutbacks this is an okay thing to cut (but it delays books getting into libraries and makes well-mannered librarians curse). So, if the first book you look at lacks Library of Congress info, keep looking. A nonfiction book is a great example as it has a ton of specific cataloguing info in the front of the book.

Tip: I like to snoop in books that are similar to my book because I can get subject category ideas, etc.

Now, the issue with this cataloguing data is that it might not make much sense. But basically it has data like title, publisher, ISBN, author name and year of birth (and death if no longer alive), and (hopefully) even subject categories. This is information that librarians use to make a MARC record for you (the author) and your book. Basically, that is the information they put in their library program (used to be a card catalogue) to make your book findable in their library and/or library system.

Because we are printing these books ourselves and sometimes our local librarian is going to be the first librarian to see this book (not some master degree carrying book cataloguer who catalogues (enters) books all day), we  need to make their job easier with the side effect of making our book more visible in their computer system. People don’t read books they can’t find.

P.S. You may think once it is in a library you are set… not quite. The next library over may not have the same computer system and might not have access to that MARC record where they can go click-click and link their copy of you book to that record making it magically appear in their own system. In other words, they are going to need to input your book into their system as well.

If you still aren’t convinced, think of it this way: librarians are busy and their libraries are notoriously underfunded. They will make best guesses as to your book’s content, etc., based on the back cover blurb (and maybe by reading a page in the middle–if they have time!). I’ve made book records in less than a minute in the past. Less than a minute to fill in all the info I’ve listed below when a book didn’t contain this info in the front matter. Any guesses to how accurate I was and how findable that book was in the system?

Still not convinced? Fast Add. This means a librarian didn’t have the info they needed to make a record for your book in their computer. This means they took your book, slapped a barcode on it, and shoved it on a shelf somewhere for patrons to happen across. In other words if library users look for your book in the computer they will not find it. Because it is not in it. You will not find new readers unless they happen across your book. Now think how many books there are in a library. Ouch. Back to Fast Add. This means when someone goes to sign out your book the librarian adds the book title and author name to their computer in a temporary way to keep track of it. When the book is returned, that record is DELETED. You are back out of the library computer system.

So do yourself a favour and add these few things into the front matter of your print books and make it easy for readers to find your books in your local library.

What You Need in Your Print on Demand Book’s Front Matter When It Comes to Library of Congress Cataloguing Data

Left align all of the following content. (Some of it can share lines–you don’t need a new line for each bit of info. Look at some books in your genre for examples).

Place this title above the content you are about to add: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Author:  Format: Last name, first name year of birth – blank because you are still alive. (You are alive, right?)

eg. Shmoe, Joe 1967 –

Full book title:

eg. My Life As a Shmoe: A Fictional Memoir

Series name and volume number:

eg. The Shmoe Diaries: Volume 1

Edition: (If you make changes and reprint, etc., make sure you change the edition–you *can* have a different editions under the same ISBN, but it is recommended you change the ISBN for each edition if the book changes in any way. You can also include the edition date such as below–this is especially smart if you think you may have more than one run a year or may change the cover, etc. If it is revised, you can say: Rev. Ed. of: TITLE/Author. cYEAR.)

eg. First edition: March 2013

Publishing Location:

City, State/Province

eg. New York, NY

Publisher:

eg. Joe’s Rockin’ Awesome Press

Year Published (not necessary if you have it above):

2013

Number of Pages:

403 p.

Any other edition distinctions such as illustrations, foil cover, index, irregular size, etc.

eg. Illustrated, includes index.

ISBN:

eg. 3100921944

Subject/categories:

This is total bonus material and will help make your book more findable. For examples, go to an IPAC (Internet Public Access Catalogue) for your local library and search using their ‘subject’ search. This is the stuff you are adding right here.

Subjects… so if you have vampires, it will pop up in a search on vampires. However, this is also the area most likely to make you look like you don’t know what you are doing. There are specific subject trees that are pretty much similar to the Dewey Decimal System, but are for fiction. So tread carefully and do some research to make sure you get it right.

Note: You want to make it clear what genre your book is here as well as the intended audience. I’ve seen big publisher books, that are very much adult, catalogued as young adult. This does the book no favours. (You are not getting ‘double’ the audience this way.)

eg. 1. Fictional Memoirs – fiction 2. Social outcasts -fiction 3. Dating (Social customs) – humor (Note: just made the first 2  subjects up so don’t quote me on them!)

Summary:

More bonus marks if you provide a summary of your book–1-2 sentences that a librarian can input so something comes up on the book’s page so readers will know what your book is about. (Trust me, what you write is much more accurate than what we can! This isn’t a pitch, but it is sales! It’s like a synopsis. A blurb. But short.)

eg. A fictional tale of Joe Schmoe and his dating misadventures in the small town of Mimi and how he turns his life from a sideshow to be laughed at to the best thing in town.

Print Country:

Country of origin which is tricky with PODs as they *can* be printed in different locations. I wouldn’t worry about that too much.

eg. Printed in the United States

If you are printing a short story anthology, you might want to list all authors and story titles on this page, although it does get a little bulky.

~ ~

There you go! It feels like a lot, but once you get going you’ll find you know most of this stuff!

P.S. Your Library of Congress Cataloging Information can go on your copyright page along with your ‘this is a work of fiction’ disclaimer. Smaller fonts are okay here.

Here is a screenshot of a good example of what all that great cataloguing info should look like once the librarian has inputted it into their system. Look how findable this book is. Subject, author, title, series, pizazz!

Library of Congress cataloguing example

 

There you have it! All about Library of Congress information, how to enter it, and what it means. Did your head explode?

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Two Quick Character Tips to Improve Your Writing

I love quick and easy writing tips that I can apply right now and improve my writing just like that. Those little things that are easy to overlook but can give your writing a boost whether it’s making you more efficient in the editing stage, or simply developing a stronger story that has layers and hidden goodies for the reader.

Today I’ve got two quick and easy character tips that tie together for a big ol’ plot boosting kaboom to help you out.

What is Your Main Character’s Fatal Flaw?

This is something I’ve overlooked for a long time. It’s that little thing that is easy to neglect and, as a result, can find myself with a character who is sort of wishy-washy in terms of their motivations and actions. Or worse, they flip around like gangbusters with their journey’s goals, etc., and aren’t anyone new and improved by the end of the book. In other words, they didn’t grow or change or overcome tricky bits in their personality in order to get what they want.

What is a Fatal Flaw?

Basically, a fatal flaw is that something within your character that they have to overcome because it stands in their way of getting what they truly want. As their character arc and growth builds throughout the story they should overcome this flaw or at least get better at dealing with it.

How this improves your writing: By knowing your character and what they have to overcome, it not only creates a stronger character but it helps you write faster because you know what you have to accomplish. By having that as a writing goal (having the character overcome the flaw) it is easier to dream up situations that will enhance the character’s growth process. As well, by focusing on who they are and what they have to overcome internally you ensure (hopefully) that you cover their internal motivations and make a character that feels real to the reader. The character has to change in order to get what they want.

Simplified: The journey changes the character and makes it so they can obtain their goals–whereas they weren’t in a position to do so at the onset of your story.

Real life example: My upcoming book, Whiskey and Gumdrops, has a heroine–Mandy–who has issues with accepting no-strings-attached help without feeling as though she owes the person back. In other words, her dire need for independence gets in the way of her asking for the help she needs in order to follow her dreams. Her fatal flaw: independence to the point of being unable to accept the help she needs. world war two poster

What Stands in Your Character’s Way?

What does your character want and what stands in their way?

If your character wants one big thing in their life and there is nothing standing in their way, well, then it isn’t really a story, is it? They simply go out and get it. Think of an action movie. There is always something in the way of them obtaining their goal, isn’t there? And that’s what makes the movie so great. What’s going to happen now? What’s going to stop him? What’s he going to do in order to get past it? (Think Indiana Jones.)

How this helps improve your writing: By knowing what your character wants to accomplish and by having things stand in their way you naturally create conflict which creates a faster feeling read (can’t put it down! OMG what’s going to happen next?). As well, it helps direct you forward while you ask yourself a series of ‘now what happens’ type questions which in the end leads to less stalling out (writer’s block) as well as sags in your storyline. One thing leads to the next.

While you might be thinking… but I write literary fiction that is character driven and not plot driven…?! Thanks a bunch, Jean. Right. This can still apply. In character driven stories the character is on a self-changing journey even more than the average novel and by knowing who they need to be by the end of the story you can still put them in situations that make them face who they are–that is something standing in their way because it forces some sort of change within them in every scene. And I would almost argue that in a character driven story that every scene should link up to some sort of change within the character. Why? Because that will help drive the story forward. Even if the character is only shifting their point of view on something by ten degrees, it is still a change for them and the reader gets to see that change happen. Which is, quite frankly, kind of exciting!

Real life example: My character, Mandy, wants to be a big fish in the small town of Blueberry Springs. That’s her big goal. That’s what she wants. But guess what? She’s going to have to accept help (money, skills, and more) in order to accomplish her dream. This ties into her fatal flaw (accepting help and not being 100% independent) and you can see how her flaw and end goal are going to be at odds with each other and force her to change and grow in order to get what she wants. Built in conflict and change. Kaboom!

There you have it. Want to pick apart your own work in progress and see what fatal flaw your main character has and whether it ties into what they want in your story? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section. We can puzzle it out together. 🙂

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