March 16, 2017

Why Genre is So Important in Today’s Amazon World

What I mean is in the past, we could browse the shelves of our favorite book store for potential reads. We’d skim the authors and the titles. Then we might wander over to another group of shelves.

We had access to all the shelves. That made browsing really a browse. Today, if we shop online for our books, browsing becomes more difficult.

If you tried, you’d probably never get anywhere. It’s almost impossible to browse all the books in a genre. I tend to be a shopper who is easily overwhelmed. It there’s too much out there, I don’t buy. I like a few choices or an opportunity to browse a few choices. Amazon, no matter how much we love the convenience and the service, will never be able to create that kind of browsing opportunity.

Of course, Amazon is trying hard to do so. You’ll see on your Amazon page, readers who looked at this book also looked at… Amazon also suggests books based on your browsing or purchasing habits. The problem is these hints often miss the mark. I shop for everyone in my family. If I purchase a heavy history tome for my husband, that doesn’t mean I want to read heavy history tomes myself. Furthermore, I’m often using Amazon for “research.” I’m looking for titles that may fit with something I’m writing. That doesn’t mean that’s the kind of book I want to read.

Here is where genre comes in. Genre has always been important. We as writers must identify our genre so readers will know what we are writing. In the past if we spilled over into another genre, the book store had to decide where to place our book.Once they did so, that book appeared on the shelf in that genre. But, my book might still be found by other readers because book store browsers can wander throughout the store.

For example, my first book The Clock Strikes Midnight is not a typical mystery. Some might say it was a suspense family saga; others might call it literary fiction; still others might call it Southern fiction. I had to place it in a particular genre, and I chose mystery. Fortunately most of my readers agree that it is a general mystery versus a whodunit. Nonetheless, the book also has elements of the other genres listed. I cannot remove it from the shelf of mystery, but I can add the other genre names when it appears on Amazon.

Identifying the genre of a book will place a book somewhere in the book cyber world. Giving it alternative genre or sub-genre will even better identify it. These are extremely important decisions. Some say if you select a limited genre, for example, Southern cozy mystery with a female sleuth, you will have a better chance to getting notice on Amazon.

The closer the target, the better the chance of finding that audience among all the millions of books and thousands of shelves a book store like Amazon offers.

What are your experiences with genre?

#MyBookReview The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

This is a hard review to write. I found The Storied Life of AJ Fikry entertaining, but with major writing flaws. The characters are interesting if not too well developed. I couldn’t really see the main character (AJ Fikry) in my mind’s eye. Nonetheless, as a reader, I wanted good things to happen to him and to those people close to him.

I found the police chief, Lamboise, the most interesting and the most visual character. Nonetheless it wasn’t until late in the book that I learned he was bald.

That’s usually not a problem for me. I like to understand what the various characters are thinking and feeling. The problem was when the author head-hopped. That is, traveled from the mind of one character and into the next from paragraph to paragraph. I found that distracting and troubling. For that reason and the lack of character development, I will only give this book three stars.

The section where we read the young teen’s essay was really boring. There was nothing in it that we didn’t already know and little that would have qualified that story for even third place in the competition. It would have been better to suggest the content and let the reader imagine the story.

I loved all the information about books and the love of books and reading. I enjoyed the thought of living over a book store on a remote island in New England. How quaint! What happened to the characters and how they changed also intrigued and pleased me. In other words, it’s still a good read.

But, if you’re looking for a light distraction during these holidays, give this book a try. BTW, it’s on the NYT best seller list. I suppose being a best seller doesn’t mean the book has to be well written!

My Best Book Ideas Come from My Friends

Indeed, my book club has unearthed a few, but the very best books are those my friends recommend.

I’ve thought about this phenomenon. I read book reviews. I study what people are reading on Goodreads. And, I do read what my book club assigns me. But, it’s my closest friends who are my best resource.


Maybe because they know me and know what I like. I think I know myself, but in truth, maybe my friends know me better. Here are some of the wonderful books I found through recommendations from my friends:

  1. All the Light we Cannot See. As most of you know, this one became a Pulizer Prize winner. I read it before it got that distinction because a friend thought I’d like it.
  2. Still Life with Bread Crumbs. A very good book that left me wanting to read more by Anna Quindlen.
  3. The Hare with Amber Eyes. This was a fascinating book about pieces of decorative art I’d never heard of. It took me from France to Austria to Japan.
  4. The Lost Painting. Jonathan Harr did a great job with this nonfiction piece. I learned a lot about the life and painting of Caravaggio.
  5. The Orphan Train. A piece of our history I knew nothing about, but told in a fictional account.
  6. A Man Called Ove. My recently review calls this a book that floored me.

These are just a few of the great reads my friends have led me to. I’m sure there are many more, but one thing is for sure. When one of my friends says, “You really need to read…” I will perk up. They are more often than not right!

So, here we are at the end of 2016. And I just want to say thank you to my friends for so many great reads.

What Does It Take to Get The Word Out About Your Book?

bigstockphoto_Woman_With_Hand_To_Ear_Listeni_209983My books are not self-published. I say that right off the bat because there are many things I cannot control. Self-published authors have an advantage in many ways I do not. Here are some examples:

  1. They control the price of their books and thereby the specials that are run.
  2. They select the key words on Amazon and can change and update them as needed.
  3. They have good sales information. They can track what is working and what isn’t.

Given these limitations, those of us who are traditionally published still can do a lot of things to get the word about about hour books.

If you don’t have a website, get one. People want to see more about the author than your name. Make sure your website is professional but has some personal information. Include a blog. Many writers use blogspot which enables them to have a blog and a website all in one. You should blog regularly. Think about things you can share about being a writer or about reading in general. Share posts from other websites and invite other authors to guest post or to visit your site for an interview.

Select the social medium or media you want to focus on, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or something else. If you post on any of those, do so regularly, like every day. I post ten updates, tweets a day on four networks, including Google+ and LinkedIn. These posts should include all kinds of things, not just promotions about your book. People want to get to know you before they start investing in you. These days it takes a long time for that to happen.

You can’t promote your work in the articles, but your bio will include all your books. If you write investing, intriguing, professional articles, you’ll attract interested readers to your website and to your books.

Mine goes out once a month. I keep it simple but include lots of tips for writers and for readers. I want it to be interesting but not inundate my community with too many emails. I know what that’s like! This e-newsletter should go to everyone in your community, including the people who sign-up on your website (and there should be a sign-up and a giveaway there) and the people in your LinkedIn community.

Most publishers have a Facebook page, a website with shopping opportunities, and a Twitter account. Be sure to post on these sites. Your publisher has many writers. You only have one. This activity will increase the eyes on your content. That’s the goal after all, right?

Calling all Readers!! How Do You Find Your Next Book to Read?

As a writer I’m curious. As a reader I wonder if you can give me some ideas. I have found some ways to select books, but I’m sure you can share others. Please visit here and let me know.

Here are some ways I select books:

  • I ask my reading friends what they’re reading. Well, I don’t always ask. They often tell me. Often my reading friends have some great ideas of books to share.
  • Author interviews on public radio give me some direction. I hear the authors talk about their books. That can be intriguing. Two programs I particularly like is the New York Times Book Review podcast and Fresh Air podcast. Both offer in-depth looks at the Vector businessman series - blank setnewest books.
  • Goodreads. Sometimes My Goodreads friends suggest a book to me. They pay attention to the kinds of books I read, and they make a recommendation. I don’t simply go with their recommendation, I study the book and its author first.
  • Amazon suggestions. Amazon likes to try and figure out what I like to read. They send me all sorts of suggestions. Unfortunately, I often purchase books for other readers–like my husband–whose tastes are very different. This messes up Amazon’s logarithm. Nonetheless they sometimes have a good suggestion that fits my reading tastes.
  • My book club. I belong to a very relaxed book club. We don’t require everyone to read the suggested books. But, if a book intrigues me, I do read it, and it’s often something I would never have heard of otherwise.
  • Book reviews. Before I hit the purchase button on Amazon or B&N, I look over the reviews. I study the good and bad ones. The best leads are often in the 3 and 4 star reviews. The 5 star reviews love everything about the book. They are blinded by their adoration. The 1-2 star reviews are blinded by their dislike of the book. But, the 3-4 star reviews can give you a good idea about the book and whether it might suit you.
  • Get a sample of the book before you actually hit the purchase button . If I know nothing about the book or the writer (even if my book club recommends the book), I get a sample. If I hate the book in the first few chapters, I know not to order it.

These are some ways I find books. How about you?

If you’re looking for a good new mystery series, try the Jenna Scali mysteries. Here’s the book trailer for Book One.

What do Sympathetic Readers Like to Read?

Indeed reading is a subtle form of communication. Our books talk to us in all kinds of ways. They teach, they entertain, they create tension, they challenge.

In my previous posts we’ve looked at the kinds of books Bold readers like and the kinds of books Technical readers like. Today we want to examine the Sympathetic personality and look at books they might prefer. If you’re not sure what kind of personality you are, try taking this quiz.

Wow, that was a great read!

Wow, that was a great read!

Sympathetic people are patient, dependable and good listeners. They are hard workers and productive but they are willing to follow, if they believe in the reason to do so. They are even-tempered and amicable. They care about people and are quick to ask how others are doing or to recall if someone has an ill family member. They recognize stress in others. They read nonverbal behaviors. Their empathy and compassion make them likable to be around.

So what does this mean as far as their reading habits?

They prefer stories that contain human feelings–preferably romances but not necessarily. Books with characters who share their emotions would suit them the most. They read some mystery but preferable cozy mysteries that do not have a lot of violence or explicit sex scenes. They are often offended by bad language in books.

As for nonfiction, they prefer memoirs which share the individual’s feelings. One example, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. They do not like adventure memoirs that might threaten the life of the character.41UO5gQeCfL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

When do Sympathetic readers find time to read? When everything else is done. They consider reading their time. Whenever someone else needs them–a child, a spouse, a friend–they put the book aside. Reading is their pleasure time and that’s why it must satisfy. They enjoy reading about places they have never been. Learning about new worlds. Some Sympathetic readers enjoy sci-fi that creates a new world so long as that world is not too threatening.

They are loyal to the authors they like. They will read everything by an author and then often write reviews or tell their friends about the books. They do read what the librarian recommends to them or what their friends suggest.

A Sympathetic reader feels a book is a good read when they close it with a satisfied sigh–everything tied up nicely.

Sympathetic readers loved my book, The Clock Strikes Midnight because it is full of feeling and emotion. Check out this book trailer to see if you might enjoy it as well.


Interview with Jenna Scali about Murder on Moonshine Hill

We are excited to welcome Jenna Scali to our blog today. Some of you may know her as the star of the new mystery series that began with the e-Murderer. If you read that book, you learned a lot about Jenna. You know that she’s 28 years old, has two cats, is divorced and is working on her PhD in criminal psychology. You also know that her best friend is Quentin Person, a gay history professor who teaches belly dancing on the side. I won’t give too much away since some of you may not have read the e-Murderer yet. Today, we’re going to be talking about Jenna’s new adventure Murder at Moonshine Hill. This is the story about when

Thank you for joining us today. Tell us a little about what we can expect when we read Murder on Moonshine Hill.

If you enjoyed some of my friends in e-Murderer, you’ll love all the characters in Murder on Moonshine Hill. For one thing, Quentin plays a much more dominant role in this book. He’s definitely my go-to man. I hang out with him and we both toss out ideas about what might be happening.

Can you tell us what the book is about?

You’ll find out in the opening pages that someone is murdered. But we don’t know who. Later, you’ll learn that my friend from high school, Marcy Hawthorne, is getting married in a nice little mountain inn. It sounds like the perfect place for a wedding. But, as it turns out, it’s also the perfect place for a murder.

How is it that Quentin goes to the wedding with you.

I really didn’t want to go to this wedding because Marcy and I had a great falling out. She didn’t come to my wedding and I haven’t heard from her in ten years. Nothing. So, why should I go to her wedding. But then something happens (don’t want to give too much away) that peak my curiosity and I decide to go. Quentin begs me to take him with me. He loves the mountains and it’s Spring Break. So, he comes along.

Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains Sunset over Spring Rhododendron Flowers Blooms scenic Appalachians near Asheville NC

Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains Sunset over Spring Rhododendron Flowers Blooms scenic Appalachians near Asheville NC

Do we meet new characters in this story?

OMG! Yes. Lots of new people. You’ll meet all the wedding guests as well as Marcy and her prospective husband. Also, my mother is very much in this story. She’s running around causing all kinds of havoc in her matching pumps and purses. Furthermore you’ll meet Marcy’s parents who are both divorced. They bring their new spouses. It’s the typical wedding crowd full of people with love/hate relationships.

Do we get to see Starr again in this book?

Starr couldn’t come to the wedding with me. She had to stay back and hold down the fort in Dr. Bingham’s office. But, there are plenty of other characters that should keep you entertained and maybe Starr will turn up again in the next book.

Tell us about this place Moonshine Hill?

The Moonshine Hill Inn is a beautiful spot in the mountains of North Carolina. We are going in the spring so the weather is perfect, if a little chilly. It is secluded without televisions or cell phone service. This part of the world used to be well-known for making moonshine whisky. That’s how Moonshine Hill got its name. But now it’s more popular with hikers and sports enthusiasts. I’m a reluctant runner, as my readers know. Quentin drags me out to run with him. but most of the time, I’d rather sleep in.

Jenna, thank you for introducing us to this newest adventure. Here’s the blurb for Murder at Moonshine Hill

Who invited murder and mayhem to the wedding?

When Jenna decides to go to this wedding, she expects to dredge up old secrets and old hurts and she expects to see people from her past, but she doesn’t expect to stumble on a dead body.

Jenna’s friend is arrested. The wedding is cancelled. And Jenna’s tendency to stick her nose where it shouldn’t be leads her into the path of the killer.

Set in the serene mountains of North Carolina Murder on Moonshine Hill is filled with suspense, humor, and a quirky cast of supporting characters.

Look for the release in the Spring or Summer of 2016. Now under contract with MuseItUp Publishing.

If you’re curious about the eMurderer, check out this book trailer.


Getting Reviews is Like Pulling Teeth

I do it because… well, why not? I enjoying having the opportunity to share my opinions about what I’ve read. Readers may or may not agree with me, but at least I’ve had my say.

business hand clicking customer reviews on virtual screen interface

Think back years ago when the only way we could share our opinions about books was through word of mouth. Now, we can give stars and speak our minds easily through the online outlets. Furthermore, we can read everyone else’s views. We can learn what people loved and what people found challenging in particular books. I use that information before I decide to purchase. Don’t you?

People who read my books come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed it. “I loved the characters,” or “I really liked the way you wove everything together,” or “I enjoyed the setting and how the place came alive.” All these are great comments and I appreciate them very much. But, then I say, “Why don’t you write a review on Amazon or Goodreads or B&N?” They invariably say, “Well, I’ve never done that.” Or, worse, “Geez, I don’t know what I’d say.” Who is grading their review? There are no English teachers with a red pencils looking over their shoulders. All they need to do is put on paper what they told me.

Even though I assure them that they don’t need to write very much, but just enough for readers to get an idea of their opinion of the book, they still don’t do it.

We writers know how important reviews are. They are our bread and butter.

It gives us impetus to keep on writing. Writing isn’t easy. It’s even harder when there’s so little opportunity for feedback.

So, please, if you are one of those people who read reviews but don’t write them (now I sound like Ira Glass on NPR), get over it.

The Skinny on Book Trailers. Should you or shouldn’t you?

As a reader, I don’t know that I’ve ever looked at a book trailer before purchasing a book. Usually I read about the book on online site, like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I will often get a sample first if I know nothing about the author. If I do know the author, I’ll risk buying the book without the sample. But, I’ve never actually purchased a book from a book trailer.

Perhaps younger readers are inclined to take a look at the trailer before purchasing a book. Those same readers possibly look at movie trailers before going to the movie. As for me, my selection of movies often comes from word-of-mouth rather than a trailer. Nonetheless, if I see a captivating trailer with actors I like, I will put that movie on my list to see.

What about book trailers, though. They don’t have actors you might want to see. They contain little bits about the book to entice you to read it. Book trailers give  you a feel for the book whether suspenseful or otherworldly or full of adventure or romance.

Here are some reasons authors may want to invest in a book trailer.

As a writer, we must filter out everything and focus on what that essence is.

Who is your audience? If you are writing Young Adult fiction, you definitely want to consider developing a trailer.

Readers often find their next read through bloggers. When bloggers add a book trailer to their sites, it creates many more views.

Your book trailer will appear on YouTube where many more people might get exposure to your book.

Share one of your favorite book trailers.



Seven Tips to Writers to Effectively Self-Promote

retro backgroung of bird communication , infographicsOkay, this is a topic most writers do not want to hear anything about. The majority of people writing books shun self-promotion the way they shunned leafy green veggies as a kid. Yuck! But, guess what, we have to do it.

 So, there’s the rub.

How can we self-promote without turning off everyone we know, from our best friends to our family members? Here are some of my tips.

. Some of the Facebook groups do nothing but allow authors to promote. I’m not sure how much value you get from posting to these groups,  but if you want to promote, that’s the place. One such groups is called Book Review and Promotion. Check out others.

Twitter is the best place for some promotion but again, if that’s all you do, you’ll lose followers. So many people on Twitter just self-promote. Writers are not the only ones doing it. I often get auto responders that say: “Thanks for following me. Buy my new software system at this link.” This is very annoying and causes me to unfollow the person. Instead, thank people for following you and then give them a reason to continue to do so.

I put out sixteen tweets a day. Usually no more than three highlight my book. I want to be of value to my followers. I include content from other writers, their tips, book reviews, mine and others, author interviews, funny videos, writer quotes and much more.

If you send one out too often you’ll lose your audience. What should you include in your newsletter? A theme article with some good content. This article could reflect what you’ve learned as a writer or perhaps a synopsis of your recent attendance at a writer’s conference. You can also include a picture of your latest release along with the links to purchase. That information is in a sidebar.

Those articles should include lots of information about what is on your mind as a writer. Share your thoughts, experiences and tips for writing and publishing. Do not talk endlessly about your books.

In other words, plan to tweet at certain days and at certain times. Plan to work Facebook and the various groups at certain times. Schedule your blog posts and your LinkedIn articles. Work Goodreads into your schedule.

Don’t just tweet or post status updates. Share the love by interacting with fellow writers and readers. Tweet the books you’ve enjoyed, not just your own writing. When you interact and become more engaged in the medium, you’ll see the results. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. And eventually is always better than never!

We cannot stay closeted in our office in front of our computers and hope your books will sell.

What are some tips you might share?