How Indie Authors can get Audio Book Deals (some with an advance!)

How to Get an Audio Book Publishing Deal for Indie Authors (some come with advances!)

June 21, 2022 in Blog, Publishing

According to Writers Digest, audio books make up the fastest growing publishing platform. And like ebook and print book publishing, audio book publishing is affordable and accessible to indie authors. Using a royalty-share option through Amazon’s ACX, an indie author can have an audiobook recorded for nearly nothing, sharing the income earned off audio sales with the reader.

However, what many indie authors may not know is that you can get an audio book publishing deal where the author could earn an advance, and the publisher takes care of everything to create the audio at their expense, and pays a royalty similar to how traditional book deals work. If you have a traditional book deal and your publisher doesn’t have audio rights, you can seek an audio book publisher as well.

How to Get an Audio Book Publishing Deal

1. Build a track record of sales of your book.

While you can self-publish your audio book on your own regardless of how well your ebook or print version is doing, most audio book publishers will want to see that your indie book has a track record. Is it selling? Does it have more than just a few reviews? Unfortunately, I can’t give you a specific sales number, ranking, or review count. I have a friend who’s first book in her series sits a 330,000 sales rank with 56 reviews and she got a deal with Tantor. However, at the time she got the deal, the book could have been ranked higher. She’s great at selling her books, so I’m sure her sales, at least around the time of release, were high.

2. Gather your book’s information

While you might not need to submit a full synopsis or written manuscript, the publisher will like want the following information:

~ Your Name

~ Book title

~ Book genre

~ Publisher (if not you, you’ll need to prove your publisher doesn’t have audio rights)

~ Link to your website

~ Information about book sales: This may include linking to a bookseller or gathering information from your distribution resources

3. Write a query or introduction letter 

This is the first and best chance you have to grab the interest of an audio book publisher. You should have a hook about your book, a little about you as an author, info about the book sales, awards, and other kudos, and anything else the publisher asks you to supply.

4. Consider getting an agent

Many agents are now taking on indie published clients to sell additional book rights for audio, but also foreign and movies. While these are all things you can DIY, there can be an advantage to having an agent to access publishers and navigate contracts. Plus, some publishers below prefer to or only work with agents.

I plan to use my agent to sell my indie books to an audio publisher. While I could do it myself, there are enough moving parts that I’d rather have her do it and I can focus on writing.

Audio Book Publishers

Many of these publishers you can submit to on your own. Those with an asterix will also work with agented authors. Some will only work with agented authors. A few are not currently accepting submissions, but could open up in the future.

Audible * – Audible is currently closed to submissions (as of this writing, June 2022), but you can check back at a future date to see if it’s open again. Note, this is difference than self-publishing your audio to Audible through ACX.

Blackstone * – Prefers to work with agents

Brilliance Publishing *(also owned by Amazon) – It’s not accepting submissions at this time, but check back.

Dreamscape – Dreamscape publishes audio, but also provides distribution services for audio, movies, and more.

NovelAudio – Says it likes to work with traditional and indie authors, including backlist books.

Podium * – Podium is popular with indie authors, especially in the romance and fantasy genres.

RB MediaContact here

Oasis Audio * – Has indicated it is more responsive to submissions through an agent

Penguin Random House * – The big publishing houses normally publish audio through their own published resources, but there is some indication that Penguin Random House accepts submissions for audio books, but only through agents.

Tantor Media * – Tantor has a contact page, but for the most part, I think it prefers to receive submissions through an agent.

W.F. Howe – UK publisher that publishes audio books in many catagories and genres.

 

Is there a romance audio publisher I don’t have listed? Let me know in the comments below.

Write with Harte Feedback Form 2022

How can Write With Harte Help You?

May 17, 2022 in Blog, Writing Romance

Write with Harte membership is growing and so it’s time for me to ask you for feedback. Filling out this form will help me understand what you need and how I can better help you.

Thank you for taking the time to let me know how I can help you write, publish, and/or market your romance.

What is your biggest challenge with your romance right now?
How can WWH help you in your romance writing goals?
Do you attend the weekly call?
If you don't attend the call, why not?

What would be a better time for you to attend a call?
Do you use site resources and features?
Do you read the weekly email?
Would you be more likely to use WWH if it had a mobile app?
If you have other feedback, comments, or information that can help WWH help you, share it here.
Tips to Becoming a Profitable Romance Author

Tips on Becoming a Profitable Romance Author

April 26, 2022 in Blog, Marketing

I received the following question through the WWH Weekly Call topic list and thought I’d answer it here as well.

Ugh. I just did taxes, as a first year romance author. I looooovvveeee this business, but I’m wondering if I can really make a profit and how. I work a full time job so 2021 I did All. The. Things. Because I could afford to, I tried everything, bought everything, advertised the heck out of everything. Now for 2022 I’m pulling back, focusing on the things I found that work and not spending money on things that don’t in terms of marketing my books. So I’m writing my second series now, and sifting through my data to find where to get the most bank for (budgeted) marketing dollars. I guess my question is, what are some tips to becoming profitable as a romance author?

This is the million-dollar question. Like this author, I’ve done all the things and have watched while other authors who started after me zoom (or so it seemed) to the top of the bestseller list, making money hand over fist. Why is that? What were they doing?

Before I get into tips to becoming profitable, or at least making more than you spend, here are a few things you need to consider.

  1. There is a reason most self-pub programs tell you to write to market. Some go as far as to tell you to write spicy or clean (apparently nothing in between) romance. Writing what people are devouring is an easier sell than to people who don’t read a subject so much. I’m not telling you to write to market, but it’s clear that finding the right readers for your book is the crucial element to success.
  2. There is a reason most publishing gurus tell you to be in Kindle Unlimited, especially if you’re a romance writer. Romance readers are voracious. They read more than they could possibly afford if they had to pay retail. Many of these readers consume 2 or 3, maybe more books a week. It’s more affordable (and justifiable to the budget) to pay $9.99 a month and read to their heart’s content. (NOTE: There are many successful indie authors who distribute their books wide, but most consensus is to publish on Amazon and in KU as a new author. When you get the fans, you can go wide).
  3. Packaging makes a difference. My Valentine Mystery series got all new ebook covers (and shortly will have new print covers) so I could better target romance readers, who were a better fit for the books than mystery readers (because I include sexy bits!). The same cover artist did both (see below). Same interior, but totally different vibe, right? It’s important that you think of your cover as a marketing tool. Here is my take on how readers choose books. Authors they love then, with new or unknown authors: Genre > Tropes > Cover > Blurb > Reviews (often checking the lower ones first).

Deadly Valentine

 

Marketing your book is different when you are brand new than when you already have a book or two or three under your belt. So in this article I’ll start with new authors (first book) and novice authors (have books but are still growing).

Marketing for New Authors

If you build it and put it on Amazon, the readers still may not come. It’s crucial that new authors start marketing as soon as possible BEFORE publishing your book.

If you’re still writing, start talking about your book.

There are two advantages to starting your marketing now; 1) You develop a system and habit of maintaining your platforms (social media, website, email etc), so it’s easier to incorporate more marketing tasks later. You don’t want to do all the things at the same time your book is launching. 2) You have a group of people ready to buy your book when it publishes.

Create a FB and Instagram page with your author name. Publish tidbits of writing, things you’ve learned in your research, and other topics readers of your genre would be interested in. Consider creating a website and email list. You need to do it soon, so why not start now?

Learn who your readers are and where they hang out.

When it comes time to market your book, you need to reach out to these people so figuring out who they are and where you can find them is important. Follow authors that write in the same genre (social media, website/blog, email etc). This will not only help you get ideas for what you can do with your fans, but also, you can meet and learn about their readers…who are your readers too. CAUTION: Don’t promote yourself on other author’s platforms unless they say it’s okay.

Build your platforms and invite people to visit.

We’re back to that “if you build it, they will come” concept. It doesn’t work except of in A Field of Dreams. In the real world, Ray would have had to go out and tell the world about his baseball field in a cornfield. You need to do the same. A website and social profiles are the equivalent to having a baseball field in the cornfield. You need to get people to come visit you. That won’t happen by cosmic magic of Shoeless Joe Jackson. You need to go out and find readers where they are, and invite them to join you at your place. This leads us to two goals in marketing:

  1. Sell books
  2. Build community

Selling books is first because that’s your ultimate goal. But in reality, building community is the best way to achieve that. Sure you may get people who accidentally find you on Amazon and buy, but most successful authors (the big money makers) are making their money from existing readers buying new releases. They got those existing readers by creating places for the readers to come visit them and giving them a reason to stay. These authors stay actively involved with their readers so that when a new book comes; the readers are ready to buy.

The challenge of building a community is that you need to give readers a reason to want to follow you (i.e. a free novella or other romance-related freebie) and continue to give them things (entertainment, fun, and books) so they keep on following you. This is the equivalent of the slow burn romance (sorry, changing metaphors). It takes time to woo them, but when you do, they’re loyal and loving!

Think of it this way; some of the most successful romance writers have 20,000 to 100,000 email subscribers on their list. When they have a release, how many people do you think buy when they get an email on the new release? Probably not all 20k to 100k but I bet it’s more than anyone who doesn’t have a list, except Nora Roberts and her ilk. If only a thousand to five thousand bought, that would still be a lot. A $3.99 Kindle book, would earn (@2.99 profit/book) $2,990 to $14,950. If they’re KU readers, the earnings come through page reads. Two-hundred and fifty page reads over 1000 people would earn approximately $1,100. However, consider that more people may grab the KU version, which could lead to more downloads than if the book was purchased, in which case, you’d earn more. With a single email, these authors are making $2,500 and more.

So, I’ve taking the long route to say that you want to think beyond book sales and instead in terms of building a community of readers around you. You want to give them something they want and to engage with them regularly, and when book releases happen, they’ll be there to buy.

What is a community? Community is where you readers can congregate to hang out with each other and you based around the writing you do. There are basically two ways to build a reader community and you should consider both.

The email list is crucial since you have readers’ email addresses. When a reader give you an email address, that’s a bigger commitment and show of support than a simple follow on social media. However, you can build a group on Facebook or some other place where readers can engage with you (you could build your own reader group here on Write With Harte!).

So how do you find people to join  your community?

If you have ZERO readers, followers, fans…

  1. Create something readers in your genre would like. Ideally it’s a book or novella you’ve written, but it can be something else as long as it’s something your target market (the people who read your type of book) reads.
  2. Create an email list. This is a big topic. I have a link to an article here to tell you more about email and how you can use it to become a profitable author. Put the email list sign up on a website, blog, FB page or other place you can tell people where to get it. Note that Aweber has an easy way to make a landing page so you don’t need to build another site. You can get a free trial of Aweber here
  3. Start a Facebook group under your author name and invite people to join. Consider making it private and offer some extra stuff you don’t share elsewhere. It will make it seem more exclusive.
  4. Pick a limited number of places to hangout on social media. You can’t be everywhere all the time and tryin to do so will lead to burnout and lower results. Facebook, for all its faults, is the place to be unless you can prove your reader isn’t on Facebook. After that, think of other places your reader hangs out and decide if you can actively maintain participation on the platform. The active participation is important. If your reader is on TikTok but you can’t stay consistent on the platform, maybe that’s not the place for you or you need to figure out how to you can be consistant.

Once you have your “ball field” in place, it’s time to get people to visit you:

  1. Ads aren’t free but can be effective at quickly building a community if you have offers readers like and you can effectively target those readers.
  2. Giveaway programs such as Bookfunnel or  Prolific Works offer an easy way to build your list while helping others build their list as well.
  3. As your email list grows, do newsletter swaps, where you tell your readers about another author and they tell their readers about you. You’ll need to swap with lists that are a similar size to yours. If you have 1000 subscribers, you’ll swap with someone in the same genre with around 1000 subscribers.
  4. Tell your friends and family to share with others they think would be interested in what you’re doing.

There are more ideas in the email email article posted here

For first-time authors (first book coming out):

  • Continue to build your list and community however you’ve done it before (as long as it’s working).
  • Join Bookbub and start keeping it updated with your books and asking your community to follow you. It’s free to have a Bookbub profile and its where many romance readers keep track of what they read and their favorite authors.
  • Be a guest. Go on podcasts and guest blog. Try to focus on outlets that target your reader, not other writers. This is a great way to share your new book and even better, it’s free.
  • Takeover events. I did a lot of takeovers when I started and many of my fans came from it. I’ve heard lately they’re not as good, but the woman I’m hiring to be my new PA insists that with the right group, they work well. These are free and can be really fun.
  • Run ads. Successful authors I know run ads nearly all the time. But for a new author on a budget, consider running your ad during your presale and a few days after launch. Ads more than anything can jack up your sales if you don’t have a large community of readers. If you have been building a BookBub following and have around 1000 followers, try to get a Bookbub ad. I recently had a book marketing specialist tell me they’d never met an author that didn’t have success with a Bookbub ad.

For novice authors:

If you’ve already been doing the above and other tasks to market your books, you’ll want to start first by looking at the results of your efforts. Did the FB ad bring new subscribers or sales? Is your Facebook group engaged and if not, is it because you need to be more interesting? Is your email list responsive? If your list has a low open rate all around (17% or less) and/or low click through rate or high unsubscribes, then you’ll want to figure out why.

As you grow your author business, there are two things you need to do to make the big bucks:

  1. Evaluate your results regularly. Data is your friend. It’s what will tell what’s working and what isn’t. However, if something isn’t working, consider tweaking or assessing why. Maybe you need to make a simple change to get results. So don’t abandon a strategy without determining if you can make it work.
  2. Keep on top of new trends in book marketing. Things that worked last year, may not work this year. There might be a brand new service or idea (i.e. BookTok) that you should consider. Staying active in author marketing resources, especially romance ones, will help you keep on top of what is working and not working for others.

So, where I’m I spending my time?

I currently have 12 books published (plus a novella), with new releases in May and August.

For the last year or so, I’ve been focused mostly on building my list, which I do mostly through social media and Bookfunnel giveaways. When I’m at events, I have a paper on a clipboard where people can sign up for my list as well.

I ran FB ads for nearly year, but stopped because results weren’t as great as I’d hoped. With that said, I recently started a new ad for my next release. I’ve also been looking at trying Amazon ads.

I’ve just hired a new PA who tells me her other clients are having success with FB takeovers and Bookbub, so I’ll be making room for that. But as I add a new strategy, I take my baseline stats so I can know what new efforts are making a difference.

Writing a book is hard, but selling it is harder (I think). It’s important to see author success as a marathon. It might look like some authors hit the bullseye on first try, but even those who say they were shot to success will tell you they were working hard on all the things, until the one thing bumped them to the next level. The question you have to figure out is the “one thing” that will propel you to the next level?

What are your current marketing strategies? Please share here and in the Marketing and Promotion group here at Write with Harte.

show vs tell

When To Tell Instead of Show in Writing

April 11, 2022 in Writing Romance

Show, don’t tell, is the golden rule of writing. But rules are made to be broken, right? Well, sometimes. While showing brings emotion and depth to your writing, you don’t need it for every scene. Who cares if her cereal snap, crackles, and pops, unless it’s part of the story? In most cases, breakfast isn’t important, so simply stating she had breakfast is enough.

But how do you know when you should tell instead of show? Here are some tips.

The scene does nothing to further the story or tell us about character.

The breakfast scene above is an example of this. For unimportant actions, you can tell or gloss over them so you can quickly get to the good stuff.

Example: Sally woke up early, showered, dressed, ate breakfast, then headed to work to meet her new boss.

Sally’s morning routine isn’t that important. The good stuff happens when she meets her new boss.

Move from one scene to another.

Telling is a way to transition from one scene to the next, especially if the location has changed or time has passed.

Example: Joe had a fitful night’s sleep. 

In this case, the writer doesn’t need to show Joe tossing and turning if the point is to let the reader know Joe didn’t sleep well. If, however, Joe was prone to night terrors, and that was an important factor in the story or about Joe’s character, then you would show Joe sleeping.

Example: Joe drove a hundred miles to confront Jane.

Joe driving isn’t as interesting as his confronting Jane. Using telling lets the writer get from where he is at the start of the scene to Jane so the action can occur.

Provide direction or a change in mood.

This example can get tricky. Many writers tell something and follow it with showing, when all they need is the show.

Example: Pat was lost. She looked around not recognizing any of the street names or buildings.

In the above example, the showing sentence (She looked around not recognizing any of the street names or buildings) lets us know she’s lost, so you don’t need the first tell sentence (Pat was lost).

However, sometimes telling can offer direction or a cue to a shift in mood that helps the reader know where the story is going.

Suzie was having the best night of her life. High on life and love and liquor, she stumbled out of the bar. A strong hand gripped her arm, guiding her away from her car and into a dark alley. The odor of rotting garbage and urine made her gag. The man pushed her against the wall, and fear finally broke through the haze. 

In this example, we have telling of Suzie’s mood (she’s having the time of her life) and right after, we’re shown that this in fact is going to be a bad night.

To summarize information

Action is where the story is at, but sometimes, you need to provide information such as backstory or setting. Whenever you’re having to jump out of story to drop information or set up the scene, short and succinct is best. Telling can provide the info or setting quickly so that the story can resume.

Joe’s heart jack hammered in his chest and his legs burned as he ran from the car chasing him up the street. He’d always hated running ever since he came in last during the mile run in elementary school. 

The first part of the sentence is showing Joe running for his life. The next sentence tells the reader something about Joe’s past. And that’s all we need to know. We don’t need to be shown a ten-year-old Joe lining up with his classmates to run the mile, or what it felt like as they lapped him and then all went back to class while he was still finishing his last lap.

Do you have thoughts on when to tell vs show?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2022

Camp NaNoWriMo 2022 Plan with Free Printable

March 29, 2022 in Blog

For many writers, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is too big of a beast or doesn’t fit with their writing plans. While 50,000 words in 30 days might seem daunting, the reason for doing it is to challenge yourself to write regularly and meet deadlines.

Camp NaNoWriMo

Enter Camp NaNoWriMo, which lets you set your own goals and projects outside of fiction. Want to revise the book you wrote for NaNoWriMo in November? You can do that at Camp NaNoWriMo. Want to write a play or a short story? You can do that too. Here are other ideas for Camp NaNoWriMo:

  • A novella
  • Poetry
  • Screenplay
  • Music
  • Nonfiction
  • Or, my favorite use of Camp Nanowrimo, finish something already started

If you haven’t been making progress on your writing goals, Camp NaNoWriMo is just the thing to jumpstart your writing habit and make progress. You can set goals more in line with your time and project, but remember, the whole point is to challenge yourself to achieve something, whether that’s finishing a project, plotting a project, or whatever you have that is sitting and not making progress.

Join in Camp NaNoWriMo with Write with Harte

Camp NaNoWriMo Plan SheetThe NaNoWriMo organization holds two Camp NaNoWriMos a year, one in April and one in July. To help you prepare, Write With Harte has a free Camp NaNoWriMo Planner. It’s one page on which you can determine your project, checklists to prepare and for when you’re writing, and a 30-day tracker to track your progress.

Download the Camp Nanowrimo Planner Here.

To help you achieve your romance writing goals, join Write With Harte, which will give you access to a growing library of printables and resources, a profile and blog, the ability to join in groups, including the Accountability Group, and participation in monthly giveaways. It’s free to join, so sign up now!

For 2022, I have a novella I need to finish. Because it’s nearly done, I might throw in completing another partly-written book.

If you’d like to join me, and you’re a member, come check out the Discussion Forum in the Accountability Group.

 

 

Secret Pregnancy/Secret Child Trope: Ideas for Writing an Accidental Pregnancy

Secret Pregnancy/Secret Child Trope: Ideas for Writing an Accidental Pregnancy

February 22, 2022 in Blog, Writing Romance

I have a confession. I hate the secret child trope. It always breaks my heart for the man who loses so much time with his child. I’m not a huge fan of the secret pregnancy trope either. Romance characters are driven, independent, focused, and smart, so how do they accidentally get pregnant?

Along with my own writing, I ghost write, and my client has me write a lot…I mean A LOT…of secret pregnancy and secret child books. As I prepared to start a new series of five books, all with an accidental pregnancy (one is a secret child), I was stuck in finding new ways a couple would accidentally be pregnant without being irresponsible.

I posed the question in a romance author Facebook Group: What are other ways a couple can end up accidentally pregnant that doesn’t involve antibiotics, St. Johns Wort, or being drunk? (Note, I don’t like the drunk scenario as it brings up questionable consent.)

I got so many answers and the thing that surprised me the most was how many said they were the product of or their children were the product of failed birth control pills. Plus, I got a ton of other interesting true-life stories of accidental pregnancy, and few ideas to consider.

Here is the list of ways you could write an unexpected pregnancy in a secret pregnancy or secret child romance:

(Note: These are ideas shared in the Facebook group. Except for medications, I haven’t researched to verify these claims)

Failed Birth Control

As I said, I was shocked at how many authors posted personal stories about failed birth control. Some of them more than once. My research suggested failed birth control would be rare enough that having a group of women (as appear in a series) all have failed birth control would be far-fetched (How many women in your friend group had an accidental pregnancy?) As it turns out, an unexpected pregnancy when using contraception isn’t that uncommon.

Below are a few reasons hormone-based contraceptives might fail:

Interaction with Medications, Supplements, or Other Ingestible Item

  • Antibiotics
  • St. Johns Wort
  • Low-dose or non-estrogen birth control often prescribed for women who have migraines with aura
  • Activated charcoal which is popular in skin care, supplements, cleanses, and food (including ice cream and pizza). It’s designed to remove toxins, including medications.

Illness or Conditions

  • Flu or other illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea, in which case the pill can be expelled before being absorbed.
  • A bicornuate uterus, which is essentially having two uteruses. The women who posted this condition indicated that each uterus acted independently; sometimes brith control worked well on one but not the other. She also indicated that it can lead to high-risk pregnancy as the uteruses are half-normal size.
  • Allergies. It seems like if a character was allergic to one form of birth control, they could use another, but you could conceivably create a scenario in which all birth control was problematic.

Other Birth Control Fails

  • Failed vasectomy or tubal ligation were listed as the culprit for an unexpected pregnancy by several women in the group. In a twist, one woman shared that her mother blamed a failed vasectomy on her pregnancy to hide an affair. The vasectomy occurred 5-years earlier.
  • Condom slips off or breaks
  • NuvaRing slips out of place, is expelled, or breaks.
  • Pill-fail. Several women reported using the pill correctly and still getting pregnant. A few women said that the birth control pill was sometimes less effective on curvier women.

A Diagnosis of Infertility that’s Wrong

  • Endometriosis can make it difficult to get pregnant. Several women were told they had little chance of getting pregnant, in which case, why use birth control?
  • Injury can lead to infertility for both men and women, but sometimes the doctor is wrong, and a pregnancy occurs.

Human Error

  • Passion turns off common sense
  • Rythem Method is an age old method of contraception that requires a woman to be sure about her fertile and not-fertile days in her cycle. Since sperm can live inside the woman’s womb for up to five days, even if she’s not fertile during the sexual act, if she becomes fertile in the next few days, she can end up pregnant.
  • Forgetting to take a birth control pill or not taking it at the same time daily
  • Switching birth control or not using it right after a vasectomy or tubal ligation. Several women in the group indicated they got pregnant when having sex too soon after changing birth control pills, or after a vasectomy or tubal ligation.

 

Do you have other ideas on how an accidental pregnancy can occur in a romance novel? Let me know in the comments below!

 

5 Ways to Get Tons of Reviews for Your Romance

5 Ways to Get Tons of Reviews for Your Romance

February 1, 2022 in Blog, Marketing

Reviews play a bigger role than many authors might think. Yes, a review on a blog can build awareness and sales of your book, but don’t underplay the importance of the reviews on the book retailer sites or Goodreads or Storygraph. A 2018 survey by Gigi Griffis at The Ramble, revealed that 52% of readers read reviews whereas only 13% read the blurb.

This survey also showed that the most common reason readers bought a book was that they knew the author or a friend recommended it. Prominent placement or free/sale opportunities equated to less than 7% of why a person bought. This data tells us that it’s important to expand your reader fan-base and encourage them to recommend your books. One way to do that is to build up your reviews.

Here are 5 ways to get reviews for your upcoming release (or even your backlist):

1. Have a call to action at the end of your book, asking for a review.

Make the review request the first thing they see when they finish the book. In an ebook, include a link to the review page of the retailer. (Note, some ebook retailers will not accept your book if there are Amazon links. Create versions for each ebook retailer you’re selling on. For example, have a link to iBooks review page in the version on iBooks, and a link to Kobo for the books listed on Kobo).

2. Build up a list of book bloggers in your subgenre of romance.

Begin building this list early. Many bloggers need your book 6 to 12 weeks prior to release.

Start by finding comparable books to yours from best-selling authors (traditional and indie published). Search for reviews on the books you find, such as title+review or title+book review. Read the review policy of the blog, and if you’re a good fit, pitch your book. Reedsy has a more in-depth article on how to build your blogger review list.

Bonus: Read the reviews in the Editorial Reviews section on Amazon pages with books similar to yours. In this section, authors/publishers can list reviews from other sources, such as blogs.

3. Connect with active reviewers on Amazon.

Find books similar to yours and scroll down to the reviews. Click on a reviewer to learn more about them, such as other books they’ve reviewed and their reviewer rank. Sometimes they’ll include website or contact information. Pitch them as you would other reviewers.

This is time-consuming, but since Amazon reviews are powerful, it could be worth the effort. There are tools and services that can help you find Amazon reviewers, such as the Review Grabber tool at Author Marketing Club.

4. Sign up for Booksprout or Booksirens.

These services make finding reviewers and managing an ARC team easy. You can set limits on how many ARCs will be available and conditions for getting the book, such as leaving a review at Amazon is required. You can ask for reviews at other sites such as Goodreads or Bookbub as well. The services can send reminders to reviewers, and it can block anyone who got a book but didn’t leave a review from getting an ARC from you in the future. Just be sure to give your reviewers enough time to read the book. I like to get the book to my ARC team at least 3 weeks in advance.

5. Build your email list.

Too many authors wait too long to capture the email addresses of their readers, but you’re wasting time and book sales by not doing this as soon as you can. I have an extensive article on why email is better than social media for selling books, and tips on how to set up and email your readers. Build Your Email List of Raving Fans

Once you have your list, email them about the book and remind them to leave a review. In fact, you can invite them to join your ARC team through Booksprout or create a segmented list for ARC readers.

BONUS: Remind your social media followers to leave a review.

You don’t want to inundate your followers with “Buy my book” posts or with “Leave a review” post, but having them occasionally is recommended. Many readers get busy and forget to leave a review. An occasional social media post can remind them.

Do you have other ideas for getting reviews? Let me know in the comments below.

Plotting a Romance Novel

Romance Beat Sheet for Swoonworthy Emotional Stories

January 10, 2022 in Blog, Writing Romance

How hard can writing a romance be? Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy wins girl back.

As it turns out, writing a GOOD romance isn’t so easy. First of all, the leads aren’t always a boy and girl. They’re not even always human. Second, the meeting, losing, and winning don’t just happen. There is an emotional roller coaster ride readers expect to go on.

Writing a romance that readers enjoy involves:

  1. Characters readers can root for
  2. Conflicts and stakes readers can believe
  3. A plot that takes readers on an emotional ride.

So how does a writer achieve that? It starts by expanding the meet-lose-love idea into plot points, sometimes referred to as beats.

I can hear all the pantsters out there saying, “But Jenna, I don’t plot. I want the adventure of not knowing where the story will take me.” That’s fine. Even as a pantster though, your story must hit certain beats to fit within the romance genre.

There are great romance beat sheets on the Internet, including Jamie Gold‘s and Gwen Hayes‘. Billy Mernit in his book Writing the Romantic Comedy, offers an eight-beat outline. While each of these beat sheets has a different number of beats, often called different names, they’re all referring to the same thing. You need to find the romance plot beat sheet that makes the most sense to you and helps you develop your story.

Not to be outdone, I’ve created my own romance beat sheet that takes what resonates with me from above. This beat sheet, including a fillable worksheet, is in the Romance 4-in-1 Planner free for Write with Harte members (membership is free! Join here!)

ACT 1: Set Up

Opening: This is where we meet our protagonists. Often, the opening is the start of a normal day that is about to be turned upside down. You should include a few bits about the protagonist(s) that set up goals and hints at inner conflicts.

Inciting Event (Meet Cute) (Catalyst): This is where our two love birds meet or are brought together on the page at the same time to set off the story. In a rom com, a meet cute sometimes involves humor or a screwball situation, but it doesn’t have to be that. It could be intense or scary.

This meeting is the event that sets our characters off in the direction of falling in love, even if they hate each other at this point. If the characters already know each other, there is something different in this meeting than in all their previous meetings. For example, in The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, Lucy and Josh have been hating each other from their desks for some time (opening), however the inciting event is when their bosses tell them about a new position that only one of them can get.

Resistance: The first response to the inciting event is nearly always resistance or a butting of heads between the love interest.

“The idea of a fake engagement is a terrible idea.”

“We can’t be in the same room together. How will we be able to share the only car left to rent to get to the conference?”

However, the resistance isn’t always from dislike. In a friends-to-lovers situation, often the resistance is trying to avoid revealing their true feelings. Sometimes, the meet-cute is friendly and there is an attraction between the lovebirds, yet there is still resistance. This response is rooted in their goals and/or inner conflicts. Sometimes there is an attempt to avoid each other which brings us to the next beat…

Stuck together (New Path): Act one ends with our lovebirds without a choice or reluctantly agreeing to a situation that puts them together. Snow storms and stuck elevators would be a situation in which they’re stuck without a choice. Working in the same company or living in the same building would also fit this. A fake relationship or temporary partnership would involve a reluctant agreement.

This beat is important because our lovebirds need to be together in order to fall in love. In Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston, Alex’s mother, POTUS, coerces him to spend time with Henry to fix an embarrassing situation he created at Henry’s brother, the Prince of England, wedding. Without this, Alex and Henry don’t spend time together because they live an ocean apart and don’t like each other.

If it isn’t presented earlier, this scene identifies the external conflict as well; the thing outside them that is preventing them from reaching their goal.

ACT 2: Falling In then Out of Love

Fighting Attraction: The lovebirds enter their stuck-together phase fully intending to keep their walls up. They’re focused on their goals and not letting the other person get in their way. If they don’t get along, there is usually banter and arguing. If they do get along, there is usually inner dialogue about how they can’t fall for the other.

Waning Resistance: As the lovebirds spend time together, their initial impressions start to change. This is especially true in an enemies-to-lovers story. But even when they get along (friends to lovers), time together shifts their feelings or heightens them (in the case of unrequited love).

In this section, they begin to entertain the possibility of a relationship, physically and/or emotionally. Note that kissing and even sex may have already occurred (in the case of a non-sweet book), but this is where the wall of resistance wanes.

Ut Oh (Pinch Point 1): I don’t know where the term pinch point came from, but I much prefer Ut-Oh. This is a situation in which an antagonist or conflict appears to remind the lovebirds what’s at stake. In my writing, I like to make this first one one mini-sized. It’s like a tap on the shoulder reminding one (or they both can have an ut-oh) what can happen.

Midpoint (Possibility of HEA): Despite the ut-oh, the characters are drawing ever closer. They’re rethinking goals and concerns. They believe they can overcome the conflicts, but selfishly. They want their cake and to eat it too. But they haven’t grown yet, so they’re susceptible to their inner demons (conflict) and the antagonist.

Creeping Doubt: Personal fears and conflicts are creating doubt in their feelings for the other, and how the other feels about them. Fears and inner conflicts cause the characters to slow down.

Ut-Oh 2: This ut-oh is a bigger one than the last. It’s a whack on the head, reminding them of everything they could lose by abandoning their goal. For example, a CEO falling for his admin might get a talking to from a board member about the possibility of being forced out for having a relationship with an insubordinate and putting the company at risk for a lawsuit. The first ut-oh caused hesitation, but this one makes them stop in their tracks and rethink the situation, and what they’re willing to risk. Remember, they haven’t grown so, their thinking tends to be based in their fears.

Retreat: After the big ut-oh, one character or both pulls away. They don’t want to risk their heart and their goal, and they decide to choose the goal instead. The other character may notice this distance and pull away as well.

Black moment: This is where the $h!t hits the fan. Everything that could go wrong goes wrong. One thing I like to do just before this scene is have one or both characters decide to confess their love. They’re about to put it all on the line for love, then whammy, the black moment. The lie or deception is revealed. A choice is made that the other can’t live with. In my book, Drawn to Her, just when it looks like Drake wants to pursue a relationship with Lexie, he learns his grandfather is in the hospital. Instead of going to him, he goes to a board meeting, which he thinks his grandfather would want him to do. But Lexie believes family should come first and says a few unkind things about Drake and his motivation for the business. Just when they nearly had it all, it implodes. Their conflicts blow everything up.

ACT 3 Fighting for Love

Fall out (Retreat & Misery): This is the aftermath of the black moment. Initially, one or both, convinced they’re right, goes off in an attempt to regain their past normal life.  The problem is that they can’t go back. The more they try, the more miserable they feel. I like to live in this moment a little bit. Too often, writers rush to relieve the agony of the black moment, but I like to bring home how much they’ve lost by not choosing to change, by not choosing love.

I want to point out here that characters don’t have to give up their goal for love. The characters still win even if they don’t get their original goal. For example, in the Hating Game (slight spoiler), one person is offered the job, but the other person ends up at a different company and is much happier about it.

Epiphany (Ah-Ha): This is when one or both characters realize their fears and inner conflicts getting in their way, and accept that they love the other person. This is where growth takes place. In order for the past problems (conflicts and ut-ohs) not to cause problems in the future, the characters need to grow into new people.

Grand Gesture: This is when one character reaches out, putting all on the line for the other person. It’s different from earlier attempts that played it safe. Here, they’re vulnerable.

HEA: The happily ever after scene is when the other person also is vulnerable and they come together with new understanding and a commitment to each other.

Epilogue (optional): This scene is optional, and shows the couple living in their new happiness not just with each other, but with their goals as well.

Some plot sheets have fewer points. Others have more. For me, this hits all the major points needed in a romance. In a romantic suspense or fantasy, you may need a few others beats, but for the relationship part of the story, these beats hit them all.

Plotting Resources

If you like to check out my beat sheet or others, you can get them here:

Romance Author 4-in-1 Planner Plan your entire romance writing career, plus your romance stories, publishing, and marketing. This is free to all Write with Harte members. Membership is FREE. Join here!

Jamie Gold’s Romance Beat sheet

Romance Plotting Books

 

 

Do you have questions about plotting a romance? Maybe you have tips. Let me know in the comments below.

feedback

Please Help Write with Harte Help You!

November 29, 2021 in Blog

I want to make Write with Harte a go-to spot for would-be and experienced romance writers. You can help me do that by taking the short survey below! Your answers are confidential!

Thank you!!

Jenna

5 Easy Ways to Level Up Your Writing

5 Easy Ways to Level Up Your Writing

November 11, 2021 in Blog, Writing Romance

Successful authors mystify us with how easy writing seems to come to them. Some people believe people are born with the skill to write or they’re not. However, writing is a skill that can be learned. Even the best writers have improved from when they started.  Nearly every writer I talk to shares the same tips and hacks for improving as a writer. Here are a few of them:

1. Write Regularly

You don’t have to write every day, but it’s easier to stay in the flow of your work and in the habit of writing if you do. I write every day if I’m working on a book unless it’s a holiday, birthday, or a family gathering. If you can’t write every day, write as frequently and regularly as possible.

2. Read Regularly

Writers are readers. Read a variety of books to expose yourself to different styles of writing. Most writers avoid reading in the genre they’re writing in as they’re writing. However, when you’re not writing, you should absolutely read in your genre so you can stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Consider keeping a reading journal with quotes, your impressions, and other observations you make that can help you in your writing. I often write words used in situations I hadn’t considered using them in. For example, the word shimmer in a love scene.

3. Don’t Edit as You Write

Nothing slows down the creative writing process faster than switching to editor mode. It can also make you doubt your abilities.

I’m convinced writing and editing use different sides of the brain and can’t work simultaneously. You might think you can in the same way you think you can multitask. The truth is, you’re doing one or the other.

When you write, focus on getting all the ideas in your head on the paper, regardless of the quality of writing, spelling errors, missing punctuation, and everything else that can be wrong. When you’re done writing, then you can revise.

4. Accept that First Drafts Suck

No one who makes a living writing publishes a first draft. I saw a Facebook Live with Nora Roberts in which she indicated she had four to six revisions before her books were published. The good news is that the more you write and get critiqued, the better the first drafts get, but they’re still not publishing quality.

Just accept that your first draft will be messy and ugly. It will have weak words, passive voice, clichés and all the stuff you’re told not to use. But the first draft isn’t the place to worry about them. Revision is.

5. Get Feedback

The more you do something, the better you get at it. But in writing, you need to know what areas you’re weak in and how to strengthen your prose. So writing regularly and getting critique are crucial to improvement. Critique and editing have vastly improved my writing. Hands down, they are the top two reasons I get paid to write now. I highly recommend joining a critique group. If you can’t find one and would be interested in one through Write with Harte, let me know.

Getting critique can be hard. You need to listen for the constructive criticisms and tips, and avoid feeling like your book is being attacked. But if you pay attention, you’ll learn easy ways to instantly improve your writing. Some of these tips you’ll internalize and use them as you write your draft. Others you’ll use when you revise. Check out Write With Harte’s post on 7 Tips to Dealing with Critique Feedback