How to Standout in a Crowded Book Marketplace

How to Standout in a Crowded Book Marketplace

April 21, 2021 in Blog, Marketing

There are over 70,000 romance books listed on Amazon. Getting noticed in a sea of other romances is a daunting task. The good news is that you don’t need to be a household name to build a career out of writing romance fiction. There are many indie romance authors that you’ve probably never heard of who are generating thousands of dollars a month in book sales.

So what do you need to be a successful romance author?

The most successful authors have a steady stream of book releases. Most also write books in a series. But what really helps them in developing an author brand that readers gather around. Here are a few tips:

1. Develop Your Own Voice and Style

Think of your favorite authors. Chances are they have their own distinctive writing style or voice. Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie all have a humorous, sometimes snarky writing style. JR Ward has a darker, grittier writing style. One reason I really enjoy Lauren Blakely is her voice and style of writing. She’s not the only romance author writing in the first person present, but there’s something different about her voice and stories that keep me coming back.

Note that I’m not just talking about the types of books they write (funny or dark), but also how they put words together that make them different from others in their same sub-genres.

2. Be Unique

Some romance authors write to market, which is to say they study what subgenres and tropes are selling well and write something to ride the wave of popularity. The problem is that doing what everyone else is doing, especially if you don’t have a unique voice, doesn’t make you stand out. Why should I buy your billionaire secret baby story among all the choices I have?

Other ways to be unique include your book cover style or the topics you cover (see #5).

3. Create Your Own Niche

Branding is all about what you want to be known for. When I read JD Robb, I know exactly what I’m going to get. As long as she stays on brand (writing on what I expect to read based on my past experience with her brand), I’m happy.

This is one area I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about in my own writing. I love romance and mystery, especially if it involves a sleuthing couple in an ongoing series. I wrote the Valentines because I couldn’t find other books that fit this interest.

For a long time, I was challenged on how to market my books because they didn’t fit nicely into traditional romance or mystery genres. The good news is that today, indie authors can create their own sub-genre lanes as long as they’re able to find the readers. Once the readers are found, you have set yourself up to be the go-to author for your special niched books.

Developing your own “niche” doesn’t just mean having your own subgenre uniqueness. Part of it can be your voice (#1). Or it could be on the topics you cover such as sports or spies or small town cowboys. It could be that you have a single series ala Diana Gabaldon. Or it could be your story formats such as novellas or epic long novels.

4. What do you want to be known for?

Part of standing out is being identified as a certain type of writer. When you think of Nora Roberts, you think of romance novels. Stephan King = horror novels. As an unknown author, you need to niche your brand down a little bit because it’s too difficult to compete with the larger “romance” audience.  The writing team Christina Lauren has made a name for itself in romcom. Christine Feehan is known for paranormal romance.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ever write outside of your “brand”. JR Ward is most known for her paranormal Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but she has her Bourbon Kings series as well.  With that said, it’s easier to diversify once you have readers or at least know how to seek out new readers for your other ideas.

This is another area I’ve been thinking about in my own writing. I have a romantic mystery series, a romance series, and a cozy series. It’s a bit confusing. As I think about my writing going forward, I’m considering focusing on romantic mystery series since I already have the Valentines, plus some shorter stories involving another couple (the Delecoeurs), and a cozy idea that I could turn into a romantic mysteries. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever write some of the other ideas I have in paranormal and dystopian.

When it comes to marketing, it’s easier to promote one “brand” to an interested market, than to have too many different books geared toward different readers.

5. Include Attractive or Compelling Interests

Any romance set in New Orleans, I’m likely to buy. There’s something about the history, culture, and lore of New Orleans that interests me. There are authors that use folklore or fairy tales to build their romances around. The Outlander series spends a great deal of time living through Scottish and Colonial American history.

This concept of attracting readers to an interest can include niched tropes such as military, sports, motorcycle clubs, or FBI romances. The idea is that you draw readers beyond the subcategory or general tropes (i.e. historical second chance at love) to topics or locations that generate interest as well.

6. Create a Community

When it comes to marketing, authors often think about how to sell books. I see many Facebook posts in author groups asking about what social media should they be on. What is the best place to do newsletter swaps? And so on. Here are some truths about marketing:

  1. There is no one-best-place-fits-all. The best place for you to market is wherever YOUR reader hangs out.
  2. Most people don’t respond to sales pitches unless it’s promising to solve a problem. Romance readers don’t likely have a “problem” that your book will solve, so romance book marketing needs to be less about selling. It’s why many authors promote a free book.
  3. Romance readers are loyal buyers and great evangelists of authors they love.
  4. Selling to someone who already knows and loves you is easier than selling to someone who has no clue who you are.

Knowing all this, the best way to build your brand and sales is by creating a community around you and your books. People like to belong and be a part of the club. Giving your readers a community experience creates an attachment to you that makes it more likely they’ll buy your books in the future and tell others about you.

How do you create community? That is a whole blog post on its own, but some general ideas are:

  1. Build a newsletter. Subscribers have stepped forward to give you their email. Treat it like gold. Give them special attention, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and other exclusive goodies.
  2. Create a fan group. You can do this through Facebook groups or by setting up a forum or other group-like feature on your website. Similar to your newsletter, you can give your fans special attention and behind the curtain access to you.

The trick to a successful community (which I’m still working to get better at) is making them feel like they’re a part of something special and exclusive. Beyond sending them stuff, you need to engage with them.  Give them shout-outs (I’ve included many of my fans in my books’ acknowledgments or have thanked them on social media if they left a good review).  When it comes to a book launch, many will step up and help you promote your book because they’re now invested in your success.

What do you think of these ideas for building your author brand to stand out? Do you have other ideas? Let me know in the comments below!





How to Write chemistry in romance novels

Writing Chemistry in Romance

April 3, 2021 in Blog, Writing Romance

While love at first sight, exists, as well as long-time unrequited love, often the initial meeting doesn’t involve love.

Stages of Chemistry

Physical Attraction: This probably needs no explanation, but it’s basically lust. Two people who find the other sexually appealing. In many romances, the connection between the characters starts at this.

Personal Attraction: This attraction is something that evolves as the characters get to know each other on a deeper level. In Drawn to Her, Lexie learns that her first impression of Drake isn’t who he really is. As she learns that he has compassion for those wh0 work for him, her personal attraction and respect for him grows.

Emotional Attraction: Essentially this is love, but it speaks to a connection that is soul deep.

By the end of your book, your characters should have all three. At the beginning, they usually have one or two. If there are all three, it’s generally thought to be one-sided, such as a man who’s in love with his neighbor but believes she just sees him as a friend. She of course can think the same about him. Or not.

Writing Chemistry

This is where things get tricky in a romance because chemistry is a bit like porn; you can’t easily explain it, but you know it when you see it.

Many novice writers tend to use telling to describe chemistry. “He was hot and she wanted him.”

Successful chemistry though is shown through the senses.

When Lexie first meets Drake, she immediately notices that he’s attractive, yet dark and broody. But when she confronts him, there’s an extra little zing.

“You have some nerve.” She poked him in the chest with her index finger, ignoring the jolt of heat zapping her each time she felt the hard, firm muscle underneath his starched white shirt.

Here we have a hint of physical attraction.

Here is Drake’s side of their encounter:

Having to ask her permission didn’t annoy him as much as the way he’d been caught off guard by her brazenness and how her emerald eyes stared into the depths of his soul when she challenged him.

You’ll note that in both cases, neither is thinking about getting naked, but there is something there that unsettles them both.

But just after this, when Drake has to talk to Lexie about having time with his grandfather, this happens:

Lexie turned her back to him again to reach into the top cupboard for glasses. As she did, her white sleeveless blouse rose to reveal soft-looking skin along her lower back, making Drake think of peaches and cream.

She turned back to him, with glasses in hand, her brows lifting. “You look a little warm, so I’ll take that as a yes.”

He was warm. He rubbed the back of his neck and rolled the tension from his shoulders. It must be the heat and humidity. His mind told him that was a lie.

In this exchange, we see that he’s having a physical response. You’ll also note that a physical response isn’t just arousal.

Here is the meeting scene between Mitch McKenna and Dr. Sydney Preston in Meant to Be. This is a second chance at love in which the first time they didn’t end well.

All of a sudden, the air around Mitch changed, causing the hair on his arms to stand. It wasn’t the type of sensation that triggered danger, but it was definitely a warning…

The warning grew more intense until Mitch couldn’t help but turn around and stare right into the beautiful hazel eyes of Sydney Preston.

His heart stuttered in his chest as a wave of conflicting emotions; anger, love, bitterness, joy crashed through him. His first instinct was to leave, which only pissed him off. He’d stared down insurgents in the Middle East. He could survive seeing Sydney Preston. Another, equally strong, part of him wanted to touch her, to hold her close and see if she felt as soft, smelled just as sweet as he remembered. But he wouldn’t succumb to her charm again. Like a steel gate, everything inside Mitch closed.

The Trick to Writing Chemistry 

When it comes to writing chemistry or even just emotion, I always ask:

What does that look like and feel like?

For example, what does lust look and feel like (beyond arousal)? Flushed cheeks? Hot skin?

What does pain and heartache look and feel like?

What does love look and feel like?

When stuck, this is where the romance phrasing books can help. I also write down words and phrases that I like from the books I read. Note, I’m not saying to plagiarize. Instead, write down just the word or short phrase.

For example, I once read a book that used the word shimmer to describe a sensation. I added shimmer to my list of sensual words, but I didn’t use the entire sentence that the word was used in.


Do you like this quick and dirty overview of writing chemistry. You can get more tips like this to help you write a swoonworthy romance in the Write a Romance in 30 Days Challenge. It’s free! Sign up here!

Top Tips for New Romance Writers

6 Top Tips for New Romance Writers

February 17, 2021 in Writing Romance

Have you ever read a romance and thought, “I could do that”?

Many would-be writers have, and then discovered that writing isn’t so easy, not even romance.

Sometimes I assist new writers in critiquing their works and there are a few issues most of them have. The fixes to these issues are standard fare, such as “show don’t tell,” but I know for me, it took a long to figure out how to translate these tips into my writing. Below are my explanation of these tips in a way that I hope will help you understand and internalize.

Read romance as a writer.

This can be hard to do if you’re swept into the story, but analyzing what you’re reading is a great way to understand the underpinnings of a good romance. While you’re reading, take note of the choices the author has made in the story structure, how it is told, and the words that are used. Study how characters’ traits, beliefs, goals, and conflicts are revealed. Your goal is to look under the hood to see how everything is put together.

Pick a side.

One issue I see with many new authors is that they tell the stories in their own voice instead of their characters’. In many cases, they hop around between their characters’ feelings and thoughts. The easiest way to fix this is to pick one person (one of your romantic leads) from the scene from which everything will be experienced. In essence, you’re writing from this person’s point of view (POV) regardless if you’re writing in first or third person.

Everything the reader sees or feels or experiences should be through the filter of the POV person. Look at these examples below:

“Oh. My. God,” Cara Colby says.

“I told you, didn’t I?” Senator Eleanor Hainsworth Bach says. “They don’t make them any more handsome than Max Delecoeur.”

The formidable Max Delecoeur walks in looking handsome. Cara and Senator Bach aren’t the only ones to notice him. Every woman at the children’s charity event, eligible or not, is watching him. 


Now check out this version told from Madeleine’s first-person point-of-view”

“Oh. My. God.”

I turn to look where Cara Colby’s saucer-wide eyes and gaping mouth are focused.

“I told you, didn’t I?” my aunt, Senator Eleanor Hainsworth Bach says. “They don’t make them any more handsome than Max Delecoeur.”

They’re right. The formidable Max Delecoeur is more handsome than pictures give him credit for. My aunt and her aide aren’t the only ones to notice him either. I’m certain every woman at my aunt’s children’s charity event, eligible or not, is imagining what it would be like to be with the handsome, sexy, rich Max Delecoeur.

Every woman but me. “Hmmm.”

Note that you could use the third person too:

“Oh. My. God.”

Madeleine turned to look where Cara Colby’s saucer-wide eyes and gaping mouth were focused.

Can you tell the difference between the two options. The first is a bird’s eye view of the scene, telling us what’s going on, but it’s distant. In the second, we’re given Madeleine’s point of view, along with her opinion and attitude. Now we’re not on the outside looking in, but we’re standing with Madeleine, experiencing it with her.

Don’t bounce from side to side. 

In romance, you can have two points of view, but you don’t want to be bouncing back and forth between them. Some romance authors who write from the first-person point of view, have different chapters for each character’s side. Other authors aren’t as structured, but still, limit changing point of view. The rules my agent gave me were:

  • Use a scene break space to indicate a change of point of view within a scene.
  • Don’t change your point of view more than once in a chapter.

If you read Nora Roberts, you know that she frequently breaks these rules, but until you have Nora Robert’s clout, you’re better off to stick with rules editors prefer.

There is a temptation to want to share another character’s thoughts and feeling while in someone else’s POV. Don’t do it. If it’s important to know, you can reveal it through dialogue or simply wait until it’s the other character’s turn and have a moment of reflection where we can learn their thoughts and attitude about the previous scene.

Use the senses.

All fiction should be immersive for the reader, but none so as much as the romance novel (although I suspect thriller and horror authors might disagree). Romance is all about emotion and sensations. The reader needs to experience the roller coaster ride of falling in and out and back in love again, and depending on the heat level of your book, the titillation as well. You do that by using your point-of-view character (see above) as the conduit. What is that person feeling emotionally and physically? What does he or she see or smell?

We clink our cups and I sip, the golden bubbly tickling my nose as it goes down. Max watches me and the air grows thick. Need sizzles over my skin. With one look, he has me wanting in a way I’ve never wanted before. He’s like a Svengali, except he isn’t trying to manipulate or exert control over me. No, his gaze shows genuine desire, hunger, and it ignites my own.

Draw out the important scenes.

Many writers tend to rush through important action or emotional scenes. Readers don’t need details on everything, but in crucial moments, the first kiss, during a crisis, the grand gesture, etc, you want to draw out the scene. In the example above, I could simply have Max kiss Madeleine, but instead, I slowly work to it. I highlight the shift in the atmosphere. I take the reader step-by-step through Madeliene’s reaction; what she thinks and feels in that moment. The actual kiss doesn’t happen for another 11 lines.

Keeping his gaze on my eyes, he takes my glass, and sets it down next to his. I know what’s coming and anticipation slides down my spine. He frames my face with his hands, pulling me to him. The only time his gaze leaves mine is when it drifts down to my lips. Then it travels back up, looks into my eyes.

But he doesn’t take the next step. I’m dying for more so why isn’t he kissing me? I realize he’s waiting. He wants me, I have no doubt about that. But he isn’t going to take, not without my giving him a signal that I want him too. It’s one of the things that make him different from other men.

Not wanting to break the spell by speaking, I lean into him, grasping his robe lapels with my fingers and pulling him to me. Something primal flares in his eyes and then his lips are on mine, devouring my mouth, kissing me until I can’t breathe.

The tips on writing sensory detail and drawing the scene out is particularly important during love scenes. If you study your favorite author’s love scenes, you’ll note that it’s less about the mechanics and more about the emotion and senses.

Know what you’re doing and where you’re going.

This doesn’t mean you have to plot your novel, but if you’re going to wing it, you still have to have a sense of what you’re doing. What are the characters’ goals and motivations? What’s getting in the way of their goals and their love? Everything you write in the story needs to be building toward something. Any scene that doesn’t contribute to understanding the character and move the plot forward is just fluff and fluff slows down your story, boring your reader. No one wants to read a meandering story.


Write your romance in 30 days! Take the free Write a Romance in 30 Days Challenge to get tips like those above, inspiration, and plan to get your romance written! 

Write Your Book FASTER! How to Write Up to 5k Words Per Hour

Write Your Book FASTER! How to Write Up to 5k Words Per Hour

February 1, 2021 in Blog, Writing Romance

Learn a writing strategy that can help you write up to 5,000 words per hour!

Forced into redoing my writing system, I was able to double my writing output; writing more and spending less time doing it. In this video, I share my tips, strategies, and resources for writing more in less time through dictation.


*Dragon Naturally Speaking*

Dragon is no longer available or supported for Mac. Mac users can use the Dragon Anywhere app.

~ Home Addition
~ Professional Individual (with digital recording/transcription)

Earn Rebates from Nuance
~ Swagbucks offers 4% cash back: (AFF)
~Rakutan offers 2.5% cash back: (AFF)

*How To Train for Dictation
The Writers Guide to Training Your Dragon by Scott Baker (aff)
Quick Cheats for Writing with Dragon by Scott Baker (aff)

Blue SnowbBall: (aff)
Logitech Headset Microphone: (aff)

Sony Digital Recorder with USB: (aff)

*Recorder App*
Easy Voice Recorder: Check your phone’s app store

Dragon Commands Cheat Sheet (PDF)

Updated List of Voice-to-Test Tools

Note, many of these aren’t designed for long-form content, but they can be a great resource for testing whether you want to try dictation, or for shorter content such as story notes.

Dictation Apps (Phone/Tablets)

  1. Siri + Notes App (Free)
  2.  Google Keyboard & Keep (Free)
  3.  Google Keyboard and Google Docs (Free
  4. Dragon Anywhere (iOS and Android – Free 7 day trial, monthly or yearly subscription – No word limits)
  5. Evernote Voice Typing (Free & Paid – on your phone you’ll need to say the punctuation.
  6. Otter.Ai (iOS and Android – Free & Paid – Max 40 minute per session, max total 600 minutes per month)
  7. Word (2016, 2019, MS 365) – Word isn’t free but its a standard program that’s worth having. I recently opted for MS 365 to get access to all the the other top programs (Excel, Access, Publisher, Planner, etc). I recently tested the dictation option on the MS 365 Word app, and was impressed at how well it worked. Some commands differ from Dragon, but other than that it worked with no glitches like I sometimes get when using Word and Dragon. Interestingly, Word adds *** for curse words, whereas Dragon substitutes a similar sounding word.

Software for Mac

  1.  Apple Dictate (already part of Apple features)

Record and Transcribe

  1. Professional Individual
  2. Digital Record AI Transcribe service e.g., Scribie
Expand Your Fanbase to Sell More Books Through

Expand Your Fanbase to Sell More Books Through Facebook Takeovers

January 26, 2021 in Blog, Marketing, Video

Learn how to expand your platform to sell more books with free Facebook Author Takeover events. You’ll learn:
~ What a Facebook takeover event is and how it helps you sell more books
~ How to find them to join one
~ Types of things to post to gain followers, subscribers and readers
~ Step by step on how to set up and host a FB takeover

Facebook Author Takeover Checklist

Download a free Facebook Author Takeover Checklist and Tips. No email required.



Facebook Takeover Groups to checkout:
~ Author Takeover Central: A group where hosts can post their takeovers and authors can find takeovers to join
~ BRVL All Romance Genre Author Takeover

Swoonworthy HEA Author Takeover

Calling Romance Authors for Takeover Event

January 20, 2021 in Blog, News

SwoonworthyHEA is hosting a Facebook author takeover event on February 10 to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s looking for romance authors who’d like to participate.

What is SwoonworthHEA?

SwoonworthyHEA is a new online community for people who love to read romance. It offers a place for romance readers to share their favorite books and authors, connect with other readers through groups, listen to the Illicit Liaison podcast, join monthly contests, and even start their own fan or book blog…all for free!

What is a Facebook Author Takeover Event?

A Facebook Author Takeover Event is an online party of sorts where authors takeover the event page at a designated time to post fun and engaging content to entertain and inform attendees. During their time, the author will share information about their books, but also, ask questions, share fun items, and even host a giveaway that can include free books or giftcards.

What Does SwoonworthyHEA Provide?

  • Set up the event from its FB page.
  • Create promo graphic for participants to use to share their participation. 
  • Promote the event through its social accounts, email and other methods.

What are Authors Expected to Do?

  • Provide your information including a picture so that promotional materials can be created
  • Share the event page to promote your participation to your followers, subscribers, and others that you would normally share your writing-related activities with.
  • Arrive on time for your selected spot to share and interact with attendees. Note that many attendees may interact with your posts after your designated time 
  • Check-in periodically after your appearance to engage with people who have responded to your posts after your appearance.
  • If you offer a giveaway, select and announce your winner on the event page by noon the following day.
  • You are also encouraged to interact with and support the other participants. 

If you’re interested in joining in, visit the signup page and enter the necessary information in the timeslot you’d like to takeover. 

Signup for the SwoonworthyHEA Romance Author Takeover here.

Passive Voice in Romance Writing

Passive Voice: Is it Always Bad?

January 17, 2021 in Blog, Writing Romance

You’ve heard you should not use passive voice in your writing, but in reality, passive voice isn’t wrong. In this episode, I explain what passive voice is, why it’s considered “bad,” how to easily find and fix it in your manuscript, and times when using passive voice is okay.

Do you have other tips related to passive voice? Let us know below. Better yet, become a member of Write with Harte (it’s FREE) and join in the discussions of all things romance writing!


Achieving Romance Writing Goals

Achieve Your Romance Writing Goals

January 16, 2021 in Blog, Video, Writing Romance

Setting goals is important to success, but too many people miss other crucial elements in goal attainment. Beyond mindset, in this video, I go over how to put systems and resources in place to make sure you stick with your writing goals and plans.

Get the 70-page 4-in-1 planner FREE as a member of Write with Harte. It’s FREE to join, plus you can get the planner and other freebies in the growing library of resources, and you can network and join in on discussions of all things romance writing, publishing, and marketing.

Become a member of Write with Harte 

7 Tips to Dealing with Critique Feedback

7 Tips to Dealing with Critique Feedback

January 9, 2021 in Blog, Writing Romance

Critique and editing have made me a better writer. But boy oh boy, can it be hard to take.

Here are 7 tips on how you can manage your emotions as well as assess critique to improve your writing, without it crushing your soul.

Do you have other tips to dealing with critique or how it can help improve your writing? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing Conflict in Romance

Conflict in Romance

January 5, 2021 in Blog, Video, Writing Romance

I was at the C3 Conference in Maryland in 2019, on a panel about romance and we were asked about whether or not a battle of the sexes was required in a romance. One of my fellow panelists said, “Yes, because that’s where the conflict comes from in the story.”

Being contrary, I disagreed and said that while yes, conflict is needed in a romance (or any story), it doesn’t necessarily have to be between the couple.

In the video below, I provide all the different options for conflict in a romance.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Can you have a worthwhile romance when the conflict is not between the couple?