Happy New Year!

Hey there, you gracious, forgiving, enthusiastic, and slightly crazy people I call my tribe!
I hope each of you had a fantastic holiday season filled with joy, laughter, and family. As we head into the new year (how in the world is it almost 2016), I wanted to take a minute to say Thank you!

This little blog started way back in 2011 as nothing more than an outlet for me. I was moving half-way across the country to a place where I knew no one and the extrovert in me was screaming at the sudden loss of people. Never in a million years did I ever imagine it would turn into such a crucial part of my life or how much this little slice of the interwebs would impact me.

The past four years have been such an amazing journey from out-of-work marketer to author/agent. Having you all with me for that rocky path to where I am has been a blessing, and I can't wait to keep traveling together to see what is in store for all of us in the future. You guys inspire me to keep going, pushing further and doing more and for that I am eternally grateful.

It is my hope that coming here provides each of you with knowledge, inspiration and the occasional kick in the pants (served with a healthy side of humor). But even more than that, I hope this blog is a place you can come and know that you are never alone in this sometimes scary world of books. Because even though it is fun, exciting and fulfilling, it can also be terrifying. But even though we are all separated by miles and oceans, none of us ever have to be alone. Thank you for being here with me.

I have so many exciting plans for 2016, both for me personally and for the blog. So here's to 2015. Thanks for the journey with all of its highs and lows. And cheers to 2016, for the wild adventure you are sure to ring in!

Agency Lessons: What makes a good manuscript

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today's post comes from the mail bag. Don't forget, if you have questions for me, you can submit them here.

Q: "What is the most important thing you look for in a manuscript?"
Well, this is a bit like asking for the magical compound in unicorn blood. But then again, it's not. Because the number one, most important thing I look for when evaluating a manuscript is a good story that I want to read from start to finish.
Before I start thinking about market position, genre comparisons, and fit, I want to be told a great story. This means a cohesive plot, with strong, fully developed characters, and comprehensive world-building.
But I have a feeling this reader was looking for something a little more concrete, so let's give this a try. Instead of a list of must-haves, which I think is not as useful, here's a list of things I don't want to see in manuscripts.
1. Distancing narration
This is one of those little details I look for that usually tells me if someone has taken the time to really study the craft of writing. Distance is created with the use of filtering phrases such as I heard, she saw, he felt, I knew, etc. This is the difference between I hope he knows what he's doing and Please, let him know what he's doing.
Here's another example: She felt the cool wind against her sun burned skin. Versus. A cool wind provided a small relief to her sun burned skin. 
It's a small difference in wording, but it makes a huge difference in how connected your reader is to your story.
2. Telling
I feel like this has been beaten to death and then kicked around for fun, but telling is a story killer. There are tons of resources for telling out there that give better information than I can put into a paragraph. You can find a few great articles here, here and here.
I will say one thing about telling. It isn't always bad. There are times when telling is exactly what a scene needs. It's mostly a judgement call, but knowing the right and wrong time takes your manuscript to the next level.  

3. Convenience
Sometimes, our life problems can be solved by convenience, but that doesn't make for an interesting story. Convenience in stories comes in many forms. It can be the handy gun on a table right when the MC needs to get away from the bad guy or even a skill set the MC needs that we've never heard of before.

For an example of this, I recently read a book where one of the characters needed to do a lot of sneaking around in order to gather info. The character pretty much says "good thing I'm so good at sneaking around'. This was a second book in the series and at no point prior to this had we been given any indication that the character was skilled in this way. But she needed to be right then, so the author made her skilled. That's convenient. And I won't be reading any more of this series (this was only one issue that makes me want to stop).

To avoid creating a convenient situation for your characters, you have to seed your story. The gun on the table isn't convenient if another character who is known for being forgetful and easily distracted was given the task to put the gun away last chapter. Because you seeded the story with a reasonable explanation for the gun's location. The great news with writing is that if you discover you need a character to have a certain skill halfway through, you can go back into the earlier parts and seed that skill in so it isn't a surprise. 

4. Weak motivations
This can come in many forms, but where I see it the most is with the villain. Which means that the whole story can fall apart. If your bad guy is after world domination via enslaving everyone, he needs to have a strong motivation. So, not just because he's a bad person. In essence, what is your bad guy's end game?

Here's a secret for you when it comes to bad guys. Bad guys don't see themselves as bad guys. The very best ones honestly think they are doing the right thing. They can be motivated by the same principles guiding your MC: helping the people around them, fulfilling their purpose, honoring their morality/religion. They just interpret this differently. 

5. Too close for comfort
They say that you could give five authors the exact same story idea and end up with five completely different stories. And there is a lot of truth to that. But there is also a point where two stories can be just too similar to both be viable. This is tricky, because you have to give readers of your genre what they are expecting from that type of book, but still keep your story original. 

The only way to know if you story is too similar to others is by reading widely. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Read stories you love. Read stories that make you want to hurl the book at the wall. READ. And before you say that you don't have time to read, let's have chat with my good buddy, Stephen King. Yo, Stevo! What are your thoughts on writers making time to read?
There you have it. Are you really going to argue with Stephen King? Look, Mr. King and I aren't suggesting you need a seven book a week habit. But you need to read. If you need a number, let's go with one new release a month. And by new release, I mean something published in the last two years. By all means, read older books, but you can't know what's on the market right now unless you are reading new books. 

Well, that's it. I hope this helps to at least give you a few ideas of areas of your own manuscript to take a hard look at before sending it off to agents/editors. What do you guys think is crucial for a good novel? What are your big turn offs?

You don't have to do it all

I love social media. It helps me feel connected to the rest of the writing world and not so isolated all the way out here in west Texas. I learn, I connect, I help, and get motivated with my tribe.

But it also has a way of making me feel like I'm missing the boat.

That's right. Social media is giving me a serious case of Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO has hit me hard lately in the form of conferences. I'm seeing lots of my author friends post about all these really fun conferences and reader events they are attending. And my desire to try to attend all the conferences rears its ugly head.
Accurate representation of me thinking I can do everything
 Last week I was half-way through Googling at least a dozen different conferences before I finally knocked some sense into myself.

Hard truth coming at you: You don't have to do all the things.

Yes, conferences and other events can be fun. But they can also be expensive and draining on your creative juices and writing time. They also strongly reward authors with lots of books out. That is not where I am right now. And even if I did sport a big back list, I still couldn't attend every conference that sounds good.

And the list doesn't stop at conferences. I feel like we, as authors, put a lot of pressure on ourselves to hit other goals like getting short listed for awards, getting into libraries, having your book qualify for AR readers, attending reader lists or getting on Goodreads lists. The number of  ways we try to make ourselves relevant goes on and on.

I'm here today, proudly declaring that it is okay to miss out on some things. While you should definitely do what you can to market yourself and your books, you don't have to do it all. All you absolutely shouldn't compare what you are doing for marketing to other authors. We can use social media to learn from each other, but we need to stop using it as a measuring stick.

There's probably nothing I can do about my case of FOMO, but I am going to go into 2016 trying to focus on my own personal journey instead of aiming for another author's accomplishments. I hope you'll do the same.

Reasons your book isn't selling: Targeting the Wrong Audience

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last week I talked about poor author packaging. 

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Targeting the wrong audience

A sure fire way to get me to not buy your book it to tell me it's for everyone. Because we all know that's not true. There has never been (and never will be) a universally loved book. If you ever get it into your head that you have written a book for everyone, please go read all the one-star reviews for Harry Potter. You'll get a crash course in just how wrong that idea is.

If you're going to market your book, you absolutely MUST know who you are marketing to. This is so much more than knowing your genre. Targeting the right audience means know who reads your genre, sub-genre, style, etc. If you don't know who your readers are, how in the world will you reach them.

A few things to keep in mind.

Forget the outliers. My 65 yr-old father-in-law (who happens to have Rite of Revelation dedicated to him) loves my books. And not in the, Oh, my daughter-in-law wrote this kind of way, but in the calls me up mid book because he can't believe I killed off so-and-so way. And that's great. But I'm not going to start a marketing campaign targeting male retirees. Because, while it's possible they might like my book, they aren't my target audience.

Marketing to outliers is a gigantic waste of time. You don't want to spin your wheels in the hopes of reaching people who might like your book. Go straight for the jugular and target those you know will like your book.

Be specific. While it may feel like it, you really can't get too granular when it comes to identifying your target audience. In the marketing world, companies often craft a fictional ideal consumer. This person gets a name (like Sally) and companies assign characteristics based on what they know about their customers. When it comes time to create a new product or marketing campaign, they will ask what Sally thinks about it. This is a gut check to see if they are on the right path.

We need to do the same when deciding on our marketing efforts. Book trailers may be trendy and eye catchy, but do your readers watch videos online? Swag is great, but those temporary tattoos might not go over well with the target audience for a cozy mystery. The more specific you get with your audience, the better equipped you are to make decisions about your marketing efforts. 

Trim where needed. It can be tempting to cast a wide net when you are just getting started in your path to publication. But I promise, this is a waste of your time and money. For me, I love the idea of getting my books in front of book clubs. They are full of people who love to read AND talk about books. Hi there! But the reality is that my books aren't typical book club fair. So instead of trying to get into any book club, I've focused on introducing my books to teen clubs or ones with adults who read YA. While it sounds like it would benefit me to get into more book clubs, the truth is that I would end up spending a lot of time for very little pay off.

Who are you writing for? If you don't know, marketing your work is bound to be a colossal waste of time. Instead, take the time to figure out who the fans are of novels similar to yours. Figure out where they hang out online, offline and what they do while they are there. Understanding your audience is crucial when it comes to selling your books.

Agency Lessons: Client marketing

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today's post comes from the mail bag. Don't forget, if you have questions for me, you can submit them here.
Q: "What kind of marketing do you have your authors focus on?"

This question actually has two answers and it depends on where my clients are in their publishing journey. Before I get into it though, I just want to point out that not every agent is going to be engaged in marketing for their clients. Of course, every agent wants to help their authors sell more books (that's how we make our money as well), but not every agent has the time or ability to be hands on when it comes to marketing their clients' books. So keep in mind that your mileage may vary when working with your own agent.

Okay, now let's break this on down:

New Authors
This can include debut authors or anyone still working to build up their readership. For example, I would lump myself into this category, even though my second book just came out. With these authors, I think the focus should be on discoverability.

This can come in a lot of different forms, but the focused outcome is getting your book in front of as many eyes as possible. When you're new, the biggest struggle is letting people know your book even exists.
As a new author, your goal should be introducing your book to as many potential readers as you can. There are a couple great ways to do this. Blog/Review tours is always my first suggestion. Bloggers love finding new authors, and if you take the time to find reviewers who you think will genuinely like your book, most of them are more than happy to help out. Giveaways can be great, but are hard for a new author. If you can, try finding a more established author in your genre and asking them to do a joint giveaway. That way, you can get your book in front of an audience that has already identified themselves as potential readers of your book. Check out this post for my thoughts on what to use for your giveaway.

There are tons of other ways to spread the word about your book such as a Goodreads contest or a Thunderclap, but the effectiveness of these tactics varies greatly. The undisputed best way to find new readers is through word-of-mouth. Too bad that's one of the few things we can't order on the internet. To get this going, I suggest asking the people you already know. Yes, you can over-promote and drive your friends batty. But in my experience, my real-world friends were more than happy to help me spread the word about my book. I asked them to share my Facebook posts, tell their friends, suggest my book to readers and (gasp) buy my book. This sort of generosity probably has a shelf life (your friends are not interested in turning into a walking billboard for your books), but in those early days of being an author, this can be a huge help.

Established Authors

Once you've got a few books under your belt and an established readership, the focus changes as bit. Not that you can ever stop working on discoverability, but now you have existing readers to work with. Out in the non-book world, it is widely agreed that it is much cheaper to keep an existing customer than to bring in a new one. Now, imagine that money is time (which it is) and it makes sense that you need to show the love to your tried and true fans. It's time for engagement.

Once again, this comes in several forms, but you can look at several authors who are doing this well to get an idea. In the YA world, I don't think anyone does this better than Jennifer L. Armentrout. Here's what I've seen that she does really well.
1. She understands her audience. Her blog posts are absolutely littered with Supernatural GIFs and her Facebook posts this year  include lots of shots of "Four on a shelf". Neither of those have anything to do with her books, but she enjoys them and so does her audience. So no surprise, there is tons of interaction going on.
2. She gives constantly. Jennifer's biggest series is the Lux series, which she finished writing several years ago. But even though she's writing new projects right now, she recognizes that her fans aren't done with those characters yet. So she regularly writes little scenes of them and gives them to her fans completely free. Jennifer also randomly gives away books and gift cards to her readers without making them jump through hoops (a regular entry method is commenting on a post).

3. She listens. Jennifer recently re-released the first three books of her series told from her male MCs POV, because her fans asked her to. And even though she could have charged big bucks, she made them super affordable so her fans could all read it.

The key takeaway her is to figure out what it is that your fans want (go ahead and ask them) and then do your best to give it to them. This isn't rocket science.

Marketing can be a big, scary word for a lot of authors, but it doesn't have to be. At the end of the day, you have what readers want (hint: it's books). So go out and give it to them.

Goals without a plan are just wishes

It's that time of year again. Time to set some goals for 2016! Woohoo! Break out your day planners, because this is happening.

2015 was a bit hit or miss for me when it came to my goals. I actually managed to achieve five out of six, which sounds awesome on paper. But not so much when you look at it considering the goal I missed was publishing book three in the Acceptance series. Also, the goal for book two was to have it published by the summer and since it just came out last week, clearly that one was delayed.

I had big plans, but they came apart due to a failure to plan on my part. Because goals without a plan are just wishes. Things we hope to accomplish, but at least on my part, thought would come to fruition as a natural course of action.

Yeah, that doesn't work.

So this year, I'm going to do thing a little differently.

In regards to output, I've got some lofty goals this year. I'm currently working on a stand-alone to give my brain time to ferment book three of the Acceptance series. But I can't let it ferment too long because I have a hard core publication date that I really want to meet. My goal is to have book three release by the end of June 2016. I'll be attending UtopiaCon again this year and I really want to have all three books out and ready to go. Paired with the stand-alone, that is two books written and polished by mid-year. Then, ideally, I'd like to get one more book written that I have somewhat plotted already. If you're keeping score, that's three books in one year where this year I only managed to crank out one.

In order to make that happen, I know I have to change what I'm doing now. Because more of the same won't produce different results. My number one priority is to get in a better habit of daily writing. In the past I've been a sporadic sprinter. Instead of writing daily, I go for weeks without writing and then write for several weeks to the exclusion of everything else. Not only is this not really a viable long-term plan for me or my family, it is hard to stay consistently in my stories. In short, I was publishing as professionally as I could, but still writing like a hobbyist. That's not going to cut it if I want to take my writing to the next level.

I also need to do a better job of planning out my mini-goals on a real calendar. I tend to wait until I have my first draft finished before I map out the actual publication process. That's not going to work anymore. Instead, I need to decide on my publication date and then work backward, deciding when I need to meet certain goals (first draft complete, beta version ready, etc.) in order to stay with my deadlines. I also need to stop delaying the process. I waited until I had my draft back from my Beta readers before I reached out to my cover designer. Why? Because in the back of my head I was convinced they would all hate it and then I would just can the whole project, so why waste money on a cover design. Well, that's defeatist thinking and it needs to stop. Which is why I'll be reaching out to my cover designer at the beginning of the year to get cranking on book three.

In short, I need to treat the process of writing more professionally. It's not enough to look like a professional and put out professional books. This year I claimed author as my profession on my taxes. According to the US Government, I am an author, so it's about time I started acting like it.

This is a big mind shift for me, and I'm sure it's that way for many of you. You may be thinking, I don't make enough money to act like a real author. Or, I don't have any books published, so I'm not a real author. Whatever the reason, you might not feel like an author yet and that mental aspect of the job might be holding you back from hitting your goals. I know it is for me. It's a big switch to go from "writing for fun because I love it" and "writing as my job and I still get to love it".  I don't think it will be easy. Not by a long shot. But I know it will be worth it.

I'd love to hear from you guys. How do you schedule your writing time to make it a habit or part of your work day? When did you mentally make the switch from hobby writer to professional author and what helped you do it?

Reasons your book isn't selling: Poor Author Packaging

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last week I talked about poor book packaging.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Poor Author Packaging
As authors we are super focused on our books, and we should be. But the downside is that we tend to forget that we aren't just selling books. We are selling a reader experience, and we are part of that whether we want to be or not.

Before we talk about author packaging I just want to dispel this notion that authors don't need to worry about this. We do. Let me give two modern examples of authors doing this right. Jennifer Armentrout and JK Rowling. Both of them have amazing fan interaction for their series (Lux and Harry Potter respectively), even though those series ended a while ago. Yet, they both actively engage on social media AND continue to provide their readers with new content so they can keep existing readers engaged and pull in new readers. They are both doing it right and because of that, their series continue to see amazing success even though both authors have moved on to other projects. Your author package absolutely matters. Now, let's talk about what that means for you.

1. Photo time
Look, I get that professional photos can be expensive and getting your picture taken is akin to stabbing yourself in the eyeball with a blunt pencil. But your online photo matters. I see a lot of authors who use pictures of their kids, their cats, their 'fill in the blank'. And that's fine, if you're a big name author that has already built up amazing fan engagement. If you're JK Rowling, feel free to use your cat as your image. But since none of us are JK (unless you are, and then "Hi, I'm a huge fan"), we should be using a good photo of ourselves. This allows readers to see that we are real people and literally puts a face to the name. You can fight me on this one if you want to, but you won't be doing yourself any favors. Just get a good photo and use it.

2. Be consistent
This is more than just using the same photo everywhere. This is about creating a brand that encompasses you as an author and sticking with it. In addition to your photo, this is your color choices, images you use, and the tone of your interactions. Chuck Wendig is a sarcastic, potty-mouthed, truth-teller. It's what he does. When I visit his blog or follow his tweets, I know exactly what I'm going to get and that's okay. That doesn't mean Chuck can't sometimes be serious or sentimental, but those are exceptions to the norm. And that's good. Because even though I've never met Chuck (though I'd love to, so if you're reading this "Hi"), I feel like I know him. And I feel like I know what I'm getting with his books. And that's the kicker.

If you aren't sure what you're doing with your platform/brand, check out my Platform Pick-Up Series for tips on getting your platform into shape.

3. Woeful Website
Your website is your home base and is the place you hope readers come to learn more about you and your books. Sadly, too many authors treat this website as a second thought. Slapping something up and hoping anyone reads it. The thing is, you can't expect readers to take you seriously and see you as a professional worth reading if you don't show them you are a professional.

I'm not suggesting you need to go out and spend a ton of money on your website/blog. There are a ton of free tools out there. I think my site looks great (totally biased opinion) and the whole thing is done on the free Blogger platform. The only exception is my domain name and if you have books out there, I highly suggest you spend the cash to buy your domain name. I reserved mine for five years and I think it cost me less than $50. Totally worth it.

A professional site shows clearly who you are and what you are doing. It uses professional looking fonts and images and isn't overly cluttered with a million add-ons and all those little extras you can throw on a site. In short, it looks like someone took time to craft it, because you did take time to craft it. If you aren't sure what to do here, go do some stalking of your favorite authors and then copy what they are doing. No sense in reinventing the wheel.

4. Tell me about your books
A lot of authors make the mistake of going overboard on promotion and spamming the world with their book links (more on this in another post). But there are just as many authors who take it too far in the other direction. They never mention their books on social media. A visit to their site takes a multitude of clicks to discover that they actually have books out there to read.

Don't make your job any harder than it has to be. You don't have to shove your books down everyone's throat. But if I go to your website, I should be able to tell from the first page that you have books available to buy and read. It's hard enough to get eyeballs on your website and social media posts, don't waste the opportunity when they finally make it there.

5. You must engage
Gone are the days of writing in obscurity in a cabin by a lake. If you choose obscurity, don't be surprised when your books follow you there. Thousands of new books are published every week. Every Week! My newest book is less than a week old and it's already old news. And the unfortunate news is that your books aren't going to sell themselves. That means it's up to you, regardless of how you are published. You the author need to engage with fans and potential new readers if you want your books to be found.

I'm not saying you need to spend 40 hours a week pumping out tweets, blog posts and Tumblr updates. But you do need to have a presence and it needs to be a positive one. This should go without saying, but I've seen it one too many times. Readers don't want to engage with an author who is constantly whining about book sales, or Amazon, or big publishers, or life in general. I'm not saying you can never complain or that you need to be a false little chipper blue bird. But you can't be an Eeyore and expect readers to flock to you. Be genuine and you'll be fine.

Obviously there is so much more to the whole package of you, but that could be a month's worth of blog posts. The long and short of it is, if you want readers to see you as an author worth reader, then that's the image you need to show them.

Agency Lessons: first rights

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
Today's question comes from the mail bag.
Q: I've heard that you shouldn't post any content online because you'll want to save "first online publication rights" for your publisher (once you're signed). Is that true, and if so, how far does it go? I'd like to get online forum critique of my WIP and enter contests like the ones on Miss Snark's First Victim without being concerned about the legal fine print.

This is a question I get a lot, and I understand why. The internet offers writers all kinds of opportunities, but it also creates questions about whether those opportunities open writers up to liabilities and problems on down the road.

So there are really two issues here, what constitutes "published" and what exactly are "first rights".

Let's talk about published. First, what I'm talking about here pertains to novels. The rules and guidelines for articles and other types of writing are going to be different because their end product is different. For our purposes, published means you have assigned an ISBN to your novel and made your work available for purchase via a retailer.

So a book you put into Createspace or Smashwords and sold on Amazon: published. Even if you only sold five copies. A family history book you printed and bound at Staples and gave to your family for Christmas: not published.

That means that first chapter you enter into an online contest is not published. Neither are the chapters you share with your online critique group (though I would advise you to do this with a private group and not a completely open to the public group). So go ahead and enter those contests if you want to.

What about Wattpad? This is a site I am asked about all the time. It's not really publishing, but it kinda is. You don't assign an ISBN or sell your work, but the site is meant for public distribution. While posting to this site doesn't stop you from publishing in the future, it is something you'll want to disclose to any potential agents/publishers.

Now, let's talk about first rights. This is something that writers like to worry about...a lot. And they shouldn't. Because first rights are something that almost no one deals with when it comes to novels. Basically, first rights means that your publisher can sell the right to another publication (like a magazine) to print an excerpt of your novel BEFORE your novel is published.

The chances of a magazine paying money to be the first to print a portion of an unpublished novel for a debut novelist are pretty low.  I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but... it's hard enough to get a debut contract, let alone have it be such a big deal that you'll need to be concerned about first rights.

And let's just go down that what-if path and say that you do happen to land that massive debut book deal where publishers are fighting for your book and Teen Vogue is dying to publish first rights. Either Teen Vogue will be okay that an old version of your book was once published to a contest page or they won't. Big Name Publishing House is not going to pass on your book because you posted two pages to a critique group. See why this isn't something you need to fret about right now?

I'm referring a lot to debut authors here, because once you've got your first book out, you do need to avoid this. You should be working directly with your agent and/or publisher when it comes to all your future books to make sure you are following your contract. That means you don't post teasers, first pages or any of that online without checking in first.

The long and short of it is that this isn't something you need to worry about. Just focus on your work. Get critiques from others, enter contests and share your work in reasonable amounts. Then let your agent worry about the rest.
Guys, Big News!

I have another book out.
There it is. It's a real thing, that actual live humans can buy and read.

So, from an author perspective, book two feels different. With book one, everything was exciting and new and SOOOOOOOO important. I celebrated the whole day and just reveled in my obvious genius. With book two, the entire day is planned as business as usual. I do have a signing, but the timing is purely coincidence. That said, I feel more legit now. Probably because my book has an "Also by" section. Granted, there's only one book listed there. But something about having a second book makes this whole author gig feel more permanent.

Is that weird? As if the first book was some kind of a fluke, and I somehow accidentally wrote and published a book. But accidentally doing it a second time is statistically improbably, so this time it's for real. It's thoughts like these that convince the rest of the world that authors are all neurotic.

If you're so inclined and happen to enjoy a good YA dystopian, go check it out. If you're new here, go check out Rite of Rejection, book one in the Acceptance series. It's on sale right now for only $.99, so you know, good time to give it a try.

Also, if you haven't signed up for my newsletter yet, you should get on that. Now, when you sign up you get a free ebook, HALF ACCEPTED. It covers the twenty-four hours in between books one and two, and subscribing to my newsletter is the only way to get it.

Reasons your book isn't selling: Poor Book Packaging

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last week I talked about paid reviews.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Poor Book Packaging

Packaging is one of those areas that is more relevant for the indie author. For the traditional author, the final product of your book is mostly determined by your publisher. That said, I am seeing more and more publishers ask for, and utilize, input from authors when it comes to book packaging. So, this is something everyone should be paying attention to.

Many authors equate book packaging to the cover. And while the cover is a crucial element, the reality is that there are several aspects to a book's package. Everything from the cover font to the retailer description.

So let's talk book packaging.

1. Covers
Honestly, so much has been said about covers that you'd think this is a dead horse, but apparently, bad book covers still have a bit of life in them. Every week I see another obviously homemade cover pop up on an book site. Bread, quilts, and Grandma's Toot's spaghetti sauce. All things that are wonderful homemade. You'll note that book covers were not on that list.

Look, unless your day job is book cover designer, you should not be in charge of your books cover. The cover is the most visible part of a book's package and can turn your book into an automatic pass if done poorly. Please, please, for the love of all things holy, don't design your own book cover.

2. Formatting
Formatting is actually one of those things that most indie authors can handle on their own. It's tedious and if you don't have an eye for detail, it can make you want to rip your hair out. But, with a little effort, you can DIY this part of the package.

Where I see authors heading straight for the cliff is when normal people seem to think they are God's gift to clip art. Then, instead of a normal, basic book interior, we have a runway show of fonts, odd formatting and random pictures that have no place inside your book. When it comes to formatting, less is more. Keep it simple. Your interior format should make it easier for a reader, not get in the way of the words. And if you absolutely must have drop caps and fancy scene breaks, consider paying for a professional.

3. Retailer description
There are some really great books out there, with some really bad book descriptions. I mean, really bad. Length is often a culprit, with the book description going on for paragraph after paragraph. You don't need that long to give us a snapshot of your book. Keep in mind, this isn't a summary. Reader's don't need to be instructed, just enticed.

Another frequent offender is the convoluted description. We've all seen the one that names half a dozen character, at least three fictional locations, and multiple words that don't currently exist in the English language. By the time we get to the end, we have no idea what we've read. You're book might have more plot lines than a George RR Martin novel, but your description should be laser focused.

Your book description has only one goal. Get a reader to plunk down their hard earned money to read more.

4. Format options
This is another critical mistake that make me want to scream, "It's almost 2016, people. Get it together." There is no reason why your book should be only ebook or print. There is no rule that says you have to pick one and only one. Here's the fun part, you can put your book out in multiple formats. And no your book is not an exception. I actually saw an adult coloring book last week that had an ebook option. If they can figure out a way to make it work, so can you.

And don't stop with just ebook and print. Audio is become much more popular and is growing substantially in some genres. If you don't have an audio book up yet, I highly suggest looking into this option.

5. A crappy book
Look, you can have the best cover design and a killer Amazon description, and none of that will be worth a hill of beans if your book isn't up to snuff. Traditional publishing isn't immune to cranking out some stinkers, but this is much more common among indies. Don't be that indie that rushes to publication instead of taking your time to put out a great book.

Rite of Revelation was originally scheduled for a November 5th release. But I pushed it back. Not because I couldn't have made it work, but because I knew rushing it would result in mistakes and a book that wasn't my best. This extra month has allowed me to take my time to make sure I get quality editing and a book I can be proud of.

All the packaging in the world can't help you, if your book doesn't deliver on its promise to readers. So take your time, invest in your book, and package your book right. Cutting corners here is likely to cost you big time in the long run.