Lessons Learned from Marie Force

I've been very busy lately. Very busy. I'm not making excuses because a good amount of what I've been doing has had to do with writing. But I've also been working long and strange hours and I've also been putting together another blog, this one on my other loves... vintage and creative projects for the home. I'll let you in on that one later, but for now I want to talk about some of the writing related things that I've discovered when it comes to formatting your ebooks and books for Createspace.

These are the things that would have been done in-house by a traditional publishing house. I remember when I got my first contract and had to submit a style sheet listing information about the story and the characters and even how we envision our covers. I got none of it on my covers. Want to know how bad it can get? Check out my post here on the evolution of a cover. Thank God for Sabrina's Digital Imagery because she saved my book from the dreaded goat cat that was on the original cover.

Anyway, there is more to making a book memorable then having a great story, giving it a good cover and making sure it is error free. Those are all really important, but if you want to grow your readership then you need to make it as easy as possible for the reader to connect. Marie Force visited a recent Maine RWA meeting and she talked about all the things that she does to sell her books. Here's just a couple... (I'm paraphrasing, but the sentiments the same).

1. You have to have inventory for the customer to read. Write. Write. Write. If you don't have the next book ready when they finish the first will they really come back and get it later? Besides, who needs a store with just one item in it. You've got to have the inventory. 

2. Make it easy for the reader to find your books. Sounds simple, but try picking up one of Marie's books (You can start with Maid for Love from the Gansett Island Series. At the moment it's free on Amazon as an ebook) and taking a look at how she lists her books available, adds links to the where the books can be purchased and encourages readers to follow her on social media.

3. Give them a taste. At the back of each book she adds an excerpt to the next book with a link at the end that takes them directly to the spot to purchase it. It's worked so far for me. I'm on book 4... or is it 5? Either way, I'm making my way steadily through the series. It works.

Then there are some other things that I don't think she mentioned, although I may have been writing furiously and missed them. But I have noticed a few things about her books that make them stand out. 

4. Forgo the boring formatting. I'm not talking about throwing caution to the wind and making crazy indents, but I'm talking about little things like changing the fonts on the chapter headings. Varying the size of the fonts and style. Those little things make it feel more like reading a bound book then an ebook. Take a look at some of the books out there. Not just read them, but take a look at the transition between the chapters, the way the pages are formatted and the over all presentation of the book. Play with the formatting. Nothing is hurt by trying something new.

5. Make them personal. The more you can make the readers feel familiar with you, the more they'll read your books. Make them relate. Make them believe that they know you and you've got a reader for life.

6. CYA: Otherwise known as "cover your butt". Sort of. Make sure that you've got all the legal stuff in there to protect yourself and your work. It's your work, don't give it away because you didn't bother to learn how to protect it.

7. Making it hot doesn't hurt. By hot I mean SMOKING HOT. She doesn't categorize them as anything other than romance, but a good portion of each book is the characters not being able to keep their hands off each other. That's not to say that they have indiscriminate sex. The basis is all there for the hot and sweaty stuff. But that just proves that most readers don't mind a little hot.

8. Consistency. Follow through on all books, not just on story, but on content. Give them all of the information on all the books. The great thing about pubbing indie-style is that you can go back and change and edit to your liking. I'm working on that project now. Maybe that's why my eyes are crossing. ;)

Lastly, there was something else that goes along with making it personal and making it easy. Marie has said that she tries to respond to all her readers, that she acknowledges their comments and makes them feel treasured. That goes a long way with relationship, but it's really important if you want to bring them back.

A debt of gratitude, I offer to Marie. She has no idea how much she's helped me. Well, maybe she will if she reads this post. There is always something new to learn and I thank her for showing me some great new ways to look at my own work. As for me? I'm off to download the next book in the Gansett Island series. After all, who needs sleep...

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