Close your eyes ... Can you hear it? The jangle of the spurs? The reverberation of guitar strings? The haunting wah-wah voice while Clint Eastwood strolls into the desert graveyard for a showdown with an Italian cigar slowly rolling in his mouth? And ...

Click here to read this mailing online.

Your email updates, powered by FeedBlitz

Here is a sample subscription for you. Click here to start your FREE subscription

"Seekerville" - 5 new articles

  1. Best of the Archives: The Good, The Bad, & The Really Ugly: Memories of a Published Writer
  2. How Setting Affects Character
  3. 5 Tips for Taking Your Writing to the Next Level
  5. Mission Possible—Ground the Reader
  6. More Recent Articles

Best of the Archives: The Good, The Bad, & The Really Ugly: Memories of a Published Writer

Close your eyes ... Can you hear it? The jangle of the spurs? The reverberation of guitar strings? The haunting wah-wah voice while Clint Eastwood strolls into the desert graveyard for a showdown with an Italian cigar slowly rolling in his mouth? And then, all at once, beyond your control … your stomach growls and you realize you’re hungry for spaghetti. (Sorry, for all you sweet, young things out there, you’ll just have to ask a baby boomer what that means.)

Ah, memories. Ol’ Clint mowing ‘em down with his Colt 1851 Navy revolver in a movie about three gunslingers who dig and claw their way to gold buried in a cemetery. Which, now that I think of it, is faintly reminiscent of a writer’s golden dreams of publication—we dig and claw in the sands of Unpubbed Island in search of the “gold” while editors, agents and contest judges gun us down. And, as in the case of my 46 rejections for A Passion Most Pure—the potshots kept whizzing by, over and over again!

Sigh … to have our names e
mblazoned across the cover of a book—oh, yes—a golden dream to be sure, but as the old adage points out, all that glitters is not gold. Sometimes it’s the glint of jealousy in one’s eyes when somebody gets pubbed instead of you or the sheen of tears when a contest judge slices and dices your ms. Or even when a reviewer calls your work “scum reading.” Sniff … will somebody pass the Kleenex, please?

So … as a war-torn veteran of five years (which really needs to be multiplied by five given my CDQ personality that imposes excessive wear and tear on the mind, spirit and tear ducts), I want to talk about the “good, the bad, and the ugly," and no, I’m not talking how a certain baby-boomer CDQ looks first thing in the morning after a rough night of sleep—I’m talking publication and beyond.

Oh, the wide-eyed wonder of being a newbie! There’s something so innocent about it, you know? Like after I finaled in the Golden Heart in 2005 with Janet Dean, Tina Radcliffe and Myra Johnson (who won the gold, the brat!), and I sent out 25 query envelopes to agents? Yeah, I even stickered those little suckers with a cute, little gold emblem that said “2005 Golden Heart Finalist” because I was certain that would open doors, right? Well, it certainly opened envelopes, yes, each promptly thrown away, no doubt, to the sound of maniacal laughter. But open doors? Uh … not so much.

Which brings me to the “
GOOD” on my publication journey. One night an e-mail pops up in my mailbox from a certain Natasha Kern after twenty-four agents had already rejected me, and I’ll be honest—I thought it was a hoax! I mean, come on—I was savvy enough to know that Natasha Kern had appeared in Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the top 25 agents for new writers to have, but when her e-mail asked me to call her at a Portland, Oregon phone number, I balked.

That’s the GOOD. Now enter the “BAD” w
ith fear, doubt, trembling and nausea … “What if it’s a scam?” I asked my husband, chewing my lip raw, “or a cruel joke somebody is playing on me?” My eyes flared wide. “I mean, Portland for heaven’s sake—everybody know agents only lived in New York!” “Well, you have nothing to lose by calling, Julie,” my husband said with a squeeze of my hand. Oh, yes, I did, I thought. My confidence (what was left of it), my hope and, yes, even my supper—in that order. I took a deep breath and reread the e-mail three times, which went something like this:

"Julie, do you have an agent yet? If not, please call me at this number immediately. I am leaving on a trip and was hoping you could overnight your manuscript so I can read it on the plane.”

Yeah, right. Twenty-four reputable agents send rejection letters through the mail for A Passion Most Pure, and I’m supposed to believe somebody obviously posing as Natasha Kern e-mails me to express ma
il my ms. to OREGON, of all places??? And all this after seeing only FIVE pages and a synopsis (her submission guidelines back then) when all the others saw three chapters and a synopsis??? I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t buy it, and yes, the scary part is that I realllllly was that green, and I’m not talking environmentally.

BUT … I was also desperate, so I called … and the GOOD news is it WAS Natasha Kern and yes, she did actually sign me, the poor dear. The BAD news? She didn’t fully realize till after the
ink was dry just how many times I’d been rejected. I believe the word she used was “daunting.” But apparently not too daunting for her amazing skills as an agent because she landed a contract for me within six months. OH. MY. GOODNESS!!!

So there I was, a newbie with a three-book deal, visions of sugar plums (masquerading as Ritas, and Christys and 5-star reviews) dancing in my head, completely certain that getting published would validate me as a writer. (Shaking head here.) Boy, did I have my pajamas on, 'cause I was definitely dreaming.

Not that good things haven’t happened, because they have, but NOBODY warned me about the roller-coaster ride ahead. Sure, I launched into the sky shrieking with hands high when Revell told me A Passion Most Pure was the “fastest fiction release” they’d ever had up to that point (the “good”), then whooped for joy when I crested the height of that coaster with five-star reviews that brought tears to my eyes. But I wasn’t prepared for the plummet down the rails (the “bad”) when sales took a dive along with the economy and 1-star reviews maligned my books, my character and my faith in God.

And that’s when the “ugly” began—tears and self doubts, jealousy and low self-esteem, causing me to question my ability as a writer and whether or not my type of romantic passion was what God had called me to do. An ugliness so painful that I actually considered quitting writing altogether at least twice in the last four years, begging God to PLEASE lobotomize that part of my writer’s brain that was enamored with book sales, contest wins and 5-star reviews.

Well … He didn’t, although to some of you, I’m sure it seems like it at times. Nope, He did something even better—He taught me how to defend myself, to draw my Colt and gun down the bad and the ugly, and let me tell you—ol’ Clint has nothing on me! I have learned the true stance of a gunfight—to keep my eyes fixed straight ahead on God (Proverbs 4:25—Let your eyes look straight ahead) and not look to the right: contest wins, book sales or good reviews—or to the left: not finaling in contests, low royalties and scathing reviews (Proverbs 4:27—do not turn to the right or the left) and above all else, guard my heart (Proverbs 23). For me that means:

1.) Praying for blessing on every person who gives me a bad review (now, don’t take this as license to have me pray for you, please!).

2.) Praying for authors I envy to go to the bestseller list (my good friend, Julie Klassen is a good example, a true story I talk about in my Seeker blog entitled Oh, For the Love of God, Part 2 at

3.) Keeping my mouth free of perversity and corrupt talk far from my lips (Proverbs 24) by asking God to help me to repent and pray when I complain, whine or gossip.

4.) Drumming into my head that it's ALL about His glory, not mine (He must increase; I must decrease. John 3:30) and focusing on others instead of ourselves because to God, the story we write with our mouth and our actions is far more important that the story we write with our pens.

5.) And instead of praying for God to take the desire for awards, good reviews and sales away, to pray for strength to bear up under the job He has given me to do. (This has been a HUGE help to me because God ALWAYS gives you the grace to do what He has called you to do!)

There is no question the life of a published writer—Christian or non—is a blindfolded walk through a minefield of the good, the bad and the ugly. Where a writer can go from being awarded a booby prize for the most rejections in a year like I did at the 2005 ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers conference) … to winning the 2009 ACFW Debut Book of the Year for the very same book. But … as Christian writers, we’re not in this alone. We are writing for a God who according to Romans 8:28, makes all things—the good, the bad and the ugly—work out for the good of those who love Him (i.e. those who obey his commands, John 14:15—if you love me, obey me) and are called according to His purpose (which is all of us who are writing for Him!).

So, I don’t know about you, but for me I plan to aim high and go for the real gold—honoring Him rather than myself—in my attitude, my words and my actions, ONLY doable with His help, of course. Because take it from someone who’s been there WAY more than she likes—fixing my eyes, happiness and hope on contest wins, book sales or good reviews is nothing but fool’s gold. And trust me—I may be slow for my age, but I’m no fool!

Over the last four years in Seekerville, I’ve learned a lot about the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” things as both an aspiring writer and a published one, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you today. Who knows? Maybe I can spare you some pain and give you a push in the right direction.


1.) Joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers at, FHL (Faith, Hope & Love at and RWA (Romance Writers of America at, both to get connected with other like-minded writers and to learn a lot about your craft.

2.) Took a fiction-writing class and attended writing seminars.

3.) Attended writer conferences such as ACFW to learn, to make friends, to network and to pitch to agents and editors

4.) Joined a critique group (you can do that through ACFW).

5.) Purchased and study writing books such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King or Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas, AND invest in a great thesaurus such as The Synonym Finder by Rodale Press or utilize FABULOUS Thesaurus websites like the OneLook Reverse Dictionary(my writer’s bible!!) at

6.) Entered contests for invaluable feedback, growth, confidence, networking opportunities and to get my name out there.

7.) Frequented websites/blogs that deal with writing, such as The Seekers at, My Book Therapy at, Inkwell Inspirations (who have a GREAT page on writing resources at:, and Writer’s Alley at to mention only a few.

8.) Go for an agent first, publisher second.

9.) Query, Query, Query!

10.) Then pray your heart out and put it in God’s hands.


1.) Compared myself to others, inciting jealousy and ingratitude ( 2.) Queried publishers without an agent (biggest reason my rejections topped at 46 rejections on A Passion Most Pure).

3.) Didn’t get a website or platform till a few months before my first release (NOT GOOD … need to start building that platform NOW!).

4.) Wasted time over-editing books when I could have been writing more, especially since publishers pay editors to edit your book (thank you, Mary Connealy, for this VERY wise piece of advice)!

5.) Didn’t research publishers and their guidelines before I pitched to them.


1.) Went off hormones when I was entering contests — YIKES!! (


1.) Connect with my readers through blog interview/giveaways, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail as much as I can because to be honest, after writing, this is what I love to do the MOST!

2.) Issue a newsletter 2-3 times a year with book excerpts and new covers, giveaways, pix of my reader friends and contests such as having a character named after you in my books.

3.) Build my newsletter list with special contests/giveaways for newsletter recipients only.

4.) Speaking engagements and teaching workshops.

5.) Maintain a weekly personal blog called Journal Jots where I keep my reader friends apprised of all that’s going on in my life and feature contests/giveaways.

6.) Set up blog tours during a book release.

7.) Contact all good reviewers on blog tours and ask them to post their reviews on,, etc. Pray for the bad reviewers while staying FAR away from them … :)

9.) Establish a group blog like Seekerville. :)


1.) Scheduled too many book signings. To be honest, according to my publisher, book signings are not worth the time and investment, and I’m inclined to agree.

2.) Scheduled too many blog interviews during a book release—not a good idea if you actually want to write. NOTE: I do believe this is beneficial if you are a new writer trying to get your name out there, but according to my publisher, it’s not an effective use of a writer’s time after you are more established.

3.) Checked my rankings on Amazon WAY too much, which according to my publisher are not valid indicators of sales.

4.) Entered too many unnecessary contests, which is not worth the money, the time and the grief when you don’t final.

5.) Spent too much time on e-mails, especially to reader friends to whom I simply cannot write a generic note to save my soul.


1.) Compared myself to other writers. DO NOT DO THIS!!! We are all unique to God, and He has appointed each of us to a particular journey, so embrace where He has you and ENJOY it! Mantra: For His glory, not ours.

2.) Measured my success and worth by sales, figures, contests wins and Amazon rankings, which might work in the secular market, but when you write Christian fiction, these things are NOT an accurate measure of either your success or your self worth … EXCEPT in how you handle them before God!

Thanks for reading all the way down -- you deserve a gold star!

This post first appeared in Seekerville July 27, 2010. Comments are closed today so we can catch up on our reading and writing. I can't give you a gold star, but I can give you a golden opportunity BELOW! ;)

Since TODAY is release day for LOVE EVERLASTING, book 2 in my Isle of Hope series, I DO have the opportunity for you to win a character named after you in the paperback version of Love Everlasting (due out in November) PLUS signed copies of each of the books in this pic and a framed quote (my favorite) from Isle of Hope!!

So TO ENTER, just head on over to my JOURNAL JOTS BLOG and scroll down to the contest and GOOD LUCK!!

Julie Lessman's LOVE EVERLASTING is finally here!! Buy Link

FREE DOWNLOAD on Julie Lessman's A Glimmer of Hope the prequel novella to her award-winning novel Isle of Hope. Get your free e-copy of AGOH at AMAZON, BARNES, AND NOBLE, or KOBO.


50% SALE on Julie Lessman's award-winning ISLE OF HOPE, the 5-star novel on Family Fiction Magazine's Top 15 Novels of 2015! Buy Link. 



How Setting Affects Character

How Setting Affects Character

Often, particular settings evoke certain kinds of characters in the reader’s mind.

What type of character do you imagine living in a desert with tree cacti and armadillos? I’ll bet 100% of you picture a cowboy. He’s probably somewhere in his thirties, good looking though maybe a little scruffy, tall, reserved and polite to women. You might think of John Wayne, or Gary Cooper in High Noon.
I can almost guarantee a gray haired man in a suit carrying a briefcase won’t come to mind when we think of a hot, dry desert somewhere in the American West.

Readers have the same expectations. When we read a book, setting can be a predictor of character. Sometimes publishers give out ‘tip sheets’ so character and setting will ‘fit’ one another.

Setting often forms character in ways you can analyze and use in your stories. The type of topography, industry, incomes and opinions all influence the kind of people who live in a certain area. Even history makes a difference.

The people from Appalachia are a good example. Many of their ancestors emigrated from Northern Ireland and the border between England and Scotland. They led hardscrabble lives in Europe and learned how to survive in harsh lands against political and military forces that were often hostile. In America, many settled in mountainous regions where circumstances were as difficult as they’d been in their original countries. These were strong, hardy people who valued individualism and were skeptical of government in both Europe and America. Their background and history helped them adapt to a new country.

When you begin a story, determine the setting for your character. It’ll help define the kind of character you’ll create.

Readers quickly doubt story people who seem out of tune with their setting.

Be aware of the type of characters expected in particular genres. For example, Miss Marple fits in with her village setting perfectly.

This is a picture of Lower Slaughter, an English village in the Cotswolds, where my husband’s family originally came from.

Observe real people and then draw up a “setting list” for your character.
If I asked you to describe a typical surgeon you might say he’s gray haired, middle aged and distinguished. You might place him in a large, urban hospital.

Setting list:
Surgeons work in big city hospitals.
They work long hours and like their work.
They tend to live in large suburban houses.
They come from well-educated family backgrounds.
Most love their work.
They drive expensive cars.

He sounds too typical to me. He’s stereotypical and possibly/probably a bit boring for a fiction hero.

Obviously, not all surgeons fit this description.

Some are women.
Some work in clinics in rural communities.
She might live in an inner-city apartment and take the subway to work.
If she resides in the country, she might drive a jeeps or other rugged SUV.
She could be young and still paying for her education through scholarships and loans because her family was poor or middle class.

Who interests you the most? Who seems most credible?

If you can, spend some time following a real surgeon around her working environment.

The point is, take a good look at the setting you want to use and grow characters out of it. A woman surgeon in rural New Mexico can be equally as believable as a male surgeon in New York.

Whether you create your character first and your setting second, or vice versa, remember to make them fit together.

If you don’t mind taking a risk, create a character and put him in a setting where he won’t automatically fit in. Do you remember Northern Exposure? Dr. Fleishman, a Jewish doctor from New York City, was transplanted to Alaska. He was definitely cast against his setting. This creates surprise and contrast and can lead to conflict. Since he doesn’t fit his setting, he has continual and comedic problems.

Transplanting a character can work, especially in a comedy. But sometimes it doesn’t. Can you imagine transplanting Scarlett O’Hara from the Old South to the North? Do you think this would be a good or a bad idea?

American missionaries in a foreign land is also a good example of casting against setting. They’d encounter all kinds of culture shock.

A writer can consciously change her setting to effect change within a character. The easiest way is to move the story person to a new setting. If you want the character to change, show her noticing the differences between the old and the new setting and make her react to it. The change can be as simple as changing neighborhoods or as great as moving to a foreign country with differences in topography, climate, language, food, music, social and moral values, culture.

At the beginning of Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara is a beautiful but spoiled southern belle. War changes her. In order to survive and take care of her home and family, she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. Although it’s hard at first, she accepts her world has changed. She adapts. Eventually she learns she has a head for business. She’s a survivor like Rhett.

Rhett Butler has no problem adjusting to the changes caused by war. He becomes a gunrunner and even thrives and becomes prosperous. No matter what the circumstances (excluding love) he ends up doing well.

Ashley Wilkes wasn’t totally comfortable in the Old South and he certainly didn’t adapt to the new world of Reconstruction. He was brave but he didn’t conquer his situation and use it for the benefit of himself and his family, IMHO. He couldn’t move on with his life like Scarlett and Rhett did.

Think about how you want the character change.

I’ve been watching Indian Summers on Masterpiece. It takes place in 1930s when India was still controlled by the British. You can see how the Brits don’t want to lose their English identity and assimilate into Indian culture. The program shows how both groups of people interact with each other. They love, they rebel and they clash, often because of such differences in culture and power. The setting (an occupied country) and dissimilar peoples create lots of great conflict.

The writer has to decide which kind of change within the present setting will jar the character into changing something in his character. War is a great example of this. Some people rise to the occasion, others fall apart.

To push a story person into changing character, you can change the setting completely or make changes in the present setting. Or you can leave the setting essentially the same but have the character notice differences he never noticed before. Then you show how he changes because of the setting he’s in.

Can you think of any more changes in character that come about because of setting?

Please leave your e-mail if you like a chance to receive a $15.00 gift card from Starbucks.

Cara Lynn James joined Myra Johnson and Sandra Leesmith in writing Love Will Find a Way, a collection of three novellas. In Staging a Romance by Cara Lynn, a home stager Jenna Carlyle meets businessman Nate McKenzie who is trying to sell his family camp in Connecticut. They slowly fall in love while attempting to find a solution to their career issues which threaten to keep the apart.


5 Tips for Taking Your Writing to the Next Level

Whether you’re published or unpublished at this point in your writing journey, you’ve probably discovered by now that, as much as you wish you could, you can’t write a story that pleases everyone. Family, friends, critique partners, contest judges, reviewers and readers all have an opinion—sometimes a vastly differing opinion. If you don’t believe me, just go to Amazon and read the reviews of the works of bestselling authors.
An author must tell the story they need to tell, not a story that someone else wants them to tell, or that someone else might choose to tell differently had they been the author. As hard as we may try, for one reason or another we will miss the mark with some readers. That’s okay. It’s normal.
I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn, however, by stating that most of us, even the New York Times bestselling authors, have room to grow in the understanding of storytelling and skillful handling of the nuts and bolts of the craft of writing. That’s the beauty of being a writer—the opportunity to get better and better. To take our writing to the next level.

Tip #1: Perspective: See growth as a positive challenge. It hurts deeply when we’ve put our heart and soul into a story that is criticized. We don’t claim to be perfect or to write perfectly, yet sometimes we can lose our enjoyment of writing when someone feels we should have written a book the way theywould have written it.
As a traditionally published author, I can’t go back and rewrite a story once it’s in print even if I totally agree with the inputter’s perspective. It is what it is. But remember, as I do, if you feel there’s merit in a “criticism” or there’s something that’s personally niggling at the back of your mind demanding growth attention, you can look ahead to the next book…!
Tip #2 - Evaluate: Where have you missed the mark? Maybe a contest judge or reviewer has pointed out an area for potential growth and you agree it warrants further exploration. Or maybe it’s an area you personally wish you’d had more time to explore in the last book, but time constraints or word count limitations or whatever, held you back from giving it the attention you felt it deserved.
Keep in mind that there may be MANY areas in which you’d like to grow in your mastery of the writing craft, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take one or two areas you feel mostly strongly need attention at this time and focus on those.

Tip #3 – Make a plan. Once you’ve settled on an area of your writing that you’d like to strengthen, decide how you’re going to move in the direction of that goal. Are you going to take an on-line class that addresses the topic? Download or attend a conference workshop? Maybe you’ll search out a writing craft book, articles or blogs on the subject. Pay a free-lance editor for input. Or perhaps you’ll read the works of fiction writers you admire with an eye to studying how they deal effectively with the area you’re most wanting to grow in. Make it a priority to work further development into your next book.
Tip #4 – Apply and assess. All the theoretical head knowledge in the world won’t make much difference until you make the effort to apply it to your own writing. Consciously evaluate as you revise. Read it aloud. Ask a friend or critique partner to read it and provide feedback on the area in particular that you’re stretching yourself in. Send it to another contest to see if scores and comments that previously sunk you improve in your targeted area. (This is something I did frequently as an unpublished writer to see if I was starting to “get it.”)

Tip # 5 - Commit: To never stop learning. Keep in mind that when you select an area for growth and begin to work toward it, that’s just a first step. You won’t master it immediately, but over time, by revisiting it again and again with each book you write, the techniques will gradually become a part of your instinctive writing style.
With every book I try to focus on at least one element of storytelling or craft that I’d like to get better at. Maybe dialogue. Or pacing. Or description. Perhaps a greater awareness of story arc or goal, motivation, and conflict. Relationship dynamics. But again, the trick to pursuing growth is persistence coupled with a recognition that it isn’t usually an overnight process. So be diligent in your efforts, but realistic and kind to yourself as well.

Share with us today which area or areas of the writing craft you’d like to take to the next level. How was it brought to your attention? What is your plan to pursue and apply this needed growth? How will you assess your progress? Is there an underlying fear you need to set aside in order to move ahead?
If you’d like to be entered in a drawing for a copy of my November Love Inspired release, “The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship,” mention it in the comment section, then check the Weekend Edition to see if you’re a winner!
GLYNNA KAYE treasures memories of growing up in small Midwestern towns--and vacations spent with the Texan side of the family. She traces her love of storytelling to the times a houseful of great-aunts and great-uncles gathered with her grandma to share candid, heartwarming, poignant and often humorous tales of their youth and young adulthood. Her Love Inspired books--Pine Country Cowboy and High Country Holiday--won first and second place, respectively, in the 2015 RWA Faith, Hope & Love Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards. Her November 2016 release, The Pastor’s Christmas Courtship, is available for pre-order now (click here)!
Jodi Thorpe’s childhood vacation cabin seems the perfect place for her to heal her broken heart…and avoid Christmas cheer. After twelve years, nothing in Hunter Ridge has changed--except Garrett McCrae. The bad boy who was once her secret crush is now the town minister. And Garrett won’t let her miss out on all the hope and joy the holiday brings.  With every day he’s drawn to the vulnerable woman Jodi’s become, even as he’s about to leave for a mission halfway around the world.  But as they grow closer, their plans begin to change. Can Garrett make it a season to remember, with a love they can’t forget?


Hello Seekerville,

Sandra here with some ideas, information and experiences with placing ads for her books.  We have discussed in other posts the methods to market with a low budget and for free, but I am hoping to gather more information from all of you as to what has worked for you and what has not with the placement of paid ads.

I am also interested in hearing from readers as to what ads they pay attention to regarding the books they buy. Do you respond to ads? How do you select the books you buy online? Do you buy most of your books online or in bookstores?

The most frequent request from Seekers in the survey involved marketing. This is the aspect of writing that befuddles most of us, including the major traditional publishers. And since we are in America and our economy is based on capitalism, we all know the value of advertisements.

My Christmas novella will now be in print copy so I wanted to be ready for the upcoming Christmas season.

The new paradigm shift in publishing has given authors much more freedom, choices and opportunities to publish. But it also brings real issues on how to let readers know your wonderful, best-selling book is out there. Where do we advertise to reach our audience?

Amazon has algorithms for marketing. They try to switch it around so every time you think you have it figured out, it changes. They are trying to level the playing field. But honestly, they have ended up with their own exclusivity because they end up promoting the sales that are already up. So the new and upcoming author ends up with the same frustration on getting their books noticed as they did in the old paradigm.

One of the methods for success with Amazon is to produce new books every month. This is wonderful if you have a large backlist to put out there or if you write like Ruthy and Mary, and finish thousands of words per day.

I am not one of those type of writers.  I did have some backlist, but with all my responsibilities, it takes me a long time to write a book. When I do write it, I want it to sell.  What author doesn’t?

So what can we do to promote sales. I remember interviewing Karen Baney for marketing advice. She was a midlist author who made several thousand dollars per month and I wanted to know what she did. She said she puts 20 percent of what she makes into advertising. When she doesn’t advertise, her sales drop.

I am blessed to have the money to pay for advertising, but so far the money I’ve spent has not paid off and I think it has a lot to do with the market.  I have advertised with some of the best mainstream publicity agents, but that puts my book out there to everyone. I get sales, but end up with a lot of reviews from customers who wanted more sexy or erotic romances. Or the readers wanted more Christian elements. The publicists don’t have separate lists for the types of books out there. So if an ad goes out to a reader looking for erotica, they are going to be very disappointed in my books.  Or if they bother to read the ad, they won’t order it because it isn’t erotica.

I worked with Writerspace for a year, but had very little response. Most of the response was for the free books I offered.

I also worked with Pub-Craft. I met them at RWA 2016 and was impressed with their ideas. They are young and tech savvy, which I think is important in today’s market. However, when I saw where they had placed most of the ads for my books, they were placed on erotica web sights.  I had specifically requested that they be marketed to the clean and wholesome list and they assured me they had one. But when I went to all the places where my ads were, most of them were erotica. So you can imagine the impression I made. LOL.

Slide from Pub-Crafts workshop at RWA 2016 shows a list of major places to advertise.

I used them for my audiobooks because I hadn’t had many sales with those and I would be able to track results. In truth, sales did go up with their publicity. They did have some websites that would have readers that would like my books, but I don’t think the results really impressed me that much.

The same rationale applies to the Christian market.  My books are mainstream and not specifically Christian. They are faith-based, but advertising those with the Christian publicists is going to create some disappointment as well. However, I’ve had more success with them, because most Christian readers prefer clean and wholesome.

So does anyone know of any publicists or advertisers for Clean and Wholesome romance? I know there is a market for it, because most of the time when I go to booksignings and fairs where I sell many books, the readers always show more interest when I declare they are clean and wholesome. Many readers thank me for writing a good book that isn’t filled with sex and violence.

Slide from Pub-Craft presentation at RWA 2016 shows free places to advertise

AT the RWA conference I went to a workshop regarding the use of social media to promote book sales.  On Facebook and Amazon there are  options to  BOOST your webpage or site. Those presenting advised that the boosts were not very effective. I agree. I tried the boost to Facebook and really all that does is go to my friends and they already know what I have.

They said the paid ads were the best marketing tool, especially Facebook. Well Facebook had a workshop in Prineville, Oregon which is only about 45 miles from here so a girlfriend (who sells her art) and I went to the presentation. We were really hoping they would show us HOW to place an ad, but they mainly showed us the statistics and data we can get from their ads.  They can show demographics, who looks at your ad, what section of the country looks at your ad, the age range of those who click on your ad, etc.  If you were really a marketing expert, this information would be fun. However, at this point it is Greek to me. (Laughing again) Tina did post a link last month about  ads in Facebook.

Facebook Event in Prineville, Oregon

Unfortunately, the ad was difficult to place with my lack of tech savvy. I kept putting it off as they used so much language I wasn’t familiar with.  But I did finally place an ad with them. So I will let you know next month how that went.

I also went with other authors and placed an ad in the RWA Report. They were a group of us that met up in San Diego. Now the ad includes other genres, but the headline is: “Something For Everyone” So it is clear what type of book each one is. The reader will know what type of book they are ordering. It comes out in the November issue, so I’ll let you know how that goes as well.

Be sure and check out the links Tina puts in the Weekend Editions. They are loaded with marketing tips and articles.

Do any of you writers have experience with placing ads? What has worked and what has been a waste of time and money?  Any writer who comments will be entered into the drawing for $25 toward a paid ad or a copy of Joanna Penn’s book HOW TO MARKET A BOOK.  This website was recommended to me by Tina. Thank you Tina. I’ve ordered the book for myself and would be delighted to order one for a winner.

Readers, I do want to hear from you as well. What ads do you pay attention to? Do online ads influence your buying? Those readers who respond will be put in a drawing for a Seeker book.

Please indicate which prize you are interested in when you comment.

I have a large pot of my chocolate mocha swirl coffee and several teas on the sideboard. I also have my grandma’s crystal platter filled with yummy fruit of the season-crisp apples, pears, grapes and sliced melons.  Since pumpkins are showing up in the veggie stands, I made some yummy pumpkin bread to go with the coffee and tea.

Enjoy these first days of fall. We are seeing leaves turning here due to crisp thirty degree mornings. Time to follow the birds and head south.

Sandra Leesmith writes sweet romances to warm the heart. Sandra loves to play pickleball, hike, read, bicycle and write. She lives in Arizona with her husband and during the hot summers, she and her husband travel throughout the United States in their motor home where she enjoys the outdoors and finds wonderful ideas for her next writing project. You can find Sandra's books here on Amazon. Three of Sandra's most popular books are also audiobooks at Audible.  

You can read more posts by Sandra here.


Mission Possible—Ground the Reader

Your mission as an author—should you choose to accept it—is to ground your reader with the opening of your story.

First chapters—and last chapters—are the hardest to write. Often, writers will return again and again to “tinker” with either or both of these chapters. It has been said that the first line sells the book, and the last line sells the next one. Therefore, a lot has to be accomplished within the first chapter to entice the reader to keep reading.

The essentials—create a compelling protagonist, establish a reader bond with the character, and rock this sympathetic character’s world. Let’s examine the building blocks of each of these ingredients.

I. Opening Lines

As in life, first impressions can make or break potential relationships. You want your reader to form a connection with your main character. Your first and primary job is to hook the reader/agent/editor. You get one chance. Don’t blow it. Don’t give them a reason to stop reading.

Elements of Great First Lines Include—

1. The name of the character Or the use of a pronoun in such an intriguing first line that the reader continues to read the 2nd line and the 3rd and the 4th and so on.

2. An illusion of story reality (setting and situation) that causes the reader to willingly suspend disbelief. The opener straps in the reader and prepares them to enjoy the story ride.

3. Something is about to happen—an interruption to their “normal” world. Cultivate a sense that the reader has arrived in the middle of an active situation.

Description bogs down the reader and slows the pace. Weave description in carefully. The character and the situation must be fluid and in motion. Don’t warm up the engine. Rev the storyline and put the character into gear immediately.

II. Character Bond

The character must be interesting and an engaging figure. The reader should identify with some characteristic of the protagonist’s personality or dilemma. Here’s how to ensure the reader’s continuing, emotional investment:

A. Sympathy Factor—

1. Undeserved hardship—Haven’t we all been there?

2. Character in jeopardy—Jumpstarts our sympathy.

3. The odds are against him/her—Everyone pulls for the underdog.

4. Vulnerability—Show the inner conflict. Contradictions in a character add intrigue to reader curiosity. Also, give a glimpse of the forces arrayed against the protagonist, which could potentially crush the character’s dreams and hopes.

B. Likeability Factor—

Likeable people do likeable things. They save the cat, pat the bunny—they care about others. They can be witty or interesting. Use deep POV to catapult reader into the emotions of the protagonist as the main character experiences these emotions.

III. Storyworld

Set the stage. The opening scene must paint an image in the mind of the reader—the who (introduce early given and surname of main character); the when; and the where. This opening image will set the tone of the reading experience—suspense, thriller, romance (by the lack and longing thereof), etc . . . Establish the year (contemporary or historical), time of day, season, and the location of your story. Show what is happening now. Not what happened in the past before the story curtain rises. Setting also equals mood, theme, time, and pace. Establish the setting right away with a quick general sense of where the action begins. Sprinkle in as many of the five senses as you can through the main character’s POV to bring the setting to vivid life.

A. Common Mistakes—Just the Facts, Jack.

Try highlighting all backstory and description. This visual reminder will enable you to see where you need to trim. Allow yourself 1-2 sentences of backstory in the first chapter—only enough to increase curiosity. Never satisfy. Leave them wanting more. Compel them to turn to Chapter 2 to find the answers to the questions Chapter 1 has raised. Reveal as little as possible in the beginning. Less is more. Reveal only what is necessary and when necessary until the reader is committed to finding out what happens next. Act first, explain later.

B. Remedy—Slice, Dice and Splice

1. Slice what is not vital. Dice backstory into bits. Splice what is needed to understand what is happening now. Blend in on a need-to-know basis—only when the reader needs to know it.

2. Shorten and sharpen. Presume all backstory is unnecessary. Pretend you will have to pay for every word.

3. Show relationships through action and dialogue. Instead of a description dump, show behavior, quirks, or habits that go beyond physical description. Aim for quality, not quantity, in description. Use action verbs. Search and replace verb configurations of “to be."

4. Examine the white space on the page. Did you utilize dialogue and action—lots of white space—to prevent readers from putting down the book? Or is the page cluttered with narrative telling?

 Questions to ask your first chapter—

1. Did I hook the reader?

a. Will the reader care about the main character?
b. Is the main character likeable? Quirky or funny? Appealing? Sustainable?

2. Does the 1st chapter show the main character in the present action or dilemma of the story?

a. Was the reader pulled into the POV’s character and situation immediately?
b. Can the reader “see” the main character? Are their emotions clear? Does the reader have a picture of the character’s identity and what they need or want?
c. Did I introduce the potential opposition—who or what—which might prevent the main character from achieving what they long for?

3. Did I employ dialogue and action with lots of white space to provide more visually conducive reading experience?

4. Does the 1st chapter provoke new questions, stretching the hook, adding more interest, and thus reeling the reader into Chapter 2?

5. Does the opening scene achieve your purpose?

a. Whose POV is utilized?

b. Who is present in the scene?

c. Why is each one here? What does each character want?

d. Where is the scene?

e. When is the scene—time, day, season, year?

f. What happens?

g. How does the plot entice, hook and advance the story into Chapter 2?

h. How will this scene enhance character development?

Probably the best opening line I’ve ever written—the line readers tell me they find most memorable—came from my debut novel, Carolina Reckoning.

Part of her wasn’t surprised by what she discovered in her husband’s coat pocket.”

Giveaway—Share your favorite opening line from a book for a chance to win one of 2 copies of Falling for the Single Dad.  

Order Your Copy

   Finding Her Way Home

After fifteen years away, Dr. Caroline Duer is nervous about returning to her hometown. The veterinarian might be able to save stranded sea turtles, but she can't convince her dad of her good intentions. And when Caroline meets darling Izzie Clark, she encounters similar suspicion from the young girl's father. Former coast guard commander Weston Clark had his life upended by Izzie's mother. He won't go through the same pain again. But Izzie isn't the only one tumbling head over heels for the enigmatic Caroline. And if she can release the pain of the past, she just might be the missing piece Weston and his daughter have been searching for.


Lisa Carter's novel, Under a Turquoise Sky, won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Her latest contemporary romance is Falling for the Single Dad. The author of seven romantic suspense novels and a Coast Guard series, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. She loves to hear from readers.


More Recent Articles

You Might Like

Click here to safely unsubscribe from "Seekerville."
Click here to view mailing archives, here to change your preferences, or here to subscribePrivacy