3 Key Points for Indie Publishers by Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy (RWA 2014)

The actual title of the session is: Strategies for Intermediate to Advanced Indie Publishers (tape 09-091)

3 Keys

One – The Most Important Thing

  • …is to get out the next book

Two- Think About the Reader

  • in Indie Publishing it’s all about the reader
  • what do your readers like? what do they want more of?
  • interact with them on SM etc.

Three – Keep Your Focus

  • hard, but so important
  • you need to get more product out. The time required for tasks other than writing the next book (such as making audio books or translated copies)  has to be weighed against the importance of getting the next book out.


Yes, they assigned homework:

  1. choose one retailer and study their site (who do they focus on, which genres are featured etc.)
  2. find 20 promotional sites
  3. create a business trust group (of people you can bounce your business ideas/decisions around with)
  4. create a monthly action To-Do list (5 goals)
  5. create a yearly action …
  6. monitor your emotional and creative well-being. Balance is important


Of course they said tons more, and if you’re interested in this topic I suggest you listen to the tape of the session. There are many many gems of wisdom in it.



I’m busy trying to make final decisions about my cover. At this stage, I have to make sure I own or have the license to use all pictures used in it. It’s a trickier process than I realized, but I’m learning. Hopefully, by Thursday, I’ll be able to show you my decision.


Any thoughts on the topic?


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3 Key Points about Sexy Selling Novellas from Eloisa James…(2014 RWA Nationals)

“The Fabulous, Sexy, Selling Novella” Workshop

by Connie Brockway, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn  (2014 RWA Conference)

This was the first workshop I attended at the conference, and one of my favorites. Here are the three key points I took away:

One – Focus on an Intense Slice of Life

  • it’s not a novel, a novella involves a much smaller canvas
  • don’t write it as a novel without a beginning
  • it could be a story about a secondary character in your work, a gift for your fans, a snippet, an appetizer…
  • good for promoting series, or for trying something new
  • a good novella has a good sex scene – not as a gimmick, but as an integral part of the plot
  • think: reader pleasure

Two – High Concepts work well for anthologies

  • a unifying theme that carries the book – a plot gimmick like a marriage switch works well
  • the presenters collaborated on Lady Most Likely and Lady Most Willing, very successful anthologies with themes

Three – Cut Extra Exposition

  • keep it lean and make it hot
  • focus on the primary characters
  • focus on a main conflict
  • you can experiment with characters and story lines, but keep it lean


I’d love to write more novellas, but I need to find the time. I wrote one between writing novels that  I love, set in a small fictional town on Vancouver Island. It’s funny and light and I loved writing it, but it doesn’t link back or forward to any of my other work. It’s like a stand alone cozie. I can’t market that. Maybe some day I’ll write more stories for those characters. I particularly liked the Labrador dog called Marlowe. Maybe. But right now, I’m focusing on my Mata Hari Series.

Could I write a novella for the series? Definitely, but right now I’m working on novels and short stories. We’ll see.

What about you?

Do you like reading/writing novellas?


Crowd Sourcing my Cover

I’m crowd sourcing my first cover design with 99designs. It’s exciting. The preliminary round ends tomorrow, when I choose 6 finalist and work with them. So far (Sun afternoon) I have 47 design entries <!>and many of them are knock-your-socks-off good. It’s not going to be easy to choose. You can follow the action here.

And… you can comment either below or send me a direct email at: connect@jo-anncarson.com if you have favorites. Love to hear from you.

Crowd sourcing, in this case, means that I’m soliciting through a company designs from a large group of artists and then choosing a group of finalists, working with them and then picking a final design. I’ll keep you posted.

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3 Key Points about Indie Success (2014 RWA Nationals)

Indie Success with no Publishing History (tape 19-088)

presented by Melody Anne, Kathleen Brooks and Lillian Hart

One – Your Newsletter Mailing List is your number one marketing tool

  • promote you mailing list sign-up form on every page of your website
  • your mailing list is a core list of your fans, and having a direct link to them to tell them about your next publication is really important
  • keep your newsletters interesting and informative – you don’t want to spam people
  • some send out newsletters monthly, others only when there is a new release – do what works for you
  • suggested three subsections: 1) new release or a sale 2) personal note 3) upcoming work and pre-order information
  • you can pull a street team from this list
  • some people run contests to build their list, but you don’t really want to fill it with people who only sign up for the contest – you can let it grow organically

Two – Treat your writing as a business

  • line your writing ducks up in a row (my words) – be prepared – know what you need to do and what you’re going to do next
  • set goals
  • build trust with your fans – if you say you’re going to launch a new book every six months – do it

Three – You don’t need to pay for PR

  • THE best promo is your next book
  • write, write, write
  • the presenters didn’t pay for very much of their promotion
  • they strongly suggests putting out several books at once and adding to your list at regular intervals
  • build your audience


The audience buzzed with excitement as these ladies spoke. I buzzed right along with them. They made their success sound attainable.

I keep hearing the same phrase: “It’s a marathon.” Not a sprint. Time to get writing. Have a great week.


I love reading your comments, so if you have time, please, add to the conversation.


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3 Key Points About Alpha Heroes from Eloisa James … (2014 RWA Nationals)


Deconstructing the Alpha Hero: Why and How He is a Bestseller

(speakers: Carrie Feron, Eloisa James and Linda Francis Lee)

This workshop deconstructed alpha heroes, the larger-than-life men women love to read about, but don’t always want to live with <grin>.

One – Characteristics

  • Ruthless (with everyone, but the heroine)
  • Homosocial (i.e., his bonds have been stronger with men than with woman…until he meets her)
  • Implacable  (He is the king of his world. He resists change, but the heroine changes his world the moment he meets her.)
  • Unreadable and Expressionless (He’s a puzzle that only the heroine can figure out and when she lets him know she “gets him” it goes straight to his heart)
  • Protective (He’s willing to die for her.)
  • Wildly possessive (always – once he’s picked his mate, she’s his)

Two – 5 Reader Pleasure Points

  1. The attraction between the hero and heroine when they first meet is strong and primal (my word).
  2. The hero doesn’t want to have the feelings he has for her. He’s used to compartmentalizing his life and she messes that up.
  3. His lack of control around her bothers him.
  4. His responses are enigmatic and the heroine at first has difficulty reading him.
  5. The hero tells the heroine secrets from his childhood that he hasn’t told  anyone else. This is often a plot twist.

Three – Women Love Alpha Males

Enough said.

How about you? Do you have any points to add to the deconstruction of alpha heroes? Love to hear your thoughts. Or share a cover with an alpha hero you love. Let’s have some fun.


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3 Key Points From Allison Brennan About Villains (2014 RWA Nationals)

Allison BrennanI hate to make a sound-bite out of a comprehensive hour long workshop, but I like to think of this post as an appetizer. Check out the tape from the conference to get the full meal deal.

How do you make a really good bad-guy? You need to know:

One – Every villain is a hero of his own journey.

Allison quoted Christopher Vogler (The Writers Journey) who says that every villain believes himself to be the hero of his own journey. When you create villains this way it makes them believable, and far more interesting.

Two – Every villain has GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict)

A well developed villain like every other character in the book has to have a goal, clearly stated motivation and internal and external conflict. Make them real.

Three – Every villain has an epic moment of choice.

Like the hero, the villain has an epic moment of choice in his life. It might come before the story even begins, but we need to know it to understand what makes them tick.

Bottom Line – Make three dimensional villains that have some humanity. Make them real. They will, “make or break your story.”


I love developing interesting bad guys. Maybe that says something about me. I don’t know, but I find cardboard evil villains fall flat. As Brennan says a good villain challenges the hero and the hero needs to be worthy of the villain. His badness is pivotal.

What do you think?

Whose your favorite bad guy? Any opinions on villains?

One of Allison Brennan’s latest releases, Dead Heat, can be be found here on Amazon.


My 4 Fave Workshops at the 2014 RWA Nationals


Among the two thousand plus attendees and hundreds of workshops, it’s impossible to be everywhere at an RWA Nationals. As a result, these aren’t THE four  best workshops. They are my favorite four that I attended.

1. The Villain’s Journey presented by Allison Brennan

I can never get enough Allison. She’s not only a great writer, she’s a maverick at pulling apart what makes stories work and explaining it in understandable language. Her humor and humility are epic. I think many of us want to be her when we grow up. In this workshop she talked about how to create a good bad-guy.

2. The Fabulous, Sexy, Selling Novella presented by Connie Brockway, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn

These ladies really know how to write good novellas, and they shared lots of tips, steamy and pragmatic.

3. Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space presented by Amazon reps and a panel of Indie Writers

Fascinating. I think we’ve all felt the shift in the winds of publishing, but the stats blew my mind. I learned about the new programs Amazon is rolling out, and kept getting the message: “You can Indie publish and succeed.”

4. Deconstructing Alpha Heroes presented by Eloisa James

I came away with lots of ideas about how to tweak my main guy. A great resource.

In the weeks to come, I’ll re-listen to these workshops on tape and write up more detailed posts.

My One Crotchety Note:

We all paid big bucks to be there and expected to attend whatever workshops we wanted, but the rooms weren’t large enough. The big names drew so many people, attendees stood along the wall at the back and sides and were ten deep at the door. I passed on several workshops as a result and quickly learned to arrive early if I wanted a good seat.

Your Turn

Tell me about a favorite workshop you’ve attended recently.

Meeting Marsha in San Antonio

Marsha R. West, Author

Writing friends are kindred spirits who understand you in ways the rest of the world doesn’t. Today’s story is about my Texan buddy, Marsha. 

The Back Story

I met Marsha R. West two years ago, when she started following my crazy stories about getting lost in Florence Italy.  Soon after, I started following her blog. Both retired educators, grandmothers and women who believe in happy endings, we spend our days crafting Romantic Suspense stories. Although we live at least a thousand miles away from each another, we have a lot in common.

Marsha has published two books with MIU, Vermont Escape and Truth be Told. Below is a picture of a booklet she uses for promotion. I love the way it features both of her covers and has the lighthouse, which in my mind represents Marsha, on the side.

I’m “pre-published” as we RWA gals like to say, and Marsha cheers me on every step of the way.

Our friendship is remarkable: strong, deep and enigmatic. We follow each other’s lives and careers on Twitter, Facebook and our blogs. Marsha is a loyal and kind friend; a wise woman who sees “the good” in people and situations. I’ value her ideas and opinions.

San Antonio

Casa Rio
Casa Rio

When Marsha found out I was heading to the 2014 RWA Nationals in San Antonio, she decided to meet me. She said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see me in person. She and her dh drove five hours to meet PJ and me. We had a wonderful evening together chatting over iced tea, and Tex Mex on the River walk. Getting together in person made our relationship even stronger. It was the highlight of my trip.

As luck would have it, the pictures of the two of us together didn’t turn out. We were so tired from our horrific flight (another story) we didn’t realize it.

I figure it’s the universe’s way of saying, “You two need to visit again.”

Click here to read Marsha’s story about our visit.

How about you? Do you have friends who see you through the storms?