Apple blossom.1Today marked the first day of Spring. The winter doldrums are behind us. If you haven’t accomplished some of your New Year’s goals in writing, maybe now is the time to start. Let the warm sun energize you and your writing. Finish reading some of those books and set a goal to help fellow writers by providing them with a book review on their Amazon purchase page. Writing book reviews is an important part of your writing career.

Indie publishers on e-book platforms like Kindle meet with many surmountable obstacles they may not have envisioned when they started writing a book. Finishing the first draft is exhilarating but is only the first step. Completing multiple rewrites and generating a polished manuscript is a great achievement, but then there’s more.

Formatting, developing front matter, acknowledgments, and a short author bio are all important for a professional finished product. Before launching a book to cyberspace, if you aren’t already on Facebook with an Author Page and have an author website designed, those are important actions to finalize. Once your labor of love is perfected, online with a perfect cover image and title that nail the story and is readable at 25% size, the real work begins – marketing.

Obtaining quality book reviews is part of good marketing that can begin before the book is published. Finding reviewers may sound easy, for those who already have a fan base built from readers of your previous books, it is. If you have “launched your book” with an organized campaign of advertising, writing guest blogs, press releases and giveaways, you may see an immediate boost in reviews for your efforts.

Reviews by loyal fans who know you because of your platform in writing, such as those who have read previous books, including family and friends, are valuable. But, Amazon will reject reviews by known family members and associates, or as some found out, by illicit paid reviewers.

Amazon has prosecuted individuals who earned a lot of money and the company ire for producing rigged reviews. To stop them from appearing on sales pages, Amazon developed an algorithm that removes some reviews. The algorithm crosschecks authors and reviewers from the same source/email. Montana Women Writers members in the same critique group were identified as unacceptable reviewers through the algorithm. After a review was posted appropriately, the author received a notice from Amazon stating it had been removed. It’s worth a try to review a friend’s book, but if you are an author-friend and it is recognized your author-friend also reviewed your book, it may be removed.

Recently, Marie Martin told me of a way to have reviews from associates appear on your Amazon Author Central site. An editorial review can be provided to the author whose book you want to review but are not allowed to do it directly on the Amazon purchase site. Send the author an email with the review and she can then type your words into a post on her Author Central page.

Marketing takes knowledge and time, but the time is worthwhile. Ask some of our group members who have crossed many barriers, learned the marketing process, and made more than enough to meet mortgage payments. One goal to get more traffic and more sales is to have more than one book for sale on your author sales page. So get started on another book!

Reviews are important, almost as important as your book cover. As an author, you must first catch the perusing reader’s eye, then snatch her attention long enough for her to take a look inside and read a couple reviews on your book. The goal for a review is to accurately describe the book and generate interest to trigger a purchase.

Writing a brief book review on Amazon may be daunting even for an author, because in just a few words you can generate a sale or lose one. Reviews are easiest to write when you have just finished reading the book. It is helpful to set the time period and location, noting how these drive the plot. Include the theme or message of the book. A brief summary of plot could be included but do not give away key details, called spoilers. Then, include your opinion, like, dislike. Would read other books by the author? Would you encourage others to read the book? Your words are important.

There are hundreds of indie book reviewers online, many are free, others are costly. Check out the link to Publishers Weekly for an overview of numerous options. REVIEW IDEAS

If you are now thinking you’d rather get an agent and have the publisher do all the marketing, you must embark on the journey of finding an agent. Unless you are already a star, traditional publishing with representation is daunting and the publisher seldom supports a marketing program with book tours. Once on contract, it takes about two years before a book is finalized and published.

After failed tries to find an agent, many authors are going straight to self-publishing online. There, the product is sound, readily available and for an e-book on Kindle, the royalty is 70% of the cover price, much higher than traditionally published books and it can be completed in less than a week.

Choosing a paperback or hardback self-publisher is often fraught with high expense and a garage full of unsold books. The print-on-demand platform on CreateSpace through Amazon is an efficient and free. For personal sales and signings, you can order a few at a time that can be shipped to you or drop-shipped to another address.

Today we have many options as writers. Authors of the Flathead is a group of dedicated writers helping writers where four Thursdays each month you can find camaraderie and assistance in your writing, publication and readership goals. If you are looking for a critique group, improved creative writing skills and coaching over some hurdles, check out the group at:

Montana Women Writers is a small group of women who formed a coalition to help each other with product completion and marketing. We meet monthly. Leslie Budewitz is presenting this week on Thursday from 1-3 p.m.: “Going Public – Getting the most out of conferences and other writer’s gatherings.” Coming in April: Jesse Owen will share an overview of Kickstarter and her favorite social media applications. In May: Catherine Browning: Grammar Primer

Thanks for stopping by.

Betty Kuffel

Amazon Author Page



Writing Historical Novels

historical fiction

By Janice McCaffrey

February’s Montana Women Writer’s meeting featured a discussion on Writing Historical Novels led by Karen Wills and me. Karen read the following quote  by Fiona Veitch Smith author of Pilate’s Daughter from M.K. Tod’s blog Inside Historical Fiction:

I build my worlds in concentric circles. The outer circle is the social, political, religious, economic and historical backdrop within which my story takes place … The next circle in will include the ‘props’ that the characters interact with … the innermost circle is the emotional core of the characters living in a particular period. 

An excellent segue into my favorite topic, research. Below is a handout listing some, I’m sure not all and in no apparent order, details historical novelists use to fill in Ms. Smith’s circles.

Facts of people’s lives – names, birth, marriage, death dates and places
Food – what, how produced, hunted, gathered, prepared, served, preserved
Water – supply, how does it get to people/animals
Other drinks – coffee, tea, alcohol, juices
Living quarters – structure, furniture, room set up

Lighting – inside and out
Social structure – social classes, details in each level, reactions, impact on society and individuals
Education – schools, apprenticeships, home learning
Manufacturing – for local use, exports
Imported/exported goods – what, from/to where, how transported

Purchasing goods – where, how often, from who, display or set up of goods, barter or currency
Money – coins, paper, denominations, country’s currency
Occupations and their how-to
Heating and cooling – homes, people, animals
Clothing – fabrics, colors, patterns, how are they made, by whom
Public Health – clean water, sewage, diseases, medical practices

Personal Hygiene – cleanliness, teeth, hair, clothing
Socials – what, where, with who
Games & Sports, pleasurable past times
Story telling – oral, books, legend, lore
Neighborhoods – city, town, rural

Patriarchal or Matriarchal – societies, families, governments, values
Rules spoken and unspoken – within family, community, groups, government
History of place – country, state, county, town
Civil laws – who writes them, how they’re upheld, justice system, consequences
Geography – terrain of land

Governments – leaders, issues, controversies – past & present
Politics – local, national, global
Military – preparedness, uniforms/armor, weapons, strongholds (fort, bunker, cave, etc)
Weather/Climate – seasons, temperatures, precipitation

Communication – (usually before phones at least before cell phones)
Travel – local and distant/international, land, sea, air, walk, ride, vehicles,
Ethnic & religious customs – national, local, family, personal
Religion – beliefs, ceremonies, conversion, spreading the Word
Stereotypes – common of the time and place

Language – written, oral, dialects
Death, burial, cremation – traditions, rites

            If you think of any that aren’t on the list, please let me know and I’ll add them.

March Book News

march 2018

Greetings from Northwestern Montana

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Cookie CrumblesWhat a winter! Cold and snowy, calm and lovely. We are all delighted to see the days grow longer and the light stronger. And I’m thrilled to share some Very Big News! My Seattle Spice Shop series will return in early 2019 with CHAI ANOTHER DAY, from the wonderfully excellent Seventh Street Books , named for the street Edgar Poe lived on. Meanwhile, the fifth Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, will be out in June, in paperback, e-book, and audio.

My first mystery publication ever was a short story, and I’ve been rediscovering my love for the short form recently. “With My Eyes” appeared in the February issue of Suspense Magazine, one of the premier short story publications. Subscription only, but it’s such a great magazine that I’m sure you’ll love it. My story is set in Seattle and Athens, and was inspired ages ago by our honeymoon trip to Greece. The Greek gods and goddesses were often tricksters, and if one still roamed the earth, she might be called Melina…

Stay warm, and curl up with a good book!