Updated: Jun 6

This month's blog was inspired by an Amazon listing for a book that caught my attention over the weekend. The book was marketed as a sourcebook of words for romance writers, and my first thought was that it was a brilliant idea. After checking it out via the Look Inside feature, however, I lost interest when it appeared to be exactly what it was being marketed as.

If you're scratching your head in confusion, allow me to explain.

Although there were only a few pages available for preview, one such page was an outline of what to call various body parts. Now, while this sounded fabulously helpful, I couldn't help wonder what would happen if it 'caught on' and became a widely used reference for romance writers.

It is difficult enough trying to sound unique in an industry already heavily populated with articulate individuals (and teams) who—despite their abilities to organize and present entertaining stories to the masses—are still frozen by the thought of describing body parts and natural functions on a daily basis. Add something like a super handy list of words that has been vetted for exactly their 'type' of writing and voila! A perfect storm for creating similarly worded pieces of writing that inspire authors to sit around and point keyboard-mangled fingers at each other in accusation. "You stole 'luminous voluptuous thighs' from me—I know it!"

And what about the readers? Should we ask them to endure this type of suffering? They've already gifted us with their gracious acceptance of thousands upon thousands of furrowed brows and mischievously grinning characters. Dare we ask them to endure a world full of bestselling novels describing their heroine's ear as shell-like or stating they are in possession of a siren's shape? Oh, alright. These are already in heavy rotation. However, should we risk exposing them to, say—ten out of twenty new releases full of regurgitated material simply because the authors all took the shortcut of consulting the same romance word sourcebook? I'd bet your MC's rounded bottom that your readers would answer "oh please, no."

I believe the possibility of reader fatigue and creative atrophy are strong arguments for foregoing popular writer sourcebooks, especially ones tailored for a specific genre. Instead, consider using broader sources—think thesaurus or dictionary—or, opting for other tools in your writing toolbox (isn't this why analogies and metaphors were invented?) One may just save a reader (or another author) from a prodigious amount of brawny or broad shouldered heroes. And really, doesn't your reader base deserve something more along the lines of "the azure broadcloth sprawled across shoulders as expansive as the mountainous regions of Japan"? You bet your pursed lips they do.

Updated: May 23

First, I feel compelled to say if you saw the title and are here for free books, then you may or may not leave disappointed. It depends on when you find this post, as I often host giveaways and contests for my readers (check out my News & Events section) However, the purpose of this piece is to illuminate something that many publishing houses know, but few authors (especially indies) think about. Unless you are the mecca of marketing or the stars align and you have written the perfect book at the perfect time (i.e. ‘to market’), then you are going to give away a lot of free books.

Why on ANY PLANET would I want to give away my book for free, you may ask yourself. Because unless you are bringing in the numbers you want (either in dollars or quantity of books sold), then your biggest obstacle to overcome is climbing out of obscurity.

But wait, I was the <senior class president, lead in a school play, employee of the month>...! Congrats on your successes. Now read the preceding paragraph and let’s move on to the best places to send your free books. And no, your favorite aunt living on a shoestring budget isn’t mentioned, but yes, you can (and probably should) send her one.

*Please note that publishers such as Amazon’s KDP offer discounted author copies for physical books that can save you hundreds of dollars when sending out free copies.*

Reviewers: Whether you are looking for an editorial review or asking a top Amazon reviewer to check out your book, you will need to supply them a free copy of your book.

Writing Contests/Literary Awards: There are many contests that can help propel your author business. They offer an excellent marketing opportunity and sometimes, you even get a shiny token of distinction to add to your cover. At the very least, you’ve won the right to call yourself an award-winning author—forever. My one caveat is that there some bad apples that can (and do) take advantage of unsuspecting authors. If you search the webs for “the best writing contests” or “legitimate writing contests,” you can find a bunch that have been previously vetted. Please do your own research, regardless of what the recommendations are. Most websites will mention any affiliations they have with the contest holders. Most, but not all.

Social media influencers: In an effort to keep this relevant as long as possible, I won’t specify which platforms are best for selling books. Just know that this changes often, as does the popularity of whatever “it” author/books/genres/tropes are making the rounds. Find a good mix of the top and upcoming influencers and research which ones have a following that will like your book(s.) Be sure to follow their submission processes (usually laid out on their profile or given in a link/website) and always strive to exceed expectations. The adage of “delighting” your customer is just as important when giving away a free product as it is when selling something for monetary compensation. You are trying to build relationships, and the best ones are built on trust, right? Show them that they can trust you to deliver a quality product in a professional manner.

Libraries: This one surprises some people. However much we all like to fantasize about the day we walk into a bookstore or library and our books are magically stocked on the shelves, the reality is that as an unknown author (this is mainly for my newbies and indies), you are going to have to finagle this on your own. That means checking out your local libraries and looking for the best way to submit your book to be added to their catalog. Sometimes, it’s a simple form and other times, it’s having a few dedicated readers make requests directly to a librarian to stock your book(s.) I’ve heard of several authors that bypassed the red tape and showed up to the front desk with book in hand and a pleasant smile. Some libraries have dedicated sections to local authors, so make sure you pay them a visit or make a call to inquire. Oh, and in the interest of sending you there as prepared as possible, bring a few copies and make sure you ask what happens to your book if you submit it and it’s rejected for that location. Is it returned to you (rarely), donated elsewhere, or simply recycled?

Little Free Libraries: Although I could have added these to the above, I feel the Little Free Libraries deserve their own category. If you are lucky enough to have stumbled across one (or more), then you know they can offer some terrific finds in many genres. If you aren’t familiar with them or aren’t near existing ones, you can learn more about where to find them, or even how to start your own at Donating your books to these neighborhood micro-libraries offer a ton of benefits.

One is promoting literacy, which is a win for us all. Another is that it gives you a chance to find readers in your area who may become fans that show up to local events like author readings and signings. And remember, having readers request your books at the local library is the best way to convince their librarians to stock them. Just think what could happen if your donated book(s) end up in the hands of the head of a local book club!

Personally, I’ve donated dozens of books to a multitude of Little Free Libraries. It has become a fun family outing where my children take turns dropping “mom’s books off” to each one. The unique designs are a hit, too. Many perch alongside butterfly gardens or to honor individuals or organizations that have made a difference in their creators’ lives. The website gives important details about what type of books are accepted for each. For instance, some ask that only children’s books be donated, information that can be found by hovering over the location point on the map.

Free books for the win...

Wherever your author business is headed, it is safe to say that it will begin with you giving away some of your books for free. The rewards are often hard to measure, but the potential often outweighs the risks!

Readers have very strong opinions about their reading material. Who knew? Some of those opinions will be in direct opposition of your views. A few may tick you off. Should you ignore them and assume their opinion isn’t worth a dime because it doesn’t mesh with yours?


As in most things in life, there is a lot of grey area to address here.

The first thing you should have done (hey—my blog, my opinion) when you sat down to write your story is to have identified your average reader. Are they a 20-30-year-old working on a bachelor’s degree without a lot of time or discretionary income, or a 65-75-year old newly retired individual who has read every main author in your genre? It’s important you know the answer to this, because they can differ greatly in terms of what they do or don’t like about your writing.

In the romance genre, there are several different sub-genres. These are broken down further by tropes. You can bet your sweet sassy molassy that they all have diehard fans who are looking for a checklist of things in your story that will either send them into raptures, or cause them to leave a scathing one-star review on Amazon because you went too far out of their comfort box and they must NOW TELL YOU IN ALL CAPS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER WRITE ANOTHER BOOK BECAUSE THEY WILL NEVER READ ONE FROM YOU AGAIN.

Or, so I’ve heard.

Should you never write another book? Of course not. Should you ignore everything they said and continue on your merry way? Not unless you know Robin Hood and he’s going to bless you with some of his rich-man’s bounty.

For the rest of us, it pays to consider the underlying message.

One easy example I can give is from a review on Goodreads I received about The Raven’s Call. The reader expressed her frustration about the book’s ending and stated that she didn’t understand why I didn’t leave a warning about it. My first instinct, naturally, was to stick my tongue out and call her a poo-poo head. Then, I realized that I am a serious author now, and merely rolled my eyes until they got stuck in my head, just like my mom always said they would.

Seriously, none of that happened. I DID scoff at the notion of spoiling the ending of a story before someone even read the first page.

Um, hello...The Sixth Sense, anyone? I didn’t see that ending coming, but I wasn’t flying off at the writers, directors, or actors about it. I did, however, consider the amount of investment I had made in watching the movie. Sure, it had taken me on a fun ride into the land of damnit-why-didn’t-I-see-that-coming-I-never-get-these-wrong-ville, but had I read the story first...I could have blamed my lack of foresight on the author.

No, no... that isn’t right. I meant to say that most readers will tell you that the amount of detail they get in a book is rarely on par with what they receive from a movie. They will most likely be more emotionally invested in your story because you have given them more to care for. So, the chances of them feeling disappointed by the “wasting” of their time on a less-than-satisfactory book ending is exponentially higher than from a movie. And that, my friends, is not the take away you want to leave your reader with.

So, I left a carefully worded sentence in the book description about the ending, and now offer another way to enjoy the story that even negates the need for a warning.

Can a reader’s criticism offer constructive insight? Sure. Will it always? Anyone who has received the dreaded “I know I’m reading a book that states it’s a romance novel suitable for 18 and older but how dare you write sexual scenes in here, I had to skip like three pages!” review understands this. Some things really are a matter of individual taste. You will not please everyone.

However, I am a big proponent of the message many of us have received from our mothers and fathers...we “should never bite the hand that feeds us.” A gentle nibble, though, won’t hurt anyone. Especially if they read romance.

You are sure to get more than you bargained for but go ahead and absorb or discard whichever bits of feedback you receive. Just make sure you don’t roll your eyes while you do it: YOUR HEAD MAY NEVER LET YOU UNROLL THEM EVER AGAIN.