Writer’s Journal: Updating Back Matter

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

In most books, mine included, there are “parts” to the book. I don’t know all the official names for things, if there are any, but I know they exist and where they belong. Front matter, story, and back matter are the three big parts I’m talking about. I want to focus on back matter today, because I spent hours updating it in two of my books.

The back matter is divided into four parts. One is a “call to action,” in my case, a note asking readers to consider leaving a review wherever they bought the book and giving a link to my mailing list sign-up form. The next is a short biography called “About the Author.” Then, I have contact information that’s over a page long. I make it super easy to find me. Haha. 😉 Finally, there’s a list of all my books.

Now, when I wrote I Promise To …, I had no other books, so the back matter consisted only of my bio and a couple contact links. When Lilacs and Lavender came out, my “more by” section was birthed. I played around with different formats for that with each successive book, but now I have settled on a format that I enjoy, and that doesn’t take up too much space. I have a list of all my books by category: Regency Single Titles, Westerns, The Darcy Marriage Series, Bundles, and Contemporary Settings. As I write more, I can simply add the new one to the bottom of the list in the appropriate category. And, should I write more series, or write sequels to books I already have, I can reorganize easily.

That being said, I have never updated the back matter, specifically the contact information and my list of previous titles (with links) in most of my books. Shameful, I know, but there you have it. Why not? Because it’s a big job. I could maybe make it easier by simply copying and pasting out of other books, but here is the problem I run into: when I make the new epub file, the last title in the lineup loses its centering and ends up left justified. I have no idea why or how to fix it, so I end up going to Books2Read and copying every universal link separately and then making a new hyperlink in my original document for each book … which requires adding “https://www.” to each one in order to make it work. I spent five hours today working on two books, so trust me: I know first-hand how time-consuming it is.

Some of you might be wondering why I need to update that stuff anyway. Here’s the reason: if a new reader buys a book, let’s say Promises Kept, and decides she wants more of my books, what does she see? Two measly titles, with no links. What if she would love to follow me on Instagram? I wasn’t on that social media site back then. If she didn’t know how to search the site or didn’t have time to search for me, or if she found a dozen Zoe Burtons, she might give it up, and I would have lost a follower. Since social media is a great way for me to stay in touch with my fans, I’d have lost out on an excellent opportunity to build a relationship.

Then, there are the book links. I had given them up for a year or more, because I didn’t know about universal links and didn’t want to take the time to make four or five different versions of my ebook to comply with vendor requirements of “no competitor links.” Since then, I have learned about and used universal links. I discovered today that all of them have been used recently, with a large number going to Apple or Barnes & Noble. That was a pleasant surprise, and I had to wonder how many sales I have missed out on in the last year or so by not having the links.

So, one of my projects this year is to update the back matter in every book. It’s the best way I have to be sure my fans can find both me and the rest of my books.

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #6

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. I only wrote a few hundred words last week on this story, because I was deep in edits for my Western. I hope that one will be ready to go live this week. 🙂

This scene takes place just a couple paragraphs after last week’s excerpt. Please, do let me know what you think of it!

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

“Only if you truly can. I know all of us will miss you, especially Charlotte. She was lamenting your departure just last night. Promise you will write to her, so she can tell us all how you get on.”

“I will. I promise.” Elizabeth squeezed his hands before letting go and stepping back. She watched her old friend glare once more at Fitzwilliam and then turn and stride out of the room. She sighed, then looked around. Seeing that only two of her sisters remained, she grabbed her betrothed by the wrist and dragged him off to the back parlor.

Fitzwilliam had watched and listened as she had spoken to John Lucas, his brain slowly working out a possible reason for her anger. When he heard Lucas call him jealous, Fitzwilliam was taken aback. Jealous? Am I jealous? He mentally reviewed his behavior. I suppose my actions could be seen as those of a jealous suitor by someone who does not know me well. Even as he told himself this, Fitzwilliam knew it was correct. His behavior had been that indicating possession. He had not appreciated his prize being sweet-talked by another man. He could clearly see that Elizabeth was unhappy with it. Before he could say a word, Lucas was leaving, and his betrothed was pulling him to the next room, shoving him in, and shutting the door behind them. He heard the click of the lock as it slid home.

“That was the singular most arrogant, stupid, haughty, hot-headed, spiteful thing I have seen anyone do in my entire life. What gives you the right to treat my friends so poorly? John Lucas has known me since I was a young girl. We climbed trees together, and played pirates in his parents’ garden. His sister is my best friend. What were you thinking?” Elizabeth’s hands were on her hips, her countenance red, and her eyes almost black, their brows joined by the crease between them. She exuded anger from every pore.

~~~***~~~

I’d love to hear what you think! Please consider leaving me a comment! 🙂

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Writer’s Journal: Making Covers, Part 2

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

The most important part of a good cover is, in my opinion, the image. It’s what draws a reader’s eye. The image a writer uses on his or her cover should match the genre in which he or she writes. If it doesn’t, a reader might reject the book, thinking it is not going to tell a story the reader is interested in. I know what you’re thinking. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This is true, but … it happens in bookstores every day. 🙂

Here’s an example: I prefer to read Regency romance. I read other romance sub-genres, but Regency is my favorite. If you go to Amazon or any other bookseller and look at the covers of Regency Romances, you’re going to see a lot of ladies in colorful gowns. Sometimes, she’s paired with a bare-chested man (sadly, none of those bare chests have hair; they don’t keep my interest for long 😉 ) and sometimes, her dress is falling off. However, she has a dress on that is reasonably close to a Regency-era gown. The ones that catch my eye are the purple ones, because that’s my favorite color. For someone else, it might be the ladies in the blue dresses, or the yellow ones, and for some, as long as that girl has a dress on, that reader is going to check the book out.

If you go to Amazon’s Kindle Store and look up Urban Fantasy, you see a bunch of covers that are colorful. Just about every one of them has one or more people, and the people look like paintings (for lack of a better word.) Most have the person or people doing something: holding orbs or a sword or something. If you are a reader of urban fantasy, you’re going to know just by looking which books you want to check out further, and which look like they don’t belong.

My own covers, as I’ve said before, are probably done all wrong. I’ve so far not gathered enough courage to ask for expert opinions, though I know of a Facebook group I could join to do that. I figure I’ll wait until it’s warmer out and I’m more sure of being able to handle the criticism. 🙂

My Regencies all have an image that is the shape of a heart made of something or other (feathers, flowers, etc.) with an empty center. My background is white, and my name is always purple and in a specific font. My titles are all in a specific font, but the color changes to match the heart.

My two contemporary books, my Pride & Prejudice & Racecars books, have that same white background, but they have a guy in a firesuit and carrying a helmet on them. On each book, there is an image of a different track, but they’re not real race tracks. They’re computer generated images that I purchased. My name is still at the bottom, in a white strip, in the same font and purple color as I use for my Regencies. The titles of the books are in the same font as my Regencies and have a color to match the image. I used the same guy for the first two books, because he’s at the center of both stories.

The cover for the Western that I hope to release this week is designed similarly to the contemporaries. I have an image of the town in the background, and a cowboy in front of it. The title is in the same font as always, in a matching color to the background image, and my name is in the same font as always and in purple.

But wait, you say. Go back and look at your first paragraph. Do all JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) covers look like yours? Nope, they don’t. There’s a huge variety of covers in my genre. Some people use Amazon’s Kindle cover thing to do their covers. Some people hire professionals. Some people use flowers on their covers. Lots of folks have people on theirs. Some folks use art from the Regency or Victorian eras. My first book, its sequel, and the bundle of the two that I put out last summer have images that came from a greeting card or something from long ago. The Victorian era, I think. And, my second book, the only all-purple cover I have, has an image of a pot laying on its side with lavender spilling out. (It was after my third book that I began doing my own covers.)

Does this variety mean that I can just slap whatever on my book and know it will sell? Absolutely not. There are books that I pass over even in my genre, because the covers do not attract my attention. I’m sure there are other JAFF readers who do the same, though admittedly, JAFF readers tend to be voracious and not care as much about what’s on the front of the book. 🙂

So, next time you go to buy a book, pay attention to the covers you’re drawn to and the ones that repel you. You might be surprised at what you discover. 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #5

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. In this one, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy gets just a bit … arrogant, shall we say? LOL Surely you did not think he could go a whole book and not annoy his betrothed just a bit, did you? Well, I guess in my books, he generally doesn’t, but this time he will. 😀

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

When Fitzwilliam entered the room, he was not pleased to find another man sitting so closely to his Elizabeth. Instead of sitting down with the rest of the company, he strode to the window and stood looking out, his hands clasped behind his back and his jaw clenched. When he felt he had regained his composure, he moved away from the window to stand behind Elizabeth. He caught a glimpse, out of the corner of his eye, of his father smirking at him. He wondered what had caused that look, but did not wish to take the time to discover it.

A quarter hour later, Fitzwilliam Darcy was fit to be tied. He had stood behind his betrothed as she laughed with another man; a man who, it seemed, knew everything about her. He heard stories of what seemed to him to be every misdeed she had ever committed as a girl. Fitzwilliam’s stance had become more and more rigid and his jaw clenched harder and harder as he listened to John Lucas flirt with Elizabeth. Just when he thought he could not take more, Sir William stood, indicating the end of the visit.

“Lucas, a word?” Fitzwilliam growled his question.

John paused for just a second but then consented to follow Fitzwilliam to a corner near the room’s doorway. “What can I do for you?”

“You can leave my future wife alone is what you can do.” If his dark, severe look had not indicated his displeasure, his severe tone of voice would have.

John’s brows rose, demonstrating his surprise. “Excuse me?”

“I sat there and listened to you flirt with Elizabeth. I will not have it. She is engaged to me and not available for other men to flirt with. You will cease and desist immediately.”

“Now see here! You cannot tell me what to do. You are not married to her yet, and if you were, I have known her for years. Years. You have been acquainted with her for days.”

“I can tell you what to do where it concerns my wife. I will not have people like you making her uncomfortable. I am telling you to stop or face the consequences.” With one last, hard look at John, Fitzwilliam turned on his heel and stalked away.

Elizabeth, who had been standing a few feet behind them, waiting for them to finish, had heard every word. She stood, arms crossed, jaw set, and face a deep red, waiting for one of them to turn and see her. It was Fitzwilliam who did.

He saw all the signs of her agitation, but did not connect her apparent anger with his speech to her old friend. “What is wrong?”

He knew he had asked the wrong question when her snapping eyes jerked up to his face and her hands landed on her hips. “Why do you not tell me, Mr. High and Mighty Fitzwilliam Darcy?”

 

~~~***~~~

I’d love to hear what you think! Please consider leaving me a comment! 🙂

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Writer’s Journal: Making Covers, Part 1

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

Covers are a vital part of a successful book. It’s always best to get a pro to make your covers, but some of us like to do things ourselves. 🙂 My covers break every rule of graphic design, I’m sure, but I like them. I get compliments on them quite often, and I have a clearly recognizable brand that allows readers to find my books easily.

There are lots of programs people use to make their covers. There’s Photoshop, of course. It might be the most popular. There’s a program called paint.net that I have, though I’ve not tried to make a cover in it. It’s a free download and is very similar to Photoshop, which I also have and am slowly learning to use. There’s a program called Gimp, and another Adobe product—at least, I think it’s an Adobe product—called InDesign. I know of people who make ebook covers in PowerPoint, and possibly some who make them in Word. There are online sites, like Canva, which is what I use for making ebook covers. Canva’s basic thing is free, though you have to pay for some of the “elements” that you might use. So far, I have always used my own images, ones I’ve found that are free for commercial use online or paid for, or, in some cases, taken myself, and the free elements in Canva. One of my friends has the paid version; I know that she can do a little more than I can with her version, but I’m not clear on what. I do know that she has started making her print covers in Canva, as well.

Speaking of print covers, there are a couple ways to do those, too. I have a Word document that I use, but the same basic options exist for print covers as for ebook covers. They can take a bit longer, and be more complex, because there are different things you have to consider, plus they’re like twice as big. If one uses Createspace to make their print books, they have a template you can use. My friend who has the paid version of Canva takes the template and uploads it, and makes all her covers in Canva now. I don’t like to wait until the book is finished to make the cover, so I keep on using the Word template. 😉

Like everything else involved with self-publishing, there are numerous aspects to cover-making. Today’s journal entry “covers” (see what I did there? 😉 ) just a small aspect of it. I had originally intended this to be the only journal entry about covers, but as I wrote, I realized that one post would be too long. So, keep an eye out for more! 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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Thursday’s 300: Darcy’s Unknown Betrothal #4

Welcome back to Austen Promises!

Here’s another excerpt of my new Regency story. It happens after last week’s but not too far after.

Did you know that for a monthly pledge of as little as $1 at Patreon, you can have early access to all my blog posts, including my Thursday ones? And, that the Thursday posts are expanded for my patrons, who get a whole chapter?

~~~***~~~

The next day, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth spent more time together, this time in her father’s chambers, sorting through his clothing and other possessions. This was a difficult day for Elizabeth, as Fitzwilliam knew it would be. There were many times over the course of the morning when he stopped their work to draw her into his arms and hold her. With the housekeeper in the room, and maids and the Bennet’s man of all work constantly in and out, Fitzwilliam could not kiss her like he wished to, but he made the most of the time he did have to just be close to her.

Fitzwilliam reflected, as he held her close and let her cry out her tears for the fourth time in as many hours, that he rather liked the position they were currently in. He felt comforted as much as he hoped she did. She feels so good, he thought, as though she belongs in my arms. As though she was formed for me. Startled by his mind’s reference to one of his Aunt Catherine’s favorite sayings, Fitzwilliam mentally shook himself, but did not let go of Elizabeth until she pulled away, her tears dried once more.

“Perhaps we should stop for the day, Dearest. We have made good progress, but it does not need to be completed in one go. I would rather you take some time and rest.”

Knowing he was correct and finding herself shamelessly wishing Fitzwilliam would rest with her, Elizabeth agreed. “We have made significant progress, have we not? I confess that I feel worn out. Heavy emotions do that to me. I should like to rest, I think.”

“Good. Then, let me escort you to your room. I will go down and see what my father is up to.”

Having arrived at the door to Elizabeth’s chambers, Fitzwilliam looked both ways down the hall and, seeing no one, ran his hands up his betrothed’s arms to her shoulders. “Sleep,” he whispered, “and if you need me, do not hesitate to summon me. I will send someone up to wake you in time for you to prepare for tea.” Seeing her nod in acceptance, Fitzwilliam leaned toward her, his hands skimming up and across her shoulders and settling around her neck. He tilted her chin up with his thumbs and pressed his parted lips to hers.

~~~***~~~

I’d love to hear what you think! Please consider leaving me a comment! 🙂

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Writer’s Journal: Nurturing Creativity in Difficult Times

Welcome back to Austen Promises and the Writer’s Journal!

This is a difficult time of the year for many people, myself included. I made it past the anniversary of my mom’s death on December 7th and did well for a couple weeks, but the reality of Christmas then hit. I won’t go into the whys of it; the reasons don’t much matter, and I’m not certain they would make sense to anyone but me, anyway. 🙂

Difficult times like this often take a toll on creativity. You sit down at your computer or design table or sewing machine or what have you, and then freeze. You don’t know what to write/draw/sew/design. You try, but your efforts are half-hearted at best. The quality might still be there, but it’s a struggle to produce the little you manage. Neither your mind nor your heart is in it, and it frustrates you, because you know what you’re capable of, and it’s far more than you’re currently producing. Sound familiar to anyone?

In the past, before I was a full-time writer/author/entrepreneur, I would have just let the writing go for a few days. I suppose I have at this point, as well, but this time it’s only for a weekend. 😉

In a previous post about self-care, I shared my plans for the end of 2017 and the first eight months of 2018. Some of the things I intended to institute did, in fact, become a regular reality in my life. Some I’m still working toward making permanent, and some just flat out never got accomplished. At least, not yet. I get my God time now, though it still does get put aside if I have to go outside of my home on any given day. I often get exercise, though not as regularly as I need to. Sometimes I meet that writing goal of 1,700 words a day and other times I don’t.

I have added to this list in the last two or three weeks. It’s now winter, of course, with its accompanying short days and limited sunlight. We’re in our second or third snowfall of the season and I, for one, am thankful they weren’t worse than they were! With limited sunlight comes seasonal depression, and to combat it, I have added large amounts of Vitamin D to my diet. Surprisingly enough, it helped right away. This vitamin is fat soluble, so I have to be careful to eat enough fats while I take it. My friend told me “healthy” fats, but I figure fat is fat, right? 😉 Seriously, though, I am trying to eat good fats and not bad ones. I just had to tease. 🙂 

I have also begun teaching myself to type while on the treadmill. This will give me the exercise I need, both for general good health and muscle tone, and for uplifting my spirits and boosting my creativity. The slowest my treadmill will go is one mile per hour, but in five minutes, I was able to write 150 words. I was shocked about that! I hadn’t expected nearly so many. It’s my understanding that I can type on a book manuscript from within Google Drive, so I’m going to keep the tablet and tablet keyboard charged up and type on that. I’d use the laptop, but the R key doesn’t work anymore. Not sure why.

My final addition, at least so far, to my routine is the use of essential oils and a diffuser. I researched which oils help ease depression and boost creativity, and bought those. I haven’t tried them all yet, but I can tell you I love the scent of jasmine! <3

I am taking a weekend off. As I write this, it is Christmas Eve Day. I plan to finish this, schedule the post and the Thursday’s 300 one, and then pop The Nativity Story into the DVD player. (I’d normally watch in the living room, but I can’t see the dogs leaving me alone to watch down there, so I’ll probably watch it on the laptop. I’m hoping next year the baby will have settled down enough that we can all sit together on the couch without it being a big production. 😉 ) I’ll watch the movie, then read the story as told in Luke 2 and prep the turkey for the crockpot. Tomorrow, I’ll probably read a bit and then eat and surf the net for a while. I might do some work—work like this that’s not so creativity-intensive. Tuesday morning, I’m going to be back at work and giving it another go. 🙂 

I guess what I’ve tried to say with all this is that if you are struggling with being creative this month, know you’re not alone. Take it easy on yourself. Give some of my ideas a try, if you like. Just know that it’s not permanent, and soon you’ll wake up one day and churn out words like the world was going to end if you didn’t. 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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