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Cold Queries and Contests DO Pay Off

If you’re a writer, you know how difficult it is to land an agent. And even with an agent, it’s difficult to sell your books!

I’m at The Writers Alley today sharing my experience. Yes, I signed with my agent after cold querying her. And, yes, I sold my debut novel, Small-Town Bachelor which officially releases tomorrow, through a pitch contest. Stop by The Writers Alley to learn more!!

Here’s the link, “Cold Queries and Contests DO Pay Off.”

Congratulations, Laurie T., on your blessed new baby!! Woo-hoo!!

Have you entered a writing contest or queried an agent you’ve never met? Tell me about it!

Gift Package Giveaway

Today is the LAST day to enter my Gift Package Giveaway for Small-Town Bachelor!! Click on my HOME page (linked) and scroll down for the easy entry options!

Today’s Blog Stops and Giveaways

My blog tour kicked off last week, and this week I’m hanging out at seven blogs! Pinching myself!!

Today’s stops:

The fabulous Annette M. Irby invited my to share a few scene tips over at Seriously Write. Here’s the link:

“Is This Scene Necessary?” (Seriously Write)

And prolific Christian romance writer, Margaret Daley, interviewed Claire from Small-Town Bachelor in a two-part blog! Look for the actual interview on Wednesday!

To enter giveaways for my book and for Diann Mills’s Double Cross, go to “This Week Jill Kemerer and Diann Mills with Giveaways.” (Margaret Daley)

Tomorrow I’ll be at The Writers Alley! Stop by tomorrow morning for the link!

How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun?

Have a terrific day!

Revisiting Favorite Books

I remember when I fell in love with historical romance novels. My youngest had just turned one. My sister-in-law mentioned Jodi Thomas, and I decided to try one of her books. Oh, my! I was hooked! Most of Jodi’s books at the time were set in Texas in the late 1870’s. The heroes were strong and tough but had a tender side underneath all those ranch-hardened muscles. And the heroines were spunky and caring. The Texas setting did something to me. I still love those books!


Soon I found Regency romance. Stephanie Laurens, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn became my go-to authors. I also loved Elizabeth Boyle. But about eight years ago, my tastes changed, and I began reading more and more inspirational (Christian) romance. I still do. I read many other genres, too.

During our last move, I donated 90% of my book collection to our library’s book sale. I kept several of my absolute fave books, and the other night, I cracked open a vintage Stephanie Laurens, Devil’s Bride. This is not a Christian romance! It’s pretty spicy–warning you now! But I just love the hero and the heroine and their interactions. Plus the suspense thread kept the story moving.

Another book I revisit from time to time is Mary Wibberley’s Man of Power. This is a vintage early 80’s Harlequin Romance. It’s classic! A modern (at the time) Cinderella tale with a twist. It made a huge impact on me because of the mouthy heroine (virtually unheard of in earlier Harlequins), the awesome settings, and the hunky hero. Mm-mmm! Love that book!

Do you ever revisit a favorite book? Please share the title!!

The super-hilarious–and one of my best friends–Jessica R. Patch had me and the characters from Small-Town Bachelor play a game of Would You Rather (linked) on her blog today.

And my author crush (if you remember, a few years back I got overly excited to meet her at a conference!), Becky Wade, is hosting me on the fabulous, Inspired by Life and Faith blog today! I’m sharing my love of Michigan lakes.

Both blogs are hosting giveaways of Small-Town Bachelor, so stop by!!

Have a terrific day!!

Random March Stuff


I lost track of time yesterday. I was reading my work-in-progress, taking notes on how to revise it based on the new direction it’s taking, and the day ran away. It just trotted right away from me! Figuring out major revisions is always daunting, but I made it through. Phew!

This was my breakfast on Sunday. The donut was actually BIGGER than it appears, if that’s possible. The thing was ginormous. And delicious. :) I really love baked goods.




It snowed Monday. Snowed.

It’s raining today. Gray sky. Sophie didn’t want to go out this morning. She shivered on the porch, staring up at me with the most pathetic eyes. I wanted to tell her I’m not a mean lady, but I kind of am! Poor little dog. Who wants to be out in this yucky weather?

In important news, I got highlights in my hair last week. Much brighter! Don’t you love getting your hair freshened up?

The Easter candy in stores has been tempting me, but I haven’t bought any. I have a feeling Cadbury Mini-Eggs will be coming home soon, though. They are the best.

The wonderful Kristina Knight invited me to hijack Word Wranglers today. Stop by to find out what writing rules romance writers should break! Here’s the article, “#WriterWednesday: Jill Kemerer.”

Tell me your random March stuff! I love hearing what’s going on in your life!

Have a terrific day!

Remember, the Gift Package Giveaway for Small-Town Bachelor is still going on. Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!!


Promoting Your Book: Getting Organized

Promoting Your Book: Getting Organized

To successfully plan a book release, you need an expert level of organization. As I wrap up the plans to promote my debut novel, I realize I had no idea it would be this time consuming. And there are so many details poised to slip through the cracks! That’s why I’m sharing what I’ve learned. This is a lengthy post, but I didn’t want to leave anything out.

Promoting Your Book: Getting Organized

1. Digital Files

Hopefully when you wrote your book, you created a digital folder for it. I highly recommend keeping all of your promotion materials here under a subfolder named Promo. Copy/paste a copy of your book cover and an author photo in this folder. Trust me, you will use them!

If you’re putting a blog tour together, create another subfolder in Promo and name it Blog Tour. Save any guest posts and interviews you write in this folder. I’ll share my tips on organizing guest posts and interviews later.

If you’re sending out a press release, save the file in your Promo folder.

If newspapers contact you with written interview questions or guidelines, save these in a new subfolder of Promo, named Newspapers.

Chances are, you’ll be sending out copies of your book for one reason or another. You might want to create an additional subfolder in Promo and title it Mailing. You can create mailing labels and save them here. Type a list of everyone you’re sending a copy of the book.

If you’re having any author events (book launch, book signing, speaking engagement, etc…) keep all written materials in a subfolder, Author Events.

Here’s what my file hierarchy looks like:

->Small-Town Bachelor


->>>Blog Tour



->>>Author Events

 2. OneNote, Evernote or Word Documents

One of the most important keys to a book release is having information at your fingertips. I’ve been using OneNote for years. Many people love Evernote, or you could keep everything in Word documents. It’s really up to you. I have a folder in OneNote for Promotion. One of the tabs is titled the same. In that tab, I have a page called, “Promoting Small-Town Bachelor.” The following are sub-pages.

  • Back cover copy. Copy your book information here so you can easily find it at any time.
  • Purchase links. Copy/paste every link where your book is being sold. Typical retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, etc… You’ll be adding these links to your website/blog for people to purchase your book.
  • Blog tour (if applicable). A table/spreadsheet is your best option here. Make columns with the name of the blog, the title of the guest post/interview, the date you’re being hosted and the date you emailed the information back to the host.
  • Media contacts. List the publications/stations, the editors/producers and the email addresses or physical addresses if you’re mailing information.
  • Author copies. List of how you’re using author copies (giveaways, friends, etc…)
  • Author events. Keep track of any speaking engagements, book launch info, book signings and such here.
  • Giveaways. If you’re using an online tool such as Rafflecopter or Giveaway Tools to run your giveaways, copy/paste the code along with the basic giveaway information. It only takes a few seconds to copy the code, and it’s much less time consuming to resend the info to a blogger on your tour if you know exactly where to find it.
  • Review/Endorser/Influencer list (if applicable). Some publishers send books to review sites; others don’t. If you plan on sending your book out to reviewers, list them and their addresses here. If you need to get endorsements, list authors to contact and their reply. Many CBA publishers ask their authors to submit a list of people willing to “influence” the book. List names and addresses here.

3. Blog Tour

Not all authors schedule a blog tour, but if you do, you need a way to keep track of everything.

a. Scheduling.

Do you use a day planner? A calendar? Your smartphone? As soon as you have dates of your stops, write the dates down! I used my day planner to write the name of the blog on the monthly overview section. In OneNote, I also added the blog, the date and whatever type of post we agreed on to my spreadsheet (see above). If you use your smartphone, consider printing out the month(s) your blog tour is taking place and writing the dates down. It just helps to see the big picture.

b. Guest posts/interviews.

In addition to my OneNote spreadsheet, I kept track of my guest posts in a basic notebook. Yes, this is double the accounting, but, as I mentioned earlier, I worry about something slipping through the cracks.

I wrote the titles, the blog and the date of the stop on a sheet of paper. I numbered them. After I wrote each post, I highlighted it as a way to know the post had been drafted. Later, after I proofed each piece, I emailed the guest post/interview back to the host then jotted the date next to it. This let me know that I not only wrote the post, but sent it too.

As far as the actual documents, when I wrote them, I saved the file in a way to make them easy to find. In the title, I began with a number and included the name of the blog for easy reference. After I emailed the guest post or interview to the host, I renamed the file with an S after the number as a visual that I had sent the post.

Example of digital files for blog tour:

->Book Title


->>>Blog Tour

  1. Interview Jane Doe

2s. Writing Tips John Blank

At a glance, I could see that I’d written and sent the post to John Blank, but while the interview for Jane Doe was written, I hadn’t sent it.

4. Author Events

If you’re planning a launch party, speaking engagement, having a book signing or selling books at an event, you will have a number of nit-picky details to deal with. This is another area where OneNote, Evernote or Word files help a lot.

a. Basic information. List the date, address, time and if it’s an open or closed event. You’ll be accessing this information many times, and it’s helpful to have all the details right there.

b. Practical matters. 

  • Questions to address: Do you need to order books to sell? Or will the event purchase them for you? If you need to purchase them, how many will you need? How far in advance should you order them?
  • Invitations, Fliers, Notices: Who is advertising this event? Do you need to create and send invitations, a flier or other notice? If you’re holding a book launch, consider contacting the editor of the local newspaper about the event and attach a press release for your book.
  • Promotional items: Are your business cards current or should you order new? If the event provides a table, do you have a nice tablecloth? Will you need a professional sign? An easel to display it? Are you providing bookmarks, pens, magnets? Will your publisher help with any of these, or will you need to design and purchase them yourself? If you choose to give a raffle basket, what items will you include? Also, print tickets for the raffle.
  • Newsletter/Mailing List sign-up: Either purchase a guest book or create and print sign-up sheets to collect names and addresses.
  • Speaking:  Write an outline of the agreed topic and practice it.
  • Entertainment: If you plan on having entertainment, contact and book everyone involved.
  • Taxes: Keep ALL receipts for anything you purchase. Track your mileage to and from the event. Deductions, deductions!

c. Online Events

If you’re planning a digital launch party (Facebook, Google Hangout, etc…), you’ll have to plan the following.

  • Decide the date and time of party.
  • Create an infographic with your book cover, the party information, and any prizes you’re giving away.
  • Advertise the event on your social media sites.
  • Purchase items to giveaway.
  • Invite your contact list.
  • Moderate the event or have a friend help moderate it.

5. Website

If you’re a debut novelist, the one thing I recommend more than anything to promote your books is having a website (or free blog that functions as a website) in place well before your release date. Readers who enjoy your debut will want to learn more about you and find out when your next book comes out. Your website is your online home. Make it welcoming, fill it with information readers want (author bio, book info and purchase links, ways to contact you, and your social media links) and it will work for you for years to come.

You do NOT need to hire a designer, pay thousands of dollars, or become a design expert to have an online home. If you don’t currently have a website or blog, buy your domain name, create a free site using Blogger or WordPress and have it directed to your domain name. Make pages with your author bio, contact page and your book (with the cover, back copy and links to purchase it). You don’t have to blog! Just make sure you have a hub for readers to find you and buy your books.

6. Getting it all done.

In mid-February I was in the process of writing twenty-five guest posts and working out the details of three author events when I sold my third book, which needed immediate revisions. The next day, I received final edits for my second book. Yes, I was stressed out, but I was also thrilled. I’ve wanted to be published for years!

Working on three very different book tasks at once forced me to take my organizing efforts to the next level. For three weeks, I worked all day, nights and most of each weekend.

I made the decision to promote my debut as heavily as possible. Any blog tour I do in the future will most likely be pared down, and I’ll only have a launch party for my first book. However, promoting books is a part of the writer’s life. I expect I’ll be using this list for years to come even if I’m not doing everything on it.

7. Celebrate.

I take time often to celebrate where I’m at. When I wrote and sent my very first press release? Terrifying! I mentally high-fived myself all day. And author events? I’m blessed to have family and friends who are making it easy on me. Their support has been a big boost during a busy, emotional time.

I never want to get so caught up in promoting that I forget why I’m doing this. I’m not writing for good reviews (although I want them), family approval (although I want that too), or to be the most popular girl on the block (never have been, never will be).

I’m writing to enrich readers’ lives, the way my life has been enriched by the books I’ve read and continue to read. I consider my books a ministry, and if someone is touched by my writing, I’ve succeeded.

As Mark Batterson says in his wonderful book, The Circle Maker, “Work like it depends on you, pray like it depends on God.”

This post is full of information, some of it overwhelming. If you have specific questions on anything I listed, please don’t hesitate to ask!!

What would you add to this list?

Have a terrific day!!

The March Gift Basket Giveaway for Small-Town Bachelor is still going strong! Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!

Writer’s Life: Annette M. Irby

Her Nerdy Cowboy by Annette M. Irby

Welcome to another edition of Writer’s Life, my interview series with inspirational romance authors. Today I have the pleasure of hosting Annette M. Irby. Annette and I met during a pitch session at the ACFW conference a few years ago. She and I hit it right off! She has a warm smile to match her big heart, and I LOVE the title of her new release. Her Nerdy Cowboy is available now, and readers can download a FREE copy through Lent!! Details below.

Let’s get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

Creating. Weaving a story. The rush of flowing words. Have you ever watched Chariots of Fire? Eric Liddell was an Olympic runner. Here’s how he describes his passion and his calling at once: “I know God made me for a purpose—for China, yes. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” That’s how I feel about writing, when it’s working. Now, when it’s not working I have to say that rush is far away. *wink

2. What is the biggest hurdle you’re facing right now as a writer?

I’m in a rewrite stage and working on problem-solving. Sometimes the pieces come together quickly. Sometimes they don’t. Hoping they will soon. *grin

3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

You know that question about whether a person prefers to live near (or have views of) mountains or water? I’m a water person, all the way, especially saltwater. So when I get a chance, I find a beach. There’s something healing, inspiring, restoring about the smell of the ocean, the roar of the waves, the give of the sand, and sight of all that blue under sunny skies. Love that! When I can’t get away, I garden. I’m a nature person, and color feeds my spirit.

4. What are you working on now?

I’m working on book one of a trilogy for my agent. It’s set on the water. (Surprise!) I enjoy how I can write inspirational fiction (my calling) set near water (my passion). What a gift! Meanwhile, doing the research I learn more about the sea, which is just fun. I’m nerdy like that. This trilogy will center on different saltwater locales. And I’m sticking with inspirational romance, like Her Nerdy Cowboy. I may publish in women’s fiction one day too.


Annette, I agree. The rush of pouring my best into a book is such an amazing feeling! But when it’s not working? The worst! I love nature, too, and I fantasize about the beach often. The white sands of Lake Michigan always call me. So peaceful! Thanks so much for being my guest!


Her Nerdy Cowboy by Annette M. Irby


Whoever heard of a bookish cowboy? When Logan McDaniel’s brother-in-law dies, he steps in to help his beloved sister run her ranch. But what does a city boy know of herding cattle?

Claire Langley loved her cousin. After he dies, she agrees to serve as a temporary nanny for two heartbroken children. Claire and Logan find they share a love of books, and Claire can’t resist the nerdy uncle who is great with children and who reads to her of pirate romance, but Claire’s ailing mother needs her in Seattle. Can she break away? And if she does, can there ever be a future for Logan and her?

BONUS: Readers can download Her Nerdy Cowboy for free through Lent at PELICAN GROUP (linked).

Her Nerdy Cowboy is also available for purchase at AMAZON (linked).


Annette M. Irby

About Annette ~

Annette M. Irby loves reading, and she has enjoyed weaving stories since childhood. If she’s not writing, she’s reading for review, or editing. She is a freelance editor at AMI Editing. Together with several fellow writers, she co-hosts the popular blog, Seriously Write, where the team provides daily encouragement and tips for writers. Married twenty-three years, she lives with her husband and three children. Learn more at her website and follow Annette on Twitter (@annettemirby).


Are you a fan of cowboys? I am!

Don’t forget, all month I’m hosting a Gift Package Giveaway for Small-Town Bachelor! Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!!

I Sold Another Book!

Day 1 Bible Challenge

You know when you fall in love with a setting and characters and just want to read more about them? Well, I’m so blessed! I sold the third book in the Lake Endwell series! The working title is CLAIMING HIS HEART, and it will release in early 2016 through Harlequin Love Inspired.

Writing about the Sheffields and Lake Endwell makes me happy. Sometimes I forget the town and family aren’t real! This book will follow Bryan Sheffield’s journey as he fights his feelings for the new girl in town.

In unrelated news, I was challenged by the fabulous Beth Vogt to take the 7 Day Bible Challenge. Here is the picture I posted on Facebook yesterday. You’ll have to pop over to Facebook to see today’s Bible passage! Maybe it will inspire YOU to take the 7 Day Bible Challenge too!


Day 1 Bible Challenge



It’s finally feeling like spring around here. My daughter is busy with track practices, and my son’s baseball will be in full swing soon. It will be a while before we see any spring flowers, but I’m glad to see the snow melting.

There is still time to enter my Gift Package Giveaway to celebrate the release of SMALL-TOWN BACHELOR. Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!

What’s new with you?

Have a wonderful weekend!!


Writer’s Life: Olivia Newport

Writer's Life: Olivia Newport

Welcome to another edition of Writer’s Life, my interview series with authors of Christian or sweet romance. Today I’m excited to host Olivia Newport! I first “met” Olivia online, so I was delighted to meet her in person at the ACFW conference two years ago. What a treat! She has a smile that makes you feel right at home, and her intelligence makes for a fun conversation. Her new book, Meek and Mild, is a historical romance set amid a real Amish community in 1918. More information is below.

Let’s get to it!

1. What about writing makes your heart sing?

As long as we’re being metaphorical, I’d have to say writing makes my heart sing because each story has its own set of harmonies. I’m not always sure if the harmonies exist and I simply discover them, or if I actually create them. Maybe I need to ask a true musical composer how that works! Either way, I enjoy hearing how the moving parts become complex and invite me into their midst. Writing is like cranking up the stereo and standing in the middle of four speakers.

2. What is the biggest hurdle you’re facing right now as a writer?

Balance. I’ve been writing fairly intensely since my first book came out in 2012, and I sometimes get too ambitious about what I can accomplish in what period of time and still have a life. As much as I enjoy writing, I don’t want to wake up in 10 years and feel like I missed my own life. Happily, I’m getting better at keeping real life in balance with my writing life.

3. What do you do to fill your creative well?

That’s one of those many, many questions to which “Netflix” is an appropriate answer. (We’re being honest here, right?) A good field trip really helps—visiting a place that sparks a story or takes me into a time or place that tickles my imagination. Generally, when I’m out of creative gas on a particular project, it helps to just do something completely different—exercise, laughter, a favorite meal, worship. These things bring me back to balance, and that restores creativity.

4. What are you working on now?

I’m delighted that the late summer will bring the third book in the Amish Turns of Time series, Brightest and Best. Set in Ohio, this story will look at another turning point in Amish history—what were the circumstances that led to the Amish having their own private schools? It wasn’t always that way. I think readers will see something we take for granted from a fresh angle.


I love this, “writing is like cranking up the stereo and standing in the middle of four speakers.” I’ve never thought of it that way, but it’s true! Balance is not easy. I have too many days where I forget to take a break. Hello, glazed eyes! Yikes.

And, yes, Netflix counts! I borrowed several movies from our library last month. Just what I needed. Thank you so much for being my guest today, Olivia!



About Olivia ~

Olivia Newport writes historical (Avenue of Dreams series), contemporary (Hidden Falls, a 13-episode series available in digital formats), and Amish (Valley of Choice series and the new Amish Turns of Time series). Meek and Mild is her latest book. Married with two adult children, she chases joy in Colorado where daylilies grow as tall as she is. Find out more at


Meek and Mild ~

Suddenly shun has become a serious word for Clara Kuhn. As 1917 approaches, her Amish church’s aging bishop is coming down hard on members who dally in untraditional practices—like offering Sunday school for children—and Clara’s gift for telling Bible stories to little ones collides with new mandates. The young Pennsylvania Amish woman had always moved freely over the state line to visit family in the more progressive Maryland district, but now those visits are coming under scrutiny by some members of Clara’s church.

On the verge of accepting Andrew Raber’s marriage proposal, Clara is unsure what to make of his new hobby to rehabilitate an abandoned Model T. Just how ward can they push against the bishop’s wishes?

As the chasm widens between Old Order Amish and the Marylanders, and tensions rise between longtime friends and close-knit family, Clara and Andrew must look inward to examine their own hearts and consciences and, above all, seek Gottes wille—God’s will.


I love novels that blend true historical events. What book are you reading?

Have a wonderful day!!

Remember, all month I’m hosting a giveaway of a Small-Town Bachelor Gift Package! Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!!

4 Promotion Tool Improvements For Writers

4 Promotional Tool Improvements for Writers

I’m always looking for a better, faster and cheaper way to do things. The last four years have seen huge improvements in tools authors use to promote their books.

4 Promotion Tool Improvements for Writers

 1. Templates for business cards

Three years ago I ordered my first business cards. First, I browsed Vistaprint’s site. None of their templates could be customized the way I wanted, so I designed my own using free software, and then uploaded it to the print site. Let’s just say it took a while!

The other night I decided to order new business cards, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the customizable templates Vistaprint now offers.

What took me hours in the past took minutes this time around.

2. Graphic design software

When I designed my first website seven years ago, I wanted a pretty header that reflected my brand. I quickly learned it would be time consuming and difficult to do it myself. I didn’t own Photoshop, and the free software I found had a steep learning curve.

Now just about anyone can create free or inexpensive graphics for their blogs and websites with graphic design software such as PicMonkey or Canva. With the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, it’s vital to have visually appealing graphics.


3. Giveaway Tools/Generators

Sites such as Rafflecopter, Giveaway Tools and PromoSimple make hosting a giveaway easy, AND they do the hard work for the author. In less than ten minutes, you can create a giveaway and set the guidelines for entries. If you’re trying to get more Facebook likes on your page, make it an entry option. Same for Twitter, Pinterest, subscribing to your blog, and more. These sites will collect your entries and randomly pick a winner when the contest ends. Perfect!

**Go to my Home page to see an example of Giveaway Tools, scroll down and enter my giveaway for a gift package!**

 4. Visual Social Media Widgets

Social media sharing has been around for a long time, but many of the top sites offer improved visual widgets to include on your site. I love that!

Goodreads allows authors to share a variety of widgets, from giveaways (see mine in the sidebar–I’m giving away four copies of Small-Town Bachelor this month!) to your available books.

Pinterest has widgets to show a collage of one of your boards. Examples are on my For Readers page.

Twitter has widgets to show your latest tweets. Facebook shows your fans. All of these things make it that much easier for readers to follow you.

Bottom line?

I’m VERY grateful for all the free, simple software out there. It saves me time and money, and I don’t have a nagging worry that my online presence isn’t professional.


What online tools are you loving right now?


Gift Package Giveaway

**Don’t forget to enter my March giveaway! Go to my HOME page and scroll down for the easy entry options!!**


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