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Jodie's Blogs

Goals for 2024

We're creeping up on a new year to set goals. Man, that comes up fast. When do you start considering what your goals are for the new year? Do you set goals or let it ride? Personally, some years I've set goals and others I have not. Last year, believe it or not, I did not set goals.

 

My two most obvious goals for 2024 are two get the two books I'm working on published, which means I'll be starting on the next ones. Yes–for those of you curious, I already have the fifth one rolling around in my brain. However, if my second romantic suspense takes off as well as the first one did, I'm going to have to brainstorm a completely new idea. I did not intend to connect the first two romantic suspense books, but it worked out that way. I'm not sure if I can do it a third time.

 

Not to worry–I will not stop writing, and my goal every year is to put out stories worthy of my readers.

 

I need to get a solid schedule down. This entire year has been a learning experience, especially with publishing two books. I have spent almost all of my free time writing or doing art and craft fairs. We have done very little else this summer, including camping. We've only gone . . . twice so far, with one more trip scheduled. We have done hardly anything this summer other than work. Not that I'm complaining! I love writing, and this entire process has been fun. Marketing is hard work, but there is a trick to it, I'm sure.

 

My most obvious goal should be to sell more books and get more recognition, but I think that will come in time. That's all I have for goals at the moment. I try not to stress myself with new year's goals.

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Seasons

Why do you live where you live? People would have differing answers to this question. Some may live where they live to be close to family. Others might have reasoning because of income. And there are those that might have multiple reasons. Whatever your reasons, there is no wrong or right answer. I live in Minnesota for two reasons: family and the season changes. Yes, there are some seasons that are better than others.

 

For those of you that live in a place where there are distinct season changes, such as Minnesota or Wisconsin–what's your favorite season? Most people I know from these two states prefer summer, but some love winter more. My husband would be one of those people. If he had his way, we would move to Alaska. Alaska seems like a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there because it's far from my family and has days with very little sunlight.

 

I love summer, but I think fall is my favorite. Not only the extraordinary display of colors but the smell of the air, the warmth of the days and the coolness of the nights, and above all . . . Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. I decorate the house entirely for Halloween with spider webs, Spooky Town villages, scary pictures…you name it. I haven't yet delved into decorating for the outside yet, and I'm not sure if I ever will, but it's the one holiday I will decorate for. Easter? Not so much. St. Patrick's Day? Nope. Christmas? Yes, but not nearly as much as I decorate for Halloween.

 

The weather, the colors, and the holiday are not the only things that hold my love for the season. Fall camping, soup season and cozy sweaters, are among other reasons. It's also a good time to air out the house before winter comes.

 

I like summer because it's warm; the trees are full of leaves, and I don't have to worry about slipping on ice. My favorite summer activities are barbeques, camping, traveling, and relaxing without worrying about snow.

 

Spring is not my favorite, but I like when the trees turn green and the birds come back. Days get warmer, and you truly have gratitude for the high temperature days following the burden of having to stay in for winter because the air hurts your face. When you know that summer is around the corner is a great feeling.

 

Winter never used to be such a miserable season for me. I loved seasons equally at one point. Snowmobiling, skiing, and even winter camping were things I used to do. But after last winter, I truly dislike it. I would likely move if it wasn't for the other seasons. Being a snowbird is not an option. As I stated, my husband would move to Alaska if he could, so going south for the winter wouldn't be an argument I'd win. Sigh. I'll just need to get used to being outside more. Last winter, as those that lived here would agree, was the worst. It didn't get sub-zero as much as it normally would, but the constant snowfalls and having to snow blow really got old after a while. There was one week I had to do it three times! There was so much snow, there was some anxiety that our basement would flood in the spring thaw. Fortunately for us, it didn't, but we bought an additional pump just in case, so now we have a spare if we ever need it. Many people were not as fortunate as we were and had water in their basements. It's the deal you make with mother nature. Something you always need to consider regardless of if you live on high ground or not. With that much snow, you always have a risk of getting water in.

 

Needless to say, I think I'll be sticking around the upper-midwest for a while.

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My Writer's Toolbox

Some of the essential tools that I use are on my computer, while others are not. I'm old school with office supplies. Notebooks, pens, paperclips, binder clips, three-ring binders, and flash drives. I am also extremely picky with my office supplies.

 

So let's talk about office supplies first…

 

Notebooks

Don't even think about getting me the cheap, crappy notebooks. My personality type is A, so everything has to be organized and neat. I use Yoobi notebooks from Amazon and label them with my label maker, using either the book title or Book # x if I haven't decided on the title yet. I labeled Book #4, but I'm keeping its title to myself for now, and the notebook is almost full. What do I put in the notebook, you ask? I start with the idea, then I expand on it. Usually the idea is the character. It always starts with the who and the what-the motivation and how the character reacts to it. I jot down character names, setting, and scenes that play through my head, dialogue, research, anything to get a jump on the book.

 

Pens

My awesome team at TASC (my day job for those who don't know me) bought me a beautifully engraved wooden case containing two top-of-the-line pens (also engraved). Boy, do they know me! Pens are along the same lines as notebooks. Do not even think about getting me the cheap pens that make blots of ink on the page. I'm so type-A that if the pen leaks on the page, I'll rip it out and start again.

 

Three-ring binders

I use 1/2 inch or 1-..inch binders for two things: Characters and Research. It's helpful to have information readily available while writing. That way, I don't need to look up the information on the computer in the middle of writing. I can just flip through the binder to locate.

 

Flash Drives

Each book I write has its own flash drive, also purchased from Amazon in 32GB drives. I have a specific folder format I use for each book:

Book Parts for Formal Formatting: This is where I keep the contents of each book. The dedication page, copyright page, acknowledgements, author bio, author's note (if there is one) and I also put my finals in here. The final formatted book (in PDF format and EPUB) and the final book covers.

  • Characters: Every character has a profile. Main characters have more in-depth profiles than minor.
  • Editing: I keep my developmental edits separate from my proofreading edits.
  • Marketing Materials: Sell sheets, etc. Anything that has to do with the specific book marketing.
  • Plotting: This may or may have a lot of information. It depends on how much I thought it through. Sometimes I do the plotting (and the plot twists) on the fly as I'm writing.
  • Reviews: This is for my professional reviews.
  • Research: I put any research I do and keep track of in here.
  • Drafts: This is for my rough drafts and is in multiple versions.
  • Scenes: I try to organize the scenes with as much information as I can before I start writing.
  • Setting: Sometimes I need visuals for my settings, including pictures of houses or floor plans. Anything that helps me keep things straight.

I also back up the flash drive on my computer AND on another flash drive. I can never be too safe just in case I lose the flash drive! What a nightmare that would be to lose everything!

 

Now let's get to the computer tools I use…

 

Microsoft Word

I use Microsoft Word for my drafts. This is what I use for my beta readers, submission to my editor, and for my professional reviews. It is not in book format by any means and it does not have all the parts of the formal formatted book. It is only the chapters with page numbers. Nothing fancy.

 

ProWritingAid

I pay for the ProWritingAid premium program for editing aids; however, after my first book proved it missed a lot of what it should have caught, I do not rely on it as much as I did the first time around. It still has its uses, however. The program is supposed to check grammar, style, proofread and help with rephrasing. It's fantastic with rephrasing suggestions, which is primarily what I use it for. Some suggestions I ignore, and do not rely on it for proofreading at all. Some people use Grammarly, some use Scribner, and there are free versions as well.

 

Natural Reader

This is a program I don't pay for, but you can pay for a premium membership. It reads whatever you upload into it back to you, which is outstanding to help listen for mistakes and for robot-like dialogue. I still do not rely on it for proofreading. Can you tell that I'm rather picky about proofreading now? LAUGH OUT LOUD. I will not make the same mistake twice.

 

Movavi Photo Editor

I have found that I can save myself almost $100 on my book covers for a $50 annual membership with Movavi Photo Editor. This photo editing program can help me fit my book cover into templates for Ingram and KDP. I can also add my bar code and a medallion if I get a 5-star book review. If I publish two books a year, this saves me $150! Yes, please.

 

DocuPub

I use this free program to convert my JPG cover into a PDF. While I use Ingram for my book building tool, it provides me with a PDF file for the interior to upload to KDP, but the cover also needs to be a PDF for upload to KDP. This program converts it into a PDF file for me. For free. I just upload my document and it spits out the PDF.

 

There are probably several other tools that I use, but these are the major ones that help me stay organized and keep focused. Being disorganized would hinder my progress. As it is, I have three books in different stages of the process–two of them actively being written at the same time. Shocked? Me, too. How I can pull this off amazes even me. Thanks for reading!

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Books With A Lasting Impression

This was a tough one for me. I have read so many books through the years that have made an impression. Some of them were good, some of them terrible.

 

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is a fabulous writer. There is not a book that I have read of hers that did not plunge me into the story and leave me wondering when I put it down if there was a clue I had missed. The Lake House was the first book by Kate Morton that I read, and it was a good one to start with. The books that I have read have all taken place in England, which is a place I am fascinated with. I've never visited England, but someday I hope to. She weaves current day into history into her stories and when the story ends; it leaves a remarkable revelation. A few others that I have read by Kate Morton are The Clockmaker's Daughter, The Secret Keeper, and The Forgotten Garden. Most recently out is Homecoming, and I've picked it up but have not delved into it yet. I have high hopes that it's equally good as the other books I have read by this author.

 

Too Late by Colleen Hoover

This one shook me. It took me at least a week to unwind my brain from it. The book starts with a warning from Colleen Hoover about triggers. For people who have been through any type of psychological abuse, it could be a tough read. You can't help but to be drawn to the villain, even though his actions become increasingly frightening as he becomes more fixated on the main character. It is extremely graphic in some of her parts, some of which I could not get out of my head. To say it shook me may put it mildly. Although it was an excellent book, and a story, I would caution anyone who has been through a damaging relationship like she notes in the beginning. Reading it could be a trigger, but it was very well-written. I've read a lot of Hoover's books. They are quick and good reads. A few others that stuck with me are Layla, Verity, Without Merit, Confess, and Maybe Someday.

 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I have to admit that it has been quite a while since I have read The Night Circus, but this book is so colorful that you will want your own copy of it. A circus appears without warning and it contains two people who fall in love, but it isn't a romance novel. Read it. She just released The Starless Sea, which I also bought but have not read, either. It's in my big stack of books to read when I get to it.

 

Mudvein by Tarryn Fisher

This is possibly my favorite book, but I first read it on a Nook so I don't have a copy of it and it's been on my wishlist to buy ever since. If you like a good mystery, like Kate Morton, Mudvein would be a good one. It's about a novelist who wakes up on her birthday locked in a house in the middle of the snow with her kidnapper nowhere to be found. It will never end how you think it ends. You're probably thinking Misery by Stephen King, but you'd be wrong. It's nothing like it. As the author brings you through clues, you will not–I repeat–end how you think it ends.

 

These are the books that notably have left a lasting impression on me. There are countless other books and authors I have enjoyed thoroughly, and it would depend entirely on what genre or genres you like to read. I would like to think if you're reading my blog, you like romantic suspense and/or historical romance. I recommend Nora Roberts for romantic suspense. She's written quite a few memorable books that I have on my bookshelves. Historical romance is broad. It depends on how sappy or how much sex you want in your reading material. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series, but those are very lengthy books. I take a long time to read just one. They are highly, highly detailed. Julia Quinn, Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Connie Mason and Brenda Joyce are all good for historical romance. Happy reading!

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My Self-Publishing Process (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of my self-published author's process blog post. This part is more lengthy than the first part, published two weeks ago, because it contains the publishing piece.

 

Request or Assign ISBN's and Barcode

You can get a free ISBN if you're self-publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing or IngramSpark, but you'll be restricted to distributing only through them. With that being said, I purchase my own ISBNs and barcodes through Bowker Identifier Services so I can publish through as many avenues as possible. You will need an ISBN assigned for each version you publish. If you plan on publishing a hardcover, paperback, ebook and audio book, you will need to purchase 4 ISBNs and two barcodes. You need a barcode for physical books (i.e. hardcover and paperback). You can purchase one ISBN for $125.00 or you can purchase a bundle of 10 for $295.00, which is only $29.50 each. They have multiple bundles to choose from. I did the bundle of 10 ISBNs plus 1 barcode for $320.00 and I only publish paperback and ebook so I only need to purchase barcodes for the next 4 books I publish.

 

Design Cover and Interior (Paperback and eBook)

I would not recommend designing your own cover and interior unless you have experience in doing so. The cover is the first thing people are going to see. It needs to be perfect, and it needs to stand out. There are routes you can take with the cover. You can hire someone to do the artwork by going to Reedsy or Flickr. There are several websites where you can find an artist. Remember to credit the artist on your copyright page. There are also several websites where you can purchase a pre-made cover, which is what I did. Be careful because they might use stock photos which can only be used a certain number of times. My covers have come from BookCoverZone and they give me the artist name if I request it. I've been pretty lucky in my covers. I use IngramSpark's BookBuilder Tool to format the interior of my book and upload the pages in the trim size I need. Then I export it as a PDF for later upload to Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) once it's ready to publish.

 

Send to Readers' Favorite for Review

I use Readers' Favorites to get professional reviews. I pay for the express reviews, which is about 3-weeks for 3 guaranteed reviews. The reviewers will rate you on categories such as characters, marketability, plot, etc, and give you an overall from 1 to 5 stars. If you receive a 5-star review, you get an emblem to put on your book cover and/or interior along with your reviews. These are your reviews to do with so you can put them in your book, the outside cover of your book, online, on sell sheets, wherever you see fit to put them. They are important. The cost is currently $129 for the express reviews. You can also opt for free reviews, but they aren't guaranteed. Reedsy offers a review option for $50, but those reviews may not be guaranteed.

 

Final Proofread (while in Review)

This will be new to me this time around. While the book is in professional review, I'll proofread and I have someone else proofread at the same time to ensure there are no errors. I definitely don't want another repeat.

 

Finalize Cover and Interior

Once the reviews come back, I finalize my cover and hopefully have a 5-star emblem to add. I will post the reviews in the interior. I haven't started adding a review to the front or back cover yet, but it might be something I consider soon.

 

Upload to KDP and IngramSpark

Uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and IngramSpark is relatively easy, but it is time consuming. I would not recommend multi-tasking while you do this. With both, you will enter your title, ISBN, metadata, pricing, upload your manuscript (final formatted interior) and your cover. For KDP you will do the process for each type of publication. I do the paperback first, then I do the ebook. IngramSpark is all together and it should already be in there if you use the book builder tool. You just have to go through it again to make sure everything looks right before you approve. Be sure that "expanded distribution" is unchecked for both. You need a PDF file to load for the cover, both for the paperback (front, spine, and back) and the ebook (front only). For the interior, KDP will be an EPUB file which you will get from IngramSpark if you use the book builder tool. If you didn't, you can use Draft2Digital to reformat your interior into an EPUB format.

 

Order Author Proof

It takes up to 24 hours to get the email from KDP and IngramSpark accepting (or not) your book. I had a minor issue with KDP on my logo, which is why it's absent from the spine on my first book run. It was taking too long to get it to fit within the template safe zones, and I moved on. I think I got it this time, though. IngramSpark, I had an issue with my 5-star emblem and had to adjust the resolution. Finally, when they were both ready, and I received the emails, I ordered my author proof from Amazon. This is a copy of your book (at your cost plus shipping, which was about $9.50), for you to review to make sure everything looks as it should. I used this proof to read through the book to catch any additional errors or mistakes. However, some errors and mistakes sneaked through, which are fixed now.

 

Order Author Copies

Once you're satisfied with the proof, you can order your author copies. You can get them at author cost, which is currently $5.26 per copy plus tax plus shipping through KDP. I use the author copies for online sales (if you have a website) and events like book launches, and craft and book fairs. If you publish through KDP and IngramSpark, copies are slightly cheaper through Amazon than IngramSpark. I ordered some from IngramSpark just to see the quality of them, but I ordered the majority from Amazon.

 

Update website and social media

Once you send your book to Readers' Favorite reviews, you can update your website and social media with the pre-order release date.

 

Order Marketing Materials

I order bookmarks for my business cards, sell sheets to send to bookstores, and a tabletop sign for events with a rounded up price to include tax. I used Vistaprint for everything, but my bookmarks were not consistent when I had to reorder. So, I'm going to try a similarly priced alternative. The sell sheets and tabletop sign was cheaper with Vistaprint and I'll continue to use them for my other materials.

 

Apply for Copyright Registration

Once you have your book in hand (not the author proof, which is marked as Not for Resale), you can apply for your copyright. The copyright offices have an option to upload your book instead of mailing it in, along with the $45 copyright fee. I mailed my first book in, but I might do the upload for the next one. It will save me the cost of the printed copy doing it that way, at least.

 

In closing, I hope you've enjoyed learning about my process and I encourage you to reach out and ask questions. I don't expect people to follow the same process that I follow, but if you have questions about anything I've done, please let me know. Helping you will make me happy! I can't promise I have all the answers, only having been through this one full process and about a half a process with my second novel. I've had stumbles I've learned from, and there is still much to learn!

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