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courtneyg

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Creative Ways to Grow Your Audience

Over the past few months I have changed my focus on the marketing of my books. I have been leaning away from boosted posts and paid advertisements and more towards trying to deliver knowledgeable posts and valuable information to those who come across my platforms.

With this change I have seen a much larger increase in book sales so I wanted to do a blog post that shared a bit about what I’ve been doing in the book marketing realm in hopes it may help some of you!

Pinterest Boards

Pinterest is a great way to get your blog, your book and your name in front of people. I just reorganized my Pinterest boards. Before, it was a bunch of everything mixed in boards with no relevant names. Now I have boards that will catch people’s eye. From vegetarian dishes to home redesign and inspirational quotes to vacation tips, they are much more organized.

The reason for this is so others see a reason to follow the board. If one board has a mixture of things they do and don’t care about, they aren’t likely to want to pay attention, but if they know what to expect each time they go there, they are more likely to stick around. Sprinkle pieces of your novel across boards and introduce it to a new audience. Here are some ideas how!

  • Does your character have a favorite dish they love to make? Create a blog about it and put it in your recipes.
  • How about a secret hangout in a popular city or a real destination that inspired your book’s setting. Share tips, hotels, travel information of that area.
  • Pull quotes from the novel that will inspire others and create a graphic to share
  • Love fashion? Share look books for every season that your characters would love and share tidbit in the pins description
  • Are your characters getting married? Create a wedding inspiration board

Don’t forget to link your posts to your blog or book’s purchasing site.

Get Behind the Mic

Share your knowledge on a Podcast. There are many podcasts out there nowadays you are bound to find one that covers topics you can provide value to. Talk about the writing process, lend your editing skills, email marketing expertise or what it’s like to manage writing while raising a family. I joined in on the Hustle Babes podcast to talk about what inspired me to write a book and how I find the time in between a full-time job, fitness, travel and home life.

Here’s another idea… start your own podcast! Have hobbies? Share them! Maybe you’re an expert in home organization, event planning, meal prepping, the list goes on. My amazingly talented friend Kelsey loves whiskey, sports and music. So, while she’s working on new music she decided to start a podcast about, you got it, sports and whiskey.

Take a Road Trip

Last summer I did a Holding on to Georgia road trip. I wrote a letter in the front of each one of my books and then mailed 5 copies to friends around the country. Once they were done reading it, they were instructed to leave it somewhere local for the next person to find. That person would then read the letter, finish the book and do the same.

Every now and then I get tagged in an Instagram post of someone who found, read my book and passed it on. It’s exciting seeing people from another state, someone I’ve never met, hold my book in there hand.

 Write for a Larger Audience

Freelance writing is a great way to expand your readership. I have written articles for I Am That Girl, Wide Open Country and Mavenly & Co. to name a few. Their platforms allow me not only to continue to write and share my words, but it gives me the opportunity to reach a much larger audience than I currently have.

Most blogs have a place for writers to submit a topic. So, whether it’s the Huffington Post, a food blog, music blog or entertainment blog, find something that you enjoy researching and writing about and pitch stories to blogs in that genre. Heck, some even pay when published and who would argue about a little extra money in your pocket!

 Now it’s your turn. Get creative! See what you can come up with on creative ways to grow your audience. Don’t forget to come back, leave a comment and share!

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

So, You Want to Write a Book Part III: Editing

Welcome back! Last week we went over the importance of beta readers in the writing journey. This week we are going to start talking about editing. You have received the needed feedback from your beta readers and input any necessary changes and are now ready for the next step — finding an editor.

So, You Want to Write a Book – Part III

Where to look?

Over the past few years, I have scrounged up a few favorite places to look for an editor. I am a firm believer in these because it helps me narrow down editors to those familiar with the style of writing I’m going for and the genre I write in.

  • Freelance Websites - Sites such as Upwork allow you to search certain parameters. You can filter based on search words, hourly rate, job success and more. It’s also nice to do all the work through a website to keep everyone accountable. This is where I found my last editor and he was great!
  • Join a Group – I am a part of a few different author groups on Facebook. I love them all for different reasons. One of them provides files with lists of recommended bloggers, book cover designers and you guessed it, editors! The file provides a website link for the editor that makes it easy to learn more about them and contact them.
  • Read Any Good Books Lately? – This is one of the best places to find an editor that does the kind of work you’re looking for. If you’re reading a book and you love everything about it, reach out to the author and ask them who their editor was. Most are willing to share!

Narrowing Down Your List of Editors

Choosing the right editor for your work of art can be overwhelming, but the above techniques are a great place to start. Your goal is to narrow your list down to about 3-5 editors and, with these tips, doing so is easier than you think. Once you start looking at editors, you can really get to know them by their website and their social media. Here you’ll be able to see the types of novels they’ve worked on and who they are as a person.

You are going to be spending the next few months working very closely with your editor, so one thing to remember is that the connection between the two of you must be there. You have to jive. If you just aren’t feeling their persona, you can check them off the list. Trust me! Your novel wouldn’t benefit from the best editor in the world if you can’t stand them. You’re most likely to reject their feedback or disagree with where they want you to go with your edits.

Another way to narrow down your list is by asking them questions. Here’s a few examples below:

  • What type of editing style are you most familiar with (Chicago Style, AP Style, etc.)
  • How long will the turnaround time be on a novel like mine?
  • Do you charge by hour or by project? What is your going rate?
  • Could you provide me with references?
  • How many novels in my genre have you edited?
  • What type of editing do you do? — We’ll get to that later!

 How to Choose “The One?”

After all of your research, you now have a list of 3-5 editors that you love. The next step would be to have them edit a small sample of your manuscript. Some will offer to edit a chapter or two while others will offer to edit a certain number of words. The turn around time should be quick, no more than a week’s time.

Once you have your sample edits back, grab a glass of wine and reserve a night to read them over. This is the part I wish I could pinpoint for you, but the truth is, when you’re reading through the sample edits, you’ll just know who the right one is. Their editing will be on par, their vision for your story will be cohesive with yours and by the time you’re done, you’ll feel as if your book is better already. When that happens, you’ve found the one.

Types of Edits

The type of editing you need will be up to you and your editor. There is no right or wrong here, just what you prefer and think your manuscript truly needs. I have always had my editors do a substantive edit to start. It has made a world of difference in the final product.

Substantive Edit – This type of editing looks at your story as a whole and identifies any characters or parts of the story line that lack development. The feedback I received during this round of edits on all of my novels have truly changed them for the better. For example, Holding on to Georgia didn’t even have a tree swing when I sent the manuscript off to my editor the first time. It was something I created after the fact and now it’s a huge part of Kade’s story in the book!

Line Editing – This is a great technique for those who struggle with showing not telling. Is the sun setting or is the fiery reflection from the water glistening in his eyes as the day disappears.

Copy Editing – This is where you’ll clear out all the cobwebs. From grammar errors and run on sentences to repetition and fact checking. This is where they make sure our main character’s eyes are always blue and that you haven’t messed up your their, there and they’re.

Phew! We got through the editing portion of the series. I know it’s a lot, but it is such an important piece of the book writing puzzle. I hope you feel much better about the path to finding your person.

Next week in Part IV of this series, I am going to be talking book covers and book blurbs. Stay tuned as I reveal the mastermind behind all my book covers, how in the world to sum up your book in one paragraph and the inspiration behind the ideas of all three of my book covers. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

So, You Want to Write a Book Part II: Beta Readers

Congratulations! You did it! You finished what you think is the first official copy of your new novel! Your first draft is complete, you went back a second time and probably destroyed it and turned it into a second or maybe even third draft and you think it’s sounding pretty good. What do you do now? Good question! Part II of my series is all about the answer.

So, You Want to Write a Book – Part II

Call for Beta Readers

First and foremost, let’s address what a beta reader is. A beta reader is the first official group of readers for your novel. They are book lovers, maybe even writers themselves, but they don’t have to be. They can be family, friends, co-workers or teachers. The only two things your beta readers need to be are: passionate about books and 100% honest.

Beta readers will critique your story as a whole. They are going to dig into the plot, the flow, the character development and the story line. They will be your best assets. The one thing I will stress as mentioned above is that when choosing your beta readers, make sure they are not afraid to give their unbiased opinion. The more honest your beta readers are the better your novel will become.

It is through them that you will find out if you need to develop your characters more. You will understand if anything in your story needs to be elaborated on or removed completely. The best way I found to gain this feedback is to create a list of questions and send it to them with the manuscript (Find an example of mine here). They will read the list and have the questions in the back of their mind while they are reading.

How to Find Beta Readers

Your list of questions are created and it’s time to gather your group. My recommendation is to set up a Google Form submission and post a call in your blog and on your socials. Write a quick blurb summing up what your story is about so those interested can participate.

Keep your beta group small. I usually choose a maximum of 10 in a first come, first serve order. Any more than that and you’ll be overwhelmed.

Once you have your tribe selected, email them over your manuscript and list of questions. Give them a deadline. Two weeks should be plenty, but 3 weeks tops (unless it’s a massive 700 page novel).

Beta Reader Feedback

Once all of the feedback is received, look for consistencies in each person’s notes. You do not have to take everyone’s advice or input or take out everything they say, but if you see the same comments more than once, go back and take a look. Stand back from the author chair for a moment and sit in the reader’s while you mull everything over. It will help you better understand where they’re coming from and see if from the right prospective.

Then, guess what time it is? Yup, it’s editing time! Time to go through again and make any changes to your story you feel are necessary based on your beta group feedback.

In case you were wondering, this is only the beginning because next week we are going to dive even more into the editing piece. Part III is so eloquently titled finding the right editor. I’ll be talking about what to look for in your editor. What to make sure they do right off the bat and what types of edits I recommend. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on this important topic!

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Today is Your Day

I saw a picture of a little girl the other day. So innocent and carefree. In her hand she held something so minuscule and simple, but by the look on her face you would have thought it to be the greatest gift she’d ever received. She had not a care in the world and everything was as it should be.

Why she was so excited, I’m not sure I’ll ever know, but that picture, it got me thinking. Why do we take life so seriously? Why do we always have to have a destination? It seems when we get there, it’s always time to pick up and go somewhere else anyway. Like where we are is never enough, it’s always about where we are going. Do we ever really get there?

Sure, it’s exciting to think about the unknown. The mystery and uncertainty is part of the intrigue that pulls us toward it, but how many times has the future really ended up the way we envisioned it? The truth is, we do not have a crystal ball, we cannot close our eyes and have the end all be all flash before us. We really are just a passenger on this ride we call life. There are times when we crash, hit bumps in the road, go around a sharp curb that throws us off our game, but those are the moments where we discover ourselves. When we learn what we are capable of. We are who we are today because of what happened to us, because of what we’ve been through, not because of where we haven’t ended up yet.

That little girl in the picture…she is all grown up now and sometimes she forgets how amazing life is. How lucky she is to be where she is. Sometimes she lets what happened to her effect what she’s become and sometimes she worries so much about where she is going and how she will get there that she forgets about how right now she has the whole world at her fingertips.

So today, I’m reminding her (and all of you) to forget about yesterday, we can’t change it. Stop worrying about tomorrow, we can’t control it. Just live in today. Appreciate the here and now, the simple things, the little things that we can’t get back.

Smile, look around, take it all in. Then wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.

P.s….. feel free to keep scrolling to see that little girl ;)

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Thanks little girl for the reminder today :)

Photo by 2Photo Pots on Unsplash

So, You Want to Write a Book Part I: The First Draft

I am so excited to introduce my “So, You Want to Write a Book” 5 part blog series! I get messages all the time from people who have a goal of writing a book and don’t know where to start. Truthfully, I didn’t either and I sometimes feel as if I’m still learning! Though there are so many pieces to writing a book and different ways of doing things, I am going to be sharing 5 important steps and how they worked for me. Be sure to subscribe now so you can receive each part of the series in your inbox every Monday morning. Let’s get started!

So, You Want to Write a Book: Part I

Decide what you want to write about

The very first piece to the book writing puzzle is simple –figure out what you want to write about. Narrow down your choices by asking yourself a few of these questions.

1. What type of book do I want to write? i.e. fiction, non-fiction, full length novel, novella, poetry etc.

2. What am I passionate about? Romance, history, science fiction, vampires, real life lessons, celebrity gossip, mystery

3. Who am I trying to reach? Adults, teens, children

4. What do I want to say?

5. What message am I trying to get across?

6. What do I want people to get out of the story?

Once you’ve answered a few of your own questions and narrowed it down, the next step is easy!

Start Writing

Now, here is something that will absolutely vary with each author and that is the structure in which you will write. Some authors outline their novel from beginning to end. Others write as they go. I classify myself as other. I have never written an outline for any of my 4 novels. Once I figure out what I want to write about, I focus on the climax. What is the big WOW moment in my novel? Where does the story all come to a boiling point? That’s always the part I write first and then I build everything around it.

Starting from the beginning, I build up to the climax, but sometimes while I’m writing, a scene or quote for later on in my story pops up and I go with it. It doesn’t matter that it may be long after the scene I’m currently writing, I write it anyway. I can always go back and close the gaps, but that idea may be long gone if I wait until I get to that point in the story.

This brings me to my next piece of advice…

Don’t go back and edit

You will have plenty of time for that, trust me. You will be editing so much it will feel like your eyes are falling out. No matter how much you want to go back and change something, DON’T DO IT! Keep writing. Keep the story going. The first draft isn’t meant to be fabulous, it’s just meant to be finished.

Your story is going to change with each draft. If I were to hand you the first draft of Tear Stained Beaches, you would be astonished at how completely different it is from the final product. To be honest, it kind of sucked. It was boring and unemotional. The words didn’t portray the emotions I was trying to get out, but that first draft was the foundation in which I built on. Don’t destroy your foundation, have patience, what you create upon that foundation will be magical.

Enjoy the journey

Sometimes when I reread my novels, I cry. So many hours will go into this novel you plan to write. The emotions you will experience as you type are ones a select few will experience in life. Your soul bleeds into every single word. Your eyes will hurt, your heart will break and you will drive yourself crazy wondering if it’s enough, but let me tell you something, when you hold that very first printed copy in your hands, it will all be worth it. Enjoy the entire journey from start to finish, because it is that journey that makes you a writer!

Subscribe to my blog today so you don’t miss out on Part II: Finding the Right Beta Readers! What are Beta Readers? Why do we need them and how do we find them? I’ll be answering it all!

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Let’s Get Organized! – Planner Download

Does anyone else feel like there is way too much to remember on a daily basis? I can barely remember what I did yesterday, let alone what I need to do today and surely it’s asking a lot for me to remember what is going on in a whole month!

So, on top of having a planner that accounts for every hour of my day, I decided to create a monthly planner insert that lays out all of the important things I need to remember for the month ahead and I’m pretty proud of it. It keeps everything all in one place for reference. I can write down the due dates for all of my bills, days and times for my appointments and meetings and even special dates like anniversaries and birthdays.

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Since May is right around the corner, I’m sharing the love today with a free download! Join me in the journey to a more organized lifestyle next month with a PDF of this planner overview template. Just CLICK HERE to enter your email and you’ll receive a download in your inbox. I bet you’ll feel like a boss as soon as you here, “you’ve got mail!”

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Sparkling Lavender Lemonade Recipe

With summer just around the corner, I am republishing my Sparkling Lavender Lemonade recipe that I created last year after a weekend getaway to Little Rock!! I’m going to be trying some new flavors this year, so stay tuned!

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Sam knows how much I’m all about trying unique restaurants when we go somewhere new. The day before he ran the Little Rock marathon we had lunch at a cute cafe called The Root. I ordered a sparkling lavender lemonade and when I got home I was determined to figure out how to make it.

I did a little research and then ventured down to the Savory Spice Shop in Franklin to pick up some lavender. My replica recipe was pretty spot on so I’m sharing if you’re looking for a fun new drink idea. I can picture me making many of these for sunny summer days while writing by the pool.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (juice from about 1 and 1/2 lemons)
  • 1-2 tsp of lavender
  • 3/4 cup carbonated water (I used my soda stream, but I think club soda would work well too)

Directions

  • In a small sauce pan over low heat bring 1/4 cup water, honey and lavender to a boil.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Add lemon juice to mixture and stir.
  • Pour mixture through strainer into a glass over ice and then add 3/4 cup carbonated water.
  • Stir and sip!

*If you want a stronger lavender taste, let the boiled mixture cool for a longer period of time, 1-2 hours, before straining and serving.

Read more by Courtney here!

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4 Types of Friends Who Make Your World a Better Place

My friends are like puzzle pieces, if one of them were missing, I wouldn’t be complete. So, today I’m giving tribute to my girlfriends both near and far. I’m raising a nice chilled glass of sweet Moscato wine to the ones I could never live without.

She’s Rough Around the Edges

She doesn’t sugarcoat anything. If you don’t want to hear it, it doesn’t matter because she’s going to tell you anyway. She’s the friend who will keep you honest. She’ll keep you on the straight and narrow and when you veer off the path just a little bit, she’ll be right next to you to jerk the wheel back in the right direction.

So don’t get angry when she doesn’t sympathize with you. Don’t get upset because she doesn’t feel sorry for you. Thank her for making you a stronger person. For showing you that excuses will get you nowhere and that a self proclaimed pity party can only last for so long before you need to put on your big girl panties, suck it up and get back out into the world.

She’s Always Your Last Call

She thinks of you all the time. She sends random messages to let you know that. You don’t talk every day, but in all those years she’s been your friend, she’s never let you down. She’s always been there when you need her. When you cry, she cries with you. When you are broken or hurting, she feels it too. When it’s 3am and you just need someone to talk to, she’ll be there. It doesn’t matter if she just fell asleep twenty minutes ago because her child finally did or she’s had a bad day of her own, if you need her, she’ll be there. Just like she’s always been because that is what she does.

Even though physically she may not always be able to be there for you, she is the girl who walks with you, step by step, each and every day while you cross canyons and climb mountains. She is the friend who throws rocks at those who hurt you (metaphorically speaking of course) and is ready to put up a fight against anyone who dares to cross you. She is the one that will show you that real, true friendships do exist. That lifelong bonds can survive silence, distance and everything in between.

She Just Gets It

There was a time in her life when she was right where you are now. Whether going through heartbreak, a life changing event or a midlife crisis, she understands you more than anyone else at the moment. She doesn’t judge you for the choices you make or the way you live your life. She lets you be free, run wild and even comes along for the ride. She knows exactly what you need to do in order to find yourself and accept your situation. She guides you slightly from time to time to make sure you don’t completely fall off the cliff, but for the most part, she lets you do your thing.

She’s the only one you can talk to about how you feel and what you’re going through and although she knows you probably won’t take any of her advice, she gives it to you anyway. She’s the one you look to when you lose hope. She gives you faith in brighter days. Her strength, her loyalty and her companionship prove that good people do exist.

She’s Wild and Reckless

She takes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you to try things you’d never do on your own. Your feet are barely ever on the ground when you’re with her because she’s always moving so fast, but that’s okay. Sometimes you need a timeout in life and she’ll be the one to give it to you. After a rough day at work, a fight with your significant other or when the stress of everyday life becomes too much, she’ll help lift your spirits and break you out of that funk with an all night extravaganza that will help you leave all your worries behind and find your inner party girl you forgot even existed. You need her to remind you that life shouldn’t always be taken so seriously. That a little bit of fun never hurt anyone.