FREE Kindle just for you!

I, John Culpepper” is FREE on Kindle through 4/19. Grab a copy and relax with a good book this weekend. Click here – “I, John Culpepper” at Amazon.

Below is the blurb and a snippet from the book.

51hHerBrPbL._UY250_I, John Culpepper

John Culpepper was born into a privileged childhood, surrounded by abundant wealth, vast land holdings, and stately English manors. As he grew, he was expected to follow family tradition—attend law school and serve in Parliament, following which he would retire to a quiet life as a country gentleman.

John, however, had different desires. He longed to captain a mighty ship, to hear the snap of the sails, to taste the salty spray on his lips. To follow his dreams, John would have to risk being disinherited by his unyielding father. He would have to defy family convention. He would ultimately be forced to choose between the woman he loved and his mistress—the sea.

I, John Culpepper is a work of historical fiction based on the life of the 17th-century man historians refer to as John Culpepper the Merchant. He is believed to be the progenitor of the modern-day American Culpeppers. He was my 10th great-grandfather.

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Here’s a snippet from the day John was born. The photo is the replicas of the ships mentioned in the scene. These replicas were built in the late 1900s and are currently docked on the James River in the Jamestown settlement where the original ships were heading. Road trip! Let’s go!

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susan constant, discovery, goodspeed replicas on the chesapeake1606, Blackwall, London

“Master Culpepper! Master Culpepper!” the servant boy shouted over the bells clanging from the church steeple. He pulled the scratchy scarf tightly around his neck to ward off the chill as he pushed his way through the masses gathered on the foggy banks of the Thames.

The crowd had been gathering on the wharf for nearly two days to witness the departure of the ships, and they were prepared for a spectacle unlike any they had seen before. When the tide came in, the three ships carrying one hundred forty passengers and sailors would depart England on an exciting adventure. The air smelled of salt and tar and sweat. This was a remarkable place, a magical place, where the preparations were as exciting at the coming voyage. The anticipation in the air was nearly as thick as the fog.

The boy stopped for a moment as a wooden cask was rolled across the cobblestone in front of him. He watched as workers carefully rolled the barrel up the tilted gangplank. He remained frozen in the middle of the bustling crowd, staring at the ship. He had never seen anything so majestic in all his twelve years, and his jaw dropped at her sheer size. She was an enormous castle-like structure, at least eighty feet in length, her belly bulging at the side where the last of the cargo was being loaded in. Crates and boxes were continually being carried up the gangplank, where they disappeared into the ship’s dark interior. The deck above the cargo area was much narrower and the boy imagined that’s where the sailors would remain during the voyage, climbing masts and hoisting sails. Circling the spiderweb of hemp ropes and yardarms, seagulls cawed as if singing along with the rhythmical clanging of a nearby metal object. The boy scanned the scene for the source of the sound and noticed a blind beggar sitting on the cobblestone near the bow of the ship, tapping a stick on a metal bowl.

Behind the ship floated a second ship, nearly as large as the first, and behind that loomed a third. Each hosted its own cast of sailors, supplies, vagrants, and gangplanks. As wavelets gently raised and lowered the vessels, moans of protest arose from the taut ropes, and the weathered wood creaked with each stomp of a sailor’s boot. Nearby, two mangy hounds barked and growled over some fish scraps, bringing the boy’s attention back to his task at hand. Remembering why he had come, he yelled, “Master Culpepper!” He spun around and around looking for the man, weaving between horses, carts, trunks, and sailors shouting commands. He darted in and out of the crowd, making sure he didn’t bump into any wealthy gentlemen, recognizable by their long cloaks adorned with colorful silk threads.

In April, King James had created the Virginia Company, which would finance sailings to Virginia and Plymouth with the aim of settling colonies and profiting from the land’s abundant natural resources. The aristocracy funded the expeditions with the expectation of making an exorbitant profit. The three ships embarking from Blackwall on this day would sail to Virginia and bring back riches. There were rumors of gold, silver, and gems merely washing up on the shore for the taking. If nothing else, there was surely timber to be harvested. The trees in England had long been felled and the rising price of timber would certainly bring the investors a hefty return.

After they finished loading supplies and the morning fog had dissipated, the ships would raise their sails and ride the tide down the Thames. They would enter the English Channel and cross the great ocean and return by summertime.

The boy bobbed in and out of the crowd, searching for his master.

“Who are you searching for, lad?” a man in a ruffled collar asked.

“Master Culpepper,” the boy replied, removing his hat and revealing his dirty blond hair, which was sticking this way and that like a wheat field in a mighty windstorm. He twisted the wool hat in his hands.

“Johannes or Tom?”

“Johannes Culpepper, sir.”

“I saw him down by the front ship—the Discovery—only moments ago. He was standing right on the dock.”

“Thank you.”

The boy nodded, replaced his cap, and shoved through the workers and onlookers toward the front ship. As he passed the first ship, he looked at the name written on her side and sounded out the letters. He couldn’t make any sense of the words Susan Constant, but when he reached the second ship, he could read God…speed. He wondered if the Godspeed was true to her name. If he were to sail, he would rather sail on the Godspeed and get there faster. From what he understood, it was a two-month voyage if the weather was bonny, maybe four months if the ship ran into rough seas.

He had once spent a morning in a small fishing boat and instantly became green with sickness that lasted for days. He didn’t think he would be able to survive the time it would take to sail to Virginia. He gawked at the bow of the Godspeed as he ran past, witnessing a young lad about his age. The sailor dripped with sweat, even in the chill of the damp morning air, as he coiled ropes and folded sails. What a great adventure it would be to sail to Virginia, but alas, the boy would never get to do such amazing things. He was a servant, a gift from His Majesty King James I to Johannes Culpepper. He would always be a servant, but perhaps someday he would be fortunate enough to serve the king. Even though Master Culpepper was good to him, he wished to someday live at court and be somebody. At least he had the slimmest of chances. His sister had been placed in the kitchen of some castle in Wales. She would never be anything more than a scullery maid. Women would never hold a place in society. They were not welcomed on this voyage, either.

He hopped up and down, unsuccessfully trying to look over the crowd. “Master Culpepper!” he called.

A man turned and pointed. “Culpepper is right over there, son.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The boy sprinted in the general direction, and when he pushed through a couple workers conversing on the dock, he saw him.

“Master Culpepper!”

The boy ran up behind Johannes Culpepper and patted the back of his master’s arm, hopping up and down. “Master Culpepper!”

Johannes turned and looked down at the boy, his square jaw set and his blue-gray eyes burrowing into the lad. “What is it, boy? Why are you making such a commotion?”

The boy panted, out of breath from running. “Master Culpepper, m’lady is havin’ the baby, sir!”

Johannes’s face turned red as he glanced around the crowd to see if anyone was eavesdropping. When he saw no one was, he folded his arms across his chest and stroked his beard. “You came all this way to tell me that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Very good, boy. You run along home now.”

The boy didn’t move. How could his master not be excited about this news? Did he not want to return home and see his wife and child? Was there anything the boy could say to convince the man to accompany him back to the house?

“Go on. Run along.” Johannes waved the boy off with a flip of his ringed fingers and abruptly turned his back.

“Yes, sir.” The lad backed up, keeping his eyes on his master, wondering what he would tell the governess when he returned home without his master in tow. He had ridden nearly four hours to get to Blackwall this morning, most of it in the dark as the sun had not even risen when he left. He would have a four-hour return trip to think of something. He turned and walked back in the direction from which he had come.

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Get your FREE copy by clicking HERE.

3-step Formula for Writing Blurbs

xrory3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NKcnIrcztY3-step Formula for Writing Blurbs

 

Technically, a “synopsis” is the summary you write about your book. A “blurb” is an endorsement usually written by someone else, singing your praises. But, neither here nor there, we know what we’re talking about. We want a short, snappy, sales pitch that makes our book sell. We want a summary that calls to the right readers. We want a description that makes money!

Where to start…

 

Let’s start with a simple formula:

Plot, Problem, Possibility.

1) What’s the plot of your story? We need a general description of the situation.

2) We need a problem (usually following the plot and proceeded by the word ‘but’ or ‘however’).

3) We need the possibility that our hero may overcome the problem.

Let’s insert a book we all know into this formula. How about Green Eggs and Ham?

Plot: Sam tries to get someone to eat green eggs and ham.

Problem: No matter what Sam does, he can’t accomplish his goal.

Possibility: After begging and pleading, someone finally tries green eggs and ham. Will they like it?

Blurb: Sam travels the world trying to entice someone to try green eggs and ham, but no matter what Sam does, he can’t seem to accomplish his goal. After begging and pleading, someone finally tries Sam’s green eggs and ham. Will they like it or will Sam be forced to continue his journey?

Many writers say to keep the blurb short and don’t give away too much. I agree with keeping it short. Don’t tell about the boat and the goat and the train and the rain. Subplots don’t sell books. But I don’t see a problem with giving away anything. Movie trailers always show the funniest or most dramatic parts. Think of your blurb as a movie trailer. It’s a sneak peek into the story and hopefully will entice the looker to buy. Did everyone skip the movies Titanic and Apollo 13 because we already knew the endings? No, of course not. Tell your potential reader whatever you want them to know, and give them the Plot, the Problem, and the Possibility. Do yourself a favor…include the blurb when you send your manuscript to your editor. He/she can tighten that mess right up!

…and lay off the adjectives. Don’t fill me with flowery crap, just tell me what the story’s about.

book-blurb

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. Where does your book belong?

Incognito-silhouette-150x150So, what’s the deal with the genres Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense??

Most readers don’t know the difference, but if you’re trying to place your book in the best genre to find the perfect readership, a writer should know the difference. The difference depends on if the reader knows what’s going on in advance and which character is telling the story. There is also some vague talk in the industry about pacing playing a role. Some say a thriller moves at a faster pace and a suspense novel moves at a slower pace.

Mystery – A mystery is a story where the reader finds out what’s going on at the same time as the character. Sherlock Holmes knows he has dead bodies piling up but doesn’t know who the murderer is. The reader can decipher the clues as the Sherlock uncovers them.

Thriller – In a thriller, the reader already knows whodunit and is merely along for the ride. If a story is about Jack the Ripper, the reader already knows what is going to happen and who is responsible, and in the story, the reader lives in the moment with either Jack or the one chasing him. If the story is told from the victim’s point of view, it could be categorized as Suspense (see below) because they know something is going to happen, but don’t know what it is. (One can usually recognize suspense by the ominous music in the background. LOL).

Suspense – The reader knows something is going to happen and perhaps knows who will do the deed, but something is unknown. Either the character doesn’t know it’s coming, or the reader doesn’t know the specifics of what, when, who, or how and is turning pages to find out. The reader may witness a person setting a bomb with a timer, but the characters don’t know they’re about to get blown to smithereens in ten minutes. In the above example about Jack, the reader will know Jack is heading toward the victim, but the victim is oblivious, or the victim will know someone is chasing them, but they don’t know who it is.

So, Jack’s story can be a Thriller or Suspense? Yes.

Often the categories will overlap. If there are scenes of suspense where the victim doesn’t know what’s coming, it could be categorized as Thriller/Suspense. If Sherlock’s story revealed the killer to the reader in the beginning and Sherlock was simply chasing him, it could be Mystery/Thriller. Generally, if the work falls into more than one of the above categories, a writer should narrow it down to two. A work of Mystery/Thriller/Suspense will only get lost in the shuffle. Narrow it down as much as you can.

small_moving_boxesBottom line – Don’t fret too much about genre. If it’s a good story, readers will find it and buy it. It doesn’t matter what box the bookstore wants to put it in.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

The #1 Secret to Getting Good Reviews

6a00d83452c37169e2014e8ab9b06e970dThe key to getting good reviews seems simple—write a good book. Not!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Not even accomplishing that great feat will ensure good reviews from the reading public. We’ve all heard the old adage, “Everybody’s a critic,” and we’ve all heard it because it’s true. People are eager to give you their opinions, whether you want to hear them or not.

The primary key to getting positive opinions/reviews is to get your book to the right people…and keep the wrong people far, far away. The ‘right’ people are those who have a good chance of actually liking your book. The ‘wrong’ people are everyone else. Logical! But how do you do this?

The secret to separating these two groups lies in your advertising. Following an eye-catching cover design, the next thing a potential reader will look at is your synopsis. If you wrote an action-packed high-tech spy novel that would appeal primarily to men, don’t try to broaden your audience by pushing the minor love story subplot. You’ll be alienating the ‘right’ people and tempting the ‘wrong’ people. The men may choose to forego the book if they think it’s a mushy love story, and the women expecting a romance novel will undoubtedly be disappointed by the action-filled storyline. They will tell you so in their one-star reviews. If you’re selling a smoking hot erotic adventure, make sure you let your potential readers know what they are in for. If they purchase the book expecting a timeless romance, they are going to leave dismal reviews about your “filthy piece of trash.”

Be truthful. There is a market for every book, so don’t advertise your book to be something it’s not. If it’s a boring drama, say so. I love boring dramas and would buy it and probably give it a great review.

Craft your synopsis as carefully as you create your cover.

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

Good Cover = Book Sales! 5 easy steps!

5-easy-steps-inGOOD COVER = BOOK SALES! 5 Easy Steps!

So, you’ve finished your awesome novel. You’ve toiled and fretted over each and every word, and your characters are now dancing through their scenes with grace and eloquence. Now what?

It’s time to take off your author hat and replace it with your business hat. You want to sell your book, and to do that, you need great packaging. You need to create an interesting cover that will stick out above the millions of other books in the marketplace. Oreos don’t only sell because they’re awesome, they sell because the package tells you you like them. Next time you’re in the store, look at Oreos vs the no-name brand. You’ll see the difference immediately. The purpose of packaging is to get your potential customer to notice your book. Then to pick it up. If your name is Stephen King, you don’t need to worry about your cover. If not, you need all the help you can get! You don’t want just another pretty cover, you want the whole package—an incredible package that will sell your book.

SO, WHERE DO YOU START?

1) Start with genre. Is your book historical fiction, medical drama, psychotic thriller? Check out the top books in your genre. Do they have a common element? Use it. You want people to be able to recognize your genre immediately.

2) What’s your demographic? 20-something urban or mature woman in the south? You need a cover that will appeal to this demographic. Even if your book is about a southern serial killer in Huntsville, Alabama, an image of a scary man wielding a knife over a dead girl is not going to appeal to a proper southern woman. Who are you trying to sell this book to?

3) Pretend you’re telling someone about your book. What are the scenes you’re relating? Those are the pictures you want to include, whether they are abstract or an actual photograph of a blonde girl in a 1950’s powder-blue dress.

4) What emotional response do you want from your customer when they’ve finished your book? Fear, tears, happiness, hopefulness? The girl in the blue dress can be any of those things if the image is manipulated correctly. Check with your cover designer for suggestions on how to change the same girl into a multitude of emotions.

5) The font. Does the book take place in Old England or 1940s art-deco New York? You want an appropriate font, and make sure it’s readable on the thumbnail-size postage stamp your customer will see on the Internet. A pretty font is not necessarily your friend.

Note: If you are not an experienced graphic designer, hire a professional!!! You’ll still need to tell him/her what you want by using the five ideas above. If this is your first book cover, you need different covers for different items. Paperback, ebook, audiobook, etc. all require different sizes and elements. You’re cover designer will know how and  where to find these requirements.

 

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

51QeOBe26zL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_

okatibbee creek cover final jpeg51-lUHhsD7L._UY250_

Audiobooks = press play

TESTING 1,2,3…AUDIOBOOKS
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The first thing you need to look at when considering making an audiobook are the numbers. The Audio Publishers Association reported $800 million in audiobook sales in 2011. The number grew to $1 billion in 2012 and $1.2 billion in 2013. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Goodereader.com said the audiobook industry was worth over $2 billion in 2014. I haven’t seen any numbers for 2015 yet, but there should be a little bit in there for you.
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Now that I have your attention, let’s create an audiobook. The process of creating an audiobook is completely painless at ACX. This post isn’t a commercial for ACX, but I’ve used them a couple times now, and they are author-friendly. ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is the company that links authors with narrators and distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
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Your first step in creating an audiobook is to create an account at ACX.com, and then you can listen to some narrators by gender, accent, and style.
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downloadHIRE A NARRATOR
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Once you’re ready to go, you need to hire a narrator. You can narrate yourself, but it you don’t have recording equipment and lots of practice in front of a mic or lots of money to spend in a recording studio, it is a million times easier and faster to hire a professional.
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To find the perfect narrator, just upload a section of your book to ACX and invite auditions. Of course, you can email the actors you listened to when you first signed on. Make sure your uploaded section contains some dialog and maybe some drama in it. You want to hear the range of the narrator. Be ready to move forward quickly because you’ll get auditions almost immediately. Send each narrator a note of thanks for taking the time to audition your sample – whether you hire them or not. It takes a lot of time to record, master, and upload your sample, and they’re doing it for FREE.
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Once you choose a narrator, you then offer them a deal.
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6a00d8341bf73153ef0105359fa532970c-800wi“SO, HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST ME?”
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Narrators charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per finished hour. This is called a “pay-for-production” deal. Example: If you’re book is 50k words, that’s about 6 hours finished, so the finished cost will be between $600 and $1800. Some narrators opt to do a 50/50 “royalty-share” instead. That’s 50% of your royalties for 10 years with no money up front.
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Take a moment and do the math so you know how many audiobooks you need to sell to break even. ACX sets your price by the length, and the above 6-hour book example would sell for roughly $19.95. The longer the book, the higher the selling price. The shorter, the lower. Read further to find out your share. The range of Audible pricing is 1-3 hours $7-10, 3-5 hours $10-20, 5-10 hours $15-25, 10-20 hours $20-30. Here’s another fun fact: If your book is purchased by a new Audible member as their first download, you get a $50 bounty. That’s fun!
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distributionDISTRIBUTION
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ACX will offer you two distribution options. 1) 40% royalties for an exclusive distribution deal. This is a seven-year contract and you are not allowed to sell the audiobooks yourself to anyone at any time through any avenue in any format (digital, CD, audio tape) during that time. OR 2) 25% royalties for an non-exclusive deal, and you can sell them anywhere you want. ACX distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, so I don’t know where else you’d want to sell them, unless you want to have them pressed and sell them out of your trunk. But keep in mind, according to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobooks that were downloaded through a website instead of bought on CD in 2009 were 29%, 36% in 2010, and 46% in 2011, and growing, so there may not be any good reason to press your audiobook.
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If your narrator costs $250 per finished hour and your book is 6 hours long, it will cost you $1500 for a pay-for-production deal. If you go with exclusive distribution and are making 40% of the $19.95 sale price, you would need to sell a couple hundred copies to break even. One note here: Audible members which are a huge chunk of your sales pay about half price, so your royalty income and break even number would need to be adjusted for those sales. You’d need to sell about 400 copies to only Audible members to break even. A majority of buyers on Audible are members.
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If you choose the “royalty share” option with your narrator, you would NOT need to pay the $1500 up front, but you would split the royalties 50/50 and only make $4 per copy sold for the next 10 years, and $2 for an Audible member sale.
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So, figure out how long your book will be (roughly 8500 words per finished hour) and how many copies you need to sell before you step up to the plate and ask for auditions and negotiate fees.
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Once you decide on your narrator, make a price/payment deal with them, and choose your ACX distribution option, you’ll need to upload your entire book and give the narrator some deadlines. There will be two deadlines: one for your narrator to upload the first 15 minutes for you to approve and one for the whole project to be completed. If your narrator isn’t too busy, they can have the first 15 minutes to you within a few days and the book completed within a month. They will upload each chapter to ACX as it is recorded, so you can listen to each chapter as it is uploaded and send a message to correct anything you’d like corrected. Be specific about the pronunciation of any strange names or titles up front in the process to avoid later corrections. My book Okatibbee Creek is pronounced Oh-kuh-TIB-bee. That makes it easier.
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When the recording is finished and all chapters are uploaded, you’ll need to approve the recording. Your narrator will then send you a bill if you opted for the pay-for-production deal. If you opted for the royalty-share deal, this step will be omitted. Once you pay your narrator, he/she will let ACX know your audiobook is approved for sale.
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ACX will then take 2-3 weeks to get your audiobook live on the sites. So, the whole process should take about eight weeks. If you opt for a pay-for-production deal, save your pennies first. Do not make the narrator wait to get paid.
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Note
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The size of your cover needs to be adjusted for an audiobook to a square CD shape. You cannot use your ebook cover. Here’s the original ebook cover for Okatibbee Creek and the resized audiobook cover. The needed dimensions can be found on the ACX website.
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okatibbee creek cover front JPEG
okatibbee audio
Note 2
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I don’t know if they always do it, but Audible sent me 25 free download codes to give away. For the above example 6-hour book, that’s $500 worth of freebies, so while you’re waiting for your project to be completed, think of some creative ways to market and give those copies away. Some authors swear by audiobook sales. Give it a shot!
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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.

4 Ways to Create a Catchy Blog Title

catchy titles-resized-600The first thing that catches someone’s eye in the blogosphere is a snappy title. Writing the title for your blog shouldn’t be an exercise in wittiness. It should tell people what they will find if they click.

4 Ways to Create a Catchy Blog Title

  • Your title should tell the reader exactly what to expect. What did you expect when you opened this blog? Yep, 4 ways to create a catchy blog title. The name says it all. A bad example of a title is “Fiction 101.” Yuck, boring, not enough information. A good title is “3 Ways to Make your Fiction Come to Life.” If you’re a fiction writer, wouldn’t you like to read that blog? Do you know why? Because it offers a service, an insight, some expertise.
  • How about numbers? Try this: “8 Haunted Places in Detroit” or “5 Ways to Get Your Husband off the Couch.” People like numbers!
  • Rock the adjectives! “Catchy Blog Titles” is better than “Blog Titles.” Try adjectives people are attracted to: Free, Fun, Incredible, Effortless, Secret.
  • Try something outlandish. I like mixing opposites or writing something one would never, ever actually do. “Fuzzy Bunnies are Smug,” “The Graceful Klutz,” “Shampoo your Lion’s Mane in 20 Minutes Without Getting Bitten.”

Recapping:

1. Say exactly what your blog is about.

2. Try a number.

3. Add an adjective.

4. Try something crazy.

 

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Lori Crane is a bestselling and award-winning author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day.