Before You Write a Single Word

There is such an appeal for people—especially retired people—to write a book.

You’ve had an idea in your head for years and now you finally have time to put pen to paper.

However, after you publish, your sales aren’t what you’d like—or expect—them to be.

What went wrong?

Dozens of things could have been the reason for poor sales, but usually the reason can be traced back to the beginning.

Before you wrote a single word.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. You have written the story you wanted to write, with little or no regard to your audience.

In other words, you didn’t consider what readers like to read… what is popular in today’s market.

I was guilty of the same thing. That doesn’t mean we cannot write what has been on our heart for decades, but we do have to understand that it may not translate into sales.

We have talked about romance being popular. And there are so many variations of romance:  teens, tweens, cowboy (That’s right. It’s still popular) and so on; and cozy mysteries (which also often include a romantic aspect). These include a lot of inheritance themes. Young ladies inheriting bed and breakfasts, hotels, bakeries, seaside cottages, just to name a few.

So, I guess the bottomline is this. If you want to sell books, write about what people like. If your goal is to fulfill a lifelong dream, then sales take second place.

But whatever it is you write, do it well. Given time, readers may find you and come to appreciate your passion. 

To me, that’s the best of both worlds.


Five Things Writers MUST Do

I would say there are about twenty-five things writers need to do, but these top five are ESSENTIAL:

1- Know your audience and write for them.  I don’t write YA, but if I did, I would have to learn my readers’ interests… their unique vocabulary… popular phrases… wardrobe and hairstyle preferences… everything there is to know about them. No one—no matter how much they love to read—will invest the time in reading what doesn’t interest them or reflect their dreams and aspirations.

2 – Read. First and foremost, a good writer reads. Get to know what’s out there and how other authors approach their craft. All the while, read for fun and pleasure, too. After all, fiction writers must be able to offer their readers an enjoyable reading experience.

3 – Learn the writing “rules.”  Read books on plot, style, character, etc. Go to conferences. Talk to other writers. Ask someone to mentor you. (Don’t worry, after you learn the rules, you can grant yourself permission to break them!!! I’ll clarify. Don’t break all of them all of the time. Be careful. Pick and choose as you find your unique “voice.”)

4 – Make every word count. Be precise. I use a an average vocabulary because I want my readers to enjoy my stories and not have to look up unfamiliar words. I think this is good advice for most fiction. However, I can see that Sci-fi and some other genres may want to use a different standard. By reading other books in your genre, you will learn what to use for your specific story.

5 – Edit, Edit, Edit.  Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation stand out like a sore thumb and draw attention away from your story. Even though no book is perfect, you don’t want to be embarrassed by mistakes. Take your time. Use an editor, but also read through your own work several times before sending it off to them.genre





The first time I mentioned to someone that I wanted to become an author, I was asked what genre I was interested in.


I didn’t even know what genre meant!  That’s how new I was to this whole writing thing!!!

In case you are new—and we all have to be at some time—here is a common definition:

A genre is a category of composition. Within each genre, pieces have similarities in subject, style, and form. 

Here is a current list of major writing types:


Classic, Crime, Drama, Fable, Fairy Tale, Fan Fiction, Fantasy, Folklore, Graphic Fiction, Historical, Horror, Mystery, Mythology, Realism, Science Fiction, Short Story, Suspense, Tall Tales, Westerns


Biographies, Essays, Personal narratives, Textbooks, Self-help, Journalism

When you begin to write, it is good to have a clear picture of your genre. (Most people write in the genre they most like to read, but that is not always the case.)

If you are writing because you love to write, first and foremost—if self-fulfillment or getting your message “out there” is the motivating factor, then you are free to write in any genre you’d like.

However, if your primary motivation is to make money, then consider the following as they are the most widely-read genres:

Contemporary Romance

Mystery-Suspense/ Thriller/ Horror

Fantasy and paranormal

Young Adult

Science Fiction and Magical Realism

In the coming weeks, I will attempt to feature each of these genres in this blog.

Remember:  Knowing our genres will help us understand our reading audience—one of the most important factors contributing to our success as writers.


Branding: An Emotional Bond



If I say “Western Movie Stars,” perhaps John Wayne, Paladin, or Matt Dillon come to mind.

Movie stars that were typecast because they most often played a “villain?” Boris Karloff or Peter Lorre are the first ones I think about.

When you hear the names of James Patterson, Lee Child, John Grisham, or Stephen King do you automatically think of mystery/thriller/suspense?

You do this as a result of BRANDING.

Here are a few definitions of branding from my research:

”…marketing messages that create emotional bonds with the consumer…” ~ Heidi Cohen

“…the name, the logo, the design, or a combination of those that people use to identify and differentiate…” (a person or business) ~ Gini Dietrich

“…the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships…that account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” ~ Seth Godin

So, if I am reading this right, branding is building an emotional tie between yourself and your readers. And, this branding makes the author instantly recognizable in their eyes/minds.

So, how is this done and when?

I believe it is the perception of the author by the consumer that creates the branding.

Here is how it happens: an author writes a book, the author writes more books in the same or similar genres. Over time, readers get to know the writer as a suspense writer (Mary Higgins Clark) or a romance writer (Nicholas Sparks), etc.

The author’s work becomes predictable to their audience.

New authors may try their hand at writing in several different genres, but pretty soon they find their way and settle into one that is comfortable for them. Once they do, readers begin to take notice.

They become followers.

Because the author meets their expectations…gives them what they want.

The reward?

They buy books.

A symbiotic relationship is formed.

An emotional bond.