How to research a publisher

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to hang around new-writer boards and try to offer constructive guidance. I consider it paying forward all the help I received when I was a clueless noob, plus it’s genuinely rewarding to see people finding their collective way in this publishing jungle.

below is a revised response to a question received about a specific publisher, who will remain unnamed in this post. I’ve removed items that specifically point toward a publisher and revised pointed statements to be more generalized. Overall, it is meant to give a quick rundown on how to quickly look at a publisher and filter it as not worth considering or something worth further research.


1) First stop for me is always Google.

The publisher needs to have enough pull on the market to be the most important hit. If the publisher page is way down the page, they aren’t pulling traffic and aren’t likely to have much market clout.


2) Do they own their domain name?

A business that hasn’t purchased a dot-com hasn’t made the most basic investment you can make in a business. Domains are cheap. There is no reason for a business to not have one. I don’t want to be in a business relationship or have contractual obligations to someone who doesn’t invest in the business.


3) What do they publish?

Some of the small publishers will take whatever comes their way. An unfocused genre spread means an unfocused market, which means unfocused promotion for you, the author. You want a publisher that sells your genre and your kind of book within your genre.


4) Author page on the website lists a handful of authors.

This is not surprising if it’s a startup, but any business open more than a year should have a stable of authors. I also try to determine if the owner is one of the authors listed. if so, it indicates the business was started to be a promotional tool for the owner. Oftentimes, the other authors are not given fair and equal billing.


5) Book cover assessment

Covers are a major selling point. They make the difference between glancing past your book and stopping to look. How would you feel with one of those covers on your book? Horrible graphics are a legitimate reason to pass on a publisher.


6) Next stop… Amazon.

I start with book rank.  want to find high rank for recent releases, and a moderate sale rate for older books. extremely low numbers mean they aren’t moving product, which means the authors aren’t making money.

Poor sales are never beneficial for the author.


7) The “look inside” feature on Amazon.

This is important because I can get a look at the editing and quality of their product.  I’m looking for both subjective writing quality and more technical grammar issues. You want a publisher that will have strong editing and make your writing shine.


8) Smashwords

Why Smashwords? it’s considered the go-to place for book distribution and non-Amazon publishing for most self-publishers, and a lot of small publishers will use it to put out books. This means they aren’t doing anything in terms of putting your book on the market that you can’t do yourself.



So what do I count as positives?

I want to see a professional, polished website, high Google ranking, books released on a regular schedule, Amazon sales over 50K, recent releases, focus on a genre, and equal promotion given to all authors. In addition, I wouldn’t do business with any company that isn’t a familiar name. I know what I read and who publishes it. That’s where I’d go to do business.

The most important thing when filtering publishers is to use common sense. It’s very easy to let excitement and anticipation get the better of you, to let the desire to be published overcome the reasoning part of the brain. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. A bad publishing deal will screw you over and tank your book. Take your time and wait for a publisher who believes in you and will be a strong publishing partner.

Marco… Marco… MARCO!

Sadness and tragedy… Tragedy and sadness…


I was… busy and stuff! *sigh*

So, here’s the deal. The 2016 game of Marco Polo on Twitter will be happening on February 10.

For the uninitiated, the rules are simple. If you’re an author and on Twitter, tweet out “MARCO!” at some point in the day. Or at several points in the day. Do NOT announce ahead of time when you will be playing, but encourage your followers to keep an eye out for it. Watch your replies. First person to yell POLO gets a free book from you. Make sure you follow the winners so they can claim their prize. **LEGAL NOTE** Authors need to post the legal mumbo jumbo on their websites or link to this post.

If you’re a reader, follow participating authors on Twitter. When someone yells MARCO, reply as fast as you can with POLO. If you’re first, you win a book. Make sure you follow them so you can DM them to claim your prize. All the fine print can be found here.

Below is a list of known participating authors. Follow them to win! This list will grow as more authors join the fun, so check back often. Author signup for at the bottom of the page.


Authors (Alpha by last name)

Keri Ford

Marguerite Labbe

Voirey Linger






Editing… What Does It Mean? REPOST

A few years ago, I wrote a post for the DSRA blog about editing. It came about from hearing new writers say they were ready to edit their stories but had no idea where to start. I think most, if not all, of us have been there, because while storytelling is a natural part of human society, editing those stories is not. We know we’re supposed to edit, but what is editing, exactly? Where does one even start?

Consider this a starting point, a list of goals and tips. It’s not a process, because, much like developing a writing process, we all have to adapt our own editing process. It’s also not a complete list. We all have our own quirks and foibles to overcome.

So take these concepts, these general perimeters, and fit them into what you need them to be.

Happy editing.



This blog originally published May 15, 2013 on Diamond State Romance Authors blog.


As some of you might know, I frequent a board that has a lot of new and young writers. It can be interesting to see some of the same questions I had as a new writer coming up, time and time again. It’s a reminder of what it felt like to be new and hungry, looking for that first toehold. It’s also a reminder that I’ve come a long way in the past 5 years.

One recent questioning trend on the boards has been editing. It seems like such a basic thing… write it and edit it… but what is editing, really? There’s more to it than fixing typos and cleaning up grammar, but what?

The good news is, it’s not as scary as you think it might be. The bad news is, I can’t tell you exactly how to do it. Editing, like writing, is a very individual thing. There are a lot of tips and tricks, but when it comes down to it, each writer must determine what works and doesn’t work for her, and build her own method.

Luckily, there are some universal points, and they are pretty basic. Some people can do all these things in just a couple of passes. Others will need to focus and do an editing round for each item. Finding out what works will likely be a matter of trial and error.


I believe in starting with the big jobs, and when it comes to editing, content is the biggest thing on the page. This focuses strictly on the nuts and bolts of the storyline. Is the plot believable and is it complete? It’s important to note that by believable, I don’t mean realistic. I mean the major plot points need to make sense. Every scene needs to build toward the climactic black moment. Every love scene needs to make sense in that moment and every step in the character’s relationship should go toward making that black moment bigger.

Wait… too much information, right? Lots of talk and no instruction. Let me break it down.

Look for:

Are there any dead ends in your story? – Weed out any unused hints or clues and don’t leave the reader with questions about, “what happened to…” It’s the base principal of Chekhov’s gun, which basically stated that if you show a loaded gun in the first act of the play, the gun needs to be fired in a later scene. If it’s not fired, it’s not important to the plot and needs to be removed.

Are there bits of plot or subplot that don’t go anywhere? This has the same idea as Chekhov’s gun, only it’s dealing with story concepts rather than items. If the hero and heroine are working on, say, a missing child case together, then by the end of the story, the reader needs to know the fate of the child, good or bad.

Is back story woven in? This is another tricky point. we give our characters rich backstory because it’s important. It tells us who they are and why they act this way or that way. But the reader doesn’t need to know the details of these past events. Past events are not the story. Take out that info dump about the third grade school play wardrobe malfunction that left the character with stage fright and just allude to it in the moment when she’s overwhelmed. Maybe she can tell the hero she was a piece of pizza and some strategically placed pepperoni fell off and she doesn’t want to talk about it. That’s enough.

Are all the elements needed at the climax introduced earlier in the story? In a way, this goes back to Chekhov, only in reverse. If that gun will be needed, make sure I know about it. If the villain is the hero’s evil twin, we need to know the hero has a twin.


We’ve determined the story makes sense. We’ve added all the elements we need and removed the ones we don’t. The next ‘big thing’ to clean up would be storytelling. The big thing about storytelling is that the reader needs to understand what is going on. We’ve all heard that there are Rules, and The Rules won’t let you do prologues and epilogues, dream sequences or flashbacks. While I’m not a fan of Rules, I will agree that these things often get in the way of storytelling.

Once again, I’ve dumped a bunch of vague information. Here’s a checklist for putting it into action.


Do your scenes flow together logically? Every story is a journey, and when you’re on a journey, you don’t jump ahead or behind to grab some information, then go back to where you were. The path can wind but it always needs to go from point A, to B to C. make sure everything moves naturally and in order, not just on the scene level, but town to the sentences in a paragraph.

Do you have an appropriate amount of description? This is my nemesis. I like action, but the reader needs to have a working concept of where the characters are and how they move around the space. And description isn’t just physical. The scents, and mood surrounding people and areas play a part in building the story. Too much description or overdone can be a negative thing, too. I don’t need to know about the knotholes dotting the kitchen paneling like spots on a dalmatian, but if you tell me it’s knotty pine, I’ll get the picture.

Is your pacing appropriate? This is one of those things that sounds harder than it is. In every book there are going to be important moments. He’s holding her and realizing he’s in love, for example. That’s a moment you want the reader to hold on to, to savor, so slow it down and go long. Longer sentences, longer paragraphs, longer descriptions about the little things, like the scent of her hair. Other times you want your readers to be flipping pages madly, anxious to see what happens. Here things need to be fast. Short sentences and paragraphs, choppier dialogue and where before the descriptions were about small things, slow realizations, description in action scenes will be sudden, a crunching punch out of nowhere. Forget the details and stick to big things.

Is your point of view consistent? This is where the infamous head-hopping comes in. to be clear, changing point of view isn’t strictly forbidden, but when that change is made, it needs to be for a reason, and the new character needs to stay in control of the scene. But POV also means little things, like is the character feeling her face get hot instead of seeing her own skin flush. Is he drawing conclusions about what she’s thinking from logical body language instead of reading her mind.

Grammar and Language

Now that all the big things are in place, it’s time to start cleanup. Grammar is a tricky one for a lot of people, especially younger writers, because schools have taken a lot of emphasis off grammar basics. The good news is that there are a lot of resources online that can help. I like the Perdue OWL. But there is also the question of making the language sound natural. Even those of us with strong grammar skills don’t speak with impeccable grammar. There is a balance between what is technically right and what works for the story. there are times you can forget grammar.

So… checklist time.

Are your sentences simple enough to be easily understood? Whoa, what? We’re not making it all sophisticated? Nope. the average book for adults, including romances, need to be on a seventh to eighth grade reading level. Shocker? Maybe. The thing to remember is that sentences need to be understood and absorbed quickly. If a reader has to stop and figure out what this or that means, she’s going to be  yanked out of that moment and the story has lost its momentum.

Are you varying sentence structure? Repetitive structure can read like a game of ping pong. He said, she did , he wanted, she snored, ping, pong. it sets up a predictable rhythm that bored the reader instead of pulling them in. Instead of,  he waited by the door and checked his watch, maybe he stood by the door, checking his watch, or waiting by the door, he checked his watch. it’s a small change but it breaks up the beat and keeps the reader reading.

Is your language natural? It has to fit the character. That hard-nosed biker dude isn’t likely to use whom properly, and is he really going to say, “I burn for you, my love,” or will he say, “You’ve got me so hot, baby.” It’s not just the dialogue, either. That narrative is his POV, too.

Have you checked for homophone errors? Oh those homophones. This is one area where you may need to make sure you have some heavy backup in crits. if you don’t know if it’s pay do respect or pay due respect, you can’t fix it. (It’s due, by the way.) But if you know you have a problem with certain homophones, you need to keep a list of them and when you get to edits, do a search. Never bulk search and replace, but check them individually. Time consuming but prudent.

Do you have pet words and phrases? The answer to this is yes, you do. We all do. And they might vary from day to day, or even page to page. find frequent repeats and reword. Don’t rely on a thesaurus for replacement, either. Think it through and come up with the best wording possible.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Final Cleanup

I don’t have a fancy checklist here. There are just a few basics to know.

A line edit is not the same as proofreading. One of those facts I recently learned that had me going… huh. One thing a line edit does is check for consistency through the manuscript… Her shirt stays red, a certain word is always capitalized, etc. Another is making sure the right word is used. Sometimes words don’t mean what we think they mean. This is another area where if you don’t know better you can’t fix it, but if you fix what you do know, a good crit partner will have your back on the other stuff.

A manuscript needs to be as clean as possible, but remember we’re all human. Clean up those typos and don’t sweat the ones you miss. because you will miss some. So will your crit partners and beta readers. So will your editors. Readers won’t, though, and you’ll get an email at 3am telling you about that misplaced comma on page 143. It happens. Just do your best.

Take the time to research formatting. Learn how to put in an automatic paragraph indent and lose the tabs. Make sure you have double spaced, one inch margins and an acceptable font. if you’re getting ready to send, make sure you’ve checked websites for any special formatting notices.


So that’s what it means to edit. I find myself lacking a clever sign off here, so I’ll just say that if you’ve hit this point, than you for reading. I hope this helps.

Marco Polo Day 2015



January 9, 1324, Marco Polo slipped the bonds of this world and drifted into history. He explored Asia, established trade routes with China, and launched a summer game loved by millions.

To celebrate his life and his game, we are launching Marco Polo day on Twitter. The rules are simple. Follow the players listed below from your Twitter account. When one of them yells MARCO you hit reply and @ them with POLO. First to respond will win an ebook. If you’re not following, you can’t win.

Authors interested in participating should reply on this page. Include your name and a link to your Twitter page. (

And now… the fine print:

Marco Polo Day on Twitter is a collection of individual sweepstakes. Each MARCO! tweet is a separate event. Participating authors are wholly responsible for running their individual events and fulfilling the prize requirement. Winners shall receive one digital copy of a book from the author. Titles available are at the sole discretion of the author and may not be substituted for a cash or physical prize. Prize value is not to exceed $10 (US). is not responsible for prize distribution except in those contests run on the Twitter account of @voireylinger.

Participating Authors

 Kayelle Allen – @kayelleallen

SM Butler- @SuzanButler

Dee Carney – @dee_carney

Sam Cheever – @samcheever

Shae Conner – @shaeconner

Hailey Edwards – @haileyedwards

AM Griffin – @AMGriffinbooks

Arlene Hittle – @arlenehittle

Kelly Jameison – @KellyJamieson

Babette James – @BabetteJames

Anne Kane – @AnneKane

Marguerite Labbe – @MargueriteLabbe

Voirey Linger – @voireylinger

Karen Stivali – @karenstivali

Holley Trent – @HolleyTrent

 Maggie Wells – @Maggiewells1



Wherein I Say Stuff I Don’t Want to Say…

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Or, short and sweet for me. I do tend to ramble.

At this point, anyone plugged in to the business side of the romance industry is aware that there have been industry rumblings about my publisher, that a big blogger wrote a post about those rumblings and now that blogger is being sued. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google is your friend. I’m not going to rehash that mess here.

What I am going to do is make a couple things clear, because they obviously need to be cleared up.

First, yes, I have removed the publisher’s titles from my site. I hadn’t planned on doing that yet. I say yet because before all of this came to light, I had requested my rights be reverted on the basis of low sales. That is the one and only reason I asked for them back.  After everything hit the fan, my visitor count shot through the roof. While I’m sure many of those visitors were among those who are boycotting the publisher, I don’t want my reversion to be put at risk by this increased traffic. The books are still available for sale. I’m not going to be handing them out for free or begging people not to buy. I just don’t want an unnatural bump in sales to tip me over to the point I don’t qualify for rights reversion.

I have seen snippets of statements I’ve made on a forum quoted in ways that, in my opinion, do not reflect my thoughts on what is happening. Furthermore, the larger number of statements made, the ones discussing the nuts and bolts of the contracts and contradicting rumors and speculation, are being ignored. I guess they aren’t sensational enough in the face of this debacle.

My decision to not publish with this company was made at the beginning of this year, long before any of this happened, when my last book tanked and my editor left. I had to wait to request a reversion because one of my books had been given away for free last year, technically making it ineligible for reversion until this month. Now, instead of planning what to do when I get the rights back, I’m planning how to start over with no backlist, because that has become a very real possibility.

The publisher was good to me. It accepted five of my stories and gave me a start in this business. This whole mess pains me.

So, here I am. Starting over. I’ve been through worse in life and this is just a small bump in my road. I’m okay and don’t need anything but for people who like me to keep liking me.

The great thing about this is that I get a chance to move in a new direction with my writing. Or more accurately, get back to my roots with mainstream contemporary romance. I have six manuscripts outlined, three of those mostly written, so I have plenty to keep me busy over the next couple years.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported me over the past four years, and don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.


Why I killed my Facebook Page

I just pulled the plug on my Facebook account. My author pages are gone and won’t be coming back.

This is actually something I’ve been considering doing for some time. I was reluctant to open the account initially, but I’d heard all the ‘must haves’ of promo and a Facebook page was right up there at the top of the list. So I opened it.

But… really… from the beginning… I had concerns. Concerns which have been repeatedly validated over time. And they all revolve around privacy and how much control I have over my information.

We all know, or at least I hope we all know, that nothing in the internet is truly private. Anything you post online, even within supposedly secure circles hold the potential to be used against you.

Facebook’s constant adjustment of privacy policies is internet cannon. What is protected today might be forced into the public later. Just in the past year, accounts which were voluntarily hidden from public searches became searchable, revealing enough information to give anyone with internet access the ability to find the account and grab some personal data and an image. There is no reason to expect this trend to stop. And while users may adjust their Facebook activity in the future, there is no guarantee that what is already in their system will be protected from public consumption.

Another privacy concern for me was Facebook’s image tagging and how the facial recognition information was used. This concern was raised for me when I saw a news report (I cannot find the report online. Information about it is strictly from memory and may be faulty.) Which suggested the company collecting the information could sell it to other services. One suggested application, a company which would allow you to take a photo with your phone’s camera and identify a stranger in a crowd. Because the bar scene isn’t creepy enough. Disabling tagging was offered, and I didn’t post pictures of me or my kids, but friends don’t have the same level of concern as I and posted images of both me and my kids, sans tags.

Another issue for authors, if you’re trying to keep your legal name private, having it pop up as a possible tag in that author signing or convention photo would be problematic.  Or the reverse, if your family doesn’t know your pen name. I’ll be blunt. There is a reason I have a pen name. Writer me and real me don’t travel in the same circles and I like it that way. I don’t need Facebook screwing things up so they can make a profit.

The final straw for me came yesterday. Facebook has announced they are launching a new targeted ad program, which are supposedly designed to give you a better ad experience. While they are quick to assure you that you can opt out of the ads, the third-party company who is actually doing the information gathering seems to imply you are just opting you out of the ads, not the information tracking. Not only that, but the process of opting out required you to relax your cookie security to take their third-party cookies, making your computer less secure against malware and other tracking cookies. It’s a no-win situation.

I’ve always been very cautious about my internet security. I check my firewalls, scan for viruses and malware. I don’t post many pictures of me online, don’t use my legal name, use as much blocking and privacy protection as I can dig up. The sad fact is, the internet is not a place where privacy can be maintained. Even “anonymous” postings and sock puppet accounts can be traced to a geographic location and even a particular computer pretty easily.

Being online is a measured risk. I’ve decided that continuing to use Facebook is simply too much risk to justify.

Marco Polo Day



January 9, 1324, Marco Polo slipped the bonds of this world and drifted into history. He explored Asia, established trade routes with China, and launched a summer game loved by millions.


To celebrate his life and his game, we are launching Marco Polo day on Twitter. The rules are simple. Follow the players listed below from your Twitter account. When one of them yells MARCO you hit reply and @ them with POLO. First to respond will win an ebook. If you’re not following, you can’t win.


Authors interested in participating should reply on this page. include your name and a link to your Twitter page. (


Participating Authors:

Dani-Lyn Alexander

Donnell Ann Bell

Cassandra Carr

Nena Clements

Natalie J. Damschroder

Lexie Donovan

Hailey Edwards

Madison J. Edwards

Margaret Ethridge

Keri Ford/Charley Colins

Nina S. Gooden

Kathy Ivan

Kelly Jamieson

Inez Kelley

Jeffe Kennedy

Cassidy Kingston

Marguerite Labbe

Tara Lain

Roz Lee

Voirey Linger

Annie Nicholas

Karen Stivali

Shawna Thomas

CM Torrens

Maggie Wells