Deborah Gafford Romantic Fiction

Tips of the Trade

"I enjoy learning something new each day. Since I am a firm believer in
the pay it forward concept to help others, I decided to create this page to do just that. I hope you will find it interesting and helpful. If you do, please pay the information forward to someone else.

This page is a source of tips (and perhaps a few tricks) of the writing trade and all it encompasses; from plotting to publishing and everything in between. If you know a good tip and would like to write a guest post, *contact me and tell me what topic you would like to discuss.

I'm always happy to add new information from authors and readers."

Paying a kindness forward makes you richer still.
Deborah Gafford

*Contact Deborah Gafford by using the form
on the FAQs and Contact Us page.

Click on a topic below to learn more about it.

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Email Marketing/Newsletters

*Author Street Teams  

Format eBooks for Print

Create Book Trailers     Create Book Covers

Using Copyright Free Images

Book Promotion

Using Social Media  

Sources of Information and Images
in the Romance Novel Industry

Facebook        Twitter        Pinterest        Goodreads

*Coming soon

Author Street Teams 

Create and Run an Author Street Team

*Coming soon

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Create Book Trailers  

Create Book Trailers

by Nicole Garcia

If you think it’s too hard or perhaps even impossible to make your own book trailer, well think again. If someone like me, who is not computer savvy can do it, so can you.

First, what is a book trailer? A book trailer is an advertisement of a book you can use as a sort of teaser, to get readers interested in your book. Book trailers, or book videos as they are sometimes called, are a great way to promote your books. It’s a cheap and easy way to reach your target audience. They can also generate book sales through video-sharing sites, websites, social-networking sites, blogs, and any book related sites on the web.

Okay, once you have decided to make a book trailer there a few things to do before you start:

#1: Search and view other book trailers to get an idea of how a book video should look and what you would like yours to look like.

#2: Next, you should gather the pictures that will be used in your book trailer. This part is a little tricky. If you plan on sharing your video on the internet such as on your website or youTube, you must have the rights to use the images. You may purchase images from a variety of royalty free stock sites such as Fotolia, Dreamstime, Shutterstock, etc. Or you may download images from a website that offers free pictures. Note: Some sites may ask that you mention their website in your video or wherever you plan on using them as a thank you for their services.

#3: Write down your narration or script that you would like others to read as they are viewing the trailer.

#4: Music. Music can make the whole trailer. Having the perfect music to go along with the video and that describes the book can make it that much more enjoyable to the reader. Some video making websites have free music that you can use. Note: It is not advisable to use famous artist’s songs or your mp3’s such as from iTunes. They are copyrighted music and it is illegal to use them without permission. If you wanted to purchase the rights to such songs it is beyond expensive. But as with images, music can be found free or can be bought with a small amount. All that’s needed is to do a little search on the web.

#5: Once you have all that done, pick out what software you would like to use to make your book trailer. There are many to choose from but Windows Movie Maker, Photostory, and Stupeflix are used most often. There are others you may use, just search for them right on the internet. The choice is yours. Use which you think is best for you and how you want the video to look.

Now that you have everything, all that is needed is to open your selected video making program/software. Drag and drop all your photos, and music. Add the narration and BOOM!! You have your very own book trailer to share and showcase your work. Hope you found this article helpful. It sounds harder than it is, but I promise it’s very easy. With practice, you will become a pro and helping your friends make their own videos. Good luck and happy writing!!


About Nicole Garcia

Nicole Garcia is an aspiring author as well as video trailer creator and book reviewer. To learn more about her and read an excerpt from her WIP, Return to Willow Lake, on the In The Spotlight page, click here.

Click on the links below to view book
trailer videos she has made.

Return to Willow Lake
book trailer

You're in Good Hands with Al Tate book trailer (book by Deborah Gafford)

You can find Nicole online at:



Romance Novel Center

Book Promotion 
Book Promotion

by Lisa Vandiver

Promotion is one of the market mix elements, and a term used frequently in  marketing. The specification of five promotional mix or promotional plan. These elements are personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, and publicity. A promotional mix specifies how much attention to pay to each of the five subcategories, and how much money to budget for each. A promotional plan can have a wide range of objectives, including sales increases, new product acceptance, creation of brand equity, positioning, competitive retaliations, or creation of a corporate image. Fundamentally, however there are three basic objectives of promotion. These are:

         1.To present information to consumers as well as others.

2.To increase demand.

3.To differentiate a product.

There are different ways to promote a product in different areas of media. Promoters use internet advertisement, special events, endorsements, and newspapers to advertise their product. Many times with the purchase of a product, there is an incentive like discounts, free items, or a contest. This is to increase the sales of a given product.

What I'd like to focus on today is Book Promotions.

Being an indie author, book promotions are very important to me. If I don't promote, chances are I won't sell very much. Word of mouth by prior readers is great! However, an author cannot depend on that one outlet alone. Therefore, book promotions are ever present in the forefront of an indie author's mind-at least for this author, it is.

I want to briefly discuss a few of the marketing outlets that can be used in book promotions. This isn't an exhausted list, so if you have more great ideas on promotions, I'd love to hear about them.

Internet Advertising- There are many places one can go in order to conduct promotions for their book. Many sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Stumble Upon, MySpace, just to name a few.

Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular sites for authors. On these sites, you become friends and acquaintances with fellow authors. You begin to help one another out by promoting each other to each person's friends or followers. You create an author page on facebook and create a link from there to your website and to the stores where your books are sold.

Facebook has afforded me many opportunities to meet some wonderful fellow authors who, though I've never personally met, will be some of my best friends for life. There have been some business partnerships created there as well. I've come to understand that fellow authors can be your most valuable tool in promoting your books. If you will do your part in promoting your fellow authors, many will return the kind gesture and promote yours as well on their websites, blogs, and other outlets.

Authors aren't the only ones you can meet and swap promotions with. There are graphic designers, editors, and others in the writing business you can meet and form personal and business ties with. This is known as Networking. It is very important and useful in the life of an Indie Author.

Twitter and some of the other sites I mentioned are very similar to facebook in their practices, with minor alterations.

Blogging- is another fantastic way to promote. You can use Blogger or Wordpress. There are other blogging hosts out there, but these two seem to be the most popular and two that I use in my blogging work. I blog about my completed stories, my WIP's, write free short stories, and conduct interviews with fellow authors or others in the business. You can do many things with your blog. It's up to you on how you want to maintain it. There will be guided instructions on how to set the blogs up as far as looks.

Sales stores promotions- The stores where you place your books for sale can be another great way to promote. Many of these sites have promotional tips, tools, and dedicated authors' pages for their listed authors. Some will even go as far as promoting for you, to a very small degree. You can usually find out about their promotional practices under a Promotions link listed on their front page.

Television, Newspapers, and Radio Promotions-

Television ads often have a much higher cost-per-impression.(the number of people who may have seen an article, heard something on the radio or in a podcast, watched something on television, or read something on a web page or blog) TV spots, for example, are 0.019 cents per impression. That's more than nine times the cost of using high quality promotional pens. Cable TV ads average at about 0.007 cents per impression, although television advertising will generally cost more overall. Another drawback of using TV ads is that they usually require a significantly larger minimum investment to get started and that's bad news for a new business or a business that doesn't have a huge marketing budget.

Media advertising like newspaper ads, magazine ads, and radio spots are expensive. A half-page black-and-white ad in a newspaper costs about 0.019 cents per impression, and ads in national magazines are an average of 0.033 cents per impression. The cost of a spot radio ad is 0.005 cents. However, if you can afford it, it's a great way to promote your product, particularly if you're in the entertainment business. I personally have had a FREE ad placed in my local hometown newspaper and a small interview there as well. It would be wise if you checked with your local newspaper, television, and radio stations to see if they offer such free services to local authors and entertainers. Sometimes they use them to fill in empty spots and call them HUMAN INTERESTS STORIES.

The last thing I'd like to mention is something I call the Hands On touch.

It's simple. You go out there, knock on people's doors, leave bookmarks, give a few samples away at book signings, libraries, local bookstores, flea markets, and other similar markets.

This is a grassroots method, and has proven to be successful in the past. Remember the old vacuum cleaner salesmen, Avon saleslady, etc…

It is a 'scary' thing to knock on people's doors, especially these days, and I haven't done it. However, there are other ways to get the word out locally, set up a book signing, donate some books to the local library, bookstore, and set up a booth at the local flea markets or outdoor markets and fairs. If you do this, make sure you have bookmarks, fliers, posters, and books to give away in contests. We all know people love FREE stuff, so having a few samples to give away might be a good idea.

A 'Book Party' is another interesting idea. You could host the party yourself, or have a friend host it for you. During such an event, you could serve a light snack and beverage, and have a display table set up so people can see your books. Have tickets ready to hand out to each person who enters the party, and the winning numbers called can get free SWAG.

No matter what method of promotion you use, good luck in it. Just do something to promote yourself and your books. I'm learning that writing the book isn't enough, though it is a BIG accomplishment, it's just not enough. You have to SELL yourself and your product to the public, and that's not always an easy task. I am still working on getting over my shyness of self-promotion. It feels weird to 'toot my own horn' sometimes, but it is necessary.

I'd love to hear from you on how you promote yourself and your books.



About Lisa Vandiver

Lisa watched her mother read Harlequin Romances as a child and as a result, she became a reader and a lover of romance stories. Being a daydreamer, Lisa wrote poems as a young adult. Some of these poems are in Lisa's book of poems, published on line.

Lisa involved herself in school, church, and college plays. While attending school in Dallas, Texas, Lisa wrote her first play. While taking acting classes in Nashville, Tennessee, Lisa came up with the story idea for her first book, Where She Belongs. Lisa has since written her second story, Josie's Thorn. One poem Lisa wrote, My Life Song, was published in e-Fiction Magazine in 2011. Lisa is currently working diligently on several projects, including her first screenplay. Lisa is very active in most of the online sites and enjoys meeting new people, so feel free to look her up to say, "Hi".

Click on the links below to view Lisa's books: 

Josie's Thorn

Where She Belongs, Book 1

You can find Lisa online at:



Romance Novel Center


You can learn more about Lisa on the In The Spotlight page here.

eBook Files for Print 

Format eBook Files for Print

by Virginia McKevitt

Hello everyone, my name is Virginia McKevitt and Deborah has invited me to post an article on getting your manuscript ready for Createspace. I hope this information will help make it a little easier for you in transitioning from e-book to paperback.

Formatting a book for print with Createspace
using Microsoft Wor

First, I format my work using Microsoft Word 2007/Word 2010, but there are similar programs out there. There are several sizes but we are talking today about formatting a 6x9 paperback, one of the most popular sizes. I hope I can shed some light on this process because it doesn’t have to be as frustrating and confusing as it seems.

The first thing we will discuss is setting margins:

If you do not set your margins correctly your book will print too far into the gutter or too near an edge, (the gutter is where the books is bound together by glue).  So let’s set your margins; go to the Page Layout tab in word, and select the Margins dropdown.  Next chose ‘Custom Margins’. A margin dialog will appear. Set your margins like the image shown:

Keep the margins at .75″ except the outside margin, which is set at .5 to give you a little more room towards the outside edge. Set Multiple pages to “mirror margins”.  This means that the left gutter ‘mirrors’ the right gutter when the book is printed. Now that the margins are set, click the Paper tab. We are working on a 6×9 size paperback so we will set the paper size to “custom” and the Width to 6″ and Height to 9″. Easy peasy, lol.

Now click on the Layout tab. This is where we set up the header and footer (book titles and page numbers go here).

Next comes font choices. Go with a simple, easy to read font. Times New Roman is the number one choice in the publishing industry, but things are changing. I use Garamond because it is an easy to read font but don’t stop there. Try something nice for things like titles and chapter headings. There are a lot of pretty fonts out there but try not to use anything that will distract your readers from your story. Also a note; use a ‘serif’ font instead of sans-serif font, they are more appealing to the eye.

Now comes paragraph set up. Under the home heading look for the paragraph tab and find the arrow to the right bottom and click there and set up the paragraph indents and spacing. A note here; never, never, never, use the tab key to indent. It confuses the program Createspace uses and it gets real ugly (pulling out your hair ugly). Paragraphs are justified so that all of the words line up on both the left and right margins.

Next under the Indentation heading, set to “First line” and “0.3 inches” to set your paragraph indents. If you use 0.5″ as suggested, in most style books, it tends to look funny but you can experiment here and judge for yourself.

Next set ‘Before’ spacing to 6 points between paragraphs
. This will help your paragraphs seem cleaner. Also, you want about 1.15 on the line spacing section so you don’t wear out your reader.

Next, right click on the box that says ‘Normal’ in the styles box and choose “Update Normal to Match Selection”. This will ‘set’ your font, size, justification, indentation, and your entire body of text should reformat itself instantly.

Next stop, chapters.  Your chapters should always start on an odd-numbered page, and please, never use page breaks to do this. If you do and later in the story you change something, the page count changes, causing your chapter headings to move and you back tracking to find your chapter headings and moving them to the odd page setting again. Can you say ‘headache’?  To keep this from happening use ‘Section breaks’. In the Page Layout tab click on ‘Odd Page’. When you use this kind of break, Word will automatically format it so that there is a blank page between chapters, making your life a little easier.

Now, how do we get those perfect chapter headings and white space we see in every nicely formatted book?  Your chapter header should start a few lines down from the top, and you should also use a bold font. You could hit enter a few times but what a pain in the you-know-what.  Go to your first chapter heading and right-click on the text and choose the “Paragraph” option. You should see this box:

See the ‘Spacing Before’ section? This is where the program defines how much white space is needed for your chapter headings, and the ‘Spacing After’ is the amount of space between the heading and the start of your chapter.  Format your chapter and set the font size. Use a bold font for chapter headings in 14-size font.  Go back to the home tab, locate the ‘Heading 1’ style, and right click to select ‘Update Heading 1 to Match Selection’.

Now, all you have to do is click the ‘Heading 1’ style, and presto, a perfectly formatted chapter heading, every time. 

Here is what Fracture The Secret Enemy Looks like:

A note here~Pick up a paperback and open it to the title page. Notice the “Title Page” is on the right, flip it and you see the “Copyright Page” on the left, “Dedication” on the right, then often a “Blank” page on the left and “Table of Contents” on the right,” (sometimes, not all books use contents pages these days) and a “Blank” page on the left with Chapter 1 beginning on the right.

Now comes the real fun; headers and footers.

Page Numbers go in the Footer, or bottom of your work and the Author Name and Title go in the Header, or top of your work. Begin numbering as 1 on first page of Chapter 1 and begin Author Name in Header on Page 2 (Left side) with the Title in the Header on Page 3 (Right side), or you can style your Header in this way, Title/author where it will appear the same on both left and right pages.

To set up a header and footer for your document, click on the Insert tab at the top of Word. Now locate the Header & Footer panel. Click on the Header item and you'll see a drop down list appear:

There are several choices but I use the first item on the list, Blank. The top of your page will then look like this:

A new tab appears called the Design tab. The panels on the tab are: Header & Footer, Insert, Navigation, Options, Position, and Close.

The thin, dashed blue line is the bottom of your header, and everything above is the area where you can type your header text. There is already a selected area with the words "Type text" in it but this is the first page in the story. You don't want a header on the first page. We want the headers to start on page two. Look at the Design tab, and locate the Options panel. Check box next to Different First Page:

Now locate the Navigation panel, and click the Next Section button:

The header text on page 2 will now be selected. Now type your title of the story again. Choose a font and font size (I suggest keeping it simple). For the font you choose, click back on the Home ribbon. The Design ribbon will stay open but if you accidentally click outside of the header, and lose the Design tab, just double click anywhere inside of the Header area to get back to it. Now click back on the Design tab when you're done. Your header will then look like the above copy of my book Fracture The Secret Enemy Saga.

Numbering your pages using Footers: You can do the same things with the Footer as you can with the Header. Select the Design tab at the top of Word and click on "Go to Footer":


Word will take you to the bottom of the page and to the Footer area and because you checked "Different First Page", your cursor should be on page 2 of your story. To insert page numbers, locate the Header & Footer panel on your Design tab. Click the Page Number item and a drop down list will appear. Select "Bottom of page".

These are built-in page number formatting. Scroll down and find one that you like. Then click it with your left mouse button. In most books, page numbers are centered at the bottom of the page but there are variances and the choice is yours.

Now if you are satisfied with your headers and footers, you can close the Design tab. To do that, click the Close button:

Formatting Images courtesy of Microsoft Word ©

I hope this information was helpful to you on your journey in getting your book ready for publishing. There is a lot of free information out there to help you keep your sanity on your way and I wish you the best of  luck!

Virginia McKevitt


About Virginia McKevitt

Virginia McKevitt is an American author of fantasy. Her 5 star novel, FRACTURE The Secret Enemy Saga can be broadly described as fantasy incorporated with elements of the paranormal, suspense, mystery and romance. FRACTURE The Secret Enemy Saga is available in paperback at Barnes and Noble and, and as an e-book through Amazon and Smashwords. The Hunted, book two of the Fracture series was released in December of 2012 and is enjoying the same 5 star popularity as book one.

Click on the links below to view Virginia's books in ebook as well as paperback.

Fracture: The Secret Enemy Saga


Barnes and Noble

The Hunted: Fracture the Secret Enemy Saga Book Two


Barnes and Noble

You can find Virginia online at:

Her blog



Romance Novel Center


Fracture Book Trailer

You can learn more about Virginia on the
In the Spotlight page here.

Email Marketing/Newsletters

by Deborah Gafford

I've learned quite a lot (often the hard way) about creating and using author newsletters. Since I have published two print books and three ebooks with two more on the way, I thought it was time to start sending out a newsletter to let my readers, and hopefully others who will become readers, know about my books. Hmm. Doesn't sound so hard. Right?  Unh huh. Keep telling yourself that, honey.

I've never been one to avoid trying something new. When I lived in Japan, I decided it couldn't be THAT difficult to drive there, even if they did drive on the opposite side of the road. I love pizza and they do too, so I would fit right in. Within a short time, I was happily driving all over Tokyo. So what if I couldn't read the road signs? I was seeing all sorts of interesting places. Sooner or later though, I'd want to stop to enjoy new sites, not to mention eat. And there's no better place to eat than a pizza restaurant. Now you're cookin'! I couldn't read the menu, but pizza was pizza, right?

Salivating faster than Pavlov's pups at the sight of hot, chewy pizza smothered in cheese, I gladly sank my choppers into a large slice. Ewww. It's seems reading the signs makes a huge difference when the yummy looking pizza loaded with extra chunks of cheese turns out to be squid pizza loaded with extra chunks of the same. Eyes watering, I frantically searched for a large napkin as my teeth sprang apart, refusing to chew the fish-flavored silly putty that seemed to grow larger the longer it was in my mouth. How in Hannah was I going to get out of my bungling blunder with no heavy-duty "squid rated" paper depository in sight? Ah, but that's a story for another day. Suffice to say, I decided to curtail my adventures slightly until I learned a few things.

It's been several years, but you'd think I'd still remember the squid before my unknowing enthusiasm led me to impulsively dive head-first into the vast Internet newsletter ocean. But this was different. Within minutes, I found dozens of author newsletters. This was going to be a piece of cake.

Many hours and mental cramps later, I realized I was in over my head and waded out of the deep end of the Internet. Whoa, baby. I needed to do serious research on newsletters and their requirements as well as hosting companies, prices, and features before I began writing my monthly circular of informative but ever so witty tidings.

Okay, fasten your seat belts. Come along with me as I head down the newsletter highway! To start, do a Google search for "newsletter hosts". You'll find a huge assortment of sites and apps for templates, writing, sending and hosting newsletters.

Before you become overwhelmed, narrow down the choices by adding the word "free" to your search. Ah ha! The greatly diminished list suggests most newsletter hosting companies require payment. Click on a few and you'll find some with exorbitant fees and lengthy contracts written in legalese but not many which are truly free. In fact, you'll probably find only two.

While it is possible to "host" your own newsletters, I would not recommend it. Besides not having access to user-friendly forms, templates and helpful resources for questions when you have problems, you'll quickly run into difficulty with your email provider when it sees you sending dozens of the same email. Uh oh. It's likely to determine you're spamming and not send them out, or if they should go out, many may bounce back as undeliverable. Worse yet, recipients may mark them as spam and then you're really in a mess. It's that squid pizza scenario all over again.

Doing everything strictly on your own is like driving without a clue to where you're going. Hey, I said I was adventurous, not a Rhodes Scholar. It seems certain words in subject lines as well as certain images or text within a message tend to flag an email as spam. Learning about this and what to avoid will help your email newsletters arrive safely in the recipient's email box. Hint: Don't use the word Viagra in your Newsletter or it will uh, fall short of its destination. More importantly and certainly more technical, are special "tags" and html "secret codes" called SPF and DKIM in email which the receiving site views to decide whether your newsletter is spam or not. In very non-technical terms, a code such as SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is an email sender validation system used to detect spam by verifying sender IP addresses and other information. You can find a full explanation here on Wikipedia.

Without knowing the "secret code" to allow your newsletters to pass through this all-knowing eye, they will often be considered spam. Too many of those and your email provider may shut you down. Oops, now, you've done it. Have another slice of pizza.

Okay, it looks like using a newsletter hosting company is the way to go. But which one? Save yourself time and money by writing out a specific list of your wants and needs, then search the Internet for companies that meet your list. Trust me on this. You'll find a large variety of sites that promise you the moon, but few will actually get you off the ground. And if they do, you may be flying blind without a clue where you're going.

Like me, about now you'll finally remember the squid, stop and research several sites, then write your list rather than just grab the first site you see. You may realize you want a company that "does it all": gives you templates and forms to use and adapt, keeps an accurate list of all subscribers and updates if anyone should unsubscribe, offers "how to" guidance, includes features compatible with social media integration, has great customer service, is affordable, and explains Google Analytics Integration Statistics "traffic information" about your newsletters. By traffic information, I mean numbers or percentages of how many newsletters were received, opened (and hopefully read), bounced or unsubscribed, forwarded or shared, and had links that were activated or clicked through. The newsletter hosting company I use does all of this and much, much more. I'll tell you about it after I give you some basic information regarding newsletters and hosting companies.

Okay, before you throw your hands up in dismay and decide to send your news by carrier pigeon, sit back and relax while I tell you what I found, which company I chose, and why.

From my list, I narrowed down my search to a handful of sites that looked promising. Keep in mind this is only a fraction of what's out there. On the surface they all look good, sort of like that cheese pizza. You may like a hosting company other than the ones I discuss. It's all up to what you need and whether you want a free account or are willing to pay, and if so, how much. I'll give you some of the advantages and disadvantages for each and the company URL so you can look into it further if you choose. Remember that squid pizza. You want to know what you're biting into beforehand.

YOUR MAILING LIST PROVIDER (YMLP) has free and paid plans. The free YMLP plan restricts you to no more than 1000 email newsletters per month and has a maximum no more than 1000 subscribers.  In order to have people sign-up for your newsletter if you go with YMLP, you may ONLY use their subscription form on your WEBSITE, (no other additional places such as Facebook), and you CANNOT add/import contacts or manually add anyone to your subscriber list yourself. This is a biggie when you are first starting to build up your subscribers list!

Paid plans start at $3.75 up to $175.00+ a month depending on the features/perks and number of subscribers you have and volume of newsletters you wish to send each month. The top paid plan has a maximum of 100,000 email newsletters a month. The paid plans give some additional perks such as Social Media Integration, Google Analytics Integration "traffic information", mail merge to personalize newsletters to the recipient, unlimited image hosting, 30 templates to choose from, and translation into another language.

In my estimation, the disadvantages are: with the free plan, you cannot create your own sign-up form or add it anywhere other than your website. By not allowing you to add it to social media sites, it drastically limits your exposure to new readers. Not allowing you to add/import contacts or manually add anyone to your subscriber list yourself means if you already have a list of readers/followers, you can not automatically include them but rather have to ask them to go through registration perhaps for a second time. For these two reasons alone, I decided YMLP was not the company for me.

MY EMMA has a free TRIAL PERIOD of 30 days. After that, you must choose a paid plan or take your newsletters elsewhere. The paid plans start at $30.00 up to $420.00+ per month. The $30.00 plan has a limit of 1,000 subscribers and unlimited emails per month. The top plan has a limit of 75,000 subscribers and unlimited emails per month. With EMMA, all plans include all of the same perks. Some of their perks are: 117 free email templates, drag and drop editor, unlimited image hosting, unlimited sign-up forms, social media integration, and Google Analytics.

The main disadvantages I found are it does not truly have a free plan, the lowest fee is $30.00 a month which can add up quickly, and the limited number of allowed subscribers you may have, even with the top plan, is much less than with some other companies which offer thousands more. Although MY EMMA offers several good features, in my opinion, it was not the best for my needs so I did not choose it.

CONSTANT CONTACT has a 60 day free TRIAL PERIOD, then you must choose a paid plan from $15.00 up to $150.00+ per month or find another newsletter hosting company. The free trial plan allows no more than 100 email addresses (subscribers) which is extremely low. For the $15.00 plan, you have a maximum of 500 email addresses (subscribers). For $150.00+, you can have up to 25,000 email addresses. Constant Contact offers many services in addition to email newsletter hosting. Some of the products it offers are: email marketing, event spot, social campaigns, and online surveys. In researching CONSTANT CONTACT, I got the impression it was more suited to large corporations than authors reaching out to their readers. Here is what is listed under their email marketing plan: "Email Quick Start, Email Campaign Creation, Email Template Creation, Premium List Service (for $150.00+ a month) and a Custom Footer."

As far as disadvantages, although I could not find the term "contract" listed, their wording about terminating your account sent up a red flag for me. It states, "You may terminate your Constant Contact account at any time by calling Constant Contact Customer Support. There are NO refunds for any fees paid." Also, you may store NO MORE than five images with any plan. If you want to have more, it costs an additional $5.00 a month. Finally, the total number of subscribers allowed is low when compared to other companies. For these reasons, I did not sign up with them.

All right, I've given you information on three different types of newsletter hosting companies that I did not choose. Now I'll give you the two I debated between using. In my opinion, one is very good and one is exceptional. For me, it came down to ease of use, very fast, friendly and helpful customer service, and extra perks not standard in other companies' plans. For people MUCH more tech savvy than me, you might want to go with the one I did not choose. Since the two hosting companies are similar in many areas, I will list some "highlights" and tell you why I chose the one I did.

The two companies that seemed best suited to my needs are Mail Chimp
and Mad Mimi.

Both have free and paid plans. Neither requires a contract. Both have "how-to" videos to explain anything from setting up your account and building forms to creating and sending email newsletters and analyzing their "traffic information". One has good customer service and another has excellent customer service. Both add links to your social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. as well as your blog, website and email. Both have a forward and an unsubscribe link. You can have multi-user accounts in both for different audiences such as groups/readers, promotions, etc.

Mail Chimp's paid plans start at $10.00 and go up from there. The $10.00 plan has a limit of 500 subscribers and the top basic plan allows up to 50,000 subscribers. The paid plans have unlimited emails. According to Mail Chimp's website, "We’ll bill your credit card every month, based on the total number of subscribers in your account, and AUTOMATICALLY ADJUST YOUR MONTHLY FEE as your list grows or shrinks."

According to Mail Chimp's website, their FREE PLAN has: a template gallery, template language (technical lingo), dynamic content, merge tags, RSS-to-email, translation to other languages, Facebook integration, social sharing (links), reports, social stats, multi-user accounts, custom forms, image and file hosting, and Mail Chimp for iPhone.

Mad Mimi's paid plans also start at $10.00 and go up from there. The $10.00 plan allows 500 subscriber contacts with "normal speed" unlimited emails. Their top basic plan allows 350,000 subscribers at 8X normal speed for 1,750,000 emails/newsletters. If you want to go with one of their paid plans, it is a monthly service that you can pay for or cancel at any time, NO EXTRA FEES OR "ADJUSTED COSTS" and they do give refunds if you are not satisfied.

Another thing that might be especially helpful for writers and bloggers is their RSS to email service. It is a great alternative to Feedburner and Google Reader (which will soon no longer be offered).

Their free plan lets you store 2,500 subscriber contacts and send 12,500 emails per month! This is a huge increase over some of the other companies, including some of their paid plans. Mad Mimi sends 45 MILLION EMAILS DAILY for over 125,000 customers. They have reasonable monthly fees and exceptional customer service support. According to their website, "Mad Mimi is a monthly service you can upgrade, downgrade or cancel any time."

The following are some of the features you get with Mad Mimi's FREE plan. With the paid plans, you get even more. The free plan includes: Custom Email Composer, Full Deliverability Service (that magic SPF "secret code" to assure your newsletter gets through rather than being flagged as spam), Full Privacy and Security (secure enough to use as a store or business link), Full Audience (subscriber list) Management (to handle/update all of your subscriber lists), Image Hosting (limit of 25), Reporting and Tracking ("traffic information"), Add-ons (Web forms, Facebook sign-up form, Social links icons, Sign-up IPs, Display names so readers will know which lists they are on, RSS to Email, Google Analytics, and Third-Party Integrations (SurveyMonkey, Salesforce, etc.).

RSS to Email is a fantastic feature for writers and bloggers. With it, you can convert your blog posts to great newsletters and automatically send them to your subscribers. You can decide when and how often your blog/newsletters will be sent as well as what style and theme you wish to use.

Here are some important facts about Mad Mimi:



3. They publish blog posts regularly.

4. Their drag and drop newsletter composer is TRULY EASY TO USE and needs NO HTML KNOWLEDGE. With it, you can easily add and move sections of text, images, and headings as well as link text and images to sites on the Internet. 

5. Mad Mimi's owners and CEO are very involved with the day to day operations and often write customers to help them with questions they have asked.

6. They have a YouTube channel with how-to videos in addition to the videos on their website.

7. You can find them on Twitter .

8. You can find them on Facebook.

Okay, now that your eyes have glazed over and facts are leaking out of your ears, let me cut to the chase. For budgetary reasons, I decided to start with a free account. I could always upgrade to a paid account later after I decided if I was satisfied with the newsletter hosting company. To get an idea of which company would suit my needs best, I opened a free account with Mail Chimp and Mad Mimi and began studying their "systems".

*For me, trying to create, post and use Mail Chimp's subscriber sign-up forms were extremely difficult and trying to add people to the list was very confusing, if not impossible. *Again, I am only giving my opinion as a non-technical user. More skilled users might not find these to be a problem. Also, I did not care for the monthly fee automatically changing depending on number of subscribers. I learned my lesson with the squid pizza. I want to know what I'm getting beforehand. A fee that may change every month has the potential to make it difficult to follow a budget and I didn't like the possibility of a big surprise on my credit card at the end of the month.

In the end, I decided to go with Mad Mimi simply because, for me, it was MUCH easier to understand and use. Their sign-up forms are easy to understand and create, are totally customizable and can be added to your website and social media. There are many great newsletter templates, all easily customized. If you do not have a banner for your newsletter, the Mad Mimi staff will help create one for you. You can even choose colors, fonts and images to match your website. Drag and drop as well as cut and paste work very well on the templates and they have a terrific button that allows you to UNDO an action.

As a newbie to creating and using a newsletter template, I found the UNDO button invaluable when I did something that deleted all my previous work. Looking up from the keyboard and realizing all my writing and images have just disappeared is not a fun experience! It ranks right up there with eating squid pizza!

Another reason I chose to go with Mad Mimi is not only do their "how to" videos explain the system very well, but several times their customer service answered my email questions within HOURS. In addition, to friendly, prompt and helpful information from employees, I have received personal email answering one of my questions from ONE OF THE OWNERS of Mad Mimi, himself.

Recently, I was very pleased with an additional benefit not even listed in the free or paid plans. Mad Mimi offered a free HOUR-long webinar entitled Marketing Boost: Grow Your Online Presence. Details were given on how to use your newsletters and social media to help grow your readership/customers. Three interesting strategies mentioned were:

1. Pinterest is the third largest social media. With Mad Mimi, you can add a "pin" icon to your newsletter. When readers click on it, it will share your newsletter with Pinterest!

2. If you add your social media icon links to your newsletter, readers can easily find your social media pages.

3. If you add share buttons to your newsletter, readers will be able to share it on their social media!

Besides these terrific tips, participants could call or type in questions during the presentation and they were answered as the webinar progressed. Afterward, Mad Mimi sent files containing all the information as well as all of the visual aides that had been presented.

Because of excellent videos, guides and prompt, knowledgeable customer service, it was quite easy to set up my account, create subscriber sign-up forms, add subscribers from my website, make a template, and finally, write my first newsletter. Believe it or not, I was able to do most of this in a couple days once I learned how. For me, there was definitely some learning to be mastered, but I found the Mad Mimi system to be the MOST user-friendly of all the ones I tried. Therefore, I have become a Mad Mimi customer and very glad I did!

Okay, now that you have a good idea of what's involved in selecting and using a newsletter hosting company, here are some miscellaneous tips and hints that you will need to know about newsletters:

You MUST have a physical address on the newsletter where you "can be reached" for information. According to postal regulations, your author newsletter falls under commercial use so your physical address must be included. This is supposed to help cut down on bogus companies and/or scam artists.

If you are like most authors and work at home, you probably do not want to post your home address as your place of business. To fulfill the requirement, you may rent a PO Box and use that address instead. You can rent one for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time. Refunds are pro-rated if you discontinue it early.

All PO Boxes are NOT created equal! Besides differences in size, (from an XSmall one of 3" x 5 1/2" x 14 3/4" to an XLarge one of 22 1/2" x 12" x 14 3/4"), LOCATION makes a huge difference in price!

Search for available PO Boxes in the size you want at a post office within a mile radius you can live with because the closest one may not be the cheapest. I found the SAME box/service went from $28.00 to $78.00 a year for ones near me! Besides the cost of the PO Box, there is a fee for two keys of $3.00 each.

To get the PO Box, you must fill out a request form and show two types of ID. For some reason, the post office asks for one ID with and one without a picture. The form may be filled out online but you still have to take it to the post office.

While you're at the post office, ask to choose your box as far as position on the wall goes. If you are height-challenged like me, you don't want a box that requires a ladder to reach.

Something else that is not necessarily required, but a good thing to include in your newsletter is a "reminder" to the recipients of where they signed up, such as on your website or Facebook page, etc.

You can choose to use a single or double-opt in subscriber form. A single opt-in adds the person without any other notification so a capcha image is recommended. A double opt-in means someone signs up, then must click on a link in an email they receive to confirm that they are who they say they are and do wish to receive your newsletter. All newsletters MUST have a link to unsubscribe.

To summarize, I would suggest:

1. Look online at newsletter hosting companies, make a list of the services you want them to furnish and note whether their features, restrictions and or requirements meet your needs. *Decide if the company's system is one you can understand and work with. If you are as technology-challenged as I am, you may want to look for a different newsletter host that does not seem to require vast knowledge of technical skills. Decide if you want to go with a free or paid account. If paid, decide how much money and time you have to devote to it. I suggest trying it for free. You can always upgrade to a paid account later.

2. Get a PO Box.

3. Create and post subscriber sign-up forms on your blog or website as well as on your social media pages.

4. Choose or make a template. Incorporate images, website information, links to your social media and share buttons, as well as a link to forward or unsubscribe. Save it as your standard template to use for your newsletters.

5. Open a copy of your template and fill in with your newsletter text. Most newsletters let you type directly on the template or cut and paste text. Make your newsletter fun and interesting to read. Offer a contest, add an excerpt of a new or upcoming book, add some interesting trivia about you or your books, ask for feedback, etc.

6. Announce your upcoming newsletter on all your social media pages.

7. When you have a list of subscribers, send out your first newsletter, then check Google Analytics "traffic information" results.

All of this may sound quite involved and difficult, but trust me, if this so-NOT-tech-savvy gal can do it, you can too. Believe me, it's easier than eating squid pizza!

Best of luck with your newsletters and let me know how they go!


Sources of Information and Images 
in the Romance Novel Industry

by Deborah Gafford

Resources for the romance novel industry are as vast as they are popular and change constantly. As a result, it would be impossible to list all of the resources available to authors, cover artists, book editors, reviewers, promoters, and readers. Therefore, I will list sources I have used and am familiar with and update the information periodically.

Four tremendous sources immediately come to mind which I will discuss briefly. For further information, click on the links.

The sources which are invaluable for romance readers and authors are: Romance Novel Center, Romance Novel Covers, Period Images, and InD'Tale Magazine. Romance Novel Convention is in conjunction with Romance Novel Center and Romance Novel Covers. It hosts a 4-day convention in Las Vegas, Nevada each year for
romance readers and people in the romance industry. For further details, click on the link.

Romance Novel Center and Romance Novel Covers are founded and run by cover model and businessman, Jimmy Thomas. They are great sources for networking with romance readers and anyone in the romance genre industry. Romance Novel Center has a website which offers free profile pages for people in the romance industry as well as readers so they can connect, network and further their interests and work in romance publishing. You will find information on  cover artists, cover models, editors, book promoters and reviewers. Romance Novel Covers
offers thousands of romance stock images as well as custom photo shoots for sale to be incorporated into romance book covers and other romance publishing industry needs. They have images from pretty much any time period, culture or style you can think of. For further details, click on the links.

Period Images is a company which supplies stock photos for romance novel covers as well as all romance related publishing needs. They do custom photo shoots and have a wide selection of stock images for Regency, Victorian, Medieval, Fantasy, Paranormal, Western, Civil War, Highlander, and Georgian time periods and styles. They have a detailed directory of cover artists for authors and publishers to peruse when looking for a certain style of art or technique wanted for their next book. Jax Turyna, one of their cover models, runs a blog which makes interesting reading for anyone who has an interest in the romance industry, whether it is in models, photo images and photographers, or costume designers. For further details, click on the link.

InD'Tale Magazine
is a free online romance magazine and a wonderful source for Indie authors, self and small publishers as well as romance readers. Each month it covers a variety of topics such as: writing, publishing, social networking and branding, author interviews, and book reviews. It hosts the RONE Award contest with the award ceremony being held at the Romance Novel Convention in Las Vegas each year. The RONE Award is given for the best romance book and romance cover in everything from pre-medieval historical romance, to paranormal and contemporary romance. For further details, click on the link.


About Deborah Gafford

Hello. I'm Deborah Gafford, romance author and owner of this website.

I write historical romance and contemporary romantic comedy. If you love stories with romantic heroes set in the Scottish Highlands of long ago, with rugged stone castles and handsome muscle-bound Highlanders who live and love intensely and fight any danger to protect the people they love, then you may enjoy my historical romances. If you prefer romance with a funny side, then my romantic comedy might be for you.

Feel free to drop by and comment on my Facebook Author page. You might be chosen as my next Fan of the Week and receive your choice of one of my ebooks for free.

Find out about my books here.

Sign up for my newsletter. With each newsletter, one subscriber is chosen to receive a terrific gift just for being a subscriber.
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