The RWA Honor roll recognizes RWA members who have a work of romantic fiction that has: appeared on any New York Times bestseller list; appeared on the Publishers Weekly Top Ten bestseller list or any other Publishers Weekly bestseller list based on format, genre, or region; appeared in the top 50 of the USA Today bestseller list; or sold at least 100,000 copies in a single language.
Recently one of our own WisRWA members was inducted onto the RWA Honor Roll: Lyn Cote, for selling over 100,000 copies of a single Love Inspired romance.
An author of more than forty-five books, Lyn’s faith-based romances have been published since 1998. When Harlequin released their new Love Inspired line, Lyn’s breakout novel Never Alone was featured in their very first year. Since then, Lyn’s stories have appeared in the Love Inspired lines Suspense and Historical, as well as being released by Tyndale House Publishers. Regardless of when or where her stories take place, the central message of faith is always there. Lyn says that she hopes her “stories about strong women will transform our thinking about ourselves, God, and others different from us for the better.” Apart from writing romance novels, Lyn has also written articles on the writing process and the CBA (formerly known as the Christian Booksellers Association) market.
Lyn has dubbed herself a “hybrid author,” an author who is both traditionally and self-published. While she continues to publish with houses like Harlequin and Tyndale, she also enjoys the freedom of being able to self-publish stories that editors don’t think will “fit” in the standard market.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lyn for the WisRWA newsletter.
How long have you been writing/published?
I started writing when my daughter was 13 months old and sold my first book when she was about to start high school. That was in the old days before self-publishing. 😊
Can you tell us a little about your first publication experience?
I was at the RWA National Conference in Dallas in 1996 in the only inspirational workshop (the inspirational market was just getting started) and behind me Editor Anne Canadeo announced that Harlequin was opening an inspirational romance line, Love Inspired, the next year. Of course, I suppressed the urge to leap over the back of my chair into her lap. (Decorum with editors is important! 😊) I talked to her afterward and she said what we all love to hear – send me a manuscript NOW. Unfortunately they were only doing contemporary and my Golden Heart final was a historical. However, I did have a contemporary which I sent to her. BUT IT GOT PUT IN THE WRONG PILE – so I didn’t get THE CALL till the next March. My first Love Inspired, Never Alone, #36, came out June 1998.
Are there any awards/recognitions you’ve received over the years that stand out to you?
I am a RWA Golden Heart and RITA finalist, an American Christian Fiction Writers CAROL award winner, two-time National Reader’s Choice finalist, two-time winner of the HOLT, and I was awarded a Romantic Times Award for my book, Dangerous Secrets, set in Wisconsin. The thing that was most exciting of all was an ad in People Magazine for my book Chloe (2005) but I shared that with three other authors. I just never thought I was the People Magazine type – still don’t. 😉
You were an English and History teacher before becoming an author. How has that inspired your stories?
Well, I wish I could say that teaching English has made punctuation easier but it doesn’t because each publisher has its own house style and the Chicago Manual of Style that copyeditors use changes each year. So much for the English teacher part. As for the history part, I am tempted to just do the research but no one pays to read my index cards! That motivates me to get back to writing the story. 😊
Do you have a Biblical passage that keeps you going?
John 10:10 “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” –Jesus of Nazareth
After writing over 45 books, I have realized that each of my books is about the “abundant life” that God wants for us all. What is abundant life and how to gain it? – is core question of all my stories. And to me, giving and receiving love is essential to living abundantly. Why can’t my hero/heroine give and receive love? It’s different for each couple, each love story. I love to break down the barriers that keep them from what God wants for us all.
Any closing thoughts?
I’ve written 46 books now. Frontier Want Ad Bride #45 will come out in August. It’s #4 in my “Wilderness Brides” series set in Pepin, Wisconsin, the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder. #5 in that series, Suddenly a Frontier Father, will come out in February 2018 and that will be my final Love Inspired Historical. You see the publishing industry never gives ANY guarantees. We’re all gamblers without “enjoying” all the flashing lights and wild sounds of a casino. What this means for my career onward, I don’t know. Will I become indie all the way or find a house for another proposal? In the post-Kindle “apocalypse,” all possibilities are open to me. I remain as undaunted today as I was in 1996 when I nearly landed in an editor’s lap. 😊
Kayla Bain-Vrba has been living in daydreams ever since she was a little girl and writing about them for as long as she can remember. It was her discovery of m/m romance that inspired her first published work at age nineteen. When she’s not writing—or is procrastinating writing—Kayla enjoys spending time with her other half, crafting, and planning things to a tee.
Sara Dahmen will be presenting at RWA Nationals in Orlando, Florida on Friday, July 28th from 2:00-3:00 PM during the 20/20 Expert Hour: Historicals. She will be discussing the Historical Kitchen: A meaty look at the roles and power of women in the kitchen: how their status and the era affected the foods they prepared and impacted their world.
When posting on a page, Facebook provides amazing analytics. Under the insights “tab,” you can see your audience reach and engagement for each post. I have over 3500 Facebook followers and it’s near impossible to get more than a 1.8k organic “reach” on my posts (that means my post only reaches half of the users who followed my page). Sure, I could boost a post (pay to have it reach those users), but I’ve found that organic is just fine IF I pay attention to day-to-day user engagement.
User engagement is when someone clicks or comments on the post. That statistic is the other important listed number in the Insights tab. Keeping a higher engagement number plays into your reach.
How does one keep user engagement high? Post content that the encourages users to comment/respond. Think outside the author role. Honestly, my random, weird thoughts tend to really catch people’s attention.
Some of my best post to date:
Muffins vs. Cupcakes
Matched or Mismatched socks?
Those were the complete posts. Three words and four words. That’s it. A close runner up would be the time I asked, “What is the most annoying sound in the world?” Not only did my audience engage, they entertained the heck out of me.
I quickly learned that keeping a mix of fun, interactive posts versus promotional posts meant that the promotional posts would have a better reach. Here’s an example of a post that did reach 3.7k users without needing to pay for a boost.
As you can see in the post, I ended it with a fun call to action. “Friends don’t let friends miss deals…Please share!” The post received over 71 shares which helped the post surpass my page’s organic reach of 3k at the time.
In addition to a mix of content, post often, but not too often. I’ve seen pages that post daily or even hourly and have observed that do not help engagement, but hurts it. The perfect mix that I’ve found so far is every other to every third day. However, different readerships might have different needs. Be willing to play with your content and posting schedule to find what works well for you. And, keep in mind that social media is constantly changing. What works today may not work tomorrow.
What have you found that works well?
by: Melissa Haag
Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.
USA Today Bestselling Author Roxanne Rustand led a discussion on the Creative Process in Wausau on Saturday June 10th at the Jefferson Street Inn.
During Roxanne’s interactive talk she spoke about what she does in the process of creating new characters and their romance and Happily Ever After. Sparking a lively discussion, she shared several worksheets, such as:
One take away was when “getting to know your characters,” ask them the hard questions. Roxanne got this from a Jill Barnett workshop:
If your character is not coming to you, or you cannot nail the right emotional moment,
Pick a subject from below and write for at least 5 minutes (by timer) and up to 20 minutes.
Use one of the following topics in context with your character:
Roxanne: “This is one of my favorite ways to find the information that I’m either writing all around or have forgotten in the mad balancing act of plotting and characterization and scene planning and everything else we juggle.”
We thoroughly enjoyed our morning with Roxanne and took away many great tips to help enhance our writing.
USA Today Bestseller, Lyn Cote is an RWA Honor Roll member and the author of over 35 books. You can find out more about her by visiting her website.
Each month, WisRWA will announce the new books our members have published. We call it New Release Tuesday.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases.
Glamour by Kayla Bain-Vrba
Angel Down by Lois Greiman
Demon Ember by M. J. Haag (with Becca Vincenza)
Captives of the Kratzen by S.C. Mitchell
The Incompetent Witch and the Missing Men by DC Thome
Home Field by Laurie Winter (DEBUT!!)
The WisRWA Chapter Service Award is an award that WisRWA gives out to members who have shown exemplary service to our organization often going above and beyond the call of duty for WisRWA. Members are nominated and sent to the Chapter Service Award chair or chairs who will read through the nominations and choose the winning recipient or recipients. The committee received many nominations and were quite pleased to see all the ways our members are serving the chapter.
To serve is to give above and beyond what is expected. This year, we are fortunate to who have two members whose service stood out to the committee. The women who earned the 2016 Chapter Service Award have certainly done that for the many years they have been members of WisRWA. They were both nominated by multiple members, which made the decision of who to vote for so very easy. Congratulations to Gini Athey and Virginia McCullough.
Here is what your fellow members had to say about our two recipients:
Gini Athey first joined WisRWA in the 1980s. She has been active in the chapter in some capacity nearly every year since. She has served as area contact for the Green Bay area. She chaired the Write Touch Readers Award contest in 2004 and 2005, and again in 2010, and helped write the extremely thorough and helpful procedures that have guided chairs of that contest ever since. She is once again co-chairing the contest, stepping in when help was needed, and acting as the driving force for making sure deadlines were hit so contest results would be ready for the conference. Within the Green Bay area group, she volunteers to present programs or serve on a panel at least once each year, and has also been a judge for the Fab Five contest. She volunteers at chapter conferences, and is currently coordinating the 2017 conference book signing. As active a volunteer as she is, she is also appreciated for her behind-the-scenes efforts on behalf of members. Described as a “quiet volunteer,” Gini is recognized as someone who makes new members feel welcome, or sends private notes of congratulations or encouragement to other members, and who regularly calls attention to milestones and achievements among our members.
Virginia has been a WisRWA member since 2001. Since then she has been an active volunteer within her area and in chapter leadership. One nominator says of Virginia, “I don’t think a year has gone by that she hasn’t volunteered for something.” She has served as area contact. She has chaired the Write Touch contest, and helped create the fantastic procedure manual for running the conference. More recently, she served two terms as WisRWA’s president. Virginia immediately gained the respect of the board, with her thoughtful, calm and insightful leadership. Her approach was to build consensus, and her term saw many successes and innovations, including our new website, and the use of new technology to improve board communications. Virginia is an excellent cheerleader for WisRWA, because she has a strong sense of the history of RWA and WisRWA, and the importance of these organizations to writers and to women. Her fellow members appreciate her can-do attitude, and they also appreciate the genuine affection and care she offers her fellow writers.
Yes, you heard correctly, WisRWA had the privilege to participate in UntitledTown‘s first ever Book and Author Festival. The festival was held in Green Bay, Wisconsin from April 28th through the 30th.
UntitledTown promotes book cultures and books of all kinds including but not limited to graphic novels, children’s books, romance novels, mystery, and non-fiction books of any kind. Over the course of three days, attendees had the opportunity to attend readings, discussions, workshops, and panels in several locations in downtown Green Bay. The majority of these events were open and free to the public.
WisRWA Members Mary Jo Scheibl, Mary Grace Murphy, Virginia McCullough, Steve Mitchell, Lisa Romdenne and Valerie Clarizio presented A Giant Among Genres: A Look at Romance and Women’s Fiction
A panel of local members of the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America (WisRWA) will talk about the ongoing popularity of romance and women’s fiction today. According to book sale statistics, romance consistently leads the genres in sales year after year, and women’s fiction is a major and growing genre in its own right. Romance writing is also the most misunderstood of the genres, but it’s extremely diverse, ranging from inspirational/religious fiction to the steamy/erotic. It can be contemporary, historical, mystery/suspense, or paranormal/fantasy. We’ll answer all questions about our genre, discuss our journeys to both conventional and indie publication, and tell others how they, too, can successfully write and publish romance.
The panel was held on the Saturday morning of the festival at the Kavarna Coffeehouse. We filled the room! Okay, it may have been a small room, but we filled it with readers and writers, and some potential new WisRWA members. The audience asked questions in regard to our writing journeys and processes. Though the panel lasted a little over an hour, the time flew by so quickly it felt like five minutes.
After the panel, we grabbed some lunch and then shot off to the book signing event which was held at the Broadway Center (Old Fort Square). Readers meandered among the rows and rows of tables of writers. During the signing, an older gentleman stopped by and started talking to me and Virginia. As we spoke with him, he shot us that silly grin that men sometimes flash when they talk about romance books and make mention that romance isn’t their thing. Admittedly, I felt a bit miffed by his dismissal of the romance genre, but I kept my smile in place as he moved past me and Virginia and made his way to Mary Grace and Mary Jo. Oddly, by the time he finished speaking with Mary Jo, he’d pulled out his wallet and purchased a book from her. Are you now wondering what Mary Jo said to this man to change his tune about romance books in a matter of fifteen minutes? If so, you’ll have to ask her the next time you see her because I don’t knowJ
UntitledTown did an excellent job putting together this event. It was well organized and well attended by both readers and writers.
Valerie Clarizio is the current Treasurer for WisRWA. She writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. Valerie has placed in the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers Novellas Need Love, Too! contest and WisRWA’s Write Touch contest.
WisRWA would like to offer their congratulations to member, Melonie Johnson, for finaling in RWA’s contest for unpublished writers, the Golden Heart Contest. We chatting with Melonie about her manuscript, Sometimes You Need a Sexy Scot, and what it’s like to be a finalist. Our fingers will be crossed for her in July when the winners are announced.
When a gorgeous guy (in a kilt, no less) literally falls at the feet of “Twitter Babe” Cassie Crow, she does what any American girl on her dream vacation would do: throws caution to the wind and locks lips with the sexy Scot. But when she realizes her hot Highlander is actually the creator of a UK Internet prank show, Cassie fears if the clip of her getting punk’d by a Scottish hunk goes viral, she can kiss her ambition to become a serious broadcast journalist goodbye.
Logan Reid’s star is on the rise. Under consideration to be picked up for a television series in the states, Logan knows this latest stunt is guaranteed to rack up the views he needs to knock his numbers out of the park. When the unwitting player in his perfect pitch cries foul, Logan vows to see the prank go live, even if he has to chase the Yank with the smart mouth and hot lips across the pond to seal the deal. Turns out, the joke’s on Logan once he realizes he’d risk his fifteen minutes of fame for a chance at a lifetime with Cassie. But with her career on the line, is Cassie willing to risk the same?
If any of that sounds familiar—that’s because it is. SOMETIMES YOU NEED A SEXY SCOT was also a GOLDEN HEART® finalist in 2016. To be honest, last month, when my phone rang the morning of RITAGH call day, I wasn’t excited (ok, I was a little excited…it was Alyssa Day on the line!), I was relieved. I had been very unsure about entering the same title in the Golden Heart two years in a row. Yes, the story had undergone revisions after I signed with my agent last spring (Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency), but still, as a previous finalist, did my story deserve another turn on the dance floor? A few things convinced me—the main one being my fellow 2016 finalists who strongly encouraged me to re-enter Sexy Scot. As an unpublished author (who wasn’t even on submission yet) I had nothing to lose (except my $30 entry fee) and everything to gain by entering again. So, I plunked my thirty bucks down and sent my Scot in.
Now I can say I’m thrilled to be a finalist again this year. The best part about being a Golden Heart finalist is the community of authors created within each year’s class. I’ll call it a sisterhood, since both groups I belong to (2016 and 2017) are all females, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Our ages range from our 20’s to 60+. We are from all over the country…all over the world. I have Golden Heart sisters in Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia. After this year’s finalists were announced, last year’s GH winner for Contemporary Romance called to congratulate me—from Sydney! I’m still very connected to many of my GH16 sisters (the Mermaids) and often reach out to them for advice and support, and offer it as well! Having the opportunity to form similar bonds with another fantastic group this year…like I said, it’s the best part of being a finalist.
I am looking forward to heading to the conference this summer, even if my hair isn’t (I’m a curly girl and Orlando in July…hello, humidity!). It’s Disney World—a place of magic—where dreams come true. The happiest place on earth is the perfect place to celebrate romance, and the promise of a happy ever after. Hope to see you there!
Wisconsin Romance Writers of America is delighted to announce the final rankings of both of our contests. We would also like to offer our congratulations to the winners. Winners were announced May 20, 2017 at the Awards Luncheon during the Write Touch Conference.
***denotes WisRWA member
WisRWA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Fab Five Contest:
*** denotes WisRWA member
Monique Headley – Hard Lessons
Christina Hovland – Things I Wish I’d Known
Belinda Brooks – Home Again
Kate Courtright – Time and Again
Kate Courtright – You are Love
Abigail Wilson – The Secrets Within the Tower
Elizabeth Everett – The Rescue of Lord Grange
Carol Potenza – Second Choice
Avery Cove – Fragile Hearts
Elizabeth Everett – The Seduction of Mrs. Smith
Sharee Stover – Believable Lies
Pattie Stockdale – The Measure of a Memory
Kathryn Barker – Catch a Falling Angel
Izzy James – The Shopkeeper’s Widow
Angela E. Arndt – The Beekeeper’s Daughter
Paige Helton – Witch’s Veil
Chris Westwater – Wolfling
Anne Reed – Dark Matter
Kat Turner – Magical Thinking
Chel Chavez – The Heir of Erois (Book 1)
Jeanine Englert – Lovely Digits
Barbara Forlenza – Forbidden Paradise
Barbara Forlenza – Beyond Paradise
Lori Matthews- Hit & Run
Kelly Duff*** – Tame My Racing Heart
Linda J. Truesdell – The Mending Time
Debbie Archer – Pocket Change
Wendi Dass – Liebling
Kristi Rhodes – The Tropical Transformation of Joanie Weston
Vicki Volden – Both
Young Adult/New Adult
Riley Darkes – Serving Time
Rachel Berens-VanHeest – A Gift of Crows
Laura Cumbie – From Here to There
Christine Gunderson – Covenant Park
Monica Headley – Off the Rails
Contemporary – Long
Melynda Price – Fighting For Control
Dawn Tomasko – Tides of Hope
Babette de Jongh – Angel Falls
Contemporary – Midlength
Sara Dahmen*** – Wine and Children
Sierra Hill – Sweet Girl
Valerie Clairizio*** – Family Forever
Contemporary – Short
Stacey Joy Netzel*** – Spring Dreams
Joanne Dannon – Wanting Mr. Right
Brenna Ash – Second Chances
Jade Chandler – Enough
LaQuette – Lies You Tell
Suzanne Eglington – She’s Got The Jack
Margaret Mallory – Claimed by a Highlander
Vonda Sinclair – Highlander Unbroken
Amy Sandas*** – Luck is no Lady
Laura Scott*** – Shielding His Christmas Witness
Aubrey Wynne – Paper Love
Mary Bentley-Lloyd – Pirate’s Treasure
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance Theme
Robin Perini – Forgotten Secrets
Kate Forest – Interior Design and Other Emotions
Bev Pettersen – Millionaire’s Shot
Marissa Doyle- Skin Deep
Marie Johnson – Birthright
Marie Johnson – Ancient Ties
Abbie Roads -Hunt the Dawn
Tara Wyatt – Necessary Risk
Vicki Tharp – In Her Defense
Tricia Cerrone – Glisten
Katherine Fleet – The Secret of Letting Go
j. leigh bailey – Guyliner
Now that I have an audiobook, I thought I’d share how I did it. My process won’t necessarily work for everyone, and that’s OK. But hopefully, reading about my experience will provide you the confidence and willingness to at least get started in the process!
As someone who comes from a production background in television and radio, I know I have a bit of an advantage over where to look for voices and what kind of talent I am looking for. I’m no expert, but I have some working knowledge and connections that I’d be glad to share. I am happy to talk to any of you lovely authors about your questions on how to get into audiobooks.
Not everyone’s journey to creating an audiobook is the same. There are a lot of pre-packaged studio and narrator options available to indie and self-published authors, and while I’m not going to list them all here, a simple Google search will turn up a majority of those choices compiled in one place. An excellent starting source is this article by Allison Schiff on the Publisher’s Weekly blog.
When deciding to produce your book into an audiobook, you need to decide what kind of voice you’d like to have narrate it. Unless you understand studio time and are willing to pay fees for access, I highly recommend you don’t sit at home and record this on your computer yourself. It will result in poor quality audio that will likely be rejected by most outlets. This leaves you with looking for voice talent.
You must know the following:
Once you know what you’re looking for in a VO actor, you may start to search. Some authors prefer to work with a one-stop-shop such as ACX with Amazon, or other larger production houses. They’ll have some great talent voices for you to choose from. I preferred to have more control over my choices as well as my production (as well as save some money).
I also wanted to use non-union talent because it gave me, the “buyer,” far more purchasing power and say in pricing. Union talent will have required costs for their time and set prices for their hours. They’ll also retain some license over the finished work, usually getting a percent of the profits of the audiobook sales in perpetuity (that’s fancy speak for forever). Without the “in perpetuity” clause, you may have to re-up their contract with you after a given number of weeks or months, which can result in a re-negotiation of their pay-out. I’ve worked with the likes of John Corbett and others when it comes to licensing voice overs and it’s a big paperwork headache. A lot of people need to get paid (by you) to have access to a union voice after the usage time has run out.
Thus, I went here to search for non-union voices. They have a ton! The trickiest part is listening to so many and making sure you pick someone who doesn’t sound too much like someone who makes happy-go-lucky cereal commercials for a living. You want someone who is going to take your project seriously and invest some time into it. I find it helps to close my eyes, stop thinking, and really let the voice hit me viscerally as I listen to each one. Go back and re-listen to them several times, giving yourself a few days to digest.
After you’ve created your book project, you can allow people to bid on it, or you can ask your favorite voices to bid. I did a little of both, and was very happy when my first choice said she was in! We signed a very simple contract and I received all rights in perpetuity to the finished audiobook, and gave her a single, one-time flat rate (it came in under $600 for a 85K word book). I did give her a substantial cash tip of $150 afterwards for all the additional work she did on the book, and because I hope to work with her again in the future.
You’ll be listening to the book through at least twice – the first time to listen for errors, and the second time to make sure they are all caught – so plan for many hours of sitting and taking notes. It goes faster than you realize.
Then, make sure you have the files in a few ways – Amazon/ACX asks for each chapter to be sent separately, and has a lot of rules, so when finishing the project, make sure the files comply. iTunesConnect is another publishing option. I also asked for the files in bulk so the book is in two big separate files instead of a bunch of little ones. It’s always nice to have options. You can use online file drops to save your inbox such as DropBox or even Google Drive.
In my next post, I’ll dive into the process of uploading files to ACX.
by Sara Dahmen
Sara Dahmen is the award-winning author of Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper, a metalsmith, American cookware designer and manufacturer, and a mom. You can reach her @saradahmenbooks or at email@example.com.