Tag Archives: query letter

#MondayBlogs When NaNoWriMo is Over

28 Nov

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a lot of fun for many writers, and it can be that stepping stone that forces you to sit down and finish that draft you’ve been trying to complete for years. Whether you hit that 50,000-word milestone or not, I want to congratulate you, because—guess what??—you sat down, you got to work, and you wrote something that mattered to you.

That is worth celebrating.

But many writers might be asking themselves what to do now. Edit? Query? Write more?

The answer will be different for everyone, but here are my three universal tips for NaNoWriMo writers. (And, again, congratulations! You. Are. Awesome. Never stop writing.)

1. Do Not—and I repeat—DO NOT immediately start querying

NaNoWriMo’s goal is to get 50,000 words down. And while 50,000 words is certainly an accomplishment, it’s definitely a first draft. Querying now will only hurt you. In fact, working on a query letter at this point might not even be necessary—because a lot changes from a first draft to the final product—but that’s different for everyone. Sometimes, I like to write query letters before I write a book, just to make sure I understand my concepts and direction. This, of course, never becomes my final query or synopsis, but it helps to have a first draft of everything all at once. That way, I can see how my story changes and shapes over time.

So what are you supposed to do with a first draft?

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month.

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month. 

2. EDIT

Well, first, I normally tell writers to walk away for a little bit. Three weeks might seem like a long time, but it’ll distance you from your work…and your blind love might clear up. This is when you can see your plot holes, flat characters, and other flaws that definitely need fixing. Take word count for example. NaNoWriMo only requires a 50,000-word document, and while this is ideal for MG books, 50,000 words isn’t a great word count for an adult novel or even a YA fantasy. While 50,000 is an AMAZING accomplishment (please do not get me wrong), you’re more than likely going to receive automatic rejections because your word count is off. I know. I know. Word count isn’t everything. In fact, I think pacing matters more. But what’s the brutal truth for debuts? When your word count is off, it tells agents and publishers that you don’t know your genre or market (even if you do). Figure out your ideal word count here—and try to get it there. Don’t bank your entire career on being an exception to the rule.

3. Work on that query, synopsis, and pitch

Your novel isn’t the only piece of work needing attention. Now that you have a complete and edited draft, writing that dreaded query comes into play…and more often than not, query letters and pitches take just as long as editing does. Thankfully, there are plenty of helpful places to learn about this process, like QueryShark and the Query Critique Calendar (where you can get one-on-one help during competitions).

In the end, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point, and you should be proud of your work and accomplishments. But it’s only one part of this wonderful journey. Take your time. Publishing is never a race. And make friends along the way.

Writing should be fun, after all. Try to enjoy all that comes along with it, including everything after THE END.

~SAT

#WW How To Get A Literary Agent

6 Jul

How do I get a literary agent? This is a popular question among aspiring writers, and to be honest, signing with a literary agent is a long and complicated process but well worth it for many. That being said, signing with a literary agent isn’t the only way to get published, but today, I’m only covering literary agents since that was what I was asked when I helped host a writer’s group this past month. Okay, now for the answer.

First and foremost, make sure you have a completed, polished manuscript ready to go. You want to be 100% ready. This means you’ve written, edited, listened to beta readers, edited again, and polished. Now that your novel is ready, you are ready to search for an agent.

1. Research Your Book and the Marketplace

Research, research, research. Understand your book’s genre and two-three great comp. titles. (Comp. Titles = Comparison titles = Recently published books that can be compared to your book, and not huge ones like Harry Potter or Twilight) Think: What books would B&N put my book in between on the shelves? If you can’t think of a comp. title, don’t force it, but honestly, that might be a sign you need to read more. There is always a good comp. title out there.

2. Research Agents and Agencies

Once you understand your book, research agents to see what genres they represent and how to submit to them. MSWL (ManuscriptWishList.com) is a great place to start, but you can also look out for “New Agents” via Writer’s Digest, subscribe to Publishers Marketplace (and Publishers Lunch), or follow agents via Twitter by looking in the Acknowledgements sections in similar books (like those comp. titles we just talked about). An important rule to remember is that agents should never charge you for anything. Agents make money through your royalties once they sign your book. AAR is a great place to verify agencies. So is Absolute Writer Water Cooler. Be diligent and careful.

3. The Query Letter and 1-Page Synopsis

Write a query letter and a 1-page synopsis (and probably a 2-page synopsis, too). What’s a query letter? It’s a one-page business letter that includes your book’s title, word count, genre, comp titles, and a small synopsis, along with why you picked that agent and any publishing credentials you might have. A great way to learn about this process is QueryShark. I’d go as far as to say to submit to QueryShark and see if Janet Reid gives you advice, but definitely try to get advice from credited sources before e-mailing. If you follow agents online, they sometimes open competitions where you can win a query critique. Also, read #tenqueries and #querytip on Twitter. Also, #MSWL is the Twitter version of ManuscriptWishList.com, so you can see what agents are looking for. Do NOT query agents via Twitter. Look up their websites, read about them, and query according to their submission guidelines.

Websites for Finding a Literary Agent

Websites for Finding a Literary Agent

4. Now Query

Once you have a list of agents you’re interested in (and all the necessary materials), query a few at a time (3-4) and see if you get any partials or fulls. (Partials is when an agent asks for 50 pages, while fulls are full manuscript requests.) If not, rewrite your query, and then, try a new batch. If you get partials but no fulls, reevaluate your novel. Use QueryTracker to keep track of who you’re talking to and why and what was said. Generally, giving “exclusives” should only happen if the agent gave you specific rewrites they want you to do, but other than that, shy away from them. Querying is a slow, slow process, and most agents understand you’re querying numerous agencies at once. Just don’t spam and make sure you’re genuinely querying them due to his or her interests. If you get a full, congrats! If you get an offer of rep, double congrats, but in the case of getting an offer of rep, you should e-mail all the current agents considering your work and tell them (whether to close out because you signed or because you have a 2-week limit for counter offers). If querying isn’t working, check out my next tip.

5. Don’t Forget Other Opportunities

This includes pitch competitions on Twitter—such as #PitMad and #PitchWars—and conferences. Here’s a Pitch Competition Calendar. If you can travel, conferences are great tool to network and learn. But there are online conferences as well! If you feel stuck in the query trenches, remind yourself it’s a long process many writers go through, and you will get through it to the other side if you work hard. Querying is difficult, but don’t hesitate to ask for help or hire a credited source for a critique. And, of course, don’t forget my last tip.

6. Finally, Keep Writing!

Most writers don’t sell the first piece of work they ever finished. Most writers don’t even sell their second. Keep writing. It will help you stay focused and moving forward, and if you do get that awesome call from an agent, you’ll be able to share numerous projects. Plus, writers love to write. Give yourself time to continue what you love.

Good luck!

Originally posted in the Facebook writer’s group, Twice the Jennifers

~SAT

Today I have 4 giveaways, but first, check out my latest interview with Discover New Authors

Q:  It is said that writers will always put a bit of themeselves into whatever they are writing.  Is that true for you?  Do you relate to any of your characters?

A:  Most definitely!  Serena in particular is a lot like me.  She struggles with memory loss–and so do I–but her determination to keep her friends and family safe is a trait I hold dear to my heart.  That being said, we definitely have differnces.  Serena is liliterate, and writing from a character’s perspective who cannot read when reading is such a huge part of life was extremely difficult.  I also relate to Catelyn’s love for cats and Melody’s playful imagination and Jane’s steady determination, but in the end, all of my characters stand on their own.

Win prizes this Friday on Facebook via CTP’s Sizzling Summer Reads!

You can win a signed Bad Bloods book, Blake’s teddy bear, two skull flower jars, signed swag, and stickers of hearts and snow flakes. Click here to see a photo.

CTP's Sizzling Summer Reads FB Party

CTP’s Sizzling Summer Reads FB Party

Kindle Giveaway

Kindle Giveaway

Clean Teen Publishing also announced their July giveaway, and it’s epic! They are giving away a Kindle Fire‬ and up to $200 in cash!!! Check out the details and yes, this giveaway is open for International contestants. They’re hosting a Goodreads Giveaway for Bad Bloods: November Rain as well. You can also win a Bad Bloods eBook through the Bookie Monster right now. What did they think of November Rain? “This is one of those ‘you can’t put it down’ books. Thompson is a masterful storyteller.”

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#WritingTips Writing The Back Blurb

11 Jan

 Every Monday I take a popular post from the past, and I rewrite it with new information and approaches. Today, we’re talking about the dreaded back blurb. Why do we dread the back blurb? Well, because it can be the making or breaking point for the reader. That little blurb on the back can be the difference between a reader putting your book back on the shelf or taking your book to the counter to buy it. But there’s no reason to fret. There are plenty of ways to tackle this scenario, and today, I’m sharing one method. I’ll be using my latest novels in Bad Bloods as an example, but you can also check out the original post for a totally different way to try this out by clicking here.

1. Start with a 35-Word Synopsis

This is actually a method many use to tackle query letters, but I love this piece of advice. Summarizing your book into 35 words forces you to focus on the essentials. Look at it like writing an elevator pitch. In this case, you have a pretty direct formula: Character + setting + conflict + stakes. Stakes are the most important, and by far, the most forgotten one. Think about what your character has to lose. What happens if they decide not to save the world? Why should we care about those repercussions? While you’re writing this, you might start with a one-page synopsis or other notes. Keep those! They will help in part two. But, for now, read my example below. If you’re feeling discouraged, you might notice that I summed up TWO books in 35 words or less. In fact, those two books equal 136,000 words, and I only used 34 words. It can be done.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

2. Expand. Be Catchy. Target an Audience. 

See? I told you that you’d need all those notes as you were trying to cut down to 35 words. Now, you get to use those notes again. (But, Shannon, why did you have us cut it down if we were only going to use it anyway? Because…It focused your work.) So, now that you’re focused on the main concepts, you can emphasize main themes. Be sure to focus on the right genre for the right audience. You don’t want to mention love if love is barely in it. You’ll only attract romance readers then, and they won’t be too happy when they realize they’ve been tricked. This means staying true to your work. Don’t try to force yourself into the latest trend. Be honest. Once you do that, you can show those little details that perfect your voice. Example? I’m going to use the expanded version of Bad Bloods, part one, November Rain. Instead of city, I’m going to name that city. I knew I wanted to bring Daniel into the Bad Bloods excerpt, because he literally tells half the book. I also wanted to bring attention to the romance side and emphasize the political part of the story. Do not forget your stakes!

Seventeen-year-old Serena isn’t human. She is a bad blood, and in the city of Vendona, bad bloods are executed. In the last moments before she faces imminent death, a prison guard aids her escape and sparks a revolt. Back on the streets determined to destroy her kind, Serena is spared by a fellow bad blood named Daniel. His past tragedies are as equally mysterious as her connection to them.

Unbeknownst to the two, this connection is the key to winning the election for bad bloods’ rights to be seen as human again. But Serena is the only one who can secure Vendona’s vote. Now, Daniel must unite with her before all hope is lost and bad bloods are eradicated, even if it means exposing secrets worse than death itself. United or not, a city will fight, rain will fall, and all will be threatened by star-crossed love and political corruption.

3. Edit. Get Opinions. Edit Again.

Okay. So you have a draft, or maybe you even have three drafts. It’s time to run it by a few people. If you can, try to have someone who has read your book read the synopsis to see if they believe that it what you should focus on. Try to have people who’ve never read your book review it. Have them tell you what they think the book is about. Now, edit. And have someone review it again. Edit again. But once you get a great one, stick with it. You can rewrite it a million times. Eventually, you have to choose. Once you have that, you can work on other wonderful marketing tools. Know Cassandra Clare? Well, freakin’ email her and ask her if she’d been willing to give you a review quote. (But, seriously, that would go on the front of the book.) Look at the back covers of your favorite books, find their catch phrases, figure one out for your book, place it somewhere bold. Since I’m not yet at this stage in the Bad Bloods process, I’ll refer to The Timely Death Trilogy instead. The back cover of the first book has a catch phrase (Two destinies. One death.), and it has a direct quote from the story (“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates.”). Then, the blurb took place. Review quotes were placed beneath it. Your best bet is to look at the back of other books and mimic what you find successful.

Now publish.

~SAT

Book Haul from Episode 1 of Author in a Coffee Shop

Book Haul from Episode 1 of Author in a Coffee Shop

I’m starting a new series called “Author in a Coffee Shop.” Episode 1 happened this past Friday.
If you’re wondering what Author in the Coffee Shop is, it’s just how it sounds. I sit in a coffee shop and tweet out my writer thoughts while…you know…I people watch…for inspiration.
Follow me on Twitter via @AuthorSAT next Friday at 7 p.m. CDT for the next episode.

Here’s a sample if you missed out:

I hope to see you this upcoming Friday on Twitter!

In other news… you can now add Bad Bloods to Goodreads: November Rain and November SnowI’m also considering leading up to the July releases with short stories of each character joining the “flocks.” A flock is a group of 12 bad bloods that have come together to survive on the streets. In Bad Bloods, there are four flocks, one for each cardinal direction of the city, but only two flocks are left: The Southern and the Northern Flock. Some stories would purposely be left out, but I have six written. If this is something you’d think you’d be interested in reading, let me know! I would start sharing them at the end of February.

Speaking of February, on February 13, I’ll be one of several featured authors at a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas. (More info to come.) I’d love to see you at Bradley Fair!

Also, my awesome publisher is giving away a Kindle Fire right here.

Giveaway-image

Starting your 2016 Reading Challenge? Minutes Before Sunset, book 1  in The Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE: (You could read it on your brand-new Kindle Fire.)

Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:

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Seconds Before Sunrisebook 2:

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Death Before Daylightbook 3:

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#WW Pitch Competitions

4 Nov

Although many of you know me as an author, I work a full-time day job as an editor and marketer. I also give publishing advice and help writers with their websites. It was during this job one of my clients asked me if I had ever participated in a #Pitch competition.

If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry! I didn’t either. Not at first anyway. In fact, I embarrassingly admitted to my client that I once participated in the Twitter feed to talk to other writers without realizing a competition was going on. (This is actually okay, since it’s about making friends, but the Twitter feed is generally for those who have entered or plan to enter in the future.)

All of the Pitch competitions are different, but they generally have a theme, are run by a number of agents and mentors, and at the end, a couple of lucky authors get to skip the slush pile and apply to agents and publishers directly. Most of them you apply to via email (following all the rules!), and then you have daily discussions via Twitter while the agents are picking winners. That’s the basic rundown.

Now, after I talked to my client about this, I told them I would do some more research and figure out how to join the next one and what to do during it. Huzzah! #PitchSlam and #NoQS (Nightmare on Query Street) were taking place about a month in the future. (These events happened in October. Isn’t this time warp thing crazy?) I found the rules via the hosts’ blogs, and I relayed all of the information and deadlines. I told my client everything, but they still weren’t sure. They wanted personal information from someone with firsthand experience.

So…I joined.

At the time I was struggling with approaching my own publisher with my pitch for my latest manuscript, so I figured why not get advice from people in the industry? I was too close to the manuscript—much in a way that an editor can’t edit his or her own writing alone—and I needed help from someone else.

I entered #PitchSlam

One of my favorite PitchSlam tweets

One of my favorite PitchSlam tweets

I am going to start out by saying, I LOVED this entire experience. Not only was there an awesome theme surrounding Harry Potter, but there was also three separate days of events and support from the agents and the community. On day 1, 200 lucky writers received feedback on their 35-word pitch. On day 2, another 200 lucky writers received feedback on their first 250 words. I was super lucky. I was picked on both days, and by the end of the week, six mentors had helped me fine-tune my project.

I was through the roof. And from reading the feed, so were many other writers.

Pitch competitions are priceless. I made friends in the writing community I might not have ever made, and I learned a lot from those around me. I had fun, and I never once saw someone feel defeated by “losing.” Because there is no “losing” in these competitions. There’s just friendship, support, understanding, and teaching.

I highly recommend trying one out if you have a completed manuscript and you’re looking for an agent/publisher and/or honest/professional feedback on your work (or even if you just want to make some writer friends)!

Just to help you out, here is some extra information on upcoming ones:

  • Follow @Michelle4Laughs on Twitter for information on Sun versus Snow, a query competition coming in January. Info.
  • There’s another PitchSlam in March of 2016 as well. Info here. It’s a bi-annual contest. Here’s a list of the PitchSlam Profressors. Follow them for future updates.
  • News on PitchWars: They’ll have news on the next one after the New Year: Info.
  • Pitch Madness starts in February: Info

So get ready for the next one! I’m sure it’ll be fun. And of course, I wish you the best of luck. (And of course, be sure to follow those rules!)

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Things to Do When You’re Suffering from Writer’s Block

7 Sep

Intro:

Writer’s block. Oh, horrid writer’s block! It’s such a common fear (and problem) with many writers, and today’s guest blogger, C.S. Wilde, tackles the topic fearlessly and humorously. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

Things to Do When You’re Suffering from Writer’s Block by C.S. Wilde

You want to fill that blank page so bad, but the juice isn’t flowing.

Feels familiar?

We’ve all been there, but do not fret, fellow writer. There are many ways to turn your lack of inspiration into a ton of productivity!

Fun fact: You usually get writer’s block because you don’t know what to do or where to go with your story. Basically, your muse is telling you it needs time to figure things out.

By the way, muses can be very nasty. Mine in particular loves getting drunk and flying to Vegas every weekend, and she slept with my boyfriend once, so we don’t exactly get along.

Photo provided by C.S. Wilde

Photo provided by C.S. Wilde

Anyway, here’s Things to Do When You’re Suffering from Writer’s Block, or alternatively, What You Should Do When Your Muse Flies to Vegas and Sleeps with Your Boyfriend:

  • Write a new story. Can’t figure out what to do with your current manuscript? Start a new one! You might even find the answers to your old story’s problems inside your new one. *mind blown*
  • Outline your current project. This is usually done at the beginning, but don’t worry, you can definitely do it now. Write down a general description of your scenes/chapters from beginning to end. This will give you the big picture, and having the big picture will help you figure out what to do next.
  • Write a short-story. This is one of my favorites. It’s a fantastic way to gain experience points and perhaps earn some extra bucks.
  • Revise an old story. Maybe it’s time to work on that project left forgotten in the bottom-drawer. Plus, it’s always great to check your old stuff to see how much you’ve improved.
  • Start a blog about something you love. This one will feel absolutely great. An example: I love humor, but I’m not exactly Tina Fey, so I started a humor blog without high expectations, and it does surprisingly well!
  • Write to a friend. I get the craziest dialogues by texting with my BFF. One of our best exchanges: “I shall name my boobs Awesome and Nutcracker. Nut is clearly the badass of the duo.” To which she replied, “I’m naming mine Kim and Kanye.”
  • Engage in forums for writers. You can learn a LOT from fellow authors, and you can make awesome friends who will support you along the way. Here’s a good place to start.
  • Write an article and submit it to magazines. This is another way to add good and old fairy dust to your cv, and maybe earn some extra bucks (plus experience points). The Write Life is a great place to start, and here’s a list of 25 sites that pay for guest posts.
  • Draft a query letter, tagline, or blurb for your book. Seriously, that’s the hardest thing a writer can do. If you manage to go through THAT, you can surely get your story back on track.
  • Write your author bio. It’ll make you feel all fancy and stuff.

The possibilities are endless. And you know, stories are jealous little things. If you start looking elsewhere, they’ll go after your muse and bring her back by the hair. Caveman style.

Take that, Britney! Yes, my muse’s name is Britney.

Cheers and happy writing, everyone!

About C.S. Wilde:

C.S. Wilde is just another author, here to entertain people. She writes about fantastical worlds, love stories larger than life and epic battles. She also, quite obviously, sucks at writing an author bio. She finds it awkward that she must write this in the third person, and hopes you won’t notice.

She exists here, and twitters here.

Want to be a guest blogger? Now is the time to submit. I will be stopping guest blog posts in October/November, but before then, I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

Writing the Back Blurb

8 Nov

Announcements: 

The Messy Owl reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, stating, “A thrilling and entangling plot, full of suspense and action.” Read the entire review here or check out my latest novel by clicking here.

Writing the Back Blurb

As I near the release date of Death Before Daylight, I remember more topics that I can talk about due to the tasks I must complete beforehand. Writing the back blurb is one of these tasks. Oh, yes. The dreaded back blurb. Everyone knows about the summary of text on the back of the book that convinces readers, “Yes. You want this book.” The scariest part relies on the fact that the summary is exactly that – something that could make it or break it for a reader.

The pressure.

So, I’m going to share how I write the back blurb by using Minutes Before Sunset as an example. First, I want to clarify that this is how I write one, and it may not be a method everyone should use. It also might come across as more complicated than it actually is, but that’s because I am breaking it down into five steps, even though – in reality – it feels like one when I’m writing the back blurb. I hope it helps those who are struggling with writing one!

1. Try to write a query letter

A query letter is even worse, right? But I like to start there because it forces me to summarize the novel in one or three sentences. Those sentences end up summarizing everything, but – more importantly – it forces me to get to the bottom of the message, the theme, and the genre. This allows me to focus on those things in the future. Set aside until step 3. (This is actually where I get my “Two destinies. One death.”)

2. Write a one-page synopsis

Oh, how painful this is. (Just kidding.) This is where I write whatever I want to. I explain the novel for as long as I like, and when I’m done, I slowly start to cut smaller parts out until I get it down to one page. Set aside until step 3.

3. Combine Step 1 and 2

This is where I combine everything. Look at the first two sentences you came up with and compare it to the synopsis. What matters the most? What catches your eye the most? What correlates and what doesn’t? Sure, it would be great to mention your favorite side character’s importance, but do they add to the theme more than the protagonist? That first step really helps me make the cuts I didn’t want to make in step 2. (This is where I get most of the information that will be found in the middle.)

The bubbles with numbers have been added, of course ;]

The bubbles with numbers have been added, of course ;]

4. Make it catchy

Once you get the information that you want, twist the sentences around. Think of the infamous Don LaFontaine’s “In a world” movie trailer voice. Or listen to epic music while you write it. Make it fit! Make it intense! Don’t hold back…until you step away for a day. I would warn against making it too epic – because that’s when many create a back blurb that is too abstract to understand – but keep some intensity while also creating some grounding for the reader to get. Step away for a day. Come back. Read it again. Make sure it sets up the reader’s expectations in the right place. For instance, you don’t want to mention love in the synopsis if love is barely in the book at all. That will only cause romance readers to pick it up, and they probably won’t be too happy with your novel if they expected something that ended up not being there. (This is where I add the quote. I add the quote at this point because it becomes my “dun dun dun” but it also helps me focus on the turning point of a plot – the main conflict, per se, and I like to set up the reader to know that for the trilogy.)

5. Edit. Get opinions. Edit again. But decide on it.

Just like a manuscript, get someone’s opinion about your blurb. Edit, and rewrite it, but don’t obsess forever about it. Eventually, you have to decide on something and turn it in. Talking to others might help you feel more confident about the back blurb. I would even go so far as suggesting getting an opinion from someone who had read the book and someone who knows nothing about the book. (This is also where I add the review quotes since I finalize the blurb.)

It’s over! You have your back blurb, and you’re ready to share it with the world. The only other thing I would mention is this: for series, I would suggest remaining consistent. Seconds Before Sunrise has the same parts that Minutes Before Sunset does – the slogan, the quote, the summary, and the review quote. Death Before Daylight will as well…which reminds me. If you want an ARC of Death Before Daylight for review, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I will share your review right here and on my other websites as well!

And best of luck with your back blurb writing,

~SAT

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