Monday, October 24, 2022

Update Your Amazon Book Pages and Author Page

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

There are plenty of promo-related tasks that writers must stay on top of regularly. Because of that, it’s easy to let other tasks slide. Sprucing up our Amazon book and author pages can fall by the wayside while we work on updating our Facebook page or sending out newsletters.

But updating our Amazon pages is both free and easy. And a professional-looking book page can make a big difference when readers stop by.

Here are a few places to consider tweaks:

Your Book Description.  You can make your Amazon book descriptions look better with a little formatting. Use bold face, italics, and different font sizes to catch readers’ eyes. One easy way to do this is by using a free tool from Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur.

Editorial Reviews. Do you have a few good reviews you can highlight? Go to Amazon Author Central and add those to the editorial review section (you can format your reviews with the same tool from Dave Chesson).

Your Author Profile. Have you visited your author page on Amazon recently? Check to see if your posted bio is still current. You can also add photos, videos, your blog feed, and a translated bio for international markets on Amazon Author Central.

The books under your profile. Occasionally, I’ll notice that a newer release isn’t listed under my profile. This is a quick fix by logging into your Amazon Author Central and linking to it there.

Extra content: consider creating A+ Content for your Amazon book pages. A+ content offers you an enhanced product description section and more space on the page to convince readers to try your book. You can use photos and text and bits of reviews. For more information and guidelines, go to Amazon’s A+ Content page. I recommend using Canva to create the content—a free tool for designing promo-related images.

Keywords and metadata. Do a wellness check on your keywords and metadata in your KDP bookshelf. If you write in a series, is your series name consistent for all your books (vital for helping readers find your books)?  When was the last time you updated your keywords? Are there new categories on Amazon that your books might be a good fit for?  

Even for those of us who “go wide” with our books, Amazon is still key to a book’s success. By putting our best foot forward on the site, we can leave potential readers with a good impression.

Have you checked in on your Amazon pages recently? Are there any other types of passive promo you need to update?


Elizabeth is the bestselling cozy mystery author of the Southern Quilting mysteries, the Myrtle Clover Cozy Mysteries, the Village Library Mysteries, and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House, Midnight Ink, and independently.  Follow her on Twitter where she shares writing links @elizabethscraig or at her blog where she offers tips for writers: .  She lives in Western North Carolina with her husband and is the mother of two.

Monday, October 17, 2022

What Publishers and Agents Seek

The mystery writers have been trying to solve for decades—what are publishers and agents looking for? What do they want to see in a query? What are they looking for in a manuscript?

As the senior editor at Dancing Lemur Press, I’ve seen a lot of queries come through. And sadly, most disqualify themselves right off the bat. So, let me outline some things writers need to do to get past that first query and beyond.

Is the query letter done correctly?
  • The title, genre, and word count need to be listed in the first paragraph.
  • The synopsis should be two-three paragraphs long.
  • In the last paragraph, the details—why the publisher/agent might be interested, any other writing credentials you might have, and a very brief one-line bio.
  • All of this should fit on one page.

Does the submission come with all requested information?
  • A properly crafted query letter is usually the bare minimum.
  • Some will request a synopsis or outline. The synopsis should be two-five pages long and an outline (non-fiction) is usually longer, often five to ten pages.
  • Some might request the first three chapters of a manuscript.
  • Some want a marketing plan.
  • Unless they state otherwise, no attachments. Everything MUST be pasted into the body of the email.

Is it fresh material?
  • Sometimes publishers will republish a successful self-published book, but most want to see fresh material.
  • It needs to be a finished manuscript. 
  • The word count needs to fall within a genre's parameters.

Does the submission present a strong query & synopsis?
  • The query needs to provide a strong hook. Something that will grab the editor or agent’s attention.
  • The synopsis must cover the who, what, where, when, and why. The name of the main character should also be in the very first line.
  • For non-fiction, the outline must be a detailed account of each chapter’s contents.

Is there a strong “voice”?

  • A strong voice means the writing has personality and style. It’s what brings a story to life. Straightforward prose is dull, but adding your own personality, flaws and all—that is your voice.
  • The characters must also possess unique personalities, ones that bring them to life and give them depth.

When reading the manuscript, does it contain active and engaging writing?
  • The words and story need to flow, free of abrupt shifts and inconsistencies.
  • The writing must be of publishing quality. Major typos, head-hopping, lazy writing, passive voice, etc.—those should not be present in a submission. (Which is why critique partners are essential!)
  • Writing that’s too flowery or too much “tell” slows down the pace—and often the interest of the person reading it.

Does the manuscript contain solid storytelling?
  • The story must work from start to finish with no glaring plot holes or contrivances.
  • Each genre has its own standards, and a manuscript must hit all the beats. (Or be compelling and fresh enough to carry the story without it.)

Does the manuscript possess fresh ideas?
  • Tropes are common and standard, but a story still needs originality to work. Unique twists and uncommon solutions stand out.
  • It can be a fresh spin on an old idea, such as taking a classic story and turning it on its head.

Does the author have a marketing plan?
  • The days of publishers sending authors on expensive book tours is over. Most publishers expect their authors to do most of the marketing.
  • A writer must prepare a detailed marketing plan, from social media numbers to real-world contacts and opportunities, and list in detail what he/she will do to market the book. Not every publisher asks for a marketing plan, but since most authors are expected to do a lot of the promoting, it’s best to have one.

Is the writer easy to work with?

  • The writer must send exactly what was requested in the submission guidelines. That initial first contact sets the tone. First impressions really do matter.
  • The writer needs to follow directions. When asked to send a partial, send only the partial. When asked to edit or change items, make those changes. When told to set up promotional events, set them up.
  • The writer must possess a good attitude. No one wants to work with a difficult person or someone who is negative. A positive attitude and a willingness to submit are a must.

You’ll notice the first two and the last two items have nothing to do with the manuscript but focus on the writer. Both the writer’s approach and the manuscript itself are vital to the submission process.

If rejections have come your way, examine your process and manuscript. Use this guideline to check every step. And then polish, perfect, and submit again!

Monday, October 10, 2022

How to Use GMC (Goal, Motivation, and Conflict) to Test a Story Idea


For most writers, dreaming up exciting ideas, characters, locations, and situations isn't a problem, because if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s running our imaginations at full speed. But if we blindly run with ideas without testing our premise first, we can end up with a series of events instead of a story.

When this happens, it means a long, annoying revision road. We’ll need to unravel what ties these people, places, and events together, and use that meaning to build a story that pulls readers in and makes them care about the characters and the outcome. As you can imagine, this takes a significant amount of time, and the longer it takes to get a tale into fighting shape, the higher the chance we’ll grow frustrated, become distracted by a new idea, and move on to something else.

Burying another manuscript in the hard drive graveyard is never the goal. Finishing and getting the story into the hands of eager readers is. 

The best way to avoid additional revision is to test your story idea right at the start. One of the best ways to find the bones of your novel is to use Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (GMC). This formula, discussed in Debra Dixon’s book, GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict, is based on three key story elements: 


Goal: What your character wants

Motivation: Why your character wants it

Conflict: What stands in your character’s way


This trio is the foundation for a story—in fact, without them, there is no story. So, when you’re unsure if you have a solid premise for a novel or just a collection of ideas about murderers in the woods, a secret affair, and things blowing up, use the GMC formula as a test: 


A character wants something (the goal), because of a reason (motivation), but something stands in the way (conflict).


Here are a few GMC statements you might recognize from fiction and film. 


Mary wants to reach the coast (goal) because she needs safety and security (motivation), but a forest of undead blocks her path (conflict). ~The Forest of Hands and Teeth


The Grinch wants to ruin Christmas (goal) because he needs peace and quiet (motivation), but the spirit of the season makes the people of Whoville tough to break (conflict). ~The Grinch that Stole Christmas


Seong Gi-Hun wants to win money (goal) because he needs to take care of his family and pay off a huge debt (motivation), but the game he agrees to play turns into a sadistic series of challenges where losing means death (conflict). ~Squid Games


You can see how the GMC formula distills these stories to their most basic elements, and it can do the same for yours, too. Or if you’re still at the brainstorming stage, use GMC to experiment with different ideas about what your protagonist may want, why they want it, and which story-level problem presents the biggest obstacle. Try coming up with half a dozen different story premises and then choose the strongest one to build your story around.


Ready to test your story idea?


Download this GMC+Stakes worksheet sourced from the second volume of The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles. It will help you plan your GMC + Stakes for your plot and character arc.


Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus and its many sequels. Available in ten languages, her guides are sourced by universities, recommended by agents and editors, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, a portal to game-changing tools and resources that enable writers to craft powerful fiction. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.