Posted in For Authors

Author Branding and Yearly Cleanout Checklist

Over in the Facebook group, Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic, we’re looking at cleaning up our author branding. You can join us in the group and catch the Facebook Live when we chat about this very subject. You can also join in with the group during the weekly challenges to help keep yourself accountable. FB Live: Tues 1/7/20 @ 1pm central

There’s a slew of information out there about how to brand yourself as an author, and while I’ve taken some courses on this and am prepared to help in a small degree, the bulk of this post isn’t about how to help you find yourself as an author but is a checklist of areas that you may need to comb over to make certain that the author you’re representing is still the author you are today.

Author Branding Overview: 

Since author branding is a hot topic for many, let’s pause and consider what it is and how you might improve upon it before we look at our checklist.
I’ve heard of 2 basic ways to brand the author: brand the book or brand the person. Here’s the quick of it:

Branding the Books: 
This works really well if you’re a single genre brand. Think Sarah Sundin who writes only WWII fiction. She’s able to share historical tidbits related to her era. Her fonts are typically the same (or similar) because they work well for her style of writing. And since her style and era never change, there are certain visual things pertaining to her brand that never need to change.

Branding the Author:
This can work for either the single sub-genre or the multi-genre author. For myself, it’s essential because I write both contemporary and historical. But what does it look like to brand the person instead of the work?
It’s a matter of showcasing who YOU are and what your interests are (in writing and outside of writing). It’s a matter of establishing what it is that you offer the world through your books and making that known. Even when you’re a multi-genre author, there are certain elements that will always stay the same because each work is written by the same person. I’ll admit, it’s harder to determine what you have to offer when you write for various eras/genres. But the key is to remember that you’re still you and you’ll have to dig WAY deep to figure it out.
For an author like Mrs. Sundin who writes in one era only, they may not have to dig very far to figure out what they mean to offer.

How, or WHERE, do we brand ourselves? 
The answer is everywhere in everything. What I’ve come to learn is that true branding happens in the day to day process.
Take a minute and take a look at what you post on your social media platforms. Pause and scroll through your pages.
If you only ever post about your upcoming novel, then you aren’t branding yourself or your work. You’ve become a billboard.
If you’re posting about your personal life, writing process, books you read, and other interests, then you are in fact branding yourself. The question then is what part of you are you showing the world? One of the quick ways to answer that is to ask your friends and followers (especially followers since it’s our social media accounts that are in question here) what they think of when they think of you. If any of your followers have ever tagged you in something because they thought it would interest you, take note because they’re secretly telling you that they believe this is part of your brand.

Fast and Free Tips for Establishing Your Brand: 
Create a vision or Pinterest board of things that interest you.
Ask your followers what they think of when they hear your name.
Scroll your page (personal and professional) and write down the topics you see yourself posting.
Has anyone ever tagged you in a post? Write that down and put a star beside it.
Look at font and color combos. Which style grabs you the most? (If you’re branding off of your genre, you’d want to work within the realm of what works for your genre. But if you’re branding the person, you get to decide what represents you.)
Talk with your faithful readers and street team and ask them to help you understand which elements are always present in your work.
Scan reviews of your books and look for reoccurring comments. Ex: Is it always uplifting? Always a page-turner? Always swoon-worthy? Etc.
Ask yourself some questions. What message do you most want to share? What is your goal for your writing?

NOTE: After you quiz yourself over what you mean for your brand to be, double-check it against what others are picking up. It may be that you think you offer family-friendly fiction but your readers keep commenting on how edgy it feels. Don’t be ashamed if you’re slightly off on what you meant for your brand to be. Sometimes we think we’re putting one version of ourselves out there but our audience is seeing something different.
If your idea of your brand is different than your audience’s idea then you’ll need to make some changes. Consider if you’re simply not putting your brand to practice? Are you posting regularly about the things that make up your brand? If not, get started.
Consider if their idea of you is more accurate? It may be time to rethink who you are as an author.
Or consider if there’s room to marry the two ideas together.

Fast and Free Tips for Putting Your Brand to Work: 
Remember your brand is where you are!
Post about things other than your release.
When making graphics stick to a style of fonts and color schemes.
When sharing quotes, consider your brand. If you’re the swoon-worthy author, posting the kiss scene makes more sense than the inspirational quote that another author might use.
When designing your website, blog, and newsletter be sure it matches your social media side of your brand. Look for the same color and font schemes.
Consider a posting schedule to keep your brand even. (see tip below)

Showcasing Your Brand Through a Posting Schedule:
This is probably my biggest tip for putting the brand into practice. We all want to stay away from the trap of becoming a billboard. But how do we do that?
The key is to understand that you’re more than the mother of that book you keep talking about. So ask yourself, WHO … Are … YOU? (Am I the only one who heard the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland in my head?) So grab a piece of paper and ask yourself this question, and we’ll use little ole me as an example.
I am an author.
I am a Christian.
I am a history lover.
I am an avid reader.
I am a wife and mother.
I have other interests: tea, Jane Austen, the color pink, etc.

With my list in hand, I sat down and considered how often I want to post. When I blogged regularly, I posted on Mondays. When working on Facebook, I’m posting Mon-Fri. So now that I know what categories I can place myself in and how often I want to post, I assign a different category to a different day.

My blog schedule was:
1st Mon: About my Books (NEVER leave this out! Just don’t make it the only thing you post)
2nd Mon: Spiritual post
3rd Mon: Miscellaneous. It was always personal. Maybe my reading list or favorite books. Or a new recipe I was trying.
4th Mon: Historical post.
5th Mon: Either a day to catch up or skip completely.

My Facebook schedule looks a little different:
Mon: #MondayMorningMugs I share the fun mug I’m drinking out of, give a recap of my life or current project, and ask my followers about something going on in their life.
Tues: Fun day! I share a fun game or silly meme. We see a lot of Austen posts on Tuesdays.
Wed: Spiritual day. Either scripture, quote, or song.
Thur: #ThrowbackThursday For a history lover this is like a holiday every week. Sometimes the posts are connected to my research and sometimes they’re not.
Fri: #FictionFriday I share what I’m reading, spotlight other authors, first-line Fridays, etc.

Keeping a schedule in hand helps me to space out my content. Granted, when there’s a release, things are uneven and I’m posting more about the new book. That’s normal. When there’s a sale or giveaway, we’re going to see an increase in those posts. But generally speaking, I wanted to keep my page interactive and featuring more than my personal novel.
What happens if you can’t keep up with your schedule? Either make adjustments so your schedule matches your posting abilities or pick up where you left off. I’m not always able to post daily on Facebook. But when I sit down on a Thursday morning, hoping to post, I’m not searching my brain for a topic because I already have one. And that narrows down my options and helps me not to waste so much time considering what to post. And because there’s so much of my personal life mingled in, I’m slowing establishing my brand.

Branding Cleanout: 

Because the Writers’ Clinic focuses primarily on content revisions, I wanted to focus on cleaning up our branding content. I broke the tasks down over 4 weeks through the month of Jan. Feel free to work ahead, out of order, or to skip whatever you desire.

Week 1: Bios

If you’re like me, you probably have multiple bios circulating. I have a “serious” one for my Amazon page. There’s a fun one for Goodreads and other sites. And a short serious one for the back cover of my books.
The goal this week is to pull out all of your existing bios. Make sure they currently describe you. Look for typos. Let your critique partners read it to ensure it still sounds good. Or scrap it and write something fresh.
Here are some areas to look for bios:
Amazon
Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
Back of your book
Goodreads
BookBub

Week 2: Meat and Potatoes of Your Brand

This week we’re looking at areas that regularly promote who we are. Check to make sure your image is current. Look for areas where you can create something fresh.

Author Tagline or Mission Statement – I was challenged to create a mission statement in one of the branding classes I had taken last year. It was hard work, I won’t lie. But it was so essential. It helped me to see my purpose in my writing and weeks later when I was struggling with one of my drafts, a dear friend pointed me back to my own statement and said that I was lacking the very thing I said I wanted to provide. WOW! It honestly helped to bring me back on track.
What is a tagline or mission statement? Some authors may use these differently but I’ll share how I’m using them.
My tagline is the short and sweet sum of my writing. It’s found on my banner on Facebook and here on the page as well. It reads: Read. Write. Live. And glorify Christ. (preview other authors to see what their short, and typically 3 word statement is about themselves to get more ideas.)
The mission statement is 1-2 longer sentences. It basically blankets all that I mean to say about my writing. Start by asking what you write and why, then keep narrowing that down, being as specific as possible, until you find exactly what you offer and why you offer it.
I recommend taking the time to write your tagline or mission statement, or both! It’s great practice for discovering who you are as a writer. But the key this week is to make sure that whatever you do have posted is STILL accurate.

Take a look at your branding graphics. Check your banners on Facebook and social media sites. Look at your email signature. These are great places to showcase your tagline. If you have one, make sure you’re using it! Also look at the graphic itself. Do you need to create something fresh? Does it match the fonts and color scheme that you said would represent your brand? Does the image itself represent your first novel or all of your novels as a whole?

Look for other areas where a mission statement could go. Is it posted on your blog or page? Did you know that Facebook has a new feature just perfect for a mission statement? Look in the About Page section if you haven’t used yours already. It’s a block on the right side of your page that contains a bonus picture and some room to talk about your page.

Remember the key this week is to make sure what you have visible represents the author you currently are and not the author you started out to be because sometimes those are two different people. I started off writing Civil War fiction but have evolved since then and my plantation-style fence picture isn’t an accurate representation of my writing anymore.

Week 3: Website Details

This week we’re going to take the time to look at the various details on our website (although you may need to do this on other platforms as well). Here are some suggestions of what to look for. Feel free to add to your list.

Double-check your list of Available Publications.
Check your list of WIP if you have those posted anywhere.
Check all of your links. Do you need to add any? Has anything changed?

Week 4: Author Picture

This week is easy peasy. Sorta. 😉

Take a look at your author picture. Is it time for something fresh? Or maybe something taken within the last 4 years?

It may take more than a week to get this one done but if you know you need an upgrade, start brainstorming locations, poses, or your wardrobe. Make an appointment. Or set a personal deadline for yourself.

I hope the overview on Author Branding and the Cleanout Checklist was helpful to you.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Author Opportunity: Writing Together; Courses by Krista Noorman

Krista Noorman is one of the first author friends I made when I started the journey to publication. She’s become a good friend to me over the years and we’ve worked together on several projects. She’s had her hand in my cover art and she helps to grammar edit my novels.

So I’m thrilled to be able to share this opportunity with you. Krista’s heart is to coach and train other authors, and she is opening up her knowledge on self-publishing, cover design, writing, editing, and marketing in her Writing Together Courses. Here’s what she has to say about it:

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Are you just starting on your novel writing journey and wish you had a little support along the way? Or have you already written a novel and are thinking about publishing, but have no idea what to do next? Need a little guidance, but don’t know who to ask or are just too afraid to?

If that’s you, then you’re in the right place.

I was all alone in the writing world when I wrote my first novel, and that story sat on my computer for six years before I did anything with it, partly because I was intimidated by the process and didn’t have someone encouraging and helping me along the way. And when I finally decided to work on it again, I spent hour upon hour browsing the internet, researching my options, figuring out how to edit and publish and do all the things on my own.

If I’d had someone there to ask my specific questions, someone to teach me how to do some of those things and get where I wanted to go faster, it would have saved me so much time.

I want to be that someone for you!

Our time is valuable. We have a million things going on in life and not a lot of time to get things done. Let this group save you precious time and get you to your writing goals faster.

You and your story are worth it!

If you’re interested, you can check out her site here.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Writing from the Trenches: Tips and Techniques from Ten Award-Winning Authors

400YOU … and an Army of Ten!

TEN-HUT! Gear up for your writing with tried-and-true tips from the trenches. Ten award-winning authors share invaluable tips and secrets they’ve gleaned the hard way, offering a broad range of insights and opinions on the best way to tackle subjects such as the following:

Plotting Techniques
Research
Characterization
Villains We Love to Hate
Dynamic Dialogue
Sigh-Worthy Heroes
The Right Heroine for the Job
Hooking Your Reader in the First Chapter
Scene Endings to Lead Your Readers On
Creating a Movie Set
Making your Readers Cry
Deep POV
Copyediting your Manuscript
Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
Marketing for Those Who Hate Marketing

At last … a writer’s tool that provides the experience and expertise of ten authors who’ve been on the front lines of publishing and lived to teach about it: Connie Almony, Lynnette Bonner, Hallee Bridgeman, Louise Gouge, Michelle Griep, Julie Lessman, Elizabeth Ludwig, Ane Mulligan, MaryLu Tyndall, and Erica Vetsch.

My Thoughts: This was a terrific overview of writing. There were so many sections covered that it’s a must-read for aspiring authors. The beauty of it was that it was compiled together by ten different authors so you’re getting the strengths from each author. I found it so helpful that I immediately offered to buy a copy for the aspiring author that I’m coaching.
As a published author, I didn’t really find “new” information but rather a new way of explaining old information which I found really helpful. I kept finding myself quoting something from this book as I pulled my notes together for the aspiring author I was critiquing.
The layout was perfectly arranged so that one point naturally flowed into the next. The beginning opened with all ten authors sharing how they plot their novel. While it did start to feel a tad repetitive with each author giving nearly the same intro, all ten authors had vastly different styles of plotting. I found this section really interesting and I didn’t find any one author who did it exactly like myself, so I certainly walked away with some ideas for things I could try in the future.
I do feel obligated to share a warning for more conservative writers. There’s a section on how to create a great hero which was extremely well thought out and packed full of outstanding material. The author even shares a vast selection of examples from her writing. I’m the sort who learns best by example so I double appreciate that sort of effort. But in this particular case, I found the majority of the examples a bit steamier for my personal tastes. While I wholeheartedly stand by the information, for more conservative writers, I would just caution you that may find yourself skimming. But the information itself should NOT be skimmed over but soaked up instead.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving it 5 stars and highly recommending it to aspiring authors looking for a solid overview and to published authors looking to finetune some areas or seeking a great teaching aid.

~ I received a copy from the authors. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in About the Book

A Peek Inside my Workshop and the Drafts in Progress

I’m giving you a tour inside my workshop today! I want to warn you upfront that each author approaches the writing life a tad differently, so you don’t be surprised. However, I’m sure there will be plenty of similarities as well.

For me: I’ve come to notice that I use two different sides of my brain while I’m working. I have a creative side, that typically feels very free. And then there’s the side that edits everything it touches. The editing portion tends to stress me, so I like to keep at least one draft in progress open that I can pick up and do some freestyle creative work in. But the moment that draft becomes a complete first draft, it shifts over to the editing section of my brain.

The graphic below is the one I’ve been using for months now to show my Street Team the progression of a variety of novels. And here’s a quick rundown of the various steps involved in a novel:

Progress Chart Layout

Plotting: Some authors take more time to plot their novel than I do, which is why the plotting portion is a sliver.

First Draft: This is that freestyle moment that I mentioned. Since I’m not using a strict outline, it really does require a great deal of freestyle work. I listen to my characters, write with my gut, and enjoy the ride. 😉 Or most of it at least. I can and do get stuck from time to time.

There are two major phases to the revision process. The first step is to revise the actual content. And this section is broken into two portions as well. My first goal is to read over my manuscript on my own and make as many revisions as I can spot on my own. Then I begin working with the critique team. I send the manuscript out to a group of readers who return it with some suggestions for ways to better the story as a whole. They’re looking for things like character and plot development. They’re also pointing out areas that may appear inconsistent, unclear, or where the story may lag. I work with their feedback and then often resend the manuscript to see how the story sits with readers. Once I have a draft that I’m confident in and that readers are enjoying, I’m ready for the next phase of revisions.

So it’s off to the editing staff. I work with a group of volunteers who bless me more than I can ever convey. I send it to the first pair of line editors who are poring over the document, looking for grammar errors. Once I make the corrections they’re pointing out, I send it to a second pair. After those corrections are made, I send it to yet one more team. I call them my Spotters. They read the almost ready manuscript and help me sniff out any lingering errors. I make those corrections then read the novel myself for the last time.

Once the manuscript is polished, I’m ready to format. Formatting is always a bit of a headache for me, but I’ll not get into that here. You only have to read my Facebook page to hear what all goes on during this phase. But here, I make a spare copy of the document, then make two more copies. One for paperback and one for ebook. Then I sweat and toil until the files are ready to go. Also during this time, the paperback cover is being designed and I’m test-printing it to see how the coloring works when in print. And once all the pieces are together, the book is ready for publication! The only thing that remains is to promote the novel.

So now that you know the general flow, here’s the breakdown of what’s actually on my desk:

Progress Chart For Blog

As you know, Yesterday’s Christmas releases 11/5/18. Also in the revision process is Dance With Me and The Accident. Dance With Me is currently hanging out with the first grammar pair. The Accident is in between critique teams. I had sent it out once and am not finished with those revisions. And I plan to send it to a new set of readers when it’s ready.

In the writing department, I happen to have a total of seven novels in progress!! I’m not even sure how that happened! I won’t be able to go into too much detail just yet, but I’ll share with you a bit about the drafts currently sitting on my desk.

#2 Art of Love Novel: I’m not sharing the title or the cover until I have the first draft. But suffice it to say that this story has stolen my heart in a special way and I often find myself reaching for tissues while I’m writing it. I really think you’re going to love it.

The Birth of Grace: This is a standalone novel that I had shared with you before. It was inspired by my grandmother and carries a pro-life theme. I’m really looking forward to finishing this one and bringing it to you.

The Hope of Yesterday: Book 3 of A Season Passed. Already readers are eagerly awaiting the completion of this series, and I long to give it to you! Unfortunately, the stories weren’t quite ready to be told so we’ll have a gap in the publication. But fear not, the Lord has given me some other great stories to share in the meantime. But I will tell you that this is Logan’s story.

Yesterday’s Trouble: And Book 4 of A Season Passed is Ruby’s story. In both of these novels, we’ll be in 1885 and we’ll find out what really happened to the Hillman siblings that we met in Liz’s dream in If Only It Were Yesterday.

Top Secret Project: I recently stumbled upon a bit of local history which inspired a fiction story. And as often as I told myself that I wasn’t ready to work on it, the characters came to life and I had little choice but to follow them around. I think I’m going to sit on the details of this one until I have the first draft. But it’s remarkable and a bit different than some of my other novels. I can tell you that it’s set in the 1930s, so this is a different era than I’ve been working in so far. But I’m loving it there! In fact, I love it so much that it’s not the only story I’m writing that’s set in the ‘30s.

Top Secret Novella: For the first time ever, I’m teaming up with 3 other authors to write a novella set! We’re all extremely excited about this venture, but we’re not quite ready to go public, so I have to be quiet here too. I can tell you that our stories will be connected. Sadly, we’re all busy with other projects so this is something that we’re kinda playing with on the side at the moment. Lord willing, it will move up in importance at the right time and become a story you can’t wait to read. 🙂

Ancient Words Spin-Off: I had created a set of stories that feature the next generation of Maple Grove, and I’m attempting to write them as novellas and publish them as a set. I’m currently uncertain whether or not these stories can be contained to a short plot that a novella requires so I thought I’d give it a try and see what shakes out. So I’m currently working on the story titled The Runaway Bride which features Frank Harper’s daughter, Louise. As much as this particular set will interest readers, I can tell you now that it’ll be a long wait before these are released. But I am working on them already with the hopes that they’ll be released shortly after books 4 and 5 of the Ancient Words series … which are just sitting off of my “currently writing” list. Lord willing, once some of these are completed, I’ll be back in Maple Grove!

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my workshop. It’s almost wrong of me to tease you with the stories that are still in the early stages of taking shape, but this will give you an idea of what you’re praying for. You’ll have to let me know which of the stories I mentioned that you’re most eager to see come into completion.

Fall Writing Campaign: Now that Yesterday’s Christmas is wrapping up and Dance With Me is spending time off of my desk, I find myself with more writing time and plenty to write! It’s a personal goal of mine to finish one or two of these drafts by the end of the year, but if I don’t make it, hopefully, I’ll finish them by the end of winter. So I’ll be sharing more updates on my writing progress in the weeks to come. And now you know a bit about the drafts I’m working on!

Follow me on Facebook where I’ll give weekly and sometimes daily writing updates during the Fall Writing Campaign. You’ll also find more info on the older drafts here.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: English Through the Ages

305

Lists words, grouped by subject, that were in use in different time periods, including prior to 1150, and in increasingly smaller ranges to the present.

They didn’t offer much of a description, so let me help you out:

This is one of those gems that, as a historical author, I wish someone had told me about sooner. Not only is it helpful, but it’s flat-out fun to read. Ok, I just admitted to having fun reading a dictionary. I’m aware of how that makes me look, but I don’t care. Lol Did you know they were using the word “kicks” for shoes by 1905?! Or “rock” as another word for diamond? Or that “groovy” was in use by 1945?

As with any book, there could always be more information or more words added, but this is a great overview of a wide variety of words, subjects, and eras. Here’s the breakdown:

Eras:
1150
1350
1470
1500
1550
1600
1650
1700
1750
1800
1825
1850
1875
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
The way the eras work, is they’re showing you words that were in use BY that particular era. So if you wanted to know what new words were commonly used in 1955, you’ll look under 1960.

And here are the categories they cover in each era: 
Geography/Places
Natural Things
Plants
Animals
Weather
Heaven/Sky
Energy
Time
Age/Aging
Mathematics
Measurement
The Body
Physical Description
Medicine
Everday Life
Shelter/House
Drink
Food
Agriculture/Food-Gathering
Cloth/Clothing
Fashion/Style
Tools
Travel/Transportation
Emotions/Characteristics
Thoughts/Perception/The Mind
Love/Romance/Sex
Family/Relations/Friends
Holidays
Games/Fun/Leisure
Sports
Professions/Duties
Business/Commerce/Selling
The Workplace
Fiances/Money
Language and Speaking
Contractions
Literature/Writing
Performing Arts
Music
Education
Religion
Society/Mores/Culture
Government
Politics
Life
Death
War/Military/Violence
Crime/Punishment/Enforcement
The Law
The Fantastic/Paranormal
Magic
Interjections
Slang
Insults
Phrases
General/Miscellaneous
Things
Description
Colors
Actions/Verbs
Archaisms

There’s an Index in the back where you can look up a word and find where it falls in the timeline. They tell you if the word is a noun, verb, adjective. With some words, they offer a brief explanation and other words, they believe to be self-explanatory (although, I’ve found some that I would have liked an explanation for.)
The book is helpful in showing you when a word is first documented, but it doesn’t show you how it faded from use or reappeared years later. Take the word “groovy” for example. They claim it was in use by 1945 and yet we know it as a word from the 1970s.
Overall, this a great book to have on hand. Even if it doesn’t address ALL your questions, it’ll address many and/or make for a great conversational piece later.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

How to Use Social Media to Help Your Favorite Author

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I’ve recently found myself in Amazon’s Reviewer Jail, and I’ve learned that I’m not alone in here. This “jail cell” is getting rather crowded. I’m not about to tell you that honest reviews are no longer valid or that we authors don’t care about them or don’t need them. That just isn’t true. But what I do want to focus on are the various ways you can share the work of your favorite author, or the enjoyable novel you’ve been reading, without sharing a review. I hope this list gives you new and easy ways to get active. And for my fellow cellmates, I hope it brings you a new area to focus on now that Amazon has taken away your ability to review on their site.

First of all, for many authors, Amazon is not the only place where you can leave your honest review. Traditionally published novels will also sell on sites such as Christianbook.com and Barnes and Noble. For the self-published author, you’d have to ask since many, myself included, are published solely through Amazon. However, no matter which publisher your favorite author works with, you can always leave your honest review on Goodreads.com. Membership here is free, and you’ll find many book-loving people to share your thoughts with there.

If you blog, you can share your review link on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Since Facebook allows limitless wordcounts in a single post non-bloggers can leave their full review on their wall as well as several book-focused groups within the site.

But I promised you some non-review related things, so here we go . . .

Recommendations:
Honest to goodness, personal word of mouth will go a long way. That doesn’t mean you mindlessly recommend every book. You want to be personal about it. Be sincere. Be authentic. Here are some ways to do that:
1) Post the book’s link on your wall and tag a friend who you think will be perfect for that book. Be sure to let them know why you think they’re a good fit. If you or your friend are the shy type, you could always private message the link and info.
2) There are several book-loving groups on Facebook. Readers in these groups are often looking for something new to read. It’s only a matter of time before someone is looking for something you’ve already read and can recommend.
*If you’re a Christian Fiction reader on Facebook, Avid Readers of Christian Fiction would be a great place to start.  Another happening group is Celebrate Lit Community Forum.
3) Recommend your favorite new read to your book club.
4) Request your favorite author’s books at your public and/or church library.
5) Goodreads has a super easy way to recommend a book with a single click to your Goodreads friends. If you’re a member, be sure to use this feature.
6) Don’t forget, Goodreads also has many groups, most of which are divided into genres. There are lots of ways to share your favorite books there.

Share:
1) One of an author’s main promos is running a sale or freebie offer. When you hear of the sale, be sure to share it! This helps your fellow book friends and your favorite authors. Don’t be afraid to tag or private message your friend when you know that particular book is a great fit for them.
2) And again, don’t forget your book-lovers groups. Several groups allow sale/freebie links.
3) When you find your favorite author offering a giveaway, don’t be stingy. Share the giveaway link on your wall!! Tag a friend. Don’t leave it just on your wall, but share it with your favorite readers’ group as well.
4) Another major promo for an author is a Facebook party or live chat. You’ll be doing them a great favor by inviting interested friends to their party and sharing their party link on your wall. *Again, don’t annoy your friends by inviting them to a party they won’t enjoy. Only invite those who you truly think will be interested.

Novel Quotes:
Probably second to the recommendation of a trusted friend is hooking a potential reader with a quote from the novel. Here are a few ways to do that:
1) Many readers share the first line of the novels they read. Maybe that could be your new first step when you start a book is to share the first line with your friends on Facebook, or Twitter if the line is short enough.
2) Personally, I’m a big fan of the last line of the first chapter. You could shake things up a bit by sharing that line instead. Or share both on separate days.
3) I’ve seen a group of bloggers posting the first line of a novel. They call it First Line Fridays. You might consider hopping on board with them or starting your own ring of bloggers.
4) Share one of your favorite lines after you’ve finished the book. Share on your wall or at the end of your review.
*Just be sure not to share any spoilers!!
5) Many authors put together their own graphics with favored lines from the novel. When you see one, share it! Or if you’re crafty, put one together yourself and share it with the author. You can also pin these graphics on Pinterest.

Personal Novel Pics:
There is nothing more recognizable than the book’s cover. So show off the book you’re reading. You can take the picture of the physical copy or your e-reader with the cover on the screen. Here are a few ideas, but the possibilities are endless.
1) Selfie with the book
2) Take a pic at your child’s practice
3) While reading on your lunch break
4) Outside on a sunny day
5) Inside on a rainy day
6) Sitting on the sofa beside your comfy blanket
7) On the table beside your cup of tea or coffee
8) Your stack of TBR books
I’ll stop there but suffice it to say that readers LOVE to see pictures of books. I promise, they’ll enjoy your pics no matter where you take them. You could take a new pic with each book or make a habit by taking a pic of what you’re reading once a week.

Give it Away:
You can’t beat sharing a book by giving it away!
1) Buy a copy as a gift for a friend who would enjoy it.
2) Donate your copy to your public or church library.
3) Host a giveaway on your blog or social site.
* Just remember that you are NOT allowed to give away Advanced Reader Copies. How do you know if your copy is an ARC? If you received a copy BEFORE the book was released whether through the publisher, author, or some other review program: You most likely have an ARC. They are trusting you NOT to share this copy and to leave an honest review wherever you review books. When in doubt, just ask!

Book Awards and Games:
Here are some other fun and simple ways to share your favorite author’s work.
1) Nominate or vote for the novel on a Goodreads list. These lists get a LOT of traffic. Being visible here could mean a lot to your favorite author, even if they don’t get the highest number of votes. Again, don’t vote willy-nilly. There are so many variations of lists, so it shouldn’t be hard to find an honest fit for your favorite novel.
2) At the end of the year, month, or season, share your top reads with your friends. You can post this on your blog or on your favorite social media site. Be sure to let the author know that you selected them as a favorite. They’ll appreciate it, I promise.
3) Cover games. Again, the most recognizable aspect of a book is the cover. Playing a little game with the cover would give exposure and have fun with your friends at the same time. Maybe pit two covers against each other to see which is the favorite. Or cover up the cover photo and leave one small spot visible and see which of your friends could guess the cover first.

Send a Note:
Okay, so this last suggestion doesn’t spread the word about the novel, but it does spread the love. Consider sending the author a note. You never know what that might mean to them. God may just use you and your humble message to encourage them during a hard week.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any suggestions that I didn’t include?

 

 

Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 3: Finalizing the Cover and Runner-up Gallery

7Over the last two weeks, I broke down the process of a single book cover and shared some special moments behind my photoshoots. Today, I want to fill you in on what happens after the photoshoot.

The first step is to view the pictures. I’ve taken anywhere from 161 pictures to over 300 in a single photoshoot. After thumbing through them all, I sort through them again but this time I pull out anything that jumps out at me.
Then I sort through those pictures and try to narrow them down to one favorite pic per pose. If I can’t choose only one, I don’t stress it yet.
Taking the thinner selection, I thumb through them again and force myself to weed them down.

The Polls are Open: Now that I have a smaller selection, I share these with other people. I’ve shared them openly here on the blog in the past, but have recently moved the voting process to my Street Team as an added perk for them. I ask for their top 3 favorites and the reason why they chose them. It’s always interesting to hear why certain pictures draw people to them. I’ve received some very insightful answers over the years and it always helps me narrow down my search.
From there, I take the top picks and add the cover art to them. I typically have a personal favorite that didn’t get much love during the voting process and I always pass it through this round. It’s been surprising in the past to see what happens. Sometimes the overlooked one makes a great comeback and sometimes it continues to get ignored.
With the cover art (title, name, and series logo) in place, I ask them to vote for their favorite and to tell me why.
I take into consideration which pictures are more popular with the crowd, the reasons why certain pictures are drawing them in, or why some pictures are turning people away, and then which picture speaks the most to me.

Choosing the Winning Picture: I enlarge the photos and stare at them for hours. Lol No, I’m serious!! There’s a constant war of “This one? or That one?” going on in my brain. I keep flipping through them. Often times, I pull aside a close friend and make her thumb through them with me. Together, we pick apart the pros and cons for each and narrow them down even further. By the time I’m sitting with the final 2 or 3, I’m really about to lose my mind. It’s a big decision and I’m the one in charge of pulling the plug. The longer I scroll through them (keeping in mind the voters’ favorite and comments along with my pros and cons), the more obvious the winner becomes. Before you know it, I can’t keep that dumb smile off my face whenever I see my cover. And that’s when I know. Lol
Sometimes the popular vote wins. Sometimes the crowd persuades me to see something special in a picture that wasn’t my original favorite. But sometimes I step out on my own and select a picture that I feel best fits the story even though it didn’t win the popular vote. And you’d think the work would be over, but it’s just beginning . . .

Finalizing Cover Art: Once I have a final picture, the time comes to finalize the cover art. I know that I had mentioned that the cover art was already on the picture. But that was more of a draft. Now it’s time to get picky and make sure every detail is perfect. Unless you’ve done this sort of work, you’d be amazed at how tedious this process can be. Professionals that don’t seek outside opinion may make faster work of it, but since I work with the wise counsel of others it takes a TON of back and forth ideas before the cover art is finalized. Here’s a quick rundown of what it looks like:
Am I using the best font for the title? Or should I choose this one? Or this one? How about this one?
Is the title large enough? Too large?
Is the title in the best position? Or should I move it?
Am I using the right color of font on the title? Do I need a shadow?
Is my name in the right color?
Should I move my name here instead?
Is the series logo large enough? Too large?
How do the fonts look together? If I change this one should I change this one? How about this combination?
Color selections on the series logo: right or wrong? How about this change? Or this one? Does the picture need a filter?
Are there any sections of the picture that are too dark or too light or too blurry? Can it be fixed? Or over fixed?

After asking myself close to 600 questions in a matter of 24 hours, I finally have a cover I can be proud of. Again, this may not be every author’s experience. But this is mine. I hope you have enjoyed the sneak peek.
Was there any part of the process that surprised you?

For a special treat, I’m going to share the runner-ups and the reason each winning photo won. Please remember that ALL photos fall under copyright law and cannot be used for any reason outside of promoting the work of A.M. Heath.

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Where Can I Flee: When it came down to the final two, the question was “Should he look down or up?” One of the other favorites was the shot I took from the other side of the creek. At the end of the day, the “looking up” pose won. There’s a sense of contemplation on Frank’s face and that’s perfect for the story! But I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I flipped back and forth between the up and down pose before selecting it.

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In the Shadow of Thy Wings: The runner-up photos each captured that private moment where Sally is reading a letter from Frank. I didn’t go with the popular vote on this one but stepped out with my own selection based on the unique lighting and the building in the background that sets up the image that Sally had slipped away from her busy life to enjoy this particular letter.

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Out of the Ashes: Again it came down to head up or down. Some of the other favorites included standing poses like this one against the tree. But in the end, the squatting pose best fit the rest of the series and the emotion and angle of the background was a winner. I can’t remember where the popular vote fell with this one.

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His Love Endures Forever: The runner-up on the left was a fast favorite of mine. It was one that I knew would be in the running the moment I took it. One of the perks to the picture on the right was the view of the house. But in the end, I was drawn to the cover shot because the colors seemed to pop more. And this time around, it was also the popular vote.

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Katherine’s Good News: Ahhh the picture of longing. Katherine is someone who had locked herself away but is missing someone. The picture on the left was a favorite of mine. But in the end, the close-up shot held more appeal. Plus, it didn’t require any photoshopping unlike the wedding photo seen in the runner-up shot. 😉

Final Liz

 

If Only It Were Yesterday: Sometimes the hardest shots to pick between are the ones that are nearly identical. That was the problem with WCIF’s cover and that was the problem with this one. While each photo carries a wistful longing in the face of Liz, in the end, I went against the popular votes and selected a picture that I felt captured the moment in an unstaged way. The finished product looked like a private moment which fits the story perfectly.

Mock finished 3

 

Yesterday’s Christmas: On the right was one of the popular votes. And on the left was my personal favorite. Sigh. I still can’t help but love that seemingly private moment between Glenn and Betty. For me, there were so many factors pulling for this one. Even when no one noticed it, I kept it in the running and had nearly selected it as the cover. After sleeping on the decision and praying the whole night, I woke up and selected the winning cover instead. We’ll certainly see this runner-up shot again in the advertisements. But what won me over was the appeal of the close-up shot and the Beauty and the Beast feel of the selected cover. And just in case you missed the memo, Yesterday’s Christmas is inspired by Beauty and the Beast so that factor was a rather important one.

Final Grace

 

The Birth of Grace: There was something just plain right about the picture on the couch. There was a strong coffee shop image here that I loved. I had a couple other poses on this couch up for consideration. And I loved the overhead shot. But in the end, the background was more interesting in the chosen picture versus the couch shot. And I LOVED having the tree in the background since so much of the story revolves around Kaitlin’s ancestors.

It amazes me, looking back at these runner-ups. I can remember being so torn between two pictures. But now, looking at them, I couldn’t imagine choosing anything differently.

How do you feel about viewing the runner-ups? Would you have chosen differently? And most importantly: Head up or head down? Lol

Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 2: The Photoshoot

7Last week, I shared with you the early prep work that goes into the cover. Today, I want to share some of the special moments during the photoshoots themselves.
While walking into the shoot knowing that I have to leave with one perfect picture can create a bit of nerves, I try to remind myself that I only need ONE shot. Here’s a glimpse at what happened that day . . .

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Katherine’s Good News:
Before I had published any book, I had planned to release KGN as a novella. It was meant to act as a prequel that would introduce readers to a brand new author. The rest of the series would come in behind it to fill in what happened before KGN. It may sound strange to publish them out of order but it would have worked . . . except that my critique team had seen something bigger for KGN and had challenged me to turn it into a full-sized novel, which I agreed to do. But at the time, KGN was to be my first published work and therefore was my first photoshoot.
Elizabeth Bowman sat for the cover as Katherine Bakeman. My only requirement was that I needed a pregnant model with brown hair and Elizabeth was perfect. We took the picture in her home and chatted about various things . . . including plastic flamingos. Lol To this day, I think of her when I see one.
Her husband Tyler Bowman walked in while we were working and offered to help me with anything else I needed. Little did he know that I had him on my list for models for Frank Harper. I took him up on that offer on the spot!!
Lesser known fact: Elizabeth has never taken off her wedding ring since the day of her wedding. Since the character is pregnant out of wedlock, we hid the ring in each of the poses.

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Where Can I Flee:
As mentioned, Tyler Bowman sat for Frank Harper. We chose a day in Aug, an extremely hot day in Aug I might add. I packed a picnic lunch and met Tyler and a local Civil War reenactor, Joseph Byrd,  on a Saturday morning. The fellas set up two tents for my backdrop and took them down after the shoot.
The letter on the cover was fictionally written by Frank’s sister, Claire. But the handwriting belongs to Christina Gragg.
Memorable Moment: At the end of the shoot, I sat down on the ground and thumbed through some pictures when I felt something on my leg. I looked down and had this gigantic spider crawling on my leg. Needless to say, I screamed and jumped up – or I tried to. My legs were weak from squatting and standing over the past two hours that as soon as I jumped up, I collapsed. Lol But I couldn’t let that spider get me so I crawled away as best as I could. LOL I was a bit embarrassed once things settled down. But if it happened again, I would have done the same thing.

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In the Shadow of Thy Wings:

Taylor Adcock sat for the character Sally Chandler. We had an early morning photoshoot since Taylor was newly engaged at the time and had a second photoshoot scheduled for that same afternoon for her engagement photos. We mostly had the area to ourselves that morning which is always helpful in a public area.
The letter on the cover was fictionally written by Frank Harper, but the handwriting belongs to Steve Flippo.
Lesser Known Fact: In preparation for her engagement photos, Taylor’s fingernails were SUPER red and had to photoshopped for the cover.

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His Love Endures Forever:
Tiffany Hutchings sat on the cover for Allie Redman. This was my first time working with the Potts on Valley Home Farm but if you’ve read my post last week you’d already know that it wasn’t my last. In this cover, Allie is meant to be reading a letter written during the Civil War so not only did we create a letter but we had to age this one as well. The letter was fictionally written by Sally Chandler while the handwriting belongs to Sherry Williams.
Memorable Moment: Tiffany was under attack by bees almost the entire time. It doesn’t show in the picture but she was dodging them in between shots!

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Out of the Ashes:
Zach Cartwright sat on the cover for Ralph Williams. We borrowed the uniform from a Cavalry reenactor, Guy Hill. This was another one of those sweltering shoots. By the end, both of us were red-faced and sweating. Lol We didn’t have to dodge bees during this one but I did have to dodge cars and people. There is a busy road in front of the cemetery. Some of the shots were angled toward the road so I had to keep an eye on traffic and angle the camera so as to miss the poles and wires in the background.
Fun Fact: We borrowed a wide-brimmed hat to go along with the uniform since they were more popular among the cavalrymen but chose not to use it since it made Zach look Amish. Lol Nothing against the Amish look, but it would have been misleading as a cover image. 😉
Try to imagine the cover image with the different hat. It’s amazing how the smallest details can change an entire image. Another hat-related fun fact for you: I had Tyler try some relaxing poses with his hat resting beside him during Where Can I Flee’s cover shoot. But every time he took his hat off, he ceased to be Frank and became Tyler instead. I eventually got the hint and we left the hat one for the remainder of the photos.

Final Liz

If Only It Were Yesterday:
Shelby Bramblett sat on the cover for Liz Cooke. Since I was offered a full tour of Valley Home during my first visit, I recalled seeing two dresses on display. So I knew where to look when I developed a cover that required an antique dress. In fact, the era in the novel was chosen specifically for the sake of using that dress.
While the Potts were overly generous, there was one major stipulation. We couldn’t touch the dress without gloves. Together, Shelby and I put gloves on and moved the dress, then stipped them off to take pictures, and put them back on to reposition the dress again.
Lesser Known Fact: Because we weren’t allowed to touch the dress, Shelby’s hand is actually hovering above it in the picture.

Grace Final 1600x2400

The Birth of Grace:
Veronica Bardoff sat for Kaitlin Jefferson. We met at the coffee shop that morning during the lull for pictures and, for the most part, had the place to ourselves. Just over Veronica’s shoulder on the far wall is an interesting picture of a frog. Lol I took several shots before I noticed him and afterward purposely angled him out of the shot. However, the tree in the background was a pleasant surprise. After the shoot, we sat down and enjoyed mochas and bagels.
Lesser Known Fact: Veronica’s daughter is playing on the floor during the entire photoshoot but you wouldn’t know that just by looking at the picture, would you? 😉

Mock finished 3

Yesterday’s Christmas:
In the fall of 2017, I set out to create these last three covers. Because there are so many factors to weave together to pull off any single shoot, I feel better about getting them done earlier rather than later. When I started the Ancient Words Series, I hadn’t expected to take a break in the publication so in order to pull off the next three releases, I needed three new covers. I knew up front that Yesterday’s Christmas was going to be the biggest challenge. But on the last Saturday in Oct, we set out to bring this image to life.
For the first time, I worked with a couple and I must say it was a wonderful experience. Real-life couple, Colt and Kayla Davis, sat for Betty and Glenn Tanner. These two played off of each other so well. The prep work was strenuous with this one. After searching the closets of our friends, we had Kayla’s skirt special made while the other items were easily collected. I used my own Christmas tree, some of my strands of lights, my mother’s ornaments, borrowed strands of bubble lights which were hugely popular in the 1950s, and bought a .99 pack of tinsel. Also for the first time, I worked with an assistant. Darla Damron tagged along to help me set up and take down the tree. She was a huge blessing, let me tell you!
Lesser Known Fact: We were working in a dim corner on a cloudy day, making the lighting a total nightmare. Majority of the pictures were trashed during my first viewing. But thanks to Amanda Tero and a little sharpening magic, we found an image that more than passed the test.

I hope you’re enjoying this behind the scenes look at the book cover. Did any of these behind the scenes details change the way you viewed the cover?

Join me next week and I’ll fill you in on what happens after the pictures are taken. AND for a special treat, I’ll share the runner-up covers and fill you in on why each particular cover was selected over the other favorites.

Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 1: Location and Set-up

7Cover art is the most recognizable factor of any book . . . unless the author’s name is so famous that no one looks beyond the name at the picture. Between today and the next two weeks, I want to take you behind the scenes and show you how these covers are made. Now,  you should know up front that this process will differ in some ways from author to author, especially if we’re comparing a traditionally published author to a self-published author. But many of these factors will be the same clear across the board. I’m not going to show you how others do it. I’ll show you how I do it. The first step is the dream stage . . .

Dreaming: Before I can capture an image, I first need an idea of what I’m looking for. Since I’m a self-published author, I have free reign here. It’s not uncommon for me to see glimpses of possible cover art during the earliest development of the story. Not all my story ideas have mental covers yet. But I can pretty well tell which of my story ideas are the most serious about finding paper based on whether or not I’m starting to visualize the cover.

During this dream stage, I think about the overall image of the cover, from the character I’d most like to see in the picture, to the backdrop, as well as the pose. Once I have a good idea in mind, I start creating my “shopping list.”

Shopping List: I make a list of everything that particular cover needs to come to life. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Things like: models with a particular look, wardrobe, location, and props.
Once I have a list in hand, I begin praying about how to gather these needs. I begin “browsing” for people who I know will fit the image I’m looking for. I also brainstorm location options. And in the case of the historical novels, I’m asking around for people with the proper props and/or wardrobe that I can borrow or rent for the shoot. This stage could take months or even years, pending on how soon I need the cover and what all stands in my way. The majority of this time is spent praying and waiting. But once I feel that I have the green light from God to move forward, I start contacting people and pulling strings together.

The Big Day: Since I do my own photography, there is nothing more thrilling or more nervewracking than the day of the photoshoot. Most of these cases, I have already taken pictures of the locations before the photoshoot to give me ideas on the specific areas I could work in as well as any complications I might encounter during the shoot.
Most of the locations “came ready.” However, Where Can I Flee and Yesterday’s Christmas required additional set-up in order to bring the backdrop to life.
Where Can I Flee, In the Shadow of Thy Wings, and His Love Endures Forever required a handwritten letter to grace the cover. These were crafted beforehand. You can’t view them well enough in the pictures to read them, but they ARE actual letters found in the books. And now they’re keepsakes on my shelf at home.

Location: I like to work on location, so every detail is important. When selecting a place to take Where Can I Flee’s photos, I had to pay close attention to my backdrop. We were fortunate to find a seemingly untouched area to work along the Duck River.
In the Shadow of Thy Wings, The Birth of Grace, and Out of the Ashes were taken in public areas where people were walking about. I had to pay close attention to the angle of my camera every time I moved around to make sure I didn’t pick up cars, people, telephone poles, etc.

Travel Behind the Scenes: Just for fun, I’m going behind the scenes to show you where each of these photos was taken. It’s interesting to see the same shot from a different view point.

 

 

Where Can I Flee was taken on Arrow Head Ranch in Normandy, TN. The Duck River cuts through the property. When I was exploring the area, I found a little creek jutting off of the river. The picture on the left was something I took early that morning before we set up the tents. On the cover, Tyler is sitting along the bank of the creek while I took the picture on the little island visible on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

In the Shadow of Thy Wings was taken at Cannonsburg in Murfreesboro, TN. This particular photo was taken behind the row of buildings you see on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

Out of the Ashes was taken at Stone’s River Battlefield in Murfreesboro, TN. There is a Union cemetery on the property.

 

 

His Love Endures Forever was taken at Valley Home Farm in Wartrace, TN. It’s a family-owned farm where you can pick your own berries in the springtime. They have restored this old home, turning it into a live-in museum.

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Katherine’s Good News was taken inside the home of the cover model. I don’t have a location shot for this one. But I do have an interesting story that I’ll share with you next week. 😉

 

 

If Only It Were Yesterday was taken inside one of the rooms at Valley Home Farm. One of the most important factors on the cover was the dress which has also been restored and displayed at Valley Home Farm.

 

 

Yesterday’s Christmas was also taken at Valley Home Farm. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to the Potts family for being so gracious to me and allowing me to take not one, but three, photoshoots in their home. And I have a feeling we’ll see other corners of their property on future book covers.

 

 

The Birth of Grace was taken at a new coffee shop in Shelbyville, TN called Koffee Beanz. The coffee is as good as the atmosphere is lively!

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek behind the scenes. Next week, I’ll share more info about the models and some stories from the photoshoots.

 

 

 

Posted in History

The History Lover’s Playground: Digitized Newspapers

I want to share a website that I ran across during my research. This is for the author, history buff, or those who are bored and looking for something new to read. 😉
 It’s called: Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers

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I found this website when I was searching up headline news during the year 1885. As it turns out, I wasn’t finding much…until I opened this site. 

Here are some of the perks: 
Over 2,000 newspapers (as in titles) to view on the site
Papers from most of the states across the nation
Dates range from 1789-1924
They have a newspaper directory where you can search for a paper they didn’t have on the site that was printed between the years 1690-present.
The site is part of the Library of Congress.
Narrow down your search to a particular year or section of years
Narrow down your search by state
You can view the full paper or just the front page.
Easy to navigate
Great zoom
You can “clip” out images and save them straight to your computer.
It’s FREE!
What better way to find out about the people of another generation than to read their newspaper!!

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I clipped out the sports section of the Memphis, TN paper from 1885. Enjoy!

Now it’s your turn! Go check the page out for yourself if you haven’t already. Make sure to bookmark it so you can return as often as you like!

I’ll be bringing you some of the interesting things I had uncovered during my search in a later post, but for today, I’d love for you to share something interesting with me that you found from one of these newspapers. Happy Reading!!