Ramp up that Tension!


It’s true! But they also want a great story! And tension is a way to keep them with you all the way. 

One of the things I find when I’m judging comp entries is that aspiring authors often confuse tension with pacing or with action. Too much pace with no breaks or undulations will certainly cause tension – but the wrong kind of tension. In short the kind that either lands your book against a wall or your reader in the ER. Ditto for action. With regards to these gently,  building and appropriate placing are the keywords. And sure, while both can help maintain the tension in your novel, they aren’t the tension. 

So, how can you build tension? Below are six things I’ve used that might help.

  1. Create characters that the reader connects with.

Once your reader has formed a connection with your character, tension is already built into that relationship. Think about someone you love or care about.  Now think about something bad happening to that person. Or them being in conflict with another; a conflict that causing them great pain and anguish; impacting on their life… Is your heart beginning to beat faster? A tightness around your chest? Pressure building in your head? No,  put the phone down. You’re not having a heart attack. (I hope!) What you’re experiencing is building tension. It’s the same with our stories. If we’ve created characters the reader readily empathises with, then the more we torture them, the more the reader worries and the more tension we build.


  1. Keep the stakes high

A simple and long held equation for ‘story’ is:

Goal,  Motivation and Conflict   or  WHAT, WHY & WHO.

Broken down this means: WHAT does your character want? WHY does your character need this? WHO (or what) is preventing them from getting it?

 Next of course we add HOW  – as in ‘how’ do they overcome this – and we have story

There is always something at stake when you write a story. It might be the achievement of a life-long goal; the uncertainty of a love relationship; protecting a property that’s in danger of being lost to the family or protecting a child or sibling – or even a parent.  It could be needing to clear your name. It could be the strength to survive or to gain freedom. It could be anything.  That’s not the main point. The main point is that it must be BIG. And it must be plausible. And not achieving it must come at a price. A huge price.  This is teetering on the edge of a precipice tension.

tension 2 dog

  1. Raising the stakes.

Tension in your stories isn’t static. It moves. It swells and abates. And swells again. And each time it swells, it rises higher.

Ian Irvine says of tension:  You can either raise the prize for succeeding, or raise the price of failure – or, preferably, both at the same time.”

And you keep raising those stakes.  Just when the reader takes a sigh of relief because some of the obstacles have eased, ramp it up. And ramp it even higher.

tension 4

  1. The Fear Factor

Fear is a great tension builder. When I workshop young or new authors I have them do a character profile. I’m not so interested in the basics such as looks and how many siblings they have etc, as I am in what lies underneath. One of those questions they answer in the profile concerns the character’s greatest fear. Greatest fear.  Once you have that answer you have a potential part of your plot – because one of the best ways to build tension in your story is to have that character face that fear. What is your greatest fear? The one that brings you out in a sweat  or paralyses you to the spot? Think about facing it.

How much tension are you feeling now?

Everybody has those fears.  Every one has doubts. Your character has those fears – and doubts – so use them!

Tension 1


  1. Add a ticking clock

Nothing builds tension faster than a deadline.  If you don’t get the ransom to the dognapper by 12 midnight, the dog bites the dust. Again, take this back to your own life. What’s it like in your house in the morning as you scramble to get out the house to get to work on time? Maybe you’re super organised – in which case skip this. But if you’re like the majority of people, it’s madness. You have one eye on the clock; you’re running from point to point. You’re doubling up on yourself because you keep forgetting things in your haste. It gets worse:  The dog has hidden one shoe. (In which case, reconsider the ransom payment?) The child has remembered the assignment is due today. You’re at screaming point. By the time you’re out the door you feel like you’ve done a day’s work. Right?


Again, this is tension. Any movie, book or show (Twenty Four?) we watch or read, that has a deadline element has automatic tension built in. And if you do it well, the reader won’t be able to look away.

6. Match the setting to the mood

If you’re building more than emotional tension – or not – use the elements to help build the mood. Make it as difficult for your character as possible. Always. For example is there’s evil afoot or if it’s a dark scary moment, ensure your setting and weather support that for you. A problem in the daytime is a heap less scary or worrying than one at night when you’re alone. Or when it’s raining. Or storming…  Wind howling. And the shutters are rattling and the trees are scraping the windows… 

dark and stormy

I’m sure you could research and find a trillion other ways to build tension and – most importantly –  maintain it. But I hope these six points are of some use. I can feel my BP already beginning to rise as I await your responses…


kaz-profiles-043Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Is No Advice Ever Good Advice?

Hi everyone. Well, in answer to the above question, I guess it’s up to you to decide…

So, where am I coming from? This month we’ve been talking about what we wish we’d known when we began this writer journey.   I admit this topic befuddled me. 


Now, I’ve been around a l-o-n-g time. 72 books. Three agents. Multiple editors. European translations.  Traditionally pubbed for almost 25 years and yes, scratch out my eyes if you wish but I sold the first book I subbed.  Does that mean I knew it all? That I know it all? No. Never, Nada. Zilch. I STILL don’t know it all. And I think if I did that some of the magic and mystique of what I do would be lost to me.

But still, I had a post to write, so I pondered and pondered: what do I wish I’d known back then? No matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with anything worthy of sharing.

That dropping penny…


Then the penny dropped. You see, I was having lunch with a group of close writer friends. Some were contracted for their 30th, 40th or even 50th book.  Another was only 7 books in but her first book went to auction and she’s been at the top of her game since. During the long afternoon, I posed the question, hoping for inspiration for this post. And you know what? Every single one of them looked at me with a blank expression.

And that’s when I knew.

4RyL6Yv.gif lightbulb moment

I knew that if I’d known everything back then, I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve enjoyed. And neither would they. The biggest lessons I’ve learned in life are those I’ve learned the hard way through experience. They stick with you. And you don’t forget them. And what’s more, they were personal to me. Specific to me and my journey. Writing is no different.  The most treasured lessons you’ll learn are those you had to fight to overcome.

So I guess that where the ‘no advice’ comes in..

However, my conscience was raging at me, so maybe these aren’t exactly on topic, but these are two things I always tell others who want to become traditionally published.

  • Enjoy your time and as unpub.

Trust me, getting published is a game changer. You now not only have a career, you have a job. You have to turn up. You can’t decide NOT to write for a while. You can’t decide that you’ll take three years to write the next novel because that’s how long it took to write the first.  I’m not pointing any fingers – though privately I am 😉 – but we’ve all seen brilliant first novels that have had raging success and gone on to become leaders in our field with movie franchises to boot – only to find the follow up novels not so enthralling. In fact they can be downright disappointing. Why? Because that first brilliant novel took years to write and the pubs demanded the next in under a year.  That’s reality.  Publishers buy authors. If they buy you, they saw your talent, they liked your story and they bought ‘you’. They’ve invested in you and the best way to secure success for both of you is to continue with more of the same. And quickly.

Published authors see so many, many striving authors not appreciate that time before publication. That period when time was your own, when you wrote whatever took your fancy and you were the only person it mattered to. I’m not saying don’t work hard. I’m just saying don’t forget to enjoy it.

  • Once you’ve submitted a work, don’t fret by the computer second guessing yourself.

If the work is unfinished – finish it. And polish it.

If it is complete – then do what I did in my early days: each time I put the next submission in the mail  (because it was mail in those days!) I went home and began something else.  It saved all that anguishing over whether the editor liked it. It saved my sanity by redirecting my focus.  By the time the answer came, I was so involved in the next project it didn’t hurt as much if it was a negative response.

You’ll not only have a great distraction – you’ll end up with a notable body of work. It’s a win-win.

Final advice

Writing is a crazy game. An affliction. It’s both a blessing and curse. A blessed gift and a curse because it never stops.  If you truly are meant to do this, you’ll  have no choice.  So don’t beat yourself up, just enjoy it.  Your time will come.


Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults kaz-profiles-022

over a 25 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Instalove – my take.

coffee 1

We live in a world of instant gratification. Instant coffee. Instant noodles. Instant cameras. Instagram!

But what about instalove?  That ‘lerve’ so many YA protagonists seem to fall victim to in so many novels of late.  Does it work? Are you as a reader convinced?  And if we DO insist upon instalove, are we demeaning the female gender?  Are we saying that girls can’t see past a pretty face and hot bod?


Hmmnn… Let’s backtrack for a mo. Because I think I know where the problem lies.

First off: Does every YA novel need a romance?  I was reading an article the other day that says ‘not’. 

And it made me think… After all, each of my YA novels has indeed featured a romance. And the reason I did that is  – quite apart from the fact that I love a good old romance – it is part of the profile of the average teenager. It is imprinted into their collective DNA that between the ages of 14 and 17 that there will be a (fatalistic/obsessive/ intriguing/mild – choose the applicable qualifier)romantic  interest in the opposite or same gender. 

It’s a time when a match is lit to the hormones  – and it’s perfectly natural.  Does that mean every story has  to be a romance? No. Never.  But to me it’s always about world building. And if as the author you set out to recreate the YA world, then there are certain elements that must be included  or it won’t ring true.  In my humble opinion, romantic attraction or interest in some form has to be one of those inclusions.



Even if it’s not your protag who’s  suffering the pangs of unrequited love, it could be a friend. But I kinda think it has to be given a nod, has to be acknowledged or that world won’t reflect that world they inhabit.

And I think there are a lot of authors who think the same way. Except it comes across as : Oh wait! I’ve gotta add a romance!  

Aha! Problem found!

No, no, no!

You know what? You don’t gotta add anything if it doesn’t fit. And that’s despite what I just wrote above. What it must ‘gotta’  be is story first.

Throwing in a romance because you think it should be there – looks – and is – like it’s an afterthought. Plot your romance  along with the other part of your story. After 72 books, I say that I imagine myself hauling a thick entwined rope over my shoulder through the book. Each of those strands is another element of the story, and I weave those elements as I go.  The romance is one of those equal elements.  It’s not a stand alone. It’s woven into the fabric of the story.

However, we’re talking about instalove and so if your story allows for romance, or if it’s a straight romance, then there are ways you can manage the process without asking the reader to accept that one glance across the cafeteria is all it took and boom!  Stars and flashbulbs…  

instalove meme 1

My advice:

  • Take is slow and easy
  • Let them discover each other
  • Find where they connect
  • Let the verbal sparks fly. Get some snappy clever convo going on.
  • Let them see past the facade to what lies beneath
  • Weave this aspect into the story into the overall plot. This isn’t just another issue for your protag to contend with – it’s something that complicates and adds depth to your overall plotline.
  • This is his or her life. In real life we don’t stop and think, oh okay, I’ll stop trying to solve this mystery now and pop on my romance hat because it’s time to think about her/him. Really?  Doesn’t happen. It’s seamless. They overlap.

When it’s action time:

  • Remember they’re new to this. Fumbley and awkward.
  • Awkward is okay
  • Confusion is normal.

teens in love 1

So – I guess my point is that even if the love/romance isn’t your main theme or plot, it can still be a subplot. And why not? What better way to complicate a plot than to also have your protagonist agonising over that significant – or possible significant – other?

But, if you’re going to do it, do it well.  Or I’d be forced to agree with the article author and suggest you leave it out. 

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Tell Me Why? Villainous Motivations

As readers we are eternally curious about the characters who populate stories. But it’s not the surface stuff that intrigues us, is it? It’s the stuff underneath that has moulded them, formed their perspectives – the stuff that drives them. These deeply buried things are what makes a character intriguing.

Villains by definition often top that ‘intriguing character’ list.


Villains do bad things and sure, we want to know ‘who?’ and ‘how?’ but that fades to insignificance beside the question ‘why?’. Why did he poison the cat? Why did she try to destroy Anya’s reputation? Why is he determined to terrify her to the point that she believes she’s insane? The answers to those questions are what will allow us readers to sleep well after closing the last page. We will be sated, satisfied, content.

So, is it ever enough for an author to brush that question away with a cavalier: ‘He/she is just a bad person’?

Short answer? No. Long answer? Never, nil, nada. Hardly ever. 🙂 

Why? (See? You wanted to know ‘why?’ 😉 ). Short answer: Readers want more. They’ll feel cheated. And, just quietly, be really, really ticked off with the author.

villain 3Long answer: True psychopaths are the scariest people ever. And yes, successful books have been written featuring them. But, at the risk of lighting a fuse under any psychopaths reading this, in the literary sense they’re kind of boring. Kill or torture for the sake of killing or torturing? Not going to hold my attention for long. If I’m not wondering ‘why’ then I’m out. You see, very few people are born bad, so the whole psychopath thing can often be a bit unrealistic and harder for the reader to relate. In fact studies back from the 1980s to the present all agree that a fair equation is that around 1% of western world people are true psychopaths – people who act without empathy or conscience.

Okay, so a more favourable equation would be nil%, but I’ll still take 1% over anything higher. Relatively speaking, it’s a low number. (Actually it’s terrifying if I say it in numbers – but it IS low really. Like 13 million psychopaths in 1.3 billion people. Whaaat!!! No, wait. Honestly, rest assured, despite that scary figure you’re unlikely to meet one walking down the street today. Or maybe not. Feeling lucky? Um, excuse me while I just nip out & lock my doors.)

So, what about all the other people – let’s call them villains –  who continue to star in our villain 2news reports or populate our gaols?  The non psychopaths. These people weren’t born bad. For the vast majority, things happened in their lives that affected their perspective and culminated in poorly made decisions to cause havoc and break laws (sociopaths). Or regular people who’ve got some kind of issue that burns them or has turned them.  These ‘things’ are called motivations. I.e,  a motive or reason for their decisions or behaviour.

Like everything else in life, villains come in all shapes and sizes. Moreover, they come in all manner of villainy from the sneaky troublemaker to the morally bankrupt multi murderer/serial killer. Some are charming (in their own evil way). Some slip into the shadowy background and exist in that disregarded no man’s land ‘under the radar’. And some will make our skin crawl. As authors and readers, we’ve met them all because fiction has an unfathomably higher percentage of villains of all kinds than real life. Thank goodness, yeah?

To recap that: In real life, ordinary people will do bad things. Just as in fiction, ordinary people will do bad things. The one thing these non psychopathic villains have in common is motivation; the reason that drives their actions.

Let’s look at some. Caveat: The list below is not comprehensive and there are heaps of lists on the net. However these are all motivations – and all open to your own twists and interpretation –  that I have either used or read, where used successfully, in YA novels.

  • Romance/jealousy.
  • Revenge for a perceived injustice
  • Repayment of past treatment.
  • Desperation
  • Peer acceptance
  • Peer domination
  • Need for Power (based on villains own suppressed power by others in his life)
  • Rivalry
  • Grief/Loss
  • Fear of Discovery
  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Greed

Don’t forget your villain can also have noble motivations – or motivations that began as noble. Most superhero villains were once good guys with noble motivations who somehow got off track. A villain with a noble/likeable side is most intriguing.

villain superheroes

Mix up your villains motivations to add more interest. Maybe your villain can’t help being a villain because he’s trapped?

Motivations are one of the major keystones to your story. They:

  • Reveal & distinguish character
  • Drive plot
  • Build drama
  • Give your story authenticity
  • Provide the impetus for character growth arc.

Motivations apply to every character, not just the villain. They drive the story. Dare I say they are the story. Every action and every reaction of your characters will be the result of their reasoning. And all reasoning is tempered by motivation.

Good Luck and Happy villaining!

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Marketing 101 with Sara Hood

Hey – if it’s what you celebrate – ‘Happy Easter’! I do, and as always we had a lovely time easter bunnywith family. Happy times and happy memories.

Today I will also be announcing the winner of my giveaway! But first, something way more exciting! Read on! 

So, we keep saying but in case you missed it: over here at Aussie Owned & Read, we’re talking about MARKETING this month. Now, I’ve been around publishing for a l-o-n-g time and when I was first pubbed, marketing wasn’t such a big deal.  Your publisher took care of most of it.  But now? Oh wow – where would I begin to elaborate…

Actually I didn’t. Begin, that is.   It took me three seconds to realise I needed help. So, I went to the woman I believe is the bomb for marketing. When prepping for an extensive workshop at RWA a couple of years ago, she  worked with Harlequin author Sarah Mayberry in an experiment to demonstrate how her methods would work.   In one month they grew Sarah’s email list by 900. Not just 900 names – but 900 invested followers/readers.  900 invested readers/followers = 900 extra sales. Plus back sales.

Sara Hood

Sara Hood

Here’s what she had to say:

Hi Sara, I know you’re amazing and inspirational 😉 , but maybe not all our readers would know that. Can you tell us what you do?  

Thanks for that wonderful rap!  My background is in marketing communications. I’m originally a Brit who was offered the chance to work in Australia for three years by my then-employer but within two weeks I knew I was born to live here and wasn’t going back!  That was almost 30 years ago and now I’ve married a local, become a citizen and consider myself a true Melburnian.  I’ve worked with and for companies like DuPont, Yamaha Music, Sony and Ericsson, but like many these days I now wear several hats. I run a business that manages associations in the creative industries, mainly the music industry. We look after membership, admin, social media, member communications, conference management and website development on behalf of the association. Then I trained as a life coach, as you do, but don’t practice because it’s far too scary!  And I have this business called Marketing4Writers, which is to support and coach writers of popular fiction so they can sell more books. Oh!  And I’m attempting to write a romance novel. ‘Attempting’ being the key word.

The thought of having to market ourselves and our products is like kryptonite to the author. We’re terrified of it; the very thought sends us into a sobbing heap. So, how important is marketing to today’s author?

So can I put my life coach hat on for a moment? This is what brought me to set up marketing4writers. It was seeing writers spend hours tearing themselves to bits over ‘this marketing monster’. Getting themselves so upset about needing ‘to do it’ or spending time on it and seeing no results.  Or just deriding it or deriding the publisher for not doing it for them. Marketing doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be scary. And it most certainly shouldn’t terrify anyone or make them sob in heaps. It’s like anything, when you know how it just becomes second nature. A bit like driving a car. My first lessons were horrible! You have no idea how many times my instructor took over the controls. But now I jump into the car and don’t think twice about how to make it go where I need it to because I know how and it’s second nature. The problem with marketing is that bad marketing is very visible and annoying, so people think that’s what they need to do. It’s not.  Good marketing is almost invisible, not because it’s sneaky or manipulative but because you’re talking to the people who want to hear from you, so they don’t think of it as ‘marketing’. And it’s certainly not posting interminably on social media to say ‘buy my book’.

So back to the question: how important is marketing to today’s author? Totally critical.  But you knew that already, right? I’m not sure there ever was a time when you could just write a book and it would magically be discovered and you’d become a millionaire overnight, but that time certainly isn’t now. As we all know, the issue now is discoverability in a way it never has been to the same extent before. There are now almost no barriers to loading a book to Kindle and the problem is that a lot of people who ought not (yet) do. The issue, though, is two fold:

  • Discoverabilty: the right people hearing about and finding you book
  • Quality: convincing people that once they’ve found your book it’s worth buying

Everyone focuses on the first point but the second is also important. You may think what’s the fuss when the book cost less than a cup of coffee but that’s not the point.  What was the buyer doing when they bought your book?  They were buying the anticipation of entertainment.  They sat down to read, investing their precious time, to be entertained.  And then the book let them down.  Now they feel robbed and that’s why then they complain it can be out of all proportion to the actual cost.  Even when the book is free. Readers, though, are now getting smarter.  Having been burned a few times, they are now looking for clues about whether this book is going to be worth investing their time and their hope in. That’s another reason why your brand (author) platform and marketing are so important.


Is it possible to do too much marketing? (Asks she who will never be accused of too much. Too little? Sigh. All day every day.)  

Oh yes, it is possible to do too much marketing. It’s also possible to spend too much money or time on marketing. And it’s also all too possible to be doing quite the wrong marketing.

I loved your RWA workshop with Sarah Mayberry. I would so it all again in a flash – only next time take a day to do it so I can retain it! In that workshop you spoke a lot about Taking Control. Can you elaborate?  

Glad you enjoyed it. It was a blast working with Sarah.  One of life’s good people.

Taking control means nothing more complicated than making a thoughtful, purposeful plan. Too many writers don’t make a plan.  That means they have no idea where they’re going, they have no idea if they’re achieving anything useful, and they have no idea if they’re getting anywhere.  Imagine if your job was to build a bridge across a lake.  Would you do that by throwing in pebbles, one at a time?  The ripples each pebble makes are going to be really pretty, but throwing pebbles into a lake ain’t never gonna make a bridge. Yet that’s what many are doing.

So what sort of plan do you make?  The model I use is called a sales funnel and Kaz asked that question next so I won’t outline it here.  

You also make mention of the Sales funnel. Can you explain?

The sales funnel is a simple model that helps writers think about, plan, implement and review their marketing.  (Review!  So many people don’t review!) It’s about what I outlined above: taking control!

A sales funnel is about recruiting likely strangers (not just any old person) and building a relationship with them of ‘know, like and trust’.  As they get to know you, hopefully they move along the funnel to become acquaintances, friends, fans and then super fans.  People, of course, though aren’t predictable, so some will come in as fans and some will exit as friends.  Some may stick at friends, but progress no further. That’s life. What is also normal is that the numbers you recruit will dwindle as they progress towards super fans, which is why it’s important to be always recruiting. You need to be always bringing in new likely strangers to your funnel.

With a sales funnel you look at every activity you do and assign it a purpose. You add more activities or remove activities accordingly so you have the plan you need. That means it also fits your available time and budget. You optimise those activities, which simply means making them the best they can be.  You then connect everything up so it’s funnelling readers along a path and not just one of those pebbles going into the lake.  The heart of the plan is your website and your email list, but as writers you also have the great benefit of e-retailers, and your marketing plan needs to include optimising your product (the books) and presence in those e-tailers.  That’s part of your sales funnel.

With a sales funnel you work with an end in mind and don’t confusing activity with outcomes.

You set time frames, milestones, budgets and a date for a review. So many people don’t review. Or panic after a few weeks because ‘nothing is happening’ so they dump their plan and switch to another one.  Erk.  
marketing 4 writers You can find a copy of the presentation (on Sara’s site) used at RWA here:


Which social media platforms should the author be focussing on?

Number one is Facebook.  It’s tougher to get results now from Facebook, but that’s because it’s become so popular because it works. So I’d say for social media your number one choice should always be Facebook.  A business page and not a profile.  Yes Facebook has the infamous algorithm, but don’t listen to anyone who say that Facebook is using that algorithm to limit who sees your posts to make your advertise.  That’s not true.  Or that they’re limiting you to 6% of your fans. Nope. Those myths have appeared largely because, as I said, it’s harder to make Facebook work for you now plus there are a lot people out there who want to sell you courses about how to use Facebook. It suits them to blame Facebook.  Yes, you do need to know something about how the algorithm works (and Facebook isn’t going to share all the details with the world because that’s their proprietary property) but a lot of it comes down to you. That’s not comfortable to know, sometimes. But if your posts aren’t getting any reach it means there were better ones out there and those got ‘served’ to your fans instead.  The deck is not stacked against you.  The hard truth is that you just have to get better at this Facebook thing.

So that’s my Facebook rant.  What other platform should you consider? Depends on how much time you have.  It’s much better to do Facebook well than to skimp it because you’re also managing another two or three of even four platforms as well. I’d usually suggest Twitter as your second string, if you have time for it.  I am just discovering the joys of Instagram and that’s fantastic but you need to be sure it’s for you because it is very specific in how it works.  You need to have great images, you can’t add live links and you can’t schedule your posts (easily).  Pinterest is great for creating private boards where you can keep the pics you used for your research or inspiration, and then you can make them public as part of your book launch.

I hope that doesn’t sound too boring or arduous. I’ve tried to summarise what is a day’s worth of workshop and that’s never that easy to do! Those who are organic writers and like to just jump in are usually going cross-eyed at this point. The reality is that you can do that when marketing, but it makes it so much harder and more frustrating. Sometimes a bit of planning is a good idea. Can you trust me on this?

marketing 2

I read that the most valuable tool in the authors marketing tool box is an email list. And that a survey showed that an email subscriber is 24 time more likely to buy a book than through FB.  Do you share this opinion?

Rule number one in marketing (there are a lot of number one rules, by the way) is to remember that figures like this are averages often being used by someone to sell a course or a way of thinking or their ‘insider expertise’. And, anyway, we all know where averages come from, don’t we?  There are so many other variables here that my brain spins trying to work out if this figure has any meaning at all!  Do I think email is important? Yes.  But I also don’t think Facebook is a great medium for selling books, so that anything is 24 times better than Facebook is more a reflection on Facebook than on what it’s being compared with.  For a writer, Facebook is much better used as a place to recruit those likely strangers and build relationships with them.  Facebook, itself, is about entertainment and connection.  Who sits down of an evening and thinks “I’ll just have a look at Facebook to see what people want to sell me?”  By all means advertise to your fans when there’s a new book out, or post about it, but email is usually a much better option for converting to sales.  Those people have trusted you with their email address.  That means they’re much more engaged than your average Facebook fan.  There seems to be a riff at the moment that ‘email is over’ and ‘readers don’t want to get emails any more’.  Hmmmm…. no.  Like Facebook, email is really good at what it does so every writer and her dog has jumped in and now you have to be better, sharper and deliver more value to get people to stay on your list and open the emails you send them.

What are the top three things an author should be doing right now?  

    1. Creating a thoughtful, purposeful plan (a sales funnel)
    2. Implementing that plan
    3. Reviewing that plan

What’s the worst thing we as authors can do?

Have no plan.  That’s it.  No plan is the worst thing you can do. No plan is worse than a mediocre plan. It’s probably worse than the wrong plan.  Probably.

marketing-management 4

Finally, if it’s not a repetition of Q#7, what is one thing we could do today to make a difference?   

So that’s the converse of the previous question.  The one thing you could do is to have a plan. Is this getting repetitive?  It’s easy to say that you should have a plan, but researching and creating that plan is the important part.  You can dream up a plan in 10 seconds, but unless you’re some marketing Einstein then it’s probably useless because it hasn’t been created thoughtfully and purposefully. It takes a while to build a sales funnel, but it’s not arduous and I use coloured textas which helps make it a bit more fun.  A bit.

Do you think blog tours are worthwhile?

Hmmm.  Depends why you’re doing them.  If it’s about sales, then maybe not.  If it’s about brand awareness then why not?  In marketing jargon you need to be looking at ‘multiple touch points’ with your readers.  And a bit more techno-speak, you need to think about which of your activities are about brand awareness and which are about sales. That’s where inexperienced marketers can go wrong.  They try to make everything about sales.  As I mentioned before, these days most people buy from people they know, like and trust.  From time to time we will buy from strangers, but not often.  If you do a blog tour to build that know, like and trust that’s fine.  If you want to sell, sell, sell, then there are probably better ways to spend your time and money.  One final point with blog tours is to make sure that you are matching your readers with that blog’s readers.  There’s no point getting promotion on a blog that doesn’t reach people who will likely read your books.  
How can our readers contact you?

Come and join me on my Facebook page or website.  Hey, why not sign up for my email? Or I’m at sara@marketing4writers.net



Thank you sooo much Sara! I’m going to be (again) pouring over your past posts. You’re a busy lady and we here at Aussie Owned & Read are most grateful for your time, especially given the extensive answers you’ve provided. Mwah times plenty!  You’re a true star.

And now – the winner of my giveaway (in a blind draw) is:  Drumroll…..

Billiondollarprincess!  Please contact me at kazdelaney01@gmail.com with your deets! Thanks for commenting! 

kaz-profiles-022Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.

Getting to know Lauren McKellar all over again!

It’s my turn in the interview-go-round, and I hit the jackpot in getting to interview the multi-talented, multi-busy Ms Lauren McKellar. And why not! As one of the creators of this blog, and a genuinely gorgeous person, she’s already a star, but she’s also an author of amazing fiction, an editor  and a new mum of the cutest and most determined distraction ever created – her gorgeous new baby boy.

Mind boggling, right?    That’s exactly what I thought, and though I felt guilty adding to her pressures, I couldn’t wait to see what kept her going. Let’s have a look at what she had to say…Lauren 1

Lauren, you’re a such a busy lady and yet a very prolific author – what drives you each day to keep your career on track?

I just love writing! I always have, ever since I begged my parents to buy me blank lined notebooks when I was seven so I could write my stories down.

Now, with a three-month-old bub, writing time is a little harder to come by, but I find doing something, even just five minutes a day, actually helps keep me sane. It reminds me I’m still me, not just this totally consumed and in love mama!

Welcome to the MamaLove Club! It’s the Never-ending-story! But there’s another love we know about as well. You not only won the cover lottery – aren’t they the coolest covers!! – but your love for YA and NA shows in your beautiful stories . How you would describe the books you write. Is there a common denominator? Conscious or subconscious.

There definitely is! My little tagline is “Romance reads that make you feel”, but to be more specific, I think I write issue-driven pieces. When I was eighteen, my father passed away from cancer, and growing up, I’d always suffered from anxiety and low self-esteem. I think that’s why all my books deal with issues like that that many teens deal with.

Lauren 2

Isn’t it wonderful that, from your own adversities,  you can give faith to others through your books.  And speaking of those books:  Do you have a typical working day? Or a typical process for completing each novel?

My typical process is write the novel, delete it, and write it again. Or that’s how it feels sometimes! I definitely write best when I’m sticking to a daily goal. If I stop writing for a few weeks, I find it harder to get back into.

superwomanWith that in mind – and maybe this is a version of the next-pretty-thing syndrome – but what’s your writing kryptonite? What’s the one thing you avoid when creating? Or that you know might send you off the rails?

I’m pretty cruisy. I don’t know if I have a kryptonite as such—I used to find it hard to write if I was reading a similar genre, but since I’m an editor as well as an author, I often don’t have much choice in what I read! I’ve got to say that if I’m really tired, I find it hard to create—but if I’m really, really tired, I end up writing some pretty okay stuff. Aside from that, my newborn child is kind of like my kryptonite, because keeping him alive requires a lot of work!

What do you consider to be the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Definitely the self-doubt. Constantly questioning yourself and wondering if you’re good enough and if people hate your work.

I saw this question somewhere else and it intrigued me – so I’m posing it to you: What’s the best money you’ve spent as an author? What’s been your most valuable investment?

What a great question! I’m going to say my membership in the RWA. I say this because not only of the inspirational conference sessions I’ve attended, but also the fabulous authors I’ve met and networked with.

Oh, and my laptop. Because der.

Ha! Der indeed. 😉 So, the ugly ‘P’ word. How much time do you set aside to promo and what’s your best advice?

Gosh, promo is hard! I never set aside enough time, and each release I promise myself I’ll do more! In an ideal world I’d do an hour a week. My best advice is to learn from others and find something that works for you. There are so  many free courses out there, and great podcasts and seminars—Self-Publishing Formula 101, to give an example—and I think you can get a lot from those about how to achieve maximum reach for your spend.

Lauren 3

The Talented Lauren McKellar – what does the future hold? Are there other things you secretly want to write? Other genres that call you in the night?  I guess if it wasn’t YA/NA what would it be?

I’ve recently written some adult books, and I’ve really enjoyed my venture into being a grown-up! I can’t see myself ever straying from contemporary though—I have so much respect for everyone who writes spec fic, and historical, but it’s just not for me.

The Private Lauren McKellar – share with us something no one else knows about you? My kidneys are in the wrong place for example. How about you? ☺

Oh, really? That’s very cool! If we’re talking medical anomalies, I have an extra vertebrae in my neck and my elbows hyper-extend. It’s not really a secret, though. I’m pretty open. Secrets aren’t really my thing.

Finally as authors we are also avid readers. You’re stuck on an island with one book – indefinitely. You’ll have to read it over and over. What would you wish it to be?

It’s not YA or NA, but Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes is a book that will always make me laugh and cry—so I figure it’d be a good choice to give me a full spectrum of emotions.

Thank you so much Lauren! It was indeed a pleasure and my only regret is that we don’t have more time and space. I could have chatted for hours!

You can catch all the extra news at:



kaz-profiles-022Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages. Thirteen are YA novels and every one features a romance. Her latest is The Reluctant Jillaroo, Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.


Dishing Up Romance.

I’m so excited to be delivering my first ever Aussie Owned & Read post. Thank you for having me. I’ll be working to fit the brief and keep all you lovely followers and visitors happy and well fed.

Speaking of well fed  – or not – I’m an MKR fan. (My Kitchen Rules) Don’t judge. It’s an inherent weakness. Apart from authoring and reading, my fave thing is to bake and cook, so despite the show’s many shortcomings I’m still drawn to those television kitchens and those sweating, suffering contestants. And yes, I know it’s all director-created storylines and false drama but obviously I’m a cheap date because I love it.


This year though – and here’s where this post becomes relevant – there was an added ingredient, a  staged  romance between young rival contestants Bec and Kyle. It was flirt city. Bec was batting those eyelashes and serving up saucy over-the-shoulder entrees entreaties and Kyle was responding with prolonged glances that held more heat than a raw Bird’s Eye Chilli. It was good stuff. It was believable and whether real or clever editing, I was suckered in. bec-kyle

So, talking Romance – ‘cos that’s what we’re doin’ here at AO&R this month…

Interestingly, my fascination with Bec and Kyle’s relationship actually grew to equal my interest in what they were being served. Apart from seeming genuine, and the sense of fun and warmth both contestants oozed, what interested me was the answer both gave independently when asked about those first sparks. Both declared they were drawn to each other, initially, over a shared sense of humour.

‘We could just talk to each other as if we’d known each other forever.’

As an author this scenario spoke volumes to me: Likeable characters (who like each other) + a connection  Boom! There it was: a simplified time-honoured equation  – a key, if you like –  to the gateway to romance.  

Let’s look at that.

Many times in YA fiction we see heroines who fall for a ‘face’ (and whoa, we’re all guilty of that).  Disney is the biggest offender. But, hey we can be more than Disney. (Inserts discreet cough)


We want to create a romance that draws the reader in – a romance that is believable and makes the reader wail at the thought of these two characters not being together. To do that? Find something that connects them. Something that intrigues enough for each to want to dig deeper. Something more than a cute face or hot bod. 

Completing the Jigsaw.

Imbue them with likeable/interesting traits and then imagine them as two random jigsaw pieces that have one side that fits them together neatly. That’s the start of a story. As authors we need to now find the bigger picture. The whole picture.  Connections. And it is from those connections that a relationship can begin to develop. Ergo, each new side of the jigsaw that fits is a new connection. Or not…

Delicious Firsts

YA love is raw and heart-pounding and exciting. It’s a series of delicious firsts that will never be experienced in the same way. It can feel dangerous and bold and yet, tender and syrupy warm. Hands shake. Stomachs perform backflips. But love, YA or not, is more than heaving tummies and shaking body parts. If it’s not, it’s not love. It’s not even lust. It’s a condition that needs medication. See a doctor. Fast.

I’m as guilty as the next of those heaving body parts, but there has to be more. That’s just the beginning; a knee jerk reaction. There has to be depth. A relationship has to grow. Develop.  It shouldn’t arrive fully formed. No one will believe that. So, get them talking. Get them connecting.

Blatantly falsified Stats

Note they don’t have to agree on everything. That would be boring. Very few relationships, ever, (maybe I’m generalising) are completely compatible in every aspect of life. But most are at least 60%. (Yep, I’m completely generalising and worse I’m making up stats – but it seems sound(?)).   And that compatibility goes further than a like or dislike of Thai food and the colour purple. But it’s a start.

Love Must pass the Belief Test

My last thoughts are to remember that even though we’re writing about young people, our romances have to be real and they must pass the reader belief test. Yes, first or new love is a dizzying time. And to those who are in the throes, there is nothing deeper or more special and no one else has ever felt this depth of emotion. No one. Ever. It’s powerful.

The secret? Again?

Connections. Think of them as sticky fingers that glue them to each other.   Convince the reader that these two were created for each other.

My last, last thought? Vale the relationship of Bec (who was eliminated) and Kyle.  MKR has lost its allure for me now. However, in my imagination I’m retelling the tale and in my version they find a way to be together – loved up, blissfully experimenting with strange and exotic foods.

And they’ll email me the recipes. Or invite me to dinner.

Sounds like a perfect ending to me.

And to celebrate that perfect ending, and my imperfect beginning here at AO&R, any person who takes the time to comment or just wave to say ‘hi’ on the comment board (I don’t judge) will go into a random draw to receive a copy of The Reluctant Jillaroo, or an earlier title if you already have that book – plus a pack of author goodies. Thank you! See you in the comments!

Multi award winning author Kaz Delaney has published 72 novels for kids, teens & adults over a 20 year period, many of them  published in several languages.  Her latest YA is The Reluctant Jillaroo, kaz-profiles-022Allen & Unwin, 2016 .  She is repped by JDM Management.