Musings During the Virus

Being safe at home isn’t a hardship for a writer. We are used to long hours with our story characters as company. Many of us, during normal times, wish for more time to write our novels. However, now that we have this opportunity, it’s difficult for us to concentrate on a story in a fictional world that no longer exists.

Fortunately, I still have ten backlist titles to get online for your reading pleasure. Four of them are my former Five Star mysteries, books ten through thirteen in my Bad Hair Day series. The other six are earlier romances. My very first book, Circle of Light, features a plague that sweeps the galaxy. It’s very appropriate to today’s situation, but I want to get the whole Light-Years trilogy ready to go before hiring a cover artist. Here are the original covers from Dorchester. I’m working on book two right now. Yes, I wrote as Nancy Cane in those days.

Circle of Light by Nancy J. Cohen   Moonlight Rhapsody  

These books, being my earliest, require heavy self-editing to bring them up to my current standards. I am, in a way, grateful for this time to work on these books. It helps me escape the reality of what’s going on outside. And when fear threatens to steal my ambition, I tell myself that these stories help other people to escape the world we’re in together.

And so you can escape, too, whether it’s through books, TV shows, audiobooks or movies. If you’ve never listened to an audiobook, now is the time. It can be soothing to hear someone read you a story. I especially like the way a good narrator does the different character voices. Or maybe you prefer doing jigsaw puzzles or have craft projects you’ve always wanted to do.

It’s important to connect with friends and relatives via phone or online chats so you talk to someone each day. This will help you feel less isolated.

God bless each one of you. I am grateful for your support and friendship which means everything to me. I’m not too inspired to write blogs these days, so you may not hear from me for a while unless I decide to republish some of my earlier posts. You can always follow me on my other social media channels until then. Or let me know what you’d like me to discuss here and I’ll do my best to comply.

Let us all get through this safely. Eventually, things will get better. Our world has seen plagues before, and we have the best scientists researching in their labs. Please stay home and be well. Feel free to offer your suggestions for keeping sane in the comments section.

If you want a free copy of Permed to Death audiobook with a 30-Day Audible trial, go here:
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Booklover’s Bench monthly book giveaway starts tomorrow. Click Here to enter April 1-18. 

NOTE: My writing workshop on “Self-Publishing Made Simple” scheduled for April 25 at 2:00 pm at the Alvin Sherman Library at NSU may be moved online. Keep watch here or on the original site for more details: 

Author Newsletters

Newly published authors often ask how to get readers on a mailing list for email newsletters. This process should start before you get a publisher. Once your book is sold, you’ll have an incredible amount of marketing to do. It’ll be helpful if you have already started collecting names. The approach is two-fold: online and in person.

I send my quarterly email newsletter to nearly 5000 readers, booksellers, and librarians. That’s nothing compared to a bestselling author, but to a newbie it may sound impressive. How did I gain these numbers? It didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken me years to build my lists.

Nancy Banner

Once you begin making public appearances, bring along a sign-up sheet to each event. I print out mine from Excel. One column is for the person’s full name. The other column is for their email address.

In the early days, I collected street addresses as well, but since the cost of postage has escalated, I no longer send postcards. Now all my mailings are online. However, if you plan to send out snail mail, you’ll need those home addresses. Or if you want to send a targeted email to fans announcing a signing or speaking engagement in their area, you’ll need their city and state.

So how else do you collect names, especially if you are unpublished? When you attend conferences and workshops, exchange business cards with everyone you meet. Today people are spam conscious, so ask if you may add the person to your email newsletter list. Jot a note on the back of the business card to remind you later where you met.

business cards

Sit with strangers at sponsored lunches or dinners and meet the people at your table. Hang out at the bar and give a friendly greeting to anyone wearing a conference badge. Introduce yourself to strangers while waiting in lines to go into a meal or to an event. Your mailing list will build this way, and over time you could gain lifelong fans.

After your book is published, you’ll receive fan mail. Ask if you may add the reader to your mailing list or direct them to your online opt-in form.

I categorize my lists so they separate into Booksellers, Contests, Fans, Librarians, Reviewers, and more. Why is this helpful? I might want to send a notice only to my readers when a new book comes out. Several months before, I might want to notify booksellers, librarians, and reviewers about an upcoming release. Friends, Family and other Authors are on my lists too, although I rarely bother them with announcements unless they have requested it.

Holding a contest is a great way to collect names for your lists. Rafflecopter is the easiest method. Go to and sign up for a free account. The program automatically does everything for you. You can add bonus entries and have people Like your Facebook page or tweet your contest. Create contest terms that state entrants will be entered into your mailing list. I have a contest running from now until Aug. 23 if you want to enter and see what I mean:


You can join with other authors to offer a bigger prize and share mailing lists. For an example, visit Booklover’s Bench at, where I’ve joined with seven other writers. We offer monthly contests as well as excerpts and behind-the-scenes sections for you to learn more about us. We also cross-promote each other in our personal newsletters, offering giveaways from our colleagues. (I offer this as a bonus subscriber feature, so you have to subscribe to my newsletter to get the special contest offer.) Certainly my mailing lists numbers have increased as a result of our joint venture.

Another great site to hold a contest and gain a mailing list of usually over 1000 entrants is Fresh Fiction at It costs $129 but if you do this once every few years, it adds substantially to your newsletter reader addresses.

When you accumulate too many names to send out individual emails, consider using a mass email newsletter program such as AWeber (, Constant Contact ( ), Mad Mimi (, Mail Chimp (, Vertical Response (—This is what I use), or Your Mailing List Provider (

Start an Excel spreadsheet and keep your names and email addresses there. You can upload these worksheets to the programs above and then you also have a copy on your computer for backup.

I upload lists from my Excel program directly into Vertical Response. I pay for my newsletter per email but you can pay a monthly fee if you’d rather do so, depending on the volume of mail you want to send.

Put sign-up widgets on your website, blog, and Facebook page. Periodically request your fans on Facebook and Twitter to sign up for your mailing list. In case one of these social networking sites goes defunct, you don’t want to lose your friends. Back up your email lists on your computer, your flash drive, etc. They’re a valuable commodity, and you don’t want to lose them.

Once you accumulate enough names, how often should you send out a newsletter? I do mine quarterly. I can’t see sending one out more often. Generally, I accumulate my news until the next season rolls around. I don’t care to bombard people and respect their time, but other authors send monthly messages and that works for them.

What should you include in a newsletter? Your book news is a given—sales, new releases, extra editions, awards, and works in progress. Upcoming appearances including blog tour dates. Contests coordinated with your newsletter send-out date. Fun items like recipes or research notes. Social networking links. I’ll be happy to send you a copy of my latest newsletter if you email me. Pay careful attention to your subject header since that is what people will see in their Inbox. Getting recipients to open the email is more difficult. What methods do you use?

How else do you encourage people to sign up for your email lists?

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original version which first appeared at The Kill Zone, where I blog every other Wednesday. This is my week if you want to check this site out and visit on my day:

But more importantly, please go to my Website at and sign up for my newsletter in the left-hand Sidebar.

Mystery News Update

I am excited to announce that Hanging By A Hair, my 11th Bad Hair Day Mystery, has a tentative release date of April 2014 from Five Star.

Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer. Can the intrepid hairstylist untangle the clues and pin down the culprit before he strikes again?

We all hate dealing with homeowners associations, right? Marla’s neighbor happens to be the HOA president for her neighborhood. This story is easily relatable to anyone who’s had a dispute with their neighbors or a conflict with their HOA Board of Directors. Otherwise, it’s a fun ride on another whodunit express with Marla and Dalton.


Shear Murder, Bad Hair Day Mystery #10, has sold mass market paperback reprint rights to Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery Library. I am excited that this title will be available to readers in yet another edition. No word on a pub date or availability, but I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if you have a Kindle or have downloaded the free Kindle app to your computer/tablet, you can get the ebook copy from Amazon for the reasonable price of $3.19.


I have a research trip scheduled to Arizona for next Fall, and you’ll have to read the end of Hanging By A Hair to see what this is all about. Please sign up on my website for my quarterly email newsletter if you want to stay informed.

Author Branding

As authors, we’re advised to promote our brand to readers. What does this mean? Think about your favorite writers. You know what kind of story you’re going to get when you pick up one of their books. It could be heartwarming characters, small town settings, or fast-paced thrills and chills. Or maybe it’s a recurring theme that strikes a chord within you. But if we’re the writer, how do we define our own brand?

Sometimes we have to wait until we’ve written a few books to see what reviewers say. We can glean an idea of how our stories affect readers by their responses. Or we might recognize the core story in each of our books, those defining elements that call to us. Or we can ask other people what they see in our work.

You’ll want to showcase your brand in several places:

Signature Line

This would be a tagline that goes under your name every time you send out an email or make a post on a listserve.


You’ll want to deploy metatags that mention your branding elements. So tag yourself in the header and in perhaps a sub-header as well, and then in the body of your text.


Here’s an opportunity for a pictorial representation of what you write. You can even put your logo, along with your website URL, on T-shirts and such as contest prizes for your fans.


In my opinion, deciding on a tagline—like a blurb for a book—is harder than writing the story. It’s especially difficult when you write in more than one genre.

So here we come to the point of this post. I need your help.

I’m having an identity crisis. When I post to a romance loop, my signature line says Warrior Prince: A Drift Lords Novel. When I post to a mystery loop, I say Shear Murder: A Bad Hair Day Mystery. But I need something that encompasses both the genres I write. For example, my website says Author of Mystery and Romance. (Should I have a sub-header? And if so, what should it say?)

In other words, I need a new tagline.

Here’s my current signature, when I’m not using an actual book title:

Nancy J. Cohen
Romance and Mystery
Where passion & danger collide

I could change it to:

Author of Paranormal Romance and Humorous Mysteries
This one is good, but what if I write a new mystery that isn’t funny? My agent cautioned me against being too specific. Too narrow of a brand can box you in.

Here are some other suggestions. Quotes come from reviews. Please let me know which ones you like the best!!! I need a zippy tagline that reflects both the genres I write. Or make up your own combination and let’s hear it!

Sassy Sleuths, Sizzling Passion, and Suspense
Tales of Mystery, Romance, & Otherworldly Adventure
Tales of Murder, Love, & Laughter
Fun, fast-paced Florida mysteries and paranormal romance
Fast-paced humorous mysteries and paranormal romance
Hot heroes and sassy heroines mixed with intrigue and murder
Author of Paranormal Romance and Fun, Fast-Paced Mysteries
“Murder, Mayhem, Humor and Romance”
“Humor, Romance and Mystery”
“Humor, Action and Passion”
“Fun, entertaining, out of this world reads”
“Amazing heroines, sexy heroes, lovable sub-characters”
“Great characters, strong storylines…”
“Strong, sexy heroes, ….”
SciFi/Fantasy Romance and Fabulous Florida Mysteries

As for a logo, do you have any suggestions for an image that would combine the types of books I write? Murder mysteries and sci-fi/fantasy romance with paranormal elements (note that my new series takes place on Earth).

What would catch your attention? And feel free to share your tagline here.