2019 Goals – Review/ Revise

2019 is half over! I can hardly believe it.

It seems like it’s only been a minute since at I sat down in December and made a list of my personal and professional goals for the year.

It’s time to take a look at what I planned to accomplish, have accomplished and what I can expect from myself in the last half of the year.

Now, lots of folks will take this chance to focus first on the negative. Don’t fall into that trap.

First, look at the things you have accomplished. Make a list of them. Include things that you maybe didn’t plan, but did anyway, in place of something else or maybe in addition to the milestones on your road map for 2019.

Then pat yourself on the back and give yourself a treat for being so productive! This is one of the most positive things about writing down your goals because you an actually see them resolved and feel good about the effort.  This will give you the steam to keep moving forward!

Now, understanding that you have six months left, and your priorities may have shifted in the last six months, revise the list accordingly.

Focus on two or three tasks, don’t over load yourself. Use the momentum from the first half of the year to keep you moving!

What if you found your list has completely gone to the wayside? I mean, life happens, and we all know that.

Get back on track using your goals as a guide to put the back half of 2019 in order. Take a deep breath and GO!

Make your goals work for you.  Never give up. Never surrender!

Happy writing,


Book Covers- Capturing Your Reader with Art

In the book world you will hear a lot about the importance of a good book cover. Since art is widely open to interpretation it can be a tricky topic to nail down. What appeals to one person might not even register with another, and it can be confusing and take a lot of your time only to come out the other end with something that still doesn’t do what you want it to do.  So, how do you handle this perplexing issue?

First, there are two ways a cover can be made. 1- DIY. 2. Hire a designer by purchasing a premade or commissioned cover.

In some of the author groups where I am a member I have seen many comments about doing it either way, and one that stands out to me the most. It usually comes down to money. A good cover design can be expensive, and if you are just starting out, it can seem like a good idea to get your Photoshop on and DIY.  In fact, some of THE marketing gurus have said, “you can always learn how to do it yourself.”

Yes, you can. But the thing that I think most people are missing is that visual artistic creation is a SKILL. It’s not a skill that all people have.  Yes, you can be technically proficient with whatever software you choose to use to make your cover, but that is a different thing all together.

You can be the best wordsmith ever, but that doesn’t mean your skills translate to visual art.

They can, sure, some folks are blessed by being multi-talented, but a cover is one of the 3 most important things about your book. If you can’t deliver you are only hurting yourself in the long run. This distinction is exactly the reason why screenplay adaptations are usually written by someone other than the author. Visual storytelling is a different skill set from writing a book.

If you decide to DIY here are some pitfalls to watch out for that experience has taught me.

  1. Take yourself completely OUT of the equation. You are designing a cover that should appeal to your audience. It must be on target genre wise and you must remember that what appeals to you may not be what appeals to your audience.  My first time out publishing a steamy romance series I wanted artistic covers that would set me apart from the miles of naked man chest because beefcake is not a seller for me. In going artistic I failed to realize that no matter how beautiful the artwork was, it was missing its target audience because they were conditioned to look for a certain kind of cover on steamy romance books. I lost sales because I was satisfying my own ego, and not remembering that I wasn’t trying to sell books to myself.

  2. Don’t try to tell the whole story in the cover. Covers are about mood and tone. They should evoke a specific emotional reaction from the reader when they see it. If you add in too many elements it becomes diluted or confusing and the reader will move past it rather than stop and think.

  3. Brand consistently. I used to have this hobgoblin of a boss who was always on my case about doing things consistently. I eventually came to see the value of that lesson. Series should be easily identifiable as books that go together. Your name should be consistent in font and placement on the book. By doing this you are “training” your readers to look for easily identifiable visual cues that help them recognize you and encourage confidence in purchasing your book because they already know they like your work.

  4. Be honest with yourself about your skill level in graphic design. Ever buy clothes online? That top might look adorable on that size 0 model, but will it flatter your own unique frame and body style. I’ve sent a lot of items back over the years before I realized I needed to look realistically at myself and shop for my body type.  If you aren’t being honest with yourself about your design capabilities you are not going to produce a gorgeous cover that makes the reader want to know more about your book.

Written Word Media shared this post about the Top 5 Mistakes in Cover Design that is worth a look if you are into DIY.

If you need help, ALAREON is here to lend a hand. Contact us today about a premade cover or a commission that will help you make your story shine.

Happy writing!



How to Become a USA Today Bestselling Author

You’ve made your goals list for 2019 and one of them is:


But where do you start? How do you make this happen.

There is no absolute way to do anything, but knowing where to start will help you to own the process and achieve your goals.

This is a great article that outlines the steps one author took, and it details some of the commitment you will have to make both personally and financially to claim this accolade.

The Write Life: The Indie Author’s Guide to Hitting the USA Today Bestseller List.

Setting Your 2019 Goals

At the end of each year I like to take stock of my accomplishments by making a list.

It’s a trick I learned from a previous job.  At first, it was an unwanted task assigned by management to provide validation for time spent.  But as I started to put it all down on paper, I realized that it is a valuable tool to remind me of all that I accomplished. It’s a good feeling that helps to me to see that even if I didn’t get everything done  I set out to do, I have not been idle or wasteful with the time I spent.

I recommend that before you start making goals for 2019, you spend an hour or so listing all your achievements from 2018. Evaluate the items that weren’t completed. If they are still valuable, add them to 2019, and build from there.

When setting goals for a new year, I try to include areas for improvement in ongoing items, and to add new things I have never done before to keep growing. This allows me to maintain the investments I have already made in my business as an author, and continue to learn and improve.

Lots of folks will tell you what you should include. Evaluate their suggestions carefully, but make sure you are also including things that important to you personally.

This list is about you more than anything else, and that should be taken into account every bit as much as standard industry recommendations for your author growth.

Once you have your list, look at it critically, and rank the things you want to achieve, high to low. Then split the list, keeping the top 5 or 6 items as your true goals, knowing you can easily bring the others into play if time allows.

Splitting the list  is important because a list of goals that is too big to manage will overwhelm you, and the turn the list that is supposed to help and guide you into a negative tool. If too many things slip by, it becomes harder to use it because it can make you feel as if you are failing, even when you are not.

Last, for the top 5 or 6 items, add target dates for completion. For example, if one of your goals is to publish a new book, set a date for that publication, and then walk back through the timeline to establish specific milestone targets, like editing, proofing, cover selection, preorder set up, etc. Once the dates for each is filled in, you will have an attainable goal set that you can use to support your plans for the coming year.

Need help? ALAREON can work with you to determine your goals and how best to achieve them, establishing project timelines and defining milestones that keep you on target all year long.

Contact us today to set up a free 30 min consultation to learn more about what we can do to help.

Happy planning!




Jo Brown is an award winning author, experienced journalist, blogger, and graphic artist, with an extensive background in business project management. ALAREON is the culmination of her life experiences, the place where her passion for storytelling and creative design come together with the best business practices  to help Indie Authors make their dreams come true.

4 Strategies to Make 2019 Your Best Author Year Yet!

shared with permission from Alessandra Torre

My favorite part of this year is the ability to look BACK on the year so far, learn from my mistakes, and then plan ahead for next year. And I am convinced that 2019 is going to be my biggest year yet. More book releases. More units sold. More readers than ever before! I feel confident this will happen because I have an awesome gameplan and strategies in place!
     Have you taken a look at your year so far?
     Are you on track to hit your goals?
     Do you have a plan in place for 2019?
I’m holding a free online workshop called  “Hit Your Author Goals in 2019: 4 Strategies that Will Transform Your Business and Book Sales!” on Wednesday, December 5th at 1pm or 9pm EST!

The workshop can only hold a limited number of attendees, so be sure to save your spot in the lunch or evening session! Register here!


A Tribute to Stan Lee

Growing up there wasn’t a lot of money for entertainment. My biggest outlet was my library card, and it took me to many magical places. Places I still and will always remember. On rare occasions there were a few dollars here and there for comic books. I would clutch my wrinkled dollar bills and stand in front of the tall metal carousel at the drugstore, spinning it endlessly, trying to choose just one story from among the many. It was never an easy choice, but that is where I first made the acquaintance of Mr. Stan Lee.

Not directly, he didn’t make cameo appearances in small town drugstores. No, I met him through Thor, the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Iron Man and Captain America. I was such a geek that when I saw the name “Jocasta” on the memory stick, when Jarvis morphed into Vision and Tony Stark was choosing a new assistant, I literally bounced in my seat with excitement. I had it bad. I still do.

That’s the power of good storytelling. That’s the power of art.  It resonates, and you remember. The feelings of anticipation and excitement, of being invested in what is happening, and in finding yourself in the story.

I spent many happy afternoons being a part of Stan Lee’s world. I never got the chance to tell him personally, but maybe that’s best. Instead, I use my own stories to do him honor, and hope that I reach someone the way he reached me.

We don’t get to stay here. We pretend that’s not true. We diet and exercise and slather ourselves with the latest miracle treatments, but no matter what we do, we don’t get to stay.  The best we can hope for is to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be the big kind of difference like Stan Lee made, inspiring and entertaining millions. It can be the difference we make to just one person, but that difference is our only true legacy here in this place.

Stan Lee’s imagination was a springboard for millions of creators that came after. Countless graphic artists, writers, actors, producers, and fans all owe some small debt to the inspiration he provided us. His passing is sad day for me, but I feel so grateful that I had a chance to be a part of his world, and for the positive influence those times had on me.

Thank you, Stan. I hope wherever you’re going next you still get to make beautiful things, and share them with those around you.

Are Deadlines Your Thing?

November is what National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo). You can learn more here.  https://nanowrimo.org/

Essentially, you sit down and commit to writing 50K words in  a book during the month of November. There are many support groups, some may be local to you, where you can meet up and do it together, and socialize before or after your writing sprints.

I’ve heard it told that pounding out 50K words in 30 days leaves you with a book that needs a lot of editing. But, it does still leave you with a book.  🙂

If you’re the kind of personality that functions best when the clock is ticking and the pressure is on, this could be a great thing for you.

However you write, keep writing. Never give up on a dream.


“The BOOK was better!”

When I was growing up there were books that I read where the characters did things that were too socially taboo to be shown in the movie versions. Often, this was adult intimate interaction, or SEX, for short.  Sometimes, more rarely, it was graphic violence. I concluded that this was why so many people often lamented, “The BOOK was better!”

I have always appreciated both written and visual storytelling, and thought I understood the “unwritten rules” that encapsulate both.  But I get the sense that something has changed.

It started for me I watched Big Little Lies, and then read the book. The visual series was a cinematically beautiful story, full of beautiful people doing ugly things and often sexually graphic and violent things. That is an observation, not a complaint. I enjoyed the art of all those moments, and though I could not find a single character I liked in the tale, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a well told story.

I wound up reading the book because a friend of mine went on and on about how good it was, and then after I discussed some of the scenes with her from the television series, she started to say more and more frequently with a puzzled look, “That wasn’t in the book.” Curiosity won out, and I purchased the book.

Much to my surprise, there were no graphic adult interaction scenes present in the book, at least not like there were in the TV series, and in fact, the book seemed tame to me in comparison. I understand that when adaptations are done from book to screenplay not everything that works in a story works in a visual medium, and that you have to change some things to deliver the same impact for the viewer that the reader received from something like internal dialogue, or an omniscient third person point of view. But essentially, as far as I could tell, the visual story exceeded the societal taboos of sex and violence far in excess of the book, and that was a new experience for me.

When did we become more open to SEEING something portrayed than READING about it?

I grew up in the age of politicians ranting about explicit lyrics and wanting to label words, while retailers shunned selling those albums labeled as such.

I now live in an age where words are more censored than films.

It came up again today in a message board that I am part of where an author was asking for help in determining what could be included in a YA novel that wouldn’t get it booted from an independent publishing outlet, or limit its acceptance by a publishing house. The answers floored me. Teenagers are not allowed to drink unless there is one character stating that drinking is bad and demonstrating a lack of interest. No F-bombs. No sex for the underage. No drug use.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate those behaviors, but I am real person, who has lived a semi-real life, and those things happen. You have to deal with them growing up. Pretending they don’t is utterly ridiculous to me. Almost as much as letting our words be censored by ANYONE.

Yet, now for the cost of a cable subscription or a movie ticket, teenagers can SEE those things happen. They just can’t READ about them.

I think that there is a reader for every story that can ever be told. I think those stories have the potential to make them feel like they are not alone, and that they can survive whatever they are facing because the character in a story they read showed them how it was done.

I don’t have issues with the freedom that visual storytelling has gained in my lifetime. I am concerned that we are allowing our written stories to be throttled and cleansed of the truth that is life, and in doing so we are telling readers of all ages that they need to fit into a certain box and stay there for the rest of their lives.

I don’t think we have to give up one freedom to have another.