How Do You Choose a Book to Read?

~Does Books+Main Have the Right Idea? ~

There are a whole bunch of e-book sales listing services out there – BookbudFussy LibrarianRifleE-Reader and more. These services list books that are on sale with a short sales-pitch type blurb.

With 50 % of all romances being published independently, I use these services all the time to find new authors to read. But I never buy a book without first going to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and reading the long excerpt they post.

What is Books+Main?Zara West Books+Main Bite

However, there is a new book listing service called Books+Main that has a totally new idea. Authors post up to three quotes or excerpts or related content from their books daily along with a great photo.

When you join Books+Main as a reader you can then download their App to your phone and get a stream of “Bites” from hundreds of romance books. If you like a bite, you can heart it or leave a comment. You can also click on the author and see their books and where to buy them.

What do you think of this idea?

Would reading intriguing excerpts entice you to learn more about an author and maybe buy a book? Check out Books+Main and let me know.

Here’s a link to my Books+Main page. I’d love a follow!

How do you select books to read?

Post your thoughts and comment below.

Are you more likely to read a book that has won an award?

~ Book Awards ~

This week my romantic suspense Close to the Skin is in a competition to win a Rone Award from InD’Tale Magazine– a beautiful and well-known e-magazine dedicated to romance writing.

This award is one in which readers vote for their favorite book or author. This process is similar to a number of Reader Award contests for published books such as Reader’s Favorites. The judges are readers and librarians and booksellers. I have entered several in the past, but as of yet have not won one.

Then, of course, there is the queen of awards – the RITA . This award is given for published books by Romance Writers of America. This contest is judged by fellow published romance writers. Corinna Lawson has written numerous blog posts about the award, and the books that have won.

Writing Contests & Awards

There are also smaller contests one can enter.  I have won several contests offered by RWA Romance Writing Chapters. These contests are judged in the first round by fellow romance writers, and in the second round, by agents and editors in the romance field. My feeling is that this type of contest offers more to the writer who wants to improve their writing as you usually do get very useful feedback, even if you don’t win.

Close to the Skin won first place in the 2016 Pages from the Heart Award. I am very appreciative of that honor.

2016 Pages from the Heart Award for Close to the Skin

Bestseller Awards

The third type of accolade a book can earn is to be a bestseller. There are all types of best sellers. Being on the NY Times list is, of course, the end goal for many writers. But there are also the USA Today listings and the rankings on Amazon. Authors usually put this achievement not only on the cover of the book that earned the ranking, but also on every book they write.

So how effective is winning an award for a writer?

Research reported in the Guardian on prestigious literary awards shows that reader ratings go down after a book wins a prize. Perhaps, people who might not ordinarily choose that type of book read a book because of the hype and then are disappointed and write bad reviews.

One thing that is true is that winning an award definitely gets a book more attention whether good or bad. Here is a list of award-winning books as listed on Goodreads. I bet you will find some you have read.

Being influenced by an awardClose to the Skin by Zara West

I know that while I am very open in my reading choices, seeing award or bestseller on a book cover makes me feel more confident I will like the book. nevertheless, I also read the opening pages before I buy. Not every award-winning book or bestseller is my cup of excitement.

Then again, as a writer, there is great pleasure in being selected for an award. I certainly wouldn’t turn one down nor would I be upset for my book to be a bestseller, even for a just a day.

Hint: I’d appreciate your vote for that Rone Award. Vote here. Voting goes from April 23 to April 29th 2018. I’ll let you know how I do!

InD'Tale Rone Awards

How about you?

Do you select books that say bestselling author or award-winning author on the cover?

Or do you have a better way to find great books?

I’d love to hear from you.

Forgive My Long Silence…

Dear Readers,

I have been busy. In June, my first romantic suspense Beneath the Skin was published by Wild Rose Press. I have just signed the contract for Close to the Skin, Book 2 in the Skin Quartet series. I have discovered that it is not the writing that is time consuming. I love writing. But doing the promo for the book takes hours! And the sad thing is, I am not really sure any of my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest posts are actually helping people decide to choose my book to read.

There are just so many wonderful books out there, I know readers have a hard time picking from them all. I know I do. I read about a book every two days or so, and right now I have 112 books waiting to be read. Most on my Kindle, but also a nice tippy stack of real books. Then every once in awhile, I am drawn to reread a book.

I have posted 85 read books on Goodreads as part of my 100 book challenge. But I have to admit, I don’t post everything I read – only books I can give at least 3 stars but preferably 4 or 5. As an author I don’t think low stars help anyone and they sure hurt when you get them. I’m sure others will feel differently about that, but that’s how I feel.

Anyway, back to the promo problem. Here’s the mock up for a possible Facebook Ad. What do you think? Will it make people want to read this book?

Graffiti artists, tattooing, suspense, secrets, lies and murder. If you love books that keep you glued to the edge of your seat you will love The Skin Quartet Series!  Join Zara West’s Readers Club to stay on top of upcoming books in the series.

Book 1Beneath the Skin

Beneath the Skin

She can’t resist his touch. He can’t stay away. Can they learn to trust each other – before it’s too late?

Bella Bell has disappeared, and Melissa Dermot believes it’s all her fault. After all, the popular Williamsburg, Brooklyn tattoo artist has been helping her save abused women. But what Melissa doesn’t know is that searching for her friend will put her in the path of two men—one who wants her heart, and one who wants her dead.



“You.” Aristides Stavros loomed over her. “What are you doing here?”

She peered up at the artist’s twisted face and backed further down the steps. A doorknob poked her in the back. Panicked, she twisted it open and dashed into an unlit basement storeroom.

She stumbled forward into the dark, tripped over a metallic cylindrical object, and landed on her stomach. All the air whooshed out of her. Rectangular objects with sharp corners tumbled around her, jabbing her in the arms and neck. Rough cloth scrapped her skin.

On the staircase above her, the beast hovered in the doorway like a predator scenting his prey. For a second, he hesitated, then he dashed down the steps and moved toward her, huffing as he shoved objects out of the way. She pushed herself up on hands and knees and scuttled further into the dark.

Sto diavólo. Where are you? If you destroy any of these paintings, I will have your hide or at least my lawyer will.” He came closer. “Busy man, my lawyer, and to think I almost didn’t hire one.”

She scrabbled back and touched torn canvas. Heavens, these were his paintings—the ones that sold for thousands of dollars.

She was in deep, deep trouble.

——–Available Now!——–

 Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Wild Rose Press

Let me know what you think.



Have a Successful Facebook Party

I’m having a Facebook Party for Beneath the Skin!

Today is my big day. Beneath the Skin will be released to the world! In celebration, I am holding my first ever Facebook Party. In preparation, I have done a ton of research. Below is what I learned goes into having a successful party.

Steps to a Successful Facebook Party

STEP 1 Choosing a Theme for Your Facebook Party

Consider having a topic or theme and color scheme or graphic image to unify the party and draw the interest of your readers. For my party, my book  Beneath the Skin is the topic and the color of the cover is purple and blue. But you could also feature a character or a setting or a special element from your book or book series.

Step 2 Choosing Prizes for Your Facebook Party

All parties have prizes. Consider prizes that will be easy to get to the winners. Gift cards always work well. Signed copies of your books is another common choice. I have chosen the following:

1st prize – A signed copy of Beneath the Skin, a canvas Beneath the Skin bag, a tattoo coloring book and colored pencil set, purple earrings, lavender lotions, a Zara West pen, bookmark, and Beneath the Skin temp tattoo.

2nd prize – A basket of all natural, organic Beneath the Skin soap (cucumber melon scent) hand crafted by Laurel’s Garden.

3rd prize – a $10 Amazon Gift Card

3 Runners up – $5 Amazon Gift Card

STEP 3 Setting up How People Win Those Prizes

Next, you need to determine how participants will win the prizes. You should assign points for the different activities and set a time frame. Some parties are run so there is a new game and new way to win every 1/2 hour or on the hour.

Since I am just starting out, I don’t think I will have a tremendous amount of competition so I want my Facebook party to be expansive. So for Friday, I have decided to post the games at 8 AM EST and leave them up the entire day till midnight PST so people can come and go and still get to play them all. At midnight June 17th PST, the person with the most points wins 1st place, next 2nd place and so on. Participants receive points as follows:

  • Join the party 50 points
  • Invite a friend 50 points
  • Like a post 10 points
  • Play a game 20 points
  • Win a game 50 points
  • Join or subscribe: For example, join Zara’s Readers Club  50 points (If you are already a member you get 50 points automatically)
  • Volunteer for Zara’s Street Team 50 points (Five will be chosen at random)

STEP 4 Selecting Games and Activities

Facebook Party Games are a lot like those played at birthday parties with some digital searching and selfies thrown in. Here some examples:

Roll Call: Time to get to know each other

  • Tell us you’re here and post your favorite ___
  • How do you know _____ (your name or the name of the book)?
  • Where are you from?
  • What do you like to read?
  • Post a selfie

Glamor Name Game:

  • Google search “your name +glamor shots” and post first picture that comes up


  • Google search “Romance Novel Covers” and post the cover that is your favorite’s
  • Name a romance novel that starts with the same letter as your first or last name
  • Name your favorite romance hero (heroine) and tell us why
  • Name your favorite romance genre
  • Name your favorite romantic movie

Keep the story going

  • Keep adding two words to my story starter
  • When I add THE
  • First person to add END wins


  • Choose 5 words from the list posted here
  • Direct Message them to me
  • When you see one of your words in my party posts, check it off your list
  • First to check off all 5, shout out BINGO in the comment section, and you win.

Scavenger Hunt

  • Here is a list of ___ facts found on my website, each on a different page
  • When you find one, post URL on the event wall
  • Each person to post a fact gets 10 points

Perfect Guest

Earn 50 points if you do the following

  • Participate throughout the day
  • Play every game
  • Post a selfie

Alphabet Soup: Movies/Romance novels/authors

  • Every 30 minutes I will post a letter, first one to post a movie star/novel/author whose first or last name starts with that letter gets 10 points

Door Prize

  • Every hour I will roll a die. The person who posted that number of times gets 10 points

Secret Word

  • I will post a “Secret Word” at the start of the party. Every time someone sees it in a post and announces it in the comment section, they get 10 points

Word Scramble

  • Post a scrambled word every hour.
  • First person to unscramble it gets 10 points

Tic Tac Toe

  • Chose three items in a row
  • Do all three and get 30 points

STEP 5 Ending the Party

After an exciting day, the party should wrap up with a summary of what was learned over the day, and an announcement of the winners. Don’t forget to take notes on what went well and what needs changing so you will be ready for your next Facebook Party!

I invite you to join my Beneath the Skin Book Release Facebook party and see how it works. Then let me know what your think!

Book release announcemnt

Your comments are always welcome!

There’s a Party Going on for Beneath the Skin!

It’s coming. It’s almost here. My first romantic suspense, Beneath the Skin, will be available for pre-orders any day now, and I am having a Pre-Order Round-Up party on my Facebook Fan Page. Come join the party!

Every day there will be a new question, a new poll, a new challenge, or a request for an opinion. Just post a comment to be in the running for a terrific prize. What will you win? Five brilliant romance novels for your summer reading pleasure. There’s paranormal, regency, and contemporary in the mix – all terrific stories of love with a happy-ever-after.

The party ends when Beneath the Skin can be pre-ordered on Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the major book retailers, and that will be very soon!

Here’s the list:

  • Always by Lindsey Sands
  • The Match of the Century by Cathy Maxwell
  • Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett
  • Spider Game by Christine Feehan
  • Love Somebody Like You by Susan Fox

P.S. June 17th is Beneath the Skin’s Worldwide Release Day. Hang around for the BIRTHDAY PARTY!

What Makes a Romantic Suspense Suspenseful?

Lisa Gardner in the “Seven Secrets of Romantic Suspense” lists the following elements that all romantic suspense novels need to be successful:

  1. A tense, dangerous setting
  2. Complex heroes, heroines, and most importantly, villains, who have goals they must accomplish and something personal at stake, often their only chance at love.
  3. Heroes and heroines with a vulnerability or flaw that hinders them from reaching their goal and finding that love.
  4. A situation that forces the characters to change in some major way and opens them to a loving relationship. By the end of the book, the lovers cannot go their separate ways and be complete.
  5. High levels of sexual tension: Love has the power to make people vulnerable and in suspenseful, dangerous situations, vulnerability can only lead to disaster.
  6. Lastly, there must be fear, there must be doubt, but there must also a ray of hope. Because a romantic suspense can only end with a happily-ever after.

Lena Diaz in her book Exit Strategy is a good example of a romantic suspense that does all these things.

Her protagonists are complex. Her heroine, Sabrina Hightower, is feisty and headstrong, determined to prove her grandfather has been kidnapped. The hero, Tall-Dark-and-Deadly Mason Hunt, is a professional assassin with doubts. Has he been killing the wrong people?

They have flaws. Sabrina is afraid to trust and jumps to conclusions. Mason is suffering from PTSD as a result of torture while a captive as a soldier.

A dark setting and a compelling situation: Set in the shadowy woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sabrina must join forces with Mason, even though she doesn’t trust him, and he doesn’t trust her, in order to survive attacks by the men sent to kill them both.

Sexual tension: Thrown into close contact, sexual tension rises, loves blooms. But this only leaves them more vulnerable.

Fear, doubt, and hope: Will they be able to survive the attacks and prove the truth? Only reading the book will reveal the answer.

Lena Diaz is a Golden Heart finalist and has won the National Booksellers Award. Learn more about her at her website


One lucky subscriber to Zara West Suspense’s Newsletter will receive a paperback copy of Lena Diaz’s Exit Strategy. All subscribers’ names will be entered in the Textfixer Random Choice Maker. The winner will be announced on January 31st.

Sign up today to have a chance to win!

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