All throughout February, I’m talking about love and romance, so I wanted to feature a Romance writer as this month’s guest author. Mindy McKinely debuted her first romance novel in 2020 and since then has rapid-fire released two sequels and a few steamy novellas to boot.
I had the pleasure of reading an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of Mindy’s Adam’s Brothers Series. Aside from the heart-swelling romance, she provides a ton of laughs along the way. But one thing that this author does is create a playlist for each of her projects.
So before I get too carried away, I’ll let Mindy take it from here!
Playlist That Funky Music
By Mindy McKinley
As an Indie writer, there’s so much you have to be able to do. You have to be able to write, obviously (that’s a big one), but you also have to edit, design covers, navigate the marketing world, create beautiful graphics, engage on multiple social media platforms, and dance for Tik Tok. *Heavy Breathing*
It’s a lot and I am still avoiding that last one because, frankly, no one needs to see me dance.
That said, I’m here to advocate for adding DJ to your never-ending to-do list. Supplying a playlist for your book is not a brand-new idea and I’m pretty sure none of you are gobsmacked by this suggestion. But as far as all the tasks surrounding writing a book is concerned, this one can be the most fun and have some pretty profound benefits.
Why should I create a playlist?
I recommend creating a playlist as part of the release schedule. Think of it as bonus content for your readers.
Make an eye-catching graphic with the songs and artists and place it somewhere between the cover reveal and the release date.
Make it a big deal.
And most importantly: add the link to the actual playlist in your social media bio. I use LinkTree to accommodate all the places I want my readers to visit. You can also embed the link in your eBook for easy access.
You mentioned benefits
I did! The book playlist allows us to connect with our readers on a whole new plane. At the risk of sounding cliché, music is universal, and a succinct way to access emotions. Allowing the reader to access those emotions before they read the book, not only gets them excited, but connects them to our characters before they even turn a page. Who wouldn’t want that?
Good playlists can also generate new readers based on shared musical likes. However, it’s important to avoid using songs just because they’re popular. If they don’t have a connection to your book, it won’t fly.
Okay, you’ve convinced me, I’ll make a playlist. Where do I start?
I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with the music that inspired your book.
Are you one of those writers who heard one song and wrote a whole book based on it? Or a writer who already has an inspiration playlist for writing? Awesome, you’re already one step ahead of me!
Use those songs. But, and I’m talking to those of you who have 5-hour long playlists, don’t use all of them. The book playlist is a teaser, not a dissertation.
What if I don’t already have inspiration music?
If you’re like me, you might not have either of those things working for you. So here are a few things to consider while you’re brainstorming:
- Are there any particular songs mentioned in the book? These are easy additions, especially if they have an emotional connection to the characters.
- Is music a big part of your character’s life? For example, if you have an MC who only listens to 80’s music, or has a side gig as a jazz singer—USE IT.
- Is there a particular movie or tv show they watch? Adding something from those soundtracks might work, depending on what it is and if it fits with the genre you are writing.
- What is your setting? Music is vastly different by location, draw on that to add local flavor.
If you’ve followed the above steps, you still might only have a few songs to put on your playlist. Don’t worry, it’s a place to start! Remember, we’re trying to create an album-length playlist that will inspire and intrigue our readers, not a five-disc* collectors set.
So, what do I do to beef up my playlist?
One word: Spotify
Spotify is a perfect way to find songs to fill out a sparse list. The algorithms on the site are specifically designed to provide similar artists and songs to the ones you’ve already chosen. It can be a delightful way to discover new music, but it also provides perfect candidates that you may have never heard before. Remember, no matter how much you love music, there’s always more out there than you can ever listen to in a lifetime.
Give me an example
Cool, I’ll use my first playlist. In my book, At Last, my female MC is a teacher by day, a jazz singer by night. She loves Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, and all the old jazz standards. It was a piece of cake to include the songs she sings in the book, including the titular At Last, but it wasn’t enough.
To fill it out, I used Spotify and Google to research songs in the same era and I made sure to use recordings by the original artists to add an air of authenticity. It took me a few weeks to tweak it, but I ended up with a playlist that I have listened to over and over again, that enhances my book in a way that’s almost magical.
How much is too much?
Though we might wish to use every song that’s inspired us, or that your MC has ever listened to, you have to think of your playlist as a product. How much time do you think your reader wants to devote to a single playlist? My guess is somewhere far under 5 hours, so I suggest an album-length of 10-20 carefully chosen songs.
As with everything else you do as a writer, editing is required. Killing your darlings is always hard, but it’s important to consider the importance of each song, and the order in which it falls on the list.
I’ve made playlists that directly follow the action in the plot and others that need to be shuffled in order to make it an enjoyable listen. Both are important and you’ll have to make that call as you go.
In case you still have doubts!
Book playlists are also an amazing tool for increasing social media engagement. Once the book has been released, I like to ask readers if they think I missed any songs that could have made it better. Everyone has opinions about music, and I’ve found it’s a great way to engage in a meaningful way with readers. And because they are thinking about your book and your characters, the more invested they become in you.
Every meaningful interaction you have with readers and potential readers can result in sales and when readers trust you to carefully construct amazing emotional experiences both on the page and in a playlist—they’re more likely to put you in the one-click category we all aspire to.
So, what do you have to lose? Get out there and go playlist!
*an ancient technology
More about Mindy
Mindy McKinley is a Contemporary Romance author, avid reader, and cellist.
She lives in the Midwest with her drummer husband and two adorable cats. In her life outside of writing, she is a music teacher, a small business owner, and a professional musician.
No matter where she is in her busy life, her mind is always on her writing. She finds inspiration in everyday moments and joy in putting words in just the right order.
If you’re interested in learning more about Mindy’s writing, visit her website at www.mindymckinley.com for information on current books, upcoming projects, newsletter, and a blog.
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