October 24, 2011

Made It Moment: Michele Dreier

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 7:57 pm

Edited For Death

This Moment takes us back before the reviews, before the reader reactions, before the offer of representation, or publication, or decision to publish. Before the things that constitute Moments for so many. Instead, Michele Dreier mines her writing journey for that time when how to create the story we’re meant to finally clicks into place.

I can remember when this took place for me. It was, as Michele, suggests life-changing. Certainly it forever changed the direction of my work and passion.

In Michele’s case it became her Made It Moment.

Michele Dreier

I’ve always written, although I haven’t always wanted to.

In high school, I got sucked in by the siren call of science and didn’t even take Senior English.  When I started college, I was coerced into registering for an honors English class which I took, just because.

This wasn’t right, I was a chemistry major and had a four-year plan plotted out.  It didn’t include any liberal arts beyond what was required for General Education.  I was going to take chemistry, physics and math and get a high-paying job as a research chemist.  Oh, the future was rosy…until I met Organic Chemistry.  It was NOT love at first sight.

To escape, I began hanging around the journalism department because I had a friend on the college paper.  I discovered that the j-school people had w-a-y better parties and talked about w-a-y easier classes, so I ditched my first passion and took up with Liberal Arts, which was to become my life partner.

It hasn’t always been a perfect marriage.  I’ve spent a large amount of time writing, but not necessarily what I wanted to write.  Early on in my journalism career, I was assigned “policy” stories, short feature stories with a slant from the publisher—who was more conservative and far richer than I.

When I wrote a series on rape—not a popular topic at the time—it was held until the City Editor, Managing Editor, and Executive Editor could read and approve it.  When I wrote a series on women and credit, it had to get vetted by the Business Editor.

But I believe in the “write what you know” adage, so when I began to write fiction my choices were either a non-profit CEO or a newspaper editor.  Not running into a lot of murder and mayhem in the non-profit world, I began to write the first of the Amy Hobbes Mysteries, with a protagonist who’s a newspaper editor.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and ended up with a completed manuscript of almost 90,000 words, which I then forced friends and family to read and shipped off to begin the search for an agent.    Oddly enough, it was rejected. And rejected. And rejected.

I finally put myself and my baby into the hands of a writing coach.  She helped me get some focus, hammered me to cut the “chat”—her term for the information dumps and paragraphs of description which didn’t move the story along—and pushed me to “show, not tell,” a mantra that I’d used for years working with reporters.

After another rewrite, I started on the second batch of agent query letters and had several tell me that there was too much “newspaper stuff” that no one wanted to read.  I was discouraged.  If no one wanted to read about “newspaper stuff”, why was I writing a story about what I knew?

Until one day when I was talking to my daughter.  As I think my daughter is a very cool person, exceedingly bright and reads even more than I do, I trusted her to tell me the truth.  She’d been going along, reading chapters and rewrites, copyediting and critiquing and giving me good advice, but she was tired of it.  One more time, I asked her what she thought I was doing wrong, or maybe not doing right.

She looked at me and said, “Just write one story.  You have two of them here.”

That was my definite “I got it” moment.  Others had good critiques, but they said things like, “You have to much about working at a newspaper in here,”

My daughter finally understood and said, “One story.”

With that simple statement and idea, I immediately saw what was wrong; I’d wrapped “The Story” up in so much information, wanting to flesh out my protagonist, that I had a bi-polar book—one that was trying to go down two roads at the same time.

Now when I sit down to write, I look at two inspirations I have taped to my monitor. One is “Keep your eye on the prize.”

And the other is three simple words: “Write one story.”

Michele Dreier’s first career was in journalism, and she spent seven years as a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News. After returning to Humboldt State University to work on a master’s, she fell into her second career as a non-profit administrator.

Michele has spent time as a reporter and editor for daily papers in California. She was the city, metro and executive editor for newspapers in California’s Central Valley. During this stint, she was a judge for three years for the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association Better Newspapers competition and won two awards for directing Investigative/Enterprise stories.

October 21, 2011

Selling Books: What Works (and What Doesn’t) When You’re Indie Published by Carolyn J. Rose

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 12:24 pm

An Uncertain Refuge

I am thrilled to welcome Carolyn Rose back to the blog with a post that is about as topical as it gets. I was lucky enough not only to read the book Carolyn has recently published (great, harrowing read) but also to meet Carolyn in person last summer. Writing simultaneously shrinks and expands the world, making it a place of books and book lovers, and this is one of the great joys in life for me.

What works to sell books in this brave new world? Carolyn’s going to tell you what she learned when she began to experiment.

Carolyn J. Rose

This spring, after years of rejection and weeks of anguished inner debate, I independently published a suspense novel called An Uncertain Refuge.

Jenny Milchman was kind enough to let me blog about my decision to e publish, and recently invited me back to provide an update on how the book is doing.

An Uncertain Refuge, priced at 99 cents in its e-book form, went hot on Kindle and Nook in mid May. By the end of August, it had attracted 500 readers, mostly Kindle owners. In September, however, more readers clicked the “buy” button and I sold nearly 1100 copies. Again, mostly Kindle owners. As of October almost 700 more readers downloaded the book.

I am awed and amazed by that September showing and the October pace because I did very little in the way of promotion—partly by choice and partly because I had no choice.

First, I lacked the guidance, support, and experience of an agent and/or editor. Second, because I self-published, I was locked out of many contests and review opportunities. Third, I live on a limited income and hold down a job, so I have almost no promotional budget for ads and travel and very little time to devote to chasing opportunities around the Internet.

So, because the jury still seems to be deliberating about what sells books by barely known authors, I decided to experiment with An Uncertain Refuge. After all, I had nothing to lose and no one to account to for success or failure. I made two lists—what I was willing to do within my budget and time limitation, and what I wasn’t.

I wasn’t willing to tweet endlessly, post on Facebook constantly, badger friends and relatives, or leave shrill or self-serving posts on various forums. A little BSP goes a long way, and I didn’t want to alienate readers or writers. I also wasn’t willing to spend too many hours on networking sites that I found confusing, that sucked my time, or that seemed geared mostly to non-writers.

In addition, I wasn’t willing to dip into my savings to buy postcards or bookmarks. They’re pretty and make a nice display at events, but I didn’t think the expense would pay off. And, because I released another indie book this month (A Place of Forgetting) and my husband has one just out through Krill Press (Shotgun Start), I wasn’t willing to update my website and business cards until later in the year when I could add those books. too.

But, I was willing (and eager) to be a guest blogger for other writers, to post on various sites to get the word out, and to give away copies of the book in paperback form. And I was willing to seek out reviewers, to post occasionally on writer/reader forums, and spend a few minutes a day chatting with others in the Writers’ Café and other sites.

I was also willing to keep the price low and to give the book, and my low-rent promotional strategy, time to show results. Thanks to the changing landscape of publishing, to digital and print-on-demand formats, I don’t have to worry about my book being pulled from the shelves and remaindered. Promoting a book is no longer a sprint to the release date and the crucial time window after that, it’s a now a marathon.

Given all of that, here’s what I think worked and why.

First, I wrote a pretty good suspense story with layers, a strong female protagonist, complex and conflicted characters, and an ending that leaves things in doubt until the last minute. (On the negative side, An Uncertain Refuge deals with the raw issue of domestic violence, so it could be a tough read for some.) I used two sharp-eyed, nit-picking editors to root out typos and tell me when I piled on too much description. (Despite that, a friend called a few days ago to gleefully report that she’d found two typos.) And I hired professionals to format the manuscript for e-book (Kimberly Hitchens of Booknook.biz) and paperback (Patty G. Henderson) formats.

Second, I set the price low to attract impulse buyers. I took the focus off money and put it on increasing the number of readers. When I first published, my aim was to raise the price after Labor Day, but now I post that the e-version will be 99 cents until the economy bounces back. (And, skeptic/realist that I am, I’m not banking on that being real soon.)

Third, I picked up several nice reviews and a few mentions from writers I’m acquainted with and from strangers who read the book and put up posts.

Fourth, and probably most important, the also-bought factor came into play. An Uncertain Refuge sold enough copies that it made its way to the front row of the “readers who bought this also bought that” sections of books making strong showings. Their rising tide lifted my little ship.

Will An Uncertain Refuge continue to find readers at this pace? Or is this just a flash in the pan?

Who knows?

But I’m thrilled with the reader response so far, so thrilled that I’m giving away two copies of the paperback to lucky winners drawn from those who drop by and share their ideas and comments.

Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, and spent 25 years as a television news writer and producer in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She has published many mysteries and lives in Vancouver, WA, with her husband, radio personality Mike Phillips, and a motley collection of pets. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

October 19, 2011

Made It Moment: Scott Armstrong

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 11:35 am

Russian Snows

I love stories of writing where the family enters in. Author Shawn Lamb has one, and so does today’s guest, Scott Armstrong, who appears on the very day of the publication of his first novel. “What a difference a year makes,” Scott says in his Moment, and boy, do I know what he means. To see what happened between then and now for Scott, please read on.

Scott Armstrong

My first novel, Russian Snows: Coming of Age in Napoleon’s Army, is being self-published today, October 19, on the 199th anniversary of Napoleon’s departure from Moscow to begin the long retreat home.  The story of how I got to this “Made it Moment” is one that I could not have imagined a year ago.

As a history major in college, people assumed I either wanted to be a teacher or a writer.  I ended up being an accountant.  Fast forward many years, to late September of 2010.  During a casual dinner conversation, my teenage daughter, the real writer in our family, mentioned that NaNoWriMo was getting close.  Writing a 50,000 word novel in November sounded like fun and something my daughter and I could do together as writing buddies.  I signed up and started to think about a topic.

Ever since doing a report in college on Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Moscow in 1812, I’d been intrigued by this tragic event.  I decided I would write an adventure story centered around the invasion with a boy as the main character and hoped I could read it to my son one day.  That was as far as I thought it would go.

On November 1, 2010 my daughter and I embarked on our race to 50k.  Word counts were tracked on the refrigerator and were a nightly topic of discussion.  Writing enough words was not a problem.  In fact, when November ended and the NaNo win was secured, my story was only half finished.

My wife, Sandie, read the manuscript and said it was really good.  Surprised and encouraged, I finished the story, by then over 115,000 words, just in time to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award (ABNA) contest in the Young Adult category.  Out of a possible 5,000 entrants, mine made it to the top 250.  Based on the Publishers Weekly review and the advice of some writer friends, I trimmed the manuscript back down to 51,000 words to better match my middle grade reader audience.

There have been many little “Made it Moments” along the way, like typing the 50,000th word in November for NaNo, seeing my name on the list of ABNA quarter finalists, sending the file to Create Space to get the first proof, and holding a printed copy in my hand.  What a difference a year can make!

Russian Snows: Coming of Age in Napoleon’s Army is available on Amazon in print and ebook form and at Barnes & Noble for the Nook.  Visit http://www.RussianSnows.com for more information and follow Scott’s blog on the Russian Campaign at http://www.Napoleon1812.wordpress.com.

Scott’s love of history dates to an early age as he grew up doing Revolutionary War reenacting with his father, something he continues to this day.

Scott met his wife while reenacting the siege of Savannah. They later participated in a parade in Paris on the Champs Elysées celebrating the treaty of Paris which ended the American Revolution.

Scott no longer works as an accountant, but publishes a local family events magazine called Parents’ Source.

October 17, 2011

Amazon: E-volutionary or Reinventing the Wheel?

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:51 pm

America's About Choice

By now many of you will have seen this article.

The responses I’ve read all seem to lie along two lines. Either that Amazon is a much needed breath of fresh air, coming along to shake things up that badly needed shaking, or that monopolies are frigging terrifying and get out of my bookstore, Jeff Bezos.

My take is neither of those. Or, it’s both of those. Plus.

I think that Amazon has been positively e-volutionary when it comes to indie authors, taking a stigmatized land of vanity presses and turning it into a place where authors may *prefer* to go because they do better there. Indie publishing has also made way for gems that got missed, for whatever reason, by traditional houses.

What I find curious, though, is that Amazon’s print arms, Encore, etc. are starting out to run in much the same way as the big 6. There are inflated advances (such as Penny Marshall’s $800K–Stephen King once apologized for upping demands for a multi-million dollar advance from Scribner, saying that advances were meant to give a writer time and space to write, not to balloon the coffers of an already wealthy person). And delayed responses to agents who submit. Sounds a lot like business as usual.

I hope that Amazon can continue to make real changes where they need to be made, and not simply aim to achieve a monopoly. Monopolies are indeed scary and frankly, I think that there are things being done right and I don’t want any babies thrown out with bath water.

What things are being done right?

Independent bookstores and chains. I have attended events recently at the 86th Street Barnes & Noble that have blown my mind. I’ve met an author long revered and took my daughter to see an actress who in some not tiny way has changed her life. This Friday there’s an event with a master of screenwriting that allows hopeful screenwriters an opportunity to get their scripts read. I also discovered two chains during our recent cross country travels that I wish we had here.

And let’s not forget those publishers that *are* doing right by their authors. Amanda Hocking left indie publishing to sign with St. Martins. My own experience, and it’s early days yet, has been more thrilling than I ever could’ve imagined. These people know how to do things right. Not everything, and it doesn’t work for everyone. But when it does work…wow.

Just as the only rule for writing is that there are no rules, I believe that the only sure prediction is there are no sure predictions. In the future I wonder if the major publishers will bring out more of the bestselling authors–the top 10% of their lists, which historically has carried the rest–while midlist authors or authors with quirky, hard-to-fit books may decide to go the indie route. Or perhaps there will be a mix in both categories.

Author Parnell Hall sings it best. Wave your e reader, get your book signed. Choice. Isn’t that what America is all about?

October 13, 2011

Guest post: Leslie Budewitz

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 10:17 pm

Books, Crooks, and Counselors

Another author starting another post with another wonderful quote. This post could be called An Ode to Libraries. The details Leslie Budewitz manages to capture–you can tell she’s a wonderful writer–brought me back to my own days of riding my three speed bike all summer long in search of books. Or of being sick at home and sending my game-but-unsure parents in search of the just the right book whose title and author I couldn’t recall. “It’s about a girl…and she’s really a witch…and there’s something with a tree…” Thank goodness for librarians. And for libraries–as Leslie is about to tell you.

Leslie Budewitz

“I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

My first memory of a library is the Parmly Billings Library in Billings, Montana. The city was named for Northern Pacific Railroad president Frederick Billings, whose son Parmly was the only family member to live there. When Parmly died of pneumonia at 25 in 1888, his parents gave the city a building site and seed money for a library. Built of local sandstone in the Romanesque style, it served as the library from 1901 until the late 1960s. I thought it was a castle.

By the 1960s, even with several additions, the castle was so crowded that most books were kept in inaccessible stacks and brought out by request. Except for the children’s section. There, Curious George and Mike the Steam Shovel reigned. The Borrowers spun their magic, and I could easily imagine walking through a wardrobe into Narnia.

Libraries needn’t be grand. The castle was eventually replaced by an old warehouse, which offered space and parking, and didn’t seem to cramp Curious George’s style–just like kids, he’s curious anywhere. For a while, a children’s branch anchored a shopping center. And Tuesday mornings in summer, I peddled my pink Schwinn to Rose Park to meet the bookmobile, emptied my twin bike baskets, and filled them up again. The ride home was uphill, but my excitement made the ride easier.

Now I live in a small town with a county branch library. The online catalog lets me sit home and order books from other branches or the statewide library partnership. It’s great technology, both in scattered rural states like Montana and busy systems with dozens of branches.

But I miss the physical spaces. I miss the those accidental finds, the books you come across mis-shelved, or when you kneel down to look at something and your eye falls on something else, or the book that’s just been returned and screams to go home with you.

In law school, I spent much of my waking time in the library, studying. (And some of my sleeping time, too–I occasionally fell asleep on the floor in “the stacks,” the windowless basement rooms crammed with bound volumes of law reviews and obscure references.) The main reading room featured classic oak library tables, some tucked in book-lined alcoves with arched windows of leaded glass. In one alcove, a maple vine poked its way in through a pinhole in the glass and twined down the stone walls.

The main library at Notre Dame is a tall building with a mural outside showing Jesus with his arms raised to heaven. The building faces the end of the football stadium where the students sit, so of course, it’s called “Touchdown Jesus.” Inside, I came across a pink cloth-bound book called Law Careers for Girls. I could hardly believe it was still on the shelves. Or that it recommended careers in tax law, because women are good with numbers and details. I’m sure my tax prof would have howled if I’d showed him the book.

Sometimes you can’t find those accidental discoveries again, no matter how many librarians you enlist in the search. I’d still like another look at a book in the Seattle Public library on pairing American quilts and Asian furniture in design.

When I worked in downtown Seattle in the 1980s, the library occupied a squat black glass building that did nothing to inspire reading or writing, at least outside. The new library, built in 2004, is so wildly creative that it’s been both a prize-winner and a bit of a controversy. The exterior makes you wonder ‘what building is that?’ while I always imagine the interior to be made of giant crayons, bent and molded and reshaped. Like libraries and their contents–offering much more than books these days–do to our thinking, our imagination, our plans for the afternoon.

Kind of like Curious George in the castle.

What’s your favorite library memory?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books, October 2011). She is a practicing lawyer and a mystery writer living in northwest Montana. Read an excerpt and more articles for writers, or send her a question, at http://www.LawandFiction.com

October 12, 2011

Made It Moment: Mark Whiteway

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:55 pm


Every morning, before I start to write, my husband and/or kids say something to me. It’s always the same thing.

“Good luck jumping off the cliff!”

It’s a miracle–in my world anyway–how the winds are there to be borne up on. And I am grateful for it, every single time.

So when you see the quote Mark Whiteway begins his Moment with, you’ll understand why I got a jolt when I read it. Then when you read a little further, you’ll see why I call this one of the most unusual Moments ever. What constitutes success for Mark Whiteway? Well, let’s just say those winds were there to bear him up.

Mark Whiteway

“Jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury

A few months ago, I sat with my friends in a wooden cabin, perched half way up the side of a canyon. Filling the bottom of the canyon was the re-built human starship, Osiris, a golden pyramid with a shining blue sphere at its centre.

My friends were unusual to say the least: humans, Lafontaine and Susan Gilmer; green-skinned Kelanni with tails, Keris, Shann, Lyall, Alondo, Rael and Patris; the shelled Chandara Boxx. I had been with them a long time. Together we had crossed two oceans and three books to arrive on this island. Now some were going to risk their lives and possibly die to save the world from the Lodestone Accumulator Device.

“Who will embark on this perilous mission?” I asked.

Suddenly Susan Gilmer stood up “I have to be the one to go,” she said.

“Why,” I asked. “Kelanni is not your world. Why would you go?”

“To show that while humans can be greedy and selfish, they are also capable of displaying compassion and self sacrifice. Your story will be stronger if you allow me to show that.”

And so, I allowed her to go. Because when the characters in your story become real to you, they tell you what they need to do.

Mark Whiteway lives in rural West Sussex, England, near the former home of H G Wells. The Lodestone series of novels is built around the concept of negative matter-an extension of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Mark lives with his wife Sandra.

October 10, 2011

Guest Post: M.J. Rose

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 6:23 pm

In Session

M.J. Rose is an author I’ve admired for a very long time in no fewer than three separate ways. First, through her eerie, intriguing stories of suspense. Next, because while I was struggling to break in, M.J. opened up a back door and came striding right through the front. To put it less metaphorically, she’s a pioneer of self-publishing, turning it during a time of stigma and limited options into something more glamorous than a 7 figure deal made at auction. And finally, M.J. turned her marketing genius into a package from which other authors can benefit, called AuthorBuzz. During this, the 6th anniversary year of AuthorBuzz, M.J. does the blog an honor by sharing some of her wisdom and perspective about how authors can succeed–and how she can help them.

M.J. Rose

1) In this changing world of books, with many authors independently published, e only, or published by new, small presses, does AuthorBuzz differ as a service depending on how someone’s book comes out?

Yes, every book is unique, so we work with authors to figure out what the book needs, what the author can afford, and the best way to work together.

For instance – a self-published book available mostly in e doesn’t need a push to booksellers. They won’t buy it because they can’t sell it in the store.

Conversely, a traditionally published book from an author who has been on a bestseller list or is close to being on one wants the push to be about getting velocity – selling as many books as possible in a concentrated period of time.

2) At what point in his or her career should an author consider signing up for AuthorBuzz?

As soon as you have your pub date. We sell out fast.

Also, if you are traditionally published and you are bringing us in, it can enthuse the publisher and the sales force to know the author is investing in his or her book.

Since no book ever dies anymore because of the internet, and a book is new to every reader who’s never heard of it, it’s also never too late to contact us.

This summer I  self-published 3 of my backlist titles as ebooks. They were from 2005 and 2006 and I sold more copies in 8 weeks than my 2011 book sold in the same period.

3) Here’s something I hear from a lot of authors: “My book is coming out and my publisher isn’t doing much in the way of marketing.” How can AuthorBuzz compensate for that?

We have over a dozen ways to help authors buzz – including getting the word out to booksellers, librarians, readers, bookclubs, film agents, literary agents, ebook readers and special markets – like religious or spiritual.

There are many small publishers who don’t have full marketing departments who use us as their marketing departments.

We can do the same thing for authors. That’s how we started and that’s what our specialty is.

4) Here’s something I’ve heard a little less frequently. “My book is coming out and my publisher is really giving it a big push.” Will this author still benefit from using AuthorBuzz?

Yes, and here’s why. The more you do, the more you sell. I come from advertising and worked on McDonalds – we never stop advertising all year long. That’s building a brand. Never let the customer/reader forget you’re there. Never stop looking for a new customer/reader. But publishers seldom give a book – even a big book – much more than a month, maybe sometimes 6 weeks of push.

And as big as a push is – it’s rare that’s it’s really big enough, unless the author is a brand name like Nora Roberts or Stephen King.

But what a lot of authors don’t realize is those big names have always supplemented what their publishers have done in terms of marketing – they just haven’t always talked about it. Nora has though. She’s been quoted as saying every author -no matter how big or small – should take a % of their advance and spend it on their own book.

5) How did your own publication history–from self-publishing pioneer to bestselling, traditionally published author–influence your creation of AuthorBuzz?

When publishers wouldn’t buy my first novel because they loved it but didn’t know how to market it – I got a clue that there was a problem in publishing when it came to marketing.

So in 1998 I self-pubbed the book – really to give my agent ammunition to show the publishers – this is how you market her books.  One thing led to another and Lip Service became the first self–published book to get picked up by a traditional NY publishing house.

And I thought me doing my own marketing was over.

But as I said – I was from advertising – I’d been the creative director at a 150 million dollar ad agency and I was surprised – to put it nicely  – by the way publishers marked books and how much more could be done. I was also horrified at how little authors were told about the process.

With Doug Clegg, I wrote Buzz your Book and started teaching a class for authors so they could become educated and empowered and help their own books.

Along the way I realized that most authors wanted to write more than market and that there were marketing services I could provide so they didn’t have to do it themselves.

I started AuthorBuzz in 2005. So October marks our 6th anniversary. To date we’ve worked on more than 1200 books and buzzed millions and millions of readers.

6) What one thing do you feel an author on a very limited budget can do to help launch his book?

Give out  as many free copies as you can to loud mouths who will read the book and talk about it and tweet and Facebook and blog and email about it. Ebook versions are fine. Get readers – early on, readers count more than sales because they lead to sales.

7) A lot of writers hear that they must do this or that (tweet, request likes, etc.) or else their book will founder in a sea of volumes. What is your take on having to do x or y?

Forgive the link – but I’ve tackled that at length and this article has proved really helpful, so I’ve been told.

8 ) If I work with you, do I also need an independent publicist?

The difference between marketing and pr is that pr is a gamble that can pay off big whereas marketing is guaranteed. We buy the space – your marketing runs. A publicist can never be sure they will get what they pitch, whereas  marketing is buying space and running ads/announcements/advertorials. If we buy, they show up.

They are different and both valuable so I tell people that if you have the right book and the right publicist – yes, hire that publicist. But for every dollar you spend with a publicist, spend two dollars with a marketing company so that at the end of the day if the publicist doesn’t get a lot you still will have gotten exposure via your marketing.

If you can only buy one – then marketing first – since if you buy it will run.

9) What if I want my book to be a bestseller (and who wouldn’t)? Can you tell me what to do to ensure that?

Nope. If I could I’d be living in a palatial apartment in Paris half the year and a penthouse in NYC the other half with nice trips in-between.
Seriously – if there was a formula all books would succeed.
Even if you write the best book you can  and have the finest publisher in the world there are no guarantees. It took Janet Evanovich 18 books to write a bestseller. It took Lee Child 1.
And there are many writers who have very solid and fulfilling careers who are never bestsellers. I think what’s important – all that’s important – is to write because you love to write. Because if you didn’t write you’d be miserable. Focus on the process and the satisfaction you get from that process. The rest is too elusive and too often just quicksilver.

M.J. Rose is the international bestselling author of 11 novels.

She is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online, and with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book.

She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com.

She runs two popular blogs Buzz, Balls & Hype and Backstory.

Getting published has been an adventure for Rose who self-published Lip Service late in 1998 after several traditional publishers turned it down. Editors loved it, but didn’t know how to position or market it since it didn’t fit into any one genre.

Frustrated, but curious and convinced that there was a readership for her work, she set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet.

After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format) Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.

Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek and New York Magazine.

She has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.

October 6, 2011

Made It Moment: Sheron McCartha

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:28 am

Caught In Time

Oh, did I love this Moment. Read it and when you get to the first mention of Penryn, recall a post of mine from the backstory column. Are we writers connected by our processes or what? There is an overlap between all of us who make up stories for a living (or not for a living) and it is a bond almost as thick as blood. Probably thicker in some cases. I also love Sheron’s humor–no, death is not an excuse not to stuff that SASE! And, I love what she did in the end. She found a way to make it, and her father would’ve been proud.

Sheron McCartha

Science fiction has been one of my passions for a long time thanks to my father’s influence. Some Sundays before church, my mother would line us up and count noses and father would be missing. She would go hunting for him and find him hiding out in the bathroom avidly reading some science fiction book as if it were a guilty pleasure. He always said he wanted to write a science fiction book, but he never did—so I did it for him.

First, however, I graduated from the University of Florida (Go Gators) with a Masters in Education: English, speech and journalism. I married and due to my husband’s career, we got transferred all around the country. I went along getting day jobs as a high school English teacher, banker, stockbroker, housewife, mother and art gallery manager. Because we traveled, I lost touch with a lot of my friends.

One night during a long boring ride home from a vacation weekend we drove by a billboard with the name Penryn on it. Going seventy miles an hour, that one-second glimpse sparked my imagination and a whole world of exotic characters, exciting events and future worlds came into being that lasted me years of writing. No wonder I write about time and its effect.

As I wrote, I would submit. First, I attended conferences and workshops on writing. Years went by. There were so many rules. You could submit to only certain publishers. They required specific formats, first three chapters and NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS! I submitted to Simon and Schuster and they suggested I get a literary agent, preferably from New York. I knew no one. Getting a doctor was easier. And, I didn’t take rejection well, especially via form letter. Yes, of course I knew that a lot of famous authors had been rejected many times…knew it intellectually…but emotionally…it was hard. Still, I submitted again. I sent off a synopsis and first three chapters to Baen Books. And waited. And waited. Eight months went by. I sent a letter saying I was going to submit elsewhere. They asked me to send the complete manuscript. I took two months and put a bright polish on it and sent it off. And waited again. I was totally discouraged. My beta readers loved my novels and encouraged me to publish. I told them, “Easy for you to say.” They had no idea.

A year later, I was at a conference and complained about how angry I was that I hadn’t heard a word—not even a cold cruel FORM letter. Two years had passed now. My fellow writer turned to me and said, “Didn’t you hear that Jim Baen died not long ago?” Well no, I hadn’t heard and wasn’t that a poor excuse for not responding?

So when Amazon said they would publish my book at no charge and put it up on their website without causing any deaths, I jumped at the chance. No agent needed.

Then, I waited for sales. One day, I opened my mail and got a wonderful card from a college roommate whom I hadn’t heard from in twenty years. “We are so proud of you!” Candy wrote. “I gave you five stars.” And two days later I got an e-mail from Carolyn, a high school friend, who said “I loved your book.”

I cried both times. They had no idea. It took twenty years to hear from them, but my book did it, and that was the moment that I felt like I had finally made it. Dad must be proud.

I am a Northwest writer living in Portland, Oregon who loves to read science fiction thanks to my father’s influence.

After I graduated from the University of Florida with a Master’s degree in Education, I taught creative writing and English literature at Bradford High School. I got married, had a wonderful daughter, and worked as a banker, stock broker, artist and manager of an art gallery.

One night during a drive home, a one second glance turned into years of writing about the Alysian Universe. Try reading a few stories and I hope you too might find a world that entertains and delights you.

October 5, 2011

Guest Post: Jean Henry Mead

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:56 am

Murder of the Interstate

I’m very pleased to welcome Jean Henry Mead back to the blog. Jean’s Made It Moment appears here. Today she shares some of the ins and outs of a topic that is increasingly relevant to authors as book tours become less common. You know the kind: you’re flown from city to city, wined and dined before the readers line up, ten deep to meet you. Oh? That doesn’t always happen? Well, as many of you know, I am a big fan of F2F book events, and plan to take the whole show on the road not too too long from now. But the power of a virtual tour shouldn’t be missed, and here Jean tell us why.

Jean Henry Mead

Virtual Touring

Virtual tours are great fun if you have time to prepare for them, but they can be a burden if you happen to be a procrastinator. I’ve taken part in three, the last one ending in August,with a dozen authors participating in a 12-week tour. My last two tours overlapped in May, which kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to do much writing.

The best part of virtual touring is meeting new readers and responding to those who have been reading your books all along. It’s an opportunity to learn what readers like about your work as well as what they would like to see in the future. Several of my tour visitors said they enjoy the humor of my mystery/suspense series, another said that her husband grabbed the book before she had a chance to read it. Still another thanked me for writing about women of the boomer generation. Their comments made all the work preparing for the tour worthwhile.

Long before you schedule your tour, you should regularly visit popular sites with large visitor numbers. While there, leave comments to introduce yourself to the host and her visitors—for at least two months. Then, when you ask the blog owner to host your tour, she’ll be much more receptive. A successful blog tour is planned months in advance, never at the last moment, and reminding blog hosts a few days before the tour begins of the dates you’ve previously agree upon is a good idea.

Articles written for each blog host should be varied or you run the risk of boring your visitors and losing them. You also need to be on hand each day to respond periodically to comments. That can present a problem for writers with a full time job.

When planning a group tour, make sure all the writers are compatible and that everyone’s going to take the tour seriously. That means getting articles in on time and creating the most attractive presentations possible for your fellow guest bloggers. That doesn’t always happen and can create anxiety among tour group members.

Another problem is writers dropping out in the middle of the tour for various reasons. Summer tours present problems of their own. Two of us had vacations scheduled during my last tour but we managed to maintain contact on laptops from RV parks. It’s not easy unless you’re committed to the team effort. So make sure you know who you’re going into partnership with because unknown writers can let the other members down.

Above all, go into your virtual tour with determination to do the best you’re capable of accomplishing as well as with consideration for your hosts. Have fun on your virtual tour and be sure to thank your hosts as well as your guests when you leave.

I’m looking forward to my Christmas tour, The Mystery We Write Blog Tour, will take place from November 25 through December 9, with 14 authors blogging at different sites each day. We’re already busy writing articles and answering interview questions well ahead of the holiday season. The tour has been well organized by Anne K. Albert, and my tour schedule is up at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com. We’ll be giving away 14 mystery novels to blog visitors who leave comments at the various sites.

Jean Henry Mead writes mystery/suspense and western historical novels. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist published domestically as well as abroad. Among her writing industry jobs were editor of In Wyoming magazine as well as two small literary presses. She served as historian for Press Women, president of Wyoming Writers, national publicity director and secretary-treasurer for Western Writers of America, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Women Writing the West, Western Writers of America, Wyoming Writers, and Author’s Guild. She also has two blog sites: Mysterious Writers and Writers of the West and blogs regularly at Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery.

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