“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
It’s that time again: the RWA conference is just around the corner. Everybody take a deep breath (and then let it out!).
Does the thought of talking to editors, agents, famous authors and talented peers make you want to run screaming into the night? Are you a “typical” writer: shy, introspective, comfortable sitting at your computer, but terrified at the idea of stringing coherent sentences together in a pitch session? Do you fear your vocal cords will suddenly become paralyzed, or your sweat glands will shift into overdrive, if that special agent says, “tell me about yourself”?
Well, whether the description above is accurate, or you’re one of those lucky, extroverted writers who thrive under pressure – or, if you’re somewhere in the middle – you can use the power of your mind/imagination to create successful outcomes in your writing career and in your life.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
~ Albert Einstein
One of the most amazing things I learned long ago, when I began studying the mind in general and hypnosis in particular, was that the mind/brain/psyche doesn’t know the difference between something observed and something imagined. Wow. That’s huge. That means that your mind (through your thoughts and emotions) will happily go about attracting and creating whatever you give mental attention to. (For good or not!)
Of course, we’d all rather stay focused on what we desire, so here are some tools to help you transform negative patterns into positive possibilities:
Also called affirmations, these are statements you select in order to “reprogram” your mind or write a new inner script. Positive suggestions work best if you actually believe what you’re telling yourself. If you don’t believe the affirmation, your mind will generate resistance and nothing will change – you’ll simply have a war of competing ideas waging in your psyche. One sure way to discover if the affirmation you’ve created is believable to you is to listen to your Inner Critic. If your IC comes back with “yeah, that’ll happen,” or “when pigs fly,” then you can be certain you’ve triggered a competing belief. So, what’s the answer? Transform the language into something that’s true for you. Here are some helpful positive suggestions for writers to give ourselves:
“I love writing – my skills are increasing every day.”
“Success comes to me in expected and unexpected ways.”
“I am fine-tuning my craft more every day.”
“I now allow myself to succeed.”
“It feels wonderful to succeed.”
“I now attract the perfect (agent) (editor) (publisher) for me.”
“I am magnetic to positive outcomes.”
“Joyful results come to me from everywhere.”
“I am willing to allow myself to shine.”
“This conference is a joyful, successful experience for me. Something wonderful is unfolding.”
“Somehow, everything is working out great.”
“Yes I can!”
If you have a spiritual/religious belief, your affirmations can reflect it: “The Universe/God/Goddess/All That Is is now guiding me to success as an author.”
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which
escape those who dream only by night.”
~ Edgar Allan Poe
Since I tend to keep several favorite affirmations/positive suggestions running in my mind during most of my waking hours, I find that they help with another strategy for change:
When you notice your negative self-talk (what most of us do most of the time), switch your focus/attention to a positive memory. Let’s say you’re walking around the conference facility, telling yourself unhappy things like, “I’ll never sell my book. Nobody would want what I write. I don’t have what it takes,” etc. Shift your focus to one of the pleasant memories you’ve stored away in the corner of your psyche: the award you won for your essay in sixth grade, the short story that was published in the high school newspaper, or the time your friend said (after reading your first chapter), “Hey! You’re really good.” I’m not suggesting that we need outer validation in order to feel good – in fact, the opposite is true, we need inner validation – but having a stash of uplifting mental movies to review can immediately alter the prevailing mental state and literally change your mood, facial expression, etc. The brain/mind/psyche can only concentrate on one thing at a time: the negative self-talk or the positive memory. Which feels better?
“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
~ Maya Angelou
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The definition of hypnosis is: heightened awareness. Hypnosis is a process of artful distraction. It’s a fascinating – and very natural – paradox. Your body is lying (or sitting) here, but your mind is . . . over there. Other words for hypnosis (achieving the same brain wave patterns) would be: daydreaming, guided visualization, guided imagery, and meditation. I have some hypnosis articles on my non-writing website, if you’d like more information.
As I mentioned earlier, the imagination is the key to transformation. Its symbols, metaphors, stories and sensations are also the language of the soul. The more you practice exploring your inner world, the deeper you can go, faster. (Don’t do this while driving or doing anything else that requires full consciousness!)
Take a few quiet moments daily to stretch out comfortably and close your eyes. Allow yourself to breathe naturally and easily. Feel all the tension and anxiety flowing out of your body as you imagine inhaling a very warm, healing, relaxing energy. Perhaps that energy has a color. Or maybe you can feel it. Or you might just know it’s there. But something pleasant is moving through your body – aligning every cell, bone, organ, muscle and system – guiding you deeper inside your unconscious mind.
Use the power of your imagination to experience yourself in a beautiful place. A lovely landscape or special scene. Make it very real. See every color, every detail. Hear the soft sounds in the distance. Feel the perfect air temperature flowing over your skin. Smell a pleasant aroma. Allow yourself to find a perfect spot in this magical place to stretch out. Feel yourself relax even more. Dropping down deeper and deeper.
As you’re relaxed, begin to daydream about your desired future as a writer and author. Project yourself into the days and years ahead and see, feel, sense and imagine yourself living all the success you want. Step into that scene, that picture, that possibility. How does it feel? Communicate silently with that part of yourself – the part who is living your dream future. Let her tell you how she got there. What steps she took. What commitments she made. What attitudes she chose. What choices she made. Spend as long as you like just reveling in the good feeling of your future life.
As you relax there, give yourself positive suggestions about your desires. Then, when you’re ready, count yourself up from one to five, telling yourself that when you reach the number five, you will be fully back in your physical body, fully in the present, remembering everything you experienced and feeling even better than before you began. Now just rest a moment and smile.
This week, we'll wrap up marketing and move on to preparing for conference.
Monday -Psyching Up for Success! Want some extra confidence at the RWA national conference? Guest blogger Lynda Hilburn, professional counselor, hynotherapist, and paranormal author of The Vampire Shrink, has three quick and easy techniques to reveal your hidden extrovert. Tuesday - Lee's introduction to the month of July, "Prepping for Conference" and the winner of the Amazon gift certificate will be announced. Wednesday- Get Your Head in the Game: Prepare for Nationals - Maureen Hardegree Thursday - Business cards -Terry McLaughlin Friday - New releases
It is my pleasure to introduce Brenda Novak to the wetnoodleposse today! Not only is Brenda a terrific writer, she is an amazing person who is always giving of her time and expertise. I met Brenda at one of our chapter meetings in Sacramento before she was published. Her determination and drive were apparent from the first moment I met her. She is a devoted mother and wife, a leader in her community, and yet she still manages to find time to work on her annual fund-raiser for diabetes research. Welcome, Brenda! And congratulations on hitting the NYT Best-Seller list!!!
There’s a buzzword in the industry that makes almost any author sit up and take notice: branding. Everyone’s talking about it; everyone wants to be effective at it. But…what is it, exactly? And how important is it that we learn to market in this way?
An author brand is like any other kind of brand—Coke, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Andersen Doors. The most familiar brands evoke immediate recognition and association with particular products or even a level of quality in a certain product. Basically, branding translates into a sort of shorthand. I see a Nora book, I automatically know what kind of experience I can expect by reading it, so I pick it up without having to think twice or do any research. Branding is having a reputation and a loyal following and helps with all those impulse buys that are so critical in the book business.
Branding is important because it enables the author’s name in and of itself to become a marketable commodity. James Patterson is now using his brand to sell stories co-authored by other people. He’s even expanding his brand to include many different types of stories. Now that he’s so strongly associated with a good story, he can do that.
How did he build such a strong brand? By writing consistently great stories. That always has to be first. But there’s more to it than that. Branding is an on-going process and doesn’t generally happen overnight. It’s most difficult in the start-up phase. As well known as they are, Coke and Pepsi are still out there, advertising and building name recognition. It’s like pushing a ball uphill. If you stop pushing, it rolls right back to the bottom—something else encroaches and takes the attention of those you’re hoping to reach.
Specifically, an author brands herself by developing something that is consistent and unique in her writing. I do that by making sure every book I create delivers a deeply emotional, evocative story. How is my brand different from other authors who write in the same genre? My books are known for their deep characterization in a genre that is often more plot-driven (as you drift toward the suspense side). Once you know what you want your brand to be, you establish it through your writing style and “voice,” as well as your promotional efforts, until it becomes recognizable to others.
Some tools an author can use to build her brand are:
1. Paid Advertising 2. An interesting and constantly updated Web site 3. Strategic Contests 4. Blogs and chats (See? I’m building my brand right here ) 5. Newsletters 6. Charity/Volunteer work 7. Networking 8. Joint-promotion with other authors and businesses 9. Speaking 10. Writing articles 11. Press releases/media attention 12. Author response to fan letters/e-mails 13. Mailers to booksellers/fans 14. Samplers
Your brand is your promise to your readers. When my readers buy my books they want to be able to count on a certain type of read. Therefore, I make sure I deliver that kind of read. Everything I do professionally is geared around building my brand and my career, so my Web site reflects that brand, my promotional materials reflect it, my charity auction reflects it, and my workshops/blogs reflect it.
Think about how solicitors make you feel. Because we are approached by so many who are trying to sell us something, the melee is deafening. We learn to filter and filter quickly, which means, in order to be effective in today’s marketplace, we have to be creative marketers. So my question to you is: How can you reach people who are already tired of the signals that are constantly bombarding them via the telephone, TV, computer, etc? How can you set yourself apart?
Throw out some ideas, and I’ll be happy to contribute.
Brenda Novak is the national bestselling author of 25 novels. This summer will see the release of her next three romantic suspense stories—TRUST ME, STOP ME, and WATCH ME, coming from Mira Books. Visit her Web site at www.brendanovak.com to learn more about her and her work, or to enter her “That’s What Friends are For Contest,” where you could win a Caribbean Cruise for Two.
Time is a precious commodity, a truth writers know well. We also know that time is something that often needs to be planned in order to be used effectively. Today, we're happy to have Harlequin Superromance author Beth Andrews visiting the Posse. And she's brought along her fabulous collection of tips to help make the most of your writing time and stick to a writing schedule.
Those who know me know I’m what you might call easy-going. Which really comes in handy during summertime when I’m surrounded by my wonderful husband (he works from home as well) and my three kids (two are teenagers). But being easy-going and taking a laid-back approach didn’t work so well for my writing career. How do I know? Because that’s the approach I took for five years. And during those five years I wrote four books.
That’s right. Four.
Okay, to be honest, I revised three of those books extensively but after writing the third book, I spent close to two years writing partials of stories and submitting revised versions of three of my books -- but I didn’t write an entire story. For two years.
Then, on August 21, 2007, I got The Call! I sold my Golden Heart winning manuscript to Harlequin Superromance (For those who are interested, Not Without Her Family is out now. What? You didn’t think I’d write a blog and not mention my debut release, did you? *g*) After three GH finals and five years of writing and re-writing, I was thrilled to finally sell.
And then came the doubts. The first of which being: Can I sell again?
The second one: If I do sell again, can I write a story, start to finish, in a reasonable amount of time after having not written a complete story in over two years?
I was freaked. This was my dream job, the career that I’ve worked so hard for, so there was no way I was going to allow a few measly (although very real) doubts stop me. In March, I answered the first question when I sold two more books to Superromance. When I sat down to figure out my deadlines, I was terrified. Yes, I had a partial of the first story done but that was only 20% of the finished product. How long would it take me to write the next 200 pages? Did I even have it in me to write another full book? If so, how long would it take me to complete it? My other books, all the same length, took at least six months, but I want to grow my career in category and my goal was to have a book out at least every four to five months.
So, for about the hundredth time since I started writing, I made a Work Schedule. But this time, for the very first time, I actually stuck to it. Maybe it was the signed contract and a firm deadline that pushed me, but whatever it was, I finished that first book in two months. A personal record for me. *g* Best of all, both of my critique partners claim it’s some of my best writing.
It wasn’t always easy. I had a lot of bad habits and personal misconceptions about what I was and wasn’t capable of, but with dedication and determination I was able to make my schedule work. Here are some of the tips I’ve learned:
Be Realistic - This is one of my favorite goal-setting tips, but it works for making your schedule as well. Don’t schedule your writing time for 4 a.m. if there’s no way you can roll out of bed before 7. If you work full or part time, this is especially important. During the school year, my two older kids get home shortly after 3 p.m., so I work to have the bulk of my writing done before that time. Once my kids are home, I’m usually busy with them (even as teens, they want attention - go figure *g*) or taking them to one of their many sports practices, friends’ homes, after-school activities etc.
B.I.C.H.O.K really works! - B.I.C.H.O.K., or Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, is the best advice I’ve ever heard. I might not always reach my page goal for the day, but if I stay at the computer long enough (and stay off of the Internet and e-mail) chances are I’ll get at least a few good pages.
Know Your Process - Everyone’s writing process is unique to them and as long as your process works for you, I say embrace it! I’m at my computer by 7 every morning, but most mornings I’m not able to jump into writing so I ease into it by checking e-mails and blogs first. When I write, I like to spit out a scene then go back and revise as I go so I have a fairly polished story when I reach The End.
Just Say No - Your work time is precious which means you need to protect it. Saying no isn’t easy but it can be done - and yes, I’ve done it *g*
Delegate - I’m a big believer in delegating although my kids aren’t very big fans of the concept - probably because I delegate so many responsibilities to them. They’re in charge of housework and now that my oldest has his driver’s license, he runs errands for me as well.
Multi-tasking - To be honest, I’ve given up multi-tasking. I was always trying to do four things at once and still not getting anything done. So when I read an article that said multi-tasking doesn’t work, I decided to give it up *g* Now, I do what I call Chunk-tasking. I ‘chunk’ tasks together and work on them one at a time. For instance, Saturday morning is my time to work on Promotion. I make a list during the week of what I need to get done. Then on Saturday morning, I do each item (one at a time) until I’m done. I’ve found this works really well for things such as sending out prizes, writing thank-you notes, updating my Web site and writing blogs ahead of time.
Make The Time - Yep, this is the most important thing I’ve learned. I used to say that I couldn’t ‘find’ the time to write, then I realized that no one ‘finds’ time to write. They make the time. And making the time isn’t easy. It usually means giving up something such as time, money, your favorite TV program, weekly lunch with your girlfriends, etc. For me, I had to give up my easy-going existence. Gone are the days where I wandered into my office when the mood struck me. I no longer get up from my chair to just “See what’s on TV” during the day. No more sitting down during my scheduled writing time to read a magazine or a book. Nowadays I stick to my schedule - and I’m loving every minute of it!
What about you? Do you have a strict writing schedule? Do you believe in multi-tasking? If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Don't forget to pick up Beth's debut release, Not Without Her Family, out this month from Harlequin Superromance. And swing by her Web site at http://bethandrews.net/ to learn more about Beth and her books.
I'm pleased to introduce Elisa Rolle who blogs as Rosa Is For Romance, near Rome, Italy. Elisa is going to talk about Romances and romance readers in Italy, what the market is like, and whatever we want to ask.
I’ve been reading romance since I was 13 years old, so we speak of more than 20 years ago, and only recently (two years more or less) I started reading in original language, so before then, I only read what was available in Italy. And it was not much.
In Italy there are very few communication media devoted to romance. You can find some blogs (mine is one among few) and only one of the two main romance publishers in Italy has an official website. Before now it wasn’t possible to order on line (just this month the site is under construction and in the future it will allow people to order through an affiliate bookshop online).
In twenty years things haven’t changed much. There are only two main romance publishers, Harlequin Italia (the corresponding firm of Harlequin Canada) and Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, a very old Italian publisher specializing in paperback. Both these publishers are not distributed by bookstores but sell their paperbacks (the only format available) in corner shops (small newsstands on the streets). They have monthly periodical releases, and you can only find the monthly release available on the corner shop, if you lose a release, the only way to recover it is through a mail order to the customer care of the publisher. Sometimes you can find the old releases in the discount store, at half the original price, but it’s not a standard practice. Obviously there is also a wide second hand market, mostly in the Sunday morning second hand markets (like Portobello Road in England) or through online websites and Ebay.
The only Italian Bookclub only translates what it calls “Original”, never previously published romances translated into Italian. But it releases only a book every three months, so it’s very minimal. Recently some major publishers started to translate foreign romance authors, and so we can have also a variety of genres. The previous publishers I mentioned mostly publish historical romances.
Italian romance readers are obviously female readers. They are various and wide, from the desperate housewife to the career girl; from the pink glasses teen to the sweet old nanny. But they read what they find. Since publishers mostly release historical romances, the majority of them usually prefer the historical genre, but I have first hand experience of a seventy years old lady who for the first time read last year Christine Feehan and Laurell K. Hamilton, and now she is addicted. We read what we have but if the publishers give us a wide choice, maybe our taste will be better matched. Definitely a wide part of the readership is stuck to the historical genre. Some like the suspense and others the paranormal (what we can find). Chick lit and similar is not very common among readers, but it has some faithful readers.
Sincerely I can’t find a genre which really doesn’t appeal to any reader. This is also because “we” don’t speak a lot. “We” are still embarrassed to admit that “we” read romance. There is still the fear to be labelled as Z-level reader, with a little brain and a head full of impossible dreams. Worse, like a pervert who likes to read about rapes and obscenity. When I go to buy a romance on the corner shops, I always try to go to a shop owned by a sweet lady who doesn’t comment on my choice. If I see a shop owned by a man, I hardly stop to buy my books, cause I already know that he will look down to me for my choice of reading. To not comment on the real “bookstores” which always are unprepared on the books availability, and more times than not, don’t have the books I’m searching.
And all this for romances that most of all have a non-existent or tepid erotic level. The two main publishers mentioned above used to censor all the romances, leaving them sometimes unrecognizable even to the author (I know of one case of an Italian reader who asked a very famous historical romance author why one of her romance was so tepid, when she was famous for being pretty explicit, and the author was surprised since the romance in question was one of her most sensual).
I believe a lot of women read romance, even if they don’t admit it. If not, I think it is pretty impossible that two publishers could survive only with romance books and that the second hand market on ebay could be so prolific. And we are growing, since finally also the main publishers are starting to translate romance, even if they publish them among the main genres without a specific category, making it pretty difficult to find them in a big bookstore. I have a romance blog, “Rosa is for Romance” (http://rosaromance.splinder.com/), which attracts more than 110 visitors per day mostly from Italy (http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=s28rosaromance), and a LiveJournal (http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com/), with more than 150 visitors per day mostly from USA (http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=s30elisarolle). I realized that women wish to speak and read romance a couple of years ago, when I sold on eBay many old romances that I could no longer accommodate in my home. The blogs don't fill my pockets (I continue with my work as process analyst for bank software solutions), but they allow me to cultivate my passion. “Rosa is for Romance” is available in Italian and English and consists of a “News” section, a space reserved for chatting with the authors, which is very popular among readers, and a curiosity area, such as emerging genres or romance history. My LiveJornal instead is a container for my M/M romance reviews (I have also an Amazon Rank Profile of 12.000 on Amazon USA) and a place where I put down my ramblings, always on romance and related matters. Through statistical tracking website and interaction with the readers, I have a fairly precise idea of my readership: it is an average of women between 20 and 35 years, with a good knowledge of the Internet. Among the more active visitors there are housewives, wanna be writers, clerks - these are examples to demonstrate how various are the professional profiles.
Branding Yourself: How to create a powerful and professional marketplace identity -- Sara Reinke
Sara Reinke is a Zebra Debut author. Of her paranormal romance, Dark Thirst(available now!), Romantic Times said,
"This new twist on the vampire legend, filled with cultural differences and the challenges facing a deaf-mute hero, is a fascinating and unique romance."
Sara is here to share a clear description of what branding is and the basics of how to do it.
If you’re a published author, you’re probably already very aware of the fact that your job doesn’t stop once the words “The End” are typed. An author has to wear many hats—editor, agent, publicist, webmaster, accountant, secretary—and sometimes all of them at the same time! For many, one of the most difficult hats to wear is that of the publicist. Handling your own marketing and promotions is a challenge and writers are often uncertain about where to begin. That’s why branding yourself can be an extremely useful tool, giving you a springboard from which to launch current and future promotional endeavors.
What does it mean to brand yourself?According to Wikipedia: “a brand is a collection of experiences and associations attached to a company, organization, product or service; more specifically, brand refers to the concrete symbols such as a name, logo, slogan, and design scheme. A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, organization, product or service.” (emphasis mine)
In short, branding is a way for readers to easily distinguish you from other authors. For example, years ago, when my published career was still very much in its infancy, I came up with a slogan for my website: “Discover worlds beyond imagination.”
I chose this because I was writing several very different genres at the time and wanted a website theme that would encompass all of them without focusing on any one in particular. From there, I was able to parlay that slogan over the years into a number of distinctive graphics that I used on my business cards, as stationary header, as the splash page and header images for my website and more. Additionally, I was able to develop an email signature line incorporating my slogan: “From worlds beyond imagination to the world of the past, discover worlds beyond imagination with author Sara Reinke.”
While I still use my “Discover” promotional tagline, I’ve also recently introduced another one. Over the years, my writing focus has evolved and I’m no longer writing multiple genres. I’ve settled my focus, for the time, on paranormal fiction, and my vampires in the Brethren Series from Zebra Books in particular. Thus a new slogan seemed to be in order. Because my vampires aren’t immortal, can walk in sunlight, aren’t “undead,” can eat garlic, etc., and pretty much otherwise contradict any of the traditional vampire traits, I opted for a new slogan to reflect this: “Forget everything you know about vampires.”
No matter how many books are released in the series, that slogan will describe them all, thus I’m able to use it now as a website design, put it on business stationary, folders, cards, etc., just like my other one. Since I’m working on additional manuscripts that don’t focus on vampires, I will eventually return to the “Discover” tagline, but for right now, this one seems to be the most appropriate.
So how do you come up with a brand of your own? Author Devyn Quinn writes dark paranormal and urban fantasy erotica. She doesn’t have a tagline, but she has a tag phrase that is uniquely her own and when she uses it on her website, in her email signature line, in business stationary, etc., it distinguishes her. Her tag-phrase is Goth-Erotic.
Like Devyn’s, your tag-phrase or slogan should be immediately evocative and creatively unique, meaning it establishes an immediate picture in someone’s head and it doesn’t sound like everyone else’s generic tagline or slogan. Goth-Erotic conjures an instant image in your mind: dark and sensual. Which is exactly the kind of books Devyn writes.
Think about your own work in the same way. Do you write one specific kind of story or multiple genres? Try to develop a unique slogan that reflects your area(s) of specialty. Once you have that down, find a graphic and color scheme that best reflects this, as well. For example, Devyn uses a black and red color motif on her website; likewise, for my “Forget” campaign, I use black, red and gold. These colors suggest darkness, but also sensuality. Devyn’s imagery on her website shows a couple in a fervent embrace with a sinister face in the background—again encompassing the dark, sexual theme and visually representing her Goth-Erotic brand.
What to do once you develop your own brand idea? In short, put it everywhere. Your email signature line. Postcards to your readers. Bookmarks. Fliers for bookstores. Portfolios. Stickers. Magnets. Calendars. Banner ads. Print ads. Press releases. Anywhere and everywhere you can. Your brand isn’t going to do you any good if readers don’t see it and come to associate it with you. So get it out there!
Remember, too, an author is necessarily married to one particular brand. I just recently transitioned mine, for example. But it’s critical not to change from slogan to slogan, or brand to brand, frequently, because it takes time to develop brand recognition among readers. They’re not going to associate you with a particular brand if you keep changing it every few months. Find a brand for yourself and stick with it for awhile. Like a seed that eventually grows into a magnificent sunflower, so, too, can your brand blossom and develop into something amazing.
Lots of Experience on The Wet Noodle Posse This Week!
We have guest bloggers all week - be sure to stop by and say hey!
Monday - Sara Reinke is a Zebra Debut author. When it comes to her Brethren Series, you can forget everything you knew about vampires. She's giving us a great, simple explanation of what branding is and how to do it.
Tuesday - Elisa Rolle of Rosa is for Romance will talk about creating reviews for books.
Wednesday - Beth Andrews (whose first book from Superromance, NOT WITHOUT HER FAMILY is AWESOME, I'm reading it right now) will talk about multi-tasking and writing time.
Thursday - Brenda Novak - yes, THAT Brenda Novak - will talk some more about branding!
Romance comes in for more of its fair share of hideous covers--too many acres of gleaming, waxed mantitty, historically inappropriate clothing falling off its owners, contortionist embraces, and so on.
If you're at the bottom of the publishing ladder, you don't have much influence over cover art (and even the big names don't get a whole lot of say in the matter). You may be asked for cover art ideas, which may or may not be used. I sent the designers of the English edition of The Rules of Gentility (Oct., 2008) a picture of Regency era bonnets--they used one in the design and I love this cover! Let's hope you love your cover, too, because generally what you see is what you get. Remember that changing a cover involves a whole time-consuming process which in such a deadline-driven business is done only in the most dire of circumstances.
Prepare to suck it up.
The very worst thing you can do is go public. Cry at home and to your best friends, not to the online world. Find something nice to say about the cover ("I love the font treatment!").
However, if your cover and back cover blurb really misrepresent what your book is about, and/or is being marketed as the wrong subgenre, you do have a problem. Some review sites/publications have very little flexibility; the reviewer will give you a review based on what they're told the book is, not what it actually is.
So, what do you do?
Damage control time. You don't want readers to pick up your book expecting one thing from the cover, and then getting upset when they discover they've put out good money for something they hate.Youcan't talk about it in public, but your friends can.
And if you're lucky--and send a discreet, nudging e-mail--a high visibility blog may pick up the story. I tell you, you can't buy publicity like that.
You can also mail to bookstores telling them what the book is really about--Borders (at their national headquarters) has a romance booksellers experts list, and the wonderful Pat Rouse offers an amazing subscription service of mailing labels for bookstores and reader groups, updated quarterly, with information on what, and how many, bookmarks etc. to send.
However, and I must say there's nothing like the publishing business for keeping you humble--many people may love your cover. See, the marketing departments do have some idea of what they're doing, and you may have a "good" cover--even if it's the wrong one for your book. So all you can do is lie back, think of your royalty statement, and hope that your readers will still respect you in the morning.
About the illustrations--regrettably, they are all real except for the top Jane Eyre, which was a finalist in a contest sponsored by Slate.com of illustrating the classics in pulp style. The whole gallery of hilarity can be viewed here. And here are some very odd books that probably got the covers they deserved:
I have been published three months now and I’m still feeling my way around the promotion end. This summer, I’ve been trying out different email loops that promote books. That can be extremely overwhelming (sometimes 500 posts a day on all the loops combined!) So I’m working out a system.
First, I joined this yahoo loop: Promotion Loop Schedule. This group sends daily reminders of which loops accept excerpts and other promo and on which days.
There are a LOT of loops. And you have to join them. And sometimes you have to tell them why you’re joining. And they all have different rules. However, some of them have databases where you can upload excerpts and book covers and links to your websites. Some of them have author days where you can promote yourself, or get together with friends. So far I’ve only done this on publisher days because I’m shy ;)
Then I got my royalty statements and figured I needed to do some more promoting. I looked at the rules for the different loops again and made myself a chart about which loops take excerpts which days. My chart looks like this:
What I need to do next is figure out which excerpts to post when, so I’m not being TOO repetitive. I have three excerpts for each book, a romantic one, a sexual tension one and an action one. My books are fairly long. I probably will only have two excerpts for my Wayback Rodeo book.
When the members of the WNP were brainstorming the Promo topic, I was at a loss. Then someone suggested I write about Author Talk, so here you go. It's funny that AT is included in Promotion month on the WNP, especially since it was never supposed to be promotion - just something silly between two authors.
Author Talk began after my friend and critique partner, Gena Showalter, received a series of questions by an interviewer who clearly didn't know anything about her. This person got everything wrong, from Gena's genre (historical?), number of books (one YA?). I, of course, thought this was HILARIOUS. So, I suggested we spoof it. So one day in January, Gena ordered Chinese food and we filmed our first Author Talk.
I didn't look at what we'd filmed for two days. I just couldn't. But, I finally began importing the footage into my laptop. It took me an entire week to edit. (My editing skills had gone WAY rusty from my R/TV/F days in J School - I'm much faster now.)
Gena met me in the parking lot while my kids were taking dance, and I showed her the almost final product in the front seat of her car. I kept expecting her to say something like, "Jill, let's just forget this whole thing." Even though I'd spent so many hours cutting and shaping the video, I wouldn't have minded - she paid for the Chinese food after all. But no, she never said just delete - in fact she had suggestions. Later I added music, the AT purple arrow open and her book cover and had a finished product:
I remember calling Gena the morning before I uploaded it onto YouTube. "Are you sure about this?" kept coming out of my mouth. So did phrases like "career suicide" but I hit upload anyway. Put it on my blog. She did the same and then I left the house. I was stunned by the comments we'd received, and so very, very thankful people liked it. That I hadn't ruined one of my best friend's (top ten) career was also a bonus.
There Was Only Supposed To Be One
Several people began asking who was next. Gena said it had to be me. So, we met again and filmed my Author Talk. I was pretty sure that would be it. No more Author Talks after that.
As I am so often, I was wrong. People began suggesting who they wanted to see interviewed. (In fact, I have an interesting search string list of people looking for a particular author's AT interview.) For my birthday, Gena bought me the Author Talk website. So, now I'll answer some questions.
What is Your Favorite Author Talk?
Wow, that is a hard one. There are so many good memories associated with each one and each author. So, we'll call that a draw.
Now my favorite Author Talk Extra is the one we did for Dear Author. You can view it here. The questions were a lot of fun, and I was able to use special effects and music to make it even more cheesy.
What's the filming process?
Because I have a news background, we set up AT to look like a studio interview. That would mean having three cameras, but we're only using one. So we start each interview with a two shot and then a headshot of individual answers from authors and questions from me. Everything is out of order and mixed up, but it all gets put together in the editing.
For me, I want to try and make things visually interesting. So I like things in the background, quick cuts and flashes of covers or pictures that represent an author's book to avoid the "talking head" effect.
Filming usually lasts no more than an hour. The editing is a lot longer. I'll send a low res quick time file of the finished product to Gena and the author for their input and suggestions. The longest (and most boring) part is waiting for something to upload or video to render.
Veronica asked, Did it hurt your feelings when you were called a mahjor bitch?
Veronica, I'm so glad you used the correct spelling of mahjor. Yes, I did receive that comment on YouTube of PC and Kristin Cast's AT Interview. You can click here for my response. No, it doesn't hurt my feelings (much), because that's addressed to the Jill Monroe character.
Because we're writers, Gena and I have given our characters motivation. We didn't really discover the Gena Showalter character's motivation until the Rachel Vincent interview, which is to get as much air time as possible. Notice how naturally she hogs the camera...
Speaking of character motivation, I'm going to answer the rest of these questions as the Jill Monroe Author Talk character. Which has absolutely no resemblance to my own personality whatsoever. None. Really.
What exactly is Author Talk?
Author Talk is an interview show I do with Gena Showalter. Actually, I don't do the show with Gena, she was just my first interviewee, and she's never left. Finally I had to come up with some bogus title for her, right now she's Special Correspondent On The Scene. But now you know the real reason she's around.
Some would call Author Talk a spoof, others would call it silliness. I would call it serious journalism, my friend.
Jill Monroe takes her job as interviewer very seriously, ready to ask the hard hitting questions to any difficult author. And they all are - difficult. But now the people have been asking ME the questions, and while they aren't as good as something I could come up with, being a professional journalist and all, I'll give it a shot.
How Do Authors Get On Author Talk?
We make it so simple - all an author has to do is ask, and we'll get the ball rolling. For some strange reason, some people are offended that I might want to interview them (see Kresley Cole) in fact, sometimes they have to be a little restrained (once again - see Kresley Cole). Right now Beth Wilson is handling all requests. We have many lined up to film at RWA National as well as a waiting list. However, if people are in Oklahoma (and really, how hard is it? No matter where you are in the continental US - you're only a day away from Oklahoma.) we can always find a time.
Once upon a time, when I was Unpublished, I saw an author's press kit. It was a folder filled with wonderful things: cover flats (oooh!), glossy photos (ahhh!), and impressive material about the author. Someday, I thought to myself, I'll have one of those, too...when I'm Published.
I may be Published now, but my press kit is still in the planning stages (darn it). I could have used that press kit many times during the past several years–just a couple of weeks ago, for instance, when a local reporter called to arrange an interview for a feature piece. As soon as I can manage it, I'm going to get my act–and my kit–together.
A press kit is a package of promotional material assembled to inform members of the press about a product (your books) or a person (you, the author). It can be in print form, like the one I saw, or in electronic form, available on a Web site.
A Web-based press kit could include: • an author's background or bio • an author's photos (available in several different sizes and resolutions) • past press coverage and interviews (with links, if possible) • images of book covers • current author events (such as upcoming tour dates) • videos • media contact information (an agent or publicist)
A printed press kit might consist of: • a folder to hold all the goodies • a cover sheet listing the kit contents and offering further information • a press release about a current event • an author's bio or fact sheet • author photos • book cover flats • promotional materials from the publisher • copies of past press coverage or interviews • a media contact information sheet • an author's business card
Monday - Terry McLaughlin will blog on making a press kit Tuesday - Jill Monroe will talk about how and why she makes the Author Talk videos Wednesday - Mary Fechter will write about managing promo loops. Thursday - Janet Mullany will talk about what happens when an author gets a bad cover. Friday - Q&A!
ADVENTURE as rich as gold~~LOVE as delicious as chocolate
Lord Edenstorm is the very man Lady Juliette hoped never to see again, for only he knows her true identity. For three years, she’s hidden from her murderous brother, and one word from the icy-eyed Edenstorm will destroy her. All for one foolish mistake. But she fooled him once. If she can do it again, she just might stay alive.
Still stinging from her deceitful betrayal years before, Edenstorm offers to keep Juliette's secret if she helps him catch the traitors who smuggle English gold to Napoleon. She agrees, secretly determined to lead him astray to protect her friends even though she risks her own life. But passion flares and deceit gives way to truth, unleashing unsuspected danger. Only by turning truth into trustCand trust into loveCcan they hope to survive.
I get a lot of questions about making book videos.
Most people want to know if it's hard work. Yes. No, if you're clever enough. You'll hate me, hate WMM, hate that you ever thought you could do this thing– until you get the hang of it.
Do they take a lot of time? They can. Or not. Depending on how fanatical you are. You don't have to be like me and do some immensely complicated piece of "art". My friend Heather Hiestand, in fact, did one in just a few hours (her second one, that is.) But her philosophy is to do short ones that don't lose the viewer's interest.
In her first one, Heather didn't even use music. She just narrated. On the other hand, I figure my first one cost me about 60-80 hours, mostly because I didn't know what I was doing and didn't SAVE often enough. But here it is:
And does it cost a lot of money? No. But yes if you want to pay out the dough. You can get expensive music, pay actor, buy expensive photos or even videos to insert. Or not. Get creative. Get your guitar-playing cousin to do some background music for you. Hunt through family photos. Browse the royalty free sites for good bargains. Jill Monroe and Esri Rose have done some really funny things with interviews. And if you want to see funny, go look at this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_n5L3S9Jmk&feature=related Not bad, huh?
Or they want to know if it pays off as far as promo dollars is concerned. Depends on what you want. If you think your video will go viral and suddenly your book will too, you're probably going to be disappointed. But if you want to reach a different audience, or get your name out there, good videos can really help to do that. The investment may be a longer term one than you want right now. Or maybe you want to look at both short term and long term. Personally, I love doing the frustrating artwork and assembly. It's a huge challenge. But I don't figure much of anyone will want to do my kind of video. Which is good. I get to be unique.
And some people want me to do theirs for them. Well maybe later when I know more. For now– I've still got too much to learn. Simplicity, for one thing...
Or if not, how about telling them how to do it. Well..... There's not a lot of point in taking up blog space to say what other people have already said. So to begin with, go look here to learn basic book video making:
I suggest you use Windows Movie Maker. It's clunky, let's face it. But it is probably still the most versatile and easiest to use video maker available to most of us. Chances are excellent if you use Windows, you have WMM on your computer too. Mac users have an equivalent, I think.
There's one thing to say about WMM, and don't forget this: SAVE YOUR WORK EVERY STEP YOU TAKE. I MEAN IT. If you don't, you'll get deeply involved, thinking it's going along so well, and it will pack up. You could get lucky- but likely you've lost everything.
Begin with deciding what you want to say. How can you be unique? Intriguing? Well, how about your book blurb? Do you have a short, exciting, pithy one? I think for SINS OF THE HEART, I'm going to use this:
The Cornish cliffs at dawn: Two ladies, one spyglass. Two naked men cavorting in the surf. One of them is the man Juliette hoped would never find her. If she pretends to help him catch the gold-smuggling traitors, she might not die. But what if she falls in love instead?
Then think about your visual images. Videos are all about visual and audio imagery. What says your story? I've chosen a few pictures I'm pasting here. Now remember, I do historicals, so not a lot of photos are going to do it for me. Guys just don't run around wearing cravats these days. That's why I choose to "paint" my images. But usually photos are my base.
And don't forget your cover. Use it as the foundation for your little story.
Here are some good places to look for photos. Doing searches for "sexy man" can pay off here like no other place:
Istock and some others also sell video clips. While a photo might cost you $1-3 (get the small or extra small ones), a video clip of rippling waves like this one will cost you 10 credits, or about $20. Here's one I'm thinking of using. My story is about smugglers and spies, so why not?
http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup/locations-and-travel/beaches/5220379-night-and-moon-at-the-sea-or-ocean.php?id=5220379 Then there's the music. Do NOT use music that is copyrighted by someone else without permission. Buying your photos or music at royalty-free sites assures you the maker is being paid for his work. But make sure you use legitimate sites. There are frauds out there.
Some great music sites: http://www.royalty-free.tv/ http://www.shockwave-sound.com/index.html http://www.premiumbeat.com/ http://www.opuzz.com/ http://www.productiontrax.com/index.php http://stockmusic.net/index.cfm/page/main.home
What am I going to use for my SINS video? Don't know. There's one at Royalty-Free TV that makes me want to sing with it, and that means writing lyrics and persuading my brother to do the duet. Uhhhhh..... Maybe there's an easier one?
Where do you put videos? YouTube. MySpace. MetaCafe. TubeMogul will give you a list of places you can use, and then will keep track of them once you have them up. Be aware, though, their site is not the easiest to figure out. http://www.previewthebook.com/index.php This is a promotion site. There are others that want you to pay. This one you can use free, for now. And then there's The New Covey Awards. http://thenewcoveytrailerawards.blogspot.com/ If you love your new work, why not show it off and compete for the prize? And some blogs and review sites will also carry your video, along with your book cover. Just ask!
If you want to join this madness with me, and need a little tutoring, just drop me a line. Or ask your questions now. There are a few things I can probably tell you about using WMM that will save you some headaches. For instance, how to change fonts. How to do transitions. How to adjust your photo frames to match better with the music. But that all takes time and space. If you want to know, though, I'm happy to share.
When my phone rang this spring, and one of my daughter’s former teachers asked if I’d like to speak at a creative writing award celebration at her middle school, quite frankly I thought “Who me?” Sure I’ve had several short stories published, but I figured the middle school would rather have someone who wrote something marketed to young adults and tweens. I almost declined. These kids probably don’t read the Mossy Creek series. What would I find to say to them that would be inspiring?
Knowing that I needed to make the most of this opportunity, I tamped down the inner doubts and said, “I’d love to.” I also asked if I could bring my critique partners who are published in YA. The kids receiving awards would probably like to hear from them, too, and they might read their books. I wracked my brain for a way to use this event to promote my writing while celebrating the students’ accomplishments, and came up with a raffle of two books. Since the award event took place before mother’s day, I figured I could autograph the books for the children, and they could give them to their mothers. My idea went over well. The kids liked the idea of winning a book for their moms, and they laughed at most of my humorous asides during my talk. Best of all, I did not embarrass my daughter who was receiving one of the awards.
Since speaking at my daughter’s middle school, I’ve learned that some authors get paid for these sorts of events. These, of course, are famous or soon to be famous authors. For me, speaking at the school was worth the time away from my latest manuscript because I learned I could do it.
Other Things I Learned from Speaking at My Daughter’s Middle School: 1. Children who love to write and read love to meet published authors. It confirms that they can achieve their dreams. 2. Children who love to write ask for your autograph, whether or not you’re famous. They are convinced that one day you will be and their piece of paper will become valuable. 3. Critique partners who write YA, with a new books coming out two weeks after the event, are very grateful to be included in visits to middle schools.
Have you ever given a talk at a school? How did the event go for you? What did you learn from doing it?
I am honored to have been asked to write a blog article for the Wet Noodle Posse!
In the interest of “writing what you know”, this article will discuss some simple (and some not-so-simple) improvements you can make to your website that should increase the number of visitors and keep them coming back.
Design or redesign your website so you can maintain it yourself
I think that one of the most powerful ways you can make your website work for you is by doing the site updates and maintenance YOURSELF. When you have breaking news to post, you can control when it happens. No need to worry about when your webmaster is going to get around to it… AND you can make updates as frequently as you require at no cost. Paying your webmaster for all those tiny little changes really adds up, in which case, the website is not working for you; it’s the webmaster who is working for you...
Making changes to your website need not be any more complicated than using a blog.As a matter of fact, if you include a blog as part of your website, you can post breaking news and new content there easily and without the help of a webmaster.
Or your entire website can be built on a blog platform that is customized for you, and the blog interface can be used to maintain your website.There are many choices today: blogger, Wordpress, and Movable Type are only a few examples.This is a low-cost, quick-to-implement website solution, but in some cases, the blog’s user interface can be a little cumbersome.
If you want a traditional website you can maintain yourself, a better solution is to use a content management system (CMS). A content management system consists of a user interface that lets you add or modify pages of your website, and a database that stores the content of your website. A couple of currently popular content management systems are Joomla! and ExpressionEngine. Wikipedia has a pretty complete list of available CMS’s.Your webmaster may recommend one to you based on her experiences and preferences.
One thing to note: make sure the content management system you choose allows your site’s content to be crawled by the search engine spiders!!
Design it right the first time
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes guidelines and recommendations for website code design. This group’s mission is “to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web.”Following these guidelines will go a long way to insuring that your website renders correctly in past, present, and future web browsers.
You can ‘validate’ that the HTML code in your existing website conforms to W3C standards by going to http://validator.w3.org/ .Websites that were made more than about 3 years ago may need a lot of rework to achieve W3C validation.Sometimes, a complete redesign of a site may be needed, since website programming languages continue to evolve along with the internet itself.
Compliance with W3C standards will not guarantee that your site will be completely problem-free in all browsers, but it can give you peace of mind that your website code will not be obsolete on the date of launch, and that most of your visitors will experience the website as you intended.
Also consider integrating Web 2.0 features in your website.Web 2.0 means different things to different folks, but basically, it’s all about ways of making your site more interactive for the user, more intuitive to navigate, cleaner in design, yet more dynamic at the same time.
Get your website noticed and stand out from the crowd
Once you have your website up, get the word out by asking your friends with websites to feature a link to your site on their site.The more prominently the link is displayed and categorized with other similar links, the better. (Pages with nothing but hundreds of unrelated links are not considered very useful to search engines. They are considered “link farms”.) If possible, provide your friend with a special graphic advertising your site that will integrate in with some aspect of your friend’s website design.
The more ‘inbound’ links you have from other sites to your website, the more ‘important’ your site is considered by Google and other search engines.This gets you a higher placement in search results if someone is searching for content in your website.
You can also put links to your website on your Facebook or MySpace pages (no, these social networking sites are not just for college students and teenagers anymore!), and include a link to your website in your signature line of your email.Basically plaster that link anywhere you think it won’t be considered blatant spam!
A humorous or entertaining YouTube trailer or podcast advertising your site is a great way to introduce yourself to the World Wide Web, and they are not hard to make if you have some basic video editing software, and perhaps a digital video camera.Some examples from the Wet Noodle Posse on YouTube are Esri Rose’s and Colleen Gleason’s video trailers.
Leave your audience wanting more (and get them to come back for it!)
Fresh, current content on your site keeps users interested in revisiting your site to see what is new and different.Also, adding and building relevant content increases the chances that someone searching for information contained on your site will find your site in a search.This means adding useful articles or blog posts about various topics relevant to your website on a regular basis.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds will alert your visitors with RSS readers to new content on your site.This is an easy way to help interested visitors learn about your latest updates and posts.
If you have a blog, make sure you have turned on the RSS feed!If you have a website, you or your webmaster can use an RSS feed generator to make a new page for your website that will allow RSS feed readers to learn about your website updates.Then you need to add a link to this new page somewhere on your website, and make it REALLY obvious that it is a link to an RSS feed, preferably with an RSS graphic of some type.
Now that you have a great site, and you have told everyone about it, how do you know who is using it?A web statistics program will help you learn about who is coming to your site, how they found your site, and what they are interested in while they are visiting your site.This lets you know if your efforts to drive more traffic to your website are working.
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