Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Promoting your work

My e-mail inbox is full of opportunities to promote my work. There are calls for blog tours, calls for giving on-line classes, calls for contests, and calls to work with promoters. There are don't miss opportunities. Don't forget your Amazon page and twitter and facebook and tumblr. There are libraries to be contacted and booksellers. Newsletter e-mail lists to keep plus newsletters to write. Hand written notes to others who bought your book or sold your book. Thank yous to people who helped you with quotes, etc. There are contests and book blogs and Ning. It is the giant elephant in the corner of my office. One I've been ignoring, while others tackle it head on and spend literally 40 hours a week at work on their promotion.
I'm still the kind of writer who wants to spend those forty hours in my stories and let someone else take care of the rest. But that is not possible in today's market. You have to tell people who you are. You have to build a brand. You want to create a community. How do you do that and not turn it into a full time job?
Step one is to sort through the opportunities. Toss those you know you'll never do no matter how great they are. Toss those that didn't show you a significant bump in sales last time. (If this is your first book-toss those that "feel" to large.) Sort into a will do, can do and won't do pile. Throw away the won't do and don't waste a moment of regret. Trust me even if you did everything there is no guarantee that you will see significant sales. Too much is out of your hands. Next- ask your agent and editor what they expect you to do. Put those things at the top of the pile. Do them first and if that's all you get done-bravo!!
Do not try to compete with Marketing Sally who seems to be everywhere doing everything. No matter how she gushes you will never have a true idea of how her campaign relates to her sales. She is a salesman- she will never let her slip show. (Her exclamations of success might be accurate but are not necessarily true.)
It comes down to moderation. Your real efforts need to go into your creative work- your books. The key is to tailor your promotion efforts to your time and money constraints and your ability to be comfortable with what you do. And let the rest go~ really, truly there is no one way to be successful. What works for Sally might not work the same for you. Relax, do what you can and let the rest go. If you start to get worried again, come back and read this blog. You have my promise that doing what you are comfortable doing and letting go of the rest is really the best road to success.
This blog was brought to you by my latest release. THE COUNTERFEIT BRIDE, Avalon books will be released next month. It is available for pre-order now. click on the title to pre-order.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May Book Review by Ted

Well, as Nancy told you in her blog, we have moved to " God's Country" from the stormy plains of Kansas to the snowy, icy lakes of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Going home in a manner of speaking since both my wife and I were born and raised in Michigan, just not so far north. Or west either for that matter---we are now living in Iron River which is almost as far west as St. Louis, Missouri. I never thought about that until we actually were looking at maps. Anyway, we are settling in, including spending a day+ in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer.
Can you tell good fiction from bad fiction? If it is all fiction, what is the difference? As I told you before, I shop in bookstores and am often attracted by the title of a book. If the title catches my eye, I'll probably pick up the book and consider it. On my last trip to a book store, I saw a title " There's a Blond Sleeping in My Bed!" I had to quickly pick it up and check this out. Imagine my surprise when on opening it, I saw it was really "Goldie Locks and the Three Bears"!!!! Good fiction or bad fiction?
That little story was fiction and an attempt to catch your attention for this month's review: THE LAMPSHADE. You decide if it was good or bad. I bought The Lampshade ( A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans ) from a book club. Author is Mark Jacobson who has several other books to his credit. Being a history teacher among other things, I am also a person who had relatives in the Nazi concentration camps. Am I Jewish? Not that I have found proof of, though there is some family, word-of-mouth tales that say it may be. But I had cousins in Poland who were confined to Auschwitz --at least one died there and one was born there. They were Polish - professional people who were considered too important for the Nazis to allow to be free. So I am intrigued by all that the camps stand for. I bought the book and spent some time reading it. It took me a while to decide whether it was fiction or fact, but the pictures convinced me it was fact. For those who have no background about these camps, a brief, very brief, description: these camps were places of great inhumanity of man against man, based on the slightest whim of those in charge. The actual happenings numb the mind and I think that's one of the reasons (not necessarily the main one) for the denial of these happenings today. " WE CAN'T BELIEVE THEM TO BE REAL!" Surely they are propaganda, lies by the victors, etc. I have no doubt they existed; they were horrible; the stories are real....12 million died, half because they were Jewish (A religion, not a race). Therefore The Lampshade exists as a story and as a real thing. The fabric of the shade is skin--human skin.........It appears in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the author comes into ownership- in part- of it and sets out to learn the truth about it and what it is or is not. I stop here because: 1) I do not want to upset anyone. 2) I do not want to recommend for you to read it, unless you have a real reason to. It is not a work to entertain you. It is a piece for research, not curiosity. 3) I can not truthfully say the content is all fact or all fiction. I believe he tells what he was able to figure out about the lampshade, but there is no provable conclusion. Why review it? My excuse is, I read it. Someone took the time to write it and deserves the acknowledgement for his work. It took a lot of time and effort to research and write. I wish to acknowledge his ability and the fact that he did all that he did and then wrote about it. I, as you can tell, am still somewhat befuddled on how to describe it. I could not read it cover to cover, it took a couple weeks with pauses between readings............So if you are intrigued, read it...I'd be very interested in hearing about your reaction to it.
Next month hopefully a lighter offering.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Marketing Sell Sheets

This post is a rerun, but it is also the subject of my Master's teaching demonstration so I thought it would be good to revisit.
Sell sheets are a single page device that every company's marketing department creates to focus their marketing plan. It occurred to me a few years ago that sell sheets are a great tool for writers.

For writers, sell sheets are single page flyers/brochures that sell the audience on their book. I learned that sell sheets are my friend. I use them to focus my writing and my marketing efforts.

A sell sheet is helpful whether you are published or unpublished. It can be used to focus your plot and help with a sagging middle. It can be used to frame your synopsis and query letter. It can also be used to sell a published work-to readers and book buyers. Blogging? Use the material off your sell sheet. Chats? A sell sheet keeps your message focused. Announcing a new sale or a book release or contest? Use the information off your sell sheet to provide a uniform message.

Even better, a sell sheet can be helpful when making an editor/agent pitch. A proper has all the elements you need to give your sales pitch in any situation.

What do I put on my sell sheet?

To begin with I include the following four written elements:
1) A single sentence describing the story using 15 words or less. (Think NY Times blurb.)
2) A five sentence paragraph where the first sentence gives the background. The next three sentences give worsening conflict and the last sentence asks the story question. (Think back cover blurb.)
3) A Goal, Motivation and Conflict sentence for each of the main characters.
4) A short-less than 250 word- excerpt from the book.

Then I arrange them on the single sheet using eye catching graphics-book cover if you have it and fonts. Be sure to include: your title, subtitle if you have one, ISBN, retail price, number of pages, and availability. Finally-have them professionally printed on high-quality paper.

Taking the time to create a professional sell sheet can help to focus your work, your editorial pitch and your marketing plan into a cohesive message that helps the readers/editors/agents understand your unique story point of view.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On hooks; beginnings and ends

When you start to write you hear all about writing a good hook. What does that mean...exactly? Your first paragraph even better your first sentence should bring the reader immediately into the story. Pull out five of your favorite fiction books and write down the opening sentence. Did it hook you? Why? What are the ways the author used to do it?
Here are examples from two of my books:
"Nate Cancaid sat straight up in bed, gasping like a drowning man who had finally reached the surface, each breath wrenched from his chest." ~ Dream Man, romantic suspense.
"I'm in big trouble." ~ The Bettin' Kind, Avalon Books, sweet historical.
The opening sentence should make the reader ask the question-why? It should draw their curiosity and make them want to read the next sentence. It should also relate to the overall story question.
In Dream Man, Nate must figure out the connection between his reoccurring dream and a thirty-year-old missing persons cold case.
In The Bettin' Kind, Amelia Morgan sacrifices her dowry and herself to save her little brother.

Hooks are not only found in the opening of a book. Each scene, each chapter should end with a hook. Why? Because you don't want your reader to put the book down. You want them to feel the need to turn the page and find out more. If you get really good at this, you'll have your readers up all night reading. They might curse you for it, but they love it. And you've done your job.
Look at the books you've selected. Thumb through to the last sentences in the first chapter. Write them down. Does it make you ask a question? Does it get your curiosity up? Do you need to take a sneak peak at the next chapters opening hook?

Examples: "...Do you realize what you just said?" "I know what I said," She kept her voice low but firm. "I know what kind of danger saying it put me in, especially with Tom running for President. But let me just tell you one more thing...she asked for you by name." ~ Dream Man, chapter one end.
"She shut her mouth and glared at him. He knew in her heart she didn't believe he would do it. But, of course, she didn't know him. If she thought anything other than her own refusal would save her, she was dead wrong. The men in the barbershop came over, introducing themselves to Alex and slapping him on the back. They almost pushed Amelia away, but Alex wasn't having any of that. He didn't want her to get away. Not before he got his horse." ~ The Bettin' Kind, chapter one end.
As a writer it is your job to draw the reader in and keep them turning pages. Study your favorite authors' chapter beginnings and endings and you will discover a wide variety of ways hooks are created, but be careful, you might get drawn into reading the story. Cheers~