Good advice/bad advice


Image result for tooting own horn gif


Our local writers’ club is again sponsoring an event. We held a writers conference for several years, but lately we are focusing on more intimate workshops. BUT we are still sponsoring a story-telling event. This will be our sixth year for that.

So I find myself once again doing the publicity: designing fliers and posters, writing articles for the newspapers, posting on websites and social media, sending out email messages …

I don’t mind. It’s what I do. The question is: Why don’t I do the same for my books?

Good question.

I know once a book is published, the author cannot write “The End” and relax, waiting for royalties to roll in. No one will buy a book if they don’t know about it.

I guess it comes from not wanting to be “pushy.” You know, that writer that posts “Buy my book” a zillion times a day on every outlet known to the Internet. Mom always cautioned me not to be a showoff or smart a$$. Well, she didn’t say a$$ but she meant it. We were told to be modest and unassuming. In other words, hide your light under a basket. Don’t bring attention to yourself.

Good advice then when I was a mouthy, attention-seeking preteen. Bad advice now when I really want to gather new readers.

I know I need to toot my own horn and at the same time, not be so annoying people hit “block” on my posts. It’s a fine line and I haven’t found a way to walk it yet.

I really need to sit down and plan a campaign just like I do for our writers club events. It isn’t that difficult.

I just need to  convince myself it’s okay.



Curiosity and all that…

When you were a child, did you ever sneak a peek at the Christmas gifts hidden in the hall closet or under your parent’s bed?

I think almost all of us did this at one time or another. Curiosity gets the better of our conscience. 

I’m experiencing the same curiosity regarding Riverbend. I know I should let it go, but I can’t resist checking the sales figures. I look at the graphs on the KDP page and then check Author Central for sales ranking. Then I go to the book and see if anyone has left a review.  (Check it out!)

I know I shouldn’t do it. The book will sell or it won’t, and all my “peeking” won’t bring the elusive goal any closer.

“They” say word of mouth is the best advertising, so all I can do is hope the readers who bought the book like it and recommend it to their friends. And there is nothing I can to do make that process go any faster.

There are a few avenues I can pursue to promote the book aside from social media that won’t cost more than the modest royalties I’m seeing. It’s always a toss-up. I know writers who hire publicists to get their book in the public eye, which is, to my thinking, a really big leap of faith. You’d have to sell millions of books to afford that, but unless you do you won’t sell millions of books.

Is it the cart or the horse?

As I said earlier, I”ll let you know how it goes. So far, it’s slow. So instead of checking the graphs daily, I’d be better off concentrating on my next book. And the one after that.

I write because I need to get the stories out of my head, not because I want to be a best-selling author. (Although that would be nice.) I just want the people, as many or as few as they be, who buy my books to enjoy them and feel they got their money’s worth.

But I’m not saying curiosity won’t get the better of me in a few days time and I won’t be able to resist signing in to my account and checking the sales figures.

It’s that curious kid all over again.







Balancing act

There are two things I love to do. One is writing. the other is working outside.

Lately, I wish I could discover something else to focus on.

Last week, I went to an island off the Georgia coast where I relaxed with family. My iPad inexplicably refused to pick up a signal (although no one else had any trouble getting on line). I took this as a sign to forget about email and Facebook and simply enjoy the hot days sunning, bathing, and shopping; and the evenings devoted to eating my fill of shrimp.

I came hope ready to tackle the yard and my rewrites.

Alas, “back home” we’d had 95-degree weather and no rain. My flowers were either dead or close to extinction. The grass crackled underfoot like walking on Wheaties. My blueberries resembled bunches of raisins. As if in defiance of the stunning heat, the hedges had thrust up new growth and looked like raggedy urchins in dire need of a haircut.

So there was that.

Then I opened up the edited ms.  To be fair, the woman who took on my novel and gave it her professional attention is right on with her comments and criticisms. I admit to vagaries of punctuation. I admit to discrepancies. I was prepared to dig in and correct all the places she had marked. That’s the easy part.

But it is harder to admit to the larger areas of character, plot and the mysterious labyrinth of foreshadowing without giving the whole story away. I am constantly going back to rewrite a paragraph or scene, then realizing it doesn’t work and rewriting it again. And again.

The more I work on it, the more convinced I am that the story is terrible, nonredeemable, and should be thrown in the trash.

That would be easy. All I have to do is tap the Delete button on my computer.

Then I re-read some of my own posts and remember that my mantra is perseverance. So I slogged on. Paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence.

This business of rewriting may be the hardest thing I have ever done. I keep telling myself that I have published with two different houses, and that one of my books is up for an award.

It’s just that I want this book to be better. Don’t we all want our next book to be better than the one before?

When it gets too frustrating and I want to scream and pull my hair out, I back off from the computer.

I go outside and work in the yard. So far, I have trimmed the hedges, mowed the front and back lawns–not of grass, but of weeds and buttercups, and watered the flowers.

Then I go back to revising.

There is something to be said about balance, but I think I already said it.






What time is it, anyway?

A question I am frequently asked is “What time of day do you set aside for writing?”

I know some writers who have a set time and woe betide anyone — spouse, child or telemarketer — who interrupts them.

But I don’t have a set time. I probably should, but lately I can’t seem to settle on any kind of schedule. I flit from typesetting our club’s anthology to laying out the ads for our Carolinas Writers Conference booklet to writing up the minutes of the church leadership team. All important, and all taking up time I should be writing.

Can you spot the big, fat lie in the above paragraph?

The important fact I omitted is that if I wanted to find time, I could. I could get up in the morning when I first wake up, feed the cats, get a cup of coffee and sit down and write before most people’s day begins. Because I wake up early. And lie in bed daydreaming.

I could stop spending time on Facebook because frankly I scroll past the recipes and what-I-had-for-dinner and political rants anyway. I could live without seeing the latest adorable kitten or finding out who my Mafia team is. Why do I let the videos suck me in? Could it be possible I am using Facebook to avoid writing?

Scary thought.

With spring coming on fast, I know I have to paint the deck and rake sweet gum balls and begin the never-ending chore of mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges and weeding flowerbeds. Never mind trying to keep the house clean and the laundry caught up. I could tell myself that I have no time to write.

I used to think my writing time came after all the above mentioned chores were done. What I have discovered is, I was making up chores to keep from sitting down at my computer.

But do you know what? I am going to carve out that time. I need to quit making excuses and wasting what time I have. You would think I’d know by now that time is a rare and precious commodity.

It’s time to stop wasting it.












Social Media=Sales?

Does being active on social media translate to more e-book sales?

That’s a question a group I belong to is discussing right now. I read all the posts, and sad to say, most agree with me — you can Tweet, Blog, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook your heart out, and you won’t sell a single book more than if you’d stayed busy cleaning house.

In fact, touting your book 24-7 is a good way to alienate your friends so they unfriend you at worst, or skip over your post, eyes glazed, at best.

Yes, I like to tell my friends/fans when a new book is coming out or when one is on sale. I think in my heart of hearts they are pleased to know this information. But these are folks who will buy the book anyway, either because they like me and want to help, or they genuinely like my writing. In short, I am reaching folks who are already fans, not making new ones.

I feel a stab of sympathy when fellow writers post of the amounts of money they have spent to “push” their book on review sites or in e-book newsletters. Some even hired assistants to get their book “out there.” All agreed they had lost money they may never recoup. It is like the author who orders a thousand copies of her book, only to have them take space in the garage for years on end.

I have spent a little bit of money, and it did bring a spurt in sales. But when I added it up, I’d spent more than I earned. Every time.

And yet…I know some writers who have earned over $1000 in sales and their books have not even been released yet!

What is their secret? I wish I knew. Catchy covers…great log lines…an enormous network of fans?

Not that I’m envious (she said snarkily). I’m happy for their success.

But let’s face it, competing with the thousand+ ebooks released every day is daunting. I could sell more books if they were print, but my books won’t be in print until the publisher sees X dollars earned by the e-version. Talk about a catch-22!

I will continue to Tweet and blog and post on Facebook, but only when something new happens that is worth sharing. My philosophy is that pounding someone over the head with your book isn’t going to make them break down and buy it.

But not having an online presence isn’t the answer, either.

I think there’s a happy medium. Be nice, be present, share, but don’t nag.

And meanwhile, write the next book and make it even better than the last one.









After you write “The End”

We all know a book isn’t finished when you write “The End.” It is just the beginning of a long and arduous journey.

The next steps are writing a query letter, taglines, blurbs, and synopsis. Then you send these out…and send them out…and hopefully one day you get a request to read the full manuscript.

If it is accepted, you still are not done. There are line edits and copy edits, and sometimes rewrites of whole scenes. But finally you send baKaren's Bookck the final galley proof with a sigh of relief. Then, in a few weeks or months, you hold the finished product in your hands.

If you decide to self publish, you must hire an editor, find a good cover artist who shares your vision, and if you lack the patience to do this yourself, hire a tech person to format the pages.

And then you upload it to your author platform.

Wait for this…in either scenario, you are still not finished.

The book is published. Now it is up to you to promote it.

I am happy to tell you that a friend of mine has published a book that tells you how you can do this it is called “How to Become a Best-selling Author Using Powerful and Easy-to-Make Videos, then Leveraging them Over the Top (How to Become a Best Seller Book 1)”. 

The title is almost longer than the book, but believe me, those 69 pages are loaded with information. She tells you what you needs to do and then tells you how to do it, plus providing the resources.

I just completed my first book trailer video, following her guidelines. I think it turned out pretty well, considering I never did one before. Heck, I never thought I could do one until I read the book. If you are curious, here’s the link: A Question of Loyalty.

The book is reasonably priced for the wealth of information it contains. I believe it will be a helpful addition to your promotion toolkit.

You may have written the best book in the history of literature, but unless you promote it no one will ever know.





Blog tours: do they work?

Not too long ago I didn’t know exactly what a blog tour was. I knew they were important, but not why or how much.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it’s when you answer certain formatted questions about your writing life  on your blog and nominate two or three others to pick up the baton and answer the questions on their blog, giving credit to the person who nominated them and nominating others in their turn. Sounds confusing, but it isn’t. Think of a chain letter. Only instead of getting dozens of recipes or salt and pepper shakers, you get dozens of people reading about you and your books.

Now that I’m a little more savvy, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are important mainly in introducing writers to other writers. Why do I say this? Because not one of my non-writing friends has any idea what I am talking about when I tell them I’m making an appearance on someone’s blog and give them the link. They go, see an unfamiliar name in the header, and click off thinking they have landed somewhere by error.

One friend asked me if I had changed my name for my upcoming release. She knew I had a book coming out; the blog talked about a book coming out.  So when she saw who the author was, she assumed it was me using a pen name. It didn’t help that the author pasted my  photo on the top of her page. She was thanking me for featuring her on my blog, but that didn’t come until the bottom of the article.  Not her fault, it’s the way the blog was set up. But confusing my fans is not part of my marketing plan.

So I’m guessing people didn’t read that far because several congratulated me on my new book.

Thanks, but wrong book.

The idea behind participating in a blog tour is a good one. It exposes you to more people, who hopefully will run out and buy your book. Or become fans of your blog. Or at least will recognize your name if they run across it while browsing for something to read.

So I won’t say no if I’m asked to participate in future tours. I may even ask bloggers whom I know, however faintly, to allow me to be a guest on their blog.

It’s just one social media plank in that ever-elusive “platform” from which we launch our product.

But the foundation of that platform is solid writing. And if we don’t have that, nothing else matters.




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