Saturday, October 25, 2014

More Author Mistakes

After my first two blogs about the biggest mistakes writers make when they get published, or self-publish, other writers have been giving me their suggestions. So here are some real biggies I didn’t mention before:

Ignoring the timing is a huge gaffe. If you want reviews from good sources you need to build it into your schedule, which is why you have to have a marketing plan. Magazines, newspapers and other major review sources want copies of your book four months before the release date. There are, in fact, lots of things you should do before publication, and timing is important to all of them. There is a best time for cover reveals, character interviews and sample chapters, and it takes time to get a distributor if you’re self-publishing. You need to examine your market and set the dates.

Yet another big blunder is not giving your website the attention it deserves. Facebook and other social media engines may get all your attention and web sites might seem passé. But remember, social media posts are transient. Your web site is your standing billboard, every hour of every day. And if you learn enough about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or hire the right web site builder, you may well learn how to “convert” web visitors into buyers. Done right, your web site can help your ranking in Google Search, and even sell books.

A couple of friends mentioned that being isolated was a big mistake new writers often make. They mentioned how important conferences and places like The Writers Center in Bethesda, MD are to their careers. To be successful, a writer needs to be part of the writing community and build relationships. You will get more (and better) interviews, reviews and author blurbs if you remember to send those thank-you notes. Read and comment on other writers’ books. Comment on their blogs too. It is a networking business.

As a small publisher I want to throw in one more error authors make: failing to trust their publishing team. Believe me, no one wants you to succeed more than your publisher. If you’re self-publishing, the cover artists, editor, and designer you hire all want to use your book as part of their resume so they want it to be the best it can be. Either way, check those people out before you decide to work with them.  Once you make the decision, trust their expertise. Publish with (or hire) people with solid track records and then TAKE THEIR ADVICE!


I don’t know if anyone can avoid all these mistakes, but if you do it will certainly make writing success a lot easier to attain.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day of Retribution is Here

When I met R. Terry McAnally years ago I knew she was a writer to watch. After leaving a fortune 500 company where for most of her 23 years she taught adults, she now alternates between writing adult mysteries and books for younger folks with her daughter under the Mother Daughter Arts imprint. Today she tells us a bit about what inspires her and shares a sample of her writing.

My biggest thrill in life was reading a great book and discussing it with my brother. But, as I watched him slowly die from lung cancer. I saw his greatest pleasure in life was reading. It was he who started me writing and gave me pointers on what to and not to do. After he passed, I started writing with a vengeance trying to prove myself worthy of him, I wanted him to read my books, so each book I wrote became more and more in depth, more thrilling to write, I know he would be proud of my work, and that is enough for me. I went back to school and received a degree from the Institute of Children’s Literature; they helped me understand what writing was all about.

Here is a little blurb from my book Day of Retribution.

His golden-brown eyes focused on her face. His eyes moved downward, inspecting her body. She could not breath she looked at him; there was something about his face that didn't ring true. He was big and hard he was handsome and all hers for the night. She wanted him to touch her, waiting with anticipation. He smiled and ran his hand across her breast. She gasped with pleasure. He pulled her to him, lowering his mouth to hers in a ravenous kiss, just as he pushed the knife into her body and twisting it, she collapsed too late to understand why his face didn't ring true. He let her body fall to the ground…suddenly Tressa awoke with a scream on her mouth. It was the same dream she had every night, jumping up. She ran into the bathroom and threw cold water on her face.


A paragraph like this keeps one wondering what next; always start a book that draws a person in so they want to keep reading. This paragraph is near the middle to keep you reading. I started out with: The temperature outside hovered only a few degrees above freezing. Rain slid down his cap and under the collar of his jacket, there was a thick mist that seemed to rise from the wet streets and gather at the corner of the building. It then continues on to the call telling him he has 48 hours to live...now if you are interested you can purchase my books on Amazon.com…Barns & Noble.com…Good Reads and many more on line stores. Pull up R. Terry McAnally to see all of my books or go to my web site atwww.motherdaughtermystery.vpweb.com

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Else Am I Doing Wrong?

Before the wildly successful Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con I posted a blog about some big mistakes authors make, and during the Con there were several conversations involving that topic.

One thing we agreed on was that many writers underestimate the importance of editing. With 300,000 or so books being published every year, quality is an important discriminator for readers. Even if your story and prose are both great, if your book is poorly edited readers will not become fans and reviewers won’t want to finish reading it. I think poor editing is the most common complaint I hear about books, especially self-published and small press books.

It’s less specific, but one big mistake I think writers make is failing to get good advice. People ask their friends and family what to do with their stories, but sadly, those people are generally not experts at publishing or promotion. Those same writers often fail to take advantage of opportunities like the C3 Con, where they can sit with best-selling authors and get marketing advice from highly successful writers. There are lots of other, often free sources of reliable good advice such as social media groups and writers’ blogs. The wise author takes advantage of these resources.

Yet another major blunder some writers fall prey to is not putting enough focus on their specific market. The cool thing, as CJ Ellisson shared in her master class at C3, is that today’s social media platforms let you find and target the people who read books in your genre. And there are lots of ways to cultivate these readers beside just getting them to read, buy, read and review your work. Look at the number of writers who have built up a solid group of beta readers – those people who read their books before publication. Aside from providing valuable insight into the appeal of your story, these folks become invested in your book and that can start the word-of-mouth support you need to succeed.

I also have to list impatience as one of the biggest errors authors commit. As John Gilstrap reminded us in his keynote address at C3, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It takes almost all writers many years to become an overnight success.  By the time you hear about a writer he or she has probably already spent a lot of time working on their craft, getting published, finding their audience and building a following. You need to have a marketing plan, and you have to approach it with the long-term in mind.


I can think of three or four other big career-killing mistakes writers make, but they’ll have to wait until next week.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Six Days from the Big Game!

I had planned to discuss more mistakes writers make today, but I’m too distracted. We are less than a week away from the Creatures, Crimes &Creativity Con and we are hip deep in last minute details.

It all starts with making sure we have registration set up. We’re making sure we have name tags for all the attendees and tent cards for everyone who will sit on a panel. That means checking and re-checking the list of attendees.  We’ve got to make sure the right people are on each panel, and that the writers know which panels they’re on. And we’ve got to be sure our head count is 100% accurate, so there are enough meals for everybody.

We are verifying all the gifts our sponsors have given us, starting with the goody-bags donated by Intrigue Publishing author Jeff Markowitz. We have to fill those bags with the different books, magazines, pens, hand sanitizers, water bottles, etc, that our generous supporters have donated.  Of course each bag has to have a copy of our exclusive C3 anthology.

We have to set up the C3 website so that during the Con attendees can register for next year’s Con at a big discount. We need to total all the tweets that have used our hashtag (#MdC3Con) to determine who will win the Kindle Fire. And we have to finalize the details of the scavenger hunt so we can fairly judge who will win the $50 Amazon gift card.

We need to verify that each of our volunteers knows their schedule and understands their duties, in order for panel shifts and other scheduled events go smoothly.

We’re setting up schedules and sign-up sheets for our literary agents, so they will know who they are meeting with when. We’re also creating a sign-up sheet for the “Buzz Your Book” session, so every participant will know when to step up and share their elevator pitch with the group.

And we’re verifying that our on-site bookstore, run by Novel Books, has copies of novels by each of our attending authors. We want them all to be able to participate in the big book signings Friday and Saturday night.


Running the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con is a great joy for all of us involved, but it’s also a huge responsibility and we are determined to get it right. If you’re going to be there, make sure you let us know if we did.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Am I Doing Wrong?

You spent a year crafting the perfect novel. Rewrites. Polishing. Editing. Proofreading. Finally you release your baby into the world and await the crowds of avid readers. But sadly, sales of your new masterpiece falter soon after your family members all have one. It is at this point that you ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?”

During last weekend’s Just Write writer’s conference I was thinking about how writers get off track once their manuscript becomes a book. I was considering the big blunders, the global errors.  I wanted to write about the worst mistake a writer can make. The longer I thought the more I realized there are LOTS of “worst mistakes.”  I sorted thru my list to figure out the worst of the worst.

At the top of my list is failing to learn about the business. Just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy it. But if you write the right book you can improve the odds. So before you self-publish or send that manuscript off to a small press, do some research. Know who your competitors are and what they publish. Know how strong your genre is in the marketplace. What’s missing from the shelves right now? The better you know your market, the easier it will be to figure out a way to connect with readers, to get reviews, to build a platform and ultimately, to sell books.

Another big mistake writers may make is underestimating the importance of their book cover. I’ve even had authors tell me that since they’ve published an ebook the cover is irrelevant. It’s true that readers and book buyers often spend only seconds looking at book covers, and many of them are now viewing thumbnail-size images online. But I think that makes the cover more important than ever, and makes it more challenging to get a cover that hooks a reader in. That’s why we at Intrigue Publishing always invest in a professionally designed cover by someone who understands book design and the publishing industry and I think you should too. If you can't capture people’s attention with a strong cover, you will probably lose potential readers and buyers. If you put a lot of work into writing your book, give your book’s cover the same level of effort.

That’s just a couple of the worst mistakes I think writers can make.  Next week I’ll talk about a couple more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why Should Readers Attend the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con

Last week I told you why authors should attend the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity (C3) Con. Today I’d like to discuss the reasons avid readers and fans of genre fiction should be there.

As you know, the C3 Con gathers readers and writers of mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal fiction. When they arrive, each attendee will receive a goodie-bag filled with cool stuff, including free books, magazines, a notebook and pen, and a couple of surprises. They will also receive a copy of our exclusive anthology filled with stories written by attending authors, including bestselling mystery author Brad Parks and International bestselling romantic suspense/sci-fi/fantasy author Rebecca York. This annual collectors’ item is NOT sold in stores or on line.

Over the three days fans will be offered 36 panels and classes presented by the writers present.  In addition, fans will sit side-by-side with their favorite authors at five meals. Rebecca York will deliver a keynote address at Friday’s dinner.  Saturday’s lunch will feature an interview with Brad Parks. International best-selling thriller author John Gilstrap will deliver a keynote address at Saturday’s dinner. And with Sunday’s breakfast fans will watch an interview of bestselling paranormal/urban fantasy writer C.J. Ellisson.

An on-site bookstore will carry books from all attending authors.  Fans won’t have to hunt the writers down for autograph, because they’ll all be available at two huge book signings held before dinner Friday and Saturday.

And let’s not forget the fun contests.  The twitter contest is already on and the attendee who posts the most tweets with the C3 hashtag - #MdC3Con – during the month before the Con will receive a new Kindle Fire.  And the winner of the scavenger hunt will get a $50 Amazon gift card.

And then there are the master classes.

Thriller, horror and mystery fans will want to attend John Gilstrap’s class called "Broken Bones, Ballistics and Backdrafts: Technical Stuff the Writers Get Wrong." Gilstrap brings his thirty years of experience as a firefighter, EMT, safety engineer and hazardous materials specialist to the classroom to explain the basics of projectile ballistics, fire behavior, how explosives work, and what actually happens when a person gets shot or stabbed.

Readers of any kind of speculative fiction will enjoy Rebecca York’s presentation, “Defining Your Fictional Universe.” A novel must look, sound, smell and taste real to the reader.  But it’s not reality.  It’s a world an author builds.  From plot and character to setting and dialogue, the writer makes the decisions that define the fictional universe and you can learn how it’s done.

For aspiring writers, Brad Parks will present “Where is Papa Going with That Ax?” Writing page-turning fiction that seizes a reader’s imagination and then holds it for 350 pages is hard. But the concepts behind it are actually quite simple. As a matter of fact, one novel Parks discusses accomplishes everything you want fiction to do in just four paragraphs.

And for all fans who want to get closer to the writers they love, CJ Ellisson offers “Facebook: how fans and writers connect.” Readers utilize social media every day, just like authors do. In this session, Ellison explains how fans use Facebook to connect with their favorite writers – and how smart authors use social media to interact in book clubs, meet bloggers and more.


All this, plus the chance to spend relaxed, informal time with dozens of authors, make the C3 Con the perfect place for the avid reader.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Should Writers Attend the C3 Con?

In the last few weeks I’ve used this blog to chatter about what was going on in my writing life and my publishing life. But now, within a month of my company’s event of the year, I need to spend some time reminding you of all the reasons you should attend the Creatures, Crimes& Creativity (C3) Con.

This year the C3 Con runs from noon on Friday, October 10 to Sunday October 12. At the Hunt Valley Inn, just outside Baltimore, we will gather readers and writers of mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.
           
The $275 registration fee includes 36 panels and master classes, two keynote addresses, interviews with two bestselling authors, and five meals: Friday’s dinner, 3 meals Saturday and Sunday breakfast. The meals are included to encourage all the authors and readers to dine side-by-side.  It creates a chance for fans to ask those questions they’ve always wanted to ask.

And BTW, members of major fiction writer organizations (MWA, ITW, SFFAA, SinC) get a substantial discount off the registration cost.

The C3 Con offers a lot to published authors.  It is a great opportunity to spend time with their fans, and to expose new readers to their writing by presenting on panels.  Their books will be available in our on-site bookstore set up by Novel Books. There will be two big book signings, Friday and Saturday before dinner.  Each author’s name is posted on the C3 website with a link to their website or their book. Their photo and bio will be posted in the C3 program book and they are all invited to contribute to the C3 blog. 

Pitch sessions are available with two literary agents.  One, Dawn Dowdle runs the Blue Ridge Literary Agency, a Virginia firm focused on helping authors, especially new authors. The other, Alec Shane, is with Writers House, one of the biggest New York agencies.

Among the great presentations, bestselling mystery author Brad Parks will teach a Master Class called “Where Papa Going With That Ax?” He says writing page-turning fiction that seizes a reader’s imagination and then holds it for 350 pages is hard, but the concepts behind it are actually quite simple. As a matter of fact, one novel he will discuss accomplishes everything you want fiction to do in just four paragraphs. Attendees will also study voice, character, pacing and unveil the patented Brad Parks Formula For Suspense.

International bestselling romantic suspense/sci-fi/fantasy author Rebecca York will also teach a Master Class. She says, "A novel must look, sound, smell and taste real to the reader.  But it’s not reality.  It’s a world you build.  From plot and character to setting and dialogue, you make the decisions that define your fictional universe." And she will show you how.

There are more good reasons for writers to attend, but next week I’ll want to focus on reasons readers and fans will want to be there.  Meanwhile you can gather more details, and register if you’re smart, at http://creaturescrimesandcreativity.com