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 if you are interested you can purchase my books on…Barns &…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

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.