I’m “Guesting” at The Mess!

Hi everyone! Wanted to say I’m the guest blogger at Robbie Cox’s blog. Here’s a link to my post, Chasing Immortality (or why I self-published)  Leave Robbie a comment (even if you hated my post), and feel free to puruse his insightful, honest, heartfelt blog. He’s a talented writer and I’m so honored to be a guest. Read him, and you’ll see what I mean.

I put up a permanent link for Megan’s guest post. So if you need to refer back, just check up top under the tab.

CURRENTLY READING:  Robbie Cox’s ebook, Reaping the Harvest. I’ll have a review link when I finish.

UPCOMING:  My take on the Book Launch and some tips and tricks for doing Yours!

Thank you to everyone.  Now go see Robbie, please!

Advertisements

Guest Blogger – Megan S. Johnston

I am pleased to welcome August’s Guest Blogger, Megan S. Johnston. This month’s offering is on Marketing Your Novel and it comes from an exciting new self-published author. I first came across Megan on Twitter and I have followed her the last few months, interested in her blog and her writing style. Her book, Transition (The Chrimea Hunter Series), is the first of six in a planned series and debuted May 2012. In addition to writing young adult fiction, she is an avid reader of paranormal romances. You would never know to look at her photo but she is also mother of four with seven grandchildren. I’d say this helps to keep her pulse on the young adult genre. Megan also has a large Twitter and Goodreads following so she speaks with an Indie’s voice of authority. On a personal level, Megan is also warm and open, happily married and living in Washington State with her dogs. I highly recommend her to you. 

Marketing Secrets for Authors (Indie or Traditional)

When I first started writing I had no idea what was in store for me. At the time, I thought the writing and publishing would be the hardest, but I had a lot to learn. Marketing is by far the most time consuming of the three. I discovered that selling and marketing books is a completely different process to writing and publishing them.

Whether you get a publishing deal or you are a self-published (indie author), the reality is you have to market, market, market. It is fortunate that in today’s world most of us have computers, which allows us to market globally. All it takes is a little time and a lot of effort and the cost to you is minimal.

If you are a first time author, don’t wait until your novel is finished! You need to brand yourself as you now, because you are selling yourself as an author. Readers need to place your name with the type of novels you write. And remember; don’t leave it in the hands of your publishers or other professionals. Take a chance, and do it yourself.

You need to build an author platform before your novel comes out. You ask, what is an author platform?

Well, it is how you reach your reading/book buying audience. If you already have your name out there, you already have an in, and a platform. So you would more than likely not have a problem getting a book deal. But, if you don’t, then you need to start building one now.  It is never too late, but sooner is always better.

Most of us have friends and family and an email, this is the first step in building your platform.  Do you have an existing business with clients and customers who will perhaps buy your book? Make sure to include them in your email blasts.  Be sure to include community groups where you participate, too. Remember, no spamming, so be sure to identify yourself up front and thank them for their support.

Here are some of the social media/networking sites that are a must when you start building your platform.

  1. Make sure you have a blog. You can get one for FREE on WordPress.com and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Blog often. Visit other blogs with similar interests and comment. Earn a following.
  2. If you already have a Facebook page, which most of us do these days; create a fan page just for your writing. Facebook takes you through the process, step by step. Your author page is separate from your personal page and you can keep one for updates about new releases, signings, professional news, etc. The person page allows you to branch out and share more of yourself like family photos or fun trips.
  3. Start building a twitter page and a following; you can tweet on your progress as you complete your novel. By the time you are finished, your followers will be excited about reading your novel. You can set up your twitter page to put out several tweets a day. But remember; don’t just tweet about your book.  It’s all about connecting with other people, so tweet about what’s happening in your daily life as well. If you already have a twitter following then you can convert them into book buying fans.
  4. Join Goodreads.com, this is a fantastic way to connect with other authors and readers in your genre. Join in on the discussions in the genre you write in. Prior to your book release, do a few freebees on Goodreads, get the readers in your genre to give you reviews for a free .pdf version of your novel. Ask the readers to give you reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobel and Smashwords, this will help sell your novel. The more reviews, the more sales you will see when your novel finally hits the internet. You can also do blog tours prior to your release, and it won’t cost you a penny, just your time. And, make sure you host other authors on your blog as well; they will appreciate it and most will return the favor.
  5. Other sites such as Pinterest.com, Google+ and Smashwords are other social media sites you can check into. Remember that publicity is sometimes just about keeping your name out there, even if it is with a simple tweet, a photo, a review of someone else’s book. Say visible.
  6. Then there is podcasting which is creating audio and distributing it via an RSS feed so people can subscribe. You can podcast your own novel, or use an interview format.

Some great reasons why you should podcast are:

It’s a wonderful way to have your work out in the public eye. Readers can now listen to your work instead of reading it. And, you can connect with other authors who also podcast their work. Audio has taken a step into a new dimension and is a great way to communicate with your readers and other authors. They can listen to your work as they drive to work, on the bus, working out or just relaxing in the sun. You can reach more readers if you decide to do a podcast. Most of all, it’s fun!

What authors want most is to sell their books, whether they are a traditional or a self-published author. Publishers want to sell books too, so having a good platform is very important to them. Some authors get book deals from building a good platform.

The best part is, you can do all of this for FREE! So start building today.

If you don’t have any of these sites going right now, don’t stress, it takes time to build your platform. But in the end, it’s worth it.

I know it’s a lot to take in, but you have to start somewhere! So if you haven’t already, start your blog today. It’s the first step into becoming an accomplished, well-known author.

I wish each of you much success and look forward to hearing your marketing strategies.

Yours Between the Lines,
Megan S.  Johnston

Blog: http://megansjohnston.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/megansjohnston1
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/MeganSJohnston

Megan’s books are available through AuthorHouse, Amazon and other online retailers.

I will NOT wish because…

DAY 6 Blog Challenge is:  If you only had three wishes what would they be? (no wishing for more wishes).

I’ve given this thought all day and I find myself torn by several questions. First, I have put my husband in the role of the genie who keeps asking me what I want to wish for.  At first, I laughed and then as the day wore on I took all this a bit more seriously.

Consider the potential power of three little wishes. Could you change the world? What would you change that would do the most good? How do you know that what you do would stay good and wouldn’t ultimately trigger something very bad? Do you do moral things or monetary ones?  Do you heal or give medicine for the long-term? What is the best approach?

Can you wish for knowledge so you will know?  But you can’t see the future. Do you wish for precognition?  And isn’t that like magic?  So do you become a wizard? How about a philosopher’s stone?  Or maybe you should deal in alchemy?  Can you change the universe this way? 

At what point does “doing” become “too much?”

Do you do something dorky like saying, “I wish for world peace!” and then watch the world fall into an apathetic apoplexy? Does taking away the struggle make us less likely to survive?

Three little wishes. Wow. There are so many implications.

So here is my answer:  I’ll get back to you. There is no easy answer and I’m not making any rash wishes. So, Genie, stand by. I’ll call you when I’m ready. I have the potential to change the world. And that is a scary thing.

Sorry, that’s the best I can do.

ON THE DESK:  I finished the Kevin Hearne novel, HUNTED. Short review on Goodreads if you want to see.  Praise for Hearne. Love him.  Next up, the Mortal Instruments series (because of the movie).  Yes, I know its more YA but hey, I adored the Harry Potter books! So, here’s hoping.

IN THE PEN:  Now that this book of poetry is done, I’m working on other projects like the book trailer and my mystery novel.  It was suggested that I do a second book of poetry for next fall and call it “Dead Bones.”  You know, I am considering it…

SOCIAL MEDIA:  I just want to make a comment about Twitter. Am I the only person out there who follows people because I want to without expecting them to follow me back? Oh sure I unfollow some people who don’t follow me.  But I do go out and seek to follow some folks just because I’m interested in them and I don’t get upset if they don’t follow me back.  However, it seems to me lately that it is all about “the follow.”  If you don’t immediately follow people, you get dropped like a hot potato. OR, once you follow them back, they take two days and then drop you, maybe hoping you won’t notice and stay with them. Ha. But honestly, what happened to just following because you care? Am I outmoded for thinking this?

GUEST BLOGGER:  New Guest selected! Who will SHE be?? Let me just say that she’s a very successful author. Stay tuned!

Guest Blogger – Elaine Calloway

Welcome to June’s Guest Blogger, author Elaine Calloway. I first met Elaine online over five years ago. I was just getting started on Twitter and she was one of the first to welcome and “follow” me. I’ve followed her progression as a writer and watched her success unfold over the years. She’s worked hard to achieve a solid reputation (as we all know being an Indie Author is an undulating path), and her Elemental Clan series is garnering high praise. Elaine and I have some things in common – New Orleans, love of cemeteries, things strange and ethereal, and good seafood. I firmly believe she is part gypsy moth whose blood runs in sepia ink. She makes magic with her imagination. I’m proud to have Elaine as this month’s guest and I present her insights on Self Publishing with some solid advice.

As always, Elaine will monitor and respond to all comments and questions thru June 30.

Tips for Indie Publishing

Ah, Indie Publishing, more commonly called Self Publishing. It’s the craze these days, on Twitter, Amazon, Wattpad, and all the social networking sites. Authors prefer it because they can take control of the reins from “The Big 6” in New York and put the responsibility for success or failure on personal shoulders. 

Many like to make this process seem easy. It is easy, isn’t it? I can skip so many steps if I do it on my own! 

Wrong.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying. Choosing to upload a book yourself and handle all the cover art, editing, promo, etc. on your own is a wonderful feeling. But it isn’t necessarily easier, and you definitely still need to have professionals work on part of the process. 

Step One. Make sure you have written, rewritten and edited your book. Make sure you’ve had people besides your family read and comment on your book. Your mom may be your biggest fan, but she likely won’t tell you that your plot has holes or your heroine isn’t believable. An objective person can. 

Besides, those amazing plots that sound wonderful in your head may not make sense to the average reader. You need a good critique partner or group to tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are. We all use certain phrases too much, forget to add in emotion in some scenes, cause more confusion than clarity on occasion, etc. We’re human. We need feedback. 

I can’t stress enough that writing is also a solitary process. You need to connect to others for support, whether it’s in-person at a local writers group or a virtual option like Twitter chats or challenges like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

The point of writing is to enjoy the process. Writing is solitary; we live inside our heads with our characters. Make sure you’re getting some objective feedback before you upload your book to the world. Then edit, edit, edit. And then edit again. 

Step Two. You need a cover artist. Yes, a professional. Even if you know a thing or two about graphic design, I still maintain you need a pro to design your book cover. And let me dispel a myth for you. You CAN get a cover design done for less than $1,000. When I first began researching cover art, many writers said that a decent graphic designer costs at minimum $500 and up to $1,000 was not out of the question. 

But wait! I don’t have that kind of money! 

Relax. You don’t need to have that much money in the bank. There are plenty of pros as well as art students who upload images to Deviant Art (www.deviantart.com) and often will charge reasonable rates for book covers. Also, Amazon has creative people who can do book covers for you. Some top-notch authors have their covers done for less than $300. Start browsing the site. Sign up for a free account so you can download your favorite images to reference later. 

One good tip is to gather Web links for a few images you’re fond of, and ask some friends what they think of say, 3 or 4 images. Find out which is their favorite and why. 

To my surprise, the image I fell in love with, no one liked. But everyone seemed intrigued by the close-up of an eye. I took that feedback, browsed Deviant Art some more, and began to contact those artists whose work I liked. You can send notes to artists on the site easily. 

One thing to remember: in addition to looking for visual talent, you also want someone you can work with. Some of the artists on Deviant Art have still not even opened my note or responded (from 8 months ago). Those people, regardless of how beautiful their designs, will not make good subcontractors if you want to keep a schedule for your book release. 

Out of the six or seven artists I contacted, the one who responded the quickest is the woman I hired. She was prompt, I loved her work, and most especially, she was willing to work with my ideas, with shaping something that I only had a vague idea about. I could not be more pleased with the cover she came up with.  Take this link to see my latest! http://www.thewriterscanvas.com/waters-blood-book-one/ 

Another thing to watch out for is that some artists don’t have the rights to the images they make on Deviant Art. The professionals do, but some just play with images and don’t ever intend to sell them for professional purposes. Be aware. I found quite a few artists whose work I loved, but I learned they didn’t have the rights to the images, and not only that, the person who did have the rights (or the stock photo company they took the image from) had gone out of business. Not a place you want to be in. 

Use your best judgment. You want someone collaborative, who responds in a reasonable amount of time to email, is willing to do PayPal or another easy form of payment, etc. A picture is worth a thousand words. Make your book cover count!

 Step Three. Formatting your manuscript. I’ll make this tip short and sweet: If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, creating and applying styles to various sentences/paragraphs/fonts, then my suggestion is to format the book yourself. I found the process took about two hours from start to finish, including going through the entire manuscript, removing extra paragraph returns, making headings into a bold style, etc. 

Every digital option (Smashwords, Amazon, etc.) has its own rules. If you are not comfortable applying styles, then hire someone to do the book formatting for you. I’ve seen prices from $50-$100 to do this service. Honestly, I didn’t shop it much because I was able to do it myself. 

One word of caution: keep a back-up copy of each type of digital format you complete! There’s nothing worse than having to start over. 

Step Four. Upload your book to the Web! This is the simplest part of the process, though I will mention that it usually takes 24-72 hours before the book is “live” and available for purchase online. If you’re marketing a book release for a specific date, be sure to keep this in mind. Upload the book 2 days early to promote a 5/1 release, for example. 

Step Five. Write more books & market your current one! Don’t overdo it. If you tweet about your book, make sure only about one in 20 tweets is about your book. Nobody likes a pest. Blog about it, mention on Facebook, definitely get the word out, but keep writing! The main way to gain a following is to keep producing the stories that touch human souls and make us want to read more. 

Hope that provides some insight to future indie authors. Now, go forth and write! 

Yours between the lines,
Elaine Calloway

Website: www.thewriterscanvas.com
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/writerscanvas

Guest Blogger – Xander Buchan

This month’s guest blogger introduces a genre long dear to my heart: horror. A first time author, self-published, this writer wrote, edited, formatted, designed, created, produced his entire book while emerging from a popular reading niche – a risky move for a fresh new novelist. His book not only crossed into gothic horror, but also – gasp – dared to propose a sequel to Bram Stoker’s beloved classic, Dracula. Moreover, not only did he dare such an ambitious writing challenge, he succeeded! Praise has flourished, and this author is now preparing his second novel. I’ve never met him in person, but his love of all things vampire obviously attracted me to his Twitter feed. I pressed him with cheaper prices (and in return I broke down and got an e-reader app), downloaded his eBook when he offered it free, and became a fan. I’ve invited him to speak about his self-publishing journey and what he learned that might help you achieve success. With pleasure, I present Xander Buchan, noted author of Dracula Rekindled. 

Please add your comments after the post and feel free to ask questions! Xander will respond to everyone who posts and will return live for the next two weeks. 

Why I Self-Published and Lessons Learned

 I am not a big reader, nor am I a vampire fanatic, yet I’ve always had a soft spot for Dracula, the Gothic horror unleashed upon the world in 1897 by Bram Stoker. During my 2010 reread, I grew restless as the story approached its climax. The chase gathers pace, the undead villain races back to his castle in Transylvania, the company split in two in order to increase their chances of foiling him. They corner the Count, the box opens, the monster awakens and…..and is immediately defeated with a knife to the throat and another to the heart. Death came not by a wooden stake, and decapitation, the method described, by Van Helsing earlier in the book, as the correct method. And that was it: Chapter 27, “the End.”

As a reader I was not only sad that the thoroughly enjoyable story had come to an end, but also felt distinctly dissatisfied with the outcome; surely the story was meant “To be continued”, I thought. Did Stoker forget the vampire-killing ritual by the time he got to chapter 27? Or did he mean to suggest that the knives did the trick? We’ll never know because, of course, Bram Stoker never did write a sequel. Neither is there any tangible evidence that he ever planned to do so.

My dissatisfaction was in no way a criticism of Stoker’s work, but entirely rooted in my love of the story, and my desire to keep reading about how the Count wasn’t defeated, at least not permanently. Aware that the works had been in the public domain for many years, I presumed that there must be numerous attempts at sequels. Yet some research revealed that despite a biblical-sized flood of vampire fiction, much of it off the back of Dracula, very few sequels were attempted.

Sure, there are successful retellings, re-imaginings, modernizations, and complimentary stories but virtually no sequels written faithfully to the original, bearing the same style and mood. Then I came across the Official Dracula sequel, published in 2009 by Bram’s great grandnephew Dacre Stoker. Wow – I was just about to part with my cash until I read the book’s collection of mixed reviews.

People seemed to either love it or hate it – there was little middle ground. The consensus seemed to be that people who had read and enjoyed the original hated it, whilst those who hadn’t enjoyed the original loved it. Renowned Dracula scholar Leslie Klinger described it as a “fine book,” but not one that could be classed a sequel to the original, having altered so much of the story line. I didn’t checkout my purchase, and still haven’t read Dacre’s book. Nor have I read the other “must-read” Dracula books by Kim Newman, Elizabeth Kostova, CC Humphreys, or Karen Essex to name a few –although all of the above are firmly on my “to read” list.

So, why haven’t I read them? Well I went a little crazy and decided I’d have a go at writing one instead. I needed to ensure the ideas were either my own, or influenced entirely by the original story. Dracula Rekindled was self-published six months ago, and seems to be pleasing its target market i.e. readers who enjoyed the original. I’m currently writing the follow up. My decision is particularly bizarre because I have no previous writing credentials, didn’t study Literature at University, nor did I have a burning desire to write anything before now. Yet, I had an unquenchable desire to write this book. My fuel was my love of the story and my desire to see a good sequel. Plus I assessed there was a definite gap within the saturated vampire fiction genre for a genuine Dracula sequel.

The process took two years from the beginnings of an idea. If I’d known how tough writing and publishing would be, I don’t think I’d have attempted it. Ultimately, I researched and learned the “how to’s.” Now I find the writing process much smoother. I’m still a newbie at writing, but I learned some key things and would like to share them with other potential novelists.

· As best as you can, plan out your story – the beginning, middle, and end. Let your plan evolve as you write – as new ideas appear, work them into the plan and gradually build it up.

· What characters do you need? You don’t want to bombard the readers with an army of detailed characters that they need to remember, nor do you want a 30-chapter conversation between two boring individuals. You’ll need a mix of major and minor characters and if they’re key characters then they must be interesting. Make who-they-are important and relevant to the story.

· Whether the storyline is simple or complex make it convincing – readers aren’t idiots, and want to read something that works as a story and engages their mind and imagination. I think this is true whatever your genre.

· Know your reader. If you are writing YA in Twilight-style for example, then you need to decide who the stereotypical fan is. So if you’re targeting a “moody teenager that wants easy thrills and hot guys and may not appreciate a literary masterpiece,” then write your story for that fan base. If you’re writing for a slash-and-gore fan then they want their action fast and intense, with a simple fail-safe plot. If you’re writing for a fan of Dracula, then you’ll need a more complex story that relies on suspense, creepy atmosphere, as well as gore. Of course – I am generalizing here – there’s no reason why a reader wouldn’t enjoy all three books. But do thoroughly understand your audience and your book’s genre.

· If you’re writing a series, then make sure the end of your books offer both closure and bait. It’s great to leave readers wanting and desperate to read Part 2, but it’s not fair to finish almost mid-sentence with no climax. If you can’t do that, consider writing a longer book or breaking into smaller ones.

· Have your book professionally edited. It will only improve the quality of your work.

· Drawing influence from other books in your genre is fine, but you don’t want to end up writing a book that disappears into an over-populated genre – give readers a reason to read YOUR story. But know enough about other books out there to show how your book differs.

If you plan to self-publish, don’t assume it is an easy process. Avoid taking shortcuts. Just because you could publish the book tomorrow, doesn’t mean you should. Not only do you have technical considerations with eBooks, and layout conundrums with paperback versions, but you must also consider the book cover. People won’t judge the quality of a book by the cover, but it certainly has a strong influence on their decision to buy it.

Readers’ buying decisions are heavily influenced by your marketing and PR efforts. You’ll need a real presence on social networks, a website, a blog, a strategy, and targeted advertising/marketing plan if you can afford it. If you have some nice reviews then share extracts that might entice potential readers. If you don’t have the time or skills to do these things on your own, be prepared to learn, or pay others for these services (and that can be very expensive).

While I continue to learn about self-publishing, I hope this will be helpful to would-be novelists pursing publishing avenues. Believe you can. The rewards are deeply satisfying. Let me know when your book comes out!. I fully support indie authors! Good luck!

Yours between the lines,
Xander Buchan

Twitter: @DraculaReturns
Blog: DraculaRekindled.com

New artist, beauty, and a hint!

Beauty is not a quantifiable concept. What one finds enchanting, another might find to be ordinary.  This is especially true of the arts. Opera, as was mentioned in the movie Pretty Woman, is one medium where people either “hate it or love it.”  Perhaps the sound of the German language can’t touch you through the music. Perhaps you love opera but only the romance languages. I must say Italian does sound quite beautiful when sung.

Beauty is also subjective in art. We are touched by things that capture our eyes because of color, shape, or memory. An artist can never tell what will move a soul to tears or turn a body of people away in disgust (well finger painting with feces will do it for me; how about you?).  An artist can only paint or draw or sculpt what inspires and moves them and waits to see what touches others.

That’s what happened with me. I discovered an artist I am flat crazy about. His name is Ray Ferrer and his web site is listed on the side there —>. His Urban Wall Art is, in one word, FABULOUS.  His style is unique and each piece of art is an original. I’ve purchased a piece from Ray and I am excited. When I receive it I will share some pics with you. Meanwhile, see how Ray uses his style of hand created art stencils and spray paint to make a real masterpiece. Watch this vid:

Art is also a subjective thing when it comes to books. Cover art is so critical for a successful book, especially for the first time author. Doing your own is risky unless you have some serious talent or training. I have none, so I sought the talent of a graphic artist for my upcoming book. I couldn’t be happier with the result which will make my product stand out among the throngs of poor made or super stock covers. But the key is whether it is striking, does it convey the story within, or capture the imagination. Is it art that will make others stop to look?

That brings me to the hint about our upcoming Guest Blogger. His first novel is a completely self-contained work. He wrote, edited, formatted his work, then designed and produced his own cover. Risky for a first time novelist but I think you’ll agree when you see it that his gamble pays off. Is it beautiful? I think I will say that it is striking. And it is memorable. That is true beauty.

If you are a writer, art is how you present your words. That is our craft — to be artful and inventive. If you are an artist, you do the same with canvas, clay or whatever is your medium. To be artist and writer is, truthfully, a gift.  But every person must recognize what his/her talent is and cater to it. Let others do the rest for you. Emphasize your strengths and don’t be afraid of letting others be strong for you where you are weak.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it is said. Check out my new favorite artist, Ray Ferrer. And now, your hint:

Our Guest Blogger is just crazy for British television comedian Dom Joly. And he thinks that Suzi Perry, British television presenter and F1 presenter for BBC, should be his wife. (we all have to dream). Most importantly, he gave an exclusive interview in Haunted Digital Magazine’s After Dark issue.  What’s that? Oh yes, he’s a horror genre writer.  Hmmm…..

***************

ON THE DESK:  Broke down and started reading Charlaine Harris’ Dead Ever After. I have some mixed emotions and I’m only on page 42. The writing is very simple and some things explained I think the reader should easily gleam. Kinda insulting when an author does that. So, I’ll let you know. So far, this book and I are off to a rocky start. And that makes me very sad.

Okay, look for the guest blogger to appear sometime tomorrow eveing or Saturday morning. Get ready for some fun!

Guest Blogger Hint/Great TV

Guest Blogger to appear in just a few days! Who is HE?  Here’s your second clue….

He went to school in a place called Peterhead Academy.  And has a love/hate relationship with cats.

That’s all for now.

******

One note about something else….I like to watch GOOD television. I like comedies and bubble gum as much as the next person but I live for quality writing and fine acting. Here, in no particular order are really exceptional shows you really should be watching:

Game of Thrones.   The Borgias.   Justified.   Hell On Wheels.   Homeland.

If you like really good bubblegum, then you need to tune in to True Blood.

Shows that are finished that are worth your time:  Carnivale.  Rome.

Do you have some recommendations?  Meet you back here tomorrow for more guest clues.