Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in Review

2010 started off with high hopes and ended with some major disappointments. I've been contemplating the good, the bad and the ugly lately as I prepare to wish a final farewell to 2010.

The bad and the ugly have almost entirely been personal sufferings with family. I'd rather not dwell on them and hope that 2011 treats us better. I do want to focus on the good, which mostly has to do with my writing. Of course, not all has been great, but the bad and the ugly have been definite learning experiences.

My year in review:
  • I started a blog! This blog, actually, which morphed along the way (combining with my blog for a while) and came back to here. My blogoversary is coming up in January. Yes, I've been blogging for a year and what a fantastic time it has been!
  • I also started tweeting! Something I swore I'd never do because I didn't "get" it. I'm glad I decided to check it out because I've met so many wonderful and lovely people.
  • With all this social media stuff, I've met hundreds of fantabulous writer friends. Like you. The camaraderie and support I've found in the online writers' world simply amazes me.
  • After some crazy revisions that were mostly thrown out, I made the realization that I'd written two books, not just one called Purpose. So I made the decision to split it, creating Promise and Purpose.
  • My business partner and I decided to start a second company - a publishing company - and we took on our first author - me! This has been an incredible learning experience that continues to push us beyond our boundaries each day. I've loved (nearly) every minute of it and look forward to the future it has in store for both of us...and others.
  • I didn't do a whole lot of writing this year, when I really look back at it. I had to write an ending for Promise, but that was really revising what was already there and adding in some wrap-ups to tie loose ends. I did add about 30,000 words to Purpose to make it a complete book after the split. With the previously mentioned discarded revisions, I've probably written about 50-60,000 words this year...compared to about 250-300,000 in 2009.
  • Of course, I didn't do much writing because I released two books in 2010!!!! Those are my big, all-time, major accomplishments of the year that have made everything else bearable
  • We didn't sell as many books as our overly optimistic goals had set in the beginning, but when I look at the numbers, I'm giddy about all the people who actually paid money to read my writing. And then there are the reviews, which have blown me away, as well as the award.
  • My Writers Health Plan - the one that consists of loads of coffee, chocolate and time with butt-in-chair - has proven itself successful...if I wanted to gain weight, anyway. Which I didn't. In fact, I needed to lose a bunch. I think I'll be reconsidering this plan for 2011. 
In my writing world, 2010 has been the best year ever. It's been a year of amazing growth and achieving the one accomplishment I'd been dreaming about since I was 8 years old - publishing a book. But I'm ready for it to be over and to take on the new year with new challenges and opportunities.

Bring it on, 2011!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not *Really* Procrastinating

I'm supposed to be writing. This was supposed to be my Writer Break, where I get to pretend like I'm a full-time writer. But here it is Thursday already and I haven't written a single word. At least, not in any kind of story.

My head has primarily been in other people's worlds. I've been a total reading addict the last week or so, with six books (that I can remember - maybe more!) finished. It's been a struggle to get back into my own world because I've had so much fun in these others. My favorite has been The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Clare has totally sucked me in. Her writing is beautiful, the stories are exciting and I felt like I actually lived in the Shadowhunter world. I decided to finally pick these books up because so many people have said, "If you like The Mortal Instruments, you'll love Promise and the Soul Savers series." I can definitely see why they say that. They're not alike...yet they are.

Having plowed through the three hefty books in five days, I'm starting them over. This time from a writer's perspective. Since I started writing fiction seriously, I've realized that I need to do this with series, especially those I love. Knowing what happens allows me to go back and see how the author built up the story as a whole from book to book. I know this particular series isn't over, but I love this world so much, that I feel compelled to study it in more depth.

What I have realized so far are the similarities between Clare's world and J.K. Rowling's. Not that The Mortal Instruments and Harry Potter have much in common, besides magic and teenage main characters. It's how the authors have built their worlds. Rich details, languages, customs, traditions, government...etc. And how they have created - and stayed within - their created rules. These are the details that pull us into their worlds, making them feel as real and believable as our own...and making us wish they were real and we could live in them.

Additionally, in a series, each story builds upon events and experiences in previous books, with all of them adding up to one epic story. Although the story of The Mortal Instruments isn't yet over, you can see how Clare has already done this with the first three books. And there's no denying Rowling is a master of leading you up to that big climactic scene that is not only the climax of the last book but of the entire story.

These accomplishments, not only made by Clare and Rowling but by countless other authors of fantabulous series, don't come accidentally. And that's what makes my heart pound and my lungs cease up when I think about it. Because I am a pantser.

I have an understanding of the overall plot and where I'm going, I make notes when new plot elements and twists come to mind, but I don't like to outline. It scares me. In the past, whenever I outlined in detail, I knew what would happen and lost interest in the project. With two books in my series out now, I cannot lose interest! So, yeah, I panic a little when I think about this. And I know it's part of my writing block right now. But I have to do it.

So...I have been. I've been compiling my scattered notes from spiral notebooks and the computer into my world's bible - an organized three-ring notebook that I can easily reference. I have tabs for Alexis and Tristan and minor characters. A tab for creatures, a tab for the Amadis and another for the Daemoni. And each book has a tab so that my thoughts and ideas that I've been writing down actually can be grouped together by book (because flipping around the spirals is frustrating!). This is where I can keep notes and keep going back to so I don't break my own rules. Fantasy writers, especially, need such a bible.

I've also been fleshing out my world - its history, its mythology, the characters and creatures, etc. - to make the bible more complete. And, gasp!, I've been outlining. I've been planning the rest of the series - taking my ideas out of my head and actually putting them on paper. I'm stuck where I always get stuck when thinking about the whole series, but I'm working on it.

I've eased the panic by telling myself that these are very general outlines that are not set in concrete...that I can still let the characters tell me the story and it might - and probably will be - different than what I've planned. There were many things in The Mortal Instruments that I could see coming from a mile away, but I didn't lose interest because I wanted to know how they would happen. It's not about knowing the outcome - it's experiencing the events as they unfold to get there. And that's how I've allowed myself to view these outlines.

So I've made little - okay, none - writing progress. I've been discovering and getting lost in other lovely worlds, but I don't consider it a waste at all. I've learned - and continue learning - from others. And building my bible has also reconnected me to my own world. I will write again. Very soon. In the meantime...back to, I mean Clary.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Epublishing and Smashwords

More and more authors are going the way of epublishing. Why? Many reasons, not least of them being that traditional publishers are pushing us that way. Take a look at this:

and this:

Right now, it's not for everyone. In a few might be the ONLY way to get started, get noticed and get published by a big 5.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Purple and Purpose

You may already know by now my history as a writer: Knew I wanted to write when I was 8 and wrote my first story; as I grew older (and, arguably, matured), I thought I didn't have a whole book in me and was meant to write for business; when I decided to dabble in fiction again, a full story for not just one book but an entire series suddenly came to me; and Promise, Purpose and the Soul Savers Series were born. From the moment I decided to write fiction again, everything about it felt right and writing this story felt like my purpose (one of the reasons for the second book's title).

As I wrote, funny little things happened that you could call kismet or fate or whatever. For example, the story behind Alexis getting her name. The short of it is that I'd always wanted to name my daughter Alexis since I was a teen, but I ended up having three boys. We had a female dog we named Lexi, but she became sick and died at a year old. Years ago, I gave up ever having my own Alexis. When I started writing this series and decided my MC needed a name, I needed it to mean "defender" or "protector." When I went to and did a reverse look-up for names that mean those things, only one female name came up: Alexis. It still gives me chills.

Other strange events occurred that kept reinforcing the idea that I was meant to write these characters' stories. I've written about some of these in past posts. The bottom line is that I've come to believe in this story and my purpose.

I never, however, believed that I should design the covers or anything else visually related. That's just not my forte. If I had my choice, however, I would have used the purple and black color scheme, basically because I like it. Purple, which I've always known to represent nobility and royalty, does play a minor role in future books, but that didn't mean it would become the "color" of the series. But I did end up designing the covers and websites, so I went with my lavender, purple, silver and black scheme.

Then I learned something that brought back those chills of fate. On Monday, I shared several things I learned at the Miami Book Fair International. What I didn't list there is that I also learned some meanings of lavender and purple I never knew before. A lady started talking to me about the colors of our booth and my book covers. I hadn't really had a chance to tell her about my books yet, so she didn't know what they were about. And here's what she told me:

Lavender can represent major change. In my books, lavender represents the youngest daughter of the Amadis royal family. Every daughter goes through a significant physical, emotional and mental change called the Ang'dora. The Ang'dora plays a large role in both of the first books, whose covers are more on the lavender side of purple, although Purpose is darker than Promise.

Darker purple, this woman said, not only signifies nobility, royalty and wealth, but also spirituality (which I knew),  enlightenment, magic and mystery...and it is a matriarchal color. In my books, the matriarch of the Amadis is represented by a darker, deeper purple. She is also the most enlightened, has the closest connection to the Otherworld and, therefore, to enlightenment and magic.

Of course, I came home and hopped online to verify this woman's explanations. And, yes, I did confirm it all on several sites. I couldn't find where lavender specifically means change, but purple in general does represent transformation in a variety of cultures and religions. I also found that in some cultures, it speaks of faith, patience and trust and it is the color of the Crown Chakra, connecting one with infinite consciousness. These are all very important elements in my stories.

So another thing I learned in Miami is that my book covers are more symbolic than I ever realized. Sure glad it all fits. I would have been devastated to find out purple really meant evil or demonic. Gads! I'd have to change everything!

What about you? Ever have weird little things like this happen that told you you're meant to write your stories? Or do you think I'm just reading way too much into things for myself? (Which I don't care because it works for me. lol)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lessons Learned at MBFI

As you know, my publishing team and I traveled over to the Miami Book Fair International a couple weekends ago. It was a long three days, after which we were completely exhausted. We didn't sell a ton of books, but we did sell some to people who may have otherwise never heard of Promise or Kristie Cook. And we had fun and learned quite a bit, too.

So here's what I learned, from an author's perspective to other writers:

Big is not always great. - MBFI touts that approximately 500,000 people walk the street fair. It's also nearly 30 years running. Size and tradition doesn't necessarily mean organization and success, though. We ran into a few snafus getting started, didn't particularly love the location our booth was given and were missing our booth sign for half of the first day. The organizers seemed to have their plates way over-full. We decided to do this particular fair because of the crowds it draws. Unfortunately, it was a smaller crowd this year compared to usual and not exactly our target market (see below). My new writer-friend, Tracy Darity, who shared our booth with us, said she goes to many fairs and festivals in Florida - not just book fairs - and has had a lot of success at the smaller ones. Especially when she is the only author or one of a small handful. So we'll be looking into smaller events to attend now.

Know who makes up the crowd. - The fair took place on the Miami-Dade Community College grounds. My books' primary target audience is 18 to 35-year-old women. A community college, with non-traditional students, seemed like a great idea. However, the majority of the visitors were not college students and the majority of them did not speak English as their first language. This created a bit of a language barrier for most of the people passing our booth. On the flip side, because this was not our usual geographic or demographic hang-out, online or offline, we were able to spread the word to a whole new segment of the audience. The buyers did not know each other or get recommendations from people they know. So Promise is now gaining hold in entirely new circles (we hope it's gaining hold, anyway!).

Bring lots of hand-outs. - We handed out hundreds of fliers, bookmarks and coupons. The coupons were never used (they expired already), but that doesn't mean people won't be buying later. We're hoping that even if the people we gave the literature to aren't interested, they'll know someone who is. Bookmarks are the best because there is more reason to hang onto those. Readers can always use bookmarks.

Don't be afraid to talk to people. - You never know who might be interested in your book and who you might meet. We met the parents of the owner of one of the biggest independently owned bookstore chains in the country. They were impressed with Promise's reviews (thank you, people!!!) and award and thought their son would be interested, too. Score!! I have the owner's phone number now and we will be getting in touch with him about doing signings.

Probably the most important thing I learned for all of you, especially if you're not yet published or worried about book fairs and trade shows:

The book itself is often your #1 sales tool. - You've heard it when querying agents or promoting your book. If you have a good book, it will sell. What helps? Having good jacket copy and pages for people to sample. A good percentage of the time, if we could get people to hold the book in their hands, read the back and, sometimes, a page or two inside, they bought. Many times, as soon as they read the last sentence of the jacket copy, they smiled, squirmed a little and said, "I want it!" If you're not yet published, if you're seeking representation, the "jacket copy" is pretty much what needs to be in your query letter. Write it strong, sell the story itself, and you'll get interest.

These are the major highlights of what we learned from the Miami Book Fair. But there is one other thing I'll be sharing on Wednesday, something else I learned that is totally not related to book promotions or sales, but completely to my writing and books: the color purple.

Questions about the fair and our experience? Please feel free to ask! Any experiences of your own? Please do share!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Putting a Face to the Name

Do you ever wish you could project the images of your characters in your head to paper? Not just cutting out models or actors that come close, but the exact image you have. Some of you, I know, are talented artists and can do just this. But not me. I can do graphic design with existing objects and fonts and manipulate pictures to an extent. I have absolutely no artistic talent, though.

There are several things in my books that are completely made up by me. I don't mean the story (or...besides the story, which is pretty obvious). I mean actual objects, animals and paranormal creatures. That's why I love writing fantasy - you can create new types of creatures, objects, magical spells, words and even worlds. But there are some I'd really love to see an actual picture of. Just to know what it would look like if it were real.

Well, I was blessed to have won a contest and the prize was a drawing of one of my characters by the extremely talented Elizabeth Mueller (she did a version of Tristan for the Halloween contest a couple weeks ago). For my prize, though, I had her draw a creature that I've been dying to know what it would really look like.

Here's what she came up with:

And go here to find out what it is.

Thanks, Elizabeth!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Five for Friday

Next week is Thanksgiving! I love turkey day! I love having a reason to gather with family, cook and pig out until our bellies look like ticks. And I especially love that we get to do it all without the added pressure of shopping and gift giving. Of course, I love Christmas, too. It is my favorite holiday, but Thanksgiving is a very, very close second.

Since this is the last Friday before we gorge, here are 5 writing-relevant things I'm grateful for:

  1. The blessings of the stories that have been given to me.
  2. The talent to put those stories into words that people understand.
  3. The health and physical ability to record those words into a format others can read.
  4. The resources (like a computer!) to share those formats with those who want to read it.
  5. The people I've met along the way, from my alphas, betas and critters to other writers to book bloggers to fans, you are all a true blessing. Thank you for being my friend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Perfectionism or Procrastination?

So, the other day I was complaining about never being done, even when you think you are. Typos pop up out of nowhere. Words lose their italics or get italicized when they're not supposed to be. Someone bends over at the "waste", yeah, that happened, even after several rounds of revisions.

Then a funny thing happened. Not "haha" but more like, "a-ha." After I made that post, I added excerpts to the Purpose website. And because Word adds in all kinds of bogus HTML (if anyone can tell me how to avoid that, I'd love you forever!!), I had to go through the excerpts line-by-line to remove the unnecessary and cluttery tags.

As I'm doing that, a couple phrases pop out at me. And I'm suddenly thinking of a better way to say them. Not able to control myself, I make the changes. Then go back into the Word and PDF docs to make the changes there, too. Now I have an itch to go through the whole book to make sure there aren't other phrases that could be even better. Because I know there are.

I also went into Promise's excerpts and reformatted that page. And it happened again. I didn't make the changes, though. I wanted to. So very badly. But the book is published and I just need to keep it the way it is. It bugs the crap out of me, though. And this was my a-ha moment.

Actually, I've had this conversation with other writers, published and not, so it wasn't really an "a-ha" moment as it was a reminder. As writers, we (hopefully) are continuously growing, learning and improving our craft. We will always go back and look at something we wrote and have ideas to make it even better. A different word. A more compelling way to phrase something. Perhaps even a whole scene or chapter that could be removed or improved.

No matter how good we thought it was then, at a later time, we see how it can be even better. This will always be true. So at some point, we do have to call the work done. We have to move on to the next step, whatever it is for each of us. Because if we keep trying to make this one perfect, we'll never get to the next one. And who wants to work on the same story their entire life? Not me. I have too many others I need to get out of my head.

Do you find yourself nit-picking? Is it because the story really isn't ready? Or is it because you're being a perfectionist? Or perhaps because you're procrastinating, afraid of the next step (i.e., querying or the next blank page 1)?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just When You Think You're Done

As many of you are chugging away at NaNoWriMo, trying to get those 50,000 words out, I'm at the other end, wrapping up the very last round of proofing. I really don't think, if the timing would have been better, I would have had a problem with NaNoWriMo.

Rough drafts - or what I call brain-dump, word puke - come easy to me. The ideas and words come so fast, I can't keep up with them. The voices talk to me All. Day. Long. so by the time I get to write at night, I'm on a dead run, making every night a writing marathon.

The problem with my madness is that it requires seemingly endless revisions, editing, re-writing, more revisions, polishing, proofing... You get the idea. Although I do a little editing as I go along, the first draft is pretty much garbage. When I first started writing what is now Promise and Purpose, I actually became sad as I reached the end of a round of revisions. But then I would cheer myself up by remembering that I got to start all over. Yeah, I was kind of sick.

That was 34,613 revisions ago. I'm still sick. Sick of this damn book! Okay, just kidding. Sort of. I'm just ready to be done. Ready to move on to the next book. Ready to start real writing again. And I thought I was there. Purpose had been critted, reviewed, revised, edited, polished, proofed, formatted and sent to the printer for proofs and ARCs.

I knew it wasn't perfect, that it still needed a final proofing because those dang typos pop up when no one's looking, as if the letters play musical chairs while I sleep. I expected some fixes. By the time my proofers and I were done, I had this:

Yes, each of those pretty, colorful flags is a mistake. Seriously. And ARCs had already been sent out to reviewers. Ugh. How embarrassing! Thankfully, there's a disclaimer in the front stating that this book has not been proofed. But still...

So those fixes have been made, but there were so many, I needed the book proofed one more time. I'm waiting, holding my breath, for that final file to come back. Then hopefully I can really call this book done.

As you write your NaNoWriMo novel or whatever WIP you're working on, enjoy the journey. Because it's one that never ends. And if you want to trade places, give me a holler. I'm so ready to write again!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Real-Life Scary Story for Halloween


From Buster & Tess...

Now go read my real-life, scary ghost story at Confessions of a Bookaholic. She said it was one of the scariest ones they posted all month and there were some pretty creepy stories. So check it out and tell me what you think. While you're there, enter to win a Purpose ARC.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Six for Saturday

I totally missed Five for Friday. WAY too much going on yesterday. And I've actually missed quite a few FFFs, so I'll make it up with Six for Saturday.

Six things you should know for this weekend:
  1. You can now pre-order signed copies of Purpose!!! Do it right here with our fancy new shopping cart.
  2. You have extra time to enter my contest and giveaway to win a Purpose ARC, other books, a gift card or a Kindle. We've extended the deadline for the contest and giveaway. Details here.
  3. You can read my scary ghost story for #HauntedHalloween and win a signed copy of Promise on Jessica's blog over at Confessions of a Bookaholic on Halloween (Sunday).
  4. NaNoWriMo starts Monday, so if you haven't decided whether to do it or probably ought to this weekend. We writers are known for procrastinating, but this is getting a little ridiculous, don't you think? (Do you think I've made a definitive decision? I keep thinking I have, but...)
  5. Be sure to (re)stock your candy bowl before Sunday. Because it is Halloween, ya know? Please tell me this is not the only house that goes through all the candy before the day even arrives. All. Five. Bags.
  6. Be sure your pets are inside and safe Halloween night - there are some sick people out there! And speaking of pets...I can't even pull together a costume for myself these days and look at these beastly get-ups.

Have a Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For the Writers of the World: Live YOUR Purpose

Just wanted to share this video with my lovelies. Even if you're not a writer, I know you've overcome adversity at some point in your life. Keep picking yourself up. Keep going. Live your purpose!

The title to my second book, which was originally the first book, is more than just about my MC discovering her life's purpose. While writing it, I realized my own. This is what I'm supposed to do. So even when things get tough - rejections, obstacles and less-than-stellar reviews - I persevere. How about you? What is YOUR purpose? Are you living it? What keeps you motivated when life tries to drag you down?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Ongoing Question: Why Do We Do It?

This business of writing and publishing can sometimes - often - be frustrating. From plotting the story to getting it into readers' hands, the path is lined with every possible obstacle you can think of...and many you never did imagine. Sometimes it seems like everyone and everything is working against you.

The voices in your head - your characters - go off and do something that screws up all your plans. A great plot twist dwindles into a sorry excuse for tension because it just won't work. And once you've got the story as awesome as it can be, the industry itself seems to erect a thousand locked doors and each time you finally find the key to one, there stand another thousand behind it.

Why do we do it? Are we into self-abuse? Do we not feel alive unless we're constantly being pummeled from all sides? Do we enjoy frustration and misery so much that we feel the need to seek them out?

I highly doubt it. After all, we're all intelligent, hopeful, hard-working, dedicated and (mostly) functional beings. We do it because we can't help it. We have to! There's some inner fire that just can't be extinguished, regardless of how many people - including ourselves - pour buckets of water over it, trying to douse the flames. In fact, this only fuels the fire for many of us.

With all the great events going on in my life right now, there are still many obstacles in my path. I can't say that it gets easier or harder once you have a book or two under your belt. You just have to deal with new frustrations...while many of the old ones never do go away. It's definitely exciting, but they are still challenges that need to be dealt with. And sometimes it all gets overwhelming.

And I still wonder, Why am I doing this? Taking the route of self-publishing takes you out of the rat-race of competing for agents and publishers and plunges you right into the big marathon of winning over readers. In some ways, it's a lot easier than dealing with all those industry peeps. But in other ways, it's a lot harder. So you can't help but ask yourself, Is it worth it?

Then my bloggy friend Heather posts this, which eventually led me to this. Brenda has researched and compiled some telling numbers about advances and royalties from many publishers. And I realized that I'm not doing so badly after all. In fact, my earn-out so far is more than many of those on there...with less than three months on the market. If authors with publisher backing do that and keep on truckin', then I definitely need to. So check it out. It's eye-opening, that's for sure.

And it makes us go back to that question: Why do we do it? Again...because we have to. We can't not do it. The money, the rewards, the enthusiasm from readers...those are just icing on the cake.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think about those numbers?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stuff...and Ramblings...and Some Official, um, Stuff

As I mentioned last week, this week is absolutely crazy. But all good crazy. I'm sitting in a hotel room in Orlando, here until Friday morning for day-job stuff. Then I move to another hotel on the other side of Orlando for the Florida Writers Association conference and Royal Palm Literary Awards banquet this weekend. Promise is a finalist for an award. I try not to think about it too much, because when I do, my stomach gets that feeling like when you're going over that first hill of a roller coaster.

I also announced last week that Purpose has a release date. In case you missed it, because I know you really want to be sure you mark your calendar ;-), it's December 15. It's officially off to the printers for a proof and ARCs. It's also officially on Goodreads! Woohoo!! So, you know, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if you go mark it "to-read" or, better yet, "can't-think-about-anything-else-dying-to-read". Haha! Sheesh. Just kidding, guys.

And now it has an official "blurb" (it doesn't have a jacket, not even a sweater, so how can I call it "jacket copy"?'s a blurb, not to be confused with blob). Which you can find on its official website, It's still under construction, but I'm working on it. Cuz that's also my job.

Finally, in case you missed it (because there aren't many entries and if I don't get some people to sign up and enter, I may be forced to call it off)...I'm having a contest. I mean, contestS. Yes, TWO contests. Purpose ARCs, other books, swag and possibly a Kindle are all up for grabs. Please at least enter the Birthday Bash, where all you have to do is fill out a form. And if you're still working on your Halloween Hop entry, please at least sign up by typing your blog or website URL into the little linky thingy. I just need to know that people are actually planning to play along. Kthnxluvu

In other news...I'm still planning to separate this blog. This one is supposed to be my official author's website, which is why it's used to promote my books. But it was originally more related to writing stuff - you know the voices in our heads, first-draft-brain-dump-pukes, the horrors of editing and revising, blogfests and other craziness only other writers understand.

It used to be called A Mused Writer. Well, that blog is back up, right here. If you're a writer, please go follow it. It's not being used right now, but I'll soon be moving all my writing-related posts over there. And then this one will be used for communicating about my books, other books and authors I know and adore, and...whatever else pops up. As well as contests...and giveaways...and maybe guy-candy shots for your viewing pleasure. :-)

That's all for now. What? Isn't that enough? Thought so. Have a Happy Hump Day!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Harleys, Books, Kindle & Other Ramblings

Starting tomorrow, life gets even crazier than it has been for the next 10 days. Tomorrow I'm taking off with The Man and some friends to Biketoberfest in Daytona. Anyone familiar with the world of Harley-Davidson and motorcycles knows that Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis Bike Week are the two BIG rallies of the year. But Daytona has a smaller one, called Biketoberfest that's supposed to be more fun because it's not as huge. I'm excited for a real break...and possibly a beer or two. ;-)

I've been trying to figure out how to take advantage of this trip because, you see, Tristan (aka Mr. Beautiful up there in that picture) rides motorcycles. He has a crotch-rocket (well, um, two, if you think about, sorry, as you can tell I'm ready for a break!) and a Harley, which he and Alexis ride on throughout Promise. But I just can't see myself walking up to biker dudes and chicks, asking if they'd like to read my book. So, the idea of how to do a tie-in is still germinating and will have to wait for the next rally.

But while writing this, I had a great idea for the Halloween Hop contest. Too bad I can't enter my own contest, though. Maybe one of you lovely readers will take the hint of Tristan and motorcycles and run with it... Remember, a Kindle is up for grabs!

Speaking of the contests, I've seen many tweets, FB and blog posts about them. I'm eternally grateful, but not all of you who have spread the word have entered the Birthday Bash giveaway. The one where you get entries for tweeting and posting! If you're going to do it, you may as well enter the contest for books and swag! Don't forget, you can enter that one as many times as you want by filling out the form each time you tweet or post about the contests.

As for the Halloween Hop, just put the link of where you'll be posting your entry in the linky-thingy. The more people who sign up there, the better the prize (like that Kindle).

Okay, real quick, other things going on next week, in case I'm somewhat absent:
  • My usual bi-monthly trip to Orlando for the day-job will keep me up there through the end of the week. Because I have to be back there for...
  • Florida Writers Association Conference! Next weekend. I'm so excited for my first big conference. PLUS, Promise is a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award. I find out next Saturday night if it won.
  • While I'm sitting in my hotel next week, I'll be Skyping for the first time with a book club. They're all the way in Minnesota! I'm chewing my nails about this. I hope they're nice. I think they will be, based on the hostesses.

So, yeah, lots of ramblings of my chaos. But it's all exciting stuff. more thing. Twitter Party tonight!! Hosted by Jess at Confessions of a Bookaholic and Lisa at A Life Bound by Books. Starts at 9 p.m. ET, at #HauntedHalloween. They're giving away books, swag and Halloween goodies. I'll be there. I wonder what other authors will be. Follow @TotalBookaholic and @BoundbyBooks

Have a great weekend, everyone!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 9: Place

Today we talk about the third P or C in the Marketing Mix - Place or for customers, Convenience.

"Place" actually refers to three different Places:

  • Where you produce your Product - If your Product is a blog, what hosting service will you use (e.g., Blogger, Wordpress, your own site, etc.)? If your Product is a book and you're self-publishing, where will your book be printed? On demand? By which service? There are many possibilities to choose from. If you're not self-publishing, your publisher already has this Place. When your Product is yourself, where are you available? Physical location? Virtual?

  • Where you sell your Product - Where do customers find your Product? Customers equate "Place" as "Convenience" (or lack thereof). You want your Product to be convenient to find and buy, so you must identify all the Places your customers should be able to find it. Where do they buy similar and complementary Products? Where do they expect to find your Product? For self-publishers, this is one of the hardest challenges to overcome - getting your book in as many sales channels as possible. It usually means taking a much lower royalty per book, but Convenience for your customers is important. After all, if they can't buy your book where they want to, they probably won't buy it at all. A lower royalty is better than none.

  • Where you reach your customers to promote your Product - Where will customers find out about your Product? Where will you advertise? Where do they "hang out"? Do they read magazines? Blogs? Hang out on Facebook and other social media sites? Do they tweet? Or are they more traditional, visiting brick-and-mortar establishments? Do they support their local mom-and-pops? Or do they like modern, big-box stores? Where can you find them to reach them with your ads and promotions? If you have a blog, where do you find followers? On other blogs? Which ones? If it's a book review blog, think about where readers hang out. Posting your reviews on Amazon, B&, Goodreads, etc., will reach your target audience and draw them to your blog.

Deciding on "Place" for your Product requires that you know as much as possible about your Target Customer. You must know where they are, where you can reach them, in order to provide Convenience for them. You must know what kinds of publications they read and if they read mostly online or offline. You must know where they're physically located and be convenient for their locale. For example, if you're looking for a job in Seattle - your Target Customer is a business located in Seattle - then you are not very convenient if you live in Atlanta. Unless they're pursuing you, don't expect them to relocate you. You must be convenient for them (i.e., make the move yourself).

Poor decisions and execution of Place can make a huge difference in sales. So know your market, research your options and make these decisions carefully. If your Places don't seem to be working for you, don't be afraid to make adjustments. After all, customers must know where to find you and your product to be able to use or buy it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Five for Friday

Five reasons you must enter my new contests!

1. Two contests - one fun and one easy-peasy
2. THREE winners!!!
3. Prizes include books and swag and either a $25 B&N gift card, an iPod Shuffle or a Kindle 3 or Nook!
4. It's the weekend, giving you lots of time to think about and do all those things with Tristan.
5. Because you love me...or Tristan...or Promise...and want to help a new author and fellow blogger out. :) Even if it's just because you feel bad for me and my crappy week (to which I must add that my oldest is 18 today, a horrible reminder that I am no longer 18!).

Yes, I'm begging. Please help me spread the word this weekend and throughout the month. I soooo want to give away an awesome prize like a K3! Kthnxluvyabai! And have a fantabulous weekend!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Life Happens & TWO Contests Coming!!

Have you missed me this week, lovely followers? I apologize for being absent, but I suppose it's better than being boring. LOL Not that life has been boring. Not. At. All. So here's the deal...

This week:
  • Craziness in the day job. It's GOOD craziness, but it's meant lots of focus there and break-up in the routine.
  • What little time left over has been used wrapping up Purpose edits so I can get ARCs ordered by next week, which means next step is formatting and finalizing the cover.
  • Add on top of that - a call yesterday afternoon from son #2's football coach...from the ER...son broke his arm in practice. :( Everything drops to take care of him.
  • And to really top it off - my grandmother has been in the hospital for a week and it's not looking good. She's being going through chemo and has complications. She's fought various forms of cancer for over a decade, but my heart and soul are sad because I fear that she's tiring of the battle.

I ask for your prayers, thoughts, good vibes, etc., for my son, my grandmother and my own sanity. Thank you in advance!!

Now onto the fun stuff... I had hoped to post this today, but focus has been fleeting with everything going on. So the official post will go up tomorrow.

TWO Major Contests!!!

What's up for grabs? Let's see...books...swag...maybe an iPod Shuffle...maybe even a Kindle 3 or a Nook. A K3?!? A Nook?!? Yep, that's right. So stay tuned, pay attention and come back tomorrow to get the deets on how you can be a winner. (Hint: For an eReader, you'll need to put a little thought and creativity into it, but I "Promise" it will be fun!)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Five for Friday

It's October!! Which means Halloween-y fun! Halloween also happens to be Tristan's birthday, but, shhh, he doesn't like to acknowledge it. We might just have to anyway...but more of that later.

There are tons of things happening all over the blog-o-sphere this month, including giveaways, blogfests, scary stories from your favorite authors and more. Here are just 5 to get you started:

1. Haunted Halloween by Jessica at Confessions of a Bookaholic & Lisa at A Life Bound By Books - I will have a scary story posted there later this month, including a giveaway!!

2. Book or Treat to support UNICEF!

3. Halloween at the Haven (Paranormal Haven)

Witch Button

4. Halloween Giveaways at From the Shadows

5.Not-Really-Southern Vamp Chick's Countdown to Halloween

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My First Ever Book Show

I've been to an author festival and school book fairs, but never to a trade show. This past weekend, my publishing team and I made the trek to Daytona Beach for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) annual trade show. Holy cow! What fun!!!!

We had no idea what we were getting into. We realized before even going that we should have had a booth. See, the publishers have the booths and the indie store owners do the browsing. Probably should have been obvious, but we just didn't know. Besides, by the time we joined SIBA, it was too late anyway. So this was entirely a learning experience.

We romped the show floor, hung out in the lobby and bar and met lots of people and made some great contacts. And now we know what to do next time. Yes, there will definitely be a next time.

I handed out a few copies of Promise and lots of literature. Hopefully some of these indies will be selling Promise soon.

But almost as good (okay, a part of me says even better, but don't tell my publisher), this:
Saturday's haul by all three of us. We added nearly this much on Sunday.

And this:

My own personal loot...spread out...and not including tote bags and other fun items. Yes, those are Nightshade and Across the Universe ARCs!!! And many more I can't wait to delve into!
All stacked up...except for the book I brought home for The Man, which he's already reading in the other room.
Oh, yeah. I have lots of reading to do and reviews to write. Still can't decide where to start. For now, though, I'm finishing up edits on Purpose so it can go to the printer for ARCs. Yep, you read that right. Purpose ARCs coming soon. I see a contest in the near future...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 8: Price

Last week, we learned the basics of setting Price for a Product. This week we get more specific - setting Price for your Product. What's your Product? For most of us, it's ourselves - either as blogger, writer/author or employee; and it's our books or our blogs.

Your Blog as the Product
If your Product is your blog, you most likely don't have any Price to set. Unless you charge a subscription or for advertising, which is rare for most bloggers. So if a blog is your only Product, then you can leave now. But please don't!!! Cuz I really like you! And, you might find something useful here, whether to apply to your own Products later or to gain a better understanding of why books take up so much of your budget (besides the fact that you can't live without them!).

Yourself as the Product
If your Product is yourself, then you must know what you're worth - your market value. As an employee looking for a job, your Price is your salary. Before you can answer the question of what you want to make, you must know what you need to pay your bills and what people in similar positions with similar education, experience and skills make.

If you're a writer and pursuing traditional publishing, however, you don't have much say. The publisher pretty much determines your market value and pays you somewhat standard royalties. This is why you need an agent - someone who knows your market value and can negotiate with the publisher to ensure you're paid fairly.

Aside for Royalties
Royalties are calculated in all sorts of ways, but in all shapes and forms, they basically come down to about $1 per book to the author, give or take around 30 cents, depending on the list price, the actual price sold, the sales and distribution channels (B&N, Amazon, indie stores, etc.) in which the particular copy was sold and the book's format (hardback, paperback, various ebook formats, etc.) well as on the proven ability of the author's name to sell books.

To give you an indication of what you can expect - a handful of top-level authors put in their contracts that they get a flat $1 per book. Period. No percentages, no difference in how the book was sold. $1 per book. The authors (and their agents) know, on average, this is a little higher than normal, but the publisher also knows these authors are worth it. So if $1 per book is good for Stephen King, what is good for you? Take off your agent's share and you might be worth about 85 cents per book, give or take. (Kind of eye-opening? It was for me!)

Your Book as the Product
Now we get to the Product that started this whole marketing series - books. Specifically, your book. How do you price it?

Well, if you're pursuing the traditional publishing route, don't worry your pretty little head over it. Because you have absolutely no say. The publisher will decide how to price your book, which, in turn, determines the Price for yourself as the Product (your royalties, see above).

If you go indie, however, then you have this burden of setting your Price. So you must determine how much it will cost you to produce each book and how much you want to profit from the sale of each book. When calculating costs, factor in direct costs, such as the cost of printing one book, as well as indirect, such as the cost of the cover design, and overhead, such as advertising, membership dues, etc.

You also must realize that each distribution channel you choose wants a piece of your pie. That amount comes off the top of your list price. Some channels want as little as 40% and others up to 55%. So, taking Promise, for example, the first 40-55% of the $15.99 list price goes to Amazon and other retailers. That leaves $7.20-$9.60 to cover those other costs above (printing, cover designer, someone to format the book, ISBN, copyright and other legal issues, advertising, conferences, trade shows, signing tours, etc.).

Once you have all those numbers, then you must compare that total to the price of other comparable books: your genre, about the same size, same format, etc., and by authors with your publication background. Don't be surprised if you find your desired price to be $28 and the market value to be half that.

So now you must make more decisions, such as how you can reduce your costs, which distribution channels you want to use and which are too expensive and if your desired profit is too much (remember that $1 figure above?). The most important decision you must make is your goal for your book.

  • Do you desire to make as much money off each book as you can, even if it means fewer sales, because you're really happy that at least a handful of people want to read it?
  • Or do you desire to get your book into as many people's hands as possible, even if it means you pocket 75 cents or even less per book?

Obviously, the more expensive a book is, the fewer people who will buy it and vice versa.

As you're considering your goal, keep this in mind: Once the book is produced, you have a Product. You can sell as many of those products as you possibly can. It's not like your time, which is limited to the amount you can sell. So, you may lose money on the first 100 or even 1,000 books. But then your cover design and formatting is paid off, word-of-mouth is spreading so marketing costs can be reduced and, eventually, distribution channels may be willing to renegotiate because they're selling so many of your books. 75 cents per book at 100 sales doesn't seem like much. But at 100,000 sales? More? Compare that to $3 per book at 100 or even 1,000 sales - and you likely won't sell more than that if you're book is priced too high!

Sorry this is so long-winded, but I've noticed pricing by indies is all over the place in the market. I also know most people have no idea the costs involved in producing a book (yes, even an ebook!) and why a book's cost (from a customer's perspective) might seem high. Armed with knowledge and smart decisions, you can now figure out how to price your book to meet your goals. And for those of you who aren't writers or indie authors, I hope you can better understand that pricing a book is difficult, profit margins are low for everyone and authors only make good money if they sell tons of books.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meet My Guest! Meredith S Wood

Today we welcome the always funtabulous Meredith S Wood, young adult author of Panthan's Crucible and the upcoming Panthan's Abyss, among other forthcoming books of awesomeness. If you aren't familiar with Panthan's Crucible, it takes you into a unique world of familiar and not-so-familiar creatures, including the panthans - "they're like angels...but bloodthirsty."

In a world where humans are no longer the hunters, but now the hunted, Laura Morgan discovers she’s a pawn between two of its deadliest creatures. She can run. She can hide. But what happens when she learns she’s not even human and could be the deadliest creature of them all?

Seventeen-year-old Grayson of Lorne wants to be an Eminent since they are the most powerful of panthan warriors. Grayson’s uncle promises he’ll be made one if he’ll help Laura. To him this female flies such a huge freak flag he's not sure it's possible.

What Grayson can't get through his thick head is he's annoying and pushy and stuck on himself. And yeah, maybe he's a tiny bit of hotness. What neither can understand is that some bonds form no matter how much you don't want them—especially ancient ones that only occur every seven thousand years.
About the book and writing...

Me: If you could have any band or musician create a soundtrack for Panthan’s Crucible, who would it be?

MW: Trevor Morris.  There's simply no comparison for me. 

Me: Um...I totally had to look that up. Readers - he did music for The Pillars of the Earth, The Tudors (Showtime) and video games. Cool stuff and I can see how it would be good for PC!

Anyway...back to the interview. In PC, Laura has this odd habit of counting and freaks herself out if the number isn't "right" or "good." How did you come up with this habit? Is there ever an explanation for why some numbers are good and others are bad?

MW: You’re so going to regret going here. ;-)

Laura's counting and number habits began with a couple questions.  I knew she would have to be damaged in some way.  No way around it.  But how would I take this girl from a world Panthans tore apart and make her capable of not just fighting for the things she believed in but doing it side by side with another Panthan?  Furthermore, how was she going to be able to adapt to becoming one of the creatures she feared the most?  My first answer: She would need a coping tool.  This led to looking for something not too destructive but also capable of making her feel like she had control.  Some teens turn to eating disorders to solve this dilemma and some turn to cutting.  I didn’t want Laura to have either of these problems because it would make it harder for her to adapt to her new life.  I also didn’t believe this was the book to tackle these subjects.

At this point, my mind was like a carousel that never stopped spinning.  The worst of it was I couldn’t decide which horse I wanted to ride on so I kept jumping from one to another.  While making a numbered list of possible coping tools I wrote “OCD” and immediately something clicked in my brain.  Not wanting to go all the way with the OCD, the number thing gave me the boost I needed.

I think I only wrote why the number twelve was a bad number for Laura.  The rest I left up to the reader’s assumption.  But, poor you,  you're about to find out why I did this. lol

Since she counted everything the events of her days equated to one of her good numbers or one of her bad numbers.

Multiples of three were safe unless part of an equation equaling twelve, her ultimate bad number.  Without safe numbers, she would never have an escape hatch that would allow her to adapt and move forward in her life.  I chose the number three because it represented individuality to me.  Any number I chose from an even set would always present a perfect conformity to its pattern whereas an odd number would always have some part of it that stood out from the rest.  The number three was a personal choice I made for Laura, sort of a sign from me to her saying I believed she had the ability to take the path that stood out from the rest.

For the most part, how she determined whether her latest equation would equal a “safe” number or a “bad” one depended on whether she made the subconscious decision to cope with her current problem.  If she decided to cope with the problem, she’d find a way for her latest equation to equal a multiple of three and she’d move forward.  If her current problem hurt her in any way, her equation would equal a bad number.  This process guaranteed a place to lock down her pain and she would avoid that number from then on.  If she were unable to form the equation she wanted, she would choose a new good number or a new bad number.

This part of her character was a challenge for me in so many ways.  To begin with, I suck at math.  Totally.  Keeping up with the good and bad numbers was a recipe for some major stress headaches.

However, it did give Laura the ability to appear damaged, as would be expected, while at the same time making her functional for her role in Panthan's Crucible.

Me: Yeah, my head's spinning. Have you ever made yourself cry while writing a scene? Laugh out loud?

MW: No, I haven't.  I've cried while planning scenes but when it comes to writing them I detach myself.  It's a strange process.  I become so engrossed in feeling the pain from my character's pov that my own emotions are shoved to the side.  If that makes any sense.

But I battled my own blood phobia while writing Panthan's Crucible.  The scene where V draws the blood from Laura was the hardest scene I’ve ever written.  While doing the research I would read for a few minutes, feel lightheaded and have to lie down, then go back and read some more.  Writing the scene went the same way.

Laughing out loud is another story though.  Some of V's scenes make me giggle every time I read them.  I guess that makes it hard for the readers who want to see him get his just desserts.  He makes me laugh, which makes me adore him.  Then again, so many things he does don't make it into my books. Matter of fact, I like him so much he's going to get a story all to himself explaining how he got where he is today and what made him the Panthan that he is.

Me: Oooh! Can't wait! I am so involved in my writing, too, but I do cry...because that's what Alexis is doing! LOL OK, what is the craziest or weirdest thing you’ve ever had to research for your writing? Anything that would lift a collective eyebrow by the FBI or Homeland Security?

MW: The craziest thing I've ever researched wasn't really that crazy. The crazy was in what I found.  I needed to know how certain animals mated. What I learned was that honey bees mate for life.  Well, on the male's side at least. Once the male ejaculates he explodes. Yeah. Really. Talk about an explosive sexual experience, huh?  Of course, the female doesn't have to worry about catching any STDs from her partner since it's obvious she'll be his first.

Me: ROFL! We learn the strangest things.

About the author...

Me: When you were a kid, what did you really want to be when you grew up? How did that turn out?

MW: As a wee kid I wanted to be a rock star or a gold medal winning gymnast. By around eleven, I settled on two things. I never doubted that I could do them both at the same time: A marine biologist and a writer.  I'm not exactly sure when the dream to become a marine biologist faded because I can remember still wanting to pursue it when I was fourteen.  My memories of being sixteen don't have that wish in them anymore so I'm guessing boys screwed the dream up.  They're probably what pushed my writing dream forward though. lol I married young and for several years learning how to be a wife and mom took up most of my energy. At some point I realized I was no longer an individual, but rather an extension of my family.  That's when I started working on fiction writing, which was a road that changed my life and taught me how to fight for what I want at all costs.

Me: There's such a story in the rock star-gymnast-writer-mom! Speaking of stories and books... If you were stranded on a desert island, what’s the one book you must have with you?

MW: A Sookie Stackhouse book.  Charlaine writes with the same love for the South that I have. When I read those books I feel like I'm home--dark, deadly creatures of the night included. ;-)

Me: If I came to your house for dinner, what would you make me?

MW: Probably Manicotti. Yumz!

Me: If you came to my house for dinner, what should I make for you?

MW: Hm... Lasagna.  Um, yeah, I'm partial to Italian dishes. ;-)


Popcorn or cookies? Popcorn.

Coffee or soda/pop? (And what do you call it?) I usually limit myself to one cup of coffee per day. The rest of the day I choose soda, tea, or water.

Wine or beer or something harder? Chilled Tanqueray or an Amaretto Sour.

Movie theater or DVDs at home? DVDs at home.

City or country or suburbs? Country.

Water-skiing or snow-skiing? Water skiing all the way.

Rome, Tokyo or the Australian Outback? Rome. While Australia's pretty, it's too hot for me.

Steak, enchiladas or sesame chicken? Steak.

Oh, yeah! So, after we devour our steak and pasta dinner, Meredith and I will be hanging out, watching DVDs with popcorn and brownies (gotta have chocolate!). But later you can stalk her all over:


And to buy Panthan's Crucible click here. Do you dare to walk among the panthans?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 7: Price

I don't know about you, but I think we've covered Product enough in these Monday Marketing posts. LOL Check the sidebar for archives if you need to get caught up. ;-) And feel free to ask questions in the comments if I didn't cover something you're confused about or would like to know more about.

Let's move on to the next "P" or "C" in the Marketing Mix: "Price" (from the marketer's perspective) or "Cost" (from the customer's perspective).

Price refers to what the marketer needs to charge to cover costs (direct and overhead) and to make the desired profit. Cost refers to how much the customer must pay to purchase this Product that will solve their problem. Obviously, if the marketer's costs are $75 and they want to make a $25 profit, the customer must be willing to pay a cost of at least $100 for this solution.

What makes a customer willing to pay the cost the marketer wants?

  • Value to the customer - Is the solution to their problem worth at least the price? For example, if it's a stain on a fairly new carpet and replacing the carpet costs $1,000, removing that stain for $100 provides value. On the other hand, if the carpet is old, worn and ugly, and the customer was planning to replace it anyway, removing the stain might not be worth $100.
  • Options available to the customer - Do other solutions cost more or less to the customer? If the cost of all other solutions are close to or more than this solution, then what the customer is willing to pay matters less. If all of their options are at least $75 and they must solve this problem, then they'll have to get over their desire to pay $25.
  • Value & Options combined - If other solutions cost less, does this solution offer more value? In the carpet stain example, the customer has other options, such as store-bought carpet cleaning sprays or even placing a big potted plant over the stain. We all know, however, that carpet cleaning sprays don't always work, meaning a waste of money and effort for the customer. They often leave residues that attract more dirt, so, in the long run, the carpet is worse off. And, obviously, hiding the spot isn't really a solution - unless it's for that crappy rug that's getting replaced soon anyway. So paying a professional cleaner to clean the carpet for $100 has more value than the cheaper alternatives.

What does this all mean to you? The Price you set for your Product is influenced by many factors:
  • Your costs and desired profit margin.
  • What the customer is willing to pay.
  • The market - the price of other products that solve the same problems as yours.

So you can't just arbitrarily set a Price for your Product, especially based on what you need and least, not if you want to sell your Product. You must consider the value you're adding to a customer's life, the problem your solving, the other solutions available and the pricing of those other solutions.

This is not to say you must have the lowest priced solution. That's nonsense. You can even have the highest priced solution. If your Product provides more value than the rest, there's no reason you can't price it higher. But by considering all of those factors above, you have set your Price with a purpose, rather than because that's how much you want to make.

So there's your little lesson on the philosophy of how Price, in general, should be set. Next week, we'll get more specific about your products.

Does this make any sense? Has there ever been a time that you've seen a price on something and wondered what on earth made the company or store set it so high or low? Has there been a time you would have gladly paid more for something because it meant so much to you? How about a time when you had no choice but to pay higher than what you wanted? Do you know how to get nail-polish out of carpet - the inspiration for my examples? :-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Five for Friday

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's Saturday. I was in meetings all day yesterday, though, and then had a ton of emails to catch up on. But I didn't want to miss this post completely.

As I posted on Tuesday, this past week was Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Besides Confessions of a Bookaholic, here are 5 more fantastic book blogging sites you should follow (in no particular order):

Okay, I can't leave it at five! More:

There are so many more, but every time I go check them out to get the link, I keep getting pulled into the sites to see what they have to say this week. At this rate, I'll never get this posted. So we'll leave it at 10 for this Saturday.

But, please, feel free to share your favorite book bloggers in the comments. I'd love to find more!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 6: Product

Last time, we discussed why Product is important to us as writers, bloggers and job seekers - because we actually have control over the Product. We don't get this luxury very often, in other work and life situations. Control is empowering, but it is also a responsibility. We have to be sure to create and produce the highest quality Product we possibly can.

Part of Product is packaging. When it comes to your actual book, if your goal is to be published traditionally, you won't have much, if any, say-so in your Product's packaging. Of course, by then, it is no longer your Product - it belongs to the Publisher.

If you go indie, however, you have all kinds of control over the packaging, from cover design and colors to interior font and layout. Do your research. Don't make these decisions just because they look pretty or it's what you personally like. You want to be sure your packaging stands out and also serves the needs of the customer - your reader.

A cover image may be beautiful, but if it doesn't pop from the shelf, it does you no good. Your customers won't notice your book among the thousands of others. As for usability, make sure your interior font is a serif font and fairly standard. Make it easy on the eyes to read so your readers aren't forced to put your book down because of eye strain. Most importantly, make it look professional.

Professional is the keyword for packaging for any of us - writers, bloggers, job seekers, employees, etc. In all of these roles, we are the Product and our packaging must be professional. Our blogs should be organized, easy to read, attractive and well written. Our websites should be the same. We should present ourselves, whether to agents/editors, readers, current and potential employers, as professionals.

Fortunately, professional does not equal boring or stuffy. At least not for what most of us do. You can still be yourself, you can still let your humor and personality show through. Because this helps you make a personal connection to your customer or audience. Just be sure to make it clear that you care about what you do. You care about getting this job, so you show up prepared, clean and wearing appropriate clothes. You care about the impression you make on customers, so you behave politely. You care about your followers, so you keep your blog attractive, organized and, if appropriate, fun.

Packaging plays all kinds of roles for different types of products. For example, lunch meat that now comes in those reusable plastic containers makes the customer feel as though they're getting two products in one. And often, the packaging is the product, or at least part of it, such as a potted plant or jar-candle...or a book, for that matter.

For us peeps here, however, packaging is mostly about how we present ourselves - our clothes, our appearance, the design of our blogs, our attitudes, our behaviors, etc. Show you care and be professional. One more way for you to control the quality of your Product.

Is there anything you can do to improve the packaging of your product? Maybe polish your resume? Clean up your website? Remove the buttons from your blog for contests that ended last May? (Hmm...I think I better go check on that last one myself.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Amazing Opportunity for Writers

Cassandra Marshall, freelance editor and literary agent intern, is offering a FREE edit of an ENTIRE manuscript for one lucky winner. Do you have any idea the value in this??? Whether you think you're ready to start querying but just aren't sure or you have been querying with less than satisfactory results or, like me, you're indie and can appreciate a professional edit...this offer is incredible!!!

I really, really want to win...but if you do, instead, it's a win for me, too. :) So go enter! Now!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Five for Friday (x2!)

I love the latest word mash-ups that are quickly becoming a part of our vocabularies. You know, the combination of two words that make something even more fun. Five of my faves:
  1. Craptastic
  2. Fantabulous
  3. Fabulicious
  4. Ridiculicious
  5. Frawesome (freakin' awesome - still catching on, so I thought it needed explaining)
When we write a puke-draft of a manuscript and then have to go back and revise it, one of the things we're supposed to look for is a string of adjectives or adverbs, select the strongest one and delete the rest. This can be excrucialorious (excruciating laborious). Sometimes we need more than one! The solution: word mash-ups! Great idea, right? I know. You can thank me later.

So, I've been trying to make up my own word mash-ups (wash-ups?). For an added Five-for-Friday bonus, here are five of my very own:
  1. Crapedible (incredibly crappy)
  2. Dampy (damn happy)
  3. Frumpy (freakin’ yummy guy)
  4. Sexfart (sexy, fun and smart)
  5. Dickalicious (these guys run rampant in high school, college fraternities and meat-market nightclubs - super hot assholes)
Okay, so I'm probably not the originator of all of these, but I doubt they'll ever catch on. Except maybe the last one, which makes me sure I'm not the first person to come up with it.

What do you think? Are my wash-ups catchy? Will you be using them this weekend? Do you have any to add to the list?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Making Changes

What the heck happened? If you think you're lost, don't worry. Kristie here, just wanting to let you know that if you've come here through your reader or some other link, you're not completely off course. I'm making changes to my blogs. For now, you're probably looking for

A Mused Writer, this blog, is for my writer friends. To network, share experiences and lessons learned, whine together about the challenges of writing and publishing, etc. My original blog is now or That one will now focus on my readers. It'll still be about my writing, but also about my books, upcoming events and appearances and anything else I feel like sharing with readers. So if you want to stay up-to-date on all that, continue following that blog.

If you're a writer, please follow this new blog. I'll be bringing over my writing related archives soon as I figure out how. So please bear with me in the meantime.

Things Making Me Go Hmm...

There's some interesting conversation going on for and about YA writers at Carol's Prints and Invincible Summer. If you write YA, I suggest you check them out because they bring up some very valid points about writing YA. I don't write YA, but one of the issues brought up has made me go "Hmm..."

It's the point about who we blog for. Do we blog for other writers? For readers? For agents or editors we hope might be checking us out? Personal friends and family? After all, as I've said in this Marketing Monday post and will come back to in future marketing-related posts, we need to know who our target audience is and write for them.

Which brings me to my own blog. I originally started this blog, called A Mused Writer, mostly to ramble and make sense of my writing, whine about the challenges of getting published and, I hoped, to mix and mingle with other writers. I planned to share what I've learned and my experiences in exchange for all the great knowledge writers share on their own blogs.

When I switched over my URL,, to the blog, though, it also became my communication tool to reach out to readers. I'd read somewhere about how our blogs' audiences change over time, depending where we are in the publishing spectrum - from newbie and unagented to agented but unpublished to published to bestseller. It made sense and I knew my messages would have to evolve with my audience.

After reading the two blogs above, though, and giving it some serious consideration, my publishing team and I agreed that should be for the author communicating with readers - about my books, my characters, the series, special events and appearances, etc., as well as a way for readers to get to know me on a more personal level. The book sites are all about the books, creating questions. The author site should be about answering questions and making a connection with the reader.

But what about my writer friends? I love you all. I've learned so much from you and I'd still like to share the little bit that I know, too. One of my goals in going indie is to be able to help other new writers achieve their goals. So I'm not about to give you up.

So, a bunch of words to basically say that I'll be doing some renovations here. I don't know the logistics yet, but I'm pretty sure that the end result will be either a new author's site or a new writer's blog. I don't want to lose archives relevant to either side, though, so I still have to figure it all out. Wish me luck!

What do you think? Have you thought about what you'll do with your blog as your career evolves? Anyone interested in doing a writing blog with me? :-) And any thoughts about those other two posts for YA writers?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Five for Friday - Promise Special!

It's a holiday weekend! Woot! Three days to do whatever we want. Yeah, right. More like two days to catch up on all the crap we didn't get done this week and, if we're lucky, an actual day off on the third. That's how my life is anyway. Has been since...oldest son was born nearly 18 years ago. LOL

I do have "work" to do, but it's mostly writing-related, so I'm not complaining (except for the clean the bathrooms and dust part - blech).

How about you? What do you have going on? Here are some suggestions:
  1. Drink a beer or share a bottle of wine with friends or neighbors.
  2. Eat a hot dog or bratwurst hot off the grill.
  3. Sleep in.
  4. Go to the beach or the pool one last time.
  5. Read Promise! Use this coupon code TP46E at to download Promise for only $2.99!!!!  Coupon expires Monday, so don't delay! Formats include Nook, Sony Reader, Apple iPad, Kobo, Diesel and HTML.
Bet you'll have it done by the end of the weekend. :) Enjoy the long weekend, whatever you do!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Before I jump into Teaser Tuesday, I just want to give a shout-out for the contest at The Alliterative Allomorph. And not just because I admire her willingness and ability to type that title all the time! Sheesh. My fingers were tripping over each other. She's having an amazing contest and it's for a good cause to support The Writing Show. If you are a writer, you'll want to jump in. EXCELLENT prizes await. Check it out here. Understand that I'm being very generous here because I really, really want to win and all I'm doing is adding to the competition. Oh, well. A win by any of you is a win for me. :-) onto today's teaser. For a blogfest last week, I posted a portion of the prologue to Promise, which ended up getting cut from the book (a very long time ago). I enjoyed the comments and reaction to the scene, because it was obvious nobody had read Promise yet. Otherwise, I think you'd know exactly what's going on.

I thought it would be fun for both those who have already read the book and those who have not to post the entire deleted prologue. It's under Deleted Scenes on the website. You'll also find the first two chapters on the Excerpts tab. Read them both to see if you can figure out what's going on in that blogfest scene...and then read the book to really know what's happening. ;-)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 5: Product

Back to our discussion on Product, after last week's marketing hiatus for Mockingjay

Last time, we discussed how Products are ideally developed to provide a new way to meet customers' needs - filling the gap between their problems and lack of good solutions. Today we'll talk about why Product is important to you - the writer, the reader, the job seeker, etc. And this is simple: Because, of the entire Marketing Mix depicted above, Product is where you have the most control.

This isn't usually true in our day jobs, where people in the Buying department choose the Products our companies sell or the Research & Development (R&D) team creates them. We usually don't have that much say in the Products. But, most of you are writers or book bloggers or just readers who at some point or another will have control over whatever "Product" you find yourself marketing (which is often yourself).

For writers working on a novel, your book is your Product. Right now, you have all the power over how good it is and how well it serves the customer. You are the creator, the decision-maker and the final say in it (until it's bought by a publisher, but first you have to get there). This is your chance to make the Product yours and to make it the. Best. Freakin'. Product. you can produce. The rest of the Marketing Mix will come in time and it will fall in place (whether it's you or your publisher doing it) when you have a frawesome Product - a mesmerizing, unforgettable book.

And very important: If you are seeking to be published the traditional way, this is the only time you have so much control over any of it. Once you sign on with an agent, you lose a lot of control, because it's now also the agent's Product. And once you sell your rights, you have to let go completely - the publisher now owns your Product. It's no longer just yours. So maximize the control you have now, while you can.

For book and other bloggers, your blog is your Product. **Aside: You may wonder why you should worry about marketing your blog. Because marketing gets followers. The more followers you have, the more influence you have. The more influence you have, the more free books and ARCs publishers will send you. Or the more connections you make in the industry. And the more connections you have, the more likely you'll meet that one person who can change your life.** Anyway...back to your Product. You also have entire control over your blog - its appearance, its organization and cleanliness, the topics you cover, your "voice" or attitude, etc.

And then, we are always our own Product. If you're looking for a job, you are the Product you're marketing. You can make your Product better by updating any skills, adding new abilities, gaining additional experience. You make yourself appear professional and sound desirable at your interviews. You have the control of how you present yourself as your Product.

If you're seeking out an agent, you are also the Product, as well as your book. After all, agents and publishers want someone who can produce more than one book. They want to launch your career so that all the time they devote to you as a debut author will be paid back for years down the road. They want to make sure you aren't difficult to work with, overly demanding or insecure, etc. You must market yourself as well as your book to land that agent.

We don't always get to control the Products we're responsible for in our day jobs. So when it comes to ourselves, our books, our blogs, etc., we need to take pride in our Product and embrace the control we have over how great it can be.

Next week we'll talk about one specific part of Product - packaging. In the meantime, please feel free to ask any questions. Or answer this one: What is one thing you can do this week to make your Product better?