Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Beginning of the End


Copyright © 2013 John Foxjohn
First published by 1st Turning Point

It is definitely not easy for me to sit here and think about what to write.  I have a lot going on, a million e-mails to answer, but more than that, it is a day and a half until the launch of my next book, Tattered Justice.
Needless to say, I am anxious, nervous, and excited all the same time.
Like everyone, I want to begin with a bang because a great beginning is important, at least to me.  I started the book launch idea with my first published book and did fairly well.  However, I have done increasingly better with each one.

Now, I am putting pressure on myself to continue what I started.
Any book signing is a crapshoot-make no mistake about that.  I have gone to ones I thought would do great and sold two books.  I have gone to ones I didn’t think would do anything and signed for two and a half hours straight.
I really believe that a part of the reason that I have continued to do better with the launches is because I have continued to learn how to do them.  It also doesn’t hurt that my name is known.  I am not naïve enough to think that doesn’t play a part.

Just like in political elections, name recognition plays a part. When I teach classes on signings, I tell them that there are no guarantees about a signing, but authors can help the odds of it being a great signing. This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way-know what is going on in that town the day you plan to have a signing and find this out before you plan it.

Here’s an example: I planned a book signing in a town where I had taught and coached.  I knew a lot of people in the town and had a tremendous amount of media coverage.  I showed up and spent two hours talking to the manager of the bookstore.  She was the only one in the store besides me.

You see, I planned it on a Friday night-that was the night the store manager told me they usually had the most traffic.  They probably did, but the manager and I failed to take something into account.  This signing was during high school football season, and the town I was signing in not only had a game at home-it was homecoming.
Trust me when I tell you-don’t plan a signing in Texas on Friday night during football season. You cannot compete with it-nothing in Texas can compete with it.

That’s what I mean by knowing what’s going on in that town.

But to my current one, I believe I need to tell fifty readers about it to get one to come to the signing.  This isn’t always the case-sometimes less-sometimes more.

So, on average, if I want fifty people to show up, I need to let twenty-five hundred know about it and remind them.
Now, no one who knows me is going to think I want fifty people to show up.  My goals are high-heck, I wouldn’t mind a thousand showing up.  I would be in hog heaven if they did.  But here’s the problem, letting fifty thousand people know about it.  Honestly, twenty-five hundred is easy-I have way more than that on my e-mail mailing list.
But how do I get the rest notified?  The obvious answer is the media.

I started out with the community calendars of not only the newspapers, but also the TV stations all around this area. These are free and they are usually happy to put events in them.  My newspaper has several sections that people can submit events to.

Yesterday, the paper listed my signing in the paper in four different sections.

I have it on all of the online sections that the city has including the Chamber of Commerce, the Library, everything.
I also have it on Facebook, MySpace, and all those.

Obviously, I am writing this without knowing how this launch will turn out, but as I sit here, I am confident that I have done all that I can to get the word out and, hopefully, create interest in coming and checking out my book. If they don’t come, I can’t get them as excited about it as I am.

When I titled this the Beginning of the End, I meant the beginning and the end result, and that is what I am interested in.


John Foxjohn, the author of the best-selling true crime, Killer Nurse, epitomizes the phrase "been there--done that." Born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches, he quit high school and joined the Army at seventeen: Viet Nam veteran, Army Airborne Ranger, policeman and homicide detective, retired teacher and coach, now he is a multi-published author. 

Growing up, Foxjohn developed a love of reading that will never end. In fact, he refers to himself as a "readalcoholic." He began with the classics and still lists Huckleberry Finn as one of his all time favorites. Later, he discovered Louis L'Amour and besides owning every book he wrote, Foxjohn says he's read every one of them at least five times. 

However, when he was twelve, Foxjohn read a book about Crazy Horse, and decided right then he would also write one about the famous Lakota leader. After many "yondering" years as L'Amour called them, he spent ten years researching his historical fiction, Journey of the Spirit, now titled The People's Warrior. 

Maybe because of his eclectic reading habits John has not limited himself to publishing in one genre. In fact, he has published mysteries, romantic suspenses, historical fiction, legal thrillers, and nonfiction Killer Nurse. 
When he's not writing, teaching writing classes, or speaking to different writing groups and conferences, Foxjohn loves to spend time square dancing, working in his rose garden, or in his garage doing woodwork. However, his passion outside of family and writing is without a doubt, anything to do with the Dallas Cowboys. 

Killer Nurse by John Foxjohn

She was hired to nurse them back to health...instead, she took their lives.

For months, the DaVita Dialysis Center in Lufkin, Texas had been baffled by the rising number of deaths and injuries occurring in their clinic. In April alone, they’d rushed thirty-four patients to the hospital. But no one expected such a horrific cause to be behind it all.

Kimberly Clark Saenz was a well-liked licensed vocational nurse at the center. The East Texas nurse was a mother of two, and known for her smiles and the stories she told to help patients pass the time. But on April 28, 2008, witnesses came forward to say that instead of lifesaving medication, they’d seen Saenz adding toxic bleach to IV ports. Turns out, it wasn’t the first time. Once caught, the shocking story of Saenz’s murderous practices began to unravel…





Monday, October 27, 2014

Mountains Into Molehills


Copyright © 2011 Susan Schreyer
Originally published by 1st Turning Point
Congratulations! You've pretty much decided that one of these days you'll release your book as an e-book. That is if you can get over the terror of where to go, how to do it, and all that technology you won't ever understand. Oh yeah, and if you can get someone to do it for you, because there's no way you're ever going to figure it out on your own. 
Sound about right?
Well, I've got some news for you -- you've already done the hardest part. You wrote the book. And then you polished and polished, had it critiqued, edited, and probably sent it out to agents, publishers and have taken a regular beating in criticism, swallowed your pride, admitted you're not perfect and done yet another rewrite. OR perhaps you've got books published that are out of print, and the rights have now reverted to you. Shouldn't those books be given another chance to work for you?
I'll bet you've even started building your platform. You've got a website, a blog and you know that whatever publication route you choose, today's author must shoulder a good deal of the marketing and promotion responsibility.
This is no time to quit just because of a little new technology. Just like anything else, it's accomplished by taking one step at a time. You don't have to know it all before you start, but it doesn't hurt to familiarize yourself with e-books if you haven't yet. If you don't want to invest in an e-reader, then download the software onto your computer -- that's the e-reader software, and it's free -- and read a book or two. They're set up differently than print books. No page numbers, adjustable fonts, and different requirements for margins, among other things. 
Don't worry about all of this yet. You don't climb a staircase by jumping into the middle of it, despite the fact that you know it's there. 
So, if the first steps are writing the book, then platform building, then deciding on e-publishing, you probably want to know what to do after you have a general idea of what an e-book looks like. 
Next step: Decide where you want your readers to be able to buy your e-book. Everywhere? Just Amazon? Not Amazon? It's up to you. And the good news here is that you can change your mind anytime you want. I love that part.
Now I will direct you to the source I've found particularly helpful. That'll be Smashwords. Who? Never heard of them? Well, now you have. They distribute e-books to almost all formats, and you can buy from them as well. Whether you plan on using them or not, they are (in my opinion, of course) the most helpful of all the e-book aggregators. Click over to their site, http://www.smashwords.com, scroll down until you see "Publish on Smashwords" in the left hand column and start reading. Once you've read some, and your heart rate has returned to normal, download the Style Guide. It's free, and don't worry, it doesn't commit you to anything.
Now, read it. 
Holy moley! It's more than 40 pages long! IT MUST BE COMPLICATED! 
Nope. It's not. Start at page 1 and read what they have to say. Take your time. This is the non-techie's guide to e-publishing. By the time you get done with it, I'll bet you a Starbucks grande mocha you'll be thinking you can handle this. After all, you typed your manuscript a hundred times on your computer, messed with the formatting to suit different submission guidelines. You can do this, too.
Once you've read the Style Guide, you'll probably want to play around with the steps they suggest for cleaning all the extraneous formatting out of the document. Make a copy of your book on your computer and play with the copy. That way, if things go bad (and they probably won't) you'll have only trashed a copy. 
Give yourself plenty of time so you don't feel pressured. You've got other stuff to do, too, like put a cover together -- or get someone to do it for you -- start promoting, write a "back cover blurb" that will hook a reader, write a short author bio, and your acknowledgment page.
When I began this process I assumed it would take months. I allowed time for my copy editor to stroll through my manuscript, the graphic artist I hired to read the entire book and play with cover designs, and myself to launch a new blog. I began this process on September 1. By October nearly everything was completed. I'd given myself until February. Under the circumstances, I decided to move the launch date to December. Then did more promoting. I got some interviews, nudged the buzz along and decided to find out what it would take to upload to Amazon.
Here is the link to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. It's the way you get your work on to Kindle, and into Amazon's prodigious catalog. https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
You can take a look at their Kindle Publishing Guide, and if you've read the Smashwords Guide, this will look like even more of a breeze. Sign in using your Amazon login information. If you've ever ordered anything from Amazon before, you've got a login name and password. No need to create a new one. Take your time, read the prompts and fill in the blanks. It's simple. You'll be amazed. I promise.
It was so easy, I decided to go ahead and upload my manuscript. I uploaded a copy -- a test copy, if you will. I figured it was a test run, after all, and I'd end up pulling it. The cover, by the way, downloads separately. It took very little time for my manuscript to be processed. Once it was I clicked on the review option and took a look. 
Wow! It looked … good!!
Until I started checking a few pages in. Some of the margins were off (if you want to read more -- a lot more -- about the experience, click over to my blog, Writing Horses. "Adventures in Uploading," posted on November 20, 2010 details the experience). Because I wanted my book to look as professional as possible, I wanted the problem solved. The solution turned out to be simple, and because the aggregation software has improved over the years the frequency of unexpected and unpleasant surprises has decreased dramatically. In other words; the whole process is simpler still. 
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. What happened then, in 2010, was that I still lacked confidence in the process. I let my book idle in my account. I wasn't ready to push the "publish" button yet.
I went through the uploading process at Smashwords next. Also simple. No errors came back. I "unpublished" it. I still wasn't quite ready to launch.
So, what was I waiting for? Christmas? Well, yeah. 
But it was not quite November. Everything was done. I was ready to roll. I dithered around for a few days and finally decided, what the heck. Launch. 
I gave myself a week more to build buzz, then two days prior to the stated release date I uploaded fresh copies of my book on to both Amazon and Smashwords. Two days, because it takes a little processing time for both aggregators to make your book available, and I wanted to be sure when I told people they could now buy Death By A Dark Horse that they, in fact, could click on the links and get to my book. 
Having now self published five books, I can say definitively that I've learned more along the way, but nothing that was critical to know before releasing my book. The process was far quicker than the 5 months of preparation I'd anticipated -- and far easier. 
Give yourself time to read the instructions, the helpful hints and explore the websites. Most of all, give yourself time to take it a step at a time. You'll be amazed how fast it goes, and how the mountain truly is a molehill.

Susan Schreyer is a local author who combines her love of mysteries with her passion for horses in the suspenseful, humorous and romantic Thea Campbell mystery series set in Snohomish, WA. Shooting To Kill, the fifth book in the series, has just been released in e-book and print. Susan is co-president of the Puget Sound chapter of Sisters in Crime and a former board member of the Guppies Chapter of SinC. 





Saturday, October 25, 2014

Prepping the Perfect Pitch

Copyright © 2013 Laurie Ryan
Originally published by 1st Turning Point
So, you’ve finished your book.  You’ve polished it until it shines.  You’ve agonized over your synopsis and query letter until they are a stellar, if minimalistic, glimpse into the bowels of your story.  With your researched list of agents and/or publishers in hand, you mail your baby out to the world.
Some of you will be lucky enough to find a home for your story right away.  For the rest of us, well, there are a few R’s sitting in our closet.  Whether you’ve received a rejection or are waiting to hear on submissions, one of the things you need to prepare for is pitching it in person.
Now, having only one in-person pitch under my belt, I get just a bit too nervous to talk about pitch appointments.  What I’d like to discuss today are elevator pitches.  Those quick-hit descriptions of your story that can wow an agent, an editor, or a reader in less than a minute.  They can also work great as back cover blurbs if done right.
While I was playing around with the blurb for my newest story, my research kept directing me to Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer (and a heartfelt thank you to all the authors out there who have suggested him.)  His five-point look at plot leads to a great way to break your story down to bare, but exciting, bones.
1.  Character:  You may have two primary characters, or protagonists, but one of them will have more point of view time.  That’s your primary character.
2.  Situation or danger:  What has happened to make your protagonist act?  In Christopher Vogler’s, “The Writer’s Journey,” this would be the Call to Adventure.  It doesn’t have to be mortal danger.  It could be a sister who has run away, a home about to be foreclosed on, or even having some innocuous person show up on the protagonist’s porch.  But it must cause your protagonist to do something.
3.  Goal:  What is your protagonist’s external goal?  What do they hope to accomplish by the end of the story?
4.  Opponent:  Who is working against your protagonist’s goal?  This is not limited to a person.  It could be an event, like a natural disaster.
5.  Disaster or Climax:  This is not the end of your story.  It’s the Black Moment, when all seems lost.
Here’s an example using my story, Pirate’s Promise:
Primary character:  Julia Branholt
Situation:  She’s saddled with another pro bono case, this time defending a modern-day pirate.
Goal:  Keeping a promise she made to her now-deceased father that she will make partner in a law firm.
Opponent:  The pirate (also the hero).  Hawk is determined to save his village from ruin and refuses to help her clear her name until he’s accomplished his own goal.
Disaster (climax): Branded as having helped her client free himself from jail and flee the country, Julia is left with no other choice but to track Hawk down and bring him back to clear her name.
If I put that all together and tweak it a bit so it flows well, I get:
Thanks to one stubborn, bull-headed, modern-day pirate, attorney Julia Branholt’s career is about to tank, along with a promise she made to her father.  When the man is bailed out in her name…an ethical nightmare…Julia goes rogue and follows him to Mexico, where they must work together to thwart someone bent on destroying the village of his late wife.
Okay, so that’s two sentences, but I couldn’t quite stick to the suggested word length of 50 that I found in my research.  Still, if I talk fast, I can get it in.
Now, you’ve agonized over your elevator pitch and honed it to a succinct rendering of your story.  What’s next?
You have to be ready to pitch it–In an elevator, or at a luncheon table, or while quick stepping it to the parking garage.  Are you ready?  For those of you who can talk off the cuff, I applaud you.  For the rest of us, it’s practice, practice, practice.  I read a blog from Loucinda McGary where she suggests role playing for practice.  Get together with a friend and have them pretend to be an agent, publisher, or reader.  Pitch your story.  And answer their questions.  This would be a great way to prepare.
I find condensing my story down to two sentences to be extraordinarily hard.  Turning those two sentences into a back cover blurb, by comparison, should be relatively easy.  After all, you’ve already defined the important aspects of your story.  Now you get to expand on it a bit.  Consider adding an initial hook or tagline.  Something to capture attention right off the bat.  Think about movies.  There have been some great taglines attached to movies.  Here are a few examples:
Garbo TALKS!  (Anna Christie, 1930)
Don’t go in the water.  (Jaws, 1975)
A love caught in the fire of revolution.  (Dr.  Zhivago, 1965)
Beyond fantasy.  Beyond obsession.  Beyond time itself…he will find her.  (Somewhere in Time, 1980)
An adventure 65 million years in the making.  (Jurassic Park, 1993)
A tagline can instantly grab attention and make people read further.  You’ve already seen my elevator pitch.  My blurb, complete with a three-line tagline, follows this article.  Does it grab your attention?  I hope so.  And I hope this article offers you some guidance on creating your own two-sentence elevator pitch.
Happy pitching!
A bit of an obsessive-compulsive organizer, Laurie found her niche in editing. With an eye for detail, she enjoys helping the story, as well as the author’s voice, shine.
She is passionate about every aspect of a book: beginning, middle, and end. She can’t arrive for a movie five minutes late, has never been able to read the end of a book before the beginning, and is a strong believer in reading the book before seeing the movie.
In her spare time, Laurie writes both romance and women’s fiction under the name Laurie Ryan, reads for pleasure in various genres, walks (a lot), and spends time with her family.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Book Categories Can Doom Sales or Make Amazon Your Personal Publicist


When speaking about my book, Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers: But That's Not All They Do, I often get two responses, which is what prompted me to write the book to begin with.
Some shrug with a “So what? Categories are like Tags. Everywhere I place my book requires choosing categories. They are basically just another search engine assistant.”
For those wondering, search engines help guide people to find your book if someone types your topic into the Amazon search bar. But even if your book comes up in the search it may be buried on page 20 or 90 of the results. Categories are nothing like search engines.
The second response I usually get is from authors with a bit more experience selling books at Amazon, who know a book is tallied for category bestseller by outselling others within the same category. But unfortunately some have been taught that a smart strategy for ranking in this top-100 bestseller list is to pick the smallest category you can find, even if it’s not totally relevant to your book’s topic.
Their cry might be: “Close is good enough. Bestseller status at all costs.” This is very short-sighted, because category bestsellers are not the be-all and end-all of category purposes, and worse, this action can doom your Amazon book sales, which of course dooms chances for a bestseller.
When you understand the true function of Amazon’s categories and the core philosophy behind the system, you glimpse the enormity of their sales plan. With this glimpse you’ll see a whole new world, a world where Amazon becomes your personal book publicist. And it all starts with choosing the RIGHT category, not the smallest. I cover this in detail in my book, but let’s quickly synopsize two of the core concepts behind all of Amazon’s publicity plans for your book.
Amazon Publicity Functions are Drawn from Pool of Categories
Nearly all promotions choose which books to include from within the existing pool of categories. Amazon rankings depend on finding your book in the proper ones. Most everything throughout Amazon’s ingenious multi-layered publicity machine starts with and builds upon categories. Don’t underestimate this tool.
You need the RIGHT categories attached to your books (not the smallest) in order to find your readers. Only this tight targeting will kick start Amazon to begin publicizing your books globally on multiple levels AND in front of readers who give a damn -- which brings us to the next point.
Tight Targeting is How the Publicity Engine Rolls
Tight targeting is the fuel that controls and thrusts your book through the RIGHT layers of their many promotion opportunities. Amazon book categories are your only chance to set your book up for success in front of those who really care about your subject. Then their publicity machine pushes it through the next level of promotion, and the next, and the next…
Targeting is exactly how Amazon markets everything. From categories to Tags to Customers Who Viewed This Also Viewed, to their wildly successful direct mailings, many top-100 lists and on and on.
What Are the Consequences if I Choose the Wrong Categories?
What consequences can stem from wrong category choices? That’s the question that should be asked, not: how do I choose the smallest category with the least competition?
Certainly, we all want a bestseller. Gaining one, or more, is cause for celebration, but that is only part of the purpose of categories. Their 24/7 publicity is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to an individual author. If your category is less than specific to your subject you book may well be dead in the sales waters already.
Tight targeting of your categories is the only goal. Never choose a category based on lack of competition. If your book is not in the most tightly targeted category, Amazon cannot successfully sell the book for you. It’s as simple as that.
Though you may obtain category bestseller status for a while, your success and your sales may well stall there. Try to sucker your audience and the system, and you may pay long term with poor sales and losing out on all of Amazon’s free publicity, or even worse.
Example of Arbitrarily Choosing the Smallest Category
For example, let’s say you placed your humorous novella in the category “Comic books” because there are only 91 other books to compete with. Humorous novel, comic book, graphic novel – close enough, right? (I’m not making this stuff up. I’ve heard of books placed in categories far more removed from the truth than this example.) You have already doomed your book’s success on several levels.
In just one of many possible scenarios, imagine you are a young graphic novel lover who receives email updates about his favorite categories, and Amazon’s algorithms have deduced “Comic books” is one of them.
Your humorous novel is prominently featured in his email, an email that is supposed to inform him of the newest comic book bestsellers. When he clicks on yours he will be angry that you wasted his time, and his money if he purchased it with one click without first checking it out.
You may become a blacklisted author. Don’t scoff. Though this is a worst case scenario, it is not an exaggeration. Savvy e-readers are so demanding of and involved with their online world that, without one lost second, he may leave a scathing review on your sales page, talk about you in several discussion boards, report you to Amazon, and blacklist you in ways and places you and I have never heard of. The damage may even be irreparable.
But let’s not forget that those readers who would have loved your humorous novel will not see it because you listed it in the wrong category. You will not even be considered for feature in millions of email promotions to those looking for precisely your genre. You will not appear in the categories your readers would search for throughout any other top-100 list. These are all Amazon promotions meant to sell your books and they do their jobs well, but only for books in their appropriate category.

So, the goal is NOT just to quickly gain a false category bestseller at all costs. Bestsellers come mostly from steady sales long after your book launch blitz. Your tightly targeted categories will grease the way to those sales, propelling your book into a publicity campaign like you’ve never dreamed of, courtesy (and cost) of Amazon.com.
Aggie’s Bio: For decades peers have described Aggie Villanueva as a whirlwind that draws others into her vortex. And no wonder. She was a published author at Thomas Nelson before age 30 and commenced to found local writers’ groups, the Mid-America Fellowship of Christian Writers three–day conference, taught at nationwide writing conferences, and published numerous newsletters for various organizations.
Aggie’s 2012 book, Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers: But That's Not All They Do, teaches authors to render Amazon.com their personal book publicist by employing the perpetual reach of book categories. With the exception of five days, this book hit immediate Kindle bestseller in three categories, and held steady in 1-3 categories for 36 weeks. The Amazon print version has repeatedly done short stretches as a category bestseller too. And both digital and print continue to show up intermittently as Kindle category bestsellers to this day.
Thomas Nelson published two of Villanueva’s novels in the 1980s. She is now an award-winning, bestselling Indie author of fiction & non fiction bestsellers. Rightfully Mine, and The Rewritten Word, each became bestsellers in three Amazon print & Kindle categories within weeks of publication. The Rewritten Word held bestseller status steady in 1-3 categories for over 21 months, and won the 2011Dan Poynter Global eBook Award in the Writing/Publishing category.
Across the Web Aggie teaches how authors can attain the same things through author publicity. Villanueva founded Promotion á la Carte, author promotional services, July 2010 and for the next 2 years was voted #2 & #4 at Preditors & Editors in the Promotion category (this company is now on sabbatical). Villanueva is also a critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ.
For more information you can contact Villanueva at aggie@promotionalacarte.com.





Monday, October 20, 2014

Working Outside the Box - or - this side UP


Copyright © 2013 Susan Schreyer
Originally published by 1st Turning Point

Boxes are nice. They're comforting and cozy with well defined sides. You know what to expect in a box -- it's all there for you to see. No surprises. 
On the other hand, boxes are limiting and cramp your style. They don't allow for exploring except within the box. Want to try something that doesn't quite fit in the box? Bam! You'll smack right into a wall.
I've spent a good deal of time on the outside of boxes. On the occasions I've climbed into them, I generally find myself climbing out a short time later. I'm not box material. Apparently, a lot of people aren't box material. I've noticed that lately. 
In this revolutionary age of publishing an awful lot of writers are not only choosing to be outside the traditional publishing box, but are finding themselves dumped out of what they thought was a cozy and reassuring location. Regardless of how you've found your way to the "outside" you now have to deal with it. Every one of us is faced with the same challenges in making our writing careers work, and the work of promotion is a near-vertical learning curve for most.
The object of our efforts is to reach our readers. This simple little fact occurred to me about a year ago after the release of my first book. I got lots of advice -- some of it useful and much of it not. The good "useless" advice I got tended to involve getting out in public and hand-selling my book. You know what I'm talking about -- that sweaty-hand, palpating-heart-producing activity where you get to beg total strangers to buy your book.
There had to be an easier way.
Two things occurred to me: First, I'm exponentially more comfortable around people I know. Second, the times I've really enjoyed myself around scads of strangers have been when someone else was doing the talking.
I started quizzing other authors I knew who were facing the same promotion dilemma and came up with the idea of forming a local group of authors who would go around to different locals and give free talks about their books, or any of a variety of writing subjects. The idea was to reach out to local readers we might not otherwise have the opportunity to contact and let them know there were local authors with good books they might want to read. 
The first group I formed was The Northwest Mystery Authors Tour Group. I spread the word in my writing community and sent out letters of introduction to libraries, bookstores, senior centers and any place else any of the members could think of. Even hair salons (and yes, they're interested!). We got a number of events scheduled. Yay! We were on our way!
With a Yahoo group and a spread sheet, it's a fairly simple matter to communicate and schedule events.
Our format was fairly simple, not to mention tried and true. We offer a panel with up to four authors and a moderator, and take turns answering the moderator's questions. Then we’d open up to audience questions. It was fun, informative and far less anxiety producing than going solo. And we sold some books.
After a while it became apparent that it was just a small number of us who were pitching in and doing the heavy lifting. If a group is going to keep the momentum going, then it is necessary to get all members contributing since you’ll likely cause burn-out if you put the heavy lifting on too few shoulders. That doesn’t mean everyone has to go at full throttle all the time – that kind of expectation is unrealistic, not to mention exhausting. People’s participation in volunteer work tends to ebb and flow. It’s natural and reasonable. Work with that.
So, what happened? The original group of about fifteen transformed into a smaller group of three, sometimes four who found a certain synergy together. As a group, Women Who Kill, found a humorous and informative way to connect with an audience and a pace to work at that doesn’t exhaust, and allows for the other responsibilities of life. 
Sometimes, when life outside the box is scary it's a good idea to create your own box – and then be willing to jump outside of that one, too. After all, it’s a trip, not a destination.
Susan Schreyer is a local author who combines her love of mysteries with her passion for horses in the suspenseful, humorous and romantic Thea Campbell mystery series set in Snohomish, WA. Shooting To Kill, the fifth book in the series, has just been released in e-book and print. Susan is co-president of the Puget Sound chapter of Sisters in Crime and a former board member of the Guppies Chapter of SinC. 





Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is your Sex Life in Danger


Copyright © 2013 John Foxjohn
Originally Published by 1st Turning Point

A funny thing happened to me on the way to publication—I began to realize that I needed to know some things about self-promotion.  Honestly, I wished I had known that how I wrote, what I wrote, and even the title of the book had a lot to do with promotion.
My novel Cold Tears sold more books than I could have ever dreamed, and continues to sell.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that it won the reader’s award for the best mystery in the world.  Readers naming me the author of the year also didn’t hurt.
However, Cold Tears is a great title.  It makes people think-how can tears be cold?  The title in itself almost chills you.  It says suspense.
While writing the book, I thought about changing the title.  The reason? An agent told me that I needed to.  She said, “Men aren’t going to buy a book with tears in the title.”
This seemed like good advice to me, and then I started learning things about promotion.  One of the first things I learned was that men don’t buy books.  Over the years, I have found that if a writer gears a book toward men, they are going to have a tough row to hoe.  Sorry, guys, but this is just the truth.
Second, I think the blanket statement that men won’t buy a book with tears in the title doesn’t give reading men a lot of credit. To the best of my knowledge, I am a man and definitely a reader, and the word tears in the title doesn’t bother me at all.  This was one of the reasons the agent’s statement surprised me.
However, when she told me this, I didn’t know much about these things.  As it turned out, she knew as much about being an agent as I did promoting, and I knew about nothing about promoting.
She was wrong about the Cold Tears title, and I am so glad I didn’t listen to her.  However, she was right in one regard-the best way to promote a book begins with the title.
A good example of what I am talking about is my historical fiction, Journey of the Spirit.  Many readers have told me they think this is my best one, but because of the title, and the genre, I have a hard time getting people to read it.
When people read it, they find a tragic love story intermingled with the history of a great man and the epic struggle of a race of people, and all this told by a little boy who has to endure and overcome a tragedy that few of us would ever hope to envision.
This is a book that John Jumps, the Lakota Tribal Chief said, “If you didn’t like this story, you don’t have a soul.”
I teach adults to read at the Lufkin Adult Learning Center, and at the moment I am teaching a forty-three year-old man who is a carpenter and spent four years in prison.  When we began, he had a fourth grade reading level.  As he progressed, I asked him what he liked and he told me history.
I brought in a copy of Journey of the Spirit and we are reading it now.  Last Thursday, this man began to cry as we read.
This is how emotionally appealing this book is.  However, most people don’t get to see why John Jumps said what he did, or what is in this book that would bring this man to tears.
Because of the title and the genre, people don’t pick it up.
This is a funny story about this book.  My editor didn’t want it.  She had read the first three chapters of Cold Tears and was dying to get her grubby little hands on that book, and as it turned out, for good reason.
When I was talking to her, I told her about Journey of the Spirit.  She told me she didn’t read westerns.  This should have clued me in, but it didn’t.  I told her, “Good, because it isn’t a western-it’s a historical fiction.”
She told me she didn’t read them, either.  Now, most people would be smart enough to pick up on this.  However, I am not all that bright.  Because she wanted Cold Tears so badly, I talked her into looking at Journey of the Spirit.
She told me to send it to her by e-mail, and she’d look at it in three or four weeks.  I sent it and about three hours later, I received an e-mail from her that she’d read the first sixty-two pages of the book and really loved it, but had too much work to do and would have to put it aside.
A few hours later, she called me.  She had to have the book.  Later, I had to remind her about Cold Tears.
So, why don’t people rush to buy the book?  One reason is the title—it doesn’t tell anything about anything that I just listed.  Many people think it’s a book about religion.  Some call it an Indian book.  They get this from the title and the cover.
Second is the genre.  Women on average don’t read historical fiction.
There is much more to this book than just the history, but I don’t convey that in the title or the genre.
Hey, look at the title of my upcoming book, Tattered Justice. This is absolutely one of the best titles I have ever come up with.  Not only does it convey what the book is about, but it just reaches out and grabs the reader.
I wanted the word justice in the title, and the rest came from my trusty Thesaurus.
I began with the title Torn Justice, but that just didn’t have that special feeling that reflected the book.  I needed a title that was representative of what I thought the book would be.
I put torn in the Thesaurus and kept coming up with different combinations until I hit Tattered.  When it hit, I knew. Tattered Justice represented my story well.
Here is my best advice on promotions—start before you write the book, and start with what readers see first—the title.

Now, what does all this have to do with your sex life? Nothing, but did the title get your attention?


John Foxjohn, the author of the best-selling true crime, Killer Nurse, epitomizes the phrase "been there--done that." Born and raised in the rural East Texas town of Nacogdoches, he quit high school and joined the Army at seventeen: Viet Nam veteran, Army Airborne Ranger, policeman and homicide detective, retired teacher and coach, now he is a multi-published author. 
Growing up, Foxjohn developed a love of reading that will never end. In fact, he refers to himself as a "readalcoholic." He began with the classics and still lists Huckleberry Finn as one of his all time favorites. Later, he discovered Louis L'Amour and besides owning every book he wrote, Foxjohn says he's read every one of them at least five times. 
However, when he was twelve, Foxjohn read a book about Crazy Horse, and decided right then he would also write one about the famous Lakota leader. After many "yondering" years as L'Amour called them, he spent ten years researching his historical fiction, Journey of the Spirit, now titled The People's Warrior. 
Maybe because of his eclectic reading habits John has not limited himself to publishing in one genre. In fact, he has published mysteries, romantic suspenses, historical fiction, legal thrillers, and nonfiction Killer Nurse. 
When he's not writing, teaching writing classes, or speaking to different writing groups and conferences, Foxjohn loves to spend time square dancing, working in his rose garden, or in his garage doing woodwork. However, his passion outside of family and writing is without a doubt, anything to do with the Dallas Cowboys. 

She was hired to nurse them back to health...instead, she took their lives.
For months, the DaVita Dialysis Center in Lufkin, Texas had been baffled by the rising number of deaths and injuries occurring in their clinic. In April alone, they’d rushed thirty-four patients to the hospital. But no one expected such a horrific cause to be behind it all.
Kimberly Clark Saenz was a well-liked licensed vocational nurse at the center. The East Texas nurse was a mother of two, and known for her smiles and the stories she told to help patients pass the time. But on April 28, 2008, witnesses came forward to say that instead of lifesaving medication, they’d seen Saenz adding toxic bleach to IV ports. Turns out, it wasn’t the first time. Once caught, the shocking story of Saenz’s murderous practices began to unravel…






Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Highs and Lows of a Group Blog

Copyright © 2013 Carrie Lofty
After receiving a few rejections for my first manuscript, Serenade, set in Napoleonic Austria, I did what my market researcher husband would do: I took a good hard look at the market. When I realized how few romance novels set outside the British Isles have been published in recent years, I decided to start a multi-author blog devoted to historical romances. So in November 2006, Unusual Historicals was born. Part networking tool, part industry watercooler, and part to-be-read pile fattener, Unusual Historicals remains a labor of love.
Because, let me tell you, managing a group blog is not easy!
However the benefits can be tremendous. While some argue that the age of the blog has passed, replaced by more instantaneous social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, I disagree. It’s just a matter of knowing your particular blog’s strengths, and then following a few key suggestions.
Know Your Niche. There are so many blogs to choose from, many of which simply feature groups of friends who’ve decided to get together and share the responsibilities of regular posting. If you don’t have a clear purpose, or if your format or theme mimics more successful blogs of a similar type, you won’t get the readership you desire. Unusual Historicals remains the only blog dedicated to its particular theme, which helps keep us unique and interesting.
Vary Your Line-up. At present we feature 25 contributors on Unusual Historicals. These authors write in time periods ranging from ancient Rome to World War II, from China to Chicago, from Mongolia to Madagascar. Our authors write sweet stories, erotic stories, and even M/M romances. Not all of our contributors are published, and our publishers range from e-presses to the largest New York houses. My point is this: make sure contributors to your group blog have a breadth of experiences and specialties. This will make sure that readers discover something new every time they visit.
Stay Consistent. Without consistency, your readers don’t know what to expect. And without new content, your readers will grow bored and disappear. After months of trial and error, we at Unusual Historicals decided on a regular schedule that combines new posting material, excerpts, announcements, and guest promotional opportunities. We also decided on monthly themes to give our posts some cohesion.
This month, for example, our topic is one near and dear to every romance writer’s heart: MEN! We’ve already had posts on The Macaronis of “Yankee Doodle” fame, Muhammad XII of Granada, and forms of address among men during World War II. All men, all unusual, and all very different!
Reap the Benefits. Managing a multi-author blog, or even participating as a contributor, can be demanding. We live very busy lives and exist under multiple deadlines. But this past July at the RWA national conference, I met over a dozen women who’d contributed to this blog. We have a shared camaraderie because of our interest in unusual historicals, and thus a shared desire to see one another succeed in this challenging business. I credit our hard work for developing these friendships and valuable industry connections.
So think hard about what niche you can fill, and then devote yourself to make it the best blog it can be. Have fun! Meet like-minded people! And network like crazy to make sure your potential readership knows where to find you. Good luck!
Since 2008, RITA-nominated and RT Reviewers’ Choice-winning author Carrie Lofty has over twenty books to her name—or four names, to be precise. Currently with Pocket, her historical romances have been described as “nuanced and superbly realized” (The Chicago Tribune), while her “Dragon Kings” paranormal series, written as Lindsey Piper, is “sexy, brutal and somehow innocent” (All About Romance). In May 2014, Carrie celebrates the release of her first New Adult romance, Blue Notes, featuring a shy piano prodigy and a New Orleans playboy.
As Katie Porter, all five of Carrie and co-writing partner Lorelie Brown’s “Vegas Top Guns” contemporary erotic romances received 4½ Stars from RT BookReviews. They have been honored with a Reviewers’ Choice award for Best Erotic Ebook, and the first m/m nomination for RT’s Book of the Year. Back-to-back releases of their La Femme Nakita-inspired military romance series will begin in May 2014 from Samhain.
During her junior year abroad, Carrie lured an unsuspecting Englishman to the Midwest, where she’s kept him a happy ex-pat for sixteen years. With two pre-teen daughters and a master’s degree specializing in Old West outlaws, Carrie is a movie buff, a former ballroom and bellydancer, and a woman in desperate need of a maid service.






Monday, October 13, 2014

How To Find More Time In Your Life for Sport Fishing, Sex, and Marketing Your Books


Copyright © 2013 John Klawitter
Originally Published by 1st Turning Point

If you were going to change your life — really change your life — how would you go about it? Where would you begin? I can help you, but first you have to realize how boxed in all of us are right now. Boxed in? Yes, we all are, with our obligations to family, friends, and ourselves.
Let’s use both you and me as examples. Start with me: I get up at five in the morning. After the usual half hour to make myself beautiful…err, make that presentable, I grind a pot of coffee, adding the usual cinnamon, ground cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. Then I’m out for an exhilarating half hour with our lab, Duke, yanking me around the neighborhood. By now it’s 6:30 in the morning. I microwave an oatmeal square, grab a few chunks of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate and a huge mug of Caffe Americaine (half coffee and half hot milk), and head for my computer. I write or record or do post until 11:00, then answer emails until noon. One hour for lunch, one for chores, one for shopping, two hours of writing, time for dinner, nighttime news, and a movie or a good book. The next day, I do it all over again. Enough about me. Review your own life. Any similarities?
Distressingly, did you note that in my schedule, I didn’t include any time for new business, show pitches, and book marketing? Yet, that’s how my days tend to flow by, one after the other. The weekends aren’t much better, what with the grandkids and so on. Looks like I’m stuck in concrete here. And maybe you are, too. How the hell do we change our lives?
Actually, there is a way. I try to use it all the time, and maybe many of you do, as well — it certainly seems to help. My method starts with the realization that the most important cycle in human life isn’t the 24-hour day or the month or the year…it is the humble, standard, ordinary week. You can’t change your life if you think in days, because they seem too random, and a month is too long to try to map out — and a year, well, you know how those New Year’s resolutions end up.
I promise you, if you map out your week, it will open your eyes. Take a ruled legal pad, draw vertical lines to create a column for each day. Save room on the left side for the time 1:00 a.m. through noon and back to midnight, with room at the top to list Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.
Next, block out your sleep time. This will come as your first shock. We’re robbed of half our time before we even get started! I use a black marker to block out this rude chunk of wasted time. Then use different colors to block out shower, dressing, breakfast-lunch-dinner, travel time to and from work, work hours, necessary chores, and family time.
If you’re like me, you’ll find your weekdays are compacted by things you have to do. And weekends are different, but not much better. The discipline of mapping the hours of your seven-day period should make one thing clear — sacrifices have to be made. Are you going to write an hour less every day? Of course not. That would be self-defeating; after all, you are a writer. Maybe you could sleep a half hour less? Maybe. Could you figure out how to work on your marketing while eating a sandwich over lunch? I know the experts say you should concentrate on just eating while you’re eating, but after all, it’s only food. And we’re talking your career here.
With this chart at your fingertips, you can push and pull, nip and tuck, steal 15 minutes here and a half hour there, and use those precious purloined seconds to promote your books. In other words, just as you’ve been giving hours each day to your muse, you have to give some time each and every day to the gods of marketing. Your weekly chart will show you how and where you might be able to do it!
This is truly possible. Staying aware of the passing hours will make you conscious of the value of your commitments. Sure, you can help pal Jodie shoe his horse, but that means you won’t be able to contact that hot new agent who says on Publishers Marketplace she’s looking for a novel just like the one you’re writing. Staying active on your social blog will eat up the time you could have used to promote that selfsame hot new offering, so you have to socialize smarter. The press of passing time will nudge you to hone your internet interests to sites like 1st Turning Point, Goodreads, EPIC Authors, and Mystery Writers and International Thriller Writers.
Is that too harsh; too career-driven? I don’t think so. Writing has always been a tough hike through unknown territory. It only makes sense that we are aware of how valuable our time is. Once you see your own chart of how your seven-day week slips through your fingers, you’ll realize where you can improve your habits, make better choices, and squeeze out more time to pursue your goal — to get up there in the lights with Flannery O’Connor, Marcia Muller, Scott Turow, or whoever you believe you can be.


You can take back your life. Just take it in manageable chunks, one week at a time. As for that sport fishing and sex I promised in the headline, if you carve out the time now to market your books, later on you’ll have room for all that other stuff. After all, doesn’t everybody want to go fishing and bed down with a famous author? (Remember, I didn’t promise anybody true love here. But if you find yourself at sunrise down around the tip of Baja with a forty-pound albacore on the hook, you may well believe you’re experiencing the second coming. Or maybe even the third.)

John Klawitter is a Hollywood writer, producer and director who writes fiction and non-fiction books. He often adapts his novels to screenplays that he then peddles around town. (So far, a few fat options, but no brass ring.) His novels are based on his years surviving as a creative person in the ad biz and in show biz. It is an interesting life.
He has worked as the Creative Director of Disney Studios in Burbank, and as an independent creative resource for Warner Bros, Universal Studios, Paramount and the Disney Channel, as well as for many indy production companies including Hanna Barbera, Franke Films, Pink Planet Productions, Eyeline Films and Zoiyu Productions. His films and television specials have appeared on NBC, the BBC, and the Disney Channel, and he has written many memorable song lyrics, advertising jingles and television show openings, including “Disney’s Wonderful World”, “Now & Then”, and “The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show”.