Sunday, December 2, 2012

Promotion - What Works?

     Ah, another trick question to which I do not have an answer.  But, since we are so near Christmas, I will tell you what works for me and what doesn't as a gift.  Keep in mind, this does not mean it will work for you, and some of the things I have tired and failed at do work for others.
      Expensive ads do not work.  An investment of $350 to place an ad did not amount to one discernable sale, not even at the local bookstore.  I asked myself when I ever bought a book because of an ad placed in any magazine and replied to me, "Never."  I buy from reviews, book club recommendations, the word of friends, or a favorite author.  All of these are free but hard to come by.
     Blog tours do not work for me, though I often get offers to have one set up for me for a fee. Frankly, most bloggers will let you take over the task for nothing.  I did four guest blogs for Mardi Gras Madness and Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball. Though some of the spots gave me lovely layouts, only one resulted in a few sales.  It takes time and thought to create a good blog geared toward the site.  So far this has not paid off for me.  Yet, I will be blogging once a month at a new site, starting in January.  Designed especially for women who love sports romances, we have a target audience.  Eleven other authors are participating.  If you like blogs, take a look at it.  Will it increase my sales? I'll have to wait and see.
     Promotional items are fun, but mostly people pick them up and do not buy your book.  The wisdom here is to offer something people will take home like pens and notepads.  I give away fabulous flaming foam footballs.  The footballs amuse the children while the mothers browse your offerings and do have order information stuck to them.  Usually, I will throw one in free with a sale or give them to any who ask nicely.  As for the woman who squeezed and coveted my balls and then said she didn't want any of my books in a rather nasty manner-her I charged a dollar. I am under no illusion that any sales ever came from them.  I scarf up free pens and such, but rarely even read the imprints.  Bookmarks and magnets just get thrown out.  Save your money.
      Postcards work for me, but often not for others.  However, I do not give them out wholesale and never do a mailing.  Like everyone else, I order from Vista Print and design my own. The front is my bookcover, the back: a blurb, order information, and other books in the series. I give them to people who show an interest and might later order on their Nook or Kindle as a reminder. Where do I find these people-everywhere. Last night I handed out a few at a party.  When I go on vacation, I give them out to other people on the tour, especially if I cannot take any of my books along.  By the time I get home, I usually notice an increase in sales.
      Face-to-face meetings sell books far more than book signings, though I've had good ones and bad ones.  I've worked up two lectures: Adventures in E-publishing and Writing the Historical Novel.  Generally, I will have sales after addressing a group and more later from those who buy the e-book. The hard part is finding places to host you and getting people to attend.  I have filled entire rooms and fallen flat on my face when only two people showed up  (neither bought a book). A recent readers' luncheon I attended gained me twelve new readers.
      Art walks and arts and crafts fairs also work well for me, but beware of paying much money for a special booth. Unless the space is free or very cheap, I wouldn't bother. You will never make up the cost in sales.  I know one man who keeps up his membership in an art group simply to sell his books at their events.  He doesn't paint at all, yet always has sales.
     This has gotten long and must end with wishing you Happy Holidays and a Great New Year- with lots of books sales and new contracts galore!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Working the Book Sale

This weekend, I worked as a cashier for our local library book sale.  This is no cunning publicity stunt as I have done it for years. I especially enjoy Friends Night Only when dealers and collectors pay in advance to feed like sharks on the first offerings.  What they drag out of there is astounding - two cartons of stereopticon photos, the entire cookbook and crafts section swept into boxes without even looking at the tiles, heaps of hardcover Nora Roberts, James Patterson or other favorite author's books, and a single copy touting the use of human waste to fertilize your garden.

I did take the occasion to talk with old friends and regulars at the sale and handed out postcards containing order information for my two new books, Mardi Gras Madness and Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, for those who showed an interest.  Give these things out wholesale, and they only end up in the wastecan or the gutter.  I may make some sales from this effort.  Hard to say.  But, I was there for hours anyhow, so why not?

Of course, I also had to face the fact one day my own books would show up marked fifty cents on the paperback tables. Since my first book, Goals for a Sinner, has been out two years and reached 5,000 sales, I sort of expected copies to show up last year, but no.  This year, however, the first three resales occured-all to me.  Yes, I gathered them up and plan to resell them slightly marked up because I know the fate of leftover paperbacks at the end of the sale - the dumpster. I am not so well-known that anyone is "collecting" my work.  My prose is not deathless, merely entertaining. I live in a fairly conservative small town where some folks still whisper that Miss Lynn is now writing dirty books, which just shows they haven't read them as mine rate only three flames our of five on most review sites.  Still, friends and family bought my first work despite the hunky, half-naked football player on the cover.

Since all of the locally sold copies were autographed, I do know who discarded them, but no hard feelings.  One did not appear to have been read at all, while another was definitely thumbed to the very last page. The third had an inscription I remember doing very well since the purchaser asked me to declare her my very best friend though we are barely acquainted. Hey, anything for a sale. I hope to find new homes and readers for them.  As of October, I have five books in print, three in the Sinners series and now the new Mardi Gras books.  Next year finding and saving my babies will be more of a challenge.

Monday, October 8, 2012

You should write...

     This happens to every author.  A person approaches and begins to tell you what you should be writing.  It's never what you are known for writing.  Usually, they suggested their memoirs or family stories, but sometimes not.  I recently took a long vacation by train.  During the trip, a window popped out of one the cars.  We were sidetracked, literally, until the police could arrive and determine if our train has been shot at. During the long interval, several of my fellow travelers suggested I write a mystery where someone is shot on a train.  They were willing to be in the book. Of course, I told them at the beginning of the trip that I wrote romance novels and some historicals.  Sure, this story would be great - if Agatha Christie hadn't already written Murder on the Orient Express.  Still, some of the tourists were interesting enough to make great characters in any book.
     The saddest incident I ever encountered was when a Holocaust survivor approached me about writing her story.  I was still working full time as a librarian, had a family to care for, and very little writing time.  I urged her to record or write down her own memories for her family to cherish. To create a book from her story would have required hours of fact checking and historical research, time I did not have. Eventually, she did tell her story to the local paper and perhaps that sufficed.
      Some have said I should write my autobiography.  Believe me, although I speak vividly about parts of my life, it would not be of wide spread interest.  No abuse, drug use, or murders occured.  I had a pretty typical small town upbringing and do use bits and pieces of it in my fiction, but an Oprah Book Choice it would not make.
     Not that I am without guilt in this area.  I once told well-known author, James Lee Burke,that he should write a mystery taking place in our local Laotian community.  He gave me the standard polite answer.  "You should write that story yourself."  Which when this started happening to me, I felt free to borrow.  However, I do doubt I will ever write a hardboiled dectective novel that takes place in our Laotian community.  It's still a great idea.  Someone should do that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Taking Big Chances

     I am gratified and a bit amazed by the popularity of my Sinners sports romances.  Royalties from those books paid for my recent jaunt to Alaska.  Most likely,they won't make me rich, but I will settle for being well-traveled.  While trying to pitch my Regency series to an agent, she just waved her hand and said, "You should stick to the football stories if they sell."  In other words, don't try anything new.  Of course I did anyhow.  I think all writers like to spread their wings a little.  Certainly, an author risks losing fans when starting a new venture.  Hence, taking the Big Chance.
    So, this month my new Mardi Gras series will make its appearance.  The stories vary in time and place, but each one contains a pivotal, life-changing event that happens during Mardi Gras.  The first, an historical titled Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, takes  place in New Orleans during the late 1920's.  Flapper Rosamond St. Rochelle desperately wishes to defy her family by having a career rather than serving as queen of the ball, chosing the best suitor, and taking up her place as a society matron.  Rosamond's struggles to find herself make for a compelling book that culminates with the Great Flood of 1927.  Yes, a love story is also part of her tale though this is not a traditional romance.
     Mardi Gras Madness has a mystery that intrigues Laura Dickinson, the new librarian in a very small Louisiana town.  Trying to escape her own past, she finds herself embroiled in the history of the Robert LeBlanc family and greatly intrigued by the owner of Chateau Camille though she tries not to admit that.  This one has an old-fashioned Gothic flavor, not a lot of gore but a complex unfolding of events.  The third title in the series, Courir de Mardi Gras, is another mystery, this one unraveling during a country Mardi Gras.  Expect to see it during summer, 2013.
      I have I given up writing Sinners books?  Nope, but the newest one already with the publisher takes a chance, too.  It departs from the Cajun Country I know so well and takes off for American Samoa as Sinners cornerback, Adam Malala, returns to the islands taking with him the serious and rather unadventurous, Winnie Green, the Rev's newly divorced sister-in-law.  Looking for a fling to get over her bad marriage, Winnie is in way over her head in more ways than one.  Paradise for a Sinner should be out by March, 2013.
     When taking big chances like these, an author can only hope her readers will go along on the new ride and enjoy a different kind of adventure.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's all on me - or you

A friend recently finished reading Kicks for a Sinner and informed me that among its 92,000 words were eight errors.  She had marked all the pages so I could make corrections.  I had to tell her in e-publishing, we rarely get second chances to improve.  Once a book is out there, that's it.  Other than mildly depressing me, her efforts had done no good.  While I'd like to say eight errors is a very small percentage, I cannot.  Two maybe would have been acceptable.  I see that many in most books I read.  I combed through that book four times, my editor read it twice, and my publisher once before the book went out into the world, and still eight errors.  The eye tends to skim, especially when tired.  The brain most willingly fills in a dropped article or corrects transposed words and letters.  But when it comes right down to it, the final approval of the galley lies with the author and I own those errors.  They will make me more careful when I get the final versions of Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball and Mardi Gras Madness in the next month.

E-publishing and small presses offer an infinite number of ways for an author to screw up.  No one writes our back cover blurbs for us.  We do.  Same for our biographies.  If they sound cheesy or uninteresting, we have only ourselves to blame.  We don't have research assistants or fact checkers.  I honor my editor for suggesting that "child molester" was too modern a word for the 1920's setting of Queen.  She was right.  Fortunately, "perverts" have been around since 1300 and certainly before that, but few were literate enough to write it down.  However, I do want to assure you Queen is not about perverts, though it might sell better if it were (he flogged her mercilessly with those Mardi Gras beads!).  Anyhow, the word is used in a joking manner in my book.  So aspiring authors, be aware that there is so much more to publishing a book than simply writing it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fifty Shades of You Know What

     Why am I writing about Fifty Shades of Grey?  Because everyone else is, which I suspect is why everyone is reading this book.  We all want to be in the know, to be a little naughty at times.  I don't begrudge the author her success.  More power to any writer who can attract so many readers.  As a former librarian, would I have purchased this book for my library?  Yes, but based on demand for it, not from the reviews.  Would I withdraw it if some patrons protested?  No, because others want to read it and should not be censored.

     As for the book itself, I found the first fifty plus pages to read like a very mediocre romance novel.  One friend admitted she skipped all that and went straight for the goodies, not such a bad idea. Anyhow,the incredibly innocent new college grad, Ana, spends most of this section wondering if billionaire Christian Grey likes her or not, very childish, very high school Twilighty. This book started at Twilight fan fiction, and I do see the resemblance.  Then, she discovers he not only likes her but wants to make her his SM and Bondage submissive.  They negotiate a contract that has sexual acts in it I had to look up.  I guess I am a little innocent myself, but I don't want anybody training my anus!  Anyhow, the "plain vanilla" sex scene is very hot but somewhat ruined by all the Holy Craps and Holy Shits Ana is thinking as Christian takes her virginity.  His Oh Babys somehow don't fit a sophisticated man of the world either.  Then of course, on to kinkier things and his total control of Ana's life.

     The author tries to make Christian more sympathetic by hinting at an abusive childhood and an early introduction into perversion by an older woman, but he still comes across as one sick puppy.  Some worry this book and those that follow will convince young girls this kind of sex is normal.  I will give them credit for being a great deal smarter about sex than Ana and knowing the difference between an abusive relationship and a loving one.  At least, I certainly hope so.  I won't be reading the rest of the series as I have better things to do and read.  I suppose I will have ask someone younger and more into this if Ana brings Christian to the point of enjoying vanilla sex or merely escapes his controling clutches.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Wonderful Dilemma

     Here it is near the end of June and I almost forgot to do my monthly blog post.  Why?  Edits for my two new books came in back to back, a problem I never thought I'd have. Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball went well enough, but being 114,000 words long, took some time. One week later, the edits for Mardi Gras Madness arrive.  One of my earlier books oft rewritten, I had so much more to do to satisfy my editor.  I worked long days getting the first edits done, then the second arrived on their heels.  Ahead, a long-planned week at the beach with my family loomed. By the time I finished, I needed that vacation.  Meanwhile, I had thought to finish Paradise for a Sinner by the end of June, but take out of month of writing time to do edits, and I am way behind.  Poor me!
     True, all this work did wear me out and put me behind my own self-imposed schedule, but what I am doing here is bragging.  I have two new books coming out this summer.  I have another nearly finished and desired by the small press that puts out my work.  And, they just sent me a contract for my beloved Trashy Affair which should be published next summer along with Courir de Mardi Gras, not back to back, I hope.  Look at me.  I have a real writing career.  Who would have thought it?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kick-Ass Heroines

     I like a kick-ass heroine as much as the next woman, but I like them in the right time, place, and context.  Eve Dallas in futuristic New York, great!  Hunting vampires and werewolves, you bet.  But, when a Victorian lady delivers a few karate kicks, not so much.  Give me Amelia Peabody and her reinforced umbrella to take on her foes any day. A woman on the frontier might be expected to know how to use a rifle, a Regency lass, highly unlikely.  The latter is better off using her feminine wiles to conquer a man.
     Of course, a case can always be made for odd, out-of-sync skills.  Her daddy was a fencing teacher, her Chinese houseboy is also a master at judo, possible but not probable.  Still, these devices always seem contrived in historical novels. I have a Regency heroine, Lady Pandora, who badly wants equal rights with men. She can ride like the devil sidesaddle, but would love to be allowed the freedom to ride astride in breeches. She believes she can do anything as well as a man, but um, that does not always work out for her as she simply does not have the training or the strength to bring off all her schemes. In other words, I try to keep my heroine in the realm of reality for her time and place.
     Today, it is likely a woman might know how to shoot a pistol or deliver a karate chop.  She may drive race cars or be in the space program.  We've come a long way, baby.  Still, I do appreciate when the contemporary heroine leaves something for the hero to do other than be good in bed.  I mean, I can change my own oil, but why would I want to if a man will do it for me?
     Enough said on this topic.  I am between the publication of Kicks for a Sinner in February and the just completed edits for my 1920's historical, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, to come out in June. The heroine of the last has spirit but does not deliver a single lethal blow in the whole book-though she does try.  Sorry about that.  I think it is still a good story in its own time and place.
     Well, I am confused by the new Blogger formatting but charmed to know over 1,300 people read my blog at sometime or another.  Not huge numbers, I know, but here I thought only a few friends tuned in from time to time.  Makes the time I spend on this seem more worthwhile. Thanks for reading this and my books.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Silver Threads

After my rather disastrous conference last month, I returned home to lots of buzz on one my writers' loops about ageism in publishing. Evidently, a young agent blogged that she would never take a client over forty because they would not be able to produce enough books to make a good career or enough money for her. Truth be told, I would rather have an agent with some silver threads in her hair, lots of clout and contacts, rather than the baby agents sent to small conferences to start their careers-but I know this is not likely to happen as more mature agents already have long lists of writers to represent. At least, I'd give a young agent a chance to show her stuff.
Let's see. At forty, I had just given birth to my third child, consequently moved into a larger house with a bigger yard needing more upkeep, was running a county library system with eight branches, and had a husband to keep happy. Time to write - zero. Ten years later, I eeked out some short stories, rewrote two old novels, and over the next five years, wrote two more. By the time I got published, I had twelve books in my closet, now up to twenty though six have been sold and two more will most likely be printed. So, lack of productivity as one gets older, I don't think so. You actually get back some of that time and energy that formerly went into family and career.
I don't know if that is what happened at the conference, if the young agent took one look at my silver threads and stopped listening to two pitches for very viable books. It is the first time I went through that excruiating process and was not asked for at least a few chapters. I do believe if that is the case, I am done pitching in person.
I did have a last laugh. Before going in to pitch, I spoke to another person in waiting. She had twenty inspirational novels ready to go and was at least ten years older than me. When her name was called, she went in on her walker. Good for her! I wish her luck.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What Agents Want

When you find out, tell me. I just returned from a small writers' conference that I usually enjoy. This year, they lost my registration so I walked around with a handwritten name tag no one could read and had no pitches scheduled since no one knew I was coming. Two very nice people donated pitches to me. I had prepared to sell my Regency series of which six books are written. The first pitch session with a young agent went like this: I am looking for representation for my Regency series.... Her: The Regency market is dead. Pitch something else. So, I stumble through a pitch for a contemporary I finished last week, A Trashy Affair. Her: It sounds funny. I don't like funny. Needless to say if she doesn't like the Regency period and hates funny, we would never have gotten along, so no loss on either side there.

Next up, I pitched to an editor. Since I'd just been told the Regency market is dead, I went with the new contemporary and did a better job this time. She was very nice, gave me some pointers, but did not ask to see the book. We got on the subject of my football romances, and she advised me to keep on writing those which of course I intended to do anyhow. I left that pitch with a smile since several years back I was told no one would buy a sports romance.

Okay, I have strung you along listening to my woes. Here is what most of them seemed to want this year: short Harlequin type romances that could be sold easily and published quickly, and books like The Help, though I found it odd they would be looking for that at a romance conference. Since I grew up in a small Pennsylvania town where everyone did their own housework, I'm not likely to write one like that either. Best advice received: If everyone in your writers' group is writing the same sort of thing, that market is already overcrowded.

And so I add to my list of topics agents have told me they can't sell: A Regency series, funny books, 18th century stories, 1920's novels, and sports romances. Do not believe it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Titular Musings

I am going to say more about titles and nothing about tits. From my previous post, you would think I am the Grand High Pooh Bah of title creations. Not so. I have had my hand slapped by contest judges more than once. In my effort to get rid of the word LOVE in my titles, I changed Loving Blindly to The Earl's Ugly Mistress. Now that title got attention, mostly good, but one person chastised me by saying a romance should never use the word "ugly" on the cover. I disagree and haven't changed it - but haven't sold the book either.

My other brush with the title police occurred when I wrote a story about an American bull fighter who becomes involved with a woman who uses her sexuality to draw rich husbands. I entitled it Bull Bait, referring to both of the characters. The word used to describe that title was "repellent". I've waffled a little on this one. It is now paired with another book under the title Deserving of Love? There's that love issue again. I still like Bull Bait. What do you think? As it is also unsold, I can play with this title as much as I want.

I called another story with a reincarnation theme Star-Crossed?, but now realize how many times that title has been used thanks to Romeo and Juliet. I'm thinking of changing this one to Always Yellow Roses. In another case of having too common a title, I switched Masks to A Devil in Disguise (too many those out there, I found) to its current incarnation as Courir de Mardi Gras under which heading it sold. Did the title change help? I might never know, but Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball (formerly High Water) and Mardi Gras Madness (previously Flames), all stories in which Fat Tuesday plays a pivotal role will be coming out in 2012. You never know what will happen on Mardi Gras Day.

While I am having great fun switching up titles, it is probably driving my web master crazy because she has to keep changing the the copy on my site every time I get a new inspiration. Enough for today. Taryn, thanks for following my blog. I promise you Kicks for a Sinner will be out soon. The delay came because of a change in cover and pricing beyond my control. Spoiler Alert: No half-naked guy on this one which is fine with me, but I hope it doesn't hurt sales.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


No, I don't mean to food stamps, though if you are trying to live on your earnings as a writer, you might be entitled to that and free health care. I refer to book titles. Early on, I was told not to stress over giving my book a title. The publisher will change it anyhow if and when it goes to print. So, I simply used one word working titles, Goals, Wish, Flames, etc. I quickly learned in some contests, points were given for your title. When plain, old Goals, a football romance, became Goals for a Sinner, I started claiming all five of those points and eventually placed in a couple of those contests. Sometimes, that extra nudge pushes the book over the top.

Flames attracted little attention until I retitled it Mardi Gras Madness (and rewrote it six times). After all, you must have a well-written book following that unique title, too. Still, I piqued the interest of more editors once the title change took place, and one of them liked the story enough to offer a contract. Mardi Gras Madness with its mystery sub-plot will be out this coming fall.

I also found that in the e-publishing and small press world where I mostly dwell, titles are seldom changed, so you need to create a good one that will attract attention and not fade in the crowd of similarly named works. For instance, I avoid Love, Heart, and Passion in all my titles. These all run together. In a contest I recently judged, four out of six entries had one of these words in their title. I had to go back and skim the first paragraph to jog my memory when assigning the final score. Also, just imagine a new reader wanting to find your book but not quite recalling your name. Punch in Love and a bizillion titles come up making yours very hard to find.

Naming a book can be a fun group event, too, if you belong to a critique circle or even ask for ideas on FaceBook. I can tell you my current WIP, A Trashy Affair, earned lots of chatter. Put a little effort into titling your book. Make it unique and original, hopefully like your wonderful story. Attract attention before the reader even opens the cover. And that is my advice for the month.

Welcome to my new followers! You have swelled my ranks from four to seven. Thanks.