Tag Archives: social networking

Status Update – Lady Jane’s Salon

Feb 13, 2017

Hmm… My hair was a little out of control…

Yesterday, hard on the heels of kicking that stupid cold I had last week (and strangely, I feel 95% better today, all of a sudden) I had my first book reading at The Cat’s Meow in Manheim, PA for the Lady Jane’s Salon group! It was a blast. Here’s a brief rundown of what it’s like to do a public reading…

First off, I was really nervous about coughing through the whole thing and how my voice would hold out. Because, let’s face it, when I get around other authors and book-lovers, I like to talk. A lot! And in the best of times it wears on my throat to the point of causing me to lose my voice. So I headed out with cold medicine and powerful lozenges in my purse, and I stopped for a warm beverage on the way there. That warm beverage actually did a ton of good!

Lady Jane’s is co-hosted by my friend and fellow writer, Holly Bush, had invited me to read, and I stopped by her house first. It was a trip down memory lane too, because Holly lives right near the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds, and, I don’t know if you know this, but I spent two summers when I was super young running around the Ren Faire, pretending I was an Elizabethan peasant (’92 & ’93). So I know that area and that drive very well! Good times, good times. I should write about the Ren Faire someday.

I love having the chance to explain why I write the things I write!

Anyhow, Holly and I got started on the mega-talking right away, before we even made it down to The Cat’s Meow. Co-host Megan Hart was there already, and the talking continued. We had a great crowd of people, including one of my mom’s childhood friends, who lives in the area. I got to sign books and give stuff away, which I always love doing.

Okay, so then I had to get up and read. Ha! I don’t usually like listening to my own books, whether on the audiobooks that I have professionally done or reading them aloud myself. But I had the added “bonus” of trying hard not to cough the whole time I was reading. And the actor in me always thinks back on it later and wonders if I read too fast, if I read a passage that was interesting enough, or if anyone listening is going to care one tiny bit about the words coming out of my mouth. But I think everyone enjoyed it.

Mostly, I love going to events like this one because I just love hanging out with readers and other writers and talking about books. How often do we writers get the chance to emerge from our writing caves to socialize with people? Not often! So I encourage everyone who has a book group near them and every writer who has a chance to go to something like this to jump on it. A good time was had by all!

PANIC! And Ways To Get Around It

Mar 15, 2016
Panic at the Disco

This is the only acceptable kind of panic!
image courtesy of BluEyedA73 via flickr creative commons

I’m going to be brutally honest with you. There is one thing that I can’t stand in life, the universe, and everything. And that thing is panic. Whether it’s people panicking about the fate of our country in this current election year, panicking because there’s a spider in the sink, or panicking because Amazon has changed the way they do this, that, or the other thing, panic for panic’s sake is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about elections, spiders, or Amazon. All three of those things are decidedly concerning (some more so than others). And I’m not saying that actions shouldn’t be taken to avert disaster. By all means, ACT. But do it with a level head. Go out and vote for the candidate you think will steer your country in the right direction (and not just in presidential elections—state and local elections are actually FAR more important than national ones, but that’s a topic for another day). Get a newspaper and swat that spider—or gently move it to a place where it won’t harm you.

And as for Amazon? Wait, watch, and plan accordingly. But by all means, don’t get your blood pressure up as you scream, tear your hair out, and wail that we’re all doomed. DOOMED!

Okay. To anyone who just asked “What is this Amazon thing we’re panicking about?” Congratulations, you’re a normal person and not a writer. But if you are a writer, chances are you’re tempted to go into high panic mode right now.

Amazon has two things going on that have people ready to shift into panic. First, they’re cracking down on eBooks that either don’t have a Table of Contents or that have one at the back of the book. Many authors do put their TOC at the back of the book, both because one of the formatting programs out there does that automatically and because moving the TOC to the back gives you more content up front for readers who click on the “Look Inside” option on the Amazon homepage while searching for books.

But the reason why The ‘Zon is cracking down is because there are scammers out there who are raking in the dough through the Kindle Unlimited program by throwing up (and I do mean that in both senses of the word) trash books of hack work or plagiarized content—hundreds and hundreds of pages of it per “book”—and including links at the front of the book, sending readers straight to the last page so that they collect literally tens of thousands of dollars in false page reads.

This is bad. Amazon is trying to combat it (in spite of what nay-sayers assume about The ‘Zon not really caring. I think they care, but this is an enormous problem, and I don’t think they have the manpower, or enough magic wands, to tackle it and make it go away INSTANTLY, like we serious authors would like).

Non-panicked solution: Fix the TOC in your books. It took me less than a minute to fix the one they sent me a notice about. You lose space for that “Look Inside,” but you gain…well, not having Amazon send you nastygrams.

The other thing that has people in a panicky tizzy over at Amazon is their efforts to investigate the possibility of selling used eBooks. (Note the key words in that phrase: Their efforts to investigate the possibility—it’s nowhere near being a sure thing, as a certain newsletter would have you believe) That is exactly what it sounds like. A reader buys an eBook. They read it. They resell it on some Amazon-operated market. I used to do that all the time with paperbacks at my local used book store.

Authors are panicked because this would seriously cut into their profits. It totally would. IF readers actually jump on the bandwagon and list their books for resale once they’re purchased. IF Amazon is able to get all of the permissions they need and get past the new copyright laws which are being debated this year. IF it becomes something that makes sense for readers to do. There are a lot of ifs involved in this whole used eBook equation. And as far as I know, Amazon is still just looking into it. I also read somewhere that it would only be books in the KU program. Not sure about that.

So what do we do, panic??? Do we panic now???

NO!

Non-panicked solution: Avoid KU. Distribute your books as wide as possible. Put effort into marketing to iBooks and Kobo. Um, I’d say Nook too, but I think Nook is about to go under. For real this time.

Sub-solution: Authors, stop giving away Kindles as giveaway prizes! This is not rocket science. The reason Amazon sells so many eBooks is because they deliberately and calculatedly got as many Kindles into the hands of as many readers as possible. Amazon sells Kindles WAY below the cost of production, specifically so that they can control the eBook market because more readers have their devices than have iPads or Kobo readers. We can market to iBooks and Kobo until we’re blue in the face and have spent a zillion dollars, but if readers only own Kindles, we’re SOL.

iPad

image courtesy of Sean MacEntee via flickr creative commons

The inherent problem in this is that Kindles sell for as low as $49, while the cheapest iPad I was able to find was $269. Yikes! Makes it sort of hard to go giving those puppies away, right?

Actually, I don’t have a solution for that. It is what it is. It sucks.

Sub-solution #2: Produce paperbacks of your books that are formatted in such a way that you can sell them for competitive prices. The reason indie authors do so well in digital format is because we can undersell NY Publishers by a lot. Well, NY pubbed paperbacks are costing about $7 or $8 these days. Produce paperbacks that can sell for less and market those to your readers, and you might stand a chance.

In fact, I’d love to see more indie authors invest in paperbacks (and audio, but that’s super expensive) and do a big push to get people to buy paper. But it has to be cost effective for the reader.

At the end of the day, everything Amazon is doing makes life easier and books cheaper for readers. THAT’s why they’re so successful. They will continue to do that until…well, they’ll just continue to do that. We as indie authors have to face that fact, scale back the panic, and start thinking about ways we can keep our heads above water, avoid the thumbscrews Amazon is putting to us, and give our readers the best, cheapest reading experience possible. BUT, Amazon is an inevitability in this publishing game. We HAVE to deal with them, and since we have zero control over what they do—and I mean zero—we need to learn to adapt instead of balk every time they change a policy.

So to summarize: Don’t panic. Separate fact from hearsay. Seek to understand changes when they are made, and adapt your publishing and marketing strategy to best harmonize with those changes. Seek to understand the market you’re writing for, their needs and their habits. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Top 5 Habits of the Most Successful Writers I Know

Nov 30, 2015
My Facebook Page Today

My Facebook Page

After four years of working really hard at this writing thing, I think I’m finally at the point where I can say I’m doing a few things right. More than that, I have made a bunch of friends who are wildly successful. They’re definitely doing things right. It’s been a pleasure to watch them, to adapt my own practices to become more successful, and to really get a clue about best practices in self-publishing. So I thought it would be nice to share some of the things I see people doing that really, really work. They might not be things that you’ve considered before. Here goes…

They Put the “Social” in Social Media – Possibly the biggest mistake I see newbie…um, and seasoned…writers make is viewing social media strictly as an advertising tool. This means that on release days, they will post-bomb every Facebook page they’re a member of and Tweet every ten minutes about buying their book. Not just on release days either. All the time.

The truly successful authors I know use social media as a way to virtually hang out with fans. Not just their fans either, but fans of the genre in which they write. They interact on a meaningful level with fans, get to know them, post silly, fun things, post serious, personal things, and generally treat their readers like buddies. They even get together for special dinners with fans in local areas and beyond. Talk about a way to build loyalty!

They Work Together – The whole thing about socializing goes way beyond fans. The most successful authors I know hang out with each other—online and in the real world. I can’t tell you how many epic projects have been hatched over late-night (or early-morning in my case) Facebook chats, or across the dinner table in an Irish pub in Manhattan at a conference (for example). We are all creative, but when you mass that creativity together to bounce ideas off each other or come up with group projects, amazing things happen.

Remember, books are not a zero-sum deal. Readers are not limited to buying one book or one author. As such, we are not in competition with each other. It goes far beyond never saying anything bad about another author or their work. When we actively help each other, we help ourselves. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

Me near the middle with the amazing and talented InD'Tale crew!

Me near the middle with the amazing and talented InD’Tale crew!

They Travel (and Give Stuff Away Where They Go) – Conferences are an amazing thing. Whether it’s a professional conference—Like RWA Nationals or RT Booklovers Conference in the Romance world—or a smaller reader event, the most successful authors I know will make a point to get out there. There are so many choices for readers these days. Actually seeing an author in person and having them go out of their way to talk to them is a fantastic way to go from digital name to real, live person.

To that I would add that you can’t just sit in your signing spot watching the world go by at events like these. It’s all-important to smile and greet everyone who walks by your spot. Everyone. Even people who look like they’re ready to snap someone’s neck. Actually, those are the people I’ve had the best surprise responses from. It’s also important to give things away—pens, postcards, bookmarks, and, yes, BOOKS. Being stingy with your paperbacks is not going to help you. Give those suckers to everyone! Even if they don’t read it, they’ll give it away, and that book will be out there in the world, waiting for a reader.

Also, as I mentioned in number 2, conferences are where that bonding with your fellow authors happen and where projects are magicked into existence. Yes, conferences can be expensive. But they are worth every penny. EVERY PENNY!

They Plan Ahead – Don’t worry, I’m not necessarily talking about plotting. Although I have noticed that a lot of the most successful writers I know do actually plot at least a little bit. No, what I’m talking about here is making a business plan, of sorts. 2016 is fast approaching. Many of my author friends already have a schedule of what books they will be writing under what names and in which series when. I know I’m planned out about 15 books ahead, and I already have my next three books outlined. Super hard work? Not as much as you might think. It’s work that has me organized to a T so that I won’t have to dilly-dally about what I’ll be writing.

It goes beyond planning the books you’re going to write, though. I’m talking about financial planning too (the credit cards WILL be paid off in 2016!), and lining up conferences and stuff. All of that helps keep your eye on the prize, and lets you see where you’ll need to allocate your funds and your time going forward.

They Move On – One thing I have never seen any of the top, top most successful authors I know do is get their panties in a twist—over a bad review, over a missed deadline, over a harsh critique, or over a promo that didn’t work. I rarely even see the really successful authors bellyaching over Amazon and it’s Amazon-y ways (although short, sighing gripe sessions do tend to happen when the ’Zon makes a change that adversely affects us all). Why? To quote that awesome meme, ain’t nobody got time for that!

The really successful authors I know have already moved on to the next book, the next idea, and the next promo opportunity by the time negativity comes their way. It’s far, far easier to shake it off when you already have something else you’re excited about working on. It lessens the impact of all that criticism and sales disappointments. Disappointment is part of this job, but it doesn’t have to be your focal point. There’s always another mountain to climb.

I’m sure I could come up with five more habits that I see my really successful friends engaged in, but I’ll leave you with that for now. Also with this…patience is key. It takes putting all of these things into practice over a long time to reach the point where you can kick back, relax, and know you’re successful. Even then, we tend to redefine success every time we hit a milestone. So keep writing!

Things I Learned at the Ind’Scribe Conference 2015

Sep 25, 2015
Me near the middle with the amazing and talented InD'Tale crew!

Me near the middle with the amazing and talented InD’Tale crew!

I had such a good time at the InD’Scribe conference for indie romance writers in Palm Springs, CA, that I almost don’t know how to put it into words. A good time was had by all, a lot of super talented writers came together to share knowledge and laughter, and even though there were only a few workshops and panels, I learned SO MUCH that will be incredibly useful from them. 

I think the first and most important lesson that I learned is that above all else, story is the most important part of any writing process. Sounds obvious, right? Well, this year’s conference and my experience judging the RONE Awards really drove that home. The actual prose itself could have problems (although another lesson I learned is that we must always, ALWAYS work to improve out craft), but at the end of the day, it’s the story you’re telling that will grab the reader.

We’re all storytellers. That’s why we got into this gig in the first place. Or at least it should be the reason why we got into this gig. We can try to chase trends and follow the market and write from a financial-type motivation all we want, but at the end of the day, it’s our deep, deep desire to tell stories that’s going to push our careers along and take us to the next level.

That being said, one of the key elements of storytelling is to have characters that are likeable. They don’t have to be good, they don’t have to be nice, but they do have to make the reader want to know more about them. Again, pretty obvious, right? But one thing that our first keynote speaker, Anne Perry, said that really stuck with me is that to make a character likable, sometimes you have to know a whole lot of backstory about them. Backstory that may never come out in the book. 

I don’t know about you, but when I have written some of my brightest and best characters, I’ve known far more about them than hits the page. In fact, I’d say that the characters of mine that have resonated the most with myself and with readers have rich inner lives that sort of just came to me whole. But after listening to Anne, I think that I might start investigating those backstories more and writing things down. These characters deserve a chronicle of their lives, even if it’s just in my head. And the net result, as Anne said, is that the characters will appear richer on the page with more of a real sense of why they do the things they do. So backstory. Yay! But don’t dump it all on the page. 

My view from the spot where I sat to work!

My view from the spot where I sat to work!

The other things that Anne Perry mentioned that hit home and that I really want to investigate more is the idea of plotting from the middle of the story, as she said she learned from James Scott Bell. Apparently he wrote a book about it. I NEED to go find this and read it. The concept is that in every book, your main character has a moment—a moment that usually comes right in the middle of the plot—where they stop and take stock of themselves, reflect, and then change direction mentally. Everything they do after that point is different. That’s the center of your plot right there. I want to read this book and explore more about it, because, well, heck. It just sounds awesome and right and true! So I’ll report back once I read that book. 

But for me, perhaps the biggest lesson of the conference is the thing I suffer with the most when it comes to writing and navigating my way through a world of author friends who are, in some cases, more successful than me. I was a finalist for the RONE Award in the American Historical category, but I didn’t win. That’s generally when the demons of self-esteem and comparison come after me. I’m terrible at comparing myself to other authors—heck, I am and always have been terrible at comparing myself to other PEOPLE and coming up feeling less than nothing—but that way lies madness. 

We are all on this journey of life and writing for different reasons. The world is a diverse and vast place. There is definitely enough room for all sorts of different talent, and at times, reaching any given audience takes a little more patience than at other times. One thing Catherine Bybee said in her keynote address (and let me tell you, I actually got to hang out with her a lot and go to dinner with her, and she’s FABULOUS!) is that it takes a huge amount of patience, time, and persistence to make it in this business. Actually, Tina Folsom said the same thing in her keynote. Patience is the key, but so is writing the next and the next and the next book. And so is being really energetic and aggressive about going after what you want from your career. 

So I KNOW I need to stop constantly comparing myself and my career trajectory to other authors around me. I also know that I’m utterly incapable of doing that, because that urge to compare is so deeply ingrained in my personality and has been from such a young age that it’s not going to ever fully go away. But the most mature thing I can do is to see it, accept it, let it be, and move on. There is no power in this business greater than writing the next book. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of all the things I’ve learned here during InD’Scribe 2015. I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more excellent ideas for blog posts and whip those off at some point. If you ever get a chance to come to this conference, DO! And it you aren’t already subscribed to InD’Tale Magazine, please zip on over and sign up. It’s free!

G is for Goodreads

Jun 22, 2015

Not gonna lie. As an author, Goodreads scares me. Sure, it’s a fantastic site for readers, and I love it as a way to keep track of the books I’ve read and what I think of them. I adore their yearly book challenge, where you set a goal for yourself about how many books you’re hoping to read during the year, and then it keeps track of that for you. But when it comes to reviews and the freedom that readers and reviewers have to talk about books and authors, I quiver in my boots.

goodreads_f4

Now, let me quickly stress that that doesn’t mean I disagree with the freedoms that readers and reviewers have there or that I think they’re horrible or mean or anything. Not at all. Quite the contrary, actually. I think Goodreads is a great place for people to get out there and say what they really think. There’s a place for that. At the same time, I shudder to think what people might be saying about me. That’s why I don’t read my reviews anymore.

Goodreads is the ultimate book cocktail party where someone put just a little too much of the good stuff in the punch. Because it doesn’t get policed and reviews aren’t taken down if they cross the line. So it’s like a raging party. Some people can handle their alcohol superbly, and it makes them incredibly fun to be around. Some people do not mix well with that kind of freedom, and it goes to their heads, starting painful downward spirals.

And I’m not just talking about reviewers here.

Take the sad tale of the sci-fi/fantasy writer about two or three weeks ago who went off the deep end over a 1-star review that was left on his book. The reviewer was just a reviewer. She didn’t like the book. She reviewed it with her one star and stated the reasons she didn’t like it. So far, so good. I have some 1-star reviews that are far less kind than the one she left. We all do. It’s part of the job of writing.

Unfortunately, this author broke the cardinal rule of reviews from an author’s point of view. He responded.

Cardinal Rule of Getting Reviewed: NEVER RESPOND

*sigh* Someone failed to tell this poor guy the rule. Not only did he respond, he launched an all-out battle with this reviewer. I’ll spare you the gory details, but this author had a meltdown of epic proportions.

Not just a little meltdown, mind you. In going to war over one tiny review, one person’s opinion expressed on Goodreads, he ended up going viral, getting splashed across the internet, his story swapped by a lot of the writers and readers I know as a cautionary tale of why you never respond to reviews, and, lo and behold, getting hundreds of new 1-star reviews because of his bad behavior. And I seriously wonder if his career will be able to survive the onslaught.

The saddest note of all is that one of my author friends pointed out that over on Amazon, the exact same book has quite a few good reviews, and it might actually be a good book. But the world will never know, because this reactionary author engaged a Goodreads reviewer when he should have just taken a walk around the block and shaken it off.

Yep. Goodreads is a scary place for authors. Because it has power. It’s an important venue for readers to voice their opinions the same way they would if they were hanging out with friends. It’s absolutely vital for that open exchange of ideas to have a home…just as it’s vital for authors to respect what goes on there.

I actually really like Goodreads. I do giveaways there (here’s a link to one if you want to throw your hat in the ring!) and I keep track of my reading habits there. Heck, I think this blog post even feeds over to my Goodreads author page. But at the end of the day, Goodreads is for READERS, not for we humble authors. So thanks for taking care of the place for us!