Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Halcyon Days

The term Halcyon Days emerged in ancient times when a grieving wife named Halcyon threw herself into the sea after discovering her husband, Ceyx, drowned body. The gods took pity on the couple and turned them into halcyons, kingfishers, and gave them the power to calm the stormy seas for 14 days around the time of the winter solstice. It's really windy here today, so maybe we're too far from the sea to benefit.

But the next week will be my blogging Halcyon Days as I take a break from many of my online activities. I won't be blogging again until the 26th though I'll drop in on Twitter and Facebook during that time.

My daughter should be flying in from Morocco tomorrow. You all know how long her semester overseas has seemed to me. She's anxious to be home in America again too. By next Sunday, all the chicks will be close to the home nest again. Then maybe my Christmas spirit will kick into gear.

From the Old Farmer's Almanac today:
A Saint Bernard can make its way through snow as deep as 15 feet.

"To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle." Walt Whitman

I hope your holidays are as Walt Whitman saw life. I pray for peace in the world, in our country and in our home. So far I have one of those. I pray for comfort for those in many parts of the world where violence and disease has brought so much pain and loss. I pray in the new year, I'll be a better person in all the roles I play.

Merry Christmas to all of you. You are appreciated here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Promotion 101 by Sharon Ledwith

Book promotion, the terrible, confusing, difficult part of being a writer. So many times we get and give advice but does it really work. Today, Sharon Ledwith shares exact details about what worked for her and the numbers to prove it. She's been so generous with letting us see the intimate details of her promotion experiences.

This past November, I decided to go gung-ho and promote my two time travel books. So I prepared a plan and outlined it HERE. This is gist of my book promo strategy:

1. I created a Goodreads Giveaway for The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, and the prequel to the series, Legend of the Timekeepers. I offered only one signed paperback book, and included signed trading cards. I made these giveaways international, hoping to reach a lot of readers worldwide, and ran it for the first three weeks in November.

2. I signed up for a month-long Holiday Giveaway with Mother Daughter Book Reviews. The prize was a Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet, perfect for the upcoming holiday season. I was hoping to reach my target audience with this giveaway, since Mother Daughter focuses on reviewing children and middle grade books. The price of being part of the giveaway was $10, so it seemed a no-brainer to me.

3. Along with doing the Holiday Giveaway with Mother Daughter Book Reviews, an offer was given to authors to support Daughter by purchasing a $30 coupon book for her school’s fundraising campaign. And the offer? A promotion package which included advertising my book cover on the site’s sidebar for 30 days (which gets about 50,000 views monthly), plus a book review, and a two week Mini Social Media Blitz. Normally this promotion would have cost me over $70, so it seemed like a win-win to me! Plus the coupon book has already paid for itself! LOL!

4. As I mentioned in the outline, I’m part of this fantastic tween author group called Emblazon. We planned a HUGE Rafflecopter giveaway for a new Kindle preloaded with over 50 of the Emblazoners middle grade books which ran for the first 2 weeks of November. In addition, a Facebook party was set up for three days where readers could interact with authors and win great prizes. This was all to advertise the release our 2014-2015 Winter catalogue in time for the holiday season.

5. I participated at the Windsor-Essex Book Expo on Sunday, November 23rd to build my brand, connect with local authors, and meet readers. Along with my paperbacks, I brought a huge jar of Twizzlers® to hand out to the kids and adults, signed trading cards, and postcards.

And the results…drum roll please:

Goodreads Giveaways: What a surprise here folks! I couldn’t believe the entries I received. For The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, I had 2100 entries—a new record! And for Legend of the Timekeepers, I garnered 1502 readers wanting to win—another record! One book ended up going to Turkey for a cost of $11.65, and the second book surprisingly went to Quebec, Canada for $4.10. Not bad if you include the price of the books ($10 each). I was more after exposure here, which I got big-time.  Plus I connected with one of the winners, who said he’d write a review for me.
Mother Daughter Book Reviews Holiday Giveaway: There were 34,002 entries for the Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition. Not bad in my books! Congrats to winner Joelle D. Again, exposure was the name of the game here. I wanted to get my book out in front of my target audience, and generate interest in my author brand.

Promotion Package with Mother Daughter Book Reviews: This finished December 8th, and I have to say I got some pretty good buzz with this promo plus a wonderful book review. I reached new Twitter followers, and received some more likes on Facebook. The shocker came on December 8th when my Amazon Bestseller Rank skyrocketed from 700,000 to 97,000. Um…huh? I didn’t see that coming, especially since my rank in November kept going down. Must have done something right!

Emblazon Preloaded Kindle Giveaway: I was mildly disappointed with the Facebook party, but we held strong and got a few readers stopping by to comment during my allotted time. In fact, I believe the winner of my ebook was a book reviewer, so you never know! We did manage to get more likes on our Emblazon Facebook page, so I feel we did okay. As for generating interest in our 2014-2015 Winter Catalog, the stats are in: 222 new subscribers for a total of 338 subscribers for our catalog! We’ve only been doing this for 2 years, and we’re all very HAPPY with these results! The Emblazoners even purchased another Kindle during the Black Friday sales for the next promotion. So stay tuned…

Windsor-Essex Book Expo: This event has all to do with location, location, location. And it wasn’t the best location for walk-in traffic. That said, I did sell seven books, so after factoring in the cost of renting a table ($35) and buying the candy ($10), I come away with about $25 in my pocket. Um…considering this event ran from 10 am to 5 pm, I made about $3.57 an hour. Again, this was about networking with other authors and meeting perspective readers—which I did. Plus the licorice was a BIG hit, and was a great ice breaker! I also made a few author connections too. Would I do this event again? Sure, and hopefully next year’s venue will be in a high traffic area.

Bottom line: With all the promotion and marketing I did during November 2014, my Amazon author rank and sales dropped drastically until AFTER December 8th, when my rank took a surprising turn for the better. Not sure why it took so long, but so happy it did! This whole author/promoter/marketer business is one crazy roller coaster ride to begin with. What did happen during the month that surprised me was that a 19-year-old reader from the Netherlands connected with me through Goodreads, and we struck up a relationship. She loves my books, and even reread the prequel and sent me a detailed email asking questions about the book. She even asked if she could review my writing in the future, so I think I’ve found my dream beta reader. Now that’s a super fan! And truthfully, this is what authors are after in the long run—cultivating relationships with readers that will last a lifetime.
Only time will tell whether these promotion strategies will translate into long term sales, but since I’m in for the long haul, I feel most were good investments. Authors—what promotional strategies have worked for you? What haven’t? Readers—what book promotions seem to hook your attention? Love to hear from you! Cheers and thank you for reading my post!

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

 Tagline & blurb for The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis:
Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past.
When 13-year-old Amanda Sault and her annoying classmates are caught in a food fight at school, they're given a choice: suspension or yard duty. The decision is a no-brainer. Their two-week crash course in landscaping leads to the discovery of a weathered stone arch in the overgrown back yard. The arch isn't a forgotten lawn ornament but an ancient time portal from the lost continent of Atlantis.
Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers--legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial--Amanda and her classmates are sent on an adventure of a lifetime. Can they find the young Robin Hood and his merry band of teens? If they don't, then history itself may be turned upside down.

Tagline & blurb for Legend of the Timekeepers:
There is no moving forward without first going back.
Lilith was a young girl with dreams and a family before the final destruction of Atlantis shattered those dreams and tore her family apart. Now refugees, Lilith and her father make their home in the Black Land. This strange, new country has no place in Lilith’s heart until a beloved high priestess introduces Lilith to her life purpose—to be a Timekeeper and keep time safe.
Summoned through the seventh arch of Atlantis by the Children of the Law of One, Lilith and her newfound friends are sent into Atlantis’s past, and given a task that will ultimately test their courage and try their faith in each other. Can the Timekeepers stop the dark magus Belial before he changes the seers’ prophecy? If they fail, then their future and the earth’s fate will be altered forever.

The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis Buy Links:

Legend of the Timekeepers Buy Links:

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE.

Do you have some questions for Sharon? What do you think of those Goodreads numbers? Did you visit Sharon's blog yet? Have you had experiences similar to hers?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Freezing Friday

It's not even officially winter yet and I'm freezing. I'm really not a fan of winter. I'll try not to complain on my blog like I did all last winter. No promises though.

Finished up the edits on The Warrior and the Governor. After all the rewrites and zillions of times editing it, I still cried through the one chapter. I choked myself up so I hope that's a good thing for the readers. Really made me eager to get back to the next Warrior book that I have about one quarter of
the first draft completed.

Lots of bloggers taking a break for the holiday. I haven't decided yet whether I will or won't take a break. Unless I get so cold I can't type. Whoops. Complaining already.

Wisdom from The Old Farmer's Almanac for the week.

"A wise companion is half the journey." Russian Proverb

A ring carved from mistletoe protects the wearer against illness.

A cactus plant produce a million seeds, but only one or two survive to form a new cactus.

As we enter the holiday season, I thought a little wisdom from The Bard might fit the wonders of being with family and friends.
Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered. William Shakespeare

And this one.
Prosperity is full of friends. Euripides

I'll be finished up some Christmas shopping this weekend (still haven't found my new planner for 2015) and writing. Drinking lots of coffee and spending at least an hour a day on the treadmill. Would rather be jogging outside those darn temperatures ... you know where I was going with that.

Ever have a ring carved from mistletoe? Are you taking a break from blogging for the holidays. Why does blogger keep turning on word verification (number verification) when I have it turned off? Are you feeling prosperous for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tom Olbert: Evolving as a Writer

It is my pleasure today to introduce Tom Olbert, a fellow Musa Publishing speculative fiction author. Tom has experience with multiple publishers and has learned a few thing he learned along the way. He's going to share his journey from short-story writer to novelist.

Writing fiction (specifically science fiction and supernatural fiction) is pretty much all I ever fantasized doing as a kid.  I knew all along that was my (calling? Passion?)  Those words always sound a bit lame to me, but you get my point.

And, much to my amazement, I actually started producing stories people were willing to publish, and (more startling still) pay for.  Since then, it’s been an evolutionary journey.

Writing short stories for science fiction magazines was simple enough.  If they liked it, they bought it.  The contract was signed, the check cashed, and my job was done.  But, as I’ve gone from being a short story writer to a writer of novels and novelettes I’ve had to grow as a person, not just a writer.  Because being accepted by book publishers meant entering the strange new world of promotion.  Like all writers, I had to learn that yes, it was the writer’s job not only to write, but to promote the book once it was out.  (“No, dummy; books don’t sell themselves,” I had to tell myself.)

As a guy who’s passed the half-century mark and is still adapting to the modern world of rapidly advancing communication and social media, I had to learn as I went.  Not only was social media a new concept to me, but on a more basic note, so was promotion.  I’ve never been one of those people naturally inclined to come right out and sell themselves.  I’m the type that likes to work and produce, but not sell or market. Now, I had to be both.  If I was going to take a serious stab at writing, I had to grow as a person, technologically and socially.

The first state-of-the-art book publisher to handle one of my titles was Eternal Press.  They took me in hand, showed me the basics of setting up a blog and gave me tips on how to survive in the modern world of fiction.  Since then, I’ve learned to participate in author’s loops and online events, and scrounge and beg for online reviews and guest posts.  It’s been both fun and intimidating. I’ve often felt like a clumsy outsider trying to fit in.  Like anything else, you just have to fit in as yourself and contribute as best you can.   Groups are great (LinkedIn, FB, etc.) because you get to hear from other writers in your genre all the time and get their eye view on a number of issue we all have to deal with, including marketing. Author links and authors friended on FB are also good ways for picking up tips on good review sites.

Musa Publishing, my most recent publisher, has been extremely supportive and helpful, providing a capable and dedicated marketing expert who nudges me in the right direction and hunts for reviewers and bloggers willing to take me on.   It’s always good to feel you have someone in your corner, as long as you know you have to do your part, too.

The tips you get from other writers and bloggers sometimes differ, even to the point of being mutually contradictory.  Some tell you to be controversial in blogging, others say to play it safe.  Some say to go after reviews, others to concentrate on guest posts and interviews.  Everybody has a piece of the larger picture; you just have to find your balance.  Just as you have to budget your time to include promotion (blogging, social media, networks, and anything else you can find), and of course writing.

We all dream of writing the next “Hunger Games.”  And, we all fear that what we want or need to write about may not resonate with the reading public.  The important thing is to get it out there.  You’ll never know until you do.  And, the journey of self-improvement is worth it in itself.

 Thanks, Tom, for guesting on my blog today and giving me some extra writing time. Does any part of Tom's journey sound like yours in your writing career? Has your publisher helped you along as Tom's has? Do you have an example of contradictory advice you're received about blogging or other social media when it comes to promotion?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Carol Browne Visits

Carol Browne writes speculative fiction for Musa Publishing and is doing me a huge favor with an interview today. I made her do all the work so I had more time to write. It's been a joy getting to know her.

What writers inspired you to take on the epic fantasy genre?

Till now, it hadn’t occurred to me I had written epic fantasy, and to be honest I’m not a great reader of the genre. I prefer horror and the paranormal. The idea for my book came to me in a day-dream when I was listening to music. I had recently read Lord of the Rings, and it had the kind of magical setting I thought my newly created characters would feel at home in, so I guess if any writer inspired me, it must have been Tolkien.

Can you tell us about the setting and time period of The Exile of Elindel? Did you do research on the historical details you used?

I completed an English degree the year before I wrote the book and I had studied Anglo-Saxon as part of the course. The early Anglo-Saxon period seems to me very well suited to the sword-and-sorcery genre. I chose the year 500CE hoping to give King Arthur a walk-on part at some point, but many rewrites later he ended up on the cutting-room floor, so to speak. I wish I had done more research but I wanted to get stuck into the writing! If the facts aren’t completely accurate I don’t think it matters, however; it’s the essential atmosphere and the interaction between the characters I hope I’ve got right so the reader can get drawn into the story. It’s pure fantasy, after all.

What is your writing day like? Every day? Favorite writing spot? Plotter or seat-of-your pants writer? Tea, coffee, or wine?

I’m forced to go out every morning to earn a living and I also work from home as a proofreader when I have the clients, but I try to do some form of authory stuff in the afternoons and at weekends. I write in longhand at my kitchen table and type it up once the first draft is finished.

I started as a pantser which is why in the early days Exile ended up as epic fail rather than epic fantasy: a huge rambling manuscript that needed interminable rewrites. I’ll never write that way again. I always have a plot outline before I write now.

Tea, coffee, and gin!

How long did it take you to write Exile and what are you working on now?

It took half a year to write the first draft of Exile, but more than thirty years before I found a publisher, by which time it had morphed into a trilogy. Books II and III will be published by Musa Publishing in 2015.

A manuscript I wrote before Exile came to light last year when I was clearing out some cupboards. This summer I sat down and reworked it. It’s a paranormal thriller entitled The Curse of Cankerfret Castle. Looks like it will be a novella. For this book I came forward in time to 1985.

Do you have other works published?

I have a self-published Kindle eBook called An Elf’s Lament upon Leaving & Other Tales. It’s a small anthology of poems and short stories. I published it just to see if I could do it.

What are your most and least favorite parts of writing? Plotting? First Draft? Editing? Promotion?

I mostly enjoy playing with words and trying to come up with unusual similes and metaphors. It’s great when you lose yourself in the process and your characters come alive. I don’t enjoy how time-consuming writing is.

I like plotting when I can engineer a twist or do something that will surprise the reader: at heart I think all writers are really entertainers. What I don’t like is not being able to get a plot to work. It can take days of frustration to get the machinery of the story to run smoothly rather than clank along in a contrived fashion.

The First Draft is the start of the adventure and writing in longhand I love the way the manuscript grows organically: the ever-deepening pile of paper with my jolly hieroglyphics dancing across the pages, weaving their magical spell. At least that’s the dream but very often the reality is the crumpled paper on the floor and writer’s cramp!

Editing is just hard, intense work and yet I have learnt a great deal about writing in the process.

Promotion? A wretched business, especially for shy, retiring folk like me! But I have also enjoyed the connections I have made with new and very interesting people and I get to help them with their self-promo too, which I prefer to blowing my own trumpet.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Susan. I enjoyed answering your questions and they certainly made me think!

Carol Browne first appeared on the planet in 1954. She regards Crewe, Cheshire, as her home town and graduated from Nottingham University in 1976 with an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living in the Cambridgeshire countryside with her dog, Harry, and cockatiel, Sparky, when she’s not writing fiction, Carol spends her time as a housekeeper, proofreader, and ghost writer in order to pay the bills. Pagan and vegan, Carol believes it is time for a paradigm shift in our attitude to Mother Nature and hopes the days of speciesism are numbered.

Find The Exile of Elindel At:
Carol's Blog
Carol on FB  on Twitter

Thank you, Carol, for appearing here today. Would you call promotion a 'wretched business' like Carol does? I think it's a perfect description. Did you ever cut a person as famous as King Arthur from your second draft?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Before the Season

I never do any Christmas decorating before the first weekend in December. So that means I'll start tomorrow or maybe Sunday. The tree won't go up until a few days before Christmas when my daughter is home to help. Shopping ... not really started. And most will be done online.

Tomorrow I'll be enjoying myself at my local writers' group holiday party. Mostly a lot of eating, laughing and just enjoying each other's company. The rest of the weekend and the start of next week will be filled with edits from my new publisher, Musa, who will be releasing my previously publishing titles from the series, The Futhark Chronicles. Book one is coming out in February.

Some wisdom from the Old Farmer's Almanac:

It is unlucky to say "wolf" in December.

"Don't talk about yourself. It will done when you leave." Wilson Mizner

Hopefully, you've downloaded your free copy of The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond already. If not, what are you waiting for? Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who gave the book a shout-out.

The Tolkien quote today is one I'm keeping at the forefront of my thoughts as I consider all the things I need to accomplish in the next few weeks including working on my newest book.

"It's the job that's never started that takes the longest to finish." J.R.R. Tolkien

Don't forget Sunday is Pearl Harbor Day. Though it was well before my time, my father and all my uncles enlisted shortly after that day. Our family was fortunate that they all came home but so many of that generation did not.

Hope you have a great weekend. Did you get THE guide to writing this week? Have you said 'wolf' this month yet? Have a job that you're putting off? Did you decorate for Christmas yet or start shopping?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

IWSG: December

It's that time of month again for the IWSG monthly blog hop. Our fearless and tireless leader, Alex J. Cavanaugh started this supportive group more than three years ago. The group is a safe place where writers can share concerns, offer advice and expertise while growing a group of online friends and support. Find the entire list on the IWSG website or join the IWSG Facebook page.

This month is special for IWSG group as it marks the release of the book on writing containing advice and expertise from more than 100 members of our awesome group. The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond is now available for free at most online book retailers. There really is something for everyone.

Hopefully, those of you doing NaNo have recovered. A few bloggers I follow rocked and made their 50,000 words goal with time to spare. Congrats to you all on your accomplishment and thank you for inspiring me.

I didn't participate in NaNo and probably never will but I did do tons of writing during the month of November. My romance publisher gave me a nudge to finish the next book in my Warriors of Gaviron Series so they could get it officially on the schedule. Frantic writing ensued but I learned that when I shut out all distractions like family, TV and even music, I could write thousands of words per day. After the terrific success of The Warrior and the Biologist, my romance publisher now has The Warrior and the Governor up for pre-order on their site and on Amazon. And they did a great job on the cover.

What has inspired you lately? Have you checked out the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond? Have you learned something from its pages? Did you win NaNo?