The business side of writing

At writers club this week, we had three great readers but still had time to spare.  That’s when Les B. brought up the article in the Wall Street Journal that an investment company is buying Barnes and Noble.  That got everyone talking about marketing and whether it’s better to get an agent and a publisher or to self-publish.

People in our group do both.  Some self-publish because they love the freedom.  And they still get enough sales to make them happy.  Some self-publish because they just want their books available for family and friends.  Two members are actively looking for agents.  That’s a nail biter job in itself.  And I self-publish AND have a publisher because I want to write two different kinds of mysteries, and I didn’t think I could get a taker for my supernatural series.  Let’s face it.  Some genres are a lot easier to sell than others.   And, to be honest, I wanted to see what would happen if I stuck Muddy River on Amazon on my own.  Ilona Andrews wrote a great post about the pros and cons of each: http://www.ilona-andrews.com/hybrid-authors/

Going it alone, though, means that it’s up to you to attract readers to your book.  And I think that’s getting harder to do.  True, writers have to work at promotion, even if they have a publisher, but they at least have some backup.  One thing you can do with or without a publisher is a blog tour.  Sometimes, they work.  Sometimes, they don’t.  But so far, Kensington has signed me up for a blog tour for every one of my books when they  come out.  The more work that goes into the blog tour, the better it is.  I’ve written 20+ individual pieces for a single blog tour before, so that each site has something unique to offer.  The one tour that only featured cover reveals and excerpts with a blurb wasn’t very effective.  Why would readers keep reading the same pitch over and over?

Advertising helps.  There are a crap load of books out there.  You need to find a way to get a reader to find yours.  Today, on twitter, I found a link to how to sell more books with Amazon ads.  I tried that once and bombed.  My friend tweaks her ad as she goes, and she’s been successful with it.  Here’s the article I found: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/how-to-sell-more-books-with-amazon-ads-for-authors/

I’ve tried Facebook ads, but those are really hit and miss for me, too.  Still, you can invest $20 to boost your post and give it a go.  (I’d read the article on Amazon ads to get ideas first).

We all know that nothing beats BookBub, but trying to get a slot there takes a miracle or more.  And they’re expensive.  Luckily for me, Kensington put The Body in the Attic on Bookbub and they’re putting The Body in the Wetlands on it July 10.  I’m a lucky girl, and I know it.  Still, if you can’t get an ad, you can get some traction there.  I highly recommend becoming a BookBub partner, signing up and doing an author profile, listing the books you’ve written, and then–and this helps–recommending other authors’ books and reviewing them.  I recommend books under my name for urban fantasy–Judith Post (https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judith-post?list=reviews&review_step=search ) and under my pen name, Judi Lynn (https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judi-lynn)  The good news is that when people follow you on BookBub, BookBub sends them a notification when you add one of your own books to your book page.  That means, if you have 100 followers, an e-mail goes out to each of them when you publish a new book.  The more followers, the better!

I just paid for an ad for Mixing It Up with Mortals on BargainBooksy at Written Word Media and dropped the price of my book to 99 cents. https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/about-us/#  And it did what I wanted it to do.  It got the book in front of a lot of new readers.  It’s only the second book in the series, and I’m not expecting big results.  That usually takes a while, if you get lucky.  I’ve had luck advertising on The Fussy Librarian, too, but that site’s pickier–you have to have at least 10 reviews with a 4.0 average, and I didn’t have 10 reviews yet, (sigh), so I went with Booksy.  For The Fussy Librarian: https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/advertising

There are other things you can do to help promote yourself and your book.  I’m going to use Ilona Andrews again (because I read her on twitter).  She posts snippets of whatever book she’s working on, on her webpage and then feeds that onto twitter: http://www.ilona-andrews.com/working-on-hidden-legacy-5/

I do the same thing.  I use weebly to put up cover reveals, new books, and free chapters.  Then I feed that onto my twitter account.  I think of this page (my blog) as a way to reach writers, and my webpage as a way to reach readers.  C.S. Boyack includes little snippets and news about the books he’s writing on his blog, too.  I think it’s effect, but it takes both–posting the snippet AND linking it to twitter.  My webpage: https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

C.S. Boyack’s posts:   https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/its-a-brain-purge/?fbclid=IwAR16n0RCckMZ-L3E-DxWF4H9jsxtJC5XzFsY3gNt6jEUhyfnKGjz6q7Bcoc   

Which brings me to three places that authors can promote themselves for free:

an author Facebook page  (Look up the Facebook page for some of your favorite authors and see what they do).

Twitter.  I make myself post something on twitter every day (at three different times, if I can) and to retweet some of the posts that I especially like.  And I always list book releases, cover reveals, and sales there.  Why not?  If you’re lucky, friends and others will retweet you and help spread the word.

Goodreads.  When I finish reading a book (and I can give it 3 or more stars), I write a review for both Bookbub AND Goodreads.

One last thing–and I know, I’ve written a tome this time, but I wanted to put in my 2 cents on marketing–, some authors have great luck with newsletters.  I haven’t done one yet.  Just haven’t gotten around to it.  But Story Empire wrote a decent article on it if you’re going to give one a try (and most authors do). https://storyempire.com/2019/06/07/how-to-tweak-your-newsletter/

One more thing, I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Debbie Macomber’s advice on how to launch your book when it comes out.  Yes, I’ve shared this before, but someone might have missed it.  And it’s good. https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/

Okay, I’m running out of ideas and steam.  You’re probably ready for me to shut it anyway.  I promise not to bombard you with marketing ideas again for a while.  But if you’ve tried something and it’s worked for you, please share it with the rest of us.  And happy writing!

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…I’ll Do It…My Way

I can hear Frank Sinatra as I type those words.  And I should have listened to him.  He was right.

I’ve been reading a lot of especially good advice on how to organize your book and write lately.  And some of it really sounded good to me.  So good that I decided to make up sheets for scenes in my next Jazzi novel and try to create a sort of massive storyboard.  C.S. Boyack wrote a great article on how he uses them.  And I got so excited!  I could picture in my mind how each scene would fit in a giant jigsaw puzzle of other scenes and I could move the scenes around and add scenes and who knows what else to create a brilliant flow in my book.

C.S. Boyack’s posts:  https://donmassenzio.wordpress.com/2019/04/12/the-2019-interview-series-featuring-c-s-boyack/  and  https://storyempire.com/2018/12/14/and-now-for-something-completely-different/

And the team at Story Empire have been writing great posts about how to build a Story Bible with plenty of other advice about multiple POVs, settings, and story structure:  https://storyempire.com/blog/   Staci Troilo even included charts for readers to download and use.

Every single bit of advice is good.  And I love learning how other writers work.  And I tried…I really did…. to write out scene sheets and hit beginning hooks, inciting incidents, pinch points, and more.  And it all helped me think of new scenes and ideas for Jazzi 5.  Which is good.  But when push came to shove, for me to “see” the book in my head, I’m sitting at my computer, writing out plot points like I’ve always done.  Sigh.

It’s possible that I’m too set in my ways.  It’s possible you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  (And if my friend Carl reads this, no comments!)  Or it’s possible that we each find what works for us and we’re comfortable with, and we should remember that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  Even though I do like to try new things once in a while.

Way back in my beginning writing days, I tried to develop my book’s characters by using the Goal/Motivation/Conflict charts.  But it never really worked for me.  It didn’t give me enough to “see” and “hear” my characters.  Then I tried filling out an extensive questionnaire I saw online for each one.  That didn’t work for me either.  “I had so much information, it bogged me down.  That’s when I went to a workshop given by Shirley Jump and she showed us her character wheels.  Those worked for me.  They gave me enough, but not too much.  A friend tried them, and they failed her miserably.  What works for one writer doesn’t always work for another.  That’s why all a writer can do is share what she knows and what she’s stumbled on that works for her.

When a writer shares something near and dear, it’s because it’s a hard won technique or truth that she’s probably learned the hard way.  But that doesn’t mean it will work for you.  And what have I learned?  I’ve learned to listen to writers whom I respect and to consider their advice.  And to roll all that advice into something I can use by trying this and that until I find what fits.  I’ve learned to push myself once in a while to try to get better, because a comfortable groove can become a rut.  I’ve learned that I can admire other peoples’ prose and voice and style, but I have to stay true to myself.  I’ve learned that sometimes the words come easy, and sometimes the words come hard, but I do better if I plop my fanny in a chair and write every weekday that I possibly can.

So, learn as much as you can, but trust yourself and your own voice.  And happy writing!

 

 

 

Shameless Promotion

I’ve been yacking about my supernatural mysteries for a while now.  So I’m excited to announce that Mixing It Up with Mortals, Muddy River Mystery Two, is finally available on Amazon.  And I love the cover Michael Prete designed for me.  Hope you like it, too.

muddy river 2 cover

When Raven Black, fire demon and Muddy River’s enforcer, moved in with Hester Wand, the lead witch of the town’s coven, who also teaches at her school for magic, he pictured them spending lots of quality time together.  But his job keeps him busy, and her job ensures lots of people pop in and out of their home.  So, to surprise her, he buys lake property for weekend getaways.  When he drives her to inspect their retreat, though, suprise turns to shock when they find two dead bodies in the visitors’ cabins at the far end of the lake.  Even worse, the victims are mortals.  Raven can’t just dispose of them. He feels compelled to let loved ones know that the young man and woman died, even though he can’t reveal how that happened.  They were both drained, instantly mummified.  He learns that a sheriff in a nearby town is working on another case that’s similar, so he and Brown join forces to find the killer.  And that’s when things get interesting…and deadly.

https://amzn.to/2WzehJi

Fast and Fun, then Slower and Satisfying (and I’m talking about writing)

First of all, I wanted to share that my daughter Holly drove up from Indianapolis on May 10th to get on Allegiant with us to fly to St Pete’s.  That’s why I was missing in action on social media.  We went to visit my second daughter and her husband.  It’s been a while since HH and I have gone to Florida to visit Robyn.  She came up a couple of times to see us last year, and the year before that, I spent the spring recuperating from having my gall bladder out.  The year before that, Robyn flew up to be in a best friend’s wedding and could hardly get any more vacation time from work, so we made the most of her visit home.

This year, it was fun to fly to see her and Scott and see how they redid their kitchen.  It’s gorgeous now–white cupboards, butcher board counter tops, and a granite island top.  We made it a short stay, leaving on the 15th.  Holly’s a nurse and had to get back to the hospital, but we had a great time.

Robyn and Scott took us sightseeing, and we spent time in their pool cooling off.  Holly sent me our mother-daughters picture, so I could prove that we had a good time.Holly, Robyn, and me in Robyn's pool

And here’s HH and me waiting for a table at a beach side restaurant:

John and I waiting for a table in Florida

But vacation’s over now, and it’s back to hitting the keys.  I’ve decided to pound out Muddy River Three as fast as I can, and then spend a week outlining my Jazzi 5 novel before I start work on that.

Muddy River books are fast and fun to write.  They remind me of my old Babet and Prosper urban fantasies.  There’s enough action that the words almost fly onto the pages.  Every book is work of one kind or another, but these are shorter and faster without the intricacies that go into a Jazzi book.

Jazzi novels, on the other hand, take months to write.  The plot moves along at a slower pace and there are more characters and subplots, more twists and turns.  And I love them every bit as much.

In my mind, I compare them to the seasons.  I love all four of them, but spring and autumn feel shorter–like my supernatural stories–and I’m always trying to enjoy them before they flit away.  Summer and winter linger longer and bring a whole different rhythm and unique challenges–like my Jazzi novels.

For now, I’m in fast and furious work mode.  By the time July rolls around with the dog days of summer, I should be ready to slow down and pace myself for the long marathon of Jazzi 5.  And talking about the dog days of summer, Kensington designed a meme for The Body in the Wetlands that they’re placing in pet magazines in June.  Here’s the link:  Modern Dog-12 pg-Summer 2019.   I think it’s pretty cute!

With all of the bad weather people have been pummeled with lately, I hope the skies soon turn sunny for you and the temperatures are warm and wonderful.  And happy writing!

Not one, but two…making a mishmash of things

I’ve decided to write two series.  The Jazzi Zanders books are cozy mysteries.  The Muddy River books are supernatural/urban fantasy type mysteries.  I think I’d burn out writing just one type of genre over and over again.  I even have to switch up the types of books I read.  If I read cozies back to back to back, pretty soon I can practically chart the rhythm of the stories, etc.  So I like to jump around from one type of book to another.

Accordingly, if I can make it work–and it always sounds better in theory than in actuality–I want to take turns with my books.  I’ll write a Muddy River, then a Jazzi, then a Muddy River, etc. AND if all goes well–which it never does because life happens–I’ll still be able to meet Kensington’s deadlines.  The good news?  I’m self-publishing Muddy River, so if I screw up, I’M the one who determines when my next book has to come out.  And I can give myself wiggle room.  Hopefully.

I just turned in Jazzi 4, and I don’t have to turn in the outline for book 5 until July 15th. Even better, I don’t have to turn in the manuscript until Nov. 4.  So, I have time to squeeze in Muddy River 3 IF I don’t dawdle and I plant my fanny in chair and make myself write the words.  Even though it’s summer.  And even though I like to play in my flower beds and take the dog for walks and…well, I love to goof off more in the summer.  But the Jazzi books always take me longer to write.  They’re more involved with more different types of scenes.  The Muddy River stories go faster.  They’re shorter and they’re more direct.

That said, I’m MAKING myself write a plot point for every single chapter I mean to write for Muddy River 3.  And it’s a good thing.  The idea that bloomed in my head for this story felt brilliant and wonderful, but trying to make it stretch into 32 plot points has caused some serious cussing and stalking from my office to the kitchen, remembering that I haven’t organized my sock drawer and picked lint out of my bellybutton.  Uggh!!  I’ve made it to point 19, and I’ve kept things moving in the plot and more clues coming to light, but I still have 13 chapters to plot.  Making myself write them all can make me crazy, but I’d rather fight with them now than hit that spot in my story where I know I don’t have enough of anything to finish the book.

I’m lighting incense (not really) for inspiration and struggling with patience I don’t normally have, but I’m going to FINISH these things!  And then, I can write!  That’s where the real fun starts.  I even like rewrites because that’s when I pick up a drab leaden story and polish it to a brilliant shine.  (Or as close as I can get to that).

I might fuss about plot points, etc., but the only part of writing that I really dread is the final proof copies I have to read through for Kensington for the Jazzi books.  I don’t mind the initial edit copies, but that final proof–the one I just read and can’t change unless it’s to correct mistakes–is painful.  If I could duck out of that, I’d do it.  Because by that last proof of a galley, I’ve looked at the book so many times, the entire thing sounds like garbage to me.  And I see all the things I could have done better, but can’t fiddle with anymore.  Luckily, it’s a long time between returning that galley and the book actually being published.  If enough time has passed, I actually like the book again.  And I’m excited for readers to find it.

Alas, I have a LONG time before I’ll rewrite and rework Muddy River 3.  Right now, I just need to finish plotting it.  And then I need to WRITE 32 or more chapters… And then I need to polish it and send it to my critique partners….  And then I need to rewrite it again.  And then… thank the heavens, I’ll be ready to post it on Amazon and hope for the best:)

Wherever you are on your book or project, good luck.  And happy writing!

Expectations

I was surprised to see a passionate blog from mystery writer, Sherry Harris, today, asking for writers to respect each other.  https://wickedauthors.com/2019/05/09/can-we-just-stop/  And I am always surprised when I hear that certain writers or writing groups attack other writers or writing groups on twitter or Goodreads or Facebook.  I mean, what’s the point?  And what does that say about them?

I’ve mentioned before that I went to a book signing where a newspaper reporter, a literary author, a nonfiction author, and a romance writer were giving a panel, and the reporter, not people in the audience, gave the romance author a horrible time.  He told her that she was  so talented, she should write “real books.” To which she replied, “I think writing about love and relationships IS writing real books.”  (I was proud of her).

Every writer dreads getting bad reviews from readers, even when we know there’s no way to please everyone.  I was so happy to see a thread on Kensington’s Facebook Between the Chapters page where bloggers and readers seriously discussed whether they felt comfortable giving reviews below 3 stars because they didn’t want to ruin a writer’s rankings if the book didn’t appeal to them but might be perfect for another reader.  We all have different preferences and tastes.  The responders gave thoughtful, serious consideration to the subject, even the bloggers who insisted that they felt compelled to warn other readers about books with a myriad of grammar mistakes, etc.

If bloggers and readers try to support authors, why wouldn’t fellow writers?  We know how hard it is to write a book–any kind of book.  And we know how hard it is to live up to readers’ expectations.  And every genre has them.

When I wrote romance, my wonderful editor let me try just about anything I wanted to, as long as I followed the ingrained rules of the genre.  Readers expect boy to meet girl.  Okay, maybe that’s too narrow.  These days, boy can meet boy and girl can meet girl, but whatever the set-up, there’s some kind of attraction.  Then there are obstacles and misunderstandings, etc. before boy wins girl…or whatever.  I followed that pattern.  It’s what makes a romance a romance.  BUT in book number three, I wanted to have a heroine who’s always attracted to the wrong kind of guy, Mr. Wrong, first BEFORE she notices Mr. Right standing in the background.  I’ve met my share of smart, wonderful women who fall for guys who aren’t good for them, but luckily for Paula (in my book), Chase isn’t about to let that happen.  My editor was fine with the idea.  My readers?  I got mixed reviews.  I hadn’t broken the rules of romance, but I’d bent them.

For cozies, my editor told me no foul language and when Jazzi and Ansel go in the bedroom, fade to black.  I can refer to them feeling frisky but it stays behind locked doors.  I’m fine with that, but some readers don’t even like them referring to their libidoes.  Some readers don’t like how much beer and wine they drink at meals.  And that’s all right with me.  They come to cozies expecting a CLEAN read.  That doesn’t mean I can’t write a good story, a good mystery.

If not cussing or having sex makes a writer inferior in some peoples’ minds, I don’t agree.  EVERY genre has a formula and comes with certain expectations.  Even literary.  It’s hard to write anything well.  And even if a genre isn’t one of my favorites, I can still appreciate the skill it takes to write it.

Whatever you’re working on now, good luck.  And happy writing!

 

Cover Reveal

I’m lucky enough to get to share Joan Hall’s cover release for her third book in her Driscoll Lakes series.  I think this cover is pretty awesome.  It sets the mood for a mystery/suspense, don’t you think?  See for yourself.

Joan Hall--May 7--Unclear Purposes Smaller

Some people take secrets to the grave…

Three years after her husband’s murder, Christine Lawrence still struggles for balance. She has a rewarding career and a close circle of friends but feels oddly unfulfilled. Worse, the close relationship she once had with her teenage daughter has grown increasingly strained.

Former FBI agent, Vince Green, is battling demons of his own—painful secrets that drove him from Driscoll Lake. Newly resettled in the small town, he makes his living as a private investigator.

When Vince and Christine cross paths, stumbling over the body of a murder victim, he’s forced to confront memories he thought long buried. The circumstances surrounding the killing are eerily similar to a victim from his past.

As the body count continues to rise, Christine finds herself drawn to Vince. With a murderer stalking the streets of Driscoll Lake, neither is aware the killer has targeted her as the next victim—or that Vince’s past is key to unmasking a disturbed and deadly killer.

Joan Hall Author Box Updated 8.18

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing: 1 of 2 books releasing today

 

Staci Troilo Color Photo RT smaller

Staci Troilo writes under a few different pen names for different genres.  She’s writing The Gate as D.L. Cross.

 

Getting Ready

This week, hopefully, I’ll finish final proof copies for Jazzi #3 to return to Kensington.  After that, I have rewrites to do on the notes my critique partner (Thank you, Mary Lou Rigdon) gave me for Jazzi #4.  The manuscript’s not due to John Scogmaglio until June 1st, but John, Holly, and I are taking off for Florida to visit our daughter and her husband May 10-15, and  I’d like to have my deadlines out of the way before we leave.  And THEN, I’m ready to start plot points for Jazzi #5. I’m giving myself a week to do that. AND THEN I want to write Muddy River Mystery Three.

I can’t wait to start that book.  I woke up in the morning with an idea that got me REALLY excited.  (That happens a lot at the start of a book.  We’ll see how I feel when I reach the middle:)

I know I have a long to-do list.  Sounds like I’ll be keeping out of trouble for a long time, but I have my old, trusty chalkboard and I bought a new whiteboard to help me keep track of things.  And once I fill in that whiteboard with notes for Jazzi #5, I’m ready to write!

https://giphy.com/tv/search/writing-on-chalkboard

I think I told you the story of how I got the chalkboard once before, but a LONG time ago, when the movie RICH AND FAMOUS with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen came out, there was a scene that cracked my HH up.  Candice Bergen and her movie husband are lying in bed, drifting off to sleep, and all of a sudden, she jumps up and runs to her office to scribble ideas on a chalkboard.  When she comes back to bed, her husband yawns and shakes his head.  “An idea for a new book?” he asks, already knowing the answer.  HH swears I do that to him, so he bought and installed the chalkboard the next day.

Now that I have the whiteboard, I use the chalkboard to keep track of deadlines and business stuff I need to do and can’t forget.  Unfortunately, on my own, I tend to forget more than I should.  And if I write notes on 3×5 cards, I have so many of them anymore, they get lost in the shuffle.  But I see the chalkboard every time I enter my office.  If I write something on it, I have a decent shot of getting things right.  This is my writing wall, and my desk is right across from it.

Every writer finds his/her own way to keep track of characters and story ideas.  No technique is better than the next.  You just have to find what works for you.  So whatever you’re up to, good luck with it!  And happy writing!

P.S.  If any of you have any questions, feel free to ask me.  I did my first author chat on Kensington’s Facebook page for the Between the Chapters bookclub, and I was really nervous about trying to fill an hour answering questions for anyone who showed up, but it was WONDERFUL fun.

My Inspirations by Judi Lynn

I didn’t write a regular blog post this week because I’ve been doing a blog tour for The Body in the Wetlands, and I’m just about idea’d out. (I know. Not a real word:) On top of the tour, my cousin ended up in the hospital for a short stay, so we’ve been trying to see her or take my sister up to see her once a day. So my Thursday blog fell through the cracks. To redeem myself, I thought I’d share this. It’s something I shared on Kensington’s Between the Chapters for their HobbyReads. I couldn’t get more support from friends and family for my writing. I’m pretty darned lucky:)

My friends and family know that I’m a writer, and they know how much I love mysteries.  We’ve taken a small bedroom at the back of our house and turned it into an office for me, and we lined it with bookshelves.  The shelves aren’t just crammed with books, but I showcase some of the wonderful gifts I’ve been given that tie into my writing, too.

I love Agatha Christie, so my husband bought me a clever teapot that looks like a writer’s desk.  The piece of paper in the typewriter has words “typed” on it from one of Christie’s novels.  The pages tossed in the wastebasket are filled with her words, too.  A handgun lies on manuscript pages.  Here’s what it looks like:

My sisters bought me a typewriter, too, with little mice scampering across the keys.

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