Hitting it Hard

My second Jazzi Zanders mystery comes out next Tuesday, April 23, and Kensington has been ON IT with the publicity and promotion.  When I published my six Mill Pond romances, they didn’t get much love, and I watched them sink lower and lower in sales and rankings every day.  It was sad and frustrating.  But Kensington restructured their publicity teams, and right now, I’m ecstatic with the pushes they’re giving my mysteries.  They even paid to put The Body in the Attic (Jazzi 1) on BookBub.

They’ve signed me up for a blog tour that starts on book two’s book birthday–April 23 and runs through May 2nd.  I love blog tours.  It’s a great way to meet readers and get feedback.  Bless book bloggers.  They do a lot of work and put in a lot of time to promote authors.  On the flip side, it takes a decent amount of work and time to get ready for a tour.  I lost count of how many 300 word blogs I’ve written, how many character interviews I’ve done, and how many Q & As.  Once the blog goes live, I try to visit every host who’s volunteered to support my book–sometimes up to three a day, and if someone comments on the blog, I try to respond.  This time, my publicist added something new.  I’m going to do an author chat from one to two p.m. on April 29 on Kensington’s Between the Chapters Facebook page.  That one makes me a little nervous.  I’ve never done one before, but I guess it’s time.

I mentioned before that I use canva.com to make twitter headers and twitter posts, as well as Facebook headers, to promote books.  I’ve done that for The Body in the Wetlands, too.  I started a countdown of days until the book goes up for sale and created a new twitter post with an image and a short blurb for each day.  I made a different twitter header for each month for the last six months.

I still don’t do everything Debbie Macomber suggested on her post for BookBub, but I do more than I used to.  I’ve shared her post here before, but in case it slipped past you, here it is again.  https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/?utm_source=guest-debbie-macomber&utm_medium=email.  And before I leave this week, I want to share one of the posts I created on canva for twitter.  And happy writing!  Have a wonderful Easter.The Body in the Wetlands, twitter 6

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Hooks!

I’ve been posting words for #1linewed on twitter for a while now.  Do they help me sell books?  Maybe.  I have no idea, but once a week, Kiss of Death chooses a word that you’ve hopefully used in your WIP, and you can post that tiny section on twitter with the hashtag #1linewed.  I think it’s fun to share them and see what other authors have shared.  For example, for last Wednesday–the 5th–Kiss of Death posted:  Something different for our 12/5/18 THEME. Give us your best end of chapter **CLIFFHANGER** line. Hooks make a reader turn pages so show us what you’ve got! 

I have to admit, my wonderful critique partner, M.L. Rigdon, often catches mushy chapter endings in my manuscript and I have to beef them up, so the idea of LOOKING for cliffhangers worried me, especially in a first draft.  But bless Scribes, they’ve expounded the idea of hooks at the end of chapters so many times, I did better than I thought.  And they were easier to find than I’d first thought, too.  I just printed FIND for my manuscript and typed in Chapter, and ta-da!  I scrolled up to the end of the previous one and found my hooks pronto–something I should start doing on a regular basis when I polish my manuscripts.  For the end of chapter 1 in The Body in Apartment 2D, (what I’m working on now), I found:

 “Are you going to be okay?”

            Radley shrugged.  “You know Bain’s temper.  He’ll stew and grumble, then get over it in a while.”

            That’s when they heard a gunshot.  They all looked at each other, then raced for the stairs.

Not too shabby.  I posted it.  But I was curious now.  I looked at more of my chapter endings.  For the end of chapter 2, I found:

Jazzi’s heart sank.  She felt it shrivel and weep.  Bain.  Living with them.  And he’d be in a worse mood than usual.  But he was Ansel’s brother.  They couldn’t just leave him on the streets.  Could they?  No.  Shame on her.  But she wasn’t looking forward to spending time with Ansel’s oldest brother.

Not brilliant, but it would do.   At least for now.

Anyway, the whole exercise was a good reminder that EVERY chapter should end with some kind of hook, something to encourage the reader to turn the page.  I hope all of your chapters end well:)  I’m checking mine from now on.

Happy Writing!

Blog/webpage

A while ago, I blogged about trying to keep up with writing a blog AND a webpage.  At the time, I was behind on my writing and sweating a deadline, AND my publisher had sent me pages to proof.  I felt buried, but thanks to my awesome critique partners, I got everything done on time.  And I started rethinking what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. And, once again, I decided I like both the blog and the webpage for different reasons.  I’m not toting this as something any sane writer should do or even telling you that it will increase readers or boost sales.  I’m just saying that I like it–for me.

When I write my blog, I think about the craft and business side of writing.  When I first started working on the blog, I shared writing advice that worked for me.  But let’s be honest.  You can find writing how-to tips online from Chuck Wendig (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/), K.M. Weiland (https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/), and occasional articles by Stephen King (https://smartblogger.com/stephen-king/), so I feel a little out gunned.  Now, I don’t even pretend to be an expert, I just share what’s happening with my writing–the good, the frustrating, and the ugly.  I figure other writers can relate to most of it.  At the  moment, my third Mill Pond romance just came out, and I’m working on the sixth one in the series. My goal is to finish it, turn it in, and then squeeze in enough time to try to write a mystery. I have the mystery all plotted out, and I’d like to start working on it in January.  I’m thinking snow will be on the ground, temperatures will be cold, and I’ll be in the mood to hibernate and pound on my keyboard.  It sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?  My worry? When I write a romance, I have at least 40 plot points (or chapter ideas) to move the story and come up with 70,000 words–if I’m lucky. For my mystery?  I came up with 23 plot points, but they’re more involved, and I HAVE to have 70,000 words.  Will that work?  I sure as hell hope so.

When I go to my webpage, I switch gears.  When I write my webpage, I think of readers, not writers.  And it’s sort of my “spill” zone, where all the random, little ideas I have for characters or series that I can’t use in a book, spill out of my head.  For instance, when I wrote Wolf’s Bane, I fell in love with Wedge and Bull, the two werewolves who help Reece and Damian protect Bay City.  But they’re always supporting players, so I wanted to write short stories that featured each of them.  But what would I do with those stories?  Easy.  I’d put them on my webpage.  And sometimes, I put snippets from the novels I’m working on on it, too.  I even posted my one and only YA witch novel–The Familiars–on my webpage, because–why not?  Sometimes, I use my webpage as a place to experiment with writing techniques I’d never dare try in a full novel.  For Perdita’s Story, I wanted to write a story where the protagonist made one bad decision after another until the end.  I’d never do that for a book, but it was fun to play with for a short piece.  For Mill Pond, I introduced characters that would never get a full novel of their own, but I liked them and wanted to give them a happy-ever-after, so I did–in a short story.  Another thing I like to do on my webpage is introduce fellow writers whose work I like and think they might like, too.  In my  mind, when I go to my webpage, I think of readers more than writers.

As for marketing?  Well, I do my best, but I’m no wizard, so I post any new news on my author Facebook page or twitter.  It’s not the most efficient system, but it makes me concentrate on different areas of my writing:  fellow writers, readers, and marketing. Marketing, right now, is probably my weakest.  I still haven’t learned how to do rafflecoptors and give-aways, and I think I did better when I tried a blog tour and paid for advertising, but I’ve never had a publisher before, so I’m learning as I go.  One step at a time, right?  Hope you’ve found what works for you.  Happy writing!

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

twitter:  @judypost

 

Fangirl moment

I need to pinch myself.  USA Today HEA did an interview with me for COOKING UP TROUBLE.  THAT was a big enough moment for me, but one of the questions was “What three romance writers do you fangirl about?”  I don’t fangirl very often.  I like to think I’m too practical, but I mentioned Nora Roberts–that woman can hang anything on a romance and make it work, Sarah Addison Allen–I love how lyrical her writing is, and Catherine Bybee–because she mixes it up and surprises me with what she adds to her romances.  And then I snuck in my friend Julia Donner–because I honestly think she writes some of the best male characters I read.  It was a fun interview.  I felt all giddy when I saw it on the USA Today site this morning.  But then, EVEN BETTER, Catherine Bybee retreated it and mentioned me on her twitter page.  Catherine Bybee herself!!  I’m going to float for the rest of today:)

If you’re interested, here’s the interview:

Interview: Judi Lynn, author of ‘Cooking Up Trouble’

Have you tried to make yourself sound interesting?

I’ve never worked with a book publisher before.  I’ve worked with editors of magazines and anthologies, and I’ve gotten feedback from my agent–the wonderful Lauren Abramo, who–by the way–looked at the last pitchmad on twitter.  Which means she’s looking for new writers, if you have a spare pitch lying around. But boy, is she picky. In a nice way.  All agents and editors are.  They know exactly what they’re looking for, so if they turn you down, it just means you’re not writing what they think they can sell.  Nothing personal.  They might have all the horror or fantasy writers that they can find homes for.  Writing’s a business.  It’s market driven.  It also means if you haven’t tried pitchmad or pitchwars or whatever kind of pitch tweets they’re into on twitter, you should.

Both editors and agents have the same goal in mind–to push your writing to its best and find something that’s saleable.  But when I signed with Kensington, I didn’t just get John Scognamiglio as my editor–which was lucky enough.  I got a whole team of talented people who are determined to get my name out there.  They’re great at promotion.  I’m not terrible, but I’m not wonderful either.  And sorry to say, promotion makes a big difference if you want readers to find your book.

I realized I’ve been a slacker at promotion when I got a list of questions to answer for Kensington to use on a book blog tour.  Every blog needed something unique to submit to its readers.  Absolutely fair.  A blogger is taking her time and being generous enough to do a sales pitch to her readers for my romance, COOKING UP TROUBLE.  Each blogger wants to offer her audience something special, just for them, that they can’t find somewhere else.  And I appreciate every single person who signed up to help me get the word out.

My only problem?  I quickly discovered that I’m a pretty boring person.  I spend a lot of each day in front of my computer, writing.  I love to cook, but if I revved up about that, most people would fall asleep.  My sisters would.  Their idea of food is take-out.  I have a few perennial gardens that bring me a lot of pleasure, but that doesn’t mean I keep them neat and tidy.  Kyra Jacobs, who was a guest on my blog last week, has well-tended, beautiful flower beds.  Me?  It comes down to survival of the fittest.  A rose bush has to want to live to bloom here.  I love to read, but I don’t even read as much as I used to, because I now divide my time between reading and writing.  Honestly, it’s hard to make me sound interesting.

While I answered questions for various blogs, it occurred to me that I’m not an expert at much of anything.  My cat and chihuahua sound like more fun than I do.  But then I remembered the poem About Ben Adhem, by Leigh Hunt–http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173698.  Maybe I don’t need to write about what I do or who I am, even though I’m happy to share, but the things that make me passionate are what I love.  And I have many loves, and those I can go on and on about.  And I did.

Have a wonderful Easter, (if you celebrate it), or holiday (if you don’t), and Happy Writing!

COOKING UP TROUBLE comes out April 12th.  The book blogs start soonCoockingupTrouble

 

 

 

Writing: Social Media

Last weekend, my friend and I drove to Indianapolis to attend a writers’ workshop given by Liliana Hart, hosted by Indiana’s RWA chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear Liliana Hart speak, jump at it. She’s awesome, but just listening to all of the work she does, writing and marketing, made me tired. She repeated to us over and over again that if you decide to self-publish, you have to think of yourself as a business.

You have to hire or beg a copy editor to go through your final draft to make sure there are as few mistakes as possible. You have to come up with a professional, eye-catching cover that lets the reader know the genre and tone of your story. And you have to map out a strategy. You try to write the best book you possibly can and then come up with ways to help readers find it. Because if you don’t do your homework, there are millions of books available. How will a reader find yours?

I’ve read Lindsay Buroker’s blog posts for a long time, and she and Liliana Hart gave some similar advice. Both said it’s hard to attract readers with one book. Both said it’s smarter to write at least three books and put them up in short order to attract an audience. Hart suggested having five ready to go. Readers like series. You can’t really do much creative advertising/promotion with one book. I’ve posted this before, but here it is again, in case you missed it: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book

Both Lindsay Buroker and Liliana Hart stressed having at least one series of your books on multiple sites. “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” both warned. Amazon makes it easy for authors to publish and promote with them, but Hart encouraged writers to try iBooks (with Apple). She warned it takes a year and a half for an author to get established there, so there’s no way to get rich quick, but readers on iBooks aren’t enticed by 99 cent, $1.99, or $2.99 books. They expect to pay more for better quality.

Both authors also encourage advertising your books. It doesn’t do much good to promote a book if you only have one available. The real benefit comes when readers download your first book and look for more in the series. The trick is finding an advertising site that works for you. I’ve had good luck with The Fussy Librarian, but my friend who writes Regency romance has better luck with Ereader News Today. So it depends. Bookbub is wonderful, but it’s hard to get an ad there.

I’ve often wondered how effective social media is for selling books. Quite a few authors lately have posted that they might have lots of followers, but there’s not a lot of carry-over in sales. For me, that’s a little disheartening. Social media, it seems, connects writers with fellow writers, but it’s hard to connect with readers who’ll enjoy your genre and books. Tweeting, blogging, and having an author’s facebook page helps, but they warn to spend more time writing the next novel than losing time on social media. Their message? Don’t spend so much time playing on social media that you don’t WRITE.

I’ve heard over and over again that the most effective way to promote your work is by connecting with readers who like your books by offering an e-mail newsletter. I’ve done a crappy job on this. I started a newsletter, using Mail Chimp, but I didn’t think it through enough. Liliana Hart didn’t mince words. “If you don’t offer them something special, why should they join?” I sent the readers who signed up for mine updates and news, but I need to offer more. Hart suggested contests, where the winners get free books, etc. Buroker does the same. Hart goes a step further and has a “street team,” fans who’ll spread news about new books and novellas she writes through word of mouth. Quite a few romance writers have street teams. They send them swag–bookmarks, pens with a new release’s title on it, etc.–to pass out and spread the word.

If you choose to self-publish, remember that you’ll also have to self-promote. That doesn’t mean tweeting your book over and over again on twitter. It means connecting with readers somehow without sounding like spam. If any of you have found ways that work for you, I’d be happy to hear them. And the most important thing–Happy Writing!

P.S.
I put a new short-short on my webpage: Nadine’s Story: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
On twitter: @judypost

Writing: to market, to market…

I’m feeling pretty happy with myself. I finished the rewrites for Magicks Uncaged, my third book in the Wolf’s Bane series. Now, I’m waiting to see the cover, and then I’ll wait for it to be formatted and put online. But MY part’s done. At least, on the writing scene. The next “to do” on my list is marketing–not my strongest skill. And the sooner I start, the better.

A long time ago, I did a post on marketing. I haven’t gotten more brilliant at it, but since I’m at that stage again, I thought I’d mention it. In my writers’ group, there’s a wide variety of approaches to promoting books. Some–the more serious, literary writers of our group–pen beautiful, wonderful fiction, try to find a market for it, and then do very little to promote it. I think they feel that it cheapens their talents to hawk their own products. But unless you have a publisher, famous friend, or agent who works his fanny off to sell you, you’d better come to terms with the fact that you need to do it yourself. Readers won’t know your work exists if you just put it out there and let it die. Even publishers expect authors to market their work these days. Some look at a writer’s blog, twitter followers, and social media before accepting his work. So…here are some thoughts.

In the group of authors I know, there are those who think they’ll only succeed if they market their work to find an agent and a publisher. If you’re looking for a big, New York publisher, you have to have an agent. None of the big publishers, except Harlequin, look at unsolicited submissions these days. Getting an agent is no easy task. Sometimes, you can get one because you know an author who’ll recommend you. Even then, you might get turned down. Agents are as subjective about what they like and don’t like as anyone else. They have specific things they’re looking for. Another way of finding an agent is to join twitter and participate in some “pitch” sessions. (Use the hashtag “pitchwars” or “nestpitch” and follow the leads). If you don’t want to go that route, go to a bookstore and look at the acknowledgements in books similar to yours to see if their agent is listed. Then look the agent up online. OR type “agent” in the search engine of your computer and follow the leads. And do your homework. Find out what clients the agent has and how well he’s sold them. Even with an agent, you might not be able to tempt a big publisher. That’s why some of my friends have turned to smaller publishers. And they’re happy with them. You don’t have to have an agent to submit to most small presses. And if none of those appeal to you, you can self-publish through smashwords or Amazon, etc. If you go the self-publishing route, though, you’re in charge of EVERYTHING. You need to write the best book you can write, make sure it’s clean of any errors, find a topnotch cover, format it, load it, and promote it. And remember. A book cover is usually the first thing a reader notices. It gives a “feel” of what the book’s about, but you don’t have to pay a fortune to get a good one.

No matter what you do, you need to be willing to promote yourself. You need a webpage, a blog (on your webpage or separate), and you should be on twitter and facebook. I have a friends’ facebook page separate from my author’s facebook page. And there are theories about the best way to use all of them. I’ve found #MondayBlogs useful on twitter, but there are more writer twitter hashtags. Paula Reed Nancarrow (whose blog I love for many different reasons) did a survey on twitter and blogging and wrote a few posts on the results. Here’s one of them: http://paulareednancarrow.com/2015/03/23/twitter-bloggers-and-communities-of-practice/

Another blog I always recommend for marketing is Lindsay Buroker’s. Most of us won’t have the success she has (she knew marketing and blogs before she started writing), but she’s happy to share what works for her and what doesn’t. http://www.lindsayburoker.com/amazon-kindle-sales/my-self-publishing-thoughts-after-50000-ebook-sales/ I’ve learned a lot from her blogs. Here’s another one of hers I found useful:
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book.

Can’t think of anything to blog about? Try Molly Greene’s link: http://www.molly-greene.com/101-blog-topic-ideas/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=evergreen_post_tweeter&utm_campaign=website But remember. When you blog, you’re trying to build an “author platform,” to “brand” yourself. Another blogger I recommend for marketing is Rachel Thompson: http://badredheadmedia.com/2013/12/06/branding-101-authors/. A second, good post on branding by her: http://www.bookpromotion.com/brand-author-book/. She’s worth following.

Just to give you a checklist, these are good for marketing: twitter, facebook, a blog, and a webpage. Most experts suggest blogging at least once a week. Some authors use blog tours to promote their books before they come out. I’ve never done that, but I know authors who’ve had success with it and some who haven’t. If any of you have tried it, I’d be curious if you liked it. I can tell you that I’ve been happy with some of the paid advertisements I’ve used to promote my books and novella bundles. I can recommend kboards and Ereader News Today. They’ve worked for me anyway. And many of them aren’t that expensive. Most have a variety of packages. Anyway, I’ve run on enough for one post. Good luck with whatever you’re working on!

twitter: @judypost
webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
author’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Writing–End of Year Thoughts

Do you know, when I first started writing aeons ago when cave men used pigments on stone walls, people kept telling me, “If you want to be published, write a good book.” Quality, according to them, was your only concern. If your book was good, someone would buy it. I’ve been on writing panels where I hear writers spout that same wisdom. Do I agree? Bull Pucky!

I’ve met wonderful writers who knock their heads against the Great Wall of Publishing. Why? Publishers are concerned with making money. Can’t blame them. They can’t keep their profits afloat each time a child believes and claps his hands. It worked for Tinker Bell, but businesses have to pay attention to the bottom line. I understand that. I just wish publishers embraced mid-list writers a little more. Everyone’s looking for the “BIG” book these days. Or the latest trend. I used to be perfectly happy buying a lot of mid-list authors.

Mid-list probably still wouldn’t help me sell. I seem to be one of those writers who’s always writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. There are authors who hit the hot trend at its upswing and ride it to success. I’m not one of them. I’m one of the writers who gets notes from editors who say, “love your writing, but can’t buy this. The market’s glutted.”

I’m not trying to pierce anyone’s balloon, but if you write what an editor has too many of and the market’s shrinking, it doesn’t matter if your writing’s topnotch. No one’s going to buy your stuff. That used to be the end of it. You tossed your book in a drawer and gave up on it. These days, you can try your hand at self-publishing. That’s what I did, and I’m happy about it. But…here I go again…if you go that route, you’d better be ready to learn some marketing. Because there are a LOT of books on Amazon or smashwords or Barnes & Noble or wherever it is you decide to try. And if your field was glutted with publishers, it’s going to be even more glutted online. So you have to figure out a way to help readers find you. My stab at marketing? I started this blog, made an author’s Facebook page, made a webpage, and joined twitter. Did it help me find readers? Darned if I know. Did it make my sales go up? Not that I’ve noticed. But I’ve made lots of online friends whom I enjoy and appreciate AND learn from. I still had to turn to some advertising sites, though, to promote my books when they went up…with mixed success.

Another truth, some people are going to dislike or hate whatever you do, and it rankles and hurts at first, but it’s okay. You can’t please everyone. Some writers say your novel is too bland if a few people don’t trash it. But hopefully, eventually more readers will find it who’ll appreciate it.

Things I’ve learned:

1. I should have started with a series. And I should have put up three books in that series in quick succession.
2. Book covers matter. Make yours good! Make them fit your genre, and make each book in a series have the “feel” of the other books in the series.
3. It helps to post things more often than not to remind readers that your characters are doing interesting things that they’ll enjoy. Some writers post novellas between their books just to keep their readers happy. Or they post out-takes from their novels or short snippets from a minor character’s POV. I’ve tried that with my webpage. I’m not sure how successful that’s been, but then, I did everything wrong, so doing a few things right isn’t going to take right away.
4. Marketing is essential. Twitter helps, but I can’t say that I’ve sold a lot of books because I tweet. I have, however, learned a lot from other generous writers on twitter–things that have proven helpful. I love writing my blog, but I’m not sure it’s helped me sell books. Again, though, I’ve met some interesting, wonderful people. My author facebook page is still a mystery to me, but I’m getting more comfortable on it. For the first time ever, I sent out an e-mail newsletter to people who signed up to receive it, and my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if she’d have heard all the cussing involved in setting up my account and campaign on MailChimp. I’m no computer guru, and every time I have to learn something new, it’s a challenge. MailChimp felt more like torture, but I love the results. Too soon to know if it’s effective or not, but it’s my attempt at reaching READERS.
5. Writing a good book might not help you sell your first book or find a publisher or an agent, but it WILL help you sell the second one in the series. Readers know quality when they meet it. So make your book the best it can be.

This isn’t an all-inclusive post. It’s an end-of-the-year look back at what worked and didn’t work for me. I hope 2014 was good to you, and I hope 2015 is even better. Keep writing and good luck!

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
My newsletter: http://eepurl.com/_P_Eb
At twitter: @judypost

Listening to other writers

I mention my writers’ group a lot on this blog. My husband is really supportive of my writing. So are my family and friends. I’m lucky. They all ask about what I’m working on and genuinely care. When I wax too lyrical about the nuts and bolts of plotting, pacing, or marketing, they do their best to hang in there, but no one really appreciates the nitty gritty of a job like the people who are doing it. If a group of teachers get together, they talk teaching. Nurses talk about nursing. And writers…well, we talk about writing. Getting together with my group, twice a month, is a chance to talk about craft, frustrations, and news.

The other place I enjoy talking with fellow writers is on twitter (@judypost). Twitter has writers of every genre and every level of success. It has people who specialize in marketing and the business side of writing. It has bloggers who list reviews. It’s a nice place to meet new people and keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening. And it has experts who share their advice.
If you’re not on twitter, you should be. If you are on twitter, be warned–it can become habit forming. I have to limit my time there so that I actually WRITE, not just talk about writing.

Every once in a while, I list links where I find really good information on writing or marketing. I’ve found all of these because of twitter. I think they’re good, so I thought I’d share them with you.

For marketing, I think it’s hard to beat Lindsay Buroker. http://www.lindsayburoker.com/book-marketing/newsletters-101-email-marketing-for-authors/ Her advice is practical and straightforward.

I also recommend Rachel Thompson’s tweets and links: http://rachelintheoc.com/2014/03/favorite-tools-create-visual-content/

For writing techniques, I’ve enjoyed K.M. Weiland’s posts: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2014/03/character-arcs-4.html
and on character reactions:
http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2014/05/character-reactions.html

I also like Chuck Wendig’s blog–but he can be a bit irreverent and may swear occasionally–
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/04/16/ten-things-id-like-to-say-to-young-writers/–(probably why I like him:)

Someone on twitter sent me the link to Jim Butcher’s blogs on scene & sequence. Both good:
http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/2647.html http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/2880.html

This blog post is mostly about sharing with you. I’ve enjoyed these, hope you do, too. Happy writing!

Writing: you cross lots of finish lines to reach the Derby

My husband and I just finished watching the Kentucky Derby, and when it was finished, he said, “It’s sort of like writing, isn’t it?” “How?” I asked. “It takes picking the right horse, tons of training, and crossing lots of finish lines to be a contender.”

After I thought about, he’s right. A writer has to find a niche for himself–whether it’s writing fantasy, romance, mystery, or literary–and then he has to find a way to be unique from the other writers in that niche. I write urban fantasy, and that means readers expect certain elements when they pick up my books, but each writer puts a unique twist on those elements to make the genre their own. Ilona Andrews is different than Patricia Briggs, who’s different from Jennifer Estep, who’s different from Faith Hunter. And once a writer has found how to follow the rules of the genre in his own way, he’s found a niche. It’s the horse he’s going to ride to the finish line, if he’s lucky. Of course, sometimes the niche becomes glutted or half-dead, and then a writer has to find a new horse or decide to hope for the best and stick it out.

The only way to be a good writer is to write. A person has to master the craft of writing–plotting and pacing, varying sentence structure and writing dialogue, grammar and spelling, etc–as well as finding his own voice and style. That’s where the training comes in. And it’s not just the actual act of writing he needs to learn. There’s a fine line between listening to criticism to make his writing better and listening to criticism to the point that he tries to please everyone and loses his own voice. I’ve met writers who won’t listen to anyone and they never fix their mistakes. I’ve also met writers who listen to everyone and end up with a homogenized nothing. Too far one way or the other does a writer no favors.

The last part of horse racing is crossing the finishing line. But to reach the Kentucky Derby, most horses have raced in lots of others races to hone their skills. Writers, hoping to have a career, have to cross lots of finish lines, too. First, they have to decide on their niche. Then they have to find a way for their story/book to be unique. Then they have to FINISH their story–
and that’s an accomplishment, in itself, but it’s only one finish line. Next, they have to DO something with their books. They can try for an agent, an editor, or self-publish. Whichever way they go, once they accomplish that, they’ve crossed one more finish line–a substantial one, but there are more races to go.

Even published writers have to market themselves anymore. Most authors write blogs or have webpages. A lot of them tweet and have Facebook pages. They advertise and promote. They work to “brand” themselves, so that when a reader hears their name, they think of a product. These days, marketing is a finish line almost every author needs to cross.

Not every horse reaches the Kentucky Derby. Only one horse wins it. The same is true for writers. Some of us are still working to win small races. A few have won more races and sold enough books to have earned a name and a career. Fewer still hit the jackpot. But a writer can’t win if he doesn’t race. The odds are against winning the Derby, but there are smaller victories along the way.

My big dream? Someday, I want to go to the Romantic Times convention, not as a fan, but as an author who might have fans stand in line for me to sign my books. But I have a few more finish lines to cross before that ever happens. So I’m going to keep busy until it’s off to the races! You should, too.

P.S. I put a new post on my webpage for May. http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/