Have you seen my book?

I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful writers as friends.  I belong to a writing group, and so many of the members have so much talent.  But we all write for different reasons.  And we all differ on how much we want to invest in what.

A few of our members write because they WANT to, and producing a high quality finished product is their only goal.  They write for themselves, for pleasure.  They study books to improve their skills and listen to critiques, but they don’t want to go through the torture of submitting to an agent or even self-publishing.  They join Scribes because they care about the craft of writing and work hard to make their stories better and better.  And that’s enough.

A few of our members share their work with us, listen to every critique we give, and  work hard to create something worth publishing.  And then they choose to self-publish on Amazon to share their works with friends and family, and that’s enough.  They don’t want to market.  They shy away from promotions and feel awkward “bragging” about themselves.

Then there are members who put their work on Amazon and sit back to watch it sell.  I used to tell my writing friends, “No one comes to knock on your door to ask if you have a manuscript to sell.”  If people don’t know  it’s there, they can’t find it.  Now I tell them that you have to invest a decent amount of work to stand out from the millions of other writers hawking their books.  And that’s where the rest of us in our group fall.  We’ve put our books out there, finding agents or publishers or small publishers or self-publishing.  But we know that’s only a step.  And we also know that the road to marketing and promoting is slippery and devious.

What worked five years ago might not work now.  When I first put my urban fantasy online, authors had a chance of getting their books on BookBub.  BookBub advertises discounted books to millions of readers who sign up for specific genres.  These days, though, getting an ad on BookBub is like winning the lottery.  Without my publisher, I wouldn’t have had much  of a chance.  Plus, it’s expensive.  For my niche–cozy mysteries–Bookbub now e-mails news of a discount to 2,780,000 readers.  If I make my book free, I have to pay $707 for it being listed ONE day.  If I only discount it, I pay more.  It’s so hard to get on BookBub that other book advertisers have gone into business, but when I’ve used them, I’ve had mixed results.  I had some success with Facebook ads for a while, but it’s no guarantee more people will find my book.  A friend’s having success with Amazon ads, but I haven’t tried those.

Other than advertising, there are other options for authors to help readers find their work.  I’ve done blog tours, sometimes with success, sometimes not so much.  For some books, doing #1linewed on twitter has helped my rankings go up.  I’ve had some luck using Debbie Macomber’s Book Launch Checklist:  https://insights.bookbub.com/book-launch-checklist-marketing-timeline-traditionally-published-authors/?utm_source=guest-debbie-macomber&utm_medium=email  .  She recommends changing your twitter header once a month to get readers interested in a new book.  She changes her Facebook header, too.  I’ve been doing that, and I do think it helps.

And that brings me to canva.com.  https://www.canva.com.    I don’t have photoshop, but I really like canva.  I can type “twitter header’ in the search line and it gives me templates to choose from–templates that are sized to correctly fit each header.  I had to give myself permission to play with it for a while and mess things up before I actually tried to create a header I like.  Now, when I’m ready to start promoting a book, I try to create five or six twitter headers, so I can change them up when people grow blind to the one that’s been there.   Example:  Here’s one twitter header I created for The Body in the Wetlands:


The Body in the Wetlands--twitter header 1.5

Some writers use their blogs or webpages to connect with readers, and many ask readers to sign up to receive an e-mail newsletter.  I’m finally getting more followers on BookBub when I write reviews for the books I’ve read.  Whatever an author chooses, it’s an investment in time to try to connect with his/her readers.  I think it’s sort of fun.  But I always have to remember ads and promotions won’t do any good if I don’t write books, so writing time has to be sacred.

So for all of you, Hit Those Keys and Happy Writing!

How do I love thee, food?

Okay, I’ve confessed before, but I love to cook.  It’s been interesting with my broken leg.  I can’t stand up and balance long enough to fix a meal, so my poor husband’s been pressed into duty.  John was a good cook when I married him, but he was glad to pass the skillet to me as soon as possible.  Now, he grills, but he even does that less and less.  He says it’s because I’m such a good cook.  I suspect he thinks flattery will get him out of kitchen duty. But his standards have gotten a lot higher year after year.  He loves sauces and glazes.  He loves the little extras, so he doesn’t want something simple night after night.  He gets tired of take-out.  So now, I roll myself into the kitchen in my wheelchair and we walk through recipes together.  And to tell you the truth, that’s pretty fun for me.  Maybe not as much for him:)

A long time ago, my agent asked me if I’d like to include recipes with my novels, because my characters always cook and share meals together.  That’s how my family and friends bond…over food.  We eat meals and yak and catch up with each other.  My sister Patty and my cousin Jenny are coming to see me tonight, and John and I have a pork roast (with a rub) in the slow cooker to shred for pulled pork, and cole slaw, and chips.  When we think people, we think “feed them.”

My friend Mary Lou teases me that I’m one of those people who talk about what I’m going to cook while I’m eating what I’ve already cooked.  Guilty as charged.  My friend Paula brings me special spices back from her trips to Israel, and I love her for it.   I have files full of recipes, and I tinker with all of them, but I’m never sure how much I need to change a recipe I’ve found in a magazine before I can call it my own.  So I’ve always shied away from calling something “mine.”

Kensington, however, loves to promote authors who have food in their novels by sharing recipes online.  If you mention a food in your book, they’ll ask you to share the recipe.  So finally, I’ve gotten braver and sent them recipes for a few of the things that my chef, Tyne, (in book 4) makes at Ian’s inn.  Tyne has traveled the world to hone his skills.  I haven’t, and I don’t have the budget Ian’s resort does.  So I sent in my versions (simpler and cheaper) of Tyne’s dishes.  It was fun. If one of them is chosen for their publicity site, I hope people try them and like them.

My family’s pretty adventurous.  My daughter Holly loves Mexican and Thai food.  She also loves cassoulets.  What can I say?  She lived with a chef for a few years.  I had to step up my game.  John loves salmon, seafood, and Creole.  Tyler loves Asian, curries, and spicy.     They all love Italian and barbecue.  None of them like repetition.  If I make chicken piccata at the beginning of the month and make it again at the end of the month, I hear, “Didn’t you just make that?”

They’re all spoiled.  But so am I.  So it’s been fun trying to share recipes with readers.  And I love it when my friends cook for me.  We all get sick of our own cooking, no matter how many recipes we have.

This has been sort of a ramble, and you might not like to cook, but happy writing!




Writing–& Mood Swings

cover_mockup_25_thumb  (coming this week)

I don’t talk about marketing very often.  There are plenty of blogs out there, written by people a lot smarter and savvier than I am when it comes to promoting their work.  I respect and admire them…and appreciate how much they share about what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.   One of my favorites is Lindsay Buroker’s blog.  http://www.lindsayburoker.com/  She’s worth looking at.

After I read one of her past posts, I offered my novel, Fallen Angels, for free for 4 days on Kindle Select when I put up the 2nd novel in the series–Blood Bound.  I’ve never done that before, and it was a wonderful experience.  I paid to advertise on Book Bub (which was worth every penny), and over 18,000 people downloaded Fallen Angels.  Remember.  It was free, so I made no money on those downloads, but my reviews went from 11 to 38, (all but one good), and some people went on to buy the second Enoch book.

One or two reviews came in a day for a while.  It became a habit to start my computer every morning and check my amazon page before I started writing.  Each good review gave me a big push to start work for the day.   And guess what?  In the  middle of the novella I was working on at the time, even with all the good feedback, I could think of all the things I might do wrong.

The promotion was from May 19 to 22, and the fun times are finally beginning to dim.  My numbers are starting to sink, but I learned something important from the experience.  Writers ALWAYS worry about their work.

What is it about writing?  No matter what happens, no matter how good the news, each new story is a challenge.  Did I get the characters right?  Is there a story arc?  Is it a good one?  I’m not the only writer who does this.  I read a blog recently that made me feel a lot better.  http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2013/06/11-tips-on-how-to-become-better-writer.html  According to Karen Woodward, almost EVERY writer hits a point where he looks at the manuscript he’s working on and wonders what the heck he was thinking.

I’ve written long enough to know that when I start a story,  in my mind, I’m a wonderful writer.  When I finish it, I’m not so good.  But when I think of the next idea, I’m brilliant.  There seems to be no middle ground.  And I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Because if you agonize over each scene, each character, it makes you push yourself harder.

Sometime next week, I’m putting up a bundle of 4 Death & Loralei novellas.  Three have previously been published.  The fourth and last one in that series is new.  I liked SPIRIT BOUND when I finished it.  It turned out better than I expected.  Will readers like it?  I can never tell.  And I always worry.  But then, that’s part of writing, isn’t it?