Why Do I Need Twitter? By Lorie Ham

promophotoI have been writing forever, and have five published mystery novels. I have always tried to stay on top of what sort of free publicity there is out there because like all of us my budget for promotion has been small to nothing.

 

Five years ago, I ventured out into a new area of publishing–I now publish an online magazine called Kings River Life. Again faced with pretty much a zero promotion budget, and the fact that if no one knows we are there no one will read us–I began researching even more what was out there. This has also given me the opportunity to see the results of what others do as well. We publish a lot of book reviews and I can tell you right now that the authors who understand the importance of not only Facebook, but also Twitter, are the ones who bring readers over to read those reviews. I would imagine this also translates into more sales for the author in other areas too. I have seen our reviews of the books of older, big name authors, who have refused to jump on board with social media get very few hits. While at the same time, I have seen an indie, or even a self-published, author who has embraced social media, get a lot of hits on our review of their book.

 

Yes, we still need to write a quality book or else even if you can get everyone to read the first book, they won’t be coming back for more. But these days we have to let the world know we are out there and there’s no better, or more inexpensive way, than social media.

 

Now I’ve also seen those who only embrace Facebook, and at least they are doing that. But they say they just don’t get Twitter or don’t like Twitter. Well learning about Twitter is now part of the job and it really doesn’t matter if we like it. Facebook loves to put up road blocks to promotion because they want us all to pay them money for ads now, so while it still has value for promotion, it doesn’t have nearly the value it used to have. That is why I love Twitter and am moving to focus more of my efforts there. There’s also the fact that people who follow you on Twitter are expecting to hear about your books–that’s why they follow you. So they aren’t going to complain that they are getting spammed like they might with email, or complain that the only reason you are on there is for promotion like some do on Facebook. That IS why you are there and that is why they are following you. They want to know about your latest book.

 

However, there are some things to keep in mind about Twitter. A lot of the people following you want more than just promo. They want fun tidbits thrown their way–info about your books, or your characters, or maybe even you, that they won’t get anywhere else. Or maybe special giveaways just for them! So don’t just tweet that your latest book is out, or that a review is up–give them something more. Really, that’s what most people want who like your page on Facebook too–you need to give them a reason to keep checking your page, or following you.

 

And there’s also the fact that we are all busier now, and the young people of today have much shorter attention spans, so people of today are more krl_logo(2)originallikely to keep up with you on Twitter, which only allows for something short. I have to admit–I pay way more attention to what’s on Twitter than Facebook from just a personal standpoint.

 

A great example of an author who knows how to do Twitter right is Cleo Coyle. Check out her Twitter at @CleoCoyle. I also hope you check out and follow Kings River Life on Twitter as we share every week about our articles and mystery book giveaways-you can find us at @kingsriverlife. My hope with KRL’s Twitter is to be including even more fun extra things later this year. I hope you also check out the magazine as we have a big mystery section with mystery reviews, book giveaways, articles, and short stories up every week http://www.kingsriverlife.com.

 

So if you have been dragging your feet when it comes to Twitter I’m here to say stop it! Get yourself over to Twitter and start learning how to do it and start engaging your readers. It’s part of the job now! Best of luck.

 

Lorie Lewis Ham has been publishing her writing since the age of 13 & singing since the age of 5. She worked for her local newspaper off and on for years, and in 2010 became the editor-in-chief and publisher of Kings River Life Magazine http://www.KingsRiverLife.com. She has also published 5 mystery novels–you can learn more about her mystery writing on her blog http://mysteryratscloset.blogspot.com/.

 

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Selling Your Novel to Readers – A Malice Domestic Report by Catherine Dilts

CatherineDilts_authorphoto_2-blog

 

When I attended the traditional mystery convention Malice Domestic this May, I had to overcome my reluctance to push my book. I’m an introvert, with a wide streak of shy. Schmoozing with strangers is my idea of torture.

Many authors seem to thrive on social media and self-promotion. Not me. My career path never even veered close to sales. That alien territory is fraught with rejection. I will admit I have sold quite a few Girl Scout cookies in my day, but seriously, those Thin Mints sell themselves.

Before my book came out, I did some research on book promotion. I hoped to discover a magic formula for what worked and what didn’t. There is no formula. Whether your novel is traditionally published, like mine, or indie, the correct approach to selling that book is as individual as the author. All promotion involves time, effort, and a bit of luck.

 

Here are some helpful hints I picked up on my journey:

  1. Don’t wear heels if you’re a sneakers kind of person. Find what you’re comfortable with, and don’t force yourself to spend time on promotional 05-01-14_sign-blogefforts you really hate. In my case, with a demanding day job, time is very limited. I focus my energy on my website and blog, Goodreads, and a few carefully selected in-person events.
  2. Not everyone likes Thin Mints. Don’t take rejection of your book personally. Focus on selling to your audience. At a book event, a woman glanced at the cover of my murder mystery, and declared she never read anything negative. Ouch! I smiled and nodded as I considered creative ways to do away with rude people. In a fictional manner, of course. I’ve had plenty more people tell me they love mysteries. There’s a market!
  3. Readers want you to succeed. The most important thing I learned at Malice Domestic is that readers have voracious appetites for fiction, and are excited to make new discoveries.
  4. Can you make a career off one novel? Harper Lee did it with To Kill A Mockingbird. But I’ve seen more success among authors, in any genre, who keep the good stories coming.
  5. Don’t stop writing because you’re promoting your new release. Keep working on your next story!

Conferences are good places to gain exposure to potential readers. I went to Malice Domestic because the focus is on the traditional mystery, cozies, and amateur sleuth novels. The conference offered authors multiple opportunities to pitch their novels to readers of murder mysteries.

The first morning, I sat in on Malice-Go-Round, an intense session where authors circulate around the room giving two-minute pitches at dozens of tables. I congratulated myself for not signing up for the frenetic event. I would have been in a straight jacket by the end.

Then the woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “I can go home now.”

I needed clarification. She explained that this was what she came for every year. She was kidding about leaving. She would stay the entire weekend, but Malice-Go-Round was the highlight. I noticed readers scribbling notes as authors gave their two-minute pitches. People were making purchasing decisions, some for libraries.

I did sign up for the New Author Breakfast. Dozens of authors gave timed pitches to the entire room. I was still a nervous wreck, but at least it was over quickly. A hint to new authors – try to sit near an exit for that last minute dash to the facilities for cases of nervous tummy. Just sayin’.

The panel was where I really hit my stride. The focus was on my novel and my writing process, not me. I wasn’t alone. Three other authors participated in a panel on the topic of regional settings. The audience was lively, and seemed eager to find a new series or author.

Lessons learned?

  • Find the promotional methods that work for you.
  • Focus on your audience.
  • Feed your readers’ appetites with new stories.

 

You might have to step out of your comfort zone to reach your readers. That doesn’t mean you need to tackle all forms of social media, public speaking, or other means of publicity. Genre-specific conventions like Malice Domestic are a great way to promote your novel to a receptive audience.

 

Links:

1)      Malice Domestic – http://www.malicedomestic.org/

2)      Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/

3)      For more one hit novel wonders – http://listverse.com/2008/02/07/top-10-literary-one-hit-wonders/

4)      Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery : Amazon – http://amzn.to/18R60gQ

Tattered Cover independent bookstore – http://bit.ly/IC97SG Barnes and Noble – http://bit.ly/1bFVaQz

 

 

Biography:StoneColdDeadFront_blog

Catherine Dilts writes amateur sleuth mysteries set in the Colorado mountains. In her debut novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, business is as dead as a dinosaur, but when Morgan Iverson finds the body of a Goth teen on a hiking trail, more than just the family rock shop could become extinct. Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short fiction appears in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at http://www.catherinedilts.com/

Getting publicity when you’re anti-social by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

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As fiction writers, we often use what we know for our novels. We produce characters who are based on people and associates we know, although we likely make them do things the person who inspired them wouldn’t dream of doing. We get plot ideas and dialogue lines from eavesdropping in restaurants and waiting in line, especially now that so many people share the most intimate details of their lives in overly loud voices while on a cell phone. We use personal experiences in our stories and may even make our protagonist’s occupation one we’ve had…well maybe not every writer does that, but as a Realtor with stories to tell, I sure do.

Once we’ve produced our book and it’s time to start marketing it, we have other options besides relying on social media for promotion. Using what we know can work for publicity, too. Sure, it’s easier for non-fiction writers to do or for fiction writers who happen to have written a book about a “hot topic” to get the word out about their book, but all fiction writers have opportunities.

Start locally and use what you know. Contact local newspapers and tell them one of their readers has written a new book. Most will at least squeeze a mention of your book into their publication; many will give you an article complete with pictures.

Approach groups in your community and offer to be free entertainment for them. I’m not a member of the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, a retired school teacher group, a government worker organization, or a senior citizen group, but all have had me speak. All sorts of groups would all like to hear what a member of the community has accomplished. They will probably give you a meal and many of their members will buy your book, especially when you inscribe a copy as a gift for their favorite aunt. In this vein, don’t forget to look for retirement communities and even large mobile home communities for speaking engagements.

Sadly, my community has been losing bookstores. Fortunately I live in a tourist town and my books are set in that location. Some stores where tourists visit carry my books and sell more than our local bookstore. I suggested people would find it entertaining to read a story about where they are visiting to the store owners. (Turns out I was right.) Look for your community’s odd venues and ask to do a book signing; it’s a great excuse for more publicity in the local media for you and the venue hosting you and they don’t have to make an ongoing commitment to stock your book.

If your profession happens to be one that puts out a newsletter or regular publication, you can hit gold. When I was an active Realtor who began writing mysteries with an amateur sleuth/real estate agent protagonist, I looked up the editor of the (now online) book review section in The National Association of Realtors monthly magazine. I sent her a book, called her, and pitched how other Realtors would get a kick out of reading something that wasn’t a how-to book. She gave me a nice review and article that went to almost every Realtor in the country.

Even if your profession won’t help you, a membership could. Are there any Costco members here? I used the same approach to get my second book in The Costco Connection, another national monthly.

Don’t hesitate to cast your net wider. There’s a great free service called HARO (Help a Reporter Out) that media of all kind use. Members ask for opinions and help with projects they are working on in exchange for credit and publicity. I responded to a query about why people retired at 62 instead of waiting longer and wound up talking about writing books for CNN.com.

A HARO connection is also how my cat Fala, who happens to be the official spokescat for my books with her own official YouTube video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFswH3zplhE, is going to be in a piece for Ladies Home Journal (pets with funny names) and why I was interviewed for a Bloomberg News story about “love letters” buyers write to sellers and was able to use a couple of pages from one of my books to illustrate my point. My newest mystery, The Murder House, may have ghosts in it. That’s why I’ve been invited to a couple of ghost hunting sites to discuss the book.

Come on. You Write. You have creative minds. Use them to come up with connections and make your pitch. The worst thing that can happen is someone will say no. But think of what can happen when they say yes.

 ~~~~~

Nancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. Writing is her newest adventure and she’s been having so much fun doing it that she’s finally acknowledged she’ll never sell another house. She let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her Haunted house halloween pumpkinstwenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.

She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences. Check out The Murder House by Nancy Lynn Jarvis.

I Would Like to Thank the Academy… by Debra Borys

“Excuse me?” I asked my publisher.  “I must have heard you wrong.  You said 60, right, the book sold 60 copies the first month?  That’s Debra Boryspretty good for a first novel, isn’t it?”

“I said 6.  The book sold 6 total copies the first month.”

I started counting on my fingers. Mom. My two sisters. Eight members of my writers group. Ten regular attendees of the coffee house group I met with monthly who were all excited and congratulatory when I first told them I’d found a publisher. And that didn’t even factor in the numerous friends, acquaintances, cousins, and neighbors I’d been casually mentioning my release date to whenever I had a chance.  Six copies just did not compute.

A genius is never appreciated in her own environment.

THE DARK SIDE OF LOVE

I understood that an unknown author might not quickly pick up new fans, but I couldn’t imagine that everyone I knew hadn’t rushed online to buy a copy within days of hearing the news that the book was available.  After all, that was one of the most exciting days of my life. Perhaps, however, I was being unrealistic.  Not everyone would make it a priority to purchase immediately.  They had their own lives after all and their own priorities.

So I waited, optimistic and patient despite the warning signs.  One person surprised me by saying she just couldn’t get into it when I’d been sure it was exactly the type of book she’d love.  When my mother and I ran into friends of hers I hadn’t met, she’d proudly introduce me as simply “my oldest” rather than “my daughter, the author.”

The arrival of my yearly royalty statement the following January added the death knell to my expectations. No best seller list for me and my brilliant suspense novel. Despite the 4- and 5-star reviews, it was not yet time to quit the day job and buy a writer’s cottage along the Oregon coast. Even if every person I knew had gone out and bought a copy of the book, it was clear now that word of my Great American Novel had not spread far. My friends and family had not praised the work to everyone they knew, had possibly not even mentioned it once in passing to another human being.

The thing about friends and family and spouses is that both you and they have a handicap called Unconditional Love.  Normally a virtue, UL has a dark side. The people who best love me are so assured of my success it never occurs to them I might need their help to achieve it.  I am so confident they support me I expect them to know my expectations and hopes without my saying a word.

BUY MY BOOK

With my second book released and 10,000 words written on the third, I have learned a lot about writing and promoting.  Mainly that mixing the two often produces an oily sheen on the clear-flowing waters of creativity. Stirring promotional expectations into relationships muddies the waters even further.

Marketing is your responsibility and that of any professional whose job it is to do so: your publisher, your agent, publicists you hire, and writers organizations you join. It is not the concern of people who know you. Stop expecting them to promote the book.  Stop expecting them, even, to buy the book. Their job is to pick up the tab at lunch once in a while, send you birthday cards, and make you laugh when you just feel like crying.

However, when appropriate—if they ask, if the opportunity arises and the person seems open to it—don’t be afraid to suggest (key note here: suggest implies using a friendly, undemanding, and non-bitter tone) specific ways they can help you spread the word.

  • Attend my book signings
  • Share my Tweets, Pinups, Tumbles, and Facebook statuses
  • Mention my book to friends
  • Post a review
  • Buy copies of the book to give as presents
  • Comment occasionally on my blog posts, guest articles, and social media statuses
  • Paint the cover of my novel on the side of your house and rent one of those flashing neon arrows to point to it.

Okay, maybe not that last one.  Unless they really, really want to.  Regardless of how much they spread the word, or don’t, it is important for me to remember the one support they have always provided and still do: accept me as the weird, quirky, anti-social writer that I am so that I will continue to sit at the keyboard and put down one word after the other after the other.

For that at least, they deserve a mention in my Pulitzer prize acceptance speech.

~~~~~

Bend Me -Torn PaperBend Me, Shape Me is the second novel in the author’s Street Stories suspense series and was released in 2013 by New Libri Press

Snow Ramirez hasn’t trusted anyone in a very long time, not even herself. Memories of her childhood on Washington’s Yakama Reservation haunt her even on the streets of Chicago. When her squat mate Blitz slits his own throat in front of her, she knows it’s time to convince someone to trust her instincts. Normally she wouldn’t care. Who wasn’t crazy in one way or another in this messed up world?  Snow’s little brother Alley, though, there might still be time to save him. If only she can get reporter Jo Sullivan to believe her story before Snow loses her own mind.

Debra R. Borys released her first novel, Painted Black, in 2012.  The Street Stories series combines the gritty reality of homeless life on the Chicago streets with bizarre and quirky suspense plots.  Debra uses her personal experiences from years of volunteering with service agencies in both Chicago and Seattle to bring the characters and streets to life in these fast-paced, gripping tales. She currently works as a freelance writer and editor and is working on a third Street Stories novel.

More info can be found on her websites www.Debra-R-Borys.com and www.StreetStoriesSuspenseNovels.com or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/deb.borys and Twitter @debborys.

What’s your plan to increase sales this year? PJ Nunn

PJIt’s a New Year, after all. And the voices we listen to in the publishing world are once again speaking of change. The ebook world has plateaued but where do we go from here? Bob Mayer offers 10 predictions, but also mentions that he likes to be spontaneous, while one of his partners at Cool Gus Publishing likes to carefully plan things out with spreadsheets and calculations. My deduction? Not the same things work for everyone. We all have to be willing to pull away from the crowd and ferret out what works for us. We also need to learn to delegate – staff our weaknesses.

Unfortunately for some, from my seat as a publicist, that is still an issue. Far too many authors, whether original Indies or those who’ve transferred over from traditional publishers, just don’t know for sure what works for them. They’ve either followed the crowd without question, or they’re in some sort of time lock, quoting things that worked when they were first published by Penguin back in the 80s. Guess what?

Out of curiosity, I purchased a couple of ebooks last year with titles along the lines of How to Make $50,000 a month with Kindle (I hope that’s not a true title – I changed the names to avoid annoying anyone in particular). how-can-i-make-a-millionWhat I found was interesting. First, the two books were not much alike as far as the “how” although both spouted many, many numbers that ultimately didn’t make much sense to me. Second, they both seemed to be sincerely trying to convey helpful information. The bottom line, though, was I didn’t take away anything from either that felt like adequate advice that I could apply to my own plan to increase sales for my books. My conclusion? My “cynical self” deduced that the way they increased their ebook sales to magnanimous proportions was to write a book with that title and promote the heck out of it! How could you not buy it if it held that kind of secret??

My more “realistic self” suspects that the authors really started out to share useful information, but somehow stopped short in the area of theory before reaching practical application. I’m sure there are more authors who opt for Bob Mayer’s “spontaneous” approach, not necessarily because it’s best or even works for them, but because it’s all they know to do. I’m deeply wedged in the plotting and planning group. My background in psychology and the horrors of the statistics classes I had to pass to get my degree have the words “cause” and “effect” firmly carved in my brain. If it works, or if it doesn’t, I want to know why.

So here’s my suggestion as you start out this fresh New Year:

  • Record – Spend the next couple of weeks journaling all of your promotional activities without trying to determine cause and effect. If you post tweets, record it. If you note an upswing (or otherwise) in sales, record it. Time for drawing conclusions later.
  • Research – Also spend some time doing research. Read blogs and articles from people who know. Never take anything on the internet at face value – know something about the person writing it. There are a lot of knowledgeable professionals sharing info out there, but there are also a lot of author who talk like they know but don’t have the numbers or the experience to back it up.
  • Renew – Set aside some time to review the information you’ve gathered. Once you’ve gone over it, it’s time to make a plan for this year.

Ask yourself:

What is my ultimate goal? This should be something about the number of books you’d like to sell, not what show you’d like to be on.

What activities will best help me reach that goal? There should be several, and a variety of types. This can be a rather extensive list including reviews, website, blog, speaking engagements, print and broadcast media, convention attendance and more.

When and where should these activities take place? This will involve a calendar.

Who should I enlist to help with some of the activities? This is where you staff your weakness. Be creative, but don’t try to do too much yourself. You must have time to write! How do you decide who does what? Some authors have friends and family they can enlist. I don’t recommend pairing up with other authors for this – they’re as busy as you are (although pairing up for events can be a good idea). When it comes to sending out review copies, designing print materials or web graphics, and scheduling speaking engagements or media, it’s probably best to stick with professionals, but there are many out there with varying degrees of experience and a wide range of fees. Take time to check around and see who’s the best fit for the job at hand!

And remember, once you have a plan that feels comfortable to you, don’t micromanage! Effective book promotion is a process. Slow and steady wins the race. Too many authors go from blitz to burnout to nothing, then start over at blitz again. It’s not effective. Stick with your plan without worrying about results or checking your numbers every day. Review your sales at about the 3 month mark, then again at 6 months. In truth, the promotion you do in those early months can still be working for you a year later. I know you’ve heard it from me before, but it’s still true. Whether you build a little snowman or a huge snowman, you still build it a handful of snow at a time and it’s really hard to tell which handful made the biggest difference.

Do any of you newer authors have questions to pose here?

Or do any of you with a few books under your belt have suggestions to help us all with our planning? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

An interview with Joann Smith Ainsworth

JoAnn sittingJoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced food ration books, Victory Gardens and black-out sirens as a child in WWII. These memories help her create vivid descriptions of time and place, which put you in the middle of the story as a participant in a fast-paced journey through paranormal realms as U.S. psychics hunt down Nazi spies.

Ms. Ainsworth lives in California. She has B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English and has completed her M.B.A. studies. Her agent is Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency.

PJ: How long have you been writing?

JA: I started writing novels in 1998 when approaching retirement. I needed a way to supplement my Social Security. I had a Bachelors and Masters in English and my MBA studies. I decided that “author” was the way to go since, as long as you write a great story, no one cares how old you are.

Little did I know how difficult it is to create a novel. Just having a story in your head isn’t enough. You have to know how to present the action on paper—how to evoke images in the mind’s eye of your reader to bring the story alive.

It took me four years of online classes to learn the craft techniques to create today’s fast-paced, commercial novel. The result was my medieval romance, Matilda’s Song.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

JA: I felt successful as a writer (and switched to calling myself an author) when I completed my first manuscript. A first manuscript is no small feat.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

JA: I didn’t realize that creating and selling today’s novel would be so difficult and so time consuming. Authors have to wait months and years to know if their submission resulted in a sale or a rejection. I have a file of rejection letters.

In the end I sold all five manuscripts to mid-level publishers and I’m under contract to an agent (Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency).

Your readers can follow my writing life by visiting Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth. To learn about my experiences during WWII and about writing a novel where the U.S. govt. recruits five psychics to locate Nazi spies on the East Coast, visit Facebook at JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

JA: I met a few wealthy authors, but most of us need a day job. My day job is Social Security.

At about 90 cents a book, an author needs a large readership to make a comfortable level of income. For most of us, this is a slow climb with Word of Mouth being our best marketing tool for building a solid readership base.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

JA: No change in my focus.

Each manuscript must be submitted to stand or fall on its own.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

JA: Ten years almost to the month after I started writing novels.

My first sale to Samhain was Out of the Dark, a medieval romantic suspense novel with a sight-impaired heroine.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

JA: I don’t think so. Everything was a learning experience. The setbacks made me a stronger author and a more targeted marketer.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

JA: I am disciplined to the point of being annoying about it. My mind separates tasks into categories. Stubborn determination will not let me slack off. Each category must be completed on schedule, if humanly possible.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

JA: The most exciting thing was opening the box of author copies and holding my first book in my hand.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

JA: Finding that there is no “coasting” for an author. There is always something to do and these days the competition is greater. Each year, my books must be brought to the attention of readers despite the millions of other published novels in bookstores.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

JA: The most memorable is that what started as a business proposition turned into a passion.

I write stories of self-awareness and self fulfillment in historical settings. The heroine becomes empowered as she tackles each story challenge and transforms into an indomitable woman. Even if I never sell another manuscript, I will continue to write these stories for the rest of my life.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

JA: My historical settings are so detailed that readers become immersed in the time period. My novels have a moral tone:  good eventually triumphs over evil. My stories entertain, inspire and keep the reader in suspense.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

JA: Never give up and never believe you’re too old to succeed. Keep getting up every time you get knocked down.

My fifth novel will release when I am 75 years old. It’s been a fifteen year journey, but I have touched my dream.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

JA: I believe we authors are our most effective tool in promoting. What we write comes from our hearts. We want to share our experiences and hope these experiences will inspire readers.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

JA: PINTEREST. I can keep track of 90,000 words, but I’m not visual. It’s difficult for me to think in terms of interesting graphics.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

JA: Many of the booksellers where I had signings and was on panels went out of business during economic downturn. For my recent release, POLITE ENEMIES, an historical western romance, I have author event invitations from Books, Inc. in Alameda (an independent bookstore) and from Barnes & Noble in Antioch.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

MATILDA’S SONG (978-1-60504-195-7)MatildaSong200x300

OutDark72webOUT OF THE DARK (978-1-60504-277-0)

POLITE ENEMIES (Book 1) (ebook:  978-1-61160-636-2; paper:  978-1-61160-590-7Polite-Enemies-COVER21

THE FARMER AND THE WOOD NYMPH (Book 2) (ebook ISBN:  978-1-61160-660-7) release Dec. 2013

EXPECT TROUBLE (print ISBN:  978-1-61009-074-2) release April 2014

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title, Polite Enemies:

IDA OSTERBACH survived range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the farm going through sheer grit and determination. The last thing she has time for is romance.

 

JARED BUELL was never particularly charitable to farmers, even eye-catching ones like Ida. When an old nemesis comes to town and threatens both of them, he has no choice but to get involved.

 

Experience this action-packed romp through 1895 Wyoming where Ida and Jared find love when they least expect it.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

JA: Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook and from independent bookstores which used Ingram as a distributor.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

JA: I awake each morning with energy and excitement because I have a new day to craft another novel.

Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself and my writing to your readers.

An interview with Mark Rusin

Mark Rusin with President Bill Clinton

Mark Rusin with President Bill Clinton

Mark Rusin was born and raised on the south side of Chicago.  He attended Quigley South High School and Western IllinoisUniversity, where he majored in law-enforcement administration (and ice hockey.)   Mark is a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer and retired ATF Special Agent.  During his law-enforcement career, Mark witnessed and investigated several major fire scenes, homicides, bombings, and other high-profile cases, which serve as inspiration for his stories.  He is a Chicago sports junkie and a published writer. This is his first crime novel.  Mark lives in the Chicago area with his wife, Marcie, where he continues to write stories and still dreams about playing hockey for his hometown Blackhawks.

How long have you been writing? 

I started writing short stories and poetry as far back as I can recall. In grade school I had a crush on this one cute girl in my class.  I wanted to impress her so I wrote her poems.  Turns out we dated for a long time but as we got older my poetry skills ultimately lost out to some older guy with money.

I also wrote my mom and dad poems over the years for their birthdays, anniversaries, mothers’ and fathers’ days and just to tell them how much I loved them.

Then when I was a Las Vegas cop we had to dictate our reports and they would get transcribed for us.  I saved copies of all my reports and just elaborated with more detail as I prepared for court.  It also served to help me “vent” any time I was involved in any dangerous or overwhelming situation like a shooting where I almost got killed to homicides, suicides and the MGM Grand Hotel fire from where I pulled dead bodies.

In fact, I have kept a log of short stories or vignettes of the twenty craziest, scariest, funniest, saddest most unbelievable calls I handled in my four years of patrolling the Las Vegas strip.  These stories are all told in first person as I responded to the scene.  They all intended to put the reader in the squad car with me or even in my shoes.  It is some very real, dangerous, funny and emotional stuff.

Believe it or not when you live and experience trauma first hand it is easy to write about, that is if you like to write.  Lucky for me, I love to write.

Then as an ATF Special Agent from 1983-1988 when I worked the street, I had to type out all my reports as these were pre-computer days.  I got pretty good at that as well.  I also kept great notes and a diary for which I used to draw stories from, like my crime novel JUSTICE FOR DALLAS.

 

At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

I have always thought that I can tell a good copper story with the best of them.  With over 30 years in the law enforcement business I have seen some stuff.  That is why I have a unique perspective from which to tell my stories.  I was there.  It’s not a cop telling a writer a story and then he or she writes about it.

My wonderful wife Marcie, who I have written a few poems to over the past 28 years, has been supportive all along and very adamant that I could write well.  I always thought she was just saying that because she loves me and didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

Some say I look like a cop, act like a cop, walk like a cop and talk like a cop.  I am a cop for crying out loud.  What did you expect?  I also write like a cop and basically give the facts without the fluff.  I guess that is what a ghostwriter is for.  I am a writer all right, but not a ghost.

In 1980, I experienced one of the most traumatic tragedies in our lifetimes.  I helped pull dead bodies out of the MGM Grand hotel fire in Las Vegas.  It was a night I will never forget.

In 1990, some ten years after the fire I wrote about my observations from that night.  It was a very vivid “first responder” recollection of my actions and emotions as I worked the scene.

I let my wife read it and a few close friends and I got the same reaction I wanted.  Everyone who read the article cried, including me!

In 2005, on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy I sent the article to The Las Vegas Review Journal Newspaper and they called me and flew me out to meet with them.  They decided to dedicate a pull out section of the Sunday paper called “In Depth” about the fire and mine was to be a lead story.  I was very proud of that and still am to this day.

That is when I thought I had arrived as it was my first published article.  Needless to say my wonderful wife Marcie framed up the article very nicely and it proudly hangs in our home today.

 

 

 

Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

It’s too early to tell.  I will say this however as a brief observation that I find amusing.  As soon as someone finds out you wrote a book they want to be your friend and they want a signed copy of the book and hopefully for free.  I could just be some jerk sitting at a bar or on a bus and nobody will even look at me or give me the time of day.  Then they hear you are an author and they want to shake your hand and be your best friend. It’s crazy.

Not to take a slam at authors but I would hope people would want to shake my hand and say “thanks” once they hear I am a retired law enforcement official who routinely put my life on the line for people like them and other strangers.  With that they could care less.  But they hear you are an author and they want to be your friend and say they know you.  It’s the damnedest thing.

Then of course all my buddies break my stones and want me to sign a bunch of books that they can then sell and make a few bucks on.  See, I really am from Chicago.

The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

I can tell you that thus far I have not made dime one on this project.  In fact, I am out approximately $20,000 to date because I had to hire a ghostwriter and a publicist if I wanted to get published.  I also had to pay for a professional cover designer, website professional and formatter up front.

This is my first book and I learned publishers won’t talk to you if you aren’t represented by an agent.  Agents won’t talk to you because you are not yet a published author.  It is a vicious circle and I learned you have to self-publish your first book to prove you are “sales-worthy.”  If you are, agents who know publishers will follow.

If you think about it they all minimize their risks as most authors who think they can write don’t sell.  However, if they come to an agent with a proven sales sheet, the agent minimizes their risk as they now are representing a known “money maker.”  It doesn’t even matter if the author can write or not as sales are all that matter.

I can tell you that I am confident in my ability to tell a story and I believe I have a unique perspective and experiences to draw from.

In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that this novel will eventually become a screenplay and then a movie as soon as the right people discover it.

In the meantime will readers want to pay to hear my story?  I guess that’s the exciting part and remains to be seen.

Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

I would really like to get this novel written as a screenplay and turned into a movie.  If you think about it this story has it all.  A biker related quadruple homicide, arson, witness intimidation, knifing, attempted murders and good old fashioned police work. 

How long did it take you to get published the first time?

It took me about 10 years to write the story.  I then found a ghostwriter/editor (Priscilla Barton) who helped me get it “published ready.”  After entering several contests to no avail and discussions with several publishers to no avail, we decided to self publish.

Priscilla did her homework here and found a great cover designer and formatter.

Also to be very candid, I am not sure how the sales will go on this project so we decided to do it ourselves and see where it leads us.  The very least we felt we needed was to invest in a great publicist so we got the best in PJ Nunn from Breakthrough Promotions.

Once we decided to self publish it took just over a year.  This includes rewrites, cover and web design, formatting and printing of the advanced reader copies and their feedback.

Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

I would take the time to find someone locally who is multi-talented to include writing, editing & publishing who has a certain amount of time to dedicate to the project.  For instance we need to meet face to face to exchange ideas and discuss expectations, deadlines, problems and any other issues that are relevant.

I believe it is possible to do things via email, however working remotely caused me too much frustration and down time. 

Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

 I need hands on assistance in naming a goal and then executing a game plan to achieve that goal.  Otherwise it is a “hit and miss” operation that I am not comfortable with.  As I stated earlier I believe in the team approach very personal and hands on to look together to accomplish a goal or due date.  This approach also leads to the freshest ideas in writing from those involved.

What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 I am looking forward to seeing how our promotions and sales go once the book is released October 15.  This will serve as a good indicator whether or not people will part with their hard earned money to read what I have to write.  At the very least I will soon be able to check “write a book” off my bucket list.

What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

I really thought that what I had to bring to the table would have publishers jump at my project.  Not to even get a nibble was very humbling to me.  I always thought they would like to hear from a retired Federal Agent and Author but it’s not that easy.

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

One lady told me it (JUSTICE FOR DALLAS) was the best book she has read since The Firm.  She said she couldn’t put it down and if this doesn’t make the New York Times best seller list she will eat her hat.  That was pretty cool.  I said, “Thanks a lot, mom.”

Actually that quote came from Ms. Nanci Wudel of Mesa, AZ.

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

I am very confident that my writing style has a unique way of bringing the reader into the story or crime scene.  As far as I know there aren’t too many Retired ATF Special Agents who are currently Authors.  The fact that ATF is such a controversial Federal Agency should also work in my favor I believe.

There is no doubt that I have witnessed a lot of stuff in my 30 plus years in law enforcement.  Some crazy, some scary, some dangerous, some funny but rest assured I always tried to do the right thing.  I couldn’t help but get emotionally involved at times and just living through it and witnessing it gave me a different perspective on life.

The most exciting thing about being a cop remains that when the bell rings you go and you often go alone.  All cops are heroes no matter what anybody says.

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Don’t give up…don’t ever give up.

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

My experience and background allows me to discuss the scenes in detail because they are all inspired by actual events.

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title: Justice for Dallas

Butch Crowley

He ruled the Iron Cobras

No one could touch him

No one could stop him

Until ATF Special Agent Marko Novak

And his small force of men

Swore they’d bring him down.

Where can we buy it?

Amazon.com         after October 15, 2013

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

I still dream about playing hockey for my hometown Blackhawks