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

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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.

An interview with Mike Witzgall

407I’m delighted to introduce you to Mike Witzgall (if you don’t know him yet) or to share this news with those of you who’ve known him for a while. Many first met him when he and his wife Shelly handled the mock crime scenes for us at our Criminal Pursuits conferences. You know that he’s full of information and probably a few other things, and that’s he’s loads of fun. But you might not have known what a great writer he is! A very pleasant surprise. Enjoy!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

MW: Starting in 1992 I started writing technical articles about law enforcement training – specifically, SWAT and Special Operations. Since then, I have written 15 published articles and 8 SWAT training manuals. I started writing fiction about 5 years ago.

I got interested in writing fiction over a period of several years – during those years; I was a guest speaker at several mystery writer’s conferences. I spoke on everything from police shoot outs to knife and bullet wounds. I loved it! What I learned at those conferences was (a) everyone has a story to tell including me and; (b) if you are not writing your story, someone else is!  

PJ: What types of things have you written?

MW: To this point, mostly technical articles. Sentinel’s Choice is my first shot at fiction.

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

MW: I’ll have to let you know one this one!

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

MW: It is and it isn’t! I love the time I spend writing and creating a story. But I was surprised at how long and in depth the editing would be.

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

MW: Most writers ‘write’ because it’s a passion they have. Very few actually make a living at it. Since I am new to all this, I haven’t made much – but there is always tomorrow!

PJ: How did your work as a police officer prepare you or enable you to write mystery? Give an example if possible.

MW: One thing we teach rookies in the academies is that every crime committed is actually a mystery waiting to be solved. Sometimes there is an element of a thriller to it and sometimes not. Look at the Beltway Sniper incident (circa 2002). I was not remotely involved in the investigation, but as a citizen and a cop, I followed the story/investigation closely. Looking back on it, it had all the elements of murder mystery/thriller. It had the murders of innocent people, it had (in this case media induced) false leads, it had the confusion that almost all investigations have, etc. The end (the motive) was nothing like any of us thought it would be. It was about insurance!

My honest belief is that darn near every cop in America could be a mystery/thriller writer if they just took the time to do so.

PJ: Are you able to use real situations as inspiration? Can you share any with us?

MW: Almost everything that happened in the book (with the exception of the actual story line) to the protagonist happened to me or officers that I worked with at some point in my career.  Real life situational inspiration is easy to find in a law enforcement career. My best story (that I used) was when Ren and Tex are clearing a house alone. As they make entry they realize that the house is incredibly hot inside – every heating unit that can be on is turned up full blast (including the fire place, oven and space heaters). This greatly accelerated the decomposition of the murdered victim.

PJ: You and Shelly were huge assets to us when we were hosting Criminal Pursuits conferences for writers. How do you think the examination of the mock crime scenes most helped crime writers?

MW: Our hope was that we taught the writers some things about murder investigations and how difficult it is to investigate one.

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?

MW: Actually very poorly, but I am learning! I actually have had to write out a daily itinerary that I follow.

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

MW: Getting the work finally published and out on the market!

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

MW: That things took so long. Nobody’s fault – it just took longer than I had expected.

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

MW: Well, it hasn’t happened yet… but I have a book signing on February 1st that I am really pumped about. Even if only one person shows up, I’ll be jazzed.

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

MW: Accuracy of location and police and investigative procedures. More than anything else, it’s a good story.

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

MW: Keep going! Don’t give up.

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

MW: Having a good editor, publicist and friends that will review your work and keep you on track.

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

MW: Since I am still learning… I’ll have to let ya know on this.

If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Sentinel’s Choice – you’ll want to be in on Mike’s new career from the beginning! And do stop in Barnes & Noble in Cedar Hill TX on Saturday Feb. 1 at 2pm – there’ll be a party going on!

http://www.mikewitzgall.com

An interview with N.S. Wikarski

NS WikarskiI first met N.S. Wikarski when she hired me to help with one of her first books some years ago. I was immediately entranced with her unique writing style and have not been disappointed since. I think you’ll be equally engaged if you’ll take a look at this new series she’s working on now…

PJ: How long have you been writing?

NW: Since I majored in literature at school, I suppose I’ve been writing all of my adult life. However, I didn’t get serious about writing my first novel until I hit 40. It must have been part of my subliminal bucket list. Since that time I’ve penned five books with a sixth in the works and three more planned after that.

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

NW: Being a writer is a dream job for me because of the freedom and flexibility it gives. I can work at my own pace and set my own schedule. The writing and research aspects of the work are exactly what I expected and also what I wanted.

The part I didn’t expect was how much marketing I’d have to do. Promoting myself isn’t a task I enjoy. Writing is easy. Marketing is hard. At some point, I suppose the momentum will catch up but right now I still need to devote a good deal of time to spreading the word about my books.

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

NW: Within a year or so it will live up to my expectations but it takes a very long time to build a fan base as an independent author. At this point, I have a steady income stream but I would like to see the currency flow a little faster.

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

NW: I think I would have placed more confidence in myself from the start. At the beginning I didn’t understand that other people’s opinions of my work are simply that—other people’s opinions. Even professionals in the field (agents, editors) are usually guided by nothing more than their own emotional reactions. Ultimately, if I’m convinced that I’ve written the best book I possibly could, then that’s all that matters.

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?

NW: By temperament, I’m frighteningly organized—a natural born multi-tasker. I think that’s what a writer needs to be given the number of plates we have to spin in the air. When I was much younger (and therefore more naive) I thought a writer could sit in a romantically shabby garret somewhere and just write.  I neglected to notice that those were the writers who usually starved to death.

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

NW: Getting a perceptive comment from a reviewer or reader that tells me they actually “get” what I’m doing.  People, as readers, bring a lifetime of baggage to each book they pick up. It will color their reaction to the material in a way that an author can never foresee. It’s heaven to read comments that actually demonstrate that a particular reader had their eyes open and connected with the material in my books in a way that I intended.

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

NW: Having to deal with people in the industry who don’t find any value in my work. At one time, those people were the gatekeepers of what eventually made it into print. Thankfully that’s no longer the case. In any event, I’ve learned to ignore that sort and seek out the fans who do value what I’m doing. Much to my delight, there are a lot of them out there.

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

NW: When the first book in my Arkana series came out, Kindle Nation called me the “next Dan Brown.” Since up to that point I’d been working in a vacuum with no feedback, I was really pleased by that compliment. The Da Vinci Code is one of my favorite books.

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

NW: I’m doing something in the Arkana series that nobody else is. I’ve taken a highly controversial theory about the lost pre-patriarchal past of the human race and fictionalized it in a way that makes those ideas accessible to a mainstream audience. The books challenge all our notions about gender relations but not in a dry, academic way. There’s murder, mystery, secret societies, exotic locations, and some endearingly quirky characters thrown into the mix. The reader is meant to come away with an entirely new perspective on the world but also be entertained in the process.

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

NW: Virtual book tours have worked out quite well for me.  Since I have a limited amount of time available for traditional book promotion, virtual tours are a great way to increase the awareness of my work with a minimal amount of effort on my part. I’ve also found that having periodic free ebook promotions has raised the visibility of my titles on the Amazon best seller lists.

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

NW: I really dislike social media. I’m a very private person by nature and I find it absolutely baffling when I read some of the comments that people feel compelled to share with the world at large. While I think Facebook or Twitter are great ways to connect with fans you already have, I don’t think they’re very effective in attracting new fans. For a long time I felt guilty about my unwillingness to tweet or blog but then I read some statistics demonstrating that those methods don’t really work to build a fan base. Then I felt much, much less guilty about my natural reticence.

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

Chicago Gilded Age Mysteries:

The Fall Of White City

Shrouded In Thought

Arkana Archaeological Thrillers:Dragons Wing Enigma cover

The Granite Key

The Mountain Mother Cipher

The Dragon’s Wing Enigma

The Riddle Of The Diamond Dove (December, 2013)

PJ: Where can we buy them?

NW: All my books are available in trade paperback and Kindle format through Amazon.

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

NW: I think most people assume that writers love to write about everything all the time. They have this image of starry-eyed authors walking around in a permanent fog, pen in hand, waiting for their muse to strike. I don’t fit that image. I only write stories I feel compelled to tell. The rest of the time I’d be just as happy gardening.

An interview with Kathryn Primm, DVM

2010-09-07 20.15.52 Kathryn Primm has dreamed of being a veterinarian since the age of five. She grew up in Chattanooga, graduating from Girls Preparatory School and accepting an academic scholarship from Mississippi State University where she completed a degree in Biological Sciences as well as her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine.

Applebrook Animal Hospital is a dream come true for her and she will laugh and say that it is built of her “blood, sweat and tears.”

As a pet owner of two cats and Dora, a rescued Great Dane, Dr. Primm knows the challenges of keeping fur-friends happy and healthy. Helping pets and people is her passion and her mission, loving the job is an extra bonus!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

KP: Probably two years, but I have always been a storyteller at heart.

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

KP: I do not think I have reached that point yet.

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

No, I was unprepared for all the revisions, but the promotion has been very much more fun than I thought!

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

KP: Haha, I have only just begun but I have a “day job” without which I would not write at all! I find it amusing that the public thinks that. We all accept that artists are starving for their craft,  but somehow writers are making the “big bucks”.

PJ: Wouldn’t you love to prove them right? Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

KP: Now my focus is more about marketing. Since I have published this book and I think it is worth sharing, I want to be sure that people know about it,

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

KP: I am self published, but hired an editor who was wonderful and insisted that we not push publication until we agreed it was ready, so we did several months of revision. From the first word of the first story, it was around 18 months.

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

KP: I would plan better now that I know more about publication. I would make sure that I submitted my manuscript to the appropriate reviewers pre publication.

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?

KP: I have a LOT of energy and I am very excited about Tennessee Tails.  I am going to do everything I can and just run on the excitement for fuel! My job as a veterinarian keeps me focused and I have learned a lot about multitasking in it.

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

I am an avid reader, so the first time I saw my book for sale next to all the other books on an online retailer, it really hit me. I felt so excited and overwhelmed. I remember wanting to shout from the rooftops and I took a picture of the listing.

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

KP: Somehow I guess I thought that people would automatically know about my book and want to read it. I have a love affair with books and animals and since my book combines them, I guess I thought everyone would just know about it instantly. I never realized how much work and patience were involved in getting the word out.

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

KP: Good : When I was asked to speak at the vet school, I was pretty excited. I remember being a student in the very room I will speak.

Bad: When I first contacted potential publicists, the very first one instantly replied to my inquiry that she did NOT handle books that had already been published. It made me feel very small.

PJ: Isn’t that interesting? I haven’t heard that one before. With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

KP: The stories do not have “fluff” to make them better. They are entertaining, touching and honest and I tried hard to make it an easy read that reaches any animal lover’s heart.

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

KP: Always follow your dreams. Never give up and believe in yourself.

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

KP: I think that I am the most important tool in promotion. If I am not willing to put forth effort, the promotion will fail.

PJ: I must admit, your enthusiasm is quite contagious! What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

KP: Patience has been the biggest challenge for me in the whole process. Everything moves slower than I would like.

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

KP: Sadly we do not.

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

Just the one, Tennessee Tails

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

Stories about pets and the people whose lives are made better because of their relationships. Just like people, pets have their own tales to tell if we watch and listen. There is always something that we can learn from each other.

Where can we buy it?

Amazon. Kindle http://tinyurl.com/tennesseetails

Barnes and Noble. com  http://tinyurl.com/qehzowd

and I have copies in my animal hospital where many of the stories took place.

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

These stories are so close to my heart, I even had a hard time changing the names to protect privacy. I wanted to relay them faithfully as I remember them. I guess you could say that “literary license” was a hard concept for someone as completely guileless as I am! Since I am still the owner and primary vet at Applebrook Animal Hospital, my work is always “to be continued.”

I am, admittedly, a pet lover. Dogs and cats especially. But even if you’re not a pet lover, I bet you know someone who’d love this book!

An interview with Sherria Grubbs

Sherria GrubbsSherria L. Grubbs lives in North Carolina with her husband.  She is a teacher in one of North Carolina’s public school systems.  She has been writing poetry since she was in the sixth grade as a release and to lift her spirits. She considered her writing more of a hobby than a gift until recently, when she began sharing her poems with others.  Through the encouragement of her daughter and husband, she was inspired to create a book of her poems to share with others.  It is her belief that the poems she writes comes straight from the heart! http://deepconnectionsbook.com

PJ: How long have you been writing?

 

SG: I started writing poetry when I was about 12 years old, but at the age of 16 was when I began to write and keep my poems in a journal.

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

 

SG: I don’t know if I have ever reached that place.  I did begin to feel like I had something worth sharing maybe about a year or two ago.

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

 

SG: When I started, I didn’t have any expectations.  However, with that being said, it is more than what I expected it to be, if that makes any sense.

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

 

SG: My focus is really just about reaching people.  I feel like if something in my book can touch someone in some way, then it is worthy of publishing.

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

 

SG: I don’t know if I would do anything differently.  I think things happen the way they are supposed to, so I am not sure I would do something differently.

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?

 

SG: This is hard and something that I am still struggling with.  Finding the time to do everything that needs to be done as it relates to my book and new material is very difficult so I just try to take one day at a time and get done what I can and somehow it all works out in the end.

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

 

SG: One of the most exciting things that happened to me as a writer was when a much older lady wrote me a poem to thank me for writing my book and for sharing her life story/my life story with her!

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

 

SG: I think the most difficult thing for me as a writer was finding out that not all publishing companies are honest and loyal to authors.

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

 

SG: The most memorable thing for me while promoting my work was my book release party.  It was amazing, the turn out was amazing and ended up being standing room only.  Everyone who helped out were like angels sent from God.  They helped to make my book release party the most memorable and best event that I ever had!

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

 

SG: I think my book says things that people feel but are afraid to say and because of this many people can relate to it!  My book unlike others speaks to the heart

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

 

SG: Don’t give up.  If your desire is to have your work published, believe it and it will happen despite whatever obstacles may come your way.Deep Connections

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Deep Connections: A Book Of Poetry Straight From The Heart

Where can we buy it?
www.deepconectionsbook.comamazon.com, and barnesandnobles.com

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

 

SG: I’m not sure if no one knows this but I am very transparent in my book and it truly is a book of poems that come straight from my heart!

An interview with L.M. Preston

LM PrestonLM Preston is a recent acquaintance of mine. She’s extremely talented and writes YA novels with a compelling and captivating voice!  She’s also incredibly nice and works hard to help other authors get noticed in the NA and YA realm. Get to know her, please!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

LM: I’d been writing since I was 12 yrs old, then life happened at 21 yrs old and I stopped writing until just 7 yrs ago.

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

LM: When someone I didn’t know purchased my first book. I know that’s not much to some people but I felt honored to have just one person who doesn’t know me read and enjoy my stories.

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

LM: The writing life is not what I expected. I have to do more than write. I have to write, promote, be social, and constantly improve my art. Not to mention, because of writing I’ve met some amazing people that I would never have met had I not been writing.

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

LM: Ha! The starving artist is more like it. I never did it for money. However, I did start turning a profit about 3 yrs ago, which is good for any business. Also, I do believe I’m wealthy, with love and support from people who never knew me before they experienced my stories.

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

LM: Nothing. Mistakes are great teachers. Everything I have learned on this journey of writing has made me rich beyond the books I’ve written.

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

LM: Meeting LA Banks! Oh my gosh, she was an amazing inspiration to me and a beautiful spirit. I would’ve never, ever had the chance to meet her face to face had I not been a writer and had a really good excuse to invite her to meet me in DC 😀

Purgatory_Reign_cover0012

Purgatory Reign by LM Preston
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance, Action Adventure

Book Trailer Linkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atvKA9E4bPI&feature=youtu.be

Read samplehttp://www.freado.com/book/13273/purgatory-reign

Release Dates:
eBook (March 2013)
Print (May 2013)

Pre-Order:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Purgatory-Reign-Series/dp/0985025131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344012202&sr=8-1&keywords=purgatory+reign+by+lm+preston

B&Nhttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/purgatory-reign-l-m-preston/1112078542?ean=9780985025137

Smashwordshttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/285543

Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15815030-purgatory-reign?ac=1

An interview with Randy Richardson

Randy Richardson is fabulous! And I’m not just saying that because I have the pleasure of working for him, although that’s certainly one of the perks of my job. His writing is fresh and innovative; his demeanor is the same. And, he’s just a really good guy. He doesn’t write mystery, per se, but then life is mystery and he writes life. If you haven’t read one of his books yet, I promise doing so will enrich your life. I hope you enjoy!

PJ: Randy, how long have you been writing?

Randy: I’m probably considered a late-bloomer when it comes to creative writing. I studied just about everything but creative writing in college. I earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, a master’s degree in journalism, and finally a law degree. Never took one creative writing class through all those degrees. While working as a lawyer, at the ripe age of 33, I got this seed in my head for a novel. That seed grew into Lost in the Ivy, a murder mystery set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.  I’m now 50 and just published my second novel, Cheeseland. So, how long have I been writing? Well, you can do the math, I suppose. But I think I have always been a writer, it just took me some time to accept that and, obviously, I took a circuitous route to becoming one.

PJ: It seems to me that you select your topics with great care. How do you decide what you’re going to write?

Randy: Well, I pick topics that interest me.

My first novel, Lost in the Ivy, for example, is a murder mystery set against the backdrop of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. I’m a die-hard Cubs’ fan (I know, woe is me, right?), so this was obviously a topic that interested me.  I took that interest an extra notch by constructing a story arc that followed the heart of a Cubs’ fan.  If you’re a Cubs fan, you already know the story.  There is going to be hope and there is going to be pain and anguish and ultimately futility.

In Cheeseland, my second novel, I tackled much more serious issues, including teen suicide.  The story isn’t about suicide, but rather about boys and how they tent to avoid confronting difficult issues, like suicide, only to have them fester and grow over time.  In this case, I constructed a road trip that took thirty years to complete – a road trip becomes a roller-coaster ride. One moment the reader laughs along with the characters and the next he is crying along with them.

The one thread that ties both novels together is that the seeds for both were inspired by true events from my life, but I suppose that’s another question.

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

Randy: Do writers ever reach that place? I suppose the answer depends on how you define success as a writer.  Creative writing, for me, is a hobby; it’s not my profession. So I don’t measure my success by money. I also don’t define it by sales, or awards or other kinds of recognition. To me, success is writing the story I wanted to tell the way that I wanted to tell it. Simple as that. By that measure, I suppose I have achieved success as a writer, because I’ve been able to write two novels the way that I wanted to write them.

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

Randy: I don’t know if I had any expectations when I started out. I was pretty naïve, for sure. That might have been for the best in some ways. If I’d known then how hard it can be, I’m not sure I would have chosen such a path. Would anyone? The reality is that I don’t think I chose it so much as it chose me. By that I mean, that writer is inside me. I probably did just about everything I could to deny that I was a writer, as evidenced by my college choices.  Once I accepted that part of me, I found out how hard it can be. Then I found that it doesn’t have to be so hard.  There are a lot of others out there struggling, just as I did. That’s how I came to get involved in the Chicago Writers Association, a nonprofit organization of which I now serve as president.  I saw that writing is much more than just the act of writing, and that we, as writers, can help one another to achieve our writing goals, no matter what those goals may be. We can all learn from one another and support each other along the way. So, for me, the biggest difference from when I just started out and now, is that I’ve got an entire community of writers to help me along the way.

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

Randy: They really think that? They must be reading too much fiction! I know very few writers who are making a living solely from writing. As I mentioned earlier, creative writing, for me, is a hobby; it’s not my profession.  I earn a living as a lawyer. There’s a part of me that has fantasized about being John Grisham or Stephen King, but there’s another part of me that wouldn’t want any part of that kind of success. The demands they face, both in terms of writing and publicity, have to be all-consuming. It’s a big price to pay. As it is now, I write on my own schedule and write only what I want to write – not what an agent or an editor or a publisher is telling me to write. Do I hope that others will like what I like? Of course I do. We all want some degree of acceptance of our work. But at the same time I don’t think I’d be happy writing if writing were my job. It would feel like a job, and I already have one of those and don’t really want another one.

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

Randy: I honestly don’t think about getting published until I’ve written something that I feel is worthy of publication.  I try not to be influenced by the publishing marketplace, because it is too fluid, too temperamental. One day everyone wants vampire stories and the next they want erotica.  I simply try to write the best story I can write. To me, the one thing that always sells is a good story.

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

Randy: Well, that’s a long story in itself, filled with rejections, disappointments, mistakes, and even death. The death part was quite tragic. I was scheduled to meet a small mom-and-pop publisher, and the night before I was to travel to meet with them, I got a call from the pop that the mom had died, quite unexpectedly, and that the pop wouldn’t be continuing the business. The biggest disappointment was with a bigger indie press that rejected the manuscript at the last level after reviewing it for six months. The mistake was giving up at some level after all of those disappointments and making the choice to publish with a POD publisher that claimed to be something that it wasn’t. That was a tough lesson to learn, but I really don’t regret that it happened. I always take such lessons as exactly that, lessons. We learn from them, hopefully, and don’t make the same mistakes. This is another reason why it is helpful to have the support of a writing community where you can learn and share information with one another so that others don’t make the same mistakes.

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

Randy: Would I have done things differently knowing what I know now? Yes. But, again, I look at those pitfalls as part of the learning process. Was it a tough price to pay? Yes.  Have I recovered from it? I think so. I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am today, leading a 400-member writing community, if not for those mistakes I made in the past. I can’t dwell on those past mistakes. I learn from them and I move on, and I try to help steer others in the right direction.

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?

Randy: Like just about everybody else, time is probably my biggest challenge. I have a day job as an attorney, I have a volunteer job as president of a 400-member writing community, and I have a family. I have to squeeze in writing whenever I can. Lunch breaks. Late at night, after everyone else is asleep. I also give up a lot of things I used to enjoy, like TV and movies. The reality is that my family and my job have to come first, and there isn’t a whole lot of time left over for writing. Fortunately, for me, I don’t have to make a living as a writer. That’s what my day job is for. I write for the love of writing. I honestly don’t think I could make a career as a writer. I’m much too slow. I am always amazed at these authors who are able to crank out a novel every six months.  Both of my novels, from start to finish, took about seven years. My son was just a baby when I began writing Cheeseland. It was released just a few days before he turned 9.

Even though writing is not my job, I still try to present myself to the world as a professional author. I’ve found that the only way I am able to do that is to break up all those various parts of the writing life into segments. I do one segment at a time and never overlap segments. When I’m promoting a book, for example, I set aside 9 months where that’s the only segment of my writing life that I’m doing. After those 9 months are over, I call it quits on marketing and shift gears back into writing.

The simple answer to the question, for me, is that I can’t give adequate attention to all needed areas, so I break them up as best I can and focus on one at a time and do each as best as I possibly can.

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

Randy: It hasn’t happened yet, but it will happen, any day now. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the next. I don’t know, but I know it will happen. All authors have to believe this, don’t they? Isn’t that what keeps us going? Isn’t that why we’re sneaking peeks at those Amazon rankings or those GoodReads reviews every chance we get? I think maybe it just happened. I better check those Amazon rankings again.

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

Randy: This has happened, and it stung. Rejection always stings. It is that girl who turned you down for the Homecoming dance, or that job you really, really wanted. I wanted that one publisher to say ‘yes’, when I was shopping that first manuscript. They said ‘yes’ twice, but then said ‘no’. You forget about those two yeses but you never forget that one no. You keep asking what did I do wrong? What could I have done better? The questions are unanswerable. Sometimes it is nothing you did. You’re just not what they’re looking for. Doesn’t matter, it still stings. A lot.

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

Randy: This is a true story of my first book tour, when I was promoting Lost in the Ivy, where I really hit the road. It is a story that is, I think, a little sad but more funny than anything. It, to me, represents the life that we, as authors, have chosen to take when we set about on a book promotion tour. I had traveled from my hometown in Chicago to the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.  The previous day I’d spent at a literacy bookfair in Waynesboro, Virginia, a small town nestled in the scenic and historic Shenandoah Valley. I’d driven two and a half hours through a rainstorm to get to D.C. This is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote later, titled “Only in America.”

Overnight, the skies finally cleared. Bright and early that morning, I beat the tourist buses and toured The Capitol Mall for the first time since I was a toddler. Take away the politicians, and it’s a pretty amazing place.

From there, I went to a less impressive mall, The Shops at Georgetown Center, where I did a book signing at Waldenbooks. I didn’t have huge expectations for this but I at the very least thought that the bookstore would know I was coming. They didn’t, even though my publicist had confirmed with them – not once, not twice, but three times. Which just goes to show that you should never have any expectations when it comes to book tours.

I will say that the assistant manager at Waldenbooks was quite apologetic and accommodating and quickly tried to make amends by setting up a table for me. In two hours there, I sold a couple of books. One went to a friend of a friend who was kind enough to make a special trip to see me. The other went to a woman who was touring D.C. with her son, Raffi, to whom she wanted the book signed.

Before I learned that she was from Austria, I asked the woman if her son is a baseball fan (my book of course having a baseball theme).

“No, I think he is now a fan of America, though,” she said.

Now there is at least one copy of my book in a home somewhere in Austria.

I signed eight other books that were put on display by the front desk, and then drove off to my final stop, which I thought was going to be a bookstore but turned out to be a Middle Eastern restaurant that used to also be a bookstore. A few weeks ago they went out of the bookstore business. That brings us back to rule No. 1: Never have any expectations when it comes to book tours.

I didn’t sell any books at that Middle Eastern restaurant, but I got a really nice dinner on the house. Unfortunately I came two days too late for the belly dancing. Next time I’ll have to plan better.

PJ: Unbelievable! Oh the glamour of an author’s life, eh? With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Randy: I think what sets my work apart is that you get a lot thrown into a small package. I write small stories that both entertain and hopefully make you think.  You get thrown on an emotional roller-coaster where you’ll laughing at one moment and then crying or screaming at the next. In the end, I hope they are stories that make you think and stick with you for a while.

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

Randy: Don’t think about publication. Just write. Write the best damned book you can write. Then start thinking about publication. If the book is good, really good, they will come.

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

Randy: This may go against the grain a bit, but I don’t think that book reviews, or book signings, or radio or TV appearances (Oprah was once the exception but she’s too busy promoting herself now to promote other authors) are the most effective tools for promoting your published work. They’re all necessary, and I think that all authors should do all of them, but the most effective tool, in my mind, is the one that doesn’t cost a penny. It does take time and it does take energy but it doesn’t cost money. It is word of mouth. It is building a community of fans and friends who are writers, through social media and your website and through writing groups and writing events. There’s a sense of paying it forward to the writing life, and I try to always say yes to fans and other authors, because you never know when you might need them, when they might be able to help you. I’ve built a whole network of writing friends through my work with the Chicago Writers Association, and all of those relationships have paid off in various ways. I found a publisher for my latest release through a connection I made with CWA. When I needed blurbs for the back of the book, I called upon some of the amazing writing friends I’ve made over the last few years. Every single one I asked said yes. The point is, we, as writers, are all in this same leaky boat together. We can all help one another, we can not only stop that boat from sinking, we can patch it up and make it sea-worthy again.

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

Randy: Standing in front of a crowd, looking at their eyes, and opening my mouth. It terrifies me. I suspect that it comes as a surprise that a lawyer and the president of a 400-member writers’ organization would find public speaking to be a challenge, but I’ve never been comfortable with it. I’ve battled shyness all my life. I’ve never conquered it. But I keep putting myself out there, even though I don’t enjoy it. I’m sure I’m not alone. We, as writers, tend to communicate better through the written as opposed to the spoken word. We tend to work in solitude. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But we’ve got to do it. If you’re going to be successful as a writer, you have to get up and speak in front of a crowd. That’s part of the business. I tell all writers not to wait until that book is published. Get up off that seat and out of that writing cave and get yourself to a local reading event. Start reading your words in public. Now. It’s a great way to meet other writers, it’s a great way to start building a fan base, and it’s a great way to learn to build confidence as a public speaker.

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

I love all independent booksellers, but my personal favorite is The Book Cellar, located in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. Operated by Suzy Takacs, The Book Cellar has been an ardent and active supporter of local independent authors. They host a monthly Local Authors Night, which I will be reading at on November 15. Come on out. It’s a wonderful bookstore. They even serve beer and wine. What more could you possibly want out of a bookstore?

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

Novels

Lost in the Ivy (Out of Print, 2005)

Cheeseland (Eckhartz Press, 2012)

In addition, I have contributed to the following anthologies:

Chicken Soup for the Father and Son Soul (2008)

Humor for a Boomer’s Heart (2008)

The Big Book of Christmas Joy (2008)

Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year (Can’t Miss Press, 2008)

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

Cheeseland is Mystic River meets The Last Picture Show: a wild coming-of-age road trip that takes thirty years to complete.

Where can we buy it?

Cheeseland is available in trade paperback from Eckhartz Press (www.eckhartzpress.com) and in e-book format from Amazon, Sony, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

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

I mentioned that I took a rather circuitous route to becoming a writer and that I did just about everything other than write before I became a writer. I think most people would be surprised to know that I began college studying to be a pilot, a career that literally never took flight. I had been learning to fly single-engine Cessnas at Parks College in Cahokia, Illinois, and had collected nearly 40 hours of flying time. After my first solo flight, my legs were shaking uncontrollably and I realized that I probably wasn’t cut out to be a fly boy.

Randy, thanks for taking time to talk to us here! One thing’s for sure – you haven’t led a boring life! I hope this effort has gained you a few new fans. Now we’ll all know we have to pace ourselves and savor Cheeseland because it’ll be a while before your next book! Any comments for Randy?

An interview with Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen is …a little hard to describe. He’s one of the best writers I’ve known and deserves far more recognition than he gets, although he’s gaining on it. If you want funny, talented, creative, surprising, make-you-think kind of writing, this is it! I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Jeff for years now and I’m proud to call him friend. Here’s what he’s sharing with us today:

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Jeff: Today? About an hour and a half. Ever? Um, about fifty years, give or take. Professionally? Since 1979. I’m sorry–what was the question?

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

Jeff: I’ll let you know the minute I get there. I don’t think you ever do, but if I ever run into Stephen King, I’ll ask.

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

Jeff: It’s not at all different. You think of stuff, you try to write what you have in your head, it usually comes out a little bit different, and then you send it out there and hope people like it. The thing I’ve had to learn is promotion, and I’m still working on that.

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

Jeff: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

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

Jeff: I never went through that–my first book was bought for publication (by a very small publisher) in five days. So my focus hasn’t changed–it’s about continuing to be published, and that’s done by always writing the book I’d like to read. You can’t control anything else.

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

Jeff: I’d start sooner. I spent 20 years trying to sell screenplays and didn’t write my first novel until I was 42.

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?

Jeff: I probably don’t give enough time to promoting, but that’s because I don’t always have great ideas. The rest of it, in addition to teaching, studying for my masters degree (coming soon!) and doing other writing work, fits into a day. You write 1000 words a day, you’ll have 80,000 words in less than three months. Get writing.

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

Jeff: I love it when readers get in touch, or better, walk up to me at a convention or a signing. The most ego-boosting? Getting a blurb from the late and brilliant Larry Gelbart on my first novel.

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

Jeff: Being shown a poster promoting an appearance with an author picture on it. When I told the rep at the store that the picture was of someone who wasn’t me, he said, “Are you sure?”

PJ: LOL I hadn’t heard that one. This is why authors have to think fast on their feet. You just never know what you’ll run into. With more books being released each  month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Jeff: I think my work is funny but it doesn’t come at the expense of story or my favorite, characters. I like to write people–even ghosts–who seem like you could know them.

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

Jeff: I can’t tell you “how to do it,” but if it’s not the only thing you want to do, you should definitely do something else. It’s too hard to make a living this way to spend your time at it if it’s not your absolute dream.

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

Jeff: I’ve found that social media and Internet promotion have been the most cost effective. I’d like to be able to travel around to various bookstores, but I can’t afford it. I do what I can.

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

Jeff: The successful area.

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

Jeff: My friend Marilyn Thiele at Moonstone Mystery Books in Flemington, NJ is great at handselling and promotion. I visit her store every time a book comes out.

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

The Aaron Tucker Mystery series:

FOR WHOM THE MINIVAN ROLLS

A FAREWELL TO LEGS

AS DOG IS MY WITNESS

The Double Feature Mystery series:

SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED

IT HAPPENED ONE KNIFE

A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION

The Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series (as E.J. Copperman):

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED

AN UNINVITED GHOST

OLD HAUNTS

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

OLD HAUNTS: Alison owns a Jersey Shore guesthouse with two resident ghosts, and they want her to look up old loves. The problem? One of the exes is dead, one is missing, and Alison’s ex, “The Swine” is at her front door. It’s going to be an interesting week.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

Jeff: Anywhere books–or ebooks–are sold.

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

Jeff: I’m actually the power forward for the New York Knicks. That’s so little known that even I don’t know it. Neither do the Knicks.

PJ: I knew it!

See? Jeff’s  a riot. His writing is even better than that. Run, do not walk, to the nearest place you can to get a copy of his work! And please, keep telling him how great he is. Maybe sooner or later he’ll believe us!