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Posts Tagged ‘book publishing’

Life BalanceFor those who’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve likely noticed I’ve been suspiciously absent in my posts for some time. The reason is simple; life keeps getting in the way.

I didn’t set out to let this happen. Each day and each week kept getting busier and busier with so much stuff, and I told myself I’d get back to my blog next week. I didn’t. Then I realized I needed time to attend to life’s duties and the increasing demands to get my current WIP edited and in to my publisher. For those who aren’t writers, let me tell you, editing is a loooong, sloooow process that drives writers crazy. We can’t hurry it along (although we desperately want to), and we can’t take short cuts. It takes as long as it takes, and it’s not the fun part of writing. Still, it’s absolutely essential to creating something you want to put out there in a public format and ask people to purchase with their hard-earned dollars. In the end, it’s time well spent.

I’m also working with a new publisher, Books We Love (BWL). They are a Canadian publishing company that I have to say that I’m enjoying working with so far. They’ve been quick to respond to my emails and questions, and they’re diligent about staying on top of everything from editing to cover art and final preps for publishing a book. I like that, but it does mean I’m having to learn (and in some cases, re-learn) what I thought I knew about publishing, but that’s all to the good too.

The problem, as I was starting to see it, is that life kept getting in the way of my writing work. I started resenting not having the time to attend to my duties as a writer, or get the next blog posts written and published, or even breathing, it seemed.

Stumbling blockSo, I’m headed down one road when suddenly I’m tripping and stumbling over blocks in the road. I’m thrown on my ass, and it takes a while to figure out which way is up. We’re still dealing with the realities of aging parents and Alzheimer’s with my mother-in-law, a disease that we’ve all learned to hate (are there any diseases we don’t hate?). We’re coping.

Then I had a set-back with my own health issues. I have Sjogren’s Syndrome . The dry eyes and mouth associated with the condition worsened in about that same March/April time frame. Stress? Maybe. The problem really became a problem when my eyes became so dry, despite multiple applications of special eye drops a day, that my vision was impaired. For about two weeks I really couldn’t see well enough to drive. I had to have my husband drive me to a memoir writing workshop I was giving in a nearby town, and after the workshop I had to hightail it into the bathroom to insert more drops for the drive home. Eventually that issue resolved itself as well and I’m back to normal, whatever normal is for me.

I was actually going along pretty good for a month or so, until we put our park model home on the market so we wouldn’t be carrying two residences each month. Good news. We sold it. Woo Hoo! Oh, then I realized I would have to leave the wonderful area of Grand Bend and Port Franks, Ontario and live only in the city. That really bummed me out for a while. I also knew I’d miss the “mini house” and all the memories associated with it. I’d miss living up near the lake and being able to slip down to the beach at a moment’s notice. I was sad to be putting aside another chapter in my life.

Along with the sale came the stress of moving everything we owned out of it and figuring out what the heck to do with all the stuff we’d accumulated there over the course of five years! I’d just moved back to the city in December, remember? Now I was having to downsize yet again, and amalgamate, give away, or throw away more stuff. That all takes time. Time I wasn’t writing. Time I wasn’t editing. Time I wasn’t blogging, or reviewing books, or interviewing other writers.

ConnectionWhat I did do was stay current on social media through all of it. It kept my hand in the game, which kept me up to date on what’s been happening with who. I read writing related articles of interest galore. I wrote when I could. I edited when I could. I gave myself permission to do what needed to be done and not beat myself up too much over it. I also periodically vented to my husband. He’s an excellent listener, so his ears got a good workout. I’m grateful for his patience, believe me!

This past six months has served to remind me that I can’t control everything. I have to “Let go, and let God,” as I’ve heard the expression said. I’ve learned that sometimes good enough has to be good enough. I also knew that some things would just have to work themselves out. I consoled myself over the sale of my mini-house by acknowledging that it was a good, sound financial decision to sell. The single woman who bought it was thrilled to have her own little place with a good-sized garden and beautiful view of the wooded area across the street. I’m sure my old neighbours welcome her into their midst, and I sincerely hope that she’s able to settle in and make it her own.

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Surprising, to me at least, is the fact that I discovered a new creative outlet. I began experimenting with acrylic abstract painting and I love it! I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler (my son, brother, and grandson can, but I’m hopeless). What I do have is imagination and a good eye for colour, or so I think. I’ve even started doing a few large paintings for family and friends who’ve requested them, so that’s pretty cool. I’m not a professional painter, by any means, and I’ve hated some of what I’ve created, but as with writing, I can go back and fine-tune, or erase what I’ve done and start over. It’s become a great stress reducer, and I believe it stretches my imagination in other ways I hadn’t encountered before. It’s also a great way to just zone out, and sometimes that means I’m able to work through writing issues, without having to actually work at it. I like that.

The King's Consort Cover ArtIn the meantime, I’m happy to announce that my most recent (bio) historical fiction novel is finally done! This book has been a long labour of love, since my mother tells me her paternal great aunt claimed we are related to Louise Rasmussen, Countess Danner. Whether it’s true or not, I became intrigued by Louise and King Frederik VII of Denmark’s remarkable love story, and knew I had to write my (fictionalized) version of it. For information and a brief synopsis of the story, head over to the Amazon link provided below.

The great news is that my publisher let me know that we’re looking at an e-book release date of September 10th, 2016 for The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story, followed by a print release a few weeks later. For anyone interested in ordering their copy right away, it’s available for pre-order now (see link above). I’m so excited! I’m also extremely nervous (that’s another post). It has taken me two years to get this book to this point, and now I’m standing on the threshold of seeing all that hard work come to fruition. Yikes! I truly hope you enjoy it, and if so, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon (it really, really helps the writer), email me, or drop me a line on the blog, and of course, share the news with your family and friends.

As for what’s next, well, I’m in the process of getting my first two books, In The Spirit Of Love and In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, re-released – complete with new cover art and titles (details to follow once I have them). My plan is to re-release these two books and follow them up with a new series that continues Sir Richard and Claire’s story, and adventures. I’m really excited about that too, so check my website periodically, or social media sites, for new information. I have a second (bio) historical romance novel I started working on several months ago, and am itching to get back to, so it’s in the works for a little further down the line.

I’ve settled into our city house and am loving my little courtyard garden. The weather has been hot and summery. My family are all doing well, and I have my life back—for now. I know life will rear its head again soon, but today I’ll celebrate the good things and not worry about what’s around the corner.

We all go through life challenges. How have you dealt with some of yours lately? Share ideas for what’s worked for you – you never know who might benefit from your insight and wisdom. Thank you for sticking with me, and I’ll talk to you soon. Promise!

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Diving In

Diving In

This past winter I took a fair bit of time away from doing public appearances at bricks and mortar venues. After the release of my debut novel, In the Spirit of Love, I dove head first into the book marketing and publicity pool, and discovered a lot of areas I really enjoyed. I met some wonderful people, and gained invaluable experience by tapping into a number of venues. As for actual book sales, some things worked better than others. Book signings and readings were fun, but it was hit and miss in terms of actual sales. That’s okay though, since I went into it knowing it isn’t necessarily about sales; it’s about reaching new audiences, honing new skills, and just plain connecting with others. Our brutal Canadian winter of 2013/14 also had me glad not to be out on icy roads, travelling to more distant locales.

 

There was also the business of on-line networking, marketing, and promotion of this first title, while working diligently at penning, then editing the sequel, In the Spirit of Forgiveness. Writing and editing is time-consuming work. I can, and do, sit for as much as 5-6 hours per day just on those two activities, in addition to any on-line marketing. The really cool thing though, is that it doesn’t feel like 5-6 hours. Often it feels like maybe 1-2 hours. I become so engrossed in the story and the writing that it isn’t unusual for me to glance at my watch and realize time has literally flown for me. That’s a good thing. Before I began writing, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could sit at a computer and simply type up word after word, page after page-for hours. Now, I love it. It doesn’t feel like work at all.

 

With the release of In the Spirit of Forgiveness (June 1, 2014), I’m finding myself having to dive into the publicity pool again. The water is a little chilly, and I’m having to get back into the strong and steady strokes of swimming again, but I’m enjoying it. I remind myself of all the great experiences I had last year, and look forward to new ones. The hard part of course, is finding the right venues, reaching the people who book events, and making the time to get out from behind my desk.

 

I’ve discovered that the further I move into this writing gig, there really isn’t a lot of down time. Aside from the valuable and important time I want and need to spend with family and friends, I have a job that never really ends. You see, while I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting people and sharing my work with new readers, I’ve also just finished the first draft of a third novel, The King’s Consort. The real work is now ahead of me with this new WIP (work in progress). I have editing to do, at least two rounds, before sending it out to query agents and/or publishers, followed by tons of work to polish it up before it actually gets published. Although I’m currently with a small independent publisher who has done a great job for me with the first two books, I’ve decided to seek representation and/or publishing with a larger house. I have no idea if I’ll succeed, but I believe I at least have to give it a shot with this next book. It’s in a completely different genre (fact-based historical fiction), and I’m hoping it will garner some real interest.

 

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

That means going through the entire difficult query process again, followed, inevitably, by the rejections I’m sure to receive. It’s a long, slow process, and it can be extremely intimidating. There are no guarantees it’ll be accepted anywhere, but that’s the name of the game. I figure it’s like anything new you attempt in life. You put your best foot forward, you give it your best shot, and you learn the lessons taught along the way. You also incorporate any lessons you’ve already learned. No lesson is ever wasted, whether negative or positive. I also know that, whether I pick up an agent or new publisher or not, I’ll continue to move forward with this next book. I love the story behind the facts I researched, and am keenly passionate about sharing it with readers. Because I’ve now successfully had two novels published, I’ve also gained a level of self-confidence I didn’t have before. I’m ready and excited to begin the next steps.

 

It’s daunting; this diving in again thing. But hey, every new day we wake up, we begin anew. We get up, we get dressed, and we begin our daily work. Diving back into the pool isn’t so hard the second, or third time. I know what’s coming, I gear up for the shock of cool waters, and hold my breath. Then, I start swimming long, strong strokes. Hmm, maybe I never really got out of the pool. You’re either in, or out. There is no in-between.

Fish underwater

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Magic of Writing

Magic of Writing

As a writer, I tend to write “organically”. This means I only draft a brief outline of the story and characters I’m writing, then allow myself to just fall into the story and let it, and my characters evolve. I find myself getting lost in the process of creating, and enjoy letting the characters lead the way. Sounds strange, I suppose, but it’s how I seem to work best.

 

I’ve attend a couple of workshops where other writers talk about how they detail almost every move a character makes, and every step along the journey is mapped out. Some actually even include detailed maps to help them along the way! I’m stunned and amazed, and impressed. I also know I couldn’t work that way. I’d get so caught up all that planning, that I don’t think I’d get to the actual writing.

 

What I know for sure is this; we each have to find our own way. For me, learning what method works best for me as individual is a private journey to be discovered through trial and error.  But don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from others and adapt what they do into what works for me. I do that all the time. It’s why I’m so interested in learning how and what other writers and/or artists of any nature do. I listen, and if I think there’s a nugget of inspiration for how I might make something work for me, I’ll use it. That’s my agenda for attending the workshops; I want to learn something I didn’t before. It’s a take-away I can shape and mould, or discard, as I see fit. I know there are no right or wrong ways to write, paint, create music, or do many of the things we all do each and every day.

 

Our Agendas

Our Agendas

In fact, each day we open our eyes, we have an agenda, which can be different from a goal. I might wake up with the goal of writing a certain amount of words that day, or fit grocery shopping and house-cleaning into my schedule, but my agenda is slightly larger. I want to get words written down so I can move the story along, and therefore, move that much closer to the conclusion, or to allow me the time to fit in some internet marketing and promotion. I might need to get the grocery shopping done that day, so we can have the necessary ingredients for the dinner I’ve planned. I do the house cleaning to ensure I feel comfortable and at ease during the evening hours when I’m relaxing. I simply cannot relax when a place is unkempt and dirty.

 

When I used to work in real estate and mortgage sales, or as BDM for a small incentive marketing company, everything work-related I did, I had an agenda. I had a reason for the tasks I assigned myself. As a commissioned salesperson, I had only myself to rely on to get the job, and tasks done. I hated cold calling. Hated it. But, I also knew that sometimes I just had to get it done if I had any hope of gaining that next bit of business. My task making those cold calls, but my agenda was to ensure I had income down the line.

 

It’s the same with my writing. I write five days a week, essentially from 9-5. I write because I love to write, but I set goals for my writing to fit my agenda; to get a book published within an established period of time. I might edit all day for days at a time to allow the publisher to continue with the next step, and hence, get the book published and in reader’s hands.

 

Marketing and promotion via social media also has a hidden agenda. As much as I love interacting with online family and friends, and I do, I also need to get the word out about my work, and to do that, I need to allow them to connect with me as well. So, I go to various forums, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even this blog, to create content that allows people to find me, learn a little about me, connect with me, and perhaps even discover my latest book. Dare I hope they’ll be intrigued enough to even purchase an ebook or print copy? Yep, I do.

 

I’ve learned, through years of reading avidly, that my characters also need agendas. They have to have a reason for being. They have to serve a purpose, whether as a main protagonist who is on a quest for love, justice, or whatever, or as a supporting character. The supporting character’s job is to provide someone for the protagonist to interact with, bounce things off of, and provide third party insights into the protagonist and the situation they’re dealing with. It’s an important job, and one not given much credit. Even villains have to have an agenda, one that moves the story, and the character along.

 

Spark of Life

Spark of Life

If my characters lack an agenda; that spark of why they’re doing what they’re doing, what motivates them and drives them to the conclusions they make, I’ll lose the interest of the reader. Characters, even paranormal ones like a handsome ghost, have to embody human elements a reader can relate to. They have to have reasons for being there, and reasons for wanting to achieve the goals and tasks set before him. Without that, they’re just going through the motions, lying flat on the page and providing no excitement or momentum to the story. Readers are going to tune into that, get bored, and close the book, which is definitely not the point of any story.

 

Not all agendas as positive ones though. Just as with people, characters within a story can have agendas that are harmful to themselves or other characters. They can be motivated by greed, jealousy, evil, and a host of other not so nice motivators. We all have and experience those feelings, and our agendas can sometimes be self-serving. So as a writer, I try to remember that. People, even good ones, don’t always make the right decisions for the right reasons. It’s what makes us human, and it makes for great story-telling. Characters who exhibit human flaws and skewed agendas are great, since they allow them to seem more “3D”.

 

It’s not easy to create characters on a page that will resonate with readers, but it is fun. As a writer, you have a vision in your mind of what the characters look like, sound like, and what drives them. Then you have to find a way to put that vision into words so you build a story, and a world, where the reader can get lost for a while. After all, the agenda of anygood fiction writer is to allow the reader to forget the outside world and settle in for a little dose of unreality. Still, not every writer gets it right every time. Ever read a story by a well-loved author and been disappointed to discover you just couldn’t connect with the characters and/or story line? That’s because writers are human, and there is no “one-size-fits-all.

Same is true for non-fiction. When dealing in facts, it’s equally important that the writer finds a way to do it in such a way that the reader will want to continue turning the pages to discover the wisdoms the book promises. Make it too dry and uninteresting, and you’ll lose people to boredom. They’ll look for something else that gives them what they need, in easy, enjoyable bites. Of course text books don’t need to be entertaining, and most of them are as dry as butterless toast, but they have an agenda; to teach and to share information. That’s it. The author of those texts though, has to ensure the information they provide is accurate to the very best of his/her ability, or risk being challenged on it. So, the agenda behind all the research a non-fiction writer might go to is to ensure the finished product delivers what’s promised; accurate information.

 

You and me

You and me

In fact, it occurs to me that virtually everything we do is with an agenda, with few exceptions. But we can, as human beings, do things “just because”. For example, I might compliment a woman in a grocery line for her lovely scarf and expect nothing in return. I might agree to help an artist title a new piece of artwork, which I did this weekend, just because she admits she struggles with finding the right words to put to her work, and not ask anything in return.

 

We can all do small acts of kindness for no reason other than, “just because”. The characters in a book can do it too. It’s a human quality that, when done right, comes off as genuine, but I believe the writer also has to see it as genuine. Of course you can argue that the writer might have an agenda when creating a scene where a character does something altruistic. The hidden agenda might be to create a picture of who the character is.

 

In real life, it’s argued that people engage in even small acts of altruism because they get something back in return; a smile, an acknowledgement, a feeling of “being good”. Maybe that’s so, but I don’t let it stop me, and please, don’t let it stop you. In writing, our book characters will benefit from engaging in that very human behaviour, and make them easier to relate to.

 

When it comes to those of us living outside the pages of a book, if doing something altruistic makes you feel good, and you want to feel good about yourself, I’d call that a great agenda!

I Feel Good!

I Feel Good!

 

 

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Fire

Fire

I was reminded of a favourite song of mine the other day, Standing Outside The Fire, by Garth Brooks. The song focuses on the need for people to take chances in their lives and to create the destinies they want. I truly believe that. I always have. I guess that’s why that song, and others like it, strike such a strong chord within me.

When we write anything, an article, a song, a poem, a story, a letter, anything at all, we have to believe that what we have to say is worth others hearing. Some call that ego. Maybe it is, but maybe its also about sharing this human condition of living. I like to think it’s about connecting with others on a basic level.

When a writer writes a story, they create characters who have to DO something. The characters must have a purpose, needs, flaws and desires that readers can relate to, otherwise the story is boring. Plot lines and flow charts aside, it’s the characters who must echo humanity and human lives. Even in science fiction, horror or other genres where the characters aren’t actually human, the characters must exhibit a human character. They have to move the story along by their words and actions, just like we do.

A writer's space

A writer’s space

But by nature, most writers are introspective and can be a little more solitary than some people. We are happiest to sit at our desks and create worlds, characters and dialogues in our heads while putting them to paper, or on a computer screen. Then the book comes out. Now we’re supposed to be PR experts and marketing moguls. Uh, maybe not so much. But if we want our work to be a commercial success, and if we don’t that’s fine too, but if we do, we have to step outside our comfort zone. We have to push ourselves to get out there and promote our work and ourselves so people will know we, and it, exists. I write for two reasons, because I love it, and because I am hoping others will get some real enjoyment from the stories I’ve crafted. I hope the characters will come to life for readers and provide a measure of entertainment and escape. Oh, and yes, I would like some financial redemption for that work. No apology. If I have to make money somewhere, this is how I’d like to do it.

 That means having confidence enough to push myself beyond where I’d normally go. I’m not an experienced public speaker, and I don’t necessarily seek the lime light. I watch famous writers like James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and others who have learned how to reach out to readers and brand themselves to the buying public. Maybe they’re more extroverted than I am, but possibly not. They just know it has to be done, so they do it. I like to think I can too. I’m fortunate to have been blessed with years of watching both my mother and younger sister, Stephanie, in public speaking engagements. Each is amazing and inspirational. They speak about women, to women, and business professionals about creating the business and lives they want. I love listening to them. They are my inspiration. My middle sister, Melanie, runs a very successful business with her husband and has done for the past fifteen years or more. They’ve learned a lot along the way, and she’s definitely had to step out of her comfort zone to promote her business, on more than one occasion. My brother, Stephen, followed his dream of playing in the CFL when he was younger and now runs his own contracting company. He wanted to play in the Greycup, and damn if he didn’t do it! I’m so inspired by these people and their drive. I’ve always been the quiet one. The studious one. Now, I’m having to step outside my comfort zone and pull out all the stops in marketing and promoting the heck out of my book. I’ve been contacting local libraries to ask for book readings/signings, I’ve contacted local news publications to ask if they’d be interested in interviewing me as a local emerging author, I’ve had to start reaching outside myself in so many areas I feel my arms are growing (too bad my legs wouldn’t). It doesn’t feel natural to me, but it’s important. When I needed to have my book on Kobo because I’m Canadian and Kobo is a major venue in Canada, supported by major book retailers and libraries, I stepped in and liazed between my publisher and Kobo directly to encourage a working relationship. It worked and In The Spirit Of Love is now on Kobo, in addition to all the other venues it’s been on.

Each step I’ve taken these past months has been difficult, but also fun. I’m learning and growing and gaining confidence. My first public appearance was at a book reading/signing at a small local library. I had no clue how to proceed, and neither did they, but I went with my gut instinct and kept it light, easy and hopefully fun, for the attendees. I’d never done anything like it before, where I’d be the center of attention, and you know what, I liked it. I was fine, and I brought my mother with me for moral support, which was a great idea.

My point is this. As writers, we have to make our characters stretch and grow to gain the desired objective. As people, we do too. While recently talking to the manager of a local major book retailer who is considering placing my books on consignment and hosting a book signing, she told me flat out, “I want an author who will connect with my patrons and draw them in. If he or she just sits there, I’m not going to be happy, and I won’t invite them back.” Point taken, challenge accepted. I might bring my mother with me though, for moral support.

So, like Garth Brooks sings, “Life is not tried if it’s merely survived, If you’re standing outside the fire”.

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Cheers!

Cheers!

So, now that I’ve written and had my first book published, drank the congratulatory champagne and danced the victory dance, I’m left to wonder, now what?

Of course I have the WIP to continue, which is work enough, but what about getting the word out there about my book. I mean, much as I’m thrilled with the response from family and friends (and I definitely am), there’s the whole wide world I need to reach out to now. Separate and apart from the writing is the marketing and promotion, a beast unto itself.

Before the release of my book, I did invest quite a bit of time investigating websites, becoming proactive in social networking via FaceBook, but what about Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest? What about requesting honest reviews of readers and asking them to post them on sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and so on? What about face-to-face appearances, readings and book signings?

Whoa, this is starting to look like a TON of work, and it is. I read a while back that book marketing and promotion can take up considerable time for an author, because he/she needs to reach out to readers to let them know their book is available for sale. Not only that, but as an author, you want the feedback. ‘Am I on the right track?’ ‘Do people like and respond to my story and characters?’ ‘Do they like me?’

And so it goes. As I mentioned before, writing is a lot like life, and the similarities continue to intrigue me. In order to do well in this world, we need to be willing to risk something of ourselves. We need to be willing to invest in ourselves and trust that at least some others will respond positively to our efforts. Otherwise, why bother? Why put ourselves through the pain and anguish of exposing our deepest hopes and dreams?

storytellingIt’s because we believe we have some talent for storytelling. We believe we have something of value for others to relate to, even if only for entertainment sake. We strike out on this lonely path, and along the way, if we’re lucky, we meet others whose paths merge or intersect with ours. We realize we are not alone, and that they too share the dream. Authors come together, sometimes loosely, and sometimes very tightly knit, to support and encourage.

Ah, but when the reader reaches back and gives praise or useful comment, the writer is blessed. They are validated. They have been heard. The fact that another person has invested his/her time and hard-earned money to purchase your book resonates in a special place within the writer’s heart. It is a warm, sunny space.

 But how to reach the reader, and how to connect with other writers? In my opinion, one step at a time. I recommend researching the options and trying the ones that seem to connect with you. On-line networking has become globally massive, with the potential to connect with more people than ever before, but you have to be willing to participate, and participate with care and professionalism. Still, what works well for one writer may not suit the personality of another, but make no mistake, EVERY writer must put themselves out there and connect on some level.  Even the long-held masters of the craft can’t expect to sit in their writing caves and ignore the outside world for long. Yes, the Work In Progress (WIP) is of paramount importance, but so too is connecting with your audience. Agents and publicity people notwithstanding, readers love to hear from the author directly. They love to ask those burning questions and know that the writer is human.

Now I’m such a newbie, I had no idea how to go about things like press releases and book tours, but I did compose a press release and sent it out to many of the local newspapers. A week ago I was contacted by one of the larger ones and asked if I’d be interested in an interview. Are you kidding me? I was ecstatic! One week to the date of the interview, I purchased several copies of that newspaper and there it was – the cover art of my book, my photo, and the article. A half-page of information about me and my work shone back at me. I learned something from that exercise; ask and ye shall receive. Keep quiet, and no one knows you have something to share.

Another example of something that always works well is word of mouth. When my daughter talked to her local librarian last week, she mentioned my book. The librarian was quite interested in learning of this new (local) author and asked my daughter to have me stop in at the branch and bring along a copy of my book. I was thrilled at the opportunity. It’s no surprise that librarians love and support books, so this was an ideal fit. I had ordered fifty-five copies of my book to sell to family and friends who had asked for a signed copy. Now this librarian said she’d like to purchase and read it. It doesn’t get better than that. A complete stranger wants to read your book and possibly recommend it to others who trust her judgement.

Librarians Rock!

Librarians Rock!

After meeting that first librarian, I then gathered up the courage to contact another librarian at a separate branch and ask if she’d be interested as well. Well lo and behold, that gracious lady immediately jumped on board, asking me to bring her five copies of my book to distribute to other county branches in her area! We chatted when I brought in my books and she asked if I would consider doing a chapter reading, Q & A, and book signing in the Spring. You bet I would!

And so it begins. I’ve now begun contacting the local libraries (we have a lot of them), and have been thrilled with the response. In two days I pre-booked two book readings and sold eight books to libraries. Even though my books are primarily available on e-readers and e-devices, I was pleased to learn that libraries not only promote this venue, but assist patrons with selecting and downloading books they’re interested in. One of our small libraries actually has three e-readers available for loan, to be signed out on a two week basis and returned, exactly like a book! Now that’s being proactive.

As I continue working and networking, I find I’m meeting some amazing people, and I’m learning new things every day. The first draft WIP is almost complete, as I now have people continually asking when the sequel going to be ready. Kind of lights a fire under the butt when you have people clamouring for your next work.

For now I’ll keep working and learning as I go, growing my base and putting down roots. What I know for sure is that this writing gig is what I was meant to do. At long last, after a lifetime of trials and errors, of mountains and valleys, I’ve found something that fills a part of my soul I hadn’t even realized was there. What more could I ask?

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In The Spirit Of Love

In The Spirit Of Love

When my debut novel, In The Spirit Of Love, was finally released via Echelon Press, LLC in November, I was over the moon. Before it was actually out there, live and open to the world, I had no idea how I’d feel. Then I downloaded a copy to my Kindle and there it was! I sat in my tiny little office space (just a corner of a room really), and started to shake. Then I got all teary. Then I jumped up to find my husband and parents, whom we’re temporarily living with. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe that people all over the world would be able to seek out, download, and actually read the words I’d laboured over so long and hard. We celebrated with champagne and orange juice even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, my mother downloaded a copy to her Nook, and I cried a little more. Then I got up and went back to my “office” to begin the task of promoting it to the world.

That’s when it hit me. People were going to be able to read my words and judge them. They’d decide whether the story I’d crafted was good, bad or mediocre. But first, they had to know about it. My work wasn’t done. In actual fact, it had just doubled, or tripled. Now, not only was I going to have to keep working on my current project, the sequel, but I was going to have to start devoting a good portion of each day marketing and promoting the heck out of this now released one.

 

Statistics

Statistics

Then I made a tactical error. I started reading, at first hourly, the ratings on the sites it was available on. I don’t claim to understand how the ratings work. I don’t think anyone does, but I avidly went to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, and OmniLit to see what the “numbers” said. They made no sense to me, but I knew they were important, so I watched. My emotions see-sawed with the numbers on the screen. The lower the number, the better, so when the numbers went down, I rejoiced, but when they went back up, which of course I knew they would, I still felt let down. I started getting edgy. How could I get those numbers down and prove, to myself, that my book had merit and that others were buying it. I had no way to know how many were buying it, or even where. I also didn’t know yet what people thought of it, so I focused on the rating numbers.

A few days went by like this, and I’m sure I drove my family nuts with it. Then I remembered something I’d heard Oprah Winfrey say once. She recounted how, in the beginning of her career, she too focused on the “ratings” of her new show. Her staff and producers did the same. They compared her to her contemporaries and determined whether or not they were on the right track with them. They told her she had to “keep her ratings up” to be successful and win the “game”. Then she said something I’ve never forgotten. She said she realized she didn’t have to compete with anyone. She only had to do her very best every single day and be herself. The rest would just have to work itself out. She told her producers and staff not to bog her down with talk of ratings, as this just interfered with her vision for herself and the show. She didn’t want to get caught up in the hype. She just wanted to do a good job and bring whatever wisdom and light she could into the lives of her audience. Well Amen. I had my Ah ha moment.

I’m no Oprah Winfrey, but that piece of wisdom makes sense to me. I guess I’ve always been of the opinion that I can only do the best I can at whatever I take on. I can only be myself. I write because it’s what I love and want to do, not because I’m being “rated” for it. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean the ratings don’t matter. In book sales, in business, they do. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be successful and make a decent living at this writing gig, I do. But now I check them once a day, just to begin to understand whatever trends they might indicate. What I don’t do is agonize over them anymore. I don’t judge whether or not I’m a good writer by them. What matters to me is whether people who read the books are enjoying them, so those are the ratings and reviews I focus on. If they’re positive, then I’m on the right track in terms of story line. If and when I get poor reviews, and I’m sure I will, then I’ll pay attention, take them with a grain of salt and take what I can from them.

The Magic of Reading

The Magic of Reading

I keep talking about how my lessons in writing mimic my lessons in life. This is another of those instances. Of course I want to be a successful, prolific writer, but only I can determine those terms. So I’ll work my butt off to get the word out there, I’ll promote my work when and where I can, I’ll continue to write the very best stories I can and grow into my craft, and I’ll have to let the chips fall where they may. Just like in life, it’s all any of us can really do. The rest is all just hype.

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Jumping for joyWow, this past week has been exciting. After some three years (give or take) of writing, I can now say I’m a bona fide published author.  Woohoo! The moment I downloaded a copy of my book onto my Kindle and my mother downloaded hers onto her Nook, I started to shake. Then I cried like a baby on my husband’s shoulder, while my dad looked on in bemused wonder.

I was unprepared for the emotions I’d experience at the live “birth” of this baby. I’d always wondered why authors likened a book to a baby, but having just gone through the experience, I now completely understand.  Having toiled away in relative quiet; writing, reading, editing, re-writing, submissions, rejections, more editing, more reading, and about three more rounds of editing, I’ve come to realize just what kind of dedication it takes to becoming a published writer. It’s no easy task, and not for the faint of heart.

Kind of like with pregnancy, you grow the “book baby” within you, close to your heart. No one can see or hear it yet, but you know it’s there. Then you announce to the world you are writing a book, and the responses run the gammit from “Wow, that’s incredible!”, to “Oh really…”. Like a pregnant mom, you protectively cross your arms over your growing child and tell yourself  it doesn’t matter if your book is a huge commercial success, is beautiful, well-received, or brilliant. It doesn’t matter. It’s yours – all yours.

As release day looms, you begin to anticipate all kinds of terrible things, like; it’s a terrible story, it’s not well-written, people will hate it, it’ll be full of all kinds of flaws that everyone will see. But you love your child, so you do everything you can to prepare for the birth – the release date. You cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, hoping to get it as perfect as you can, while still agonizing about how it will be received by the public at large.

As you go through all of these stages, you are terrified you’ve missed something. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect book. Almost every book written has some flaws, a missed punctuation here, an oddly placed word there, some bit of awkward phrasing you didn’t catch during the gazillion times it’s been edited by you, your editor and whoever else you’ve had aid you. Just before the release, you realize you’ve done everything you possibly can, and you know your child will not be perfect. As in people, it simply can’t be. You breathe and you try to accept that this “baby” will be whatever it is meant to be.

Oh, but then there is the birth – the date of public release. Suddenly after all the stress, strain and pain, it is out in the world for all to see. Every thought you’ve put down on paper is there. Good, bad or indifferent, anyone who picks it up and reads it now knows whether it’s a good story, a mediocre story, or a bad one. All the flaws are revealed. But as you gaze upon the written words on a mechanical device or paper bundle for the first time, your heart melts. It is done. It is beautiful. So you cry, you shake with emotion, and you let those who’ve stood by your side wrap you in their arms of love and share in the excitement.

cartoon BabyThe first day or two are euphoric. You are thrilled, proud and want to show it to everyone. You want to give it the best life you possibly can. So what do you, the author/parent do? You begin promoting the hell out of it. You tell perfect strangers, family, friends, anyone, that your baby deserves a fighting chance. You start pouring over the book’s ranking on the on-line sales sites, unsure of what they mean. Your family and friends start asking things like, “so how’s it going?” or, “how are sales today?”

You become somewhat defensive. Sales? Who cares about sales? Who cares if it currently ranks in the hundreds of thousands on Amazon because few people still know about it. Oh, you care. You care because you want your baby to succeed. You care because your “baby” is a reflection of you. You created it, so it is intrinsically a part of you. It is only day four of it’s life, yet you want it to be a star among stars, shining brighter than all the other millions of stars out there.

Then, if you are reasonable, you begin to breathe again and realize that you can only do the very best you can.  As Richard Mabry states in his guest blog on Rachelle Gardner’s blog site, “should you open the champagne when the number is small and look for the bottle of antidepressants when the number rises? Nope. Just keep writing.”.  You want to give your new “baby” the best possible start in life you are able to provide it, and you will continue to do so, but you must also resume other aspects of your life. Your spouse, family and friends are standing by patiently (or not) waiting for you to rejoin the rest of society. You start to loosen the iron grip you had on statistics, rankings and reviews, and begin to focus on simply raising your “child” and enjoying the journey.

Then, you get another book idea-and start the whole cycle over again. So now I understand. Writing a book and getting it published is about more than just putting words to the proverbial page. It is about faith, love, perseverance, and the need to tell the stories that inhabit your mind. It is very much like parenting and life. In fact, it brings to mind the Serenity poem, which reads, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can, to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference”. 

Serenity Prayer

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