Monday, November 29, 2010

Spunk On A Stick's Tips is Back in Business!

After a week hiatus, Spunky is back! Time to unveil the changes.

As you can see, I've done some major housekeeping, too. Now that my focus in life has changed, it’s time for this blog to get with the program.

After eight years in the publishing industry, Spunky the author is taking a break. A really long one. Maybe permanent! I’ve decided my time would be better spent focusing on my skills, strengths, and knowledge.

What’s new, updated, or redesigned:

A new focus on publishing, promoting, and speaking tips. All posts will now focus on these areas. And this includes many new guest bloggers and authors! I have also organized my right sidebar to include links to articles within this blog and other websites. Please feel free to browse through any topics you missed!

You will also see a button above marked ‘Services.’ I am now offering several services (or links to these services) to writers and authors. Two are currently listed with three more to follow. (One of which I’ve offered on my Spunk on a Stick website for the past 18 months.) If you are a writer or author in need of any of these services, please contact me!

All awards and buttons have their own page now.

My new posting schedule will be 3 - 4 times a week.

The Weekend Sillies? That shall remain the same!! I don’t want anyone sending me hate mail or unfriending me because that person did not get his or her weekly LOL Cats fix!

I will also be online more! I have turned over my online writer’s club, The Writer’s Meow, to a new founder and admin, and streamlined some other sites to reduce the pull for my attention.

So browse through the site and let me know what you think!

Wednesday is Talli Rolland’s Blogsplash! Not that everyone in the blogging world doesn’t already know this…

Monday, November 22, 2010

Closing Down

My time online has grown limited over the past six months and my focus is changing.

Ironically some of the bloggers I used to follow have also dropped by the wayside for whatever reason.

I'd tried to make some small adjustments here, but not enough. So time for some radical changes.

This blog is closing for one week. During that time I will redesign the sidebars and pages and prepare for the reopening. I will reschedule my posting to focus on some new areas. This should make my site more useful to others and more in tune with who I am now.

Promotions will still be a big part of this site. So will production. And speaking. But for now, Spunky the author is done.

So everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'll see you on the other side!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book - Part V

Final installment! I was one of the presenters for The Muse Online Writers Conference, which included a week-long forum workshop, Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book. Each day had a specific topic and the participants really got into building their contact lists.

For the first four installments - Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV

The whole point of these exercises is to get your brain working. You want to develop these lists while you are writing if at all possible! And as participants in the forum discovered, I’m a stickler for specifics. Generic answers (like ‘everyone’) don’t fly with me! If you are to effectively promote your book, you need specifics and details!

You can share some of your ideas below or copy & paste and work on your lists on your own time. But sharing a few ideas is fun, because it might help out someone else!

Establishing Other Contacts -

The plan is to make a list of all options and begin networking many months prior to the release of your book.

Reviewers

Make a list of potential book reviewers - top reviewers, magazines, newspapers, online reviewers and sites, book bloggers, etc. Don’t limit yourself to places that just review books, either. Remember to coordinate with your publisher’s efforts.

Media releases

Media release options - paid and free services, news media, AP offices, magazines and websites, businesses, etc.

Fairs, festivals, & shows

List all regional book festivals, specialty fairs & festivals, and trade shows.

Personal contacts

Develop a mailing list of all personal contacts - snail mail and email. Consider all personal and business contacts.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Researching with Stephen Tremp

Today I welcome author Stephen Tremp!

Writers love to write. It is the research that some are not prepared to do.

Me, I really don’t struggle very much as I love what I do. I love performing due diligence in my research. Much of the two years I spent writing Breakthrough was devoted to researching the latest and greatest in the realm of theoretical physics. It is this love, the passion, that drives me to pen a story that is as accurate as possible. The physical settings, restaurants, and universities are all real and need to be described accurately as readers may be familiar with these places. So does the detective’s investigation and police procedures. Same with weapons. How many rounds does a Smith & Wesson model 1006 10 mm hold in a magazine (there could be more than one answer). Better get it right. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies are great resources.

Ultimately, when one performs research, they should want to add to an existing body of knowledge (BOK), that is, a set of concepts, terms and activities that make up a particular domain. Of course, no one will ever complete an existing BOK. They can only add something new to it while leaving suggestions for further research that they or someone else can perform.

Problem: Often writers cannot perform research simply because they are unable to. They do not have the proper resources. Solution: research the research of others (and give them credit).

Example: I’m an author who writes action Near Future Sci-Fi action. I have to have at least a basic working knowledge of physics. Problem: Sometimes we just don’t have access to the necessary resources to carry out adequate research. I don’t have a particle accelerator in my garage (which would be most helpful). Solution: I have to research the research of other people. I read a lot of books on physics and some of the greatest scientific minds, dead and alive. And I read peer reviewed articles, which is the subjecting of an author's scholarly work, research, or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field. So I use their research. And I remember to give them credit.

Here’s on exercise: make two lists. One of topics you would like to research and one people who have a deep understanding of such topics. Then, go to YouTube. Example: I type in a subject like CERN, Large Hadron Collider, theoretical physics. Or a person like Alan Guth (theoretical physicist and cosmologist at M.I.T). I also use Google Earth, yearly weather reports, and customer reviews. Honestly, there is so much information available at my fingertips, the biggest struggle I have is sorting through the wealth of information and eliminating data.

As fiction writers, there are a number of areas you should have a basic working knowledge, such as criminology and forensics. A great example of a blogger who performs her due dillegence in research is Clarissa Draper. Example: go to her Web site and in the SEARCH BOX type in Forensics or Poison, then scroll to the top of the blog. There you will find well researched and detailed posts (with sources) regarding guns, autopsies, how a corpses deteriorates under certain conditions, blood stains and patterns, rigormortis and time of death, and other relevant and very interesting topics.

In this day of real time information and people’s fascination with everything CSI, you will need to present your events in a manner that is accurate, insightful, and is also a great place to plant clues for later use in the story. Be sure you use reliable sources. Just because you see something explained on CSI doesn’t mean it’s necessarily accurate. You will need to be, as our hostess Diane claims, be scary organized.

Please join me Friday as I visit Karen Gowan at Coming Down From The Mountain as we wind down the final tour stop of my Virtual Blog Tour 2010! And discuss “Write Another Book, For Pete’s Sake!”.

Stephen Tremp is author of the action thriller Breakthrough . You can visit Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs where Breakthrough is available for purchase and download to all eReaders.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book - Part IV

I was one of the presenters for The Muse Online Writers Conference, which included a week-long forum workshop, Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book. Each day had a specific topic and the participants really got into building their contact lists.

The whole point of these exercises is to get your brain working. You want to develop these lists while you are writing if at all possible! And as participants in the forum discovered, I’m a stickler for specifics. Generic answers (like ‘everyone’) don’t fly with me! If you are to effectively promote your book, you need specifics and details!

You can share some of your ideas below or copy & paste and work on your lists on your own time. But sharing a few ideas is fun, because it might help out someone else!

Establishing Physical Contacts

Traditional outlets:

Where is your audience most likely so seek out your book or book’s subject matter?

List all bookstores you can physically reach - chains and independents. Keep in mind specialty book stores as well.

Make a list of libraries. If applicable, include schools and colleges.

Non-traditional outlets:

Time to think beyond the bookstore!

Make a list of other retail outlet possibilities - gift shops, coffee shops, specialty stores, museums, etc. Get creative!

List all events, festivals, and club/organization meetings in your area or that you can reach.

If applicable, consider churches and church bookstores.

Professional possibilities:

Brainstorm businesses and organization that might be interested in your book. What company or group would most benefit from your book?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just in time for Christmas!

My publisher, Dancing Lemur Press LLC, is offering a buy one - get one free deal on all titles.

Buy any book and get a second book (same price or lower) free. They will also ship the second book for free to any gift recipient of your choice and are encouraging donations to libraries and organizations. And if you buy two books, you’ll get two free and so forth.

I will gladly match their offer with my own books, too! (And of course, they’ll be autographed.) Buy one at full retail plus $3.00 for shipping and I’ll include a second book free.

There are many needy families at Christmastime. Consider donating the book to an organization as a Christmas gift to some young adult. As a former foster parent, I know many of these kids receive few gifts, especially those in Level 3 group homes or Level 4 institutions. Malls often feature a gift tree with names of needy children attached to the branches. There’s probably a needy family in your church or neighborhood. So many opportunities to give!

Visit Dancing Lemur Press LLC’s site to place an order or contact me directly at wolferock AT earthlink.net.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's Your Strength?

We tend to focus on our weaknesses, but what about our strengths?

Most people tend to focus on the negative. They try to improve where they are weak. That's the wrong approach though! We need to focus on our strengths. A rising tide lifts all ships - if we capitalize on what we do best, weaknesses vanish. Now that's not an excuse to slack anywhere and sometimes weaknesses are strengths in disguise. But we have to look at it as growth. If we continue to fine-tune our strengths, growing and developing, those weaknesses will be pulled along for the ride.

One of the exercises I do in several of my seminars involves writing down strengths on one sheet of paper and weaknesses on another. When finished, they look at both sheets - and then shred the weaknesses! Now they have only strengths on which to focus.

What are your strengths? Where do you excel? What skills do you possess? What are your most positive aspects?

Can you name one? Name your greatest strength?

As I've been reorganizing my life, trying to decide what direction to go, I kept coming back to this - what is my greatest strength? And I keep getting the same answer - I'm organized. Not anal, but detailed. I have lists for my lists. I have a detailed day planner and calendar. My office is full but organized. Papers properly filed. I excell at making a plan a executing it. Not always to perfection - I can half-ass a job with the best of them! But I enjoy the detail work, the plotting, the crafting. That is where the melancholy in me excels.

Now your turn - name your greatest strength.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Authors Weigh in on What Makes a Great Blog Tour!

I’ve conducted six blog tours over the year and learned a great deal from each one. However, I wanted the opinions of a couple authors who just recently completed blog tours. Marvin Wilson just finished a tour for Beware the Devil’s Hug and Alex J Cavanaugh just finished one for his first book, CassaStar. The boys were good enough to answer some questions and I threw in a few thoughts of my own…

How far in advance do you contact hosts? What goes into that first contact email?

Marvin - I contact hosts at least 3 months in advance of the tour, so that I can have the tour schedule completed by 2 months before it begins. Even 6 months in advance is not too early.

Alex - I was fortunate most of my hosts offered. I contacted bloggers 2-3 months before my tour, including my book’s information and link to the trailer and my own bio, and asked their preference of guest post or interview.

Me - Some blogs book spots up to six months in advance, so the bigger the blog, the sooner you need to contact them. You should also be a follower and leaving comments before asking for a guest spot, too. I contact mine 3-5 months before the tour with a polite email inquiry.

What do you look for in host sites?

Alex - Blogs with many followers are good, but ones with lots of comments are best.

Marvin - Traffic, average number of comments per post, and if the blog's topics are on point with what the book genre is in. Also the quality of the host's posting.

What’s the best ‘length’ for a blog tour?

Me - Ten to twelve stops with no weekends.

Alex - I was told two weeks although mine spanned for almost three. Fortunately I didn’t lose steam near the end.

Marvin - I think 2 weeks. I tried a month once, and people just lost interest - traffic fell off after 2 weeks. Since then I've used the 2 week schedule and it builds nicely without fading at all.

Once you have the topic/interview questions, what’s your turnaround time? What’s the latest a host should receive your post?

Marvin - Well if it's something I am supposed to write and provide, I try to get it to the host at least a week ahead of the post date. If the host is doing something independent of me, then that's up to him or her, of course.

Alex - I tried to complete everything the month before my tour started. I didn’t want to panic my hosts and once the tour began, I knew I wouldn’t have time.

Me - All hosts receive my post/interview just before the tour begins, if not sooner.

What’s your blogging schedule before and during the tour?

Alex - Intense! Before my tour, I was blogging 3-4 hours a day, and during the tour it was closer to 5 hours a day. I checked in several times a day for each stop and left comments, but I also went back to posts that were several days old. I was amazed how many continued to gain comments!

Me - The worst thing you can do prior to or during a tour is shut down for any reason! That’s when you need to be the most active. I’ve had the misfortune of a couple physical events scheduled during a tour, and it’s tough to manage. During a tour, that needs to be your only focus.

Marvin - For at least 2 and up to 4 weeks before the tour I actively promote the upcoming tour on my blog, facebook, twitter, Yahoo groups, all that ... then during the tour I make myself available off and on all day and into the early evening, responding to commenters and visiting the other tour hosts' blogs to encourage them to keep actively involved with the tour and get their readers interested in following it as well.

What do you post on your site during the tour?

Alex - I announced the day’s visit and thanked everyone for visiting the previous stop. I wanted to give my followers more than just a ‘go here’ though, so I included a short post each day. I was participating in NaBloWriMo at the time, so it wasn’t difficult. My hosts had lots of visitors and my own site maintained its normal level of comments.

Marvin - I usually just post an announcement of where the tour is happening that day, with a link, of course, and a brief enticing summary of what's happening to help drive traffic to the host's blog. I also have a link to the (my) blog's "Contest and Prizes" page so people can see how to win prizes during the tour.

Can you share some of the stats from your last tour?

Marvin - The average number of comments per stop was nearly 30, with some still coming in - the tour generated such interest some people are still hearing about it, logging on and checking out the archived posts, leaving comments. But the big stat is the book's Amazon ranking at the beginning of the tour was way down in the 2 millions, and by the end of the tour it had risen to in the top 90,000! I't creeping down again a bit now, but many peeps commented that Hugs is now on their shopping/TBR/Christmas list that I know sales will benefit from the tour for quite some time.

Alex - On host sites, I averaged 35 comments and the greatest was 70 comments. Several hosts told me it was the most comments their site had ever received. My own site enjoyed 60 or more comments a day and I crossed over 400 followers during the tour. I don’t know the exact numbers, but both the print and eBook version of my book went above 10,000 in the sales ranking on Amazon and my book trailer received several hundred new hits.

What’s the secret of a great blog tour?

Alex - I think it’s a combination of things. Selecting a good variety of hosts, with interesting (and sometimes humorous) posts and interviews, is important. Interaction is vital as well. You have to interact with those who comment. Promoting isn’t my thing so it was difficult for me to tell others ‘hey, come check out today’s stop.’ So, I guess it’s also important that your followers like you and think you’re interesting enough to check out your tour!

Me - Making it a win-win for everyone involved. Yes, you’re placing yourself in front of another blogger’s followers (and are counting on them to read and comment) but you have to bring your followers as well so the host benefits from new readers and followers. And if you’re not promoting your tour, creating great guest posts, and pouring your all into the tour, it’ll be a bust.

Marvin - VARIETY and CREATIVITY! Nobody wants to follow a tour where all the stops are the same old same old. Author interview after author interview ..... boooooooring! Make a list of possible formats and ask your hosts to add to the list, get imaginitive. On the Hugs Tour we had a few author interviews, yes, but also interviews with different book characters, book reviews, guest posts by me on several different topics, characters doing interactive scenes (not from the book, but situational 'what if' kinds of things) with each other, one post the host interviewed me and the main character from the book on the paranormal and spiritual, things like that. No two stops should be the same, all stops should be entertaining, unique and informative, and the tour's schedule should follow a theme with all the variables tying together into a harmonious whole.

Thanks guy! Please visit Marvin and Alex’s blogs and tell them thanks for taking time to answer these questions when I'm sure both men are exhuasted from their fantastic tours!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Sometimes Life Gives You a Break

This has been a crazy week for me. Gone all day Wednesday for a seminar and five clients requiring my service. (I also run a business that involves exhausting, physical labor - let's just leave it at that.) After an overbooked October, I'm beat. I was so tired last night, I didn't even schedule a post for today.

So when I got home and received a call asking if we could postpone my seminar tonight until next spring when we can tie it in with the Chamber of Commerce, I didn't protest!

It's easy to get involved in projects and work and run so hard that we forget to stop and live now and then.

Today, I'm going to live a little! And get caught up on some blogs - I know I've been slacking.

Anyone else need a break?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book Part III - Media Contacts

I was one of the presenters for The Muse Online Writers Conference, which included a week-long forum workshop, Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book. Each day had a specific topic and the participants really got into building their contact lists.
The whole point of these exercises is to get your brain working. You want to develop these lists while you are writing if at all possible! And as participants in the forum discovered, I’m a stickler for specifics. Generic answers (like ‘everyone’) don’t fly with me! If you are to effectively promote your book, you need specifics and details!

You can share some of your ideas below or copy & paste and work on your lists on your own time. But sharing a few ideas is fun, because it might help out someone else!

Establishing Media Contacts

Think beyond book sites and don’t focus on the fact that you just released a book. (Outside of your local newspaper, the media does not care!)

Consider target audience, location, and book’s setting:

Make a list of all relevant radio stations, TV stations, and newspapers.
Looks for talk shows, local and regional TV stations, feature editors - media that features your book’s topic or authors.
Look for online media - news sites, newsletters and magazines, and radio.

Consider book’s topic and angle:

What makes it unique?
Is it relevant to current events?
How can you help people?
What about you or your book will make people healthier, wealthier, sexier, save them time, or entertain them?

Monday, November 01, 2010

News For EBook Authors!

If you’re an author with an eBook to promote, here’s some interesting findings.

This information comes from Jim Milliot, co-editorial of Publishers Weekly, who compiled the text for reports from the Book Industry Study Group.

“Respondents also indicated that reviews played an important role in spurring them to acquire an e-book, with online reviews having more of an impact than print reviews…

“All online vehicles were not equally effective in reaching e-book consumers, however. Respondents to the first survey fielding reported that Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites had little impact in prompting them to purchase e-books… such responses were even more prevalent in the third fielding.

“The minor impact of social networking sites on e-book acquisitions seems to have a clear cause: for the most part, e-book consumers are not using social networking sites.”

Wow! What does everyone think about those findings?