Monday, January 30, 2012

The Best Book Festival Ever

I’ve attended many book and author events over the years, but nothing compares to Book ‘Em. I’ve participated in events in Virginia and S. Carolina and this year I’m thrilled to attend the first ever Book ‘Em in N. Carolina. I’m also honored to be on the Book ‘Em committee and will participate in two panel discussions during the event.

If you are a reader, writer, or author, you don’t want to miss Book ‘Em NC!!

Book 'Em North Carolina
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Robeson Community College
Lumberton, North Carolina

Attendance is FREE and open to the public.

Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair brings together more than 75 authors, including two New York Times bestselling authors, Carla Neggers and Michael Palmer, more than 24 award-winning authors, and authors of almost every genre for all ages under one roof to sell and sign their books, participate in panel discussions and talks, network and interact with fans one-on-one.

It is open to readers of all ages. There are book readings and events scheduled for children from pre-school to teens. There are panel discussions and talks for writers trying to break into the field or working to increase their sales or exposure. There are talks and events for readers of various genres, including mysteries, romance, true adventure, historical, biographical, and many others.

The purpose of The Book 'Em Foundation and this event is to raise public awareness of the link between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates. Proceeds from the Book 'Em North Carolina book fair will go directly to increasing literacy in Robeson County, North Carolina and to reducing crime in the area.

The Book 'Em Foundation was founded by suspense author p.m.terrell and Waynesboro, Virginia Police Officer Mark Kearney as a partnership between authors and law enforcement. The mission of The Book 'Em Foundation is to raise public awareness of the correlation between high illiteracy rates and high crime rates.

Visit these sites for more information:
Official Website
Book ‘Em NC Blog

Please join us on February 25th!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Weekend Sillies and Condemned Gingerbread House

Starting your weekend off with a laugh!


And I had to add this photo from last month. We attempted to make a Gingerbread House (it was a gift from someone) but there was no frosting-glue in the kit. So we purchased some tube frosting, hoping that would suffice.
As you can see, it didn't work and our Gingerbread House had to be condemned...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Conducting a Book Blog Tour - Part II

After six blog tours of my own, there are a few things I have learned. This is a continuation from Setting up a Blog Tour.

Dates are set, you have your topics.

What happens leading up to, during, and after your tour?

Before tour:

List your upcoming tour on your blog and website.

Make sure you know exactly what each host expects and wants.

Prepare all guest posts and complete interview questions. This should not be something you rush through - it will take time. Go over these several times, looking for errors. You don’t want mistakes or poorly written guest posts.

A week or more before your tour begins, send your hosts all information, including:
Guest post/interview
Short bio
Short book blurb
Links to your site and where to purchase book
Jpg images of your book cover and a promo photo if you have one
Your book’s information - price, ISBN, genre, etc.
Html code or link to book trailer

Confirm dates, information received, and time of post with all hosts.

During tour:

Post link to tour stop on your blog and all social sites. Entice your followers, readers, and fans to visit your host’s site.

Check your guest post several times a day and respond to comments. The key to a successful tour is your interaction with the host’s followers. And remember, no matter what is said, remain positive. Even if your stop that day is a review and it’s not the most flattering.

Check back on earlier stops, as some people will comment late.

Be sure you have made it easy for people to follow your blog and other sites. (Because you should gain during a tour.)

After tour:

Thank each host!

For sites featuring giveaways, be sure to get winner’s contact information for sending books or passing along to your publisher.

Thank your followers and fans for keeping up with your tour.

Continue visiting your host sites. If you never visit again, you are sending the message that you were just using them.

Problems can arise at every stage of your tour, so be prepared:

Hosts that forget to post on time. (Or at all.)

Hosts that are indifferent or don’t interact with those who comment.

Incomplete posts or links that don’t work.

Hosts that continue to make demands or complain even after your guest spot.

(Sometimes things happen. All you can do is learn from the experience and avoid problematic hosts in the future.)

Your tour is successful if any one or more the following happens:

Your book sales increase during or after a tour.

You are exposed to a lot of potential readers.

Your own sites gain followers. (Hits are good, visits are better, followers best.)

Remember to visit Setting up a Blog Tour if you missed the first part of this series.

Now who is ready for a virtual tour?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Setting Up a Blog Tour

This is Part I - I will post Part II next Monday.

A lot goes into setting up a blog tour. I’ve done six tours now, on blogs as well as other social platforms, and hosted many, many authors. For those of you about to embark on a blog tour (or plan to one day soon) below is a list of tips and suggestions.

There are two types of tours - the short burst and the marathon. A concentrated book tour should be ten stops in two weeks maximum. (You will burn out yourself and your followers otherwise.) A more relaxed tour consists of a couple days a week spread over a month or so.

Start contacting potential hosts at least two months in advance. Large blog sites tend to fill up quickly.

Select a variety of venues. Don’t just visit the blogs of other writers. Consider your target audience - what sites are they most likely to visit? Mix it up to get the most bang for your buck.

A relationship with the host site is very important. (This is why paid blog tours tend to be a waste of money - you don’t have a relationship with the host.) Follow and comment on the blog long before you ask the site owner to host you.

Look for large sites with lots of traffic and visitors. 500 followers and 20+ unique comments is best. If it doesn’t have a wide following, you won’t get the exposure you need, and interaction is important.

Many sites post guest guidelines - read these carefully before contacting the host. (And hosts, when contacted, please state up front your guidelines and if you require a review copy!)

Contact the host, providing them with your full book information.

Don’t be upset if they say no. Sometimes your book isn’t a good fit for the site or the blogger is already booked.

Be prepared to suggest post topics and send a review copy if requested. Book bloggers will almost always request a review copy and should be contacted many months in advance. (Book bloggers are a special consideration, because even though they may be doing it for fun, it’s still ‘business.’)

Schedule a variety of stops - guest posts, interviews, reviews, giveaways, and possibly podcasts. Don’t offer the same thing at every stop.

You do not have to do a giveaway at every stop. For some hosts, that is their trademark - they always feature a giveaway - and you might steal their thunder. It also takes away the novelty. The Big Six can afford it, but smaller publishers and self-publishers can’t afford to give books at every stop. And while ebooks might be free, don’t devalue the effort you put into your book by giving it out as if it were nothing.

Coordinate with your publisher.

Consider an announcement day for your book or the beginning of your tour if you have many host offers.

If there are issues with the host, graciously withdraw and find another. The success of your tour does not hinge on just one stop.

There is a give and take - you are gaining access to the host’s followers in exchange for bringing your own followers the day of your post. That is the tradeoff. You can also reciprocate by featuring your host on your site either before or after the tour. In general, most of the online community is generous, unselfish, and willing to spread the word about your new book.

Remember, treat your author status as a business. It takes a lot of effort to put together a blog tour. Make yours count by selecting good hosts and smart post topics that will appeal to your target audience. And don’t forget to have fun in the process!

Remember to come back February 23rd for the second part.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do Looks Matter? With Morgan Mandel

Today I welcome author Morgan Mandel! 

Do looks matter? Even asking such a question seems superficial. Still, in today’s society, though I hate to admit it, looks do play an important role. If you want to look normal, you need to look and dress the part. If you’re going for an interview, you’d wear clothes appropriate to the position to make a good impression, and not what you’d wear shopping at the local grocery store. (Unless you’re more fastidious than I am when you buy food.)

In the everyday world, if you see an unshaven dude with greasy hair and dirty clothes walking down the street, would you steer clear of him, thinking the worse, though you know many criminals look like perfectly groomed citizens?

Would you roll your eyes if you saw a chick with overdone, painted on makeup, scant or skintight clothes? She sure seems an easy mark, doesn’t she?

What if, the guy you’d normally steer clear of on the street turns out to be a decent, hard working man, who works two jobs just to get by and barely has enough time or energy to get from one of them to the other?

What if the chick who looked so easy actually has no idea of the image she projects and is merely copying her favorite rock star’s style, or, perhaps is overcompensating due to an inferiority complex because of some horrible happening or person that shaped her life?

The advantage of books is that authors can sprinkle in clues which peel off the facades of their characters, affording glimpses at what hides beneath. Once readers see past the obvious, the marvelous miracle of character bonding can take place.

In Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, Dorrie, the main character, reverts from 55 to 24, and gets a taste of what it’s like to be admired for her looks. When something happens to threaten them, she’s depressed, realizing her values have changed and not for the better. Another character, which I’ve dubbed the Angel Man because of his flowing blond hair and angelic blue eyes, values his appearance over everything in life, so much so that he feels superior to others less fortunate.

Looks are certainly important to both of them, too much so. To learn more about Dorrie, Roman, and what events led to their views on looks, this book is available at Amazon or Smashwords, also on Nook this week, or next. Can you share an instance where a person’s looks have fooled you? Or, maybe something from a book where the author uses looks to portray a character’s flaws or good points? Or any other instance where looks seem important?

Morgan Mandel

Along with writing mysteries, thrillers, and romances, Morgan Mandel loves to blog and network. You’ll often find her on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites, as well as at various e-groups. Her previous books, still available, are Killer Career, Girl of My Dreams, and Two Wrongs, all on Kindle and Smashwords.
She’s a past president of Chicago-North RWA, past library liaison for Midwest MWA, belongs to Sisters in Crime and EPIC.
Her next project is a sequel to Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, called Blessing or Curse: A Forever Young Anthology. This book will describe what happens to other subjects who take the Forever Young pill.

Fresh beginnings turn tragic when Dorrie Donato’s husband, Larry, is killed in a hit and run accident a few months after starting a new job at the Life is for Living Institute. Discouraged and desperate after suffering countless setbacks, Dorie accepts an offer by Larry’s boss, the famous Angel Man, to be the first to test an experimental pill designed to spin its user back to a desired age and hold there, yet still retain all previous memories. The pill seems too good to be true. Maybe it is.

Thank you, Morgan, and good luck with your new book!

Please feel free to leave questions here for Morgan.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Struggling with Book Formatting?

Book formatting is one of the greatest challenges for a self-published author. (Forgive me if I don’t use ‘indie’ - it still means a small, independent publishing company to me.) Outside of the cover art, it can cause the most frustration. You’ll either struggle to learn the program/formatting procedure or run the risk of producing a book that appears very unprofessional. (And the three things that mark a self-published book - unprofessional and poor cover art, editing, and formatting.)

This is also a service some smaller publishers outsource rather than do themselves.

One of my goals this year was to focus my efforts on what I enjoy the most. I’ve recently dropped some clients in one area to allow for more in another. I’m learning to play to my strengths, which involve the fact that I am very organized and enjoy detail work.

And that includes book formatting!

I format both print and ebooks. Recent clients include Drake Publishing and author Michael Taylor. I even formatted an ebook for our own Karen Walker. (And it was such a joy to hear her voice!)

If you are a writer, author, or publisher in search of book formatting, please visit my site, Spunk On A Stick, for details and prices. I am very reasonable (believe me, I’ve checked, and it’s scary how much some companies charge) and I guarantee my work. I am not happy until you are happy!

So before you beat your head against the keyboard or shell out $600.00 for a program like In Design, contact me. Trust me, I’ve already shelled out the cash and beat my head on the keyboard enough for both of us!

But you know what? I love it!

And just because... one more photo from our front seat TSO experience:

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Weekend Sillies and Front Row Seats!


And as an added treat...
On December 4th, we went to see Trans Siberian Orchestra for the 6th year in a row. We are in the fan club, so always get good seats. This past show was very special - I nabbed us front row seats!

Oh yes - it was AMAZING!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Insecure Writers Support Group

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hosted by one of the nicest bloggers in the world, Alex J. Cavanaugh. He just might be the most popular, too.

Monday’s post was all about my Christmas gift, the Dragon Naturally Speaking software. I am still loving it! It has made such a difference in my desire to write. Because that desire has been absent for a very long time.

Becoming an author is something I dreamed about since I held a newly released paperback of McCaffrey’s The White Dragon. I have hundreds of short stories I wrote during the next ten years and a complete novelette stashed in boxes. It wasn’t until ten years ago that I attempted to write a complete novel, inspired by just the wisp of a dream. That one novel soon became my series of five, The Circle of Friends, and I eventually wrote a non-fiction book, too.

Once I’d finished book V of my series, I lost some steam. My sixth book, I was very happy with the story and felt it was my best effort to date. After its release almost two years ago though, my drive to continue writing fiction fizzled and died. It was so much work to write and promote and it just didn’t sell as well as non-fiction. Of course, my desire to write non-fiction wasn’t faring much better.

That Dragon program has really made a difference. I have a non-fiction book I am editing, and since it is about publishing & promoting, I need to hurry and complete it before everything in the industry changes again. But with the new software, I am so excited!

And I might be brave enough to tackle another fiction book, too. The past few months have seen a large increase in the sales of my series in eBook form. That’s always a good ego boost!

Either way, I am happy about writing again. Although there are still other aspects about this industry I enjoy, too. But that is for another post.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Talking to Your Computer - Dragon Naturally Speaking

Happy New Year!

My favorite Star Trek is IV - The Voyage Home. In it there’s a scene where Scotty tries to talk to the computer, which of course was impossible in 1986.

Not anymore!

One of my Christmas presents was a software program called Dragon Naturally Speaking.

I love this program! Put on the microphone, run through the set up, and you are ready to roll.

What does Dragon do?

“Dictate documents, send email and instant messages, search and surf the Web, and more -- using just your voice. Dragon adapts to your voice and the words you use. You can even personalize Dragon with your own word lists of acronyms, proper names and other unique phrases.”

This program is incredible and it’s spurred me to write again. Actually, I’m editing. I’d written out my next book, about publishing and promoting, but just wasn’t motivated to do the first round of edits and enter it into the computer. (Also because I’m still doing research for websites and such.) But with the Dragon software, I don’t have to type it into the computer - I just say it. What a difference! And so fast. I produced three pages in an hour the first night and that is a record for me.

I have the home version, which is $99 at Nuance and Staples, but there are many different packages. There is even an app in iTunes.

Now Scotty can talk to the computer!

Have you ever tried the Dragon software?