Monday, October 31, 2011

Author Spotlight: Spencer Seidel

I have loved running the spotlights this month on other authors I've met as I started my own journey down this road. I feel I've learned so much from each of them and hope that the readers of my blog have as well. I end this month with a fellow New Jersey author. Spencer Seidel was introduced to me by a mutual friend. I immediately began following him on twitter – bought his book Dead Of Wynter (which I highly recommend for Halloween or any other time of the year) and have eagerly watched his career take off this past year.  

Spencer, thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog. Tell me when you knew writing was what you wanted to do.
As a kid, I was a voracious reader, so I sort of knew even then that I wanted to write. But I soon got sidetracked into music, which became my obsession until my early 20's. Then, I wrote a 300-or-so-page thesis on artificial intelligence for school, and that old writing bug bit me. Soon after, I was writing short stories and thinking about novels. I deconstructed many novels to figure out how it was done before making my first attempt.

You and I share that love of music. What genres do you write in?
To date, I've written suspense novels, but many of my readers have pointed out that there's a horror novelist in me waiting to come out. It may in my next novel!

What different routes did you try as far as publishing? Did you go the traditional route or did you ever consider self pub?
 I wrote two novels before my third was picked up by my publisher. I never seriously thought about self-publishing them because I realized that there was probably a reason I couldn't sell them. And I stand by that. Although they are "good" novels in many ways, they just weren't ready.

So tell us all about your collection of books: when it was out, where we can get them, etc.
My first novel, DEAD OF WYNTER, was released in trade paperback and ebook this year (2011 as of this writing). In the months before it was published, I was hard at work on another called LOVESICK. My publisher read it, and we signed a contract soon after, even before DEAD OF WYNTER was published. They decided to release LOVESICK in ebook format first--it's coming out hopefully this November. That will be followed by a limited print run next summer, so I can go to signings and give talks. Like many in the industry, we've discovered that the ebook versions out-sell the print versions by a wide margin, something like 8-1.

Those are amazing numbers. Thanks for sharing. What other experiences have you had once becoming a published author?
I have learned more about the publishing industry and its quirks in the last six months than in all the years I was dreaming about having a book published. It's a weird time in the industry and things are changing, but I'm not all doom and gloom about it. On my various book-tour signings this summer, I discovered that people are still reading and buying books like crazy. That hasn't changed. Having said that, however, small publishers, my own included, are having a rough go of it. There are a lot of folks out there hawking books, so it's hard to attract attention.

 How do you go about marketing and promoting your work?
So far, it's been the usual things: blog tours, book signings, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, giveaways, etc., and some not-so-usual things like radio interviews. I've found Facebook to be the most successful so far. A lot of voodoo and pixie dust go into book promoting. Often, the most effective things are not things you planned. Everyone knows that word-of-mouth is the way to sell books, but the trouble is that not all books are equal. Some books take off, others don't. Some debuts don't sell until the author has released another two. Or more. So, my strategy has been to keep calm and carry on, to just keep writing.

So smart to keep your head focused on writing and not get too bogged down in ‘how am I doing?’ Looking back, is there something you would have done differently or warn someone just starting to watch out for?
I wouldn't change much about what I've done. I'm learning and evolving as I go. Nothing is really a "mistake." It's a learning process. As for warnings, yes: be very skeptical of anyone who tells you that for the right price, they'll fix your manuscript or tell you how to write a bestseller. It's just like anything else. 99.999% of successful people in this industry have worked their asses off to get what they have. There's no easy path to success, and I work at this every single day to hopefully find it.

I really appreciate you taking time to join me on my blog. Anything else you would like to share?
Only that it's an exciting time to be involved in the industry. There will come a time years from now when this era will be discussed and dissected from a hindsight point of view. I will be happy to have those conversations because I was there, living through it all.

You can reach Spencer at his website. Be sure and check out his current novel as well as the upcoming LOVESICK out in November.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Playing Favorites with Months

October has always been a favorite month of mine...and this year has been no exception. (The past 24 hours where we had a freak snow storm in the northeast excluded.) I think it's that fall is my favorite season and growing up in Texas we would finally get that 'fall' feeling by this month. I love the colors, the smells, and how I generally 'feel'. 


Today I did a reading and signing of my book at a wonderful event with talented singers and musicians where I was able to talk of the influence of music on my writing. It occurred to me while speaking to them that the first musical I ever wrote (28 years ago) was produced in the month of October. (It was a children's Halloween musical after all called Dracula Bites at Dusk.) 


I moved to NYC on October 1st four years after that. 


Five years ago, I left a corporate job (after 13 years) and started a new one in the arts...in the month of October. 


I love to travel and every year I love taking trips at this time of the year because the air is more welcoming and a calmness comes over me that I can't quite explain.


This year, it was in this month that my debut novel made it's way into the world when it officially came out on what has now been "Coming Out Day" for the GLBT community since 1988. And this month plays a pivotal role in that very book, Well With My Soul, with many things occurring in this autumn month throughout the 15 years in the life of one of the characters.  


I guess if I had to choose a 'lucky month' - it would certainly be this one. Sorry to see you end, October. You have been very good to me this year.


Do you have a favorite time of year that stands out with significance to you? Leave me a comment about it.





Friday, October 28, 2011

Author Spotlight: Kage Alan


Kage Alan was of the first authors I found on twitter and I bought up (and read) his very funny book “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation.” I was happy he agreed to be on my blog today.

In his words: Very few people have mastered the fine art of making fun of others. Comediennes have, but they're too easy to find because they make public appearances. Irritating someone and making them laugh while you're doing it requires a more advanced intellect, a delicate touch and, of course, being a writer. I've gone to great lengths in learning how to make fun of myself before turning my pen...or keyboard...towards those around me. It's how my comedies have been born. Further mirth and mayhem can be found at my site, KageAlan.com, and in my blog posts. Enjoy!

So Kage (love that name!) when did you start writing?
 I started writing puppet plays in 2nd grade, which turned into short stories in Jr. High and then longer pieces in college. It never occurred to me to think of it as “serious” because writing has always been serious. It was a fight, though. My teachers tried to steer me into writing a very, very specific way; their way. Were you ever taught how to write a paragraph? A main topic sentence, three subtopic sentences and blah blah blah? Yeah, nobody writes that way and you sure as heck don’t write a novel that way. And when I pointed that out to one teacher in particular, she labeled me as a troublemaker. Little did she know I took it as a compliment.

Very funny! What genre do you write in?
The genre I write in, when asked…as I have been, is comedy. Dig a little deeper and one might discover that I write comedy featuring characters in the lead who happen to be gay. Dig a little deeper than that and it’s entirely possible one might find that I tend to add a multi-cultural element to each comedic tale. Why? Because my partner is half Chinese and it tickles me to write things about him that he doesn’t realize I am.

How long did you search for a publisher before you started with your current one?
It took well over 3 years before I found my first publisher and they were definitely the bottom rung on the ladder. When somebody’s printing books in their garage and the ink on the covers run, you don’t go much lower. And, once they went out of business, it took yet another year before finding my current publisher. I only recently threw out the stack of rejection letters that had accumulated. I did keep a couple of them only because they make me giggle. One potential publisher suggested I rewrite my first novel in third person, then they’d “consider” looking at it again. Uh, no. Another asked what I had against people named Richard since I took a shot at one in the story. Had he read further, he’d see I’m an equal opportunity annoyer.

Tell us a little about your collection that is out there in the public.
The first version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To My Sexual Orientation came out in 2003. It was followed by Andy Stevenson Vs. the Lord of the Loins and (from last year) Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell. The books are in print and e-book. Ironically, I’m not a huge fan of e-books, but I can’t deny that the majority of my sales are from e-books. I just happen to be from a generation that enjoys flipping through pages and feeling the weight of a book in my hand. Okay, you can also sign a book. You can’t sign an e-book.

Did your publisher handle everything like one of the big publishers or is there something more you feel you have to do with marketing/promoting/social media?
My publisher published the book. Beyond that, they look for a very strong commitment from their authors. I do all of my own social media (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+, Reddit, etc), book my own signings, seek out reviewers to read my book and find recognizable names to give me blurbs for my back covers. They’re difficult lessons to learn, but it’s something every author should go through. The good news is that misery loves company and there are plenty of us out there swimming the social media streams while bitching about it.

It’s been a few years now since your first book came out. In hindsight, any changes you would have made or done different?
I can’t say that I would have done things different. There were many fellow authors out there who offered advice and helped guide me through the process. One thing I’m extremely grateful for is their insistence that I have a lawyer look over every contract from a publisher before I sign it. A publisher is looking after their interests. Nobody will do that for you, so if you hire a lawyer, it’s the only peace of mind you’re likely to get. Other folks will insist on trying to land an agent. Don’t waste your time, at least in the beginning. I had one. Go out and prove you can get a book published first, learn the ins and out of promoting your work and then maybe start to look for an agent later if you still feel the urge.

Anything else you would like to share about your foray into being a published author?
Sure. If you’re a straight male, being an author is a total chick magnet! If you’re a gay male, it’s a total guy magnet! I’m assuming it’s the same for the opposite sex, too. Either way, publishing can be a wonderful addition to your love life opportunities! Okay, and those rare e-mails from folks who liked what you wrote make it worthwhile, too. The signings are a definite perk…lunch with Nathan Fillion every couple of months is fun…wearing shirts that say “Careful or you’ll wind up in my novel” raises a few eyebrows and… Well, you’ll just have to discover the rest for yourself.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Touring to Sirius Radio

Kitty Goes Everywhere:
Even the Sirius Radio Station
If you think that love isn't found on the radio...
What an amazing day I had. Even a rainy morning in New York couldn't get me down today. I had the honor of appearing on Out Q Sirius Radio with host Larry Flick to discuss my book on The Morning Jolt. People may find it bizarre that a man who has been an actor and a singer on stage (and toured the country in a ninja turtle suit) can get nervous, but I still do. As an author, I think one of the hardest parts is just being 'you' and discussing your book and yourself. There are times we think "why should people listen to what I have to say?" and then someone like Larry reads your book and asks you to come on to discuss it and there is a sense of amazing validation for your work.


I'm always one to live in reality (Lord knows I've watched enough reality TV) - by that I mean I don't have grand notions of my book hitting the NY Times Best Seller List or Hollywood knocking on my door. I stay grounded and simply want to write stories that people enjoy - that will hopefully touch, inspire, and cause people to ask questions. However, with each 'first' that happens on this book tour - I can't help but stop and breathe it in and enjoy the moment as it happens. There is something surreal that takes over as you float through it believing it's not really happening to you: people are not in a line to buy your book and have it signed at a local store; you are not talking to a well known DJ who read your book and is telling people on a national level about it on his show; you really didn't just notice your numbers climbing on the Amazon list indicating more sells have occurred. The thrill is very hard to describe, yet 'thrill' is the word to use.


Heading into this morning, a real sense of who I am took over as I analyzed the fear I was having. I am a huge planner (have you seen my blogs on my vacations?) and somewhat of a control freak. (Friends reading this are now saying 'somewhat'? Remove that word!) It hit me the fear of a live radio interview came out of the fact I had completely no control over anything. Nada. Not knowing the questions or where it would lead is hard on a type A personality...but it was great and I absolutely loved being there. Larry Flick has been doing this for years and he was so kind and warm towards me, he put me right at ease and I felt like I was talking to a group of old friends with both him and Keith Price (who does the show each morning with Larry). 


My dear friend (who also acts as my life coach) told me those things that seem like a coincidence should not easily be pushed aside. As I walked up to the building this morning, it struck me that I almost ended up working in that very McGraw-Hill Building. I had interviewed there with a prominent banking company and came close to taking the job (until my former job ponied up more money to keep me with them). And I stood staring across the street at Radio City Music Hall that also plays a major turning point in Well With My Soul and thought about how the book and reality were merging. Then once inside, I find out that Keith and I are both originally from Texas and swore we had met before. Coincidences be damned! 


I can't say thanks to Larry enough for today. It's one more moment I'll hang on to from this tour (that has included book signings, blog tours, radio spots) and hopefully - one more moment that will introduce his listeners to my book and I'll get an opportunity to reach someone else with my writing.


For me, that's what it's all about.


Be "well" all...and tune in to Larry's show each morning on channel 108 on Sirius! Great interviews, talks, and music!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Author Spotlight: Jesi Lea Ryan


I’ve been following Jesi Lea Ryan on twitter and asked if I could interview her for my blog. Happy she said “YES”! She was born and raised in the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, Iowa. She graduated from Loras College with degrees in Creative Writing and Literature, and is now working on her MBA. She currently lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin. When not reading or writing, she spends her time working for the Indie Book Collective and talking to random people on Twitter. In addition to her debut novel, Four Thousand Miles, she has published several short stories and maintains a book blog.

So I always start with this question: When did writing become such a part of your life?
Books have always been a major part of my life. I began reading at three, chapter books by six. I wrote my first book when I was eight. My school librarian helped me publish it locally and it ended up being placed in dentist offices and such. I don’t even have a copy of it any more. J  Anyway, that experience sparked a love for writing in me, but I never believed I had the talent or connections to make a real career out of writing. I majored in Creative Writing and Literature in college, but only because I was interested in the classes, not because I planned to work in those areas. Instead, I set writing aside for the exciting world of insurance. In 2009, I and a few other million people in the U.S. were laid off from our jobs during the recession. I decided then that I felt confident enough to start writing seriously. I had never written novel length before, and I wasn’t even sure I could do it. Four Thousand Miles was women’s fiction / romance. I had a great time writing it. The reviews have all been very positive, so I’m thrilled with that.  My current novel, which is in the revision stage, is a young adult paranormal—the first in a trilogy. I have also written a few short stories which fall into literary fiction.  I guess since my reading tastes are so eclectic, that shows in my writing. 

What different routes did you try as far as publishing (traditional/Indie/Self)?
 My first attempts were to try to find an agent for Four Thousand Miles. That was a colossal failure! No one wanted to touch women’s fiction.  In May of 2010, I attended the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention, hoping to get some face-to-face time with the agents, but when I got there, the agent appointments were all booked. So, I changed my strategy and scheduled appointments directly with the editors from the publishers. The response I received from them was very positive! In fact, the first editor I met with was from DCL Publications, and within two weeks of receiving my sample chapters, she bought the book. While my novel was published by a small publisher, I published my short stories myself. This gives me experience on both sides of the industry. 

When/what/how? (Release dates/what books/how can we read ‘em?)  
My novel was released in e-book in October 2010, but due to distribution problems, it didn’t make it onto Amazon until May 2011 and STILL is not on Barns & Noble. (No, I am not happy about that.) Also, my publisher holds the print rights, yet has no intention of releasing it in print. I asked for my print rights back so I could self-publish the print version, but they refused.  I’m stuck until the end of my contract. I chalk that one up to learning experience. My short stories are also only available in e-book. I suppose it I ever accumulated enough of them I could put together an anthology, but honestly, I don’t write a lot of short fiction. 

I can see there have been definite issues in your journey. Can you elaborate on the experience?
Honestly, there are pro’s and con’s whichever way to go, traditional or self-publishing. I like the control I get from self-publishing. I didn’t encounter distribution problems because I handled it all myself. I also could set the pricing, give away as many free copies as I wanted. On the other hand, the editing services that a publisher offers are nice. Diane Davis White was my editor, and I can’t say enough good things about working with her. My suggestion when signing with any publisher is to know exactly what they are going to do for you. Ask questions about distribution, promotion and money. If you don’t have an agent, you should probably have a contract attorney familiar with publishing review your paperwork.  There can be a ton of loopholes in these contracts that you need to be aware of. A great resource on contracts is http://www.thepassivevoice.com.

Thanks for sharing that! Tell us a little about your marketing process and thoughts on social media.
I don’t think I could have done any of this without Twitter. It is seriously the single most important tool in my writing toolbox. I knew how to write a book. What I didn’t know was what to do with it when I was done. Writers on Twitter are just wonderful about offering advice and support. As a natural extrovert, Twitter also adds a social component to writing that I desperately need. Marketing via Twitter and other social media can be a bit tricky. On one hand, it is an affordable way to get the word out on your products. On the other hand, you have to be careful not to go over board and turn your Twitter stream into one long commercial for your book. Don’t spam people with links to your book or blog, just talk to them. People want to get to know you, and when they do, they are more likely to check out your stuff. I guess the best thing I can say is to advertise on social media in moderation. The best promotion is word of mouth generated by someone other than you. Use your social media contacts to talk about your work.  It’s free and provides lots of benefit!

Really great advice as I know we authors get excited when it is ‘book launch’ time and it seems as if that’s all we discuss. Looking back, is there something you would have changed?
I’m not sure. I mean I guess it would have been cool to score a huge publisher with a hefty advance, but since I didn’t want to wait for something that might not have ever happened, I signed with a small publisher. I’m happy with that decision and have no regrets. I do wish I would have gotten a little more guidance on my contract before I signed it. Not that I have found anything particularly wrong with mine or anything, I just think I should have been a little more diligent before signing. 

Anything else you would like to share before leaving us today?
This is such a fun and exciting time for publishing. The technology is moving so fast that it is revolutionizing the whole industry. If you are a struggling author who is having trouble getting the attention of agents or publishers, consider self-publishing. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Author Spotlight: Don Smith


I first came upon author Don Smith from reading about him in my town. Then when I was being interviewed for a magazine article the interviewer and I ended up discussing him and I knew I wanted to interview him for my blog. Don is a freelance writer who has written for many web sites, two different comic book companies, and author of two books, Hawthorne from Arcadia Publishing and The Goffle Road Murders of Passaic County from History Press.

Thanks for joining me today, Don. You have quite a career in writing. Can you tell us when you started?
When I was growing up in school, to me writing was synonymous with school work and I hated it. But I realized as I continued on writing in school that I enjoyed the "story telling" exercises. I remember writing my own science fiction stories in third grade - one was the discovery of lasers and the other was about a mutated mosquito. But by the time I was in sixth grade, I was writing my own versions of "Encyclopedia Brown" and that was the first real time I remember writing a story. Ultimately, I realized that what I wanted to do was to tell stories about super heroes and this led to me going in the direction of writing. I wish I could say "On Jan. 15, 1984, the Almighty came as a fiery burning angel saying, 'Yea, verily! Don, thou shalt be a writer!'" But that did not happen. It was a gradual realization.

I know you have been published with two different houses with your books. Did you ever consider the ‘do it yourself’ route?
To me publishing is a varied as the subject matter of the book; ultimately, the publishing route dictates the product you have to offer. My biggest problem was I did not have a book to offer. Every time I would try to write a novel or work on a script, I would get bored with the novel writing route. I could only make it like 20,000 words in and realize I was bored with the story.
However, writing Hawthorne and The Goffle Road Murders of Passaic County made sense because they were shorter "tomes" and I had more patience with them. And fortunately, the publishers were available. I will say this; I have tried self-publishing with my newest venture "Ghost Adventures" #1. It is a comic book based on a story that appeared in my friends real life ghost hunting tales. I will let you know how it turns out. 

How long have you had books out there for the public to read?
My first book Hawthorne from Arcadia Publishing came out in 2006 and my second one, The Goffle Road Murders of Passaic County just came out in August. I also contributed to two different books Ghost Investigator Volume 4: Ghosts of New York and New Jersey (2004 Spirited Books) Werewolves: Myth, Mystery and Magick which came out from Schiffer Publishing this year.

What has your experience been like on the publishing side of things?
For the most part, it has been interesting. I am simply amazed at how much I cannot make a living publishing. Honestly, unless you are the editors or the marketers, the writers themselves are unable to make a living doing it. Simply, most writers have to get a part time job or make another living doing something else until their books take off. But here's the thing, it is doable and every writer can carve their own path. 

How important is social media to you as an author?
I live on Facebook. I am constantly sending messages, voicing my opinions and creating a niche and an identity for myself. Some of my marketing friends have a massive plan and move forward with certain efforts...to be honest, I am not that net savvy, but what I do is make the rounds on Blog Talk Radio and other podcasts. But again, it depends on the subject matter of the book.

You’ve been at this a few years now. Is there anything you look back on and wish you would have done differently?
At the risk of being evangelical...I would tell myself to remember two things, "Has it ever occurred to you, nothing occurs to God?" and "The older you get the more useless ego is."
I am sorry at the amount of times I wasted worrying and how it all worked out one way or the other. I have also learned the importance of having a relationship with a Higher Power or God. I prefer to come at it from a Born-Again Christian point of view and being reminded that something bigger is looking out for you and has it under control.

No risk of sounding evangelical on my blog! (Southern Baptist guy here living in Jersey.) Anything else you would like to share about your adventures of being a published author?
Basically, you can carve your own path. While it will have similarities between your career and others, it is still a very individual path and it is okay to do what is practical and what works. What works for you will not work for someone else and vice versa. Ultimately, the most important thing is acceptance of where your station is in life.

Don mentioned being on Facebook: look for him there. He'll also be doing a book signing at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, October 25th at Well Read Books in Hawthorne, NJ. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Author Spotlight: Terri Giuliano Long


Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the award-winning novel In Leah’s Wake which tells the tale of a contemporary American family caught in the throes of adolescent rebellion - a heartbreaking, funny, ultimately redemptive quest for love, independence, connection and grace (which I personally wanted to shake this family while reading it)!  Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and a writing teacher at Boston College. She was grateful and thrilled beyond words when In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble and Amazon bestseller lists in August. She owes a lot of wonderful people – big time! – for any success she’s enjoyed!


Terri, welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you could join me. I read your book and I want to jump right into when you knew you wanted to be a writer.
Until high school, I planned to be visual artist - a graphic artist or painter. At heart, though, I’ve always been a writer. As a child, I entertained myself by making up stories and acting in my own improvisational plays. In high school, I took an advanced writing course; I loved the class and began writing for the school paper. One day, brazenly, I walked into office at the town paper and asked the editor for a job. At first, I covered sports and other high school news; soon, I was given my own column. I was sixteen. That column was my first paid writing job. I earned about a dollar a week – and I knew then that the only job I’d ever want would be as a writer.

So once you knew you wanted to attempt publishing, which route did you go?
In 2006, the book was under contract with an indie publisher. Shortly before the release, problems emerged. Eventually (unrelated to me), the company folded. I sent the book to a handful of agents, received lovely, complimentary responses, but no offers. I really believed in this book. I’d received so much encouragement and positive feedback over the years, from agents, editors, readers, writer friends—I’m grateful, truly grateful to all of them—that I had a hard time letting go. For years, I tried to revise. Eventually, I realized I was writing in circles. The book had changed, but it had gotten no better. Reluctantly, I put it away.

Last year, after several false starts, I finally gained traction on a new novel, my psychological thriller, Nowhere to Run. Like In Leah’s Wake, Nowhere is a family story at heart. I anticipate finishing the new novel this fall. I knew I’d need a platform for this new book, and hoped that self-publishing In Leah’s Wake would help me build one.

A lot of people self-publish today; for me, the indie route was a new, and scary, avenue. It’s been bumpy ride – and the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

When did In Leah’s Wake come out?
The book came out in both print and digital formats in October 2010. Until I have Smashwords numbers for July and August, I won’t have exact figures; my closest estimation is approximately 20,000 copies, 16,000 since August.

I hope you realize how encouraging that is for other authors out there. Can you share some of your process behind marketing/the business end of it all?
When I published In Leah’s Wake in October 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew that the industry was changing and I’d need a platform if I hoped to sell the new book. Stupidly, too embarrassed to self-promote, I put the book on Amazon and left it at that. I mean really left it at that – not even my parents knew I had published the book!

I sold two books in October, four in November, and thirty-four in December. For a few months, as people bought books for their new Kindles, I sold a few copies a day. By March, with sales lagging, and I realized that, if I didn’t do something, the book would die. In early March, I began blogging and activated my Twitter account. 

Unsure of what to do next, I scoured the Internet, looking for advice. After landing on the Novel Publicity site three or four times, I contacted Emlyn Chand, and signed up for a few basic services. For the next three months, Emlyn and I worked on building my social networking platform. She introduced me to Twitter, reorganized my blog, and created a media kit, book discussion guide, and video trailer. In mid-May, I began my Novel Publicity blog tour. In May, I sold thirty-eight books. In June, sales increased to about 2 – 3 books a day. Now, six months later, we’ve sold nearly 20,000 copies of the novel, with 6000 sales between October 1 and October 9.

Once I got used to the idea that marketing didn’t have to mean unabashed self-promotion, I began to enjoy it. I’ve done two blog hops with the IBC, a second tour - Social Media Whirlwind - with Novel Publicity, and the IBC’s elite promotion, Bestseller For A Day. Emlyn and I also created an interactive In Leah’s Wake quiz and crossroads stories for my blog. Because we’ve done a lot of different things, often simultaneously, it’s hard to attribute increased sales to any specific marketing strategy. It’s more likely a case of all these things contributing to name recognition.

So obviously social media is a very important part of your process...
Social media is, in my estimation, our most important and effective avenue. If you connect with people, on a human level, they remember you. They may not buy your book, but maybe they’ll mention your name to somebody else. Marketing makes a huge difference, but word-of-mouth - people talking, readers recommending your book to their friends - has always been the most powerful and effective way to sell books. The industry is changing, for sure, but some things will always be the same.

Your book has been out a year. Anything you would have done differently? I’d market aggressively from the start, before the book came out. In 2009, 288,355 books were traditionally published, and 764,448 indie or self-published. This was before the e-book explosion, so I can only imagine the numbers today. For your book to stand out, you have to make noise. While the climate is changing, many critics won’t review indie-published books. My traditionally published friends were interviewed on radio and TV, and reviewed in large commercial publications like USA Today and People. A radio spot or review in a large circulation paper or magazine generates interest and gets people talking.

Few indie publishers land those major spots or reviews. The reality is, we can promote our work or watch it languish. By the time I finally started to promote the book, it had been out for close to six months. This gives the impression that the book is a loser. Shame on me - until recently, I never really gave it a shot.

Well obviously – what you have done the 2nd six months has really paid off and more and more people are learning about your book. Any parting words you want to share before leaving us today?
Market, market, market. Did I say market? Again, start before you publish the book.

Develop a strong social marketing platform. Writers must engage. Readers are on the Internet – on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and other networks – talking about books. If you’re visible, if they’ve heard of you, maybe they’ll talk about your book. These networks are about community NOT self-promotion. Still, even if you can’t link social networking directly to sales, you’ll benefit from the support.

Mobilize your personal networks. A few months prior to publication, spread the news to family and friends, send your book to anyone who might be interested in reading; ask them to spread the word. A week or so before your pub date, ask family and friends to post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.

If you can afford it, hire a publicist. She’ll work with you and support you, and you won’t feel so alone. Work hard with your publicist to promote your book. Most books sell very few copies. If you’re a name author or you received a hefty advance, your publisher will promote you. The rest of us, indie or traditionally published, receive little or no notice, so we must be proactive.

There are various types and levels of promotion, so you need not spend a fortune. If you can’t afford or don’t care to hire a publicist, do the work yourself. Create a website; build your social network, contact reviewers and bloggers; reach out to book clubs. Dollars & Sense: the definitive guide to self-publishing, released last week by the founders of the Indie Book Collective has already hit bestseller status! It’s no wonder – it’s an amazing book with a wealth of actionable information.

Self-publishing was a good choice for me. I don’t regret it. This is an exciting time for publishing – with tremendous opportunity for writers. Whatever choice you make, whether you decide to self-publish or hold out for a traditional publishing contract, hold onto your dream. You can make it happen! Don’t ever give up!

What a great wealth of knowledge Terri shares. She is so good at ‘paying it forward’ with other authors. Get out there and follow her on the web. Terri can be found online at: website Blog Twitter Facebook 



Friday, October 21, 2011

The Start of the Ride

Well Read Book Store Hawthorne, NJ
My journey has started down this road of publication and while I'll admit it is as much work as I was warned, I absolutely love what I'm doing. Actually writing the book is such a small fraction of the process. Getting people to read it, talk about it, and pass it on: that's the ride. I've started a blog tour which is a great way to get yourself out there to meet new people across the internet (and probably annoy my friends as well each time I post a new interview). As an author, you want people to get to know you - so I attempt to answer the questions in as best ways as I can (without repeating myself over and over). I am very lucky as an indie author to also be able to go into bookstores and do book signings. I don't take that lightly because I realize just how few authors actually get to experience it. I'm grateful to the stores that are hosting me and so appreciative of the people turning out. 

Saturday I'm attending an all day conference in NYC for small publishers/self publishers: seeing what more I can learn from the other side. I've always been the type to research and learn as much as possible about any project I jump in to and I hope to gain some knowledge from the day. I still have one more week left to run spotlights on my blog of other authors who have made this trip before I did. I've learned so much from interviewing them this month and really appreciate their candid responses. The next two months are pretty full with signings, some radio interviews, and blog tours and as a good friend advised, I need to be sure and enjoy each moment as it's happening. Not simply rush through it.

Thank you to those readers who are reaching out to me to discuss WELL WITH MY SOUL after reading. I'm so happy it is touching people in such a way that they feel the need to talk to me about it. (One particular friend has become obsessed since finishing it and I have loved our talks about it.) 

Please continue to share the word and I hope I don't annoy too much as I share my experience. It's very exciting for a debut novelist to get the opportunity to live this life. And thanks to social media: I can take others along on the ride with me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Blog: The Accidental Writer


Today I am happy to welcome author David G. Hallman as a guest blogger. I met David on twitter earlier this summer and read his moving memoir August Farewell. David's debut novel Searching for Gilead is now also available. Take it away, David.

  

My current writing career is totally unexpected.

During my professional working life, I wrote five books most of which were academic in nature and focused on my subject area of environmental ethics. The one exception theme-wise was a book on AIDS that grew out of a 1989 international conference that I coordinated.

I took early retirement and looked forward to a more relaxed lifestyle from the previous thirty years much of which I had spent traveling around the world involved in UN negotiations on climate change. I had no intention of doing further writing.

Then life, rather dramatically, intervened in my plans.

Bill, my partner, was suddenly diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. He died sixteen days after we received the diagnosis. We had been together as a gay couple for thirty-three years.

About six weeks after Bill’s death, I found myself becoming exceeding anxious that I would forget the details of those excruciating two weeks while he laying dying in our home. That journey was intense, profound, and spiritual. I became convinced that I needed to record it for myself so that I could revisit it in years ahead – something like how we treasure photo albums. If I forgot the details it felt to me like I would be losing Bill a second time.

So I began writing a chronology of those sixteen days. As I did, I kept being reminded of experiences that we had had together over our thirty-three years together. I started integrating vignettes from our past into the record of those August days. The memoir, August Farewell, was the result.

After completing it, I decided to share it with a few close friends. They circulated it to others. I kept getting the same feedback from everyone who read it – I was told that our story could be a help to others who have experienced the loss of a loved one as well as for people who would like to learn more about a long-term gay relationship. My friends encouraged me to publish it.

I resisted the idea of publishing it. It felt too personal. Eventually, after a year of cajoling, my friends prevailed and I agreed. However, then I encountered a new dilemma. I could not imaging myself going to commercial publishers trying to convince them that this was something that they should take on. That prospect felt disrespectful to Bill’s memory.

So I decided to go the self-publishing route with iUniverse – a very satisfying experience.

Though I now had the historical record of our life together and of Bill’s dying, my head and my heart were still roiling with unresolved issues. In the three years prior to Bill’s death, four other immediate family members had died. Plus, I was now retired and looking back on a career much of it spent engaged in international issues about which I had many questions.

I decided to continue writing as a way to think through the multitude of issues, personal and professional, that were consuming my head and my heart. I plunged into the waters of fiction to see if through my imagination I could write a story that would speak to my own preoccupations and perhaps have interest to others.

My experience with iUniverse and self-publishing had been so positive, I decided to continue in that stream. After all, the novel Searching for Gilead was my first attempt at fiction writing and I doubted any commercial publisher would have interest.

So this second career as a writer is indeed an accidental, unplanned one. Who knows where it will go. I certainly don’t.

For information on David’s books, consult his website or find him on twitter

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Author Spotlight: Tarek Refaat


Tarek Refaat was recommended by a mutual twitter author friend and so I began to follow him. It goes to show the power of twitter that can unite people in the US with those in Egypt.

I really appreciate you joining me on my blog. Can you tell me when you started writing?
I began to write at a very young age. I used to like to have a pencil and a piece of paper with me to write what I’d see, but I began to realize I enjoy writing in my later teen years. I began to actually think of taking it seriously a bit after my mid-twenties. I've ventured into several genres, especially that I write in Arabic & in English.

What genre do you write in?
I've written Comedy, Romance, Articles, Action adventure, historical fiction.  

Did you go the traditional route or indie?
Well I published my first book "Ruptured" (available now) via a traditional Publisher here in Egypt; however I am now checking for a more indie publishing approach.


What is it about an indie approach from that of your current traditional publishing house that interests you?

Well an indie approach keeps you more in control, because you are involved in every detail of the book (however sometimes that does worry me a bit). I already am an IT professional with a full time job, a family man, and doing my masters; so trying to keep everything on track is quite a draining process. But am sure others manage the process. Also it enlightens you on the very different aspects such as the book paper quality, book sizes , covers , etc. For myself, the difference in going indie would be I am more likely to penetrate the English reader major markets which are outside of Egypt such as the US and the UK (while I am physically here in Egypt). That may create another obstacle, but I also believe that can be overcome. 

Are you a print or eBook kind of author?
My book is available both printed and e-books. Here in Egypt there are approximately 1000 copies printed. 

How do you market and promote your books?
Well my marketing and promotion are mostly currently ‘self made’. Since I am trying to give "Ruptured" more exposure outside of Egypt via the e-books, I am mainly attempting to get to know the writing communities, writers, readers and authors. Because of my firm belief that reading is a matter of trust and this comes from good book reviews and followers or word of mouth.

Is there something you would have done differently or a ‘mantra’ you tell yourself?
Nothing specific, but not to let yourself get depressed easily; getting a book out is a hectic process and it takes time!

Anything else you would like to share with us?
I would just like to say that I have come across some great writers such as Evangelina Jo, Lorna Suzuki & Patti Roberts - they are very supportive writers and always try to help you out. People like that help you find your way! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them for the support! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Author Spotlight: Renee Pawlish


I first met Renee Pawlish when I came across her in an author forum on Facebook. She is the author of This Doesn't Happen In The Movies (Available at Amazon and Smashwords) and Nephilim Genesis of Evil (Now an ebook!)


Thank you for coming over to my blog Renee! So when did you know you were a writer?
I've wanted to write since high school, but I didn't really work hard at it until after grad school.  I write mysteries, but Nephilim Genesis of Evil is kind of a mix of mystery, thriller, paranormal, and horror (although no blood, just good suspense and fear).

How did you go about getting published?
I've queried novels dating back to about 1995. I knew my writing was "good" when I started to get rejection letters that said things like "this needs a bit of work, and if I had the time, I'd work with you", or for Nephilim "we like it, we just can't see the market for it".  It was at that point (2006) that I decided to self-publish Nephilim because I figured I could do just as well selling it on my own, and maybe that would get me an agent (that didn't happen but I'm happy with the end result - I got great reviews and I know there's a market for what I write). I hired an editor for content, another for grammar and spelling, an artist for the cover, and used 48 Hour Books in Ohio to print the books. I had two print runs for Nephilim and it sold quite well; I only have a few books left that I kept for myself. I then did the same for a non-fiction book called The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, about a haunted house investigation in Kansas.  It's sold moderately well and I plan to release it in ebook form. Last year I started reading about Amanda Hocking and JA Konrath and I decided that I should jump on the ebook bandwagon. And here I am, hocking (no pun intended lol) my books to the digital world. It's been great because Nephilim is now getting a new lease on life, plus I'm releasing my mysteries and some short stories.

You made really great points there about hiring ‘a team’ to work on your books. Speaking of – what do you have out or coming out?
 Nephilim came out as a trade paperback in 2007.  It is now available as an ebook, and will soon be available again as a trade paperback through CreateSpace.  The Sallie House is a trade paperback, available at Amazon and through my website. It will also be an ebook soon. This Doesn't Happen In The Movies is an ebook, but will soon be available as a trade paperback. The second in the series, tentatively titled Reel Estate Rip-off, will be an ebook later this month, and a short story collection called Take Five will be available as an ebook in a week or so.

Sounds like you are really getting the whole ‘ebook’ thing! That’s great. What’s your overall experience with publishing?
The publishing side of things can be tedious, and at times frustrating, especially with formatting in Microsoft Word. But I also get a kick out of seeing a book go from words on the computer to an actual book that people can read and enjoy. It's also been fun working on book covers and trying to make the essence of the book appear in the cover.

Now the dreaded “M word.” Tell us about marketing.
Marketing is hard, and I harken to JA Konrath's advice. I may be misquoting a bit, but he essentially said when he started out that he wrote about 30% of the time and marketed about 70% of the time. I would have to agree with him. It's time-consuming to market, but as an author, you can't just expect the readers to come to you - you have to find them and build the word of mouth.

Do you see a huge significance in social media?
Social media is crucial in this process. I primarily use Twitter, a Facebook fan page (I believe every author should have one) and a blog, along with my website, to promote. I also look for interviews and guest-blogging opportunities to get my name out there. My books consistently get great reviews, but that doesn't mean the readers are going to flock to me. I have to tell them about the books.

I see your name everywhere – so I think you’re doing a great job at it! Any advice for others?
Keep at it. For many years, my writing would ebb and flow, and I wished I would've just kept writing no matter what. Also, I can't stress this enough, authors need to take creative writing classes, or read books on writing, go to conferences and so on, to learn their craft. Don't assume that your work is automatically good just because your spouse, friend, mother, father, or whoever, said it was.

Do you see any downfall to the rush of authors hitting the ebook market?
I just read reviews about an author who had comments for "a great concept" but all the reviews (all of them, I'm not exaggerating) said that the author needed to work on her writing. This to me is a perfect example of someone who is taking advantage of the new ebook revolution and publishing too soon, before she honed her writing skills. This can hurt other indie authors as it continues the stigma that indie authors aren't good.

I’m really glad you joined me today. Any last words?
Be willing to spend a little money on your writing career. Learn about marketing, get a great editor, pay for great covers, and so on. If you want your books to sell, make sure you've put a quality product out there.

Check out more information on Renee at her website.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And the winner is...

One of the great things about the indie community of writers is meeting other authors through contests and forums. I recently participated in a cover design contest and UK author Daniel A. Kaine won for his great cover for Dawn of Darkness which is due out as an eBook on the 22nd of this month (and check out the giveaway going on over at goodreads.com). 


I agree that the cover is a really captivating and plays well into the blurb on the book: Unburdened by the pain of loss and heartbreak, Mikhail is content with his life of solitude. But everything began to change the day he realised he has a psychic ability -- the power to alter the emotions of those around him. 


In reading Daniel's bio on his website, I see him as an exciting group of young authors who will tackle many genres. While he says he currently writes books with homosexual themes, he wants to branch out beyond that. I completely understand that thinking, Daniel, as I too wish to be thought of as someone who simply writes: no matter what the subject matter may be about. Authors should be given the chance to branch out into all sorts of genres and no longer be pegged as one type of writer. I really hope that Mr. Kaine's generation of writers is able to break that mold that has been part of the writing world for so long. 


I personally wish Daniel all the best with his book release and hope that readers of this blog will give it a try. (Check out his trailer here.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Author Spotlight: David Corbet


David Corbet (1972-present) was born in Idaho but raised in Northern California. He graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion in 1996 and from George Fox University in 2001 with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. He returned to Idaho in 2004 when he began writing and painting as modes to express his interior life. His first book of poems "A Year in the Mountains" reflects his emotional state as he transitions from a city life to a mountain life. His second book is an action novel titled “Memoirs of a Super Criminal.” He currently resides in a mid-sized city in Southeastern Idaho.  

David – welcome to my blog! Tell me when you started your career as a writer?
The first novel I finished was in 2002 or 2003. I had written a few short stories and non-fiction pieces but nothing published. I returned to writing as a serious pursuit in 2010. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy so I tend to place my stories in that genre. I have been playing around with the idea of writing something outside of my normal bounds but so far have not carried the idea very far.

What different routes did you try as far as publishing?
I tried getting my first novel published. I did not work all that hard at it though. Life takes its own course and at that time I did not have a lot of emotional energy to invest in “putting myself out there.” After a few rejection notices I just let it slide away. Not that I gave up, just tabled it for a while until I could find the place and time to return to it.

When did your first book come out? How many do you have out there? Are your books in print, eBook or both?
I have two books that I have self published through various e-book providers. My first book, One Year in the Mountains, came out in July 2011. It is a collection of poems that I had written and edited ready for publication. It was just sitting on my hard drive doing nothing. When I decided to self publish as an e-publisher/author I wanted to do a test run of the e-publishing systems, so I used my book of poems. Poems are not that hot of a seller so I did not have many expectations I just wanted to familiarize myself with the whole publishing and promotion aspects so when my novel was ready I could be more efficient. To my surprise my book of poems has sold better than my novel.

Wow! That is really amazing to hear how well the poetry did! What about your second book?
Memoirs of a Super Criminal came out in September 2011. I learned a lot when I published my poems. The second time through was much smoother. Each system has different formatting and stylistic requirements. That takes some practice perfecting. The learning curve on e-publishing is just as hard as anything else. It is not just a click of a button and you are done.

What has your experience been like on the publishing side of things?
E-publishing is very different from traditional publishing. Traditional publishing you send out manuscript after manuscript hoping it will get read and then liked and then responded to favorably. With e-publishing it is just a grueling task of formatting and reformatting your book to be accepted by the e-book providers. There is a lot less anxiety but a lot more frustration with e-book publishing. Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Smashwords all require different formatting (although Smashwords is the worst and Amazon the easiest. If you have it Smashwords ready then you are ready for anything). Of course publishing a book of poems that requires special formatting because of the verses set up instead of prose did not help my first venture. I learned a lot and that made the second time through all that much easier.

How important is social media to your marketing process?
For me, social media has been my only tool for promotion. That is probably not the best route to take, but it is the one I am on. When you self publish all promo and marketing is up to you. If I had hardcopies of my book I would be out pounding the pavement trying to get book signing and bookstores to carry my title. But with e-books it is very different. Word of mouth goes a lot further. And social media is all about spreading the word of mouth. I twitter, facebook, Google +, run two blogs and do as much online networking as I can. But I also work a day job so I am limited to how much I can do. And there is a fine line between spamming and self promotion. Certainly my facebook friends want to hear more about my life than where to buy my book.
And there is something safe about social media promotion and marketing. I happened into a bookstore last month when an author was sitting at a table doing a book signing. No one was there to buy her book or ask her questions. Those kinds of events can ruin you (finally feeling bad for her I bought a book and asked some questions). But on the computer you are protected, sheltered through the screen. You don’t see all the people trying hard to ignore you as they walk by the table.

That is a really interesting way to see it. (We’ve all noticed those authors waiting at the table with pen in hand.) Having spent time at it now, is there anything you would have done different? Something you would warn someone starting out now to stay clear of?
The only thing I would have done different is to not have taken a seven-year hiatus from writing. Write because you love to write. Publish because you need to make money. If you are going the traditional route, edit and polish your book everyday. Read it out loud to yourself every week. And don’t let rejection notices knock you down. Don’t even take them seriously until you have at least a hundred. If you are going to self publish in hardback or e-book get ready to self promote. Start now building your network, it takes time and there is much to learn about all the available social media sites. Get to know them and learn how to use them. One warning: Don’t pay anyone anything unless they are giving you valid service. Research the company or individual before giving them a dime. Desperate authors make for easy targets.

Good advice! So many authors are so eager – money gets spent quickly. Anything else you would like to share?
Have fun and don’t think you are going to get rich over night. Self promotion is not like signing with a publishing house with their sign on bonuses and royalty checks. Self promotion and e-publishing means selling a few books a week until you have a big enough following that others catch on, that can take years. Have thick skin, confidence in you ability and your book, and most of all have fun telling good stories. 

More information about David can be found at: http://daav-aotm.blogspot.com/ or https://dlcorb.wordpress.com/