It's the question plaguing all writers. We spend months writing, editing and perfecting our story and then are plunged into an alien world called Marketing.

For those of you shaking your heads and thinking you will go the traditional publishing route to avoid the marketing end of our business…THINK AGAIN. Today, even the Big 5 invest marketing dollars only in books with an already proven track record, be it author name recognition or previous high sales as a self-published ebook title. That's right!  Even a contract with Penguin-Random house will require you to do your own marketing.


Where Do Author's Go For Marketing Advice


The Internet is overflowing with information and books on how to approach marketing. But the articles I learn the most from are the step-by-step examples published by other authors. My favorite, because she gets down-and-dirty with the details, is author Elle Lothlorien. Her Facebook Page is the perfect mix of humor, personal tidbits, and marketing that attracts fans. Last March she did an extremely educational guest Blog that dissected her free book giveaway on Amazon. It should be required reading for all new authors.


One Author's Marketing Journey


Since my own first novel is currently undergoing revision number 357, I am going to start sharing with you the marketing trials of my friend, Stanley Bednarz. Stan admitted to me that marketing scares him to death, so if he can do it, we all can.

Last year, Stan's debut novel, Miracle On Snowbird Lake, won first prize in Deep River Books annual competition. His second book was recently picked up by an agent who is currently shopping it, so Stan is now dipping his toe into the ocean of marketing options available to him. He has started an authors' blog and from July 21-27 is holding his first promotion with Rafflecopter. The winner will receive a $25 gift card for Wal-Mart and a copy of his debut novel.

 I'll let you know how Stan's marketing progresses over the weeks to come to help you map out your own marketing strategy. In the mean time, please support Stan by entering this free raffle and liking his Facebook page.

An excerpt from my NaNoWriMo Novel

It's been 10 days since NaNo started, and things are insane (and very dusty) at my house.  As many of you know, Avon Books will accept romance submissions from all Nanoers who hit the 50K word limit.  I just read on their site that they do not want any animals killed in the stories submitted.  My book has a family of coyotes as minor characters.  I'm hoping Avon's comment doesn't include animals hunting other animals, but was meant to exclude twisted people torturing pets.  Let me know what you think of this section.   Should I keep it, trash it or let the groundhog escape?  BTW:  Forgive the errors, I'm typing like a maniac and haven't had time to edit yet.

 

The clearing was brightly lit and seemed to be in constant motion, as the breeze gently raked the top of grasses that had finally reached their full height. Wildflowers bloomed in a vivid array of colors. Brilliant yellows, soft pinks, and deep purples were but a few of the shades that beckoned the bees and butterflies to caress their silken petals. Hummingbirds hovered over the blossoms of thick vines that were woven around each other in a silent race to reach for the rays of the sun.

New life filled the clearing, as rabbits, groundhogs, mice, and other woodland creatures ate their fill of tender new leaves. Wild fowl fluttered and squawked as they pecked and scratched around rocks and roots, uncovering tasty grubs and other insect morsels. Ground squirrels popped from their burrows, chattering and scampering this way and that. It was a normal day for the inhabitants of the land.

The two coyotes watched the interplay of action on the clearing from the darker confines of the forest's edge. The nighttime hunting ritual that was normal for them was slightly out of kilter. With five new pups to feed, they had increased their hunting hours to include the early part of the morning. The female, having spent a good deal of her time in the dark den nursing her pups, blinked to adjust her vision to the brightness of the day. It had been a while since she joined her mate in securing the necessary meat to nourish herself and the pups, who would soon be weaned. It was better to hunt as a team.

A slight waver in a bush at the edge of the clearing caught the attention of both coyotes. A large, fat groundhog sat on his haunches, bending a branch lower with his paws to nibble its succulent berries, unaware of the predators just a short distance away. Instinctively, each coyote knew its role in the ensuing attack as they separated to flank their prey.

The wind suddenly changed direction, bringing the scent of its peril to the nose of the groundhog. It released the branch and for a moment tensed--then twisted around and ran for its life. The short legs of the groundhog proved no challenge for coyotes capable of bursts of speed up to forty miles an hour. The hunt was over in seconds, but the coyotes didn't linger over their meal.  The pups now required meat of their own and until they could join the hunt, their parents would have to provide it.

Morning stretched into noon before the coyotes returned to the cool, shaded area where they made their home. Yelps and whines emerged from the mouth of the den, alerting the parents to the objections of their offspring for having been left alone so long. Carrying a plump rabbit, the last prey taken on the morning hunt, the female entered the den and tended to her young. Tired from the hunt, the male settled down at the entrance of the hole that he had dug for his family and drifted off to sleep.

The day was not yet over when tiny teeth gnawing at an ear awakened the male coyote. He shook his head and knocked the attacker away, and then with his long, pointed snout, he nuzzled the offending ball of fur. His family encircled him, the young pouncing on each other and growling in puppy fashion. He moved deeper into the forest but returned in moments, a live mouse held gingerly between his teeth. Releasing the mouse in the midst of his barking young, the father sat quietly and watched as the pups stalked and played with the trembling rodent and began to learn the skills of the hunt. When the mouse was dead and partially eaten, training time was over. One by one the pups found their mother and began to nurse. When their bellies were full, the mother cleaned each sleepy, miniature hunter, and then carried them back into the den.

Twilight fell again and with it came the instinctual urge to hunt. But night was not the time to leave the young alone and unprotected in the woods. Even coyote pups could fall prey to an unseen predator.

The male coyote entered the den as if to check his family before he left to hunt alone. His mate's head was raised, though she lay curled around the pups, providing comfort with the warmth of her body. She wagged her tail as he approached and licked his face as he, in turn, licked hers. The show of affection over, her turned and went in search of food.

Coyotes prefer hunting in pairs or packs.  They pursue their prey in relays, running it to ground. Hunting alone takes different skills. The lone male felt rather than knew this, as he turned away from the clearing. He padded through the brush and thick cover of the forest floor until he came to the edge, marked by a long wooden fence. Beyond the fence was pasture, pasture that he had hunted on before. It always provided a source of food that was trapped within the boundaries of the fence, making hunting easier when alone. Not bothering to look for a gap in the fence, he bent to the business of tunneling under the barrier blocking his passage.

There was a strong smell of sheep as the solitary coyote loped along at a quickening pace. They dotted the field in groups of threes and fours, the white wool coats easy to detect in the fading light. He increased his gait to a run, scattering the nearest group in order to detect which animal was the most vulnerable. A young lamb soon fell behind the others, as they ran bleating and thundering across the flat pasture. The coyote cut it off from its intended route, and then moved in for the kill. He leaped to execute the final assault when a thunderous noise reverberated through the evening air, knocking him off balance.

Avon Books Teams With NaNoWriMo

I’m currently immersed in the world of NaNoWriMo.  For the non-writers among you, that stands for National Novel Writing Month.  In essences it’s approximately a quarter million people around the globe who are all trying to write a novel (Minimum 50,000 words) in thirty days.  It’s an annual event that runs from Nov. 1 through Nov 30.  Participants don’t sleep, live on junk food and inhale all forms of caffeine, non-stop.

I started writing a fantasy at one minute past mid-night on the 1st to get a good start.  After all, Thanksgiving is in Nov. and since I’m the holiday cook here, I knew I wouldn’t be able to write that day.  Then on the 3rd, NaNo announced a new sponsor. Avon Books, the romance imprint of HarperCollins, will accept submissions of all NaNoWriMo romance manuscripts (MS) that hit the 50K word limit. So of course I decided it was crazy not to switch genres.  Now, instead of being ahead on my word count, I'm two days behind.  A slight feeling of urgency has slipped into my mind, but there is added reason for trepidation.  The submission deadline is Dec 10th, so I won't have much time for editing. 

Excited at the thought of an Avon editor reading my work, I went to their web site and checked submission requirements.  For NaNo participants, a publishing contract for a 50K manuscript will be ebook format with print-on-demand paperbacks.  This is a great opportunity for any new author.

Once on the Avon site, I couldn’t resist checking further and found that manuscripts must run 80-95K to be considered for normal paperback publishing, which would put it into bookstores and include an ebook version.  Since I'm such a sane person, I'm going to try for the 80K in twenty-eight days. 

Yes, I am full blown crazy.  In a perfect world, I would try to tell the story in a 60K version.  Then I would add chapters to aim for the 80K.  That way if I don't hit 80K I'll still have a shorter version to submit.  Unfortunately, that kind of planning would take lots of time-consuming plotting out and my brain just keeps screaming, "TYPE-TYPE-TYPE!

What does all this mean to my family, friends and readers?  I’ll be oblivious to the world until Dec. 11th.  From time to time I may update you here on my progress.  Whether it’s progress on my manuscript or progress on earning a place in the local nut house is yet to be seen. 

The Morning of Sept. 11

I thought it only right to repost this from last year.  It's written from my son's point of view of what happened on the morning of 9/11.

 

In the fall of 2001, I was a college student working part-time in a Sears Department Store at our local mall. Like millions of Americans, I got up on the morning of 9/11 and went about my normal routine preparing for work. I did not turn on the television. I did not turn on the radio.

I was shaving at 8:46 AM when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I had no idea our country had just changed forever. I’m not sure anyone knew then.  At 9:03 AM when flight 175 hit the South Tower, I was in my car headed for work. I still did not have my radio on.

I arrived at work about 9:20 AM. Employees were gathered in small groups all through the store talking about the tragedy.  I gleaned as much information about the events of the morning as I could. At this point, I think we were all too stunned to comprehend the enormity of things.

Groups of threes and fours merged and headed towards the electronics department where the televisions were working.  I joined them.  The need we all felt for more information seemed to pull us along without conscious thought of our movements. The store had not opened yet, but the aisles around the televisions were packed with employees.

I drifted automatically to stand next to a co-worker who had become a good personal friend. The world had suddenly become a scary place, and I needed to be close to someone I cared about.  This same emotion was reflected back to me in her eyes, as we silently greeted each other. 

The voices around me were soft and muffled. We could not take our eyes off the newscast. The earlier shock and numbness of our group had changed. I looked at the faces of those around me, many were streaked with tears, they all revealed pain, sadness and disbelief.

At 9:47AM when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, we collectively sucked in a deep breath. Voices became louder now, angry. The woman in front of me turned, her face pale, and ran from our area.  "Her son works at the Pentagon," I heard whispered over and over. The voices became even angrier… louder.  There were cheers for the rescue workers, threats for the instigators, and prayers for the victims. We all wanted to DO something. We needed action to rid ourselves of the helplessness we all felt and shared.

The store was opening. We had to return to our places of work.   Mine was in hardware, which is where I stood at 10:10 AM when Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  I knew about it instantly. Several employees working in the television section yelled loudly.  The sounds they made became a tidal wave of moans, curses, and screams that rolled across the store.

By noon there were murmurs of security concerns for public places such as malls. The atmosphere in the store was thick with trepidation and grief.  Together, we had gone from disbelief to shock, from fear to anger, and with all those emotions, we carried a feeling of heavy national loss and mourning. Mourning for those killed, mourning for our country, and mourning for our own peace and security.

It was 1:00 PM when the decision was made to close our mall.  We all raced home to our televisions. We all raced home to our loved ones. We all vowed never to forget.

The Importance Of Beta Readers

With today’s ease of ebook creation and distribution, more and more authors are choosing to take the self-publishing route.  This is fine for experienced authors who know the ropes, but many freshmen writers are skipping over or incorrectly handling important aspects to readying a book for publication.

The internet is full of marketing guides for authors and useful sales tips.  It’s also easy to find articles written on the importance of hiring a professional editor.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of information on Beta Readers.

Who Are Beta Readers

Beta readers are people who agree to read your completed manuscript and give their opinion.  It’s best to use at least three so you end up with a broad view, not just the likes of one individual.  They should be avid readers who enjoy the genre of your story.  Don’t expect them to find errors in grammar or punctuation.  They are not editors. 

Who Is Not A Beta Reader

Family and friends will be prejudiced in favor of your book, so they make poor beta readers.  Surprisingly, other authors are also not the best choice, as they tend to see more of the mechanics when asked to be a reader.  You are looking for emotional connection with the story.  However, I do like to include one writer in my mix.

What do Beta Readers Do

When you entrust your manuscript to a reader, let them know you hope to publish, and if they share it with others, that goal could be jeopardized.  Make sure they understand you are still making changes.  Some people will be less forthcoming with problems if they think your book is completed.  Provide a list of questions you would like them to answer.  This should include things like:

1.      Were you pulled into the story in the first few pages
2.      Did the characters seem real, did you care what happened to them
3.      Was the conflict believable
4.      Did the dialogue sound real and did it fit the character’s personality
5.      What did you like best
6.      What didn’t you like
7.      Were there places where you felt confused
8.      Did the ending answer all your questions

These are just a few general questions to give you an idea of the type of information good beta readers will supply you with.  

Where To Find Beta Readers

My favorite source for beta readers is a local book club.  Not only do they enjoy reading, but they enjoy talking about what they’ve read.  All you have to do is show up at their meeting and listen.  If that fails, ask friends about their friends.  They don’t know you, so you’ve eliminated the personal friend factor, while at the same time your mutual friend can vouch for them.
 
Now that you know what and who you are looking for, don’t skip this very important step in the creation of a novel.  After all, do you want to make changes after a beta reading or after you receive poor reviews from unhappy paying customers?

Query letters. They are scary things.  You spend years writing and perfecting your masterpiece, and then its acceptance or rejection comes down to this one page.  No pressure there. 

You have probably Googled information on writing a brilliant query, so why should you be listening to me?  You shouldn’t.  In my own search for this holy grail of admittance to publishing, I came across the best site ever.  It’s called Query Shark and it is the greatest education an author can receive on queries.

Query Shark is the brainchild of Literary Agent, Janet Reid of Fineprint Literary Management in New York City.  Each week, her blog posts several query letters that she attacks with the ferocity of… well, a great white.  But don’t panic.  The bloodletting stops short of death.  Ms. Reid supplies detailed comments on the problems and solutions for each letter.  Still, it’s like passing a bad road accident.  You don’t want to look, but can’t help yourself.  And when it’s all over, you’re quaking in your boots.  That’s a good thing.  It takes a little rough handling to get us authors to see the business side of writing.

Once your heart is beating at a normal pace, check the posts on common pitfalls, query letters that created interest, and Ms. Reid’s list of things that annoy her.  I guarantee, this is one blog that will not only open your eyes, but also leave your jaw rubbing the floor.

One final note.  For any of you who use the above link to submit something to Fineprint Literary Management, PLEASE, read their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter.  I don’t want blood on my typing fingers.

Cat and Mouse - A flash fiction

I won another Flash contest with this one.  The rules were 300 words or less and it had to include a cat.

With a squeak of desperation, the mouse scurried along the brick foundation of the house. A whim of fate had saved it. An errant gust of wind shifted, carrying the scent of danger. The mouse didn't know death - but it recognized the odor of cat.

Fear blinded the creature's reason. It didn't see the well around the basement window until its tiny legs churned empty space, and it fell to the concrete. Without a pause, it circled metal walls that defied claws. Escape was impossible.

The cat watched the rodent for some time. Crouching low at the edge of the flowerbed, the feline prepared to pounce upon its prey. At the moment the cat's muscles uncoiled to propel it forward, the mouse began to run. It caught the predator off guard, granting the hunted a moment to escape.

Green eyes peered over the rim of the window well and the mouse froze. A new game began, as the cat toyed with the caged rodent. With its rear raised and twitching, the cat shot out a paw, forcing the smaller creature to scamper this way and that. Time drained the mouse's strength.

The man turned off the mower, removed his shirt and wiped his face. Turning, he spied the cat, the same cat that mistook his children's sandbox for a litter box. Balling up his shirt, he yelled and threw it at the uninvited prowler.

Hissing in fury, the cat relinquished its prey and ran, as the man chased it home. Alone, the mouse approached the end of the shirt dangling into its jail. It sniffed the human sweat. Then, in a burst of decision, it clawed its way up the cloth and over the rim. The contest was done, and the mouse lived.

This story is for Lynn.  My sister and biggest fan, who likes happy endings.

How To Write Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is considered by some to be up to 1000 words and by other as up to 500 words.  I love micro fictions of two hundred words or less.  To me, it’s a challenge to cut a story to the bone and still capture the attention of a reader.  It keeps my mind sharp and my writing muscles fit.
 
Because of my obsession with flash, I’ve scoured the net looking for contests to enter or magazines that take submissions.  Once I find a site, I read past winners or previously published stories to learn what each site is looking for.  What I’ve found has depressed me.  There’s lots of flash fiction out there that doesn’t meet the criteria for a story.

Flash Fiction Examples 

Below are two flash pieces under fifty words.  One is a story; the other is not.


UNITED

Mary smiled.  Eyes sparkling, she uttered a breathless “I do”.
 
The lovers kissed, filled with the joy of new beginnings.  Having pledged to a lifetime together, they embraced the start of their story.  Only Mary foresaw the next chapter.  She placed a hand on her stomach.


ABANDONED

 
Unfamiliar scenery passed by the car windows.

Family life changed. The house stood empty; everything packed or sold. Food became scarce and anger plentiful, so she tried to give love and comfort.

The car stopped.  Cruel hands pushed her out.  As taillights faded, she managed a pitiful, pleading meow.

The Criteria for Flash Fiction 

There’s no trick involved.  Flash fiction must meet the same requirements as any other story.  There has to be a beginning, middle and end.  But you must also supply conflict and resolution.  These form the frame that your story will be built on.  In the above examples, “United” is a vignette, a scene – but not a complete story.  It starts in the middle of the action and then moves to the end.   There is no conflict, no resolution

The second example has all the elements of a story.  We begin with a car ride to set the environment.  The middle lets the reader know something profound has happened and sets up the conflict.  The family can’t afford food or their home.   What can they do to resolve this problem?  To cut costs, they abandon both the house and the family pet.  In the end, the confused feline watches the car continue on without her.

Cutting Out Extraneous Words 

Now that we know the correct structure, how do we tell a story with so few words?  First, write your story and don’t worry about word count.  Now, take a pencil in hand and start striking out unnecessary words.  First on the list to go are: was, had, that and were.  You may not be able to get rid of them all, but you’ll find most aren’t needed. 
 
Example:  Family life had changed. 
 
This was my first version of the sentence.  Delete ‘had’ and it retains its meaning.
 
Adjectives and adverbs are next on the chopping block.  Write with nouns and strong verbs instead.  These can be the hardest things for a writer to cut and, I believe, are the cause for turning out vignettes instead of stories.    Kill the flowery prose and you have more words for conflict resolution.  Once you’re done and find you’re below the required word count, you can replace descriptive words if you feel the need.   A few can’t hurt, but flash is generally better without them.
 
Another word that can be deleted is ‘and’. 
 
Example:  The car stopped and cruel hands pushed her out.
 
I deleted the ‘and’ in the final version, making two small sentences.  Short sentences give the reader a sense of tension, so dropping the ‘and’ provided a double story bonus.
 
Get rid of sentence starters such as well, however, suddenly.  These words are introductory to a sentence, and flash doesn’t have time for intros. 
 
Example:
 
Suddenly, the car stopped.
 
Unfortunately, the house stood empty.

Edit and Edit Again

After running your pencil through the entire story, take a break and then do it again.  Study each line independently.  Look for ways of saying the same thing in fewer words.   Soon, you’ll become proficient at spotting what is necessary, and all your writing will improve

5 Publications That Buy Flash Fiction

When submitting a story, always read and follow the submission guidelines for that particular publication.

Flash Fiction Online accepts any genre and wants stories that are 500-1000 words.  Payment for first electronic rights is $50.00.

Everyday Fiction takes any genre of 1000 words or less.  They pay a token $3.00 per story, but since they publish daily, first-timers may find them a perfect place to break into the business of selling stories.

Horror On The Installment Plan looks for, well, horror stories in the form of flash fiction or short stories of 3000 words or less.  They also accept poetry.  There are weekly themes, so check the site.  They pay a professional rate of five cents per word.

New Myths is a quarterly ezine looking for stories was a fantasy or science fiction element.  Flash fiction up to 999 words and poetry are paid $15.00.  Short stories up to 10,000 words are paid $40.00

Knowonder wants stories for children.  Flash fiction of 500-999 words is paid $25.00. Short stories of 1000-2000 words are paid $50.00

 

Onekka - By Michael E. Bell

I've been approached by numerous authors to read and review their books.  While I've done a lot of the reading, this is the first I felt compelled to review and recommend to my readers.

 

Buy the SciFi thriller ONEKKA on Amazon


Whether you’re a fan of Science Fiction or Mystery, Michael E. Bell’s new novel, Onekka is a story you don’t want to miss.  As a lover of both genres, Bell’s tale kept me riveted to the page, reading faster and faster as I became immersed in life aboard the space station, Onekka.

Jaqui Fennet, the main character of this book, is a beautiful and savvy technician who has been on the station since day one.   Not your everyday heroine, Bell’s character comes immediately to life as a real person faced with insurmountable problems.  The unique methods she employs to handle each new and threatening situation that arises will keep the reader captivated.  Through it all, Jaqui’s humanity allows her to lash out, react from sheer terror, plan ingenious tactics and sometimes make mistakes, as she tries to discover the real secret of Onekka.

Besides the heroine, this book has a group of supporting characters that weave their way through the story, keeping you guessing about who’s a hero and who’s a villain.  But like all good mysteries, you won’t be sure until the very end.

Fast paced from beginning to end, Onekka is my recommendation for best read of the month.

 

I've Received a Blog Award!

I was thrilled to learn today that I’ve received a Liebster Blog Award.  Liebster is German for favorite or dearest, and the award is given by fellow bloggers who have discovered a new blog they feel deserves attention.   My thanks go out to Gerry Wilson, author of The Writing Life blog for nominating me for this award.

 

 All nominees are required to do the following:

• Thank your Liebster Blog Award nominator on your blog.

• Link back to the blogger who nominated you for the award.

• Copy and paste the Liebster Award Log on your blog.

• Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed.

So without further ado, here are the blogs I would like to pass the award on to.

Elissa Field – This blog covers themes of interest to writers and accepts short stories

Ma poet Poems – thought and poems of Michelle Pond

The 9 Inch Plate - Carol Early Cooney’s family adjusts to diabetes

Zombies 1984 - Anisa Irwin’s stories and musings

Vignettes Across The Veil – A hauntingly beautiful real-life love story told in journal entries.

I hope you check each one of my nominees, I think they offer something for everyone.