Social Networking

The Phoenix Conference: Buildin’ the Dream

Janet, Ruth, Judy, and Rose

From left: Janet Syas Nitsick (me), Ruth Ann Nordin, Judy DeVries and Rose Gordon

Flying away to Phoenix for a writing conference was one special time not only in what the conference offered but also in the flying experience.

Never before had I flown first class. Dreamed about it but did not believe I would do it. However, the trip to Phoenix changed that.

I experienced a full-course meal, including wine and dessert and bags arriving first in the baggage terminal. It was a great and sure beats my last time flying where my youngest autistic son ran out the plane while waiting to take off from Omaha Eppley Airfield. You can read about this in my first book, Seasons of the Soul.

Of course, Phoenix’s scenery was spectacular. A little too hot in late May for even this cold-blooded individual with temperatures around 107 degrees. But, the sand domes in the horizon took your breath away!

But I digress. What I liked about the Buildin’ the Dream Conference was how you got to interact with fellow authors, publishers and workshops speakers. It was more informal, where you could enjoy eating in the hotel’s breakfast buffet where conferees gathered and intermingle with them or in the lobby area.

You were not going from one workshop to another in rooms so packed you barely could breathe. In addition, you did not walk a mile in high heels to find food. Everything at the hotel was at your finger tips.

The nice advantage of attending a conference like this one was the wonderful speakers, such as USA Today best-selling author Rose Gordon, a top, book-cover designer Anya Kelleye and a Phoenix attorney, Megan D. Scott, who is an entertainment and copyright lawyer.

Gordon gave two presentations. Her first was “Mistakes Authors Make – Historical.” Gordon knows how to sell and make money, thus she knew of what she spoke so you listened.

She writes Regency and American historical romances. Gordon said for you to think of the setting as your wallpaper where people wear clothing and interact to those time-period dictates. Remember, however, to focus on the romance so do not get caught in details which overshadow your storyline. Your office needs to include a dictionary, access to Web resources, a book on that age’s idioms and a trusted friend who knows more than you about the period, she said.

Adding to Rose’s last point, I have a friend who read my Lockets and Lanterns and my novella, She Came by Train. She is knowledgeable about farms, farm animals, reading by kerosene light and attending a small country school. This friend is an excellent resource. I cannot tell you how many times she caught something wrong.

Her second workshop was “Your Books, Your Business.” Gordon told attendees to write with their hearts but think with their brains. Thus make sure your book is done, edited, formatted, has an attractive cover which sells and is marketable. Study your genre, engage the readers, condense descriptions to a sentence or two and become visible like through blog tours, giveaways, promotional items and advertisements, she said. Each piece, though, has its pros and cons. An author blog, for example, is where people interact and learn about you. The con is the time involved in doing one, she added.

Anya Kelleye showed us some of her cover designs. A good book cover needs a strong focal point and must evoke emotions. She cautioned against using a script font. Instead, keep it simple. Too many images or text overtake the cover, she said. Remember, she added, your cover does not need to tell the novel’s whole story.

The lawyer, Scott, also was a great resource. Each state is unique in its own laws, she said. No matter, however, where you live when you bring your idea to physical material it is copyrighted even before it is published and recorded with the United States Copyright office, she said.

In addition, there were many other wonderful workshops. The smaller arena gave you time to talk to the speakers for a short time after their workshops. It also allowed you space to sit and take notes.

But, downfalls did exist. One was the Buildin’ the Dream author conference, and the Arizona Dreamin reader event shared the same Web site page. The two headers used the same colors and unless you paid close attention you could easily sign up for the wrong event. On their feedback form, I alerted them to this problem.

Would I go again, you ask? You bet, in a heartbeat. It was a wonderful trip. The conference was fantastic and it was awesome meeting people you interact with on the Internet, such as Lauralynn Elliott and Judy DeVries. It also was great seeing Rose Gordon again. laughing with her, Judy and Ruth Ann. They even taught me some new words. It was a lovely trip and traveling and sharing a hotel room with Ruth Ann Nordin made it the best. God bless.

Categories: Book Promotion, Social Networking | Tags: , , , , , ,

Facebook Party: A Great Way to Get To Know Your Readers

Quick intro

Janet Nitsick and I just ran a week long Facebook Giveaway Party. This was the first time I ever did something like this, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I see authors running Events that typically last for a few hours. Since my schedule is hectic with kids and such, I couldn’t set aside a specific block of time.  I needed to have at least one full day to be able to hop on Facebook and catch up with the discussions that were going to take place.  So Janet and I opted for 8 days.  Actually, 9 if you count the final day to “catch up” and tie up any loose ends.

As a disclaimer, I want to say that Facebook parties are not about selling books.  They are about mingling with your readers and giving something back to them.  They are a chance to get to know them, something that we don’t often do given the very nature of our work (which is to sit at the computer and write our books).  So if you do this, go in with the mindset that you’re going to socialize and hang out.  It is a relaxed and informal way to get to know your readers and for them to get to know you.  It’s a place where you can establish friendships.  If you understand this is the purpose of the Facebook party, you’ll have a great time.

Now having experienced this, I thought I’d pass along some things I learned about hosting a Facebook Party.

1.  Let people know you’re going to have it.

Yes, it sounds basic, but if they don’t know the party is going to happen, how will they to show up?  My method was to post the information on my blog and my Facebook timeline, my Facebook Author Page, and on Twitter.  I thought about emailing people to invite them (and this is fine), but I decided not to do this because I have some authors in my friends’ list on Facebook and figured they’d be busy enough with their own stuff so why bother them with another email they didn’t need to wade through in their inbox?  But I see nothing wrong with sending out invites through Facebook to people on your friends’ list.

My advice is to let people know at least a week in advance.  Then follow it up with a reminder 1-2 days before.

2.  Plan out the party.

Are you going to have special guests?  Are you going to have giveaways?  What questions will you have to help break the ice?  On what hour or day will you do what?

To give you an example of what Janet and I did, here was our schedule which we came up with 2 weeks in advance of the party:

Day 1: We had Rose Gordon as a special guest.  We gave away some of her books to the giveaway winners and talked about how we met her and opened the discussion to any questions.  She also came in and mingled with the people there.  This was a special treat.

Day 2: “Romantic Memories”: On this day we posed the question to the group what their most romantic memory was.  All entrants were entered into the giveaway for the day.

Day 3: “Loving Those Heroes”: On this day we posted the question about the best qualities in a romantic hero.  Again, all entrants were entered into the giveaway for the day.

Day 4: “Small Treasures”: On this day we posted a question about something small (but meaningful) people owned, along with a giveaway.

Day 5: Another question with a giveaway.

Etc. until Day 8 which was the final day of the giveaway.

Day 9 was a wrap-up day so we could go in and answer any final comments that had come in late on Day 8.

Day 10: We deleted the group page, which officially ends the party.

3.  Allow for some impromptu moments.

This was more fun than I thought it’d be, and it was totally spontaneous.  Based on some discussions in the threads, we realized that some people either needed or knew someone who needed ereaders.  So we decided to run a giveaway on the spur of the moment that was for a chance to win an ereader.

Two other impromptu moments occurred.  One was when I invited Stephannie Beman to join us and talk about co-authoring books with me, and that turned into a very fun discussion.  Two, I invited my husband to join us and they got a chance to know something about him, which I think was fun for romance readers to get to know the author’s husband.

Impromptu moments are flexible and based on the discussions you’re having.  Sometimes they can be more fun than the planned stuff.

4.  International readers need more time to enter giveaways.

This was brought to my attention before the party began, thankfully.  Because one of my readers mentioned that people who live in other countries need a full 24-hours to get caught up on the party and giveaways, we posted every giveaway and question the evening before we picked the winners.  (We picked the winners using, by the way.  It’s a great site to go to for picking giveaway winners.)

Since ebooks are going global, I think it’s important we reach out to our readers in other countries.  It amazes me how many people in other countries read English.  I’m impressed by this because I have a horrible time learning other languages.  One of my readers in India told me that they’re encouraged to read fiction in order to learn the English language.  How cool is it that we get a chance to help them learn English?  You just never know who is out there reading your books, and I think these people should be included as much as possible into our giveaways and parties.  Yes, sending paperbacks can be costly so specify if you’ll only gift ebooks.  But I would encourage you to consider sending at least one paperback to an international reader.  A signed paperback is a special and unique gift to someone who loves your books.

  5.  Show up

Yeah, I know.  This is a “duh” moment, but you will only get out of a party what you put into it.  Set aside time to go there.  Try to answer all comments if possible.   I know real life can come in and prevent this, but try to answer as many as you possibly can.  I did very little writing during the week in favor of hanging out on Facebook and getting to know the people who took time out of their own busy lives to attend the party.  If they are willing to attend your party, then show them they’re important by showing up, too.  Readers want to know authors.  This is a relaxed way of doing that.  Plus, they get to know each other.  Who knows what friendships will form because of these parties?  Some readers seemed to connect really well, and I suspect they friended each other on Facebook and might become friends down the road.

You just never know what will happen if you show up somewhere.  I have developed friendships because of social media.  Even if we’re at a computer (or other device), we’re still human and can develop friendships in the most unlikely places.  Case in point, I will get a chance to meet Lauralynn Elliott next week at a writer’s conference, and I met her because she has been commenting on this blog for years.  And Stephannie Beman and I met through LiveJournal when it was popular and now co-write books together.  I met Rose Gordon through the forum we had (for a very short time) on this blog, and she and I became friends and met last year at a conference.  We will see each other again next week.  Then there’s a reader (Judy) who emailed me and became my friend and now edits my books.  I’ll be meeting her, too.  These are four people I would never have known if I hadn’t been on social networking sites.  You just never know what the future will bring if you simply “show up” somewhere.

Categories: Marketing & Promoting, Social Networking

Developing a Strategy for What You Write and A Publishing Schedule

Your goals for writing should help you develop a strategy for what you write and establishing a publishing schedule.

If you are writing solely for yourself, then there’s no need for you to read further.  You are free to write whatever you want and publish anytime you want. :D

If, however, you are writing for yourself and others or for others, then this post is for you.

The first step is to figure out what you are going to write.

This depends on who you are writing for.  Who is your audience?  Pick some self-published and traditionally published books that are selling well in the area you want to write.  Then list down common things that are in all or most of the books.  For example, let’s look at romance.  The most basic element in a romance is the happy ending.  Dividing it down to Regencies, I’ve noticed scandals do pretty well or there is a rake who will be reformed before the book is over.  Those aren’t the only common elements in popular Regencies, but there is definitely a preference for those things that Regency lovers enjoy.  Another thing you might look at is heat level or violence level.  Is it PG, PG 13, R?  A Christian romance noted for its G or PG content will not appeal to the romance reader who prefers R content.  This is why you not only look at the overall genre but you break it down into subcategories within the genre and pick out similarities in those.

Once you have listed 3-5 common elements that you have noticed in the books you want to write, think of ways you can incorporate them into your book.  This is not taking someone else’s idea and rewriting it.  This is taking basic components that can’t be copyrighted and making a plot around them.

For example, if you decide to write a Regency, then you’ll want to pick out a couple of things that might make the story more likely to appeal to your target audience.  (Understand, of course, that doing this doesn’t guarantee a certain number of sales but it might help your book be more appealing to your audience.  There is never a guarantee of sales, no matter what you do.)  Anyway, back to the Regency example.  Let’s say the writer picks out 3 common things: a scandal, a rake who will be reformed, and a happy ending.  The writer then sits down and picks out, “What will be the scandal?” Then the writer decides, “Who is my rake?  What made him that way?  How will the heroine reform him?” And finally, “How will these two get a happy ending?”

All I did in the example above was take the common trends in popular books in a particular genre and apply elements in it that I could incorporate into my own story.  This way, I do have a unique story, but I am also keeping my audience in mind.  So I’m able to write for myself and for them.

The second step is to figure out a publishing schedule.


Unless you’re publishing books, you’re not going to have the chance to make money.  This doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality or skimp on editing.   What it means is you get serious about writing.  The only way a book is going to get written is for you to sit down and write.  And yes, I know this is easier said than done.  There are days when I don’t get much more than a couple sentences down.  Sometimes I have to sit down for 15 minutes and write down anything because writing is like pulling teeth and I have to force it.  It’s not fun.  But I’ve learned the muse is fickle and you can’t wait until you’re “in the mood” to do it.  This is why I reward myself for writing on those days with a something I like.

Write whenever you can.

I understand how hard it is to write when you have no set routine.  As much as I’ve tried to set a routine, I just haven’t been able to do it.  Just because I work at home, it doesn’t mean those around me leave me alone.  I am bombarded with stuff all the time.  Some people can do a routine and do very well at it.  Others just write whenever they have a moment to spare.  I am the “moment to spare” kind of writer.  I start first thing in the morning and stop in the early evening.  Throughout the day, I’m taking care of the family, doing the chores around the house, and trying to work in emails and blog posts.   Write however and whenever you can.

The next book is the best marketing tool you control.

Depending on how fast you can write and get a book edited, you may not be able to publish as often as another writer.  That’s fine.  Do the pacing that works best for you.  Just understand that if you’re not getting a book out, it’s going to be harder for people to remember you for when your next one comes out.  Social networking has its place, but I still think the best marketing tool an author has is the actual book.  The percentage of people who buy and read books is higher than the percentage who pal around with authors on a social networking site.

How often to publish depends on your situation but try to keep it consistent.

I read a blog post years ago that said you need to publish four books a year to maintain a living as a writer.  I don’t know if that’s true or not.  It would depend on how well your books sell.  A book that hits the top 100 paid in any store is going to go further than four books that only sell one copy a month.  But my thinking is that having a couple books out a year will increase your chances of getting noticed and retaining your current fan base than if you only did 0-1 book a year.  Something new helps remind people you are still out there and will keep them searching for new books.  Email lists are good for that, too.

I would suggest whatever publishing schedule you choose, that you make it as consistent as possible.  Some people write an entire trilogy and then publish one book a month.  Nothing’s wrong with that.  Some people publish every six months. That’s fine too.  I tend to publish whenever I have a book ready, and since my average is six books a year, that’s doable because of how many I have going out annually.  If you only publish once a year, maybe choose a particular month so your readers get used to looking for your newest book around that time of year.  Maybe you can send out teaser scenes or character interviews once a month to remind people you’re working on the next book in the meantime if you don’t publish frequently.

Categories: Book Promotion, Business Plan, General Writing, Genres, Schedules & Routines, Social Networking

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