Thursday, February 28, 2013

Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

I partied at Olive Garden last night. I know. I live the dream. We celebrated my mom's 92nd birthday. You would think that with a party of 13, the staff would have dollar signs in their heads. Well, think again, pardner. Is it seriously too much to ask to keep an old lady's glass of water filled? Sheesh. And when you know it's a birthday and have been requested to put a dang candle on the dessert, do you really need 2 tries to get it right? Apparently my expectations of customer service deviate from the norm.

Whenever I've got a gripe, I eventually get around to self-evaluation. How can I, as a writer, provide great customer service? Who in the world are my customers? That's the neighborhood we're roaming around in today.

First, let's narrow down the market. As a writer, you are servicing readers. Not publishers. Not yourself. Readers must come first and foremost. How to do, exactly? You came to the right place...


Be Available
Yesterday I tweeted about one of my all-time favorite authors, Travis Thrasher. I didn't honestly expect an answer. I simply wanted to be an encouragement but BAM. He tweeted right back, to little ol' me of all people. Now that is what I'm talking 'bout when I say customer service! Taking the time to interact with the average John Doe shows humility of heart.

Write Your Best
Don't just crank out writing that you know will sell. Put out your best writing. Every time. Sweat a little over the words you choose. Stretch a little farther than tossing in the usual cliches. Give the reader a sweet surprise with the way you describe a character or scene.

I'm not saying you have to write like a madman and toss out a book every six months. If your writing gait is a novel every two years, or a blog post once a week, it's not really the frequency that matters. It's the consistency. Your readers will come to expect something from you once you've set the pace. Stick to that schedule.

Okay readers, here's your chance. What are some ways that authors can show customer service to you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Shlepping of a Book
When should the marketing of a new book begin? The month before? 6 months? A year? The answer is D...none of the above. You can begin marketing even as you're writing a book simply by building a mailing list of those interested in your writing.

Just in case you ever wondered about the magical world of how a publisher markets a book, today I'm pulling back the curtain and giving you a peek. Here's an average timeline for the PR of a book once it's been accepted by a publisher (taken from The Insider's Guide to Book Publishing Success)...

Once Book is Contracted

  • Decide on a title and format (ebook/trade/hardcover/etc.)
  • Begin working on a cover
  • Decide on a launch date taking into consideration any major holidays or events that might enhance that launch
  • Build a website for the book
  • Send manuscript to other authors and prominent authorities in the same field to get endorsement quotes
  • Set a budget for promotion and devise a plan of action

6-9 Months in Advance of Publication

  • Begin talking to publicists, if hiring one is an option
  • Print ARCs (advance reading copies) and distribute them
  • Gather info on advertising pricing, design, specifications and deadlines

3-6 Months in Advance of Publication

  • Work on setting up events at bookstores and other organizations
  • Decide on a publicist and the length of the campaign
  • Send advance copies to trade review publications (most require at least 3-4 months lead time)
  • Ads are probably due around now

1-3 Months in Advance of Publication

  • Begin promoting the book and any events round its launch
  • Reach out to bloggers and online publications
  • Update the website

Pub Date

  • Consider launching with a specific event or promotional push
  • Push the book hard to the author's networks
  • Try to schedule some big media around the publication day

First 3 Months

  • Keep doing events and promoting them to the author's network
  • Keep pushing interesting angles to the media

4 Months After Publication

  • Evaluate the books' promotional strategy, figure out what has been most successful and what has failed
  • Take stock of whether there is money left in the budget...if the book is selling well, consider establishing a new budget to keep the momentum going...if not selling well, decide whether it is worth committing any additional money to the project
  • Come up with a new strategy for how to keep promoting the book
  • If the book originally launched in hardcover or ebook-only formats, consider whether publishing a paperback might help gain new sales

If you've signed with a traditional publisher, most of these steps will be taken care of by them. If you're a self-pubber, however, you'd better sit up and take notes. This handy dandy list could help your book baby become a success.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Roaming the Publishing Neighborhood with Margot Atwell

Remember the book I shared with you yesterday? If your memory needs a little nudge, it was The Insider's Guide to Book Publishing Success. Well, today I'm sharing the author with you...a round of applause please for Margot Atwell...

What drove you to write this book Margot?

Working as an editor and publisher, I see that writers have a huge hunger for information about the publishing process. Authors who are traditionally published frequently know very little about what the publisher’s job entails, which can lead to confusion and frustration. Publishers typically compound this problem by not really taking the time to educate authors on how best to work with them, so there can be friction and disappointment because of unmet expectations.

Self-publishing can be a huge boon for an author, but it’s easy to underestimate the challenges of publishing a book. As Donald Rumsfeld once said in a completely unrelated context: “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” Many authors are diligent about learning the publishing process, but it’s tough to do that if you don’t even know what questions to ask. The Insider’s Guide to Book Publishing Success is meant to be a guide for authors, to teach them what questions to ask, and to answer many of those questions.

What’s the number one mistake you see a self-published author make? 

The biggest problem with a lot of self-published books is that they are not edited well enough. Professional editing can be expensive, and the editorial process can be grueling. Most writers are careful about editing their own work, but it’s very important to have at least a second set of eyes on a manuscript. A good editor can point out weaknesses in the manuscript that the writer is too close to the work to see, and can help offer constructive suggestions for how to improve those areas. Working with a good editor can make one a better writer.

Another major mistake is using a sub-par cover. Finding the right cover can be very challenging, and professional designers can also be expensive, but the cover is the number one marketing tool for the book. If the cover looks shoddy or totally wrong for the author’s genre, readers will typically be turned off. Authors self-publishing ebooks will often design the cover themselves and I believe that is usually a mistake.

What’s your advice to an author who is not happy with the cover their publisher has chosen for their book (assuming, of course, they’ve gone the traditional publisher route)?

Publishers aren’t trying to make you unhappy by putting a “bad” cover on your book, but there are a lot of pressures within a publishing house, and a lot of voices in the process. If you are really unhappy with the cover, try politely talking with your editor about it. Are there other cover options that were passed over for some reason? Try to be concrete with what you don’t like about it. You can be firm, but make sure you approach the conversation constructively. Sometimes, you’ll end up with a cover that you like a lot more. Sometimes, the editor’s hands are tied, and there really won’t be much she can do. It really depends on the publishing house you’re working with. I believe some publishing contracts stipulate that authors must be consulted about cover art, so consider requesting that for your next book.

Does an author really have to market their own book? Shouldn’t that be left to professional publicists?

There is a lot a professional publicist can do for you. He will typically have contacts within the media and experience crafting a pitch to interest editors and producers in an author and a book’s subject. However, the author is the authority on her own subject, and her network is the best place to start getting the word out about the book. Her website and blog, her social media, the conferences she attends: all are great places to interest potential readers who are already interested in the subject of the book. A publicist can often help get opportunities for a book and author, but it’s the author’s passion for and knowledge of the subject that the reader will connect with. If the author isn’t the biggest advocate for her own book, it will be very hard to get attention for the project.

What do you think is the biggest ‘dirty little secret’ of the publishing industry?

I’m not sure there are really any secrets anymore—the internet has provided a place for everyone to air a lot of dirty secrets. One thing that isn’t secret, just not widely known, is that most printed books are sold returnable, or on consignment. Publishers send them to the bookstores, online retailers, and wholesalers, and the accounts can send them right back and not pay for them if the books don’t sell fast enough. It’s just one of the factors putting a lot of financial pressure on the traditional publishing industry right now, though it has been in effect for many decades.

What’s one myth about book publishing that you’d like to expose?

It frustrates me to see readers talking about how ebooks shouldn’t cost $9.99 because there’s no cost to making them. Working at a tiny independent publishing house, that line of reasoning drove me crazy. Yes, there isn’t much of an incremental cost attached to creating one additional ebook, the way there is a difference in cost between printing 3000 and 3001 paper books. However, there are still significant origination costs that go into creating to each book, such as the advance to the writer, the editing, typesetting, cover design, proofreading, ebook file conversion, and marketing, among others. If the price publishers are charging for a book does not factor in the costs of originating a project, the whole model will be unsustainable.

What’s your next chapter in life? What will you be working on in the near future?

I’m launching an editing and publishing consulting business. For now, you can reach me at margotatwell at to learn more. When I have more details, I’ll write about them on my blog. []

What are some parting words of encouragement for wannabe authors?

This is a very exciting time to be an author. There are an unprecedented number of ways for you to connect with readers who will enjoy your work. Whatever path you take in publishing, make sure it feels comfortable and authentic to you, work hard, and keep writing!

Thanks for roaming around the neighborhood here at Writer Off the Leash, Margot!

Margot Atwell has worked in book publishing for almost ten years, producing four national bestsellers in that time. Her writing is featured in such publications as Publishers Weekly, Publishing Perspectives, Movifone, and Five on Five. The Insider’s Guide to Book Publishing Success is her first book.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Inside Publishing Tips

Want to know the difference between a short run strategy and print on demand? How does a manuscript become a for-real book? What's a good timeline for a marketing plan?

Let's face it, every author wonders about these things when they're not hot and heavy into the storyland in their head. But who to ask? Well...have I found the book for you!

The Insider's Guide to Book Publishing Success is a compact read chock full of great information. Need an example? Here's what happens to a manuscript once it's been accepted by a publisher...

  • Final manuscript is complete.
  • Decide on specs (hardcover/paperback, trim size, and ideal length).
  • Send manuscript to Library of Congress for CIP data.
  • Enter all information onto sell sheet or send to distributor using their preferred method at least six months prior to pub date.
  • Send to copyeditor and to interior designer for a sample design. Allow two or three weeks.
  • Receive the copyedited manuscript and design. Allow time for the author to go through the suggested changes and any comments or questions from the editor. Also review sample design and relay feedback to the designer. Allow two weeks.
  • Send the edited manuscript to the typesetter. Allow two weeks.
  • Send typeset manuscript (also known as galleys, or first pass pages) to a proofreader and read through it yourself for any remaining errors. Allow two weeks.
  • Send corrections to typesetter. Allow one week.
  • Send second proof to indexer and to a proofreader for a slug (or do this yourself). Allow at least two to three weeks for index.
  • Send index and any additional changes to the typesetter. This is also when any endorsements, dedication, acknowledgment, and other materials should be included as well as all final copyright information and CIP data for the copyright page. Allow one week.
  • Finalize the jacket with any endorsements.
  • Send final files to the printer. Approve final proofs form printer. Allow four to six weeks for the books to be printed and bound.
  • Books ship from the printer. Allow approximately 1 week for them to arrive at the warehouse, and 4-6 weeks until publication date.

Sheesh! No wonder it takes so long. I had no idea. And that's just 1 little nugget of info that can be found in this book. Stay tuned to Writer Off the Leash all this week for more peeks into the inside world of book publication.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Workin' Up A Writerly Sweat

Spring will be here before you know it. Are you ready for shorts season?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Details, Details, Details

Creativity is important. Unavoidable, really, if you want to be a writer worth your salt (and/or gold, nowadays). The thing about creativity, though, is that you really must be careful about the details.

Earlier today I received an email from a cyber friend. It said:

I'm writing this with great grievance . I'm presently in Scotland, United Kingdom.with my Family for a short vacation and we're stuck..And really it was unannounced. We were attacked by four armed robbers on our way back to the hotel where we lodged.we were robbed and completely embarrassed. 

All our cash,credit cards and cellphone were stolen. We've reported the incident to the embassy and the Police but to my dismay they seem not bothered...their response was just too casual.Our flight leaves in few hours but We've got to settle our bills before We're allowed to leave....Now am freaked out....Please I need you to loan me some money,I promise to refund you as soon as I'm back home. All i need is $1,650 .. Please Let me know what you can do?Write me back so I can tell you how to get it to me..

So...let's pick this writing apart, shall we?

From a creativity standpoint, I'll give it a 3 out of 5, mostly because whoever wrote it upped the ante by adding in the 'armed' in front of robbers. Nice touch. I also like how the author included a ticking time bomb. Their plane leaves in a few hours. Will they make it or not? Cue dramatic background music.

The single detail, however, that should've been changed to make this more believable is up front. She's presently in Scotland? Sheesh. Scotland is rolling hills and kilts, not roaming bands of AK47 toting thugs. Maybe if the author had said they'd been threatened with bagpipes I'd have bought it.

Nah. Even that wouldn't have worked. Why? Because Scotland doesn't fit the connotation of desperadoes robbing innocent tourists.

Next time you're in creative mode, crafting an intense scene, make sure your details match up with what you're implying. Otherwise it might end up getting mocked on a two-bit blog.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What If?

Where do you get an idea for a story? How do you start to write a story? Can you pick up some Pop Tarts next time you go shopping?

These are just a few examples of recent questions I've been asked. Pop Tarts aside, let's look at story ideas and how to begin writing a story, because they really start with the same building block.


What is a concept?

  • A concept is similar to a business mission statement. Think core values. The why.
  • A concept is an idea asking a question that raises a conflict. 
  • You can develop a concept with a question, "if you do this, then X will happen." 

Concept isn't just what the story is about. It's the 'what if' question that you'll raise in the reader's mind. Concept is where you hook into the reader's psyche and reel 'em in. Need an example?

One of my recent manuscripts is about a woman who is committed to an insane asylum, but that's not the concept. That's the story. The concept explores what would happen if what you've believed about yourself all your life was based on a lie?

If the idea of concept is new to you, or you have a hard time grasping the ambiguity of it, I found a fantastic blog for you to check out. Storyfix focuses on concept like nobody's business. In fact, for $35 you can submit your story concept and see how plausible it is.

Now that we've got that cleared up, I'm off to the store. Apparently we're out of Pop Tarts.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Here an App, There an App

I'm the type of gal who needs my teenager to get the movie started on my TV. Needless to say, I don't have an iPhone or Android. Not that I'm a Luddite. I'm just waiting until my old-school phone breaks until I buy a new one.

But for those of you who are living in the twenty-first century, here are a few handy-dandy apps that just might make your writing life easier...


Take notes. Record voices. Leave memos. Shoot, you can even take a picture. Plus as a bonus, the content syncs to all of the desktop or mobile devices you have connected via Evernote, meaning the results of your brainstorm extravaganza are with you wherever you are. This app is a great way to stay organized and keep your thoughts in one place. Even better, this one is my kind of price...FREE! Download it here.


You'll never have to wonder again where or when you submitted your work. With this app, you can keep track of your submitted stories, novels, poems, scripts and articles. iPhone. iPad. iPod touch.The information is all right there. Check it out here. There is a lite version of this app that's free, but it only lets you track 5 things. If you need more, you can upgrade at the App Store for $7.99.


This app is designed for the iPhone or iPad. Organize your story with pre-defined categories for only $0.99. Quite the deal. Find out more here.


Are you more of a mind mapper than a linear thinker? This is the app for you. iThoughtsHD is a great way to work out the structure of a WIP. Whether you're plotting, brainstorming or compiling thematic ideas, this is a great way to create a visual representation of all the swirling thoughts in your brain. iThoughts is an easy interface to use and is accesible on both Android and iOS devices. Cost is $9.99. More info here.


This is a pretty sweet word count tracking tool for the iPhone designed to remind you to keep up your writing. It's a super simple tool that any writer can use to set a daily goal and stick to it. Best of all, it's free. Download here.


Need to write, edit, open, import or export a Word document but you're not in front of your computer? No worries. Check out Office Plus. It's free to download but costs $9.99 if you want to be able to save your work. Intrigued? Click here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

At the Corner of Anger and Inspiration

It's a grey day today. Yeah, I know. Americans spell that color grAy. But today, with the leaden clouds outside my window and haunting music echoing through my empty house, I'm going for the British spelling because I'm in the mood. Creepy things inspire me.
But must one be inspired to write?

I get asked that question a lot. What if you only have a small window of time to capture words on paper and you just don't feel like it?

Surprisingly, that's where some of the best prose comes from, after you cross the panic threshold, that is. Once you start watching the minute hand tick away and hear the blank screen screaming accusations at you, anger kicks in. You know you've got to get something down so you don't feel like a complete loser and voila. That's when you can finally let it rip and pound out some really good writing.

Slightly psychotic, I grant you, but that's the work of a writer.

Don't worry, though. If even your anger is MIA, Write to Done did a fantastic post on ways to find inspiration for your writing. Check it out here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

You Should Have A Mug Shot

You need to take your jammies off at some point in time...even if you're a writer.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine For You

Today's the day for love and romance. Hopefully you've already sent out your Valentine cards and remembered someone you wouldn't normally appreciate. As for me, I'm going to surprise a random sales clerk today with a chocolate bar.

Speaking of chocolate, pull yours out and sit down for a few minutes. My treat for you is the 'first kiss' in my recently completed first manuscript in the Bow Street Runners series. Cue your soft music in the background, get all warm and fuzzy, and away we go...

His steps slowed and he squinted. Surely he wasn’t seeing this.
            Down a block, Emily strolled toward him, alone. Undefended. Unaware. Above her, one story up, a fat woman with a large bucket leaned out a window, about to drop her slops. Behind her, a black-bearded sailor—considering his golden-ringed ear and bowed legs—followed close enough to reach out and reel her in. To her side, a dray passed in the street, heaped so high with barrels, the slightest dip in the road would send one toppling her way. She’d be crushed. And in front of her, two men swaggered out of an alley, each carrying half-empty bottles of gin.
            Nicholas shot forward, ignoring her gasp when he grabbed her by the shoulders. In five long strides, he guided her into the alcove of a nearby glassery, out of the pedestrian flow. His heartbeat pounded in his ears. “You’ll be the death of me! How am I to keep you safe?”
            Large brown eyes stared into his. Her drab bonnet only served to magnify the golden shimmer of the hair beneath. How could she be so beautiful that it tore into his soul?
Blinking, she drew in a breath. “I didn’t think—”
            “Of course you didn’t think!”
She flinched.
He closed his eyes and counted to ten—then reversed from ten to one before opening them again. Sighing, he lowered his voice. “Where were you?”
“I was with your sister, waiting until the doctor settled her with some laudanum.” Emily frowned up into his face. “She almost died! Why did you never tell me of her?”
“There was no reason.”
“There was every reason! Had I known sooner, before I got into this dreadful situation, I could have helped.”
“You?” He stepped up to her, forcing her back against the brick wall. A smirk begged for release, yet he fought it. “Think on it. When I first met you, your world consisted of pampering a pug, hat shopping, and snagging that scoundrel Henley. Would you honestly have wanted to help my sister?”
The longer she remained silent, the more her bottom lip quivered.
“Maybe not at first.” Her voice was small.
But true.
Curious, he leaned in, inches from her face, and studied the depths of her luminous eyes. Gilt flecks floated atop brown, shimmering like candlelight against dark velvet, but no guile, no deception, swam in those pools. Never had he seen her so open, so unguarded.
The effect stole his breath, making it impossible to speak. Clearing his throat, he demanded an answer he feared. “Tell me what changed.”
Saying nothing, she lifted her hand and reached toward him like a lost lover who’d finally returned home. When her fingertips grazed his brow, he turned to granite. The contact was white-hot. One by one, she smoothed away every crease, every line that tightened his forehead. Her gaze tracked the motion.
            His heart followed her touch.
When she pulled her hand away, he was lost.
“Everything changed,” she said.
Simple words, but the huskiness of her voice kicked off a complex reaction in his body. Blood pumped. A pang shot into his belly and sank. Low. Heat poured off him in waves. The thin space between them was a chasm too painful to bear. Pulling her close, he wrapped her in his arms, a groan rumbling somewhere in his chest.
She quivered against him—but did not protest.
Her name surfaced on his lips an instant before he pressed them against hers. She tasted of light, cinnamon, promise...all that was right and good. Her mouth moved against his with an intensity that surprised him, burning like the summer sun.
Closing his eyes, he breathed her in, and wondered if he’d ever truly breathed before. Her hands slid up his back, her fingers curling into the hair at the nape of his neck. He slipped his hands lower, locking them into place at the small of her back. Bending further, he trailed kisses down her neck and pulled her closer, drawing her hips against his.
“Emily,” he mouthed her name against skin so soft, he wanted to weep. When she arched into him, he knew he must have her.
And the thought turned his blood to ice.
He released her and backed away, horrified. Time stopped then. How long they stood there, he could only guess. He gaped, frozen in place by the host of feelings drifting around him like ghosts in a graveyard, each one howling from the separation. The memory of her body fused against his seared into his bones. God…what had he done?
She stared at him, drawing the fingers of one hand to her mouth. Slowly, she traced her lower lip, touching the swell. Her gaze was intense, the color in her cheeks deepening with each of his heartbeats. Was she reliving the kiss?
Or regretting?
            “Emily—” His voice broke. What kind of guardian was he? “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Behind them, the usual sounds of London’s streets continued on as if nothing had happened. What a lie. Something had happened, leastwise for him. He could only guess what he’d done to her.
“Don’t be.” Lowering her hand, she smoothed the wrinkles from her dress, then lifted her chin, proud and defiant as ever. “I’m not.”
Her words were as easy to grasp as feathers in the wind, but when they settled, a slow smile curved his mouth. Shaking his head, he grunted. “As I’ve said, you will be the death of me, woman. Come along. Let’s get you off the street.”
She fell into step beside him, the bustle of Eastcheap filling the silence until she spoke. “I am worried for your sister. She ought to be moved to a nicer place. Somewhere warmer, or cozier, someplace—” she shrugged “—healthier.”
He arched a brow down at her, amazed at her shift from passion to empathy. “Why do you think I took your father’s offer in the first place?”
Her eyes widened, as if she’d discovered for the first time that he wasn’t an ogre. “But, my father, I mean…what will you do now?”
“In your case, I have a plan. As for my sister, well…” He looked forward, and instead of seeing the busy street in front of him, Jenny’s drawn face filled his vision. “I had a plan, once, but it’s not so clear anymore.”
His Christian name on Emily’s tongue jerked his face toward hers. “Aye?”
“She asked me to remind you that God’s the one in control, not you.”
            Once again he directed his gaze forward. The words ought be comforting, for indeed they were solid and true.
So why did he feel as if he was just about to jump off a cliff?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Need Some Inspiration?
Lately I've been careening through life on two wheels and honestly am flat-out running on empty. And I'm likely not the only one. Anyone else need a little kickstart out there?

I have several go-to places when I need my inspirational tank filled. Today I'll share one of them with you. Ever read any Carl Sandburg? Best poet of all time, in my humble opinion. I love to crack open The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg and just peruse. So come along with me. Grab a cup of java and/or tea of your choice, sit back, and enjoy a few word combinations that only the great one could pen.

Disclaimer: Sandburg's poems don't rhyme and they aren't always pretty. I like them because his words make you think.

The pawn-shop man knows hunger,
and how far hunger has eaten the heart
of one who comes with an old keepsake.
Here are wedding rings and baby bracelets,
Scarf pins and shoe buckles, jeweled garters,
old-fashioned knives with inlaid handles,
watches of old gold and silver,
old coins worn with finger-marks.
They tell stories.

It's a lean car
a long-legged dog of a car
a gray-ghost eagle car.
The feet of it eat the dirt of the road
the wings of it eat the hills.
Danny the driver dreams of it when he sees women in red skirts and red sox in his sleep.
It is in Danny's life and runs in the blood of him,
a lean gray-ghost car.

Nancy Hanks dreams by the fire;
Dreams, and the logs sputter,
and the yellow tongues climb.
Red lines lick their way in flickers.
Oh, sputter, logs.
Oh, dream, Nancy.
Time now for a beautiful child.
Time now for a tall man to come.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dream On

“To write is to think. Good writing is good thinking."

I'm never quite sure how to answer when I'm asked how long it's taken me to write a book. Does that mean the actual sitting down, up-close-and-personal time with my keyboard? Because here's a newsflash for you... stories start way before that.

I'm "starting" a new book, as in preparing to write the very first sentence some time this week. But I've been thinking about it off and on for about 3 years now. Had I written it back when the idea began, the story wouldn't have as many layers or just the right characters. And that's not just rhetoric.

'Thinking' time is writing time. Months, even years (as in my case) are not wasted just because you haven't put a word down on blank paper. Great stories begin in the mind and heart of a writer, not by the act of typing out chapter one.

So if you're a dreamer, a ruminator, a dilly-dally wonder-if sort of person, here's a high-five for you. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

You're More Influential Than You Think

Is there an author you'd love to support but aren't quite sure how to go about it? In the middle of a book that you think the world should know about? Simply want to promote some wholesome fiction? Have I got some ideas for you!

The Top 5 Ways to Promote A New Book

1. Put the book face out on the bookstore shelf.
This one is my personal favorite and the tactic I most frequently employ. Yes indeedy, people do judge books by their covers whether they admit to it or not. If a book's cover is visible (vs. only the spine), there's a higher chance a prospective buyer will pick it up.

2. Buy the book and give it to others as a gift.
Birthdays. Holidays. Just-because-I-love-you days. You know you're going to have to give out a present sooner or later. Why not kill two birds with one purchase?

3. Post a review.
You don't have to be a writer to do this. Simply write down what you liked about the book, in your own words, and post it on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, wherever.

4. Read the book where people will see you.
Tote that book around to doctor's offices, the dentist, or on the bus. Crack it open and read when you have a few spare minutes of waiting. Most often, others will ask you what you're reading and voila. Instant commercial break.

5. Ask a bookstore clerk or librarian to help you locate the book.
Grabbing the attention of librarians or store clerks draws their attention to a particular title. If enough people do this, a buzz is least in your little corner of the universe.

So don't belittle yourself. You have way more influence than you think. Spread the word about books you love. Believe me, the author will be VERY thankful!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Heat Up Your Writing

It's dark. It's cold. It's February in Minnesota, and the house we moved into this fall doesn't have a fireplace. Translation: I need me some heat! So, here's my writerly challenge for the day...

Warm up your writing.

Hold on. I'm not advocating steamy sex scenes. Let's get creative, people! I'm talking metaphors and symbolism such as:

Incorporate reds, yellows, and oranges into your writing today. Different shades. Variations of transparencies. Maybe how a color makes one of your characters feel. Think of all the meaning that Nathaniel Hawthorne gave to the Scarlet Letter. It totally worked for him. Last I checked, that book is still selling like HOTcakes (sorry...couldn't help myself).

Okay, so the sun is a gimme. Let's move beyond that. Other objects that could symbolize heat are a smile, a mug filled with a hot beverage, a sweater, or even a book. But don't simply think concrete. What about abstract concepts like freedom or liberty or forgiveness? Those are all hot topics to explore as well.

Create a new character that's a hot-head, able to lose his/her anger in a flash. Or if your cast is already set, put one of your established characters into a 'seeing red' mood for the day. On the flip side, perhaps one of your characters is going to be particularly lovable, exuding some heart-warming feelings.

That ought to get you started. I'm sure you'll come up with even better ideas to convey warm and fuzzy feelings to your reader today. At any rate, you ought to break a sweat just thinking about how to write heat into existence.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Top 3 Reasons to Blog

The best thing about blogs is that they provide a dedicated writer with an occasion to crank it out in a disciplined fashion. If he gets good, his blog will get noticed, or his writing talents will be. But this only works because this part of our world is like the rest of the world. Cream rises, which only works if it is not all cream.
~ Douglas Wilson

Recently a buddy of mine started blogging, though she'd already been writing for years. Why had she put off blogging for so long? Fear. Believe me, I'm not casting the first stone on that one. I was scared to death to start Writer Off the Leash. What could I possibly have to say day in and day out?

A lot, apparently. Here I am after a year and a half, still typing away. Facing down those blogging fears and conquering that monster is a victory. But that's not the only benefit of blogging. Here are the top 3 reasons why you should consider rocketing into the blogosphere...

Writing when you don't feel like it is like exercise. It doesn't feel good at the moment, but afterwards you'll find that you've built some pretty impressive writerly muscles. It takes stamina and dedication to post regularly, but the payoff is a huge sense of accomplishment. I'm not saying every entry will be stellar, but you will show to the world (and hopefully editors and publishers as well) that you're serious about writing.

When you blog, your universe will expand. You'll meet new people who interact in the comment section, and some of those will turn into great friendships (love my readers!). You'll also discover other bloggers on the journey, many of which have sage advice and are eager to share. And who knows...maybe an agent will stumble across your blog and say, "Oh baby, gotta get me some of that!"

Yes, baring your soul in the blogosphere is good for your emotional and physical well-being. Think that's a stretch? Don't just take my word for it. Recently, the Scientific American wrote an article stating that blogging is not only a stress-coping mechanism, but that it produces physiological benefits such as improving memory and sleep and boosting immune cell activity. Full article here.

So if you've ever considered blogging but are too intimidated, I hope this particular post laid to rest some of your fears. Just jump on in. The water is fine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'm Nobody! Who Are You?

Writers are gods. Creating worlds. Breathing life into characters. Killing them off when we decide their time is up. Is it any wonder, then, that some of the writers I meet have a pride the size of New York City?

A large ego, however, is usually a sign of a writer who's not been at it too long. Eventually, one of two things will happen. Either they'll take enough hits to get whacked down to size, which is a good and necessary process.

Or they'll quit. Writing, that is. Their pride will continue to balloon.

Writing has a way of sifting through a person, paring them down to the barest essence. A true author at heart not only lives through the experience, but grows in character...just like one of the fictional beings they create.

Who doesn't think God has a sense of humor?

Monday, February 4, 2013


Hide Your Wives and Children...The Vikings Are Coming!
And I can't hardly wait! Starting on March 3rd, the History Channel will present a new mini-series about these wily and wild barbarians. The show is loosely based on the reign of Viking King Ragnar Lothbrok, who is a legendary hero in Old Norse sagas. Check out the enticing trailer here. I'm so excited, I just might set aside my Bow Street Runners for awhile and finish off my Viking trilogy.

Where's an Investor When You Need One?
Got an idea for a trilogy, like...oh...let's say one with a Viking theme, perhaps...yet your fantastic idea has failed to pique the interest of a publisher because there isn't one Amish character in it? Okay, all snark aside, have I found a site for you! Kickstarter is a website that just may fund your self-publishing project. You simply put your idea out there and see if anyone is interested in funding it. Last year 1,666 projects were successfully funded in the publishing category alone, with a total of $11,057,252 pledged.

Tired of the Minor Leagues? Looking for a Pro?
The Christian Manuscript Critique Service can connect you with an established, experienced, professional Christian editor who will provide you with an overall critique of your proposal, sample chapters, or complete manuscript. Yes, there is a fee involved. That's why it's professional.

Update on the wiener dog attack of my Mac: IF the only damage is to the touchpad (which the repair shop will receive today) then the total will be $209. If that doesn't fix it, they'll have to dig in deeper. Translation: mucho money.

Like This Format?
If you enjoy short news blurbs, especially about the publishing industry, check out Alltop, which lists recent top publishing news, or Topix, which basically does the same thing but gives you a little more info instead of just a headline to click on. And last but certainly not least, Publishers Weekly Publisher News.

Friday, February 1, 2013

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