Friday, October 2, 2015

Ancestral Roots

This time of year is when many cultures celebrate holidays such as Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, or Samhain. The last harvest has been gathered. The days grow dark and the nights grow long. It is the earth’s time to rest in darkness. This is a time of trust: we believe that the light will come again. We trust that death is part of life, just another turn of the wheel. This is the time to remember the past by telling, reading, or writing the stories of our ancestors.

I usually throw a party for family and friends around this time. The party has four main features, all of which honor the dark, the past, and the dead.

The first thing we do is go on a mushroom walk. We ramble through a wooded place and keep our eyes on the ground. At first we see few, if any, mushrooms, because they are shy creatures. Then suddenly we’ll spot them, showing up in an amazing variety of shapes and colors, growing under fallen leaves and on rotten logs, bringing color and life to death. When we see them we squeal, jump up and down, and take pictures. Believe it or not, this is quite exciting.

Photo by Maryann Miller
Then we go inside and eat the dinner I have prepared. Since this is the time of year for the last harvests, we feast on roots – potatoes, onions, turnips, beets – those hearty vegetables that grow underground in the dark, and provide the food and the anchor for the greenery to come next spring. Root casserole and root soup and root chutney grace the table.

After we are stuffed with roots, we invite our ancestors, loved ones or heroes from the past, to attend the party too. We put photographs or tokens of these honored guests in a place of honor. We give each of them a plate with a spoonful of root casserole. Then we talk about them. We tell their stories. We tell who they loved, what their passions were, what was important to them, and what they taught us. And we offer them our heartfelt gratitude. We are all indebted to those who came before.

Finally, we write. We write about the mushrooms: where they hid this year, which new varieties showed themselves, who took the best photo, who squealed the loudest. We write about the food: which color potatoes are best, what spices go well with turnips, how to thicken the soup. And especially we write about our ancestors and our dead: how did Great-Great-Grandmother Hattie put up with that corset, why does Grandpa Joe scowl so much, the unfulfilled dreams of Aunt Margaret, the heroism of Zipper the dachshund.

Since we’ve been doing this for quite a few years, some of us have the making of a pretty good book. Here is a haiku I wrote about this process:

dig up the old bones
rub them til they mirror back
your own reflection

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 10 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Five Unique Marketing Opportunities

Our theme this month has been unique marketing methods to promote your book. Promotion does not come naturally to me, but I have marketed books in several unusual ways.

1. Charity Events

I was approached by the local Optimist Club fundraisers in my neighborhood when they heard I was an author. The first book in the Mythikas Island series was put up for the silent auction, then they mentioned that I would have additional books for sale at the end of the event and would be happy to sign the book for the winner. The selling of books after the auction was their idea. I did not sell a large volume, but did gain a few fans. The second year I overhead someone asking if the author would be back because they wanted the next book in the series. I have been asked back every year since. Several people have approached me because they would like to write books. I have cards advertising my Story Building Blocks series on hand to give them. Seek out local charity events to see if they would be interested in accepting your books as a donation to their fundraiser. If the reception is enthusiastic, you could also offer to take books to sell. You could offer to donate a portion, or even all, of your sales to the charity. You can gain fans and give back to the community at the same time.

2. Local Craft Sales

I make jewelry as a hobby and set up a booth at several craft events to sell my wares. I put my books out too. I sold an equal amount of both. Consider setting up a booth at a farmer's market, local Arts in the Park event, or holiday sale venue. Several local authors set up at the Home and Garden show. Cajole writer friends to join you to make it more fun. After all, you will require someone to man the booth when you need to use the loo and get food. The rental fee for booth space is usually quite reasonable. I paid $35 to $50 for each event. If there are multiple authors, take one cash box and give receipts. You can tally each person's take at the end. If someone has a credit card reader, all the better. I did not have one, but would have sold more if I had had the capacity to run credit cards. Even savvy Girl Scouts have Square Readers for their smart phones these days. If you write YA or Middle Grade, you could connect with local schools or the library to see if they have craft or book events.

3. Writing Conferences

I have attended the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Indiana in the past and my Story Building Block series sold well there. They also offer attendees' fiction books for sale. This is run by a bookstore that receives a commission percentage, in this case 10%. I leave promotional materials with the book display in case the attendees are not in a position to buy at that moment. Also, anything you can do to benefit other writers will help nudge them to consider your books. In the case of nonfiction, I offered free writing tools on my website. You could have a drawing. Take a bowl or decorative vase and have people drop their contact information inside, then announce the winner at a time convenient to the conference planners or contact the winner by email. This is also a way for authors to build an e-mail list. A lot of promotional materials end up in File 13 after the conference, so I would not invest an exorbitant amount in gimmicks and gadgets. The most useful marketing materials are pens, Post-Its, and colored tabs for marking pages. You could also make up a writer's gift basket and raffle it, if allowed.

4. Radio Podcasts

I was asked by Red River Writers to read the first chapter of Mythikas Island Book I: Diana on a podcast aired on Blog Talk Radio. I am not a natural public speaker and my nerves showed, but it was an interesting way to promote the series. I belonged to Women Writing for Change when I lived in Cincinnati. I read several flash fiction pieces on their radio show. Research writing podcasters and radio shows to see if you can be included in their roster. You could also research local literary events with open mike nights. These are usually poetry-related, but you may be allowed to include a particularly entertaining/intriguing snippet from your book. You could read a flash fiction piece or poem  instead and mention your novels.

5. Group Marketing

Join writing organizations such as Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, or Romance Writers of America. They all have social medial presences and could offer opportunities for you to promote your work. Banding together with other authors in your genre to cross promote is one of the strongest ways to market. Look for groups on Facebook or other social media sites for your genre, fan sites as well as other writers. After all, mystery writers usually love to read other mystery writers, etc. Read the group's mission statement carefully to see if, or how, you are allowed to promote. Most have a document where you can list your titles or blog. Simply getting to know other writers and fans of your genre will increase the odds of them being interested in your work.The more beneficial you can be to others, the more good will you spread.

There are many literary festivals across the nation. If you don't mind traveling, you could purchase a booth and sell your books. Again, take a friend or two to help with the logistics of getting things set up and to defray the cost. A road trip with your crit group or writing buddies could be a blast, even if you don't sell a single book. Take cards advertising your books. Many will end up in File 13 or fluttering down a city street. You never know. A book lover might pick it up. Note, I do not encourage littering. But come to think of it, there is no reason you couldn't leave advertising materials in strategic places, like a table at the library.

When it comes to promotion in a market overcrowded with product, a little imagination goes a long way.

Diana Hurwitz
 is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taking It to the Mainstream

Once your book is released, how can you reach readers? Getting noticed by the mainstream audience isn't easy, and can be costly. No longer can we rely on social media sites to do the job. Facebook has cracked down on posts which include links, which means if you do post about your book, many of your friends won't even see it. Belonging to a Facebook group devoted to books appears to be a good solution, but don't be surprised if you notice the other members are also authors. Yes, authors do love to read, yet what about readers who aren't authors? Where are they hiding?

Here are some suggestions to ferret some of them out. Yes, an exchange of money is involved, but almost everything seems to fit that description these days. Perhaps one of my suggestions will work for you.
  • Place an ad in a newspaper. You'll be charged by the size of the ad and what length of time you want it to run. The charge may also depend on whether or not it's running in a metropolitan paper. Local newspapers may not reach as many people, but usually cost less. If you want something to really stand out, you can pay big money for a sticker to go on the front page, or you can buy a glossy sheet which will certainly get noticed. If you're offering an e-book, you might want to consider running an ad in the electronic edition of the newspaper for an audience which already enjoys electronic reading.
  • Consider running a spoken ad at a radio station. The rate will depend on whether it's a popular station or locally owned. The length of time the ad will run, as well as how many days, will also factor in on the price. You can specify whether you wish to read the ad yourself and record it for the station, or have someone from the station do the honors.
The above advertising methods don't require stringent approval, except with regard to spelling and newspaper standards. I'm still debating about whether or not to try one. The next method is iffy, but usually if you allow enough time, and offer a professional product, you might get chosen.

  • You can pay an online advertising site, such as BookBub to get your book noticed. The genre will determine the rate per day. For example, if your book is free, contemporary romance is now going for $365.00, but a cozy mystery could cost you $460.00. If the contemporary romance is reduced to $1.00, you'll pay $730.00 to advertise there, and cozy mysteries reduced to $1.00 are going for $920.00 to advertise. And, the cost goes up, if your book is listed higher. The upside is, I did reach 47,000 downloads when I used them to advertise Killer Career.  

  • For $25.00 you can get an online ad from Ereader News Today, which doesn't reach as many readers, but is still a big help. My freebie thriller, Two Wrongs, got 3,702 downloads, when I recently used Ereader News Today to advertise. If you'd like a copy, it's still free on Amazon and other venues.
Since both the above book advertising sites are extremely popular, you'll need to get your request in as far ahead as possible, preferably a month, although two weeks might work. Other qualifications will also apply, which are at the site's discretion. Your book could be great, but if a similar book has already been scheduled for the time requested, your book might still get rejected.

Once you've snagged some readers, you'll want them to come back for more, so make sure to put out an appealing, professional, and error-free product. Otherwise, all the advertising in the world won't snag return readers.

Have you tried any of the methods I've mentioned?

Experience the diversity and versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman, its sequel, A Perfect Angelstandalone reality show romance; Girl of My Dreams.  Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,its sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer CareerMystery:Two Wrongs. Short  and Sweet   Romance: Christmas   Carol
Christian Women's Fiction: Hailey's Chance: Will Baby Make 3? Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com    Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Word Painting III: Measurement and Metaphor

Photo by Biking Nikon SFO, via Flickr
My husband and I were recently editing the first draft of his latest Y/A comic fantasy novel.1 Because these books are being published in Britain, one of the minor, but besetting issues has to do with conveying measurements like height, width, depth, weight, and distance.

When Britain entered the EEC in 1973, the government agreed to adopt the metric system. Since then British children have grown up using millimetres, centimetres, metres and kilometres in place of inches, feet, yards, and miles; milligrams, grams, and kilos in place of ounces, pounds, and tons. The metric system works brilliantly in modern scientific and industrial contexts, including contemporary and futuristic fiction. However, if you’re writing a fantasy novel, the use of metric terminology seems incongruous, not to say anachronistic.

When I read a sentence like The dragon stood twenty metres tall or The golden sword weighed three kilograms, the effect resembles what you’d get if you patched a rip in your favorite old blue jeans with a strip of bright pink spandex. (Ugh!) Faced with this kind of discontinuity, the British fantasy writer is left wondering, “How am I supposed to convey the size of the dragon or the weight the sword without using contemporary metric measurements?”2

Fortunately, there is a solution: use metaphorical analogies tailored to fit your particular fantasy sub-genre.3

For example, if yours is a work of epic fantasy, you could write, The dragon was the height of a beech tree. / The golden sword was the weight of a woodman’s axe. If, by contrast, you’re writing contemporary urban fantasy, you can use descriptive analogies to highlight the contrast between the mundane and the marvelous: The dragon was the height of a five-story office block. / The golden sword weighed as much as a bowling ball.

This descriptive technique, so helpful in British fantasy, has creative applications in other types of fiction. Compare, for example, the sentence The CEO of Synergy Systems, Inc. was five feet tall, and had an assertive personality with its metaphorical counterpart: The CEO of Synergy Systems, Inc. had the body of an adolescent and the personality of a Rottweiler. The first sentence provides information; the second provides information leavened with humor.

There is also such a thing as negative analogy. Negative analogy is a wonderful vehicle for conveying irony. You could write Senator Bogtwaddle’s summer house was very large and expensively furnished, but this is coma-inducingly dull. If you want to spice things up, try the negative approach: Senator Bogtwaddle’s summer house wasn’t as big as Buckingham Palace, but it had its charms. This description has a sting in its tail.

As with other types of figurative language, the more original the analogy, the better the effect.


1 This book completes his Loki trilogy, published by Floris Books under their Kelpie imprint. The two previous volumes are The Day the World Went Loki (2013) and Thor is Locked in my Garage (2014)

2 American fantasy writers don’t have this problem because America still uses Imperial measurements – so-called because these are the units of measurement once used throughout the British Empire. The commonest units of Imperial measurement are based on the average human body. For example, an inch = the length of your top thumb joint; a foot = the length of your foot; and a yard = the length from your breastbone to the middle finger of your outstretched arm. One advantage of the Imperial system is that you don’t need any technical apparatus to guesstimate how big something is or how far away it is in relationship to yourself.

3 In a previous post, I identified 6 major sub-genres:

Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Contemporary Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, and Comic Fantasy.

Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Targeting Readers with a Traveling Show

On my book tour, friends invited their friends to parties and threw me into the mix as an attraction.
Photo by Cara Lopez Lee
Before I landed a publisher, I established a platform for my memoir, They Only EatTheir Husbands (Conundrum Press, 2014). In fact, my original publisher said my platform was part of what decided him to sign me—on top of my killer manuscript of course. My book was about my life and loves in Alaska and my solo trek around the world, with a theme of moving from dysfunctional relationships to self-actualization. Successful entrepreneurs have taught me the importance of focusing on a narrow target market rather than trying to appeal to everyone. My goal for my memoir has been to target readers interested in: travel, women’s empowerment, alcoholism, and abusive relationships.

I’ve sought to achieve that goal through less conventional events and tours. In that vein, I started Girls Trek Too, which was both an adventure blog and a series of independent-travel workshops. Girls Trek Too helped establish me as a travel expert.

Before and after my book’s release, I posted travel stories on the Girls Trek Too blog about once a week, attracting a small but significant following. I also wrote guest posts for other travel blogs and offered adventurers the opportunity to do the same at my blog. Now that I have more name recognition, I’ve rebranded my blog under Cara Lopez Lee in preparation to market my historical novel.

Offline, I’ve led independent travel workshops at REI outlets around the West, given travel-photo presentations at a travel-gear store called Changes in Latitude (which specializes in such talks), and given travel-writing workshops for literary organizations. Those have provided great opportunities to sell books.

On the subjects of abusive relationships and women’s empowerment, I’ve written guest posts for bloggers who specialize in women’s issues. During my book tour, I partnered with a couple of women’s organizations to give talks and donated half my proceeds to their causes in return for them helping me promote the events. That made it easier to convince booksellers and others to take a chance on a new author, and helped me drum up attendance.

In Seattle, I gave a talk at Third Place Books and donated proceeds to New Beginnings, a domestic violence shelter. That event landed me a guest spot on New Day Northwest, a local TV talk show, where the host was interested in domestic violence issues.

I also did a national radio tour. I was lucky to have a friend at a media relations firm who was kind enough to schedule a tour of about 20 radio shows and podcasts. A few shows focused on travel or women’s issues. A paid tour like that would typically be out of my price range. However, I’ll bet a few of the show hosts and producers would have responded if I had approached them on my own.

I find it important to create events that play to my skill set. I’m at my best with intimate groups when it comes to public speaking, so on my book tour I set up stops with friends who invited their friends to parties and threw me into the mix as an attraction. Those parties were fun and successful. I sold lots of books to people who were genuinely interested in my story because the friends of my friends were likeminded people.

My physical tour was a four-week, solo, low-budget driving tour across the West, staying in hostels, and couch-surfing. That was a great tie-in for my memoir, which also featured a solo budget trek. I kept a journal of the tour and shared it on my blog. In that way, my book tour became another armchair adventure to capture readers’ imaginations.

I’ve also done traditional author promotions: posting on literary blogs, talking at book stores, teaching writing workshops, and networking on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram. Whatever I’m doing, I focus largely on targeted subjects that fit the themes of my writing. Since my writing reflects my life, it’s not difficult.

My advice to writers who are nervous about marketing is to find aspects of your book that reveal your areas of expertise beyond creative writing. Then find the tribe who seeks your expertise: talk to them, write to them, and hang out with them. Marketing success is built on relationships, especially for authors. What more intimate relationship is there than that between a writer and reader? I’ve built my platform on a sincere desire to reach out to audiences I believe will benefit most from the stories I share.

Cara Lopez Lee is the author of the memoir They Only Eat Their Husbands. Her stories have appeared in such publications as The Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Connotation PressRivet Journal, and Pangyrus. She’s a book editor, a writing coach, and a faculty member at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was a journalist in Alaska and North Carolina, and a writer for HGTV and Food Network. An avid traveler, she has explored twenty countries and most of the fifty United States. She and her husband live in Denver.

Monday, September 21, 2015

May the Force be with you!

A few years ago, the local volunteer library called: Would I be interested in signing my books at Barnes and Noble to raise funds for the library? The store would donate a percentage of all sales.

It sounded like a win-win, but I’m cautious by nature—usually. “Tell me more.”

Just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, and the local Star Wars re-enactors would be there to draw people to the store.

Not just publicity and sales for me and money for the library, but fun. “I’d be happy to do it,” I told them.

So I turned up at B&N at the proper time and there were Darth Vader, Princess Leia, a nice selection of troopers, and a Wookie, standing around a table holding my books. I sat myself down, Darth Vader wheezing through his mask at the back of my neck. We chatted about their organization, licensed by the Star Wars franchise to make charity appearances, provided their costumes were really authentic-looking.

The customers came. Well, “customers” is the wrong word. A series of parents came with children who wanted to be photographed with the Star Wars characters. One little girl particularly wanted Princess Leia, but alas, by that time she’d had to leave to pick up her son from soccer practice.

The one thing they didn’t come for was to buy mysteries set in England in the 1920s. I sold two or three, but it couldn’t be called a successful event for the library, B&N, or me.

Ah well, at least they did have my books in the store. I’ve turned up for B&N signings, advertised long in advance, where they didn’t have a single copy of any of my 50+ books!

Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dream Chaser: Taking Chances

I’ve always been adventurous. Skydiving, hiking, mountain climbing, exploring strange places, and much more. Often, I stray from the beaten path, venturing into unknown territory. Even though I do these things from an educated approach, there are always risks and dangers. They say it’s the ones who know better who often find themselves in the most trouble. I don’t know who ‘they’ are… but they are right.

Let’s start with a true story:

As I said, I am adventurous but I know all the rules, precautions, protocols, and I’m a firm believer in being over prepared. But, I’m not perfect. Not long ago, my girlfriend and I decided it was a good day to drive to the mountains. We loaded two dogs into our 4x4 and headed up Rampart Range Road. We didn’t pack hiking gear or supplies since we only intended to drive. We came across Rampart Reservoir. Wanting to walk the dogs, we stopped. We had water in the trunk, but since we were just taking the dogs for a short walk, we left the water behind.

The reservoir was beautiful. It was a clear day over blue waters. Wild flowers were in bloom. It was quiet and peaceful. We walked the dogs and I started taking pictures with my cell phone. We ended up on the other side of the lake. I looked around, assessed the situation, and we chose to go a little further. We saw some runners coming from the other direction. Thinking we were still in good shape, we went even further. Then my dog hurt his paws and could barely walk. We tried to encourage him along, but it was getting late. The sun was going down and I knew we were in trouble.

I’ve made many difficult decisions in my life, but this was the hardest. We had no supplies, no water, and the sun was falling faster than we were walking. My dog could not keep up. We were about to be stranded. I knew we could move faster without my dog who was too heavy for me to carry. I knew he had a better chance of surviving if we got to safety and returned for him. I removed his leash. We left him behind, listening to his heartbreaking cries echo over the reservoir, growing more distant until he went silent.

Unfortunately, the sun fell behind the mountain quickly. The trail was twisting, turning, and becoming more dangerous. Then it became so dark I couldn’t see the way forward. At one point, I had found a spot with the faintest of cell signals. For the sake of everyone involved, I opted to return to that spot and call for help.

A team of four showed up. We had walked twelve miles around the lake and were less than two miles from the car. One member of the rescue team escorted my girlfriend to safety. I went with the other three to find my dog, I called for Lycan, and was thrilled when he called back. He’s a stubborn pup. We eventually met him on the trail, he could barely walk but he was still trying to catch up to me. We carried him almost two miles on a litter before reaching a road and rescue vehicle. The entire family made it off the mountain and our bond is stronger than ever. My dog, he’s walking fine and always at my side.

How does this relate to writing?

We acquire vast amounts of knowledge and try to use that knowledge to make the best possible decisions for our manuscripts. Still, even though they know the dangers, many of the great writers take risks. They ignore the rules and that sense of reckless abandon leads to stories they never dreamed possible. I’m not saying you have to risk losing yourself or your family on a mountain. In fact, I don’t recommend it at all. You have to develop an instinct, know when to break the rules and when to adhere to them. But I encourage you to take the occasional risk. The stories we don’t plan for often turn out to be some of the best.

We all love a happy ending, but don’t forget to make the journey memorable.

FYI: El Paso County Search and Rescue is a non-profit organization. All rescuers are volunteers and don’t get paid for the incredible work they do. They risked their lives to help my family free of charge. I will become a regular donor, and would love if you could give a little as well. Every cent helps save a life.

When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim, or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at


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