Would you Give a Fellow Author a Negative Book Review?

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I’m not sure why, but I receive quite a few book review requests. Maybe I have that “I review books” look about me. Or, maybe folks think that any gal who used to be nicknamed Tanutsi is too genial to pen a negative book review. Whatever the case, I generally don’t respond to the requests because they’re not personalized. Note to book spammers: If you’re going to take the time to reach out to me about reviewing your book, at least write Dear Quanie!

Note to other spammers: I don’t care if your great uncle left you 25 million dollars and an offshore oil rig and for some reason you’d like to bequeath it all to me, a total stranger: I will not give you my bank account information. I repeat: I will not give you my bank account information.

But I digress.

Anyhoo, the main reason I don’t review books is because of what happened to me a couple of years ago. I won’t name names (I never do!) but an author reached out to me about reviewing her book, and without knowing anything about her writing or the genre of the novel, I said yes. Below is the sequence of events that followed:

Author sends Quanie book. Quanie reads first page. Quanie faceplants.  

I felt a sense of dread as the realization hit me: if I review this book I’m either going to have to:

Write a negative review and risk ruining a relationship (because let’s face it: it’s one thing if a stranger calls your baby ugly but if a friend does it? Them’s fightin’ words).

Lie to spare the author’s feelings and write a review that’s untruthful. Never good!

Pretend I never got the book review request and act completely befuddled when the author asks me about it. “Really? You sent me a book review request? Hunh. You know, my email’s been acting kind of wonky lately and maybe that’s why I never got it…”

I ended up contacting the author to let her know that, for certain reasons, I was not going to be able to review her book. Now, I know what you’re thinking: But, Quanie! She asked you for a review. You should have read it and gave your honest opinion. Reviews aren’t for the author anyway. They’re for readers!”

But I’m a big softie, ya’ll. And if I know in my heart that I won’t be able to give a book at least three stars, I’d rather not review it than leave a negative review. I just don’t like hurting people’s feelings.

Now that I’m independently publishing my own books, I think about that situation. If an author buddy of mine reads one of my books and expresses that they enjoyed it, I’ll ask them to leave a review, sure. But otherwise, I never solicit friends for reviews. Never. Even if they have a tee shirt that reads, “I will read your book and leave a 5 star review even if I don’t like it!” Never ever never. Why not? Because there’s a good that my friends would rather pour habanero juice in their eyes than read my books. So I tread very carefully.

What about others? What would you do if a fellow author asked you to review their book and it turns out you didn’t like it? Would you feel bad leaving a “negative” review? Would you decline to review it??? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Story Rehab: Fixing Plot Holes

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It’s the first Wednesday of the new year and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

This months co-hosts are Elizabeth Seckman, Lisa Buie-Collard, Chrys Fey, and Michelle Wallace! To find out more about IWSG (and to sign up), click here.

So…my husband and I are rehabbing a house. When I first saw the inside of the house, I thought to myself, “My Lord. We have our work cut out for us!” Lemme splain’ you something: if any of you kind folks saw the condition this house was in before we bought it, you would promptly call the head doctor and get yours truly the nearest appointment. Someone cut all the wires out of the house. Stole the toilet out of the hall bathroom (let’s stop here for a second and imagine someone running down the street with a toilet hoisted over their shoulder). And guess what else? We had to take out all the floors because of termite damage. And I won’t even tell you about that horrendous turquoise, cast iron sink in the master bathroom. The good news? After we’re done fixing the house it’ll be worth more than double what we paid for it (and the house won’t look like something that landed on the lot haphazardly after a tornado).

Why am I telling you all this? Well, aside from the fact that because of this house, I can now say that I actually painted something for the first time in my entire life (woo-hoo!), the house reminds me of my WIP. Because just like this house, my novel is a mess. It has loads of potential, but as of right now, it ain’t much to look at. My biggest issue? Plot holes.

A plot hole, or plothole is a gap or inconsistency in a storyline that creates a paradox in the story that cannot be reconciled with any explanation. These include such things as illogical or impossible events, and statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline.

Slap me, Sally. I have so much work to do on this story it’s not even funny. I think the house might be easier to fix than this mess of a novel! “Statements or events that contradict earlier events in the storyline?” Gulp. This is the novel’s biggest problem. And it stems from this: there’s a particular incident in the story (a huge incident) that I haven’t ironed out. I kinda sorta know what happened, but the details are fuzzy. So because of that, plotholes are a-boomin’.

So how am I going to fix it? Well, I’m going to have to make a definitive decision about what happened the night of the fire (doesn’t that sound intriguing???). I’ll need to decide what role each character played that night and how their actions affected the main character. And after I know this, I can start patching up those plot holes.

Moral here? You can’t write a believable story if the details are fuzzy in your head. Iron out the kinks in the plot. Go through the novel with a fine-tooth comb and make sure all the threads connect. And if you don’t? Well, your story will probably be as ugly as that turquoise sink in our bathroom. Don’t do that to your readers. They deserve better!

What about others? How do you deal with plot holes? Any home rehab horror stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Promoting Your Book Online? 3 Lessons I’ve Learned from Marketing Experts

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Happy New Year everybody! I hope that everyone got a chance to relax during the holidays and that you’re all ready to tackle 2015 and pursue all of your writing goals! Today we’re in luck, because  author and blogger Stephanie Faris is sharing some kick-ass advice about marketing. I don’t know about you guys, but I need some good marketing advice in my life!

Stephanie’s upcoming release, 25 Roses, will be available tomorrow. You can check out the book cover and blurb below and add the book to your Goodreads shelf by clicking here. And guess what else? Stephanie is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card, an autographed copy of her book, and a chocolate long-stemmed rose. Scroll down to enter the giveaway:)

***

Children’s writing doesn’t pay the bills (yet), so by day, I write content for a variety of marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Part of that work involves advising small business owners on their online promotion efforts. I’ve found much of what I’ve learned in the past few years translates easily into book promotion since, in essence, authors are small business owners ourselves. Our brand is our name and our product is the book(s) we publish each year.

Whether you’ve just started your writing career or you’re launching your forty-second book, the time to build your brand is now. Here are three big online marketing lessons I’ve learned that you could put to use in making a name for yourself online.

Stop Promoting, Start Engaging

If you’re reading this, you probably have a blog and at least one social media account. One mistake I see made every single day in both of these areas is over-promotion. If every tweet or blog post is a promotion for your next book, you likely notice very little interaction. In fact, many of us are scrolling past your promotional posts in search of more interesting content. Granted, the occasional “My new book is available for pre-orders” post is great. But that post should be preceded and followed by interesting, insightful content that keeps people interested in what you have to say.

The good news is that you don’t have to create all of this content yourself. If you read an interesting article about writing, share the link with your social media followers or blog readers. Swap guest posts with friends and invite them to post on your blog occasionally. This will save you time, as well as expose your readers to more great bloggers.

Build a Platform

When an author uses her blog or social media sites to provide information about her area of expertise, that site then becomes a platform. Quanie’s blog is an example of this. Marketing tips are in high demand among writing communities, so her blog draws people in to learn as much as possible. It’s the type of content that turns a reader into a loyal follower.

When your blog contains interesting content, readers will naturally want to learn more about its author. Because your blog and social media sites consistently bring interesting content to readers, when you do have a reason to promote something, you’ll have the built-in audience to receive that message.

Give, Give, Give

When people ask me how I’ve gained such a large blog readership, they never like my answer. I read a great deal of blogs every day. I enjoy doing it. While I’d like to say that a well-crafted, thoughtful blog will naturally draw the masses, that simply isn’t the case. In order to receive, you have to give. Find blogs within your range of interest and comment on a regular basis. Soon you’ll find your blog is getting more comments than ever.

The same philosophy applies to social media. You may have a built-in following of friends and relatives on your personal Facebook page, but professional engagement requires much more work. Find like-minded individuals on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites and follow them. Regularly share status updates you find intriguing and occasionally comment on posts when you have something interesting to say. In time, you’ll find others are interacting and your audience will grow from there.

Online promotion is a great deal of work, but by sharing interesting content and interacting with others, you’ll soon find marketing through blogging and social media is not only easy but fun. Turning your name into a brand is a matter of posting interesting content and remaining true to your personal interests. If you’re having fun, others will naturally enjoy hearing what you like to say.

 

25 roses book cover

 

Mia moves from the shadows to the spotlight when her matchmaking plans go awry in this contemporary M!X novel from the author of 30 Days of No Gossip.

Mia is used to feeling overlooked: her perfect older sister gets all the attention at home, and the popular clique at school are basically experts at ignoring her. So when it’s time for the annual Student Council chocolate rose sale, Mia is prepared to feel even worse. Because even though anyone can buy and send roses to their crushes and friends, the same (popular) people always end up with roses while everyone else gets left out.

Except a twist of fate puts Mia in charge of selling the roses this year—and that means things are going to change. With a little creativity, Mia makes sure the kids who usually leave empty-handed suddenly find themselves the object of someone’s affection. But her scheme starts to unravel when she realizes that being a secret matchmaker isn’t easy—and neither is being in the spotlight.

Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, both with Aladdin M!x. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

Buy 25 Roses (Autographed)

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What Are You Reading?

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Hello, All! It’s the Monday before Christmas and I’m sure many of you are doing some last minute shopping (I need to be doing that as I type this!). Since I have some time off from work, I’m going to get caught up on my ever-growing TBR list. I thought I’d share some of what I’ll be reading during the holidays and I hope you’ll share some great recommendations with me as well!

 

Goddess of Legend by Erin Ashley Tanner.

Buy the book on Amazon. Add it to your Goodreads shelf.

GODDESS OF LEGEND

Cameryn Kane is a private investigator with a spirit problem. She can talk to spirits, solve any homicide, and has no love life. When an unexpected death sends her world into a tailspin, Cameryn finds comfort in the arms of a tall, dark and handsome stranger—Hades, god of the Underworld.

When Hades promises to bring her loved one back from the dead if she allows him the chance to woo her for six months in the dark Underworld, Cameryn readily agrees. While fighting her growing feelings for Hades, Cameryn must deal with the return of his ex-wife, Persephone, who is determined to get her husband back.

Cameryn will soon experience love and betrayal while discovering powers she never knew she had.

 

Can’t Stand the Heat by Shelly Ellis

Buy the book on Amazon. Add it to your Goodreads shelf.

CAN'T STAND THE HEAT

Over three generations, the Gibbons women of Chesterton, Virginia, have built their reputation as a family of shameless–but refined–gold diggers. They even have a strict set of rules by which they operate. But the rebellious, youngest Gibbons is about to break them all…

Lauren Gibbons is committing the ultimate family betrayal: abandoning the tradition of seducing men for money. Nothing is worth the abuse she’s endured from her sugar daddy. Now a sous chef, Lauren is hoping to break from the past for good. And when she meets hot former NFL player Crisanto Weaver, she even lets herself imagine a future. But the small-town rumor mill–and her own sisters–aren’t ready for a new Lauren. Between her conniving relatives, her vengeful ex, a mountain of debt, and a whole lot of haters, can she escape her old life, and create something new?

Quiver of the Pure Heart by Burnita Bluitt

Buy the book on Amazon. Add it to your Goodreads shelf.

QUIVER OF THE PURE HEART

Twenty-eight year old Blis Dumas’ peaceful life and sense of security becomes the target of a well-crafted scheme. The setting is 1989 San Francisco, and Blis fears a repeat of the 1950-60s, redevelopment that took place displacing primarily African-American residents from the Western Addition’s Fillmore District, their “Harlem of the West.” Her world crumbles as she is notified that her own Victorian home, inherited from her grandfather, is in jeopardy of demolition by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and she must sell to them…or so she thinks. She uncovers family secrets that reveal her problem is much closer to home.

Blis fights to save the home she adores; fights the temptation of an incorrigible former lover; and fights the threat to a tender, new, budding romance. Blis loves San Francisco, but like any love relationship, it is where her emotions will be tested, where passions will live and die, and where people are not always as they seem.

 

Finding Me by Dawn Brazil.

Buy the Book on Amazon. Add it to your Goodreads shelf.

FINDING ME

 

Sixteen-year-old Chloe Carmichael’s perfect world is in chaos.

It’s not because she has a vision of her boyfriend murdered. And then he’s found dead exactly as she saw. It’s not because she suddenly has the ability to move objects when she’s upset. It’s kinda cool to close a door without touching it. It’s not her overbearing mother who only cares about appearances. Chloe’s grown accustomed to her family’s distance.

So what has Chloe cringing in fear?

It’s a love that defies reason. It demands her attention. But Chloe struggles with a love that exposes the soul. What will her family think? What will her friends think? And is she worthy of his love.

It’s having to become another person for a new group of people. Chloe knows she’s not perfect but apparently she was when she was Amanda in another life. Her new friends won’t let her forget. It’s the stench of death that hoovers over her every move. It’s the threat of finality as she tries to acclimate to a life of super human proportions. It’s an enemy she can’t see and can be anyone she’s ever known. But her enemy knows her well. She’s the lone person with the ability to destroy him. But she doesn’t remember.

And it’s never discovering who she really is before finality meets reality.

 

What about all of you? What are you reading?

Happy Holidays and see you next year!

Peace and Blessings,

Quanie:)


Does Your Protagonist Have to Have a Love Interest?

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Recently, I was tossing around some ideas for a WIP, and when I went back and looked at the outline something dawned on me: the main character didn’t have a love interest. The main thread of the story was about the change that happens to this particular character as she searches for the identity of a killer. From beginning to end,  the search for the killer. And I wondered: how would readers react to this story if I didn’t give her a love interest?

I started thinking about some of my favorite novels. Even when the main story isn’t about the character finding love, the character is involved in some type of relationship. Maybe my memory fails me, but I can’t think of a single story I’ve read recently that didn’t involve people in the pursuit of love. Even people who have given up on love seem to find themselves in some sort of romantic situation.

Certainly, I can write the story and not have the character fall in love or even think about romantic relationships. But how would readers respond? Is there some part of a reader that expects every story to have a romance subplot?

So, I went back and reworked the story to include a love interest. I didn’t want it to seem superfluous so I really tried to make the love story integral to the plot. But it got me thinking: does the main character have to have a love interest? Can you think of any contemporary books where the main character didn’t? Am I driving myself crazy for nothing??? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


5 Ways to Build Your Author Platform – Guest Post by Christina C. Jones

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Happy Monday, All! Today I’m super excited because I’m handing my blog over to the uber talented Christina C. Jones! Today is release day for Christina’s latest novel, Catch Me If You Can, and I have to tell you folks: I cannot wait to read this novel! I recently read Finding Forever by Christina and it made me an instant fan. In fact, Christina is probably one of the most talented and prolific writers I have the pleasure of knowing, so if you haven’t read one of her books, do yourself a favor and get your copy of Catch Me If You Can. Yesterday.

Christina was kind enough to stop by and share a few tidbits with us about marketing. I hope you enjoy!

 

Hello!
Hi!
I’m Christina Jones.
I’m a self-published author with nine (pretty well-reviewed, might I add *dusts off shoulders*) books under my belt. I write contemporary romance/women’s fiction, with an intentional, specific focus on characters with various shades of brown skin. And african ancestry. So… I write about black people. :)

When the opportunity to write a post here on Quanie’s blog came about, I was very, very excited. And then I found out what she wanted me to write about (to be fair, I kinda begged her to come up with a topic for me, cause I’m terrible at that), and I got really, really scared. Cause I’m supposed to be writing about marketing.
Take a wild guess at what else, besides blog topics, I’m terrible at?
Yep.
You guessed it.
Marketing!
Well… maybe not terrible, but I’m certainly no marketing genius. What I can do is share the things that I feel have worked for me, and if you’re an indie author, they probably will for you too!

1. Make friends. This would probably be first on list for any topic. (even though I’m really not listing in particular order.) You need other author friends, and your pursuit of these friends should have nothing to do with marketing. You need people who understand the frustrations, understand the pressure, and understand you. Period. You need someone on your side to tell you to take down that subtweet about your negative review, someone to (jokingly)tell you when you make a grammar mistake on Facebook, etc. It matters, really.

2. See also: Be a friend. Genuine, sincere interaction with other authors is one of the best things you can do. It’s not about being, or phony, you have to really mean it. I share book releases, cover reveals, sales promotions, etc for other authors often, and it has nothing to do with waiting on reciprocity (although if someone does this for you, you should do it in return. Because manners.). I do this because I want to see other indies authors succeed. If you think another author in your genre is your competition, you’re thinking wrong. I’ve talked about this before with a friend, using vacuums as an example. When you buy a vacuum, you’ll have that thing for years. Won’t need another. There’s competition in vacuum sales. But with books? A person is gonna read it, and guess what… they’re gonna put it down and want to read another. You want that fire to keep burning, so absolutely put other other authors in their path, so they’ll still be in the mood to read when it comes back around to you.

3. Don’t be a jerk. This is self-explanatory, but don’t be mean to people. And if you’re naturally mean… do it somewhere else. Snark is cute until you’re trying to sell a product. There are a handful of authors I will never read (or read again) because of the way they treat/talk to to people. Everything you put forth publicly is a part of your brand as an author. Respect your brand, and more importantly, your readers, by at least trying not to be an asshole. (Can I say that Quanie? Is that okay?)

4. Social media posting. I’m definitely terrible in this area, but I know it’s important. You have to make your books visible to readers, and these days (especially for an indie) the way to reach those people is via social media. I post on my fan page, my personal page, my twitter account, my blog/website, and occasionally on instagram. These are the places your readers will go to connect with you, so you should make those available.
I do a lot of teasers, excerpts, etc in groups and on my personal page, because that’s what seems to get a good response. OH and a newsletter! I typically only email my subscribers when I have a new release, but that’s why they signed up! Take advantage of that by not forgetting to reach out when you have important news. Please don’t email your readers because you finally got that popcorn kernel that was stuck in your teeth.

5. Write more books. I know, I know, you’re sick of seeing this advice for indies, but SERIOUSLY. Write. More. Books. And I’ll even go one further and say: Publish more books. SERIOUSLY. Sitting around looking at your finished, formatted, edited book doesn’t do anything for you. (And neither does chasing down flaky, super-busy agents, waiting three months at a time for reject— wait a minute, this post isn’t about that.) Reading about publishing can only do so much. Reading about writing can only do so much. You need practice. You need critique. You need readers giving you their feedback. I firmly believe that in indie-publishing, experience is the best teacher.

So… there you have it! I sincerely hope that you were able to pull something good from my randomness. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve done pretty well in the year that I’ve been publishing, and I’ve got a good solid fanbase that seems to be growing pretty steadily.

Obviously, there’s things I haven’t mentioned, like purchasing ads, and getting into one of those mega-newsletters, etc, and that’s because I haven’t had any real experience with those. Someday, maybe I will, but for now, I’m pretty happy with what my laid-back approach to marketing has done for me so far!

You can find me on my blog: Being Mrs. Jones
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeingMrsJones
on Twitter: https://twitter.com/beingmrsjones
and if you feel so inclined, on Amazon:

Thank you so much to Quanie for having me, and thank YOU for reading! Have a great week!

 

cmcover

 

Diligence. Focus. Agility.

For Naomi Prescott, it’s not just a cute little saying. It’s a critical mantra, words to live by if she wants to retain her freedom, and more importantly, her life. Impeccable planning is the only way to ensure she sets off the small flutters that will trigger the big ripple she needs to pull off the score of a lifetime — no matter the stakes.

FBI Agent Marcus Calloway is a straight-shooter… if you overlook his sometimes unconventional, law-skirting, expensive ways of solving a case. A big arrest would do wonders to restore his reputation, and he has one woman in mind: Jolie Voleuse

Unforeseen circumstances force them into a closer proximity than either — especially Naomi — would like to be. Sparks fly, and as surely as fire ignites,eventually their undeniable chemistry combusts into a passion that neither expected as they join forces in the dangerous pursuit of a common bounty.

christinajonespicture

Author Bio:

Christina Jones is a budding author on a mission to show the beautiful — but not always pretty — journey of love in all stages, with a focus on people of color. When she’s not immersed in writing it, Christina is an avid reader of her favorite genre, African American romance.
Her first published work was released in November 2013, and since then, she has released nine titles:
Love and Other Things
Strictly Professional
Unfinished Business
The Trouble With Love
Finding Forever
Chasing Commitment
A Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Didn’t Mean To Love You
Catch Me If You Can


Should Authors Write in More than One Genre? Part 2

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It’s the first Wednesday of the month (woo-hoo!) and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This month’s co-hosts are: Heather Gardner, T. Drecker from Kidbits, Eva E. Solar at Lilicasplace, and Patsy Collins! Please stop by their blogs and say hello:)

Okay, so…last year I wrote a blog post called “Should Authors Write in More Than one Genre?”.  At the time, I was concerned about branding and building an audience. For example, if I wrote something funny (and people liked it), should I consider writing another funny book for the sake of branding? Or, should I throw caution to the wind and mix it up, and write whatever my little ol’ heart desired since every book idea I have seems to be in a whole new genre? In the post, I also pondered writing different genres under different names (and I even pondered having different social media accounts to keep the “brands” separate. Yikes!) and all of you awesome folks chimed in and assured me that I could write what I want without worrying about branding because people would decide, based on the book cover and blurb alone, whether or not they wanted to read the book.

Well, here I am a year later, grappling with the same issue. I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve been having such a hard time deciding what to write next. Seriously. My WIPs and other novel ideas are all over the place: one romantic comedy with a male lead, a paranormal story, a mystery that just might be a thriller, a dystopian novel, one book that’s freaking me out because it actually might be horror, and something that even feels like it might be science fiction (never mind the fact that I don’t even read science fiction. #problemswritershave).

So I’m sure you can see my dilemma. With all of these different stories in different genres running around my head, my concern is that I’ll never write enough stories in one genre to build an audience. Brenda Jackson? Romance. Stephen King? Horror. Gillian Flynn? Psychological Thrillers. Quanie Miller? Sometimes funny, other times scary, might just be a mystery, you might even get some paranormal thrown in there, rom coms on Tuesdays, thrillers on Fridays, jambalaya on Saturdays–do you see what I mean? I’ve been pulling my hair out over this issue. I’m trying to decide which book is going to be the best decision for moving my career forward, but of course, since my crystal ball is broken, I don’t know the answer.

What about others? Do you know of any other authors that successfully write in other genres? Do you read those authors and enjoy their work? And authors: what’s your take on writing in multiple genres? Have you done it successfully? How have readers responded?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Oh! And before you go, I have an announcement: The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond is now available. And it’s free! (I’m looking at you, Faith Simone). Check it out!

Insecure_Cover

ISBN 9781939844088
235 pages, FREE
Find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads.


6 Easy Ways to Grow Your Blog Readership

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When I first starting blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. In my mind, a blog was like that line from that Kevin Costner movie: “If you build it, they will come.”

Well, I built it, and honey, let me tell you: they did not come. I put up a post and waited. And made pie. And checked my blog stats to see how many people came to visit until finally, a system error message popped up on the screen: “Nobody came, and stop checking because you’re overloading our system.”

Duly noted.

What was I doing wrong? Didn’t people realize how spectacular my blog was? Didn’t they want my expertise despite the fact that I wasn’t an expert in anything (and despite the fact that they didn’t know me from Adam or Adam’s cat)? What was the deal?

Well, fast forward a couple years and I’m finally starting to “get” what a blog is supposed to do and how to maximize it. A blog is supposed to –get ready for this—share content.

Quanie, dude, everybody knows that! Why don’t you tell us something we don’t know!

Well, did you know that most bloggers quit blogging because they build it, and nobody comes?

Did you also know that most posts don’t get clicks, not because of poor content, but because the title of the post doesn’t grab people’s attention and therefore doesn’t prompt people to share it?

Did you realize that your blog boils down to you, the blogger, being the brand?

Well, Ms. Smarty Pants, if you have all the answers, then why don’t you share them?

Dude. If you insist.

  1. This might seem like a no-brainer but ask yourself: who is the audience for your blog and what types of things are they interested in? For example, I’m a writer, and so are most of the lovely folks who visit my blog. As a result of that, I write about all things writerly: the process of writing a novel, marketing, publishing, etc.
  2. Be relevant! Find out what’s going on in your industry and blog about it. You can do this by subscribing to other authors’ blogs or following them on Facebook and Twitter to see what others are talking about. Then write about those issues and give your own two cents. For instance, I just ran across a Goodreads thread titled, “Are Indie Authors Really Authors?” Is that conversation worthy or what?
  3. Does the title of your blog post catch people’s attention? Does it give folks the retweet fever? Example: you’ve just written a brilliant post and you’ve titled it, “Marketing for authors.” Snooze fest! Better: “8 marketing tips for the cash-strapped author.” You’ve written another post and you’ve titled it, “The importance of encouragement.” Better: “How a shady donut vendor helped me to finish my novel.” And after someone clicks on the link to read the article, the content should be so engaging that people want to share it.
  4. What makes people want to share a post? Not only the content, but also, you! Remember: when you blog your personality should shine through, so ask yourself: what’s the “voice” of your blog? Are you inspiring? Funny? Insightful? Snarky?
  5. Share the love. Yes, this means visiting other blogs and leaving meaningful comments. Not just “Great post, dude!” It helps if you actually read the post and say something insightful or funny enough to make the blogger and their commenters interested enough in you so that they want to find out who you are. It’s likely that they’ll visit your blog and leave a comment. Do this enough times with any particular blogger and bam: a friendship made in blogger heaven.
  6. Be visible. How can people visit a blog that they don’t know exists? There are many places where you can promote your posts: Twitter (by using hashtags like #amwriting, #MondayBlogs, or #wwwblogs. In fact, blogger Paula Reed recently wrote a blog post called “Using Twitter Hashtags to Grow your Blog Traffic. It’s very helpful. You should definitely check it out.), Shewrites,  Insecure Writers Support Group, Google+, Goodreads groups for writers, Facebook. Remember: your goal is to connect, not spam people from here to eternity. There’s no better way to get unfollowed than to keep hollering out, “Buy my book!” Your goal should be to connect, engage, and build relationships. Otherwise, what’s the point?

This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: your blog should also be easy to read and navigate. If people have to squint to read your posts or scroll for eternity to get to your content, it doesn’t matter if your posts are Nobel Prize worthy. It’s likely that people won’t stay long enough to see what you have to say.

Having a blog is a great way for any author to build their platform but it definitely takes time to build. It’s not always easy but if you stick with it, you’ll eventually see some growth. What about others? What things are you doing to grow your blog or increase your blog traffic? What do you find works best or doesn’t work at all? What’s the thing you wish you knew at the very beginning of your blogging journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

And Happy Thanksgiving Week to All! :)


How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2

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Happy Monday, All! I’ve been tagged by editor extraordinaire, Christie Stratos, to share the things I keep by me when I write, so here we go: my laptop (duh, right?), my flash drive, and a cup of coffee. Pretty simple, eh?

Now on to today’s topic. A couple months ago, I wrote about how not to respond to a negative book review. In that post, I told you all about the author who went ham, cheese, and bologna on a blogger over a negative review, but this next story takes the cake: an author showed up at a reviewer’s house over a one star review. Have you guys heard about this?

Here’s a quick rundown (from Salon):

On Friday, a YA novelist named Kathleen Hale published a personal essay in the British newspaper the Guardian, recounting her obsession with someone who had criticized her first book harshly. Hale admits to combing the Internet for information about the woman, a blogger who, while reading Hale’s book, posted a derisive running commentary to Goodreads, an enormous social networking site for book lovers. Hale confesses that she scrutinized the woman’s Instagram feed and Facebook page, as well as engaging in subterfuge to obtain the blogger’s home address. In doing so, she discovered indications that the blogger’s actual identity is quite different from the one she presents online. Then Hale drove to this woman’s house and knocked on her door. Receiving no answer, Hale later called the woman she suspected of being the blogger at work, twice: the first time pretending to be a fact checker and the second under her real identity, trying to get the woman to admit that she was, as the Guardian headline put it, her “number one online critic.”

What in leopard print hell?

And here’s an excerpt from Hale’s article for the Guardian titled ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic:

“Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in (The Reviewer’s) driveway. A hooded sweatshirt with glittery pink lips across the chest lay on the passenger seat; in the back was a large folder full of what looked like insurance claims. I heard tyres on gravel and spun round to see a police van. For a second I thought I was going to be arrested, but it was passing by – just a drive through a quiet neighbourhood where the only thing suspicious was me.  I strolled to the front door. A dog barked and I thought of [her] Instagram Pomeranian. Was it the same one? The doorbell had been torn off, and up close the garden was overgrown. I started to feel hot and claustrophobic. The stupid happiness book grew sweaty in my hands. I couldn’t decide whether to knock. The curtains were drawn, but I could see a figure silhouetted in one window, looking at me. The barking stopped. I dropped the book on the step and walked away.”

My question is this: what was Hale going to do had the blogger opened the door? I imagine if it had been me. I’m in my house, minding my own business, when there’s a knock on the door. I open it, and on my doorstep is an author who wants to talk to me about the one star review I left on Goodreads. The conversation would have probably gone something like this:

Me (smiling, assuming she’s selling Mary Kay): Can I help you?

Author: Yes. I’d like to talk to you about that one star review you left for my novel on Goodreads.

Me (confused): And you are…?

Author: A disgruntled author.

Me (taking off my earrings): Okay. Give me just a second.

Sidenote: If a woman takes off her earrings during a confrontation, this is probably an indication that an ass whuppin’ is in your near future.

I wonder what would have happened if that blogger had been home. Things seriously could have turned ugly. Everyone should have the freedom to express their opinion about a book without fearing that someone might show up at their home and do God knows what. And over a book! As far as we know, the blogger didn’t call the author’s mama ugly. Didn’t toilet paper her house. She simply expressed her opinion about a book, a collection of pages that are bound together and may or may not have words on them. Geesh!

I have said it before and I will say it again:

  1. Reviews are NOT for the author.
  2. If you can’t handle your reviews don’t read them.
  3. A critique of your writing is NOT  a critique of you as a person.
  4. Somebody’s opinion of your novel is actually none of your business.
  5. It is not a reviewer’s job to lift you up. This is what your family and friends are for.
  6. Never respond to a negative review! Never. Even if you feel you’ll combust if you don’t. Simply do not.
  7. And lastly: do NOT find out where the reviewer lives and show up at their house. I don’t care if you’re just bringing them a chicken pot pie. Please don’t. It’s creepy, and said reviewer just might feel violated. And just might call the cops and report a stalker. Or just might give you a lovely, twenty-four ounce can of whup ass. Just sayin’…

Everybody is entitled to their opinion and just because one person doesn’t like your novel means diddly squat. In fact, I can’t recall an instance where a negative review has kept me from reading a book. I typically make my reading decisions based on the book’s first page. If the writing pulls me in, that’s all that matters. It’s scary to think that, in this day and age, someone would go to such great lengths over a negative review. Scary!

What about others? Have you heard about this? What are your thoughts? And I’d also love to know: what would have happened had the author shown up at your house?

To read more about this story:

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/21/battle_of_the_trolls_kathleen_hale_reveals_the_war_raging_between_authors_and_readers/

http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2014/10/nepotism-bullying-stalking-online-reviews/

http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/on-the-importance-of-pseudonymous-activity/

http://bibliodaze.com/2014/10/haleno-blogger-blackout-and-the-non-existent-war/


Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?

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Happy Monday, everybody! So today I woke up to a pleasant surprise: Coffee Bookshelves shared a lovely review of  The New Mrs. Collins. *fist pumps*

And I’m also excited because Leena Williams, the novel’s protagonist, is being interviewed on author Melissa Maygrove’s blog! If you have a moment, stop by and check it out! :)

So a couple weeks ago I blogged about why you should consider independent publishing and today I’m talking about having realistic publishing expectations.

Before I published my first novel, I had all of these unreasonable publishing expectations. For starters, the book would sell so well that I’d end up on the Oprah show, despite the fact that the show was off the air (because of course, she would bring it back, just so she could interview yours truly). And when I went to parties and told people that I was a bonafide published author, they would look at me like I was up there with the Einsteins and Newtons of the world and say, “You?”

“Yes, me,” I’d reply proudly, with my Nobel Prize stapled to the front of my shirt (I’d also be sipping martinis and signing copies of my New York Times best selling novel).

Fast forward a few years and this is how it actually went:

I published a novel. My mother called me and said, “Now how do I get it? On YouTube?”

“No. It’s an eBook. You’ll have to read it on a Kindle.”

“A what?”

I had a few blog tours and garnered several positive reviews, met several fantastic authors who helped me to spread the word of my novel, and actually sold several copies of the book without having to twist anybody’s arm. But there was no Oprah, no Nobel Prize, and sadly, no martinis. Why not? Well, as you can probably imagine, my publishing expectations were probably just a leetle far-fetched.

I heard Bella Andre speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference last year and she said she believes that book number five is the “sweet spot” for authors, meaning that, this is the point at which most authors are able to make a living publishing books. She was speaking specifically about writing a series, but I think it applies to non-series books as well: after people know who you are (and like your work), they will probably go back and buy everything you’ve written since kindergarten. But until that time comes, most authors struggle to build their audience.

Here are a few sobering facts:

  1. There’s a chance that no one, not even your friends and family (at gunpoint) will buy your book. In fact, you might go days, weeks, or months without selling a single copy and may potentially end up hitting the bottle and singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Dude: I’m here for you. We all are.
  2. Most books don’t sell well, whether traditionally or independently published, so if you were thinking of quitting your day job (or buying that house in the Hamptons on credit because you’re, like, so sure your book is going to sell a million copies) you might want to hold off on that for the moment.
  3. Even after people read your book, there’s a chance that (gasp!) they won’t like it. Yes: I know. You think your novel’s the best thing since War and Peace and that the people who don’t like it are obviously delusional, but keep in mind that not everyone has read War and Peace. And that probably includes yourself.
  4. You might have a hard time getting reviews initially. What not to do: send out a nasty email to reviewers telling them how they’re going to regret not reviewing your work because your book is going to be bigger than Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades combined (and then when they don’t respond, send a follow up email asking if they received your previous message. No beuno). What you should do: Write your next book. Keep networking and building your platform and eventually, once you start building your brand, people will begin to recognize your name and this won’t be as big of an issue.
  5. Social media does not exist for the sole purpose of you promoting your book. I know this may come as a bit of a shock, but if all you do is tweet, “Buy my book!” people might come to regard you as a spammer. And we all know what happens to spammers: they get deleted. Or unfollowed.

“But Quanie,” you say, I’m in a hurry to become an overnight success. What shall I do?” Write, boo. And once you’re done writing, write some more. Got one book? Well, get started on that second one. And if you’ve already gotten past book number five, then book seven might be the sweet spot for you. So get crackin’.

And in the meanwhile? Surround yourself with positive, supportive people (including other authors), and if you wake up one day and find yourself feeling particularly blue, do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. That probably won’t help your book sales but doing something nice for someone is always a good thing. Besides, if you sow positive things you are bound to reap them—and you might even reap them in the form of stupendous book sales.

What about others? What’s been your publishing experience? If you haven’t published yet, what are you expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!