Why You Should Consider Independent Publishing

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Happy Monday, folks! Today marks the third and final week of my blog tour and I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who participated! Today YA Author Dawn Brazil is sharing a book review along with author Melissa-Barker Simpson. And editor extraordinaire Christie Stratos is sharing a book spotlight. If you can, please hop over to each of their blogs and say hello!

But in the meanwhile, let’s get to the nitty gritty of today’s blog topic: indie pubbing.

Before I independently published my first novel, I had several unrealistic publishing expectations. For starters, I would get an agent for my first book right after my first query letter, that agent would land me a three book deal, and after the book was published, Hollywood would come a-knockn’, and I would be a bonafide, rock star author extraordinaire.

Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t happen. I spent a few years sending query letters into that black hole where query letters go but never return, and I spent even more time waiting for responses that never came before I started getting out and networking with other authors and attending writers panels and conferences and other such events and really getting an understanding of how the good folks in New York City (editors) make purchasing decisions:

  1. They hate your story. In fact, they think you’re such a terrible writer that you should be banned from writing anything, including grocery lists.
  2. They liked your story, but in order to buy it they need to love it.
  3. Your story is about cats and gosh darn it, they just purchased a cat story and can’t justify buying another one.
  4. Your story is about vampires, and though it has a new twist (vampires in Vegas! Woo-hoo!), the trend has been done to death and they can’t take a risk on it.
  5. Your story is about a philandering wife. The editor is secretly cheating on her husband and your book makes her feel guilty. She says, “No, bueno, dude,” and sends you a rejection letter.
  6. They like your novel but can’t possibly figure out how to market it. It has nothing to do with your talent: they just need to know how to categorize things in order to feel confident that they can sell it to the masses. They don’t tell you this in the form rejection letter, however, so you’re left thinking that you’re a terrible writer when really, that’s not the case.

There are a million and one reasons why agents and editors can’t take on every book that crosses their path. And if you’re a writer with publishing aspirations, you might find yourself a bit disenchanted after spending some time in the query burn house. You might find yourself asking the question: why don’t they like my novel? But it’s not about them not liking your novel. The question is: do you like your novel?

Traditional publishing: somebody else feels your novel is good enough to be published.

Independent publishing: you feel your novel is good enough to be published.

Now, indie pubbing isn’t for everybody. If you’re sitting there reading this and think that Createspace is a furniture moving company (or that Smashwords is something you do with a hammer), you probably have some more research to do. But if you’ve done your research, have a good product, and don’t mind doing some of the legwork yourself, then why not publish your own book?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you a good writer who has spent years developing your writing craft?
  2. Do you have some hard-hitting critique partners who LOVE your book? (And these people aren’t close friends or family members who think that everything you write is plain ole superb. These are people who know their craft and can spot the big picture issues.)
  3. Do you trust your gut and know that your book is good?
  4. Do you believe in yourself?

If you’ve answered yes to the questions above, then why not publish your own book? Here’s what I think is most important: connecting with readers. And you don’t need an agent or an editor to do that! If you know your story is good, you’ve gotten some stellar feedback from readers, and you believe in yourself, I want you to hear me loud and clear: the good folks of New York City are not responsible for your writing career: you are. Write the best damn novel you can, market it with due diligence, and then write another novel. It’s up to you to build your career. Don’t leave it in anybody else’s hands. If you believe in your novel, you owe it to yourself and your potential fans to get your book out into the world and let your voice be heard.

Now having said that, please don’t slap your book together and show up at Createspace with a flash drive talkin’ ‘bout, “Quanie told me to come down here and publish my novel.” Please do your part and make sure that your novel is professionally edited and that it’s formatted correctly and has a nice cover. You spent months (or years!) writing your novel. Make sure that when you present it to the world, it’s the best product it can possibly be!

What about others? Have you published independently? What’s been your experience? And if you haven’t, what’s stopping you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Shadow Stalker Blitz Tour!

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Shadow Stalker Button

So today I have the pleasure of participating in the blitz tour for Renee Scattergood’s Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3)! Woo-hoo! I got a chance to read the story and I have to tell you, folks: it’s a fast paced read with an ending that will leave you on the edge of your seats!

The book is available today so hop on over to Smashwords and get yourself a copy (and add it to your shelf on Goodreads:)

Renee was kind enough to drop by for a quick Q&A session with me. So sit back, relax, and let’s get to know Renee!

1. How’d you get the inspiration for your Shadow Stalker series?
I first got the inspiration to write Shadow Stalker after reading The Celestine Prophecy. That’s actually how I came up with the character, Kado, and then it grew from there.

2. Are any of the characters based on people you know?
Not entirely, no. I do tend to pick certain traits from people I know and characters from other novels, but they’re usually just little things I think will fit the character.

3. What are you working on currently?
Well I publish an episode of Shadow Stalker every month, so I’m always working on that. I’m also compiling the episodes (every six episodes I write) to write a novel based on them. The novel will have the same story as the episodes, but they will be written in third person as opposed to first person and have a lot more elements involved. I’m also working on a prequel novella for the Shadow Stalker series called Demon Hunt. I’ll be writing that one during NaNoWriMo this year.

4. I was actually going to ask you if you’d be participating in NaNoWriMo. Can you tell us more about the project you’ll be working on this November?
As I mentioned, Demon Hunt is a prequel novel based on the Shadow Stalker series. It takes place the year before the series starts when Kado takes Auren camping on Luten Isle. Something goes wrong, and Auren ends up having to face her worst nightmare. It will be a lot of fun to write.

5. What does your family think about your writing?
They love it. Even my mom, who hates to read, has been eager to read my stuff. My husband gives me ideas and feedback on ideas, but he refuses to read them until the series is done. He can’t stand the suspense of waiting for the next novel. So he’ll read it all at once. LOL

6. Do you write in other genres?
I haven’t yet, but I’d probably consider it if inspiration struck.

7. What’s your writing process?
I always start with a character. Once I have developed the main character and that character’s back story, the plot usually starts coming together in my mind on its own. When I have the plot worked out, I start writing summaries of each paragraph. Other characters and subplots start to form during this process. Then I’ll start writing the first draft once my outline is done. I don’t use a very detailed outline because things tend to change too quickly during the writing process.

8. How do you deal with fear and doubt as a writer?
Whenever it rears its ugly head, I start thinking about everything I’ve accomplished so far or my goals. That always puts me in the right mindset. I don’t have very lofty goals, so I can’t be too intimidated by them. LOL

9. Have you ever had a particularly harsh critique? How did you deal with it?
Not really harsh, no, but I’m pretty laid back and don’t get offended easily. I get frustrated easily, though, when people point out things or offer suggestions and I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I always seem to figure it out, but it drives me crazy until I do. I also get really frustrated when someone says that I haven’t previously established something, then I’ll read back and find it two paragraphs before the one they pointed out. It’s good at the same time, though. Most of the time I find I can expand on it and make it more obvious so people don’t glance over it.

10. What’s some of the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice was to write what you know, don’t over-complicate things, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

I don’t know if I have ever gotten any bad writing advice, but I have been told on more than one occasion that it would be a mistake to self-publish. Apparently, it lowers an author’s credibility.

11. Have you ever gotten inspiration for a story from something truly bizarre?
I have thought about writing a series of children’s books based on a cat I used to have. I think he thought he was human or something. He certainly didn’t act like a cat!

12. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Get to know people and don’t be afraid to help them. This is the best way to get your name out there. Also, spend some time learning your craft. It will go a long way to saving you time and heartache in the long run.

Renee, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with me! Now, here’s my review of Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3):

An adventure set in the mysterious Dark Isle, the story begins with Auren seeing a disturbing vision about her future. Auren wrestles with what is supposed to be her destiny—and vows that she’ll do all she can to change it. Will her mysterious past be revealed? And most importantly, will the deadly prophecy come to pass? Excellent world building makes this an enjoyable read. Some of the descriptions were so vivid that I felt my skin crawling. Here’s an example:

I turned to see what I had tripped on to find that something had wrapped around my leg and was snaking its way up my thigh. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. The plant was about three meters from where I stood. It was at least as tall as Kado with a huge bulbous flower on the top. The purple pedals were opening to reveal…were those teeth?

Allowing myself to be distracted by the plant was a mistake. I didn’t notice the vines that had been wrapping themselves around my body.

Yikes! But carnivorous plants are the least of Auren’s worries, as there is danger everywhere she turns. Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3) is a quick and entertaining read by a very talented author. While reading the story the reader has to wonder: what is waiting for Auren in the dark shadows of the forest??? Well, you’ve got to read the story to find out!

Well, that’s it folks! Make sure you head over to Smashwords to get your copy of Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3), and in the meanwhile,  check out where you can catch up with Renee online!

Social Media Links:
Website:
Google Plus: /+NayaScattergood/posts
Until next time, folks!

How (Not) to Deal with Constructive Criticism

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Happy Monday, All! Today marks the second week of my blog tour and I’m excited to announce that 3 fanfriggintastic authors have been kind enough to host me today!

Mel Kin over at A 5-Minute Piece of My Mind  is sharing a book spotlight and Emma L. Adams at From the Writer’s Nest is interviewing yours truly. You can see past and future tour stops here.

But in the meanwhile, let’s talk about an issue I’m sure all writers have dealt with: criticism.

I’ve been seeing a lot of requests for critique partners and beta readers online lately, but I’ve been hesitant to volunteer because you never know how some folks are going to react to criticism.

I’ll give you an example:

Back in the day (way back, before Facebook), I took a creative writing course. In this particular class, there was a student who was very vocal about the “mistakes “in other people’s writing. In fact, prior to reading her work, I thought she was some creative writing guru because she was so knowledgeable about the craft of writing (translation: she nitpicked our poor manuscripts within an inch of their lives, and she wasn’t always so nice about it). So when it was time for us to read her manuscript, I sort of assumed that her work would be…well, perfect.

But everything that glitters ain’t gold. When I took that manuscript home, I was shocked.  I don’t like to disparage people’s work (because, hey: we’re all God’s children), but honey, you talk about the biggest mess you ever wanted to see! I’m talking characters who were so unbelievable you wanted to toss the manuscript out the window (and I’m sure several of my classmates probably did), scenes that made me laugh out loud (and they weren’t supposed to be funny), and the ending? Let’s just call it the plot twist from hell. Now, did I tell her this in my critique? Of course not! I mean, I love keeping it real just as much as the next gal,  but mama ain’t raised no fool.  You never know how some folk are going to react to criticism and I would hate to really “let somebody have it” in a critique session and then walk outside and find them waiting. By my car. In a hoody. Holding a baseball bat.

But I digress.

As you can imagine, some people in the class (probably remembering how mean she’d been with their critiques) really let ole girl have it. And what ensued was a blood bath like I had never seen. She became completely belligerent despite the fact that, in the past, she’d critiqued the work of her fellow authors with such vecerosity (I just made that word up. It means “exceedingly crass, even for an asshole”). Anyhoo, I sat back in my chair, cringing, and when it was finally my turn to offer my thoughts, I really tried to be positive with my critique. But others were brutally honest, and the person got so upset she eventually started crying. Do I say all of this to celebrate the blood bath that occurred that day? No. I say let this be a lesson to us all: critique unto others as you would have them critique unto you.

I know this is an extreme example, but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t always volunteer to beta read: some people might take the criticism personally. Letting other people read your work can be nerve-wracking, but if someone is kind enough to give you feedback on your writing, here are a few things not to do:

  1. Get defensive.
  2. Say: “But it really happened!” Doesn’t matter if your story made the front page of the paper. If it doesn’t ring true on the page, people won’t buy it.
  3. Say: “Well, you’re all just a bunch of idiots and aren’t intelligent/hip/socially aware enough to ‘get’ what I’m doing here.” Listen, someone actually took the time to read your story and just because you don’t like what they say doesn’t mean you have to berate them. Don’t agree with the criticism? Say thank you anyway and keep it moving.
  4. Cry. Please don’t! We’ll hand you a handkerchief but it won’t change how we feel about the manuscript (really, it won’t). Besides, if you think your critique partners are harsh, wait until you’re published and reviewers get a hold of your novel. It takes tough skin to be an author!

As authors, we have to learn to accept criticism and separate ourselves from the things that we write, so I want you to repeat after me: “I (insert your name) fully recognize that a critique of my novel is not a critique of me as a person.”

I’ll say it again for those of you in the back who didn’t hear me: a critique of your novel is not a critique of you as a person. If someone takes the time to give you feedback on your novel, be grateful. Even if you don’t agree with everything they say, there’s a chance that there’s something in the feedback that can help to make your story better. After all, if you didn’t want people’s opinions, you wouldn’t have asked for it. And if you thought your story was perfect, you wouldn’t be asking for feedback…right?

Right.

What about others? Any critique session horror stories (As an author, critiquer, or both)? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


How a Bad Hair Weave Helped me to Finish my Novel

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So today is the release day of my first paranormal novel, The New Mrs. Collins! Woo-hoo! I’m super excited! I want to thank everyone who signed up for my blog tour. Your support really means a lot! Today I’m going to be busy because 4 super fantastic authors have been gracious enough to host me!

Christina C. Jones is hosting me at Being Mrs. Jones with a spotlight and review.
Kimmie Thomas over at She Really Said It is also sharing a review.
Gina Stoneheart  is sharing a book spotlight along with Melissa Barker-Simpson over at Writing Room 101 (You can see the rest of the tour stops here).

And over here at my blog I’m sharing the story of the shady hairstylist who encouraged me to finish the novel. But I’m so excited about the release that you know I have to do it. Oh, c’mon. You knew it was coming. Excuse me for a second folks…

 

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Now that that’s out of the way…

A few years ago, I got a story idea about a woman who could speak things into existence. That was all I had. No name. No plot. No nothing. I went to lunch with a friend who asked me what I was working on. “Well,” I said, picking at my salad, “It’s about this woman who can make things happen just by speaking it. Like if she tells you, ‘Jump off that bridge,’ you’d actually do it.”

My friend said, “Hunh. I sure wish I could do that! You know how many people would be jumping off of bridges?”

I began to kick the idea around some more but didn’t get very far. I outlined the story, started writing it, realized it wasn’t working, abandoned it, went back to it, abandoned it again, and then decided that maybe I should work on something else—until I met the hairstylist who gave me the bad weave.

Picture it: December, 2011. I was upset with my regular beautician for overcharging me for a style so I did something I soon came to regret: I cheated on her. Now, in my defense, the other stylist was offering a significant discount on her weaves, and at the time, there was something about the combination of the terms “discount” and “weaves” that sent me running for my wallet (I have since been reformed). In any event, I booked the appointment and headed off down Interstate 280, confident that by the time I left that hair shop, my hair would be laid like nobody’s business.

Boy, was I wrong.

When I got there, she had somebody in the chair. “I’ll be with you in just a second,” she said. Any woman who’s ever gotten her hair done knows that this is secret language for: Dude, I’ve double booked. Hope you’ve brought yourself a snack because you’ll be here until the Lord comes back. Maybe even later.

I sat. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, a couple of hours later, she was done with her other client. I was peeved—but I wanted that discount—so I moseyed my behind over to her chair and sat (and sulked). But once we started talking, my agitation dissolved and it dawned on me: Okay, maybe this heifer ain’t so bad double booking aside, she actually seemed…nice. She asked me, “So, what do you do?”

I told her. Then I said, “But what I really want to do is write.”

“What kind of stuff do you write?” I told her that I wrote novels, and about the idea I had about the woman with the mystical powers. “Oooh! I love that! It’s so different! And you know what? I could totally see Gabrielle Union playing that part!” And almost as if the story gods were listening, when I flipped the page in the magazine I was reading, there was Gabrielle Union. Smiling that majestic smile of hers. “See that? It’s a sign!” she yelled.

“You don’t think the idea is stupid?”

“No! I love it. You should definitely finish that story!”

“Oh. Well…okay.”

She finished my hair at about one in the morning (yes, one in the morning), and said enthusiastically, “Oooh, girl! This looks good!” She gave me a mirror and at the time, I thought the style was fine (but then again, it was one o’clock in the morning. I was so tired she could have slapped a parakeet on top that thing and I would have given her a thumbs up). My only “issue”? I felt the hair was too long.

She said, no pun intended, “I think it’ll grow on you. I tell you what: if you get home and decide you don’t like it, call me and I’ll cut it for free.”

I nodded, paid her, and left. The next morning, I woke up and got a good look at the hair in the mirror. For some reason, every time I tried to comb it, the hair fell in front of my face like a curtain. I parted it like it was the Red Sea but it wouldn’t stay. I looked like Cousin It! And then I took a mirror to inspect the back and gasped: Ms. Hair Stylist Extraordinaire had boasted of how she created her own closures. To my non-weave wearers: a “closure” is a hairpiece that closes the weave at the top, so that it looks natural. You can buy it, but Ms. Thang, apparently thinking that she was the MacGyver of hair weaves, had made her own with one little piece of hair, relying solely on a wing and an unanswered prayer a prayer.

But I digress.

Chile, when I looked at that thing, I wanted to cry! There was a clear opening—like a tunnel!— at the very top of my head where you could see my scalp! Closure my ass! Ms. Thang had clearly exaggerated her talents! So I called and left her fifty-leven messages, and guess who called me back? Nobody! I started to get the sneaking suspicion that Ms. Discount Weave had decided that she’d already done enough for me and couldn’t be bothered to fix the mess on my head. And I was about to go out of town for Christmas. How could I go looking like Cousin It with a wind tunnel? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Three things happened next:

1. I crawled back to my regular hairstylist to fix the mess on my head. She took the price she (accidentally) over charged me off the price of the style and smirked as she asked, “Who the hell did your hair?”
2. I put Ms. Discount Weave on my, “People I will snub when I’m rich” list.
3. I started thinking about my novel and her enthusiasm about it, and guess what happened? I finished it!

Several years and several beta readers later, I have come to really believe in the story. I know that if it hadn’t been for her, I would have abandoned the novel, so I know that our encounter wasn’t by chance. So to Ms. Discount Weave, wherever you are, I’d like to thank you for encouraging me to finish my novel, wind tunnel and all!

What about others? Have you had a bad experience with a hair stylist? Have you ever received encouragement from an unlikely source? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Book Spotlight! Sifting Through Mud by Demetria Foster Gray – Contemporary Women’s Fiction

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I’m super excited to be hosting Demetria Foster Gray in celebration of her newest release, Sifting Through Mud! Check out the book cover, blurb, and buy links below. Also find out where you can connect with Demetria online!

And be sure to add Shifting Through Mud to your Goodreads shelf!

Congrats on your release, Demetria!

 

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Title: Sifting Through Mud
Author: Demetria Foster Gray
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Women’s)
Release Date: August 18, 2014

 

Book Synopsis/Summary
The death of Nyla’s husband comes as a shock to everyone except Nyla. What’s shocking to Nyla is her inability to grieve his death like a typical loving wife should grieve. But Nyla isn’t a typical loving wife. She’s a woman in desperate need to breathe. The oxygen in her life has long gone, and the astonishing thing she feels from her husband’s death is relief, not grief.

Even more astonishing is the rare and unexpected friendship which develops between Nyla and her dead husband’s mistress. However, Nyla isn’t aware her new best friend is a former mistress. And as their friendship deepens into an unshakable bond, Nyla is forced to face secrets her husband took with him to his grave. This means she has to sift through mud to unravel the truth. A truth that’s better off dead.

Yet through it all, the one thing which makes Nyla violently breathless, is the exact same thing that causes her to finally breathe.

Buy the Book:
Amazon

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

What People Are Saying about Sifting Through Mud (Book Testimonials)
Demetria Foster Gray delivers a heart-stopping, emotional punch with her debut novel, Sifting Through Mud. The boundaries of friendship are reinvented in this sexy, thought provoking tale of two women on a tightly woven journey of self discovery. Sifting Through Mud is rich with characters you’ll laugh with, cry with, and pull for in the end. —Lynn Chandler Willis, award-winning author of The Rising, and Wink of an Eye

In her debut novel, Demetria Foster Gray delivers a stunning tale of friendship, love, and sacrifice. Full of twists and turns, Sifting Through Mud leaves you breathless as friends, Nyla and Vivian, push the limits of their convictions, friendship, and love. These women are strong, smart, and beautiful with whom you instantly connect. Feeling the emotional struggle of each character, your heart aches for them, their decisions, and ultimately your own as you find yourself choosing between them. Sifting Through Mud is simply stunning. —Cindy Cipriano, author of The Circle

Author Links:
Website: DemetriaFosterGray.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DemetriaFosterGray.Author
Twitter: twitter.com/DFosterGray
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/DemetriaFosterGray

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Demetria Foster Gray is a novelist, freelance writer, and communications consultant. She earned a degree in Marketing Communications and spent the bulk of her career writing for the corporate world. Creating fictional characters and building stories has always been her first love. A native of the Chicago, IL area, Demetria now lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. Sifting Through Mud is her debut novel. Visit Demetria at www.demetriafostergray.com


How to Help Readers Discover Your Book

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It’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group! And today marks the one year anniversary of the IWSG website. Has the time flown by or what???

The cohosts for this month are Kristin Smith, Elsie, Suzanne Furness, and Fundy Blue. Make sure you stop by their blogs and say hello!

 

I recently ran across the blog of an author who was having trouble marketing her book. In her blog post, she said something along the lines of, “I don’t do much marketing. I kind of just put the book out there, don’t publicize it, write something else, and then say to myself ‘I’ll do better next time.’”

I thought about that for a while. Though I’m no psychologist, something tells me that this author is purposefully sabotaging herself. Hey, it happens. We don’t want to finish our novel so we clean the dishes instead. We’re afraid of what our beta readers are going to think, so we lollygag on that last chapter longer than necessary, or go back to the beginning, obsessing over every little word, never really finishing the darn thing because we’re afraid of being judged.

Or, we’ll have a perfectly fine novel but we don’t do our due diligence at marketing ourselves.

“But, Quanie,” you say, “I’m no marketing expert! All I want to do is write and I don’t have a budget to hire somebody! So you see, it’s really not my fault that nobody, not even my closest friends, knows about my novel!”

Yes, it is, and I’ll tell you why: your writing career is your responsibility. I’m assuming that if you wrote a novel, you wrote the best novel you could possibly write, so you owe it to yourself and your potential fans to get the word out about your story. And besides, who says you need a huge marketing budget to promote your novel? Does it help? Sure. Is it necessary? Absolutely not.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Pick your poison: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. Pick one (or two), learn how to maximize it, and start networking. Avoid overloading on the “buy my book” posts/tweets like the plague and start making genuine connections. Help other authors promote their books and you’ll be surprised how quickly others will be willing to return the favor for you.
  2. Start blogging. Yes, I know. You don’t want to blog, and you can name a ton of successful authors who don’t touch the stuff, but this is a great way to connect with other authors, readers, and reviewers. Whatever it is you’re going to blog about, make sure the content is interesting enough to draw readers in and make them want to share the content.
  3. Get on Goodreads. Yesterday. Join some of the review groups and offer some free copies of your book in exchange for a review.
  4. Organize a blog tour. If you don’t have the time or plain ole just don’t feel like doing it yourself, hire someone to do it.
  5. Guest post on another author’s blog to reach readers outside of your normal circle.
  6. Tell people you wrote a book. Yes, I know: for some reason you’re treating your novel like it’s the world’s best kept secret, but people can’t buy a book that they don’t know exists. Besides, once your family/friends/coworkers realize you wrote a book they’ll probably be impressed and will tell everyone that they know a real life published author. And there is nothing like free, word of mouth marketing.
  7. Get some bookmarks and business cards made with your book cover and your social media info. And don’t be shy to casually mention you wrote a book! The conversation might go something like this:
    “It looks like it’s going to rain.”
    “Oh? Did I tell you I wrote a book?” Bam: hand out the bookmark. Easy peazy.
  8. If you have a physical copy of your book, leave a few copies with your hair stylist. If she double books like the stylists I know, her clients will be there until kingdom come: why not help them discover your book while they wait? It also wouldn’t hurt to ask the stylist if you could leave a few bookmarks on her workstation. It’s worth a shot!
  9. Make a book cover flyer with your social media info and buy links and post them at local coffee shops.
  10. Got some wiggle room in your marketing budget? You might want to consider paid advertisement (Goodreads, Bookbub, etc).

There are many ways to market a novel, and if you’ve taken the time to write the best book you can possibly write, why not do everything you can to promote yourself? Is there a chance that you could publish your novel and, with little to no marketing, experience J.K. Rowling like success? Sure, but it’s highly unlikely since most authors have to be diligent about helping readers discover their books. If you’re serious about your writing, you’ll be willing to put in the work it takes to have a stellar career, because after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is an author’s platform.

What about others? What marketing strategies do you find work best? Which do you find are a complete waste of time? Which social media outlets have you found most beneficial? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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This is my entry for the IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond.  I give permission for this entry to be included in the anthology.
Title: How to Help Readers Discover Your Book
Topic: Marketing
Bio: Quanie Miller writes paranormal novels and romantic comedies. You can catch up with her at quanietalkswriting.com.

 

 


Novel Writing Tips: The First Page

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Looking for my Follow Fest ’14 post? Click here

 

Last year I was the recipient of the Vicki Hudson Emerging Writing Prize. Part of the prize was a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers Conference. During the conference (more about that here), I attended something called a First-Page-A-Thon (translation: a panel of literary agents reads the first page of your novel out loud and if they don’t like it, they throw rocks at you until you promise to send them nary a query letter regarding said manuscript). And honey chile, let me tell you: that was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life.

Picture it: February, 2013. An unsuspecting Quanie sits in a conference room at the Mark Hopkins hotel, next to her friend, Lindsay, shaking in her boots (and she doesn’t even wear boots). One of the agents, after laughing diabolically, picks from the pile and begins to read the first submission.

*Insert beads of sweat on Quanie’s forehead*

So I’m sitting there, biting my poor nails to the nubs until finally, I recognize the first line from my work in progress. Lindsay jabbed me and whispered, “That one’s yours!” I ducked in my seat, wishing that I’d taken my invisibility cloak.

This is how it went: during the reading of your manuscript, any agent could raise their hand at the point on the page that they would stop reading had they received your manuscript via regular query. If two agents raised their hand, the agent stopped reading your page and all the agents gave feedback about why they would have rejected the submission.

It was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences for me as a writer. You would not believe how many times agents don’t get past the first paragraph, and in one instance, the first line.

Here’s my takeaway from that experience:

1. This may seem like common writer knowledge, but don’t start your story with a character waking up from a dream. Why not? Because it’s been done to death.

2. Don’t start the story with someone answering the phone. I think one of the reasons the agents listed this as a pet peeve is because they see it so often and they’d like to see a character doing something more interesting when they’re introduced. Quite a few of the manuscripts began with characters answering the phone and you know what happened? The agents stopped reading. Yeah, I know: ouch.

3. One agent said the phrase “my heart pounded” is an instant turn off for her. She said as soon as she sees it, she stops reading because it’s so unoriginal.

4. We need to know who the main character is right away, so putting too many characters on the first page might not be the best idea. You might be able to keep your characters straight in your head, but readers picking up your book for the first time need to be eased into the story. It might be a good idea to show your main character, in action, preferably doing something interesting (and hopefully, not waking from a dream or answering the phone!) and then, as we get to know him/her, introduce us to other characters.

5. Too much description is a no-no (this was the problem with my first page). I had everything going on except Mardi Gras, honey. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So what did I do? I took the constructive criticism, reevaluated the first page of my novel, and realized that (gulp) the story didn’t start until chapter 3. Yes: chapter 3. I cut the first two chapters and haven’t looked back since.

My two cents? If you can break the rules successfully, then everyone will bow to your greatness. And if you don’t? Then, well…people will refer you right back to the rules.

What about others? What are some strategies that you employ when writing your first page? And as readers, what are some of your first page pet peeves?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

*Sidenote: Last Tuesday my husband and I welcomed our little girl into the world! As you can imagine, this is quite an exciting and busy time for us as first-time parents. I will try my best to return blog visits, but please bear with me!*

 


Follow Fest ’14

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FollowFest 2014

 

It’s that time of year again! Not only is it almost time for Sugarcane Festival, but blogger and author extraordinaire, Melissa Maygrove, is hosting Follow Fest again! Woo-hoo! *Fist pumps*

Purpose: To meet other writers and build our platforms.

Follow Fest ’14 runs thru Friday. There’s still time to sign up! More details here.

So without further adieu!

Name:
Quanie Miller

Fiction or nonfiction?
Definitely fiction!

What genres do you write?
Paranormal and romantic comedy.

Are you published?
Yep. My debut novel is a romantic comedy called It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy. My first paranormal release, The New Mrs. Collins, will be available via Amazon October 13. You can add it to your Goodreads shelf here :)

Do you do anything in addition to writing?
Yes, I beta read. I also do some developmental editing.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a wife and (brand new!) mother. I’m from New Iberia, Louisiana, one of America’s prettiest towns. You can read my full bio here.

What are you reading right now?
I have quite a few things in my TBR pile. Up next is Finding Forever by Christina C. Jones.

Which authors influenced you the most?
I’d definitely have to say R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike.

Where can people connect with you?
You can subscribe to my blog by clicking “follow” on the bottom of the page. And here are other places you can find me hanging out online:

Twitter: twitter.com/QuanieMiller

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/QuanieMiller

Facebook: www.facebook.com/QuanieMillerAuthor

She Writes: http://www.shewrites.com/profile/QuanieMiller

Website: www.quaniemiller.com

Email:

quanie@quanietalkswriting.com

info@quaniemiller.com

Do you have a newsletter?
Not yet.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Let’s see…I probably make the best pralines you’ve ever had (Okay. Maybe not better than grandma’s!). I’m also happy to participate in release day activities/blog tours for other authors (like posting covers, excerpts, author interviews, etc). Just ask! I’m also hosting a blog tour for my upcoming paranormal release. If you’d like to sign up you can find the details here.

Thanks for stopping by! And please hop over to http://melissamaygrove.blogspot.com to meet some of the other authors participating in Follow Fest this week.

Until next time!


Tips for Writing the Middle of your Novel

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the first 3 chapters of a novel. I wrote the post after discovering a call for beta readers where the author said: “Well, the first few chapters are kind of boring anyway. It doesn’t get good until the middle.” If you recall, that statement made me cry real tears.

I think it’s safe to say that if the beginning of a novel doesn’t hook a reader, then, well…said reader will probably not finish the book. But I have to tell you, folks. I’ve been reading books for quite some time now and I have been duped several times by books with great opening chapters that fell flat as the story went along.

And that got me to thinking about novel middles.

One of my book pet peeves is this: don’t make promises to me that you can’t deliver. In other words, don’t start the book with so much momentum that you can’t maintain it throughout.

“But, Quanie,” you ask, “how do I maintain momentum?”

A little something we like to call rising action. A writing professor once said this to me about three act structure: get your main character up a tree and throw rocks at him until you get him down.

Say what now, sugar? 

Story beginning: get character up a tree. Translation: at the beginning of your story life for your main character will be normal. Something will happen to disrupt that normalcy. Said character will generally spend the rest of the story trying to restore order, or solve said problem. Example: Your main character, Lucy, is living life as normal until she finds her husband face down in a bowl of soup. She checks his pulse and discovers there is none. Good golly, Ms. Molly: poor Bruce is dead.

Story middle: throw rocks at main character. Translation: as the character attempts to solve the problem, they will face obstacles that will get increasingly harder to tackle. In other words: no more Mrs. Nice Author. Put your characters through the ringer and leave your readers on the edge of their seats as to how they are possibly going to survive/solve said problem/get the boy back/etc. Example: Lucy discovers that her husband didn’t have a heart attack, and that in fact, he was poisoned. But on her search to find out the truth, it’s discovered that:

1. Bruce was having an affair with Lucy’s sister.

2. Lucy has some gambling debts and a failing sporting goods store.

3. Someone increased Bruce’s life insurance policy to 2.5 million.

4.  Bruce and Lucy attended a charity event the night before and had a terrible argument. Lucy was heard screaming that she would kill him (she doesn’t remember it. Moscato always makes her black out).

5. Because of the affair, her gambling debts, the increase in life insurance, and the threat, the police think that Lucy did it and charge her with the murder.

6. To top that off, the money in her and Bruce’s checking account has mysteriously disappeared so she has no money for a lawyer.

7. Many years ago, Lucy had an affair with Bruce while he was married to the leading prosecutor on the case, so the woman wants her head on a stick.

8. On Lucy’s computer, someone had been searching “How to get away with killing your husband.”

9. Her children are against her and are now refusing her refuge. Her face is plastered around the city so she is forced to go on the run (with a bad wig and an even worse French accent) until she can find out the truth….

Story ending: get the character down. Translation: the main character solves the problem. Life has gone back to normal or perhaps things will never be the same. Hopefully, the character has changed or learned something throughout their journey. Example: Lucy finds out that her sister (that cow!) set her up. She proves it by faking her own death, sneaking into the sister’s house, and setting up a nanny cam that records a confession. She plays it at her trial as the prosecutor weeps. Lucy moves to Montana and starts a new life.

Of course, every story is different (especially those that might be more character driven), but I think it’s safe to say that if your middle falls flat, it’s likely that readers won’t continue to the end.

What about others? What are some of your novel middle pet peeves? And to authors: what are some of the strategies you employ to keep those middles interesting?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Feature Friday! Interview with Author Rochelle Campbell!

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It’s been an exciting week here at Quanie Talks Writing! On Monday I revealed the cover for my southern paranormal novel, The New Mrs. Collins, yesterday I interviewed author Chrys Fey about her latest release, 30 Seconds, and today I have the absolute pleasure of talking to paranormal author, Rochelle Campbell, about her newest novel, Fury from Hell.

Phew! Excuse me while I catch my breath!

Rochelle was kind of enough to answer some questions about her latest release and writing process so I hope you enjoy! And be sure to hop on over to Goodreads and add Fury from Hell to your TBR list!

 

What inspired your book?

Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWriMo, was the impetus for Fury From Hell.  In the spring of 2012, I knew I wanted to write a book but wanted to do it in an atmosphere where I could reach out for support.  NaNoWriMo is just the place for that as they have heavily trafficked forums offering mentors for all genres and personalities.

Secondly, I wanted to break out of the women’s fiction/literary short story writing rut I was in.  I decided to write something extremely different from anything I had ever attempted.  I immediately knew the new story needed to have a creature in it but I was completely against doing vampires.  Then, one day, I saw a plume of misty steam coming from an orange construction cone in the middle of the street.  It occurred to me that something could be hidden in that mist and could secretly invade any one of the hundreds of passerby on the busy NYC street.  After playing with this idea over the next several months, the beginnings of the story of Fury From Hell emerged in time for the start of NaNoWriMo.  I put down a detailed outline the week before NaNo began and on November 1st, 2012 I began to write the story that became Fury From Hell.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I truly cannot answer this question because there are so many answers.  ‘Fury’ came from a random walk where I spotted mist in the street.  A number of my short stories stemmed from dreams.  A couple of book ideas came out of research I conducted for other aspects of my life and I played the What if? game and extrapolated and found a kernel of a story and expanded upon it.

My inspiration to write a particular piece could come from anywhere.

How does your upbringing influence your writing?

Hmmm.  What a great question!  Off the top, I would say that my upbringing has absolutely nothing to do with my writing.  My family did not read much else other than the Bible and Danielle Steele novels (and Laura Goodman’s Zodiac signs!).  However, I was encouraged to read, read and read some more.  My aunt was a librarian which provided me access to millions of books.  I read so many books I’ve forgotten a lot of what I read!

However, a reading legacy was my childhood and an essential part of my upbringing.  Sneaking and reading books that would cause a ruckus in the household became a fun pastime.  Hence, books about witchcraft, demons, fantasies, goblins and that whole realm of otherwordly beings opened up a new vista of teenage rebellion.  Clearly, this became the foundation for my passion for the paranormal genre.

Do you write in other genres?

Yes, my other book, Leaping Out on Faith, is a book of four short stories that each depict a woman in a challenging life situation.  Each woman must decide what her next action will be knowing that the rest of her life will be irrevocably changed.

How have you dealt with criticism and rejection?

Another great question.  I am one of those that has kept every single rejection letter I ever received.  I have ‘good’ rejections and ‘bad’ rejections.  However, we all know that a rejection is a rejection is an “I’ll pass”!  LOL.

By saving all of these letters, I have accumulated over the years a mini database of what editors, literary agents and literary journals are seeking in that time period.  It gives me a clear indication of how I can improve my work and better my chances next time I submit.  Using feedback from a literary agent and an editor at a major publishing firm, I was able to adjust my work and develop it into a viable story.  From their comments, I knew the story was entertaining but there were technical things that had to be addressed in the manuscript.  I took a literary writing course to assist me in addressing those technical writing issues.  To answer your question, I use criticism and rejection to propel me to the next level in whatever I am doing.

What’s the best and worst piece of writing advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Best Piece of Advice: You must learn the importance of and how to plot out your stories.  I have found that I am a plotter.  I must have a sequence of events present in my work, or whatever book I am reading must have one, or else I get crazy.  This is partly why I never believed I would like, or even be able to write literary fiction.  The best fiction is well-written prose that has a tight plot and engaging tangential sub-plots that keep the story humming along.

Worst Piece of Advice: Write what you know.  What does that even mean??  It’s so trite and overused that it is devoid of meaning.  The only thing I can say is good about this piece of advice is to see if there is something that you do know well and see if you do want to write about it.  There are a ton of things that I know about that I would not necessarily want to write about.  I know how to clean a kitchen stove.  No one wants to read about that.  I know how to knit baby clothes, mitten and a cable-knit sweater.  I didn’t happen to notice any knitting books on the New York’s Times Best Sellers list…

You get my point.  If you’re going to write what you know then write with an eye to what would be of interest to others, what you may know that someone else may not.  Or, if what you know has a special twist to it that could add value to someone else’s life than write about that.  Write what you know is way to broad.  The other point is, sometimes you don’t want to write what you know about/experienced.  You want to write about something you don’t know about and come at it from a newbie’s perspective which also has value.  Okay, I’ll stop ranting now…

What are you working on next?

After working on ‘Fury’ for a little over two years, I am taking a bit of a sabbatical to regroup and recharge.  I will be reading stories on my to-be-read shelf including Tom Perrot’s The Leftovers.  I will finally be able to finish Deborah Harness’ The Book of Life.  Then, I’ll turn my attentions to a few WIPs I have been tinkering with for the past few years and choose one of them.

As a reader, what are some of your book pet peeves?

Don’t bore me.  While that is highly subjective if the story does not grab me by chapter 3, I will put it down.  Rarely do I pick it up again.  I prefer books to have creatures, angels, demons, and the like in them.  Or, if I shift genres, I want to learn something that I can potentially use in my life to improve my quality of living and being.  I can get this from fiction, or nonfiction.  For that matter, I can get this from a cookbook!  LOL.

How do you balance writing and marketing yourself?

Initially, in the first 3-4 weeks of your book’s launch there is no balance.  You must push and push to gain awareness and interest in your book.  This holds especially true if you are an independent (indie) author.  You live, or die, by your marketing efforts and your social media influence.  Once the first month or so has passed and you’ve generated buzz for your book, you can pull back a bit but not much.  Why?  Because now it’s time to begin another book!

What’s some advice that you’d give to aspiring writers?

Keep your day job!  LOL.  Seriously, if you want to write ‘professionally’ you need to not pressure yourself into deadlines, grids, formatting, outlining, elaborate schema, fancy writing programs that will do all of your plotting and story structuring for you (Sure!  And, I have a bridge to sell to you.)  Don’t get me wrong, there are many programs out there that are phenomenal in helping you to organize your thoughts and story scenes.  However, you are the writer and you should never relinquish the control of your creativity to a program, or a machine (shades of Asimov’s I, Robot…).

Work from your heart.  Allow what’s inside of you – no matter what it is – to have the space and freedom to tumble out of your creative mind and onto your page, or screen.  Give yourself room to expand the idea without questioning your sanity.  And most importantly, grow and develop your fledging idea until it is a fully fleshed out ideal.  Then, it will be time to workshop your work-in-progress (WIP).  Some great places to workshop you work are:

Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com/

Writer’s Carnival – http://www.writerscarnival.ca/

What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

That I have not cut my hair in 8 years.

Well, that was fun! A big shout-out to Rochelle for stopping by. And don’t forget to check out the cover, blurb, and buy links for Fury From Hell, along with Rochelle’s bio and social media links, below.

Happy Friday!

 

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Blurb:

Fury From Hell is a paranormal thriller about good vs. evil.  Here, the good is in the form of Detective Jennifer Holden, a homicide cop that is haunted by her own personal demons of a murder she committed when she was just a teenager.  The trauma she suffered at the hands of social agency after agency hardened Jennifer into a staunch atheist making her gun and her bank account the only things she truly believes in.

We meet Detective Holden, shortly before she begins working on her first solo murder case.  The victim is Kyma Barnes who was brutally raped and killed. As Kyma’s soul leaves her body, a demon being called by a coven of dark witches at nearby Prospect Park, is drawn to the dying woman by her death throes.  Fury Abatu offers to avenge Kyma’s death.  The price?  The dying woman’s soul.  Kyma gives it gladly to ensure the man who killed her pays dearly.

Buy Fury From Hell on Amazon

Connect with Rochelle online! 

Twitter: @NoteBkBlogairy

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3434531.Rochelle_Campbell

Blog: thenotebookblogairy.wordpress.com

Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Rochelle-Campbell/e/B007RHZNQ0

FFH Author Pic_Aug 2014

“Hmm, I wonder what form the demon in Book 2 will take…”

Rochelle Campbell has been writing on and off for over 20 years.  To date, the off-writing portion seems to have provided fodder for the writing phase of her career as she currently has, five novel-length works in progress.  Early in her career, she did legwork for The New York Times and freelanced for a number of local and regional newspapers and magazines.  However, her calling – fiction writing – became apparent after a two-year writer’s mentoring course in the early 2000’s.  From that course, several short stories emerged that readers and fellow writers urged Rochelle to develop them into longer works.

After a quiescent decade, story ideas abounded and are being developed and scheduled for bringing into full written form.

Along the way, two short stories have been published by literary journals.  They are Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind [http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/chambraycurtains.htm] and How Charlie Ray Saved My Life [http://litartmag.com/issue2/story2.php].