“A Warm Winter Skye”: A Christmas Novella that touches the heart

A Warm Winter Skye

A Warm Winter Skye, by J.C. Wing is a Christmas novella in Wing’s Gannon Family series. Even if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, this story is easy to follow and you feel as if you almost know the characters. I’m not sure why it is labeled as a Christmas Novella, other than the fact that the story takes place in the months preceeding Christmas.

I had trouble as I went to write this review, because I wasn’t sure what to say. It’s a good story. The problem might be what I said about ‘almost’ knowing the characters. This could have been a novel, instead of a novella. Wing could have gone into more depth, allowing us to know more about them. Perhaps if I had read the preceeding stories in the series, I wouldn’t have been left feeling as if there should be more.

It really is a good story. One that will make readers fret over the possible outcomes and remind them of the power of love and family.  The characters need to be more fully developed, and the Irish dialect is too heavy and hard to understand, but I still wanted to read to the end. I give A Warm Winter Skye three quills.

three-quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Final Segment: Follow-up Questions

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

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Well, we’ve come to the final segment of Ask the Authors (Round 2) and it’s time to wrap things up. Today, our author panel will delve further into many of the topics from the previous segments. I’m pleased to have participation from almost all of our original panel members for this final segment. Included are authors DeAnna Knippling, Jordan Elizabeth, Tom Johnson, Dan Alatorre, Cynthia Vespia, Margareth Stewart, RA Winter, Lilly Rayman, Art Rosch, Amy Cecil and Mark Shaw. We didn’t get any reader questions this round, so the questions here are all mine. And with that said, here we go.

Building in Conflict

For the most part, we like our characters. Of course we do. We created them, they are our children. We even create villains that we love to hate, but there’s always a very story must have conflict. Conflict makes the story interesting. We’ve talked about creating characters readers can relate to and this is where we use that to our advantage. There has to be something at stake in order for readers to want to know what happens next. If there is no possibility of something bad happening and we know it will all turn out okay, then there really is no point in finishing the story. So, even though we love our characters, at times we need bad things to happen to them.

How do you feel about killing off your darlings? What other ways do you find to add conflict to the story?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I sometimes feel embarrassed about how much crap I lay on my characters, but oh well 🙂

I think every scene should end up worse for the character in some substantial way than the one before.  It depends on the book, of course, but even a slow idyll should end with some level of train wreck by the end of the scene, even if the bad thing that happens is just a false sense of security setting up the characters to get hurt worse later.  I have four methods (so far):  1) the character tries to do something but fails.  2) the character tries, succeeds, and makes things worse.  3) the character’s efforts are interrupted by some other thing going wrong.  4) the character tries something…but you don’t get to find out how it comes out yet.

I write a fair amount of horror; one of my favorite techniques there is that a character tries to find out something, does, and totally regrets having left behind their blissful ignorance!

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan If I kill someone off, I usually bring them back as a ghost, haha.  Seriously, though, I don’t always use death as a way to build conflict.  I like to add emotional drama through something devastating, like a shattered dream, or by throwing the character into an unexpected situation.  Adding a new, but related, bad guy helps too.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture In Carnival of Death, the villain, Spider is back in town. She is a master of martial arts, but she had fought the Black Ghost in The Spider’s Web, and found him a superior fighter. This time she has help dealing with him while she goes after one of his aides, a Korean girl. Spider plans on beating the information out of the girl, but the Korean is a fighter and now one must die. The Korean has never had to kill before, while Spider has killed many with her martial arts. Will the young Korean be able to defeat this ninja in a battle to the death?

In the Spider’s Web, the Ninja had selected another aide, newspaperman George Freeman, an ex Army Ranger, tough and fearless, but she was beating him and was at the point of killing him when the Black Ghost arrived to challenge her. This time the Black Ghost was in a fight of his own, and could not reach his aide in time. The Korean girl is his electronic eyes and ears, not an active field agent, and must face this challenge alone.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre If the story needs for my character to die, sorry! Boom, gone. It’s that simple. What’s best for the story? Do that, no matter how painful.

But conflict can be done in lots of ways before we get to that. Just put little obstacles in the way of your character – any character – and his or her goal. We need to track a serial killer? Let’s use one of our detectives as bait. Then make him nervous because a few years back, his partner died in front of him, and instead of thinking about catching the killer, he’s thinking about when his partner died, while he’s supposed to be bait for THIS killer. Then a man approaches that he’s sure is the killer and he’s all nervous and ready to spring into action – and it’s a false alarm. Which nearly causes him to blow the sting. Which causes him to get yelled at. Now his new partner is nervous about working with him… ALL of which was added JUST to add conflict. There are lots of ways to increase conflict.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy If it’s necessary to the story I have no problem with it. But too many authors are trying to emulate George RR Martin and killing just to kill. First, build your character then, if there’s just cause, you kill them off to move the story.

What other ways do you find to add conflict to the story?

Depends on the story, depends on the characters. There’s alot of variables that go into answering that question. For instance, in my latest novel Karma I didn’t kill anyone, but there was a horrible accident that put someone in jeopardy.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart I don´t mind, my stories are full of conflict, and I write not to praise the anyone. Characters must do what they must do and feel what they feel, I follow that all the way through the path of writing the whole ploth, it does not matter if I like it, dislike or disagree with it. It is not the role of the writer to judge their characters. Full stop.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman In my Unexpected series, the first book begins with the fact that my main character’s mother, and her half-brother’s mother were both deceased. This was a situation that was already developed, so I never gave much to either of these women, who in fairness, had been defining influences on my main character and her brother during their childhood. I then made a choice, to write a prequel, a story that investigated both these women and their influences on my main characters father and his children. I found it very hard to write the demise of both these women, since I had connected to them as I looked into them during their life. Unfortunately, it was always their fate to end up dead, and there was little that I could do about it.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I really don’t mind killing off a character. I worry more about the reaction I’ll get from my readers. I always have an antagonist and they work to supply conflict


Action Scenes

In segment six, we talked briefly about how to write an action scene clearly and keep action moving smoothly, especially when there’s a lot going on in the scene in the discussion on action scenes and pacing.

Can any you elaborate on how you keep the action flowing smoothly in a fight scene, specifically?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I break everything, both action scenes and otherwise, into beats.  In theater terms, a “beat” kind of translates down to the smallest possible conflict. (In a scene, there can be many different conflicts as the characters try different tactics to reach a goal.)  A beat is one clear step in attempting to achieve some goal.  Say a character is attempting to convince another character to sign up for a yoga class.  The character might try:
–Asking directly.
–Telling the other character they’re out of shape.
–Promising they’ll go with the other character.
–Lying to the character and saying they’re going to go shopping.
Each attempt during the conversation would be a beat.
Same thing goes for fight scenes.  The second character might realize that the first character tricked them into going to a yoga studio.  A battle begins!  The second character wants to escape the yoga studio.  They might:
–Point toward the hallway, saying “Look! Baby wolf!” while making a break for the door.
–Wrestling with the yoga teacher, who is blocking the door.
–Abruptly turning and trying to run toward the hallway.
–Rolling to their feet after being tripped by the first character.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I picture what’s going on in my head and sometime sketch it out.  I like to keep my sentences crisp and short.  It keeps the pace moving and makes the action punchier.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Professional fighters learn to read their opponent’s strengths and weakness. Their full attention is on the moves, their minds evaluating, their eyes fully engaged on the person in front of them. Each is studying the other for a sign of weakness. Moves are like reflex action, lightning fast, with follow through automatic. There is no time to think about your next move, it has to come with mind-body coordination. And for this to happen they need to train and train until those reflexes are faster than their thought processes. The boxing tournament in my novel, Cold War Heroes has a number of good fight scenes.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I hope so; I wrote a whole book called A Is For Action, to describe just that. Envision it, and lay it out in big chunks, then address each chunk for what it’s supposed to do. Then cut each chunk into littler chunks and address what they are supposed to do. Little by little it’ll come together, but it takes a lot more explanation than I can do here – which is why I needed a while book to explain it, but it’s inexpensive and will show you everything you need, common rookie mistakes like run-on sentences, and all the rest.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Pacing, short sentence structure, mapping out the fight like you would any other scene, being aware of the POV you’re using, the setting, the weapons involved. I often block out the fight the same way a choreographer does for a movie.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 Samurai movies. I have immersed myself in Samurai movies for decades and that immersion has influenced everything I’ve written about combat and battle sequences. It doesn’t hurt to know martial arts. I don’t know anything about martial arts beyond the basics. In my fantasy novel, The Gods Of The Gift there is an extended combat sequence that encompasses every combination of fighting, from single to double to mutliple and then to mass formation fighting. I was inspired by a fight scene in the Samurai Trilogy (made in the 50s, see it!). A swordsman squares off against a master of a weapon called the Kusarigama. This device consists of a razor sharp sickle mounted on a staff. There is attached to the staff a heavy spiked ball attached to a twelve foot length of chain. The ball and chain are swung in overhead circles and used to trap an arm, a leg, a sword, thus allowing the weapon’s user to charge in and finish his opponent with the sickle. Nasty! Fascinating!

The Japanese and Chinese have arsenals of bizarre weapons. A bit of research into the Google archives will inspire some good ideas.

Then there’s the sensory impact of combat itself. Writing a fight scene involves all the senses. Feet moving, the sound of gravel spraying, the whine of metal on metal, the sweat and heightened perceptions of the fighters. Adrenaline. Terror and triumph. A good fight is seldom resolved in a single blow. In REALITY this often happens, but in fiction we need to have our heroes staring into the abyss of defeat, almost losing the fight, almost dying, then calling upon some last bit of strength to find a way to survive.

I read some accounts of medieval battles, taken from contemporary sources.  The descriptions of thousands of men charging and clashing have much in common.  I adapted that perception to describe a battle between large forces colliding in The Gods Of The Gift.  Here it is:

“The two masses of people came together with a groan of animal rage. There was a sound like the wrinkling of a giant metal plate. Garuvel was only aware of pushing and being pushed. His shoulder was dug into someone’s brittle shield, someone who was pushing at him as mightily as he pushed back. All around him, this pushing of two giant forces wavered this way and that, the front of the two masses of people snaked, bent, briefly ruptured, re-formed, pushed again. Garuvel could feel himself gaining ground as he pushed at the shield. His feet were digging trenches in the soil; soft wet earth oozed up around his ankles. He was able to take a single step forward and his opponent’s shield broke in two.  The face of a startled snarling Djoubiat appeared before him, and Garuvel used two fingers of his left hand to poke his enemy’s eyes out. He grabbed the man’s sword as it began to float away on the waves of the crowd. He tossed it to Jaramine, then got another sword for himself. Back to back, they let themselves be swept into the berserk trance of combat”.

I hope this helps. I’m barely on my first cup of coffee. I recommend that you locate The Samurai Trilogy directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starring Tohiro Mifune. Great films.  Then, of course, there are the Kurosawa/Mifune collaborations. Enjoy!

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil When I’m writing a fight scene I usually close my eyes and picture the scene then type what I see with every detail. Once the scene is complete then I go back and polish it up



Editing and Revision

In the week seven segment on editing, DeAnna Knippling talked a little about the editing process from the editor’s side. Her comment was that you have to like the type of book you’re editing, so you can be a champion for the story. And like Dan Alatorre pointed out, our stories may not be for everyone and not everyone will like them. As long as some people do like our stories, that may be all that matters as far as building a platform and following, but when it comes to editors, you have to be sure they get our work and like our writing styles. So, my follow-up questions are:

What do you look for in an editor? How do you know when you find an editor who’s a good fit for you?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I tend to find editors online, so I tend to ask questions that are in line with the book I’m writing. If the editor can respond in the same tone, that’s a good sign. “Do you solemnly swear not to try to change the rash behavior of my Y.A. fantasy characters?” That kind of thing.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I look for an editor with experience, and one who isn’t afraid to say what they like and don’t like.  Some editors will read anything for the money, but not do a good job because it isn’t a genre he/she is passionate about.  I like the editors who tear my work apart while understanding the vision behind it.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture This is not always up to the author. When dealing with publishers you have to deal with their editors. When I was writing for NBI my publisher was a pulp fan, and knew what I was writing, so we hit it off great. Other publishers were not so cooperate. A number of them were romance and erotica editors, and were not fans of my writing style. They wanted sex and profanity, and I refused to give it to them. In one scene my hero and a bad guy are fighting in a room high above the street when they crash through a window and are about to fall, and my hero says, “Oh, hell!” My editor wanted something stronger, but I refused. Of course, my hero catches the window frame and doesn’t fall, but we argued about what he should have said, or not said. As the author, I thought I had the final say and that didn’t please the editor one bit. I also had an editor that automatically did a search and destroy for all “ly”s in the story and deleted them. That created more problems than it solved. When you find a good editor, keep them. There are some out there that won’t listen to you, the author.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre A good editor can edit anything, like it or not; I do it all the time. But it’s better if they like it. I mean, commas don’t appear or disappear based on if I like the story, but content will be handled differently. What do I look for? Someone who gets it. Gets the story, gets the jokes, gets what I’m going for. Someone who writes or has written, because a bad story with all the commas in the right places is still a bad story. A great story makes its own rules. I love it when an editor or beta reader is so engrossed in my story they forget to edit it. When the fit is right, you know it because they get the jokes BUT they are willing to chuck it all to help the story be the best it can be. We call it the Hemingway standard. They hold me to the highest standard possible and catch every microscopic issue, and I do the same for them. We might not get to Hemingway but by God we’re gonna try.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy At this point if I were to look for an editor I’d do my research on what they’ve edited in the past and get some recs from other authors.

RA Winter

RA Winter I was lucky enough to meet my editor, Karen Freeman, on Scribophile.com. She crit my story, then read everything I’ve written and had a lot of great insight. She knows my style and understands my prose.  I love an editor who does a full developmental edit, proofreading, grammar, and character development. Usually, she reads the first draft then waits until my edits and other crits are done before she comes back and rereads everything. As an editor, Karen Freeman goes above and beyond for me. I’m so glad that I have her!

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I look for an editor who is easy to work with, answers my questions on why they made editing decisions. At the same time, I like an editor who is prepared to ask me why I made the decision to write a sentence or a scene the way I did.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I want (and have) an editor that will make me a better writer. Someone who will make me step out of my comfort zone and make me write more. Over the years I’ve learned so much from my two editors. They are awesome.


Publishing Platforms

Today, authors can create their own publishing house, putting out their work under their own imprint. I’ve been told that this is a relatively easy thing to do. Some of our panel members have done just that, so let’s ask them.

Can you share with us a little about what the process of creating your own imprint entails?

 DeAnna Knippling

deannak
–Deciding to do one.
–Coming up with a business name that nobody else is using.
–Researching what laws are applicable for your state on the secretary of state website for your state (usually).
–Doing that (usually just registering the name).
–Rah!

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture We created the FADING SHADOWS imprint in 1982, and published a hobby magazine until 2004, as well as genre magazines from 1995 to 2004. We did all the proofing, editing, setting up and printing for most of those years. Today, we still use the FADING SHADOWS imprint on my self-published books. However, we no longer do the printing. Thankfully, with POD technology anyone can be a publisher today, you just need the know-how of modern technology. In 1982 we were young and energetic. In 2019, we’re not so young and energetic, so can’t do it all like we once did. My wife is a good editor for my books. She catches the errors I miss. But she also knows that I write in the pulp style, 60 years in the past.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Liken it to a winemaker. Are you going to grow your own grapes and make and sell the wine? Then if you are a bad farmer, you’ll get crappy wine, so you have to be an expert farmer AND expert wine maker AND expert marketer… most people aren’t experts at all that stuff and aren’t willing to become experts; many won’t be able to even if they knew what to do. There are a lot of moving parts. Essentially, if you mess up on any of those steps, you are toast. Now, having said that, even if you don’t manage to become an expert at everything, you’ll know enough to manage the people you hire and you’ll have respect for what they do.

What are the advantages of having your own imprint? Would you recommend authors do this?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I have multiple pen names, so I do it to keep things organized. If you didn’t have a pen name, and you didn’t plan to ever edit an anthology or something, then I can’t see a lot of material benefit. But as soon as you have multiple names involved, then I’d say you should go for it. It’s hard to claim that your writing business is “DeAnna Knippling, Author” for tax purposes if you’re in either case. BUT I am not a lawyer, so don’t take that as legal advice 🙂

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Yes, a lot of authors are using their own imprints today. And some have good editors.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre The advantage is, if there’s no market for an original work, it can still see the light of day and maybe find its audience.

Authors, especially those who chose the more traditional routes of publishing, have to be thick skinned. If we take them all personally, they can be devastating, perhaps even deterring an author from continuing the pursuit of their dream.

For those who have tried to publish traditionally or via small press, where your work must be submitted in hopes that someone else will deem it publishable, and how many rejections did you receive before acceptance? And how did you handle the rejections?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I’m still submitting to short story markets.  I submit all over the place for that. I think I submitted like fifty queries for novels, but I really wasn’t ready for novels back when I was doing that (I started out as a short story writer). When I started out, it got to me.  Then I heard Julie Kazimer talk about how many rejections she had, and I was like, “Right, I like her writing, and she still gets that many rejections, so whatever.” I made a goal to get 100 rejections my first year of serious submissions.  Got 125 🙂  I don’t track the number anymore, though.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I received well over one-hundred rejections on COGLING, and now it is my second best-seller. Readers send me emails raving about it. At first, rejection hit hard. I wanted to curl up in the corner and cry. It took a while for rejections to roll off my back. As long as I love what I wrote, then that’s all that matters.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My first novel was submitted in 1970 to a dozen SF publishers, and I received a dozen rejection slips. One famous SF editor said he didn’t even know where the story took place. Well, he must not have even read it (LOL). But to be honest, I needed an editor. In fact, I also sent the story to what I thought was a publisher, but was an editing service. I was living in Riverside, California at the time, and two men came down from L.A., California to interview me. My book, they said, was something special, but they wanted to help me learn to write, and gave me several options, all of which would cost me money that I didn’t have. So I stuck the manuscript in a drawer where it stayed for three decades. In those thirty years I learned to write.

I have fulfilled my dream. Yeah, I read a lot, and see what the traditional authors are writing. Sometimes it’s disheartening to see what is being hailed as the best books on the market, and the size checks they are getting for what I consider junk, and seeing good independent writers having trouble selling copies of their books that are ten times better than those best sellers.

But I think about the writers-for-hire that turned out stories for publishers selling a million copies of each title, and the author only getting $1,500.00 for that book back then. When Stephen King was paid a million dollars for Carry, one of those writers-for-hire took a .45 and blew a hole through his computer. The writer-for-hire was bringing big bucks to the publisher for very low wages, and the publisher was paying King, McMurty, Clancy, and a few others the big bucks. The writers-for-hire didn’t think it was fair, and I still don’t think it is. I like martial arts, and I heard about a “best selling” series called The Ninja that has been receiving such great praise and a New York Best Seller, so I bought it. After fifty pages I threw it in the trash where it belonged.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre The movie Rocky won best picture back in 1976. It got turned down a LOT, but Stallone stuck with it and it won best picture. The lesson isn’t tenacity, although that’s part of it. The lesson is, the people in charge often don’t know what’s good. Tom Brady, possibly the best quarterback in the NFL’s history, was a 7th round draft pick. That means EVERY TEAM passed him over 6 times – and he’s the best to ever play the game. Steven Spielberg, the most popular and most successful movie maker in history was turned down by USC film school. The people in charge often don’t know what’s good. Lots of people turned down every successful author at some point, and rejection letters are going to come by the hundreds. Each “no” puts you closer to a “yes,” so expect 200 of them for each version of your book you are querying. If the publishers don’t want it, don’t be afraid to go indie.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 In business there’s an expression. It goes like this: If the product is good, it will sell. Of course, I’m crap at business. In 1980 I had a writing career in the palm of my hand.  I was a guest of honor at Playboy‘s Writer’s Award banquet. I sat between Alex Haley and Saul Bellow. My short story had won Playboy‘s annual award and I was whisked to New York City to hobnob with the literati. Agents and publishers were handing me their cards. I signed a two year contract with Scott Meredith Agency. I just had one little problem. My writing hadn’t yet matured. My books were earlier versions of themselves and I hadn’t mastered the finer points of story telling.  I had another twenty years to grow up and become a polished writer.

Now we, as writers, are struggling through an era in which books are common as pennies and it’s virtually impossible to gain traction. In 1980 the world’s population was half of today’s population. There was room to get noticed. Now, today, go to Twitter, Facebook. Drown in titles, covers, blurbs. Not all of these books are good. I’ve written six hundred query letters to agents. The reply? “Though you write very well, unfortunately your novel is not right for us at this time.”

Sound familiar?

I don’t quit. I believe in my work. I believe in it so much that I can easily describe it as something like being in love. I’m in love with the things I write, and photograph, and music that I play. And so forth and so on.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Only did this with my first book and only sent to three publishers. All three were rejected. That’s when I learned I could self publish.

During week 8 on publishing platforms, RA Winter gave the following advice for new authors, “Series make more money or at least have all of your books branded in the same genre.”

This sounds like good advice, but what does the multi-genre author do as far as branding goes? Do we have a separate brand for each genre, or can a single brand for your works encompass all the genres that you write?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I write under different genres, so I can’t really use the same marketing/branding for each genre.  What works for gothic horror novels doesn’t do so well for cyberpunk.  I feel like I have to start over every time–but that’s okay.  I’m happy with my choices from a writing perspective.  It’s just a pain to deal with from a marketing perspective.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I use the same brand for each of my books.  It works for steampunk because it is a gear, and it works for my fantasy novels because gears turning can symbolize the imagination working.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Well, I have to admit, my SF novels have done well, but so, too, have my pulp novels. I like writing in different genres. Westerns sell good, and I have a few in that category also. When I go to town people say, “Oh, he’s that science fiction writer.” That’s nice, but SF doesn’t sell in this town, and a science fiction writer is about as popular as sidewinder. I even told a teacher once that science fiction was a western. You just trade the cowboy’s six-shooter for a ray gun, his horse for a rocket ship, and Indians for red Martians. And some people here know I collect and write pulp, but they don’t know what pulp is. I was at the Post Office one day and a fellow was mailing a big package out. He recognized me and said, “I bet if you thought this box contained comic books you’d take it away from me.” Brand? I don’t know how good a Brand is. Me, I want to write whatever genre grabs me at the time. I’m tickled when someone calls me a children’s author.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Lots of authors don’t do that and are very successful, but I suppose it makes life easier if you do it. The problem is, you might have a crappy series no one wants to read. Then what? You wasted years on a dead end. I write what I want to read. I write in a daring style. I can make you laugh or cry in every story, sometimes on the same page. When you start my story, I own you, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a series or if each book is different. John Belushi never repeated himself; why should I? Genius has a way of being discovered of you are willing to put enough work into it. There are no shortcuts and no magic recipes.

There’s no one magic formula. Train your readers that whatever you deliver, it will rock their world. Books and movies are entertainment. The best directors don’t do the same movie over and over in a series because they want to challenge themselves to find another great thing and to keep pushing themselves.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy My work can, and has, fallen under different genres. I find it gets confusing to the reader especially in terms of branding and finding your niche audience. So now I try to incorporate a little bit of fantasy in every book I write be it urban, dark, or adventure so that my books stay under a similar umbrella.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Still working on this.

If you have published independently, what challenges have you faced – in getting your books into brick and mortar bookstores, and libraries?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Nobody likes or wants to work with Amazon/CreateSpace. That’s my biggest challenge in one. I need to expand away from them, but I haven’t reached that far yet.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve personally donated my books to the surrounding libraries, and some of my books have been on the shelves of Books A Million and Hastings in Wichita Falls, Texas, but that was in the past. I doubt seriously that any are still in the brick & mortar bookstores.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Doing any of that requires time and effort. That same effort can get me more sales of eBooks, so I concentrate there. 90% of my marketing time or more is marketing eBooks. If I have time leftover, I’ll see if a library wants a copy or if a brick and mortar bookstore does. I went to an author event where the bookstore manager at the event derided me about bringing so many of my 25 titles. I sold a whopping 6 books that weekend with her. As I was packing up, she kinda laughed at the effort I made in bringing in 25 titles and only selling 6. I mentioned that I’d moved over 1000 eBooks that week. She shut up after that.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy They absolutely will not accept POD versions of your book.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Marketing is my biggest challenge.


Building Your Author Platform

Have you ever used paid reviews?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Nope. I don’t feel like it’s ethical, by which I mean “long-term smart.”

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I used one company once.  It cost a lot of money and promised at least 10 reviews.  I got 1.  After that, I never paid for another review company.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture No, but I have thought about it. Reviews are hard to get.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre No. I know some people say Kirkus and others like them are great; I don’t see the value. When I see a Kirkus review, I say: that person isn’t successful enough to get reviews without paying for them. I could be totally wrong about that, but that’s what I think. Spend that $500 or whatever on marketing and getting reviews from readers.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy No, there’s no point in it for me. I’d rather here what readers genuinely think rather than someone I paid off to give a glowing review. Besides, I’ve talked to a number of other authors and they’ve all said the amount of reviews you have really doesn’t mean that much in the long run.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman No. One I don’t believe you receive a genuine review if you pay for it.

Two. I believe they are unethical.

Three. I can’t afford to pay people to review my work.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I probably have more fans than I realize. Unfortunately, I get very little feedback. A comment on one of my blogs, an appreciation of a book, a review…any kind of review…is a major event. I don’t pay for reviews. There are so many authors, so many reviews, it’s like spitting into a fast moving river. It’s here, then gone.

My novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won Writer’s Digest Honorable Mention. There were almost four thousand submissions. WD wrote a glowing review of the book.  Without that review I’m not sure I would even believe the book exists. Without Kaye Lynn’s reviews of my work, I would feel like a ghost. I’ve sold less than a three hundred books. I can’t even give away my books. My memoir, The Road Has Eyes has eleven hundred free downloads. That’s four years worth of promotion. Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I surprised? A little.

In your mind, what are the pros and cons of paid reviews?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak A) They’re not really honest.  B) They’re trackable, so your distributor may bust you for them and punish you according to their terms of service. Goodbye review! And that’s generally a best-case scenario.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan The biggest con is what happened to me – no one reviews and you just wasted a lot of money.  I think the service I used cost $60.  $60 for one review (a one-sentence review at that) didn’t feel worth it.  I didn’t even know if the reviewer genuinely liked the book or felt compelled to give it 4 stars.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Paid reviews are probably not going to appear on Amazon or GoodReads, or anywhere else. If they weren’t bought on Amazon, the review won’t be published on Amazon.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I guess the pros are you get a review. The cons are, that’s less money you have for marketing.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil No author should have to pay for a review.

How effective have you found interviews to be in bringing new followers?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I think the effectiveness of an interview depends on how open the author is willing to be.  If the author personally appeals to the audience, then an interview can be great.  But if the author is stiff and over-controlled, then people aren’t going to get a very good idea about whether they want to read your book.  I’ve both interviewed and been interviewed.  The interesting thing to me is that that type of post is more of a long-term investment than a short-term boost.  It’s like, people kind of hear about your book somehow, then they look up your name and the book title, and they end up searching for you on Google years after the book is published.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Honestly, I haven’t seen a correlation.  No one has told me they read my book or started following me after reading an interview I did.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I don’t think any one thing does a lot by itself, but doing a lot of interviews and a lot of other stuff gets the internet to find you better, and together it all helps. Basically, I do almost every interview I’m asked to do because I can use it on my social media to remind my followers that I’m out there and they should read my next book. That’s not the interviewer’s job. That’s my job in doing the interview.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Interviews have given me exposure to new people…not alot…but enough. Also, they’re fun to do.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Not effective at all.

Has there been one interview you feel was most effective? If so, why do you think this interview was more effective than others?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Unfortunately, I don’t know for sure! I feel like an audio interview with Bill Olver (of Big Pulp at the time) was the most effective, because I saw an upswing right after that, but I have no actual idea.

Here’s the interview:  http://www.podcasts.com/big-pulp-audio-435ce9688/episode/Big-Pulp-Audio-May-22-2016-31da

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Interviews where I include a giveaway usually get the most comments.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I had a great interview with Cathleen Townsend. It was a blast. I don’t know if it sold any books but I had fun doing it. I did a video interview of bestselling author Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant) and we laughed the entire time. We had a great time. Again, did those efforts sell books or did they show a different side of me to an audience? Mark Twain said, sell yourself, not your product.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by the owner of COS Productions Sheila English alongside Heather Graham! That got me some attention for sure.

This question is for those of you who have blogs. As we all know, I use WordPress. I found Blogger to be too limiting, and I’ve been playing with WIX for the new WordCrafter site I’m building, but I’m having difficulty in setting it up the way I want and I’m considering creating a second WordPress site instead.

Which blogging platform do you use and what do you see as benefits and drawbacks of it?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I use WordPress.  The big benefit is that everybody uses it, so it’s easy to find templates and other goodies for it, and it works well enough.  The not-so-big benefit of it is that you have to modify the heck out of it before it feels like home, because it kind of looks like everyone else’s!

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I use BlogSpot for my blog, and it is okay, but a lot of tends to be finicky and doesn’t always do what I want.  I use Wix for my website, and that too can get finicky.  It doesn’t always look the way I want it to look.  Maybe its just me not using programs correctly!

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I use Blogger, and have found it works well enough. I have half a dozen Blog Sites. Many Groups will not allow the posting of Blog Links for some reason, so I’ve been having a lot of trouble lately with getting the word out on new Blog entries.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I use WordPress for one reason: it’s easiest for people reblog, comment, share, and follow. The end. I want sharing and reblogging and I want one click to make you a follower. WP does that. That’s all I need. I recommend them to everyone. It’s the fastest base from which to build a following at basically zero cost. That’s hard to beat.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’ve used Blogger and I currently use WIX. I know everyone swears by WordPress but I tried it and I didn’t like it at all. My websites are built on WIX and the blog has everything I need.


Marketing and Promotion

Last week we did a segment on marketing and promotion, yet we didn’t talk at all about book covers. This was a huge oversight on my part, because the covers of our books may be our single most valuable marketing tool. Some people buy books just because their interest is captured by the right cover, even if they’ve never seen one advertisement for the book or read one review. Finding, or creating the right cover can be tricky and different authors handle it in different ways.

Please tell us how you come by your covers: DIY or hired out or prefab?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I’ve done DIY design (from art that I licensed on stock art sites or directly from an author on DeviantArt in one case) and hired out two covers.  The ones I hired out for weren’t successful for me, possibly because I did those when I had a much weaker understanding of the market.  The artists produced what I asked for 🙂  A third custom cover is for an anthology that’s going to go out soon; I think that one will be a great help in selling the anthology.  But Jamie Ferguson (my co-editor) and I did a lot of research on what kind of cover we wanted, even before we commissioned the artist.  You can find out more about the anthology, Amazing Monster Taleshere.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan My covers are all made by the publishers.  I give them an overview on what I’m looking for in a cover and their cover artists go at it.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve hired several covers done for my books. Plus, I do some myself. I agree, the cover is the first thing readers see, and it better catch their eye. The second thing is the Blurb. Both have to attract and interest the reader. I recently saw this in effect, a writer has a very nice cover for his book, but the Blurb stinks, and I wasn’t surprised when he said he wasn’t selling any copies of his book.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Most DIY book covers look home made. Authors should hire someone, and before they hire someone they should see what the top 25 of 50 books in their genre look like and ask to emulate that, then let the artist do their thing. Try to get a few (3-4) mockups and showcase them on Facebook. Even if you are brand new and have zero followers, for $10 you can put together a Facebook ad that will be shown to readers of that genre and let THEM choose the correct cover for you. The fans are never wrong, but I almost always am! Whatever cover I like never wins, and whatever cover the fans like always sells well. Another cool thing to know: after about 12-20 votes, you’ll have a clear winner, and if you get 100 more votes or 1000, the winner won’t change. Remember: you are probably not the target audience, so find them and let them choose. I and friends have spent as little as $50 to $100 for covers that became bestsellers. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to have a winner, but a loser costs a ton – because you have to overcome its crappiness by way of additional marketing expense.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I make my own covers. Awhile back I had the rights to my Demon Hunter saga returned to me. At the time, the publisher had used stock photos that made them look like romance covers. When I got the rights back I had a very specific direction where I wanted to take the books for a relaunch. So I began dabbling in Photoshop and eventually I produced some stunning covers. Now I mostly do all my own unless I need specific art work drawn out.

RA Winter

RA Winter I use Kreativecovers and use Kayci Morgan exclusively. She’s wonderful. I can give her an idea and she runs with it. Here are my two favorite covers that she did. The first one, Twisted, you can immediately tell the genre. The second one, Demise, gives you a taste of what’s in the book. I’m so pleased to have her on my team.

 

Instead of asking what makes a great cover, a question that has been asked a thousand times before, with answers dependent on as many variables as there are books on the market, I’m going to ask you each to include the image of what you consider to be your best book cover and tell us what you think makes it a great cover.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I’m going to use one of the draft covers from the anthology that I mentioned before (this one isn’t final). The art is by Paul Roman Martinez, who is AMAZING. He also designed the logo for us. We started out with probably at least a dozen hours of research into what pulp magazine covers looked like, what we liked, and what we didn’t. Then we had to figure out how to communicate that to Paul 🙂 After a few missteps (totally on my part), Paul did a tentative sketch and, because we had done so much research, we knew it was a winner. We gave him the go-ahead to do the finished art. The logo was actually more trouble–it got to be too close to the existing design on another magazine, and had to be redone.
Best Cover - Knippling
There are a lot of details that go into cover design, and I don’t have the time to get into them here. But we talked a lot about both the content of what the art should be, although we did not actually tell Paul what to create, only what kind of thing we were looking for, and how we wanted that laid out so that there would be enough room for text later.
[Hey, if you have more questions on that, ask – I’m drawing a blank on what to say that isn’t a whole book on covers.]
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan The most popular cover is TREASURE DARKLY. Readers at book signings gravitate to it without knowing anything about the book. I’ve heard people say they love how dark it looks or that it has a sexy girl.
Treasure Darkly
Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I have a lot of great covers, but will pick NEW PULP HEROES as an example. This is a non-fiction book with essays on the New Pulp Heroes. It’s a book that every New Pulp writer, and every researcher should have. And the cover is pure pulp. The girl is in danger and the hero coming to rescue her. It’s perfect for the subject matter within the pages.

New Pulp Heroes

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre A great cover is what fans say is a great cover and you figure that out using the method I just described. Most authors can’t be objective enough to do that, though. They let their intentions cloud the process.

My best cover is Double Blind, a murder mystery. I look at it and I feel the intensity of the killer. Second is the new cover for The Navigators, same reason – intensity. They just look professional.0

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I went through several variations of Demon Hunter Saga for the print book. What makes this a great cover? When I’m at conventions among the thousands of talented artists there this cover stands out in a crowd. When people see the book on my table they always stop to look at it. I’ve been told more than once how amazing the cover looks and I’m really very proud.

 

Demon_6x9DustJacket_Front_EN copy

 

Art Rosch

Art 2001 This may be my favorite cover.  I use my own photography and do all the design work.  I love this cover because it describes what’s in the book.  It’s loaded with narrative, mystery and incorporates one of the best design devices in the world, the “S” curve.  The eye is drawn down that oddly green road towards the RV.  There’s fog, stars and a homely thirty year old Winnebago. Who’s in that RV? Where are they going?  Where have they been?  This is a very cool book cover.

The Road Has Eyes

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I would say my latest Ripper cover is the best. It is totally eye catching.

Ripper


Sometimes life just gets in the way of things. This round of Ask the Authors panel members have been great, but unfortunately Mark and Kym Todd had to drop out early on when Kym was injured while they were traveling. Art Rosch, as well, has been absent from several segments due to a series of unforseen circumstances starting with a tree falling on his home, being in the middle of all the California fires, and other issues which prevented him from participating in many of the previous segments. Fortunately, Art was able to join us for this last segment, enthusiastic about being back in the game. He wrote me a lovely piece discussing many of the things which we cover here and he also had this to say about social media book promotion and branding.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 Social media. Where else do you promote books? I’ve spent every day for the last five years on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google Plus and half a dozen others that I can’t remember. I’m so sick of social media that I’ve tried another tack.

I published Confessions in paperback, ordered a box of fifty and started giving away copies. It may be a slow method of marketing but it gets the book read. People talk to me about the characters, they ask questions. That’s what I want: engagement with an audience. Whether my audience is ten people or ten thousand people, I want to hear from readers. If I had a ton of money I’d buy ads on Amazon and Facebook. I’ve heard they don’t work either.

All the conventional wisdom about branding is so much noise. I am my brand. The literature of Arthur Rosch. My platform is made from Popsicle sticks.


Just for Fun

Authors are just ordinary people in so many ways, no matter the level of success we’ve had. So if you will, share with my readers a little about things that make us real by answering at leeast one of the following questions.

What’s one thing most of your readers would never guess about you?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I often wear other colors than black?!?

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) That I was an awful student in high school, Purdue University (six years), IU law school (4 years not three) and never have taken a writing class in my life.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I love coconut. Coconut pies, coconut cake, anything with coconut. I’m addicted to coconut like most people are with chocolate.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’m terrified of people in costumes.  Think Minnie Mouse at Disney.  If I see a person in a costume, I’m running the other way.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I used to do fitness competitions.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart I’m a shrink (lol). People guess all sorts of professions for me, never a shrink. Maybe, it’s because I´m very talkative and I’ve never done clinician activities.

RA Winter

RA Winter I have five, yes, five boys.  Now you know why I have such an odd sense of humor.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 They’d never guess that I’m a drug addict.

Listen to me: this is true. I’ve had a year in which I felt like committing suicide. I began to write suicide notes in my head and then I would stop myself. “You’re writing suicide notes in your head,” I told myself. “Stop it right now.” I had a spell of depression. I’m doing much better now. One of the things that kept me wanting to live was the existence of my books. I thought, “If I don’t fight for these, they’ll vanish. I’m obviously the only person who will fight for my books, so I’ve got to hang around.”

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil When I was worried about running out of a particular genre to read (because I was obsessed) my best friend said, “write your own.”  And I did!

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Eat and wander around in scenic locations. And read, of course, although that probably goes without saying.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Sit in my Mini Cooper convertible by the beach, listen to the waves, and read a good mystery.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I love to read (obviously, haha), paint, and make jewelry.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Workout, paint, relax.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart Sports & cooking, plus reading, traveling, and talking to people.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 Watch the stars at night, play drums and watch TV.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak The normal stuff, like paying off debts and setting up college funds and traveling and buying a house up in the mountains 🙂  But I think I would be going to my library and finding out what they needed.

Mark Shaw 

MarkAtSFTS (1) Live in the south of France.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I would quit my day job to focus on my son and writing.  I hate sending him to daycare.  I love the daycare he goes to, but I want him home with me for adventures

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Rich would be a load off, famous I don’t ever want. I would keep writing though, resting in the knowledge that at least now I knew people would be reading my books.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart I always think about that…I will do everything the same, maybe I´d buy some fancy chocolate and coffee. That´s all!

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I’d start a foundation promoting education in third world countries.

What is the one thing you hope to teach your children?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak That other people have valid internal lives of their own.  That’s the foundation of empathy–the rest of being an actual worthwhile human is all gravy 🙂

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) To listen better than I do and be more patient that I am.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan To be patient. Whenever I drive and someone ahead of me does something weird, I feel sorry for them. I think they made a mistake. I’ve been in the car with, say, my husband, and he’s furious at the other driver.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart I guess I´ve already done that and that is authenticity. There is nothing like being ourselves and moving forward!

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I hope to teach my grandchildren how to think correctly and to revere life.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Please send cheese.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) The most blessed man on the face of the earth (Sorry for length)

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I just asked my toddler and he said, “Ew, ew, ew.”  I guess I’m yucky!

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’m a warrior.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart Cheerful, busy, project-driven.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 Deep, very deep.

What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given or offered?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak It wasn’t phrased this way, but:  “Make someone else make you fail.”

Afraid of what might happen if you send out a book before it’s ready?  Afraid of going straight to an editor and skipping the agent?  Terrified of indie publishing?  What’s the worst that could happen?  You could be ignored.  Oh well.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Never give up trying anything new

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan  Its okay to take a rest.  People need to recharge their inner batteries too.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre This is one that everyone can learn to do, and it will help most of the writers out there. Write as if a disinterested 3rd party picking it up had no reference point for what you’d written. You must bring them from point A to B to C. Most writers will use that as an excuse to over write in so much detail the story become unreadable, so here’s this, too: 1. Get to the good stuff as fast as you can. 2. Most writers are too afraid to really bare their soul on the page, so their work isn’t as intense and immersing as it could be.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy So many because I’m always learning. My best advice is from myself as I’ve learned that life is short and not to waste time.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart Go for it!

Art Rosch

Art 2001 You can’t heal yourself alone. Ask for help.

What makes you laugh or cry?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Everything.  One of the reasons my spouse was interested in me was he kept hearing me belly laugh to myself in a college computer lab.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) When I hear of injustice, of people being denied their rights.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Tickling makes me laugh. I cry when I see costumed characters.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Cute animals do both!

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart I laugh and cry very easily, but what really hits me are those unique and anonymous experience that never happen twice, like hugging a homeless guy in the street, finding a pencil in the middle of a supermarket when I just needed to take a note in pencil.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 Dogs.

What is your favorite food? Color? Song?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Cheese, green, and I haven’t picked one yet because mostly people want to know my favorite book.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Macaroni and Cheese, Purple, Imagine

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan My favorite food right now is cheese, haha.  I love the color black, with blue as a close second.  My favorite song is a mashup of Light ’em Up and Radioactive.  It makes the perfect theme song for the Treasure Chronicles.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Pizza, Black, Right now I like “Get Up” from Shinedown

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart Food is my homemade pasta, of course!!! Color = all of them. Song: Ella Fitzgerald “Bewitched…”.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman

Favourite food – Steak – particularly Scotch fillet.

Favourite Colour – Red and Black

Favourite Song – American Pie by Don Maclean

Art Rosch

Art 2001 Cheerios.  Blue.  Lonnie’s Lament by John Coltrane and You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen.

In a future where you no longer write, what would you do instead?

DeAnna Knippling

deannak[Glares at interviewer.]

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Surf.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I would teach. I’m currently a teacher; its what I’ve always wanted to do, other than write.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy That future doesn’t exist, I would always write. However, if you’re asking what I would do instead…I wanted to be an animator for Disney.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart Audio books (lol).

Art Rosch

Art 2001 Sit in an urn on the fireplace.

See. Ordinary people. Nothing unique or odd about authors. We’re perfectly normal. Hehehe!


Thank you all for joining us for Round 2 of Ask the Authors. Thanks to our author panel members for sticking with it and putting up with all my probing questions and reminders and fitting AtA into their busy lives for the last twelve weeks. They’re a great bunch of authors and I can’t thank them enough for sharing here.

This has been a great blog series and I think we put out a lot of useful information. I’m thinking of doing a Round 3 sometime next summer. If you enjoyed this series and would like to see more, please let me know in the comments.  Mention which panel members you enjoyed and why, to show appreciation for their efforts.

Like this post? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Double the mystery, double the suspense with “Double Blind”

Double Blind

Double Blind, by Dan Alatorre is a riveting suspense thriller that will keep the pages turning. I didn’t want to put it down. I was forced to stop in the middle of a climactic scene because I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer and my brain was muddling the words. But, I was back at it first thing the next morning because I had to find out what happened. And you will, too.

There’s a brutal serial killer on the loose, but when he strikes two members of the same family on the same night, it sends police looking for connections that don’t seem to be there, and the killer seems to always be one step ahead, and brings in Johnny Tyree, a P.I. and friend of the family right into the thick of things. When the two detectives working the case, Carly Sanderson and Sergio Martin, become the targets, it sends police reeling in yet another direction.

Dan Alatorre does a marvelous job of weaving the subplots together without revealing the surprise twist at the end in this well-crafted crime novel. I give Double Blind five quills.

five-quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Yuletide Jingle Book Event: Come Join in the Fun!

Jingle Jangle

If you’re looking for Jeff’s Pep Talk, you’ll find his post next Wednesday. This week I wanted to let all my readers know about the Yuletide Jingle event on December 8th, hosted by Sonoran Dawn Studios. It’s going to be an audio event, with Christmas songs and stories intermixed with author promos. Of course, there will be games and giveaways, as well. Three authors will win cover art by Sonoran Dawn Studios. There will also be free books and other great prizes offered by the individual participants. It’s going to be a lot of fun.  So click on the link below to reserve your spot and join in. Author Take Over slots are still available. I do hope I’ll see you all there.

https://www.facebook.com/events/348391889231178/https://www.facebook.com/events/348391889231178/


Marketing and Promotion: Let’s Sell Books!

Ask the Author (Round 2)

1375930515977128357Coloured question marks.svg.hi

For many authors, marketing and promotion is the hardest part of writing. In week two of this series, in the segment on the writing process, four out of eleven authors listed marketing as their biggest challenge, and I’ve had many other authors give the same response when the question was posed. I know it’s certainly true for me. In days past, traditional publishers handled much of these tedious tasks, so authors didn’t have to, but with the rise if independent publishing to the forefront, those days may be gone. Even traditional publishers are doing less promotion, relying on authors to get word out about their works.

Today our author panel will be talking about how they tackle the task and which advertising platforms have been effective for them. Our author panel this week include RA Winter, DeAnna Knippling, Tom Johnson, Lilly Rayman, Ashley Fontainne, Jordan Elizabeth, Amy Cecil, Cynthia Vespia, and Margareth Stewart. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t for them.

Which advertising platforms do you find to give the best results?

RA Winter
RA Winter Most of my marketing right now is just using Facebook groups. I only post once a week or once every two weeks and include something snazzy to catch my readers attention. I write romance with humorous undertones so I always include a funny quote. The piece that I’m concentrating on right now is only .99 cents, and it’s a stand-alone novella. Once I have a couple of books written in the series, I’ll start using Facebook ads and Amazon ads to promote the series. Reviews on websites usually gain me a lot of traffic too. I concentrate on getting my work in front of reviewers right off the bat.
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Whatever ones I bother to use consistently 🙂  I use Amazon Ads and BookGorilla mostly right now.
Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve promoted other authors I like, and in turn they have helped promote my books.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t really found any that stand out above the rest. I have used The Kindle Book Review and BooksGoSocial. I have also used eBooksstage as well, but nothing has jumped out at me as being a cut above the rest at this point. You see lots of sites that offer lots of results, and yet nothing is ever guaranteed. I do like that BooksGoSocial offer a non-quibble money back guarantee on their paid marketing services.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Bookbub and Goodreads.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Buying ads on reputable sites, like Robin Reads, has been the most lucrative.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I really haven’t tried to do any advertising yet. I have tried Amazon, but really haven’t had any results from it that were profitable.


Have you found any free advertising platforms to be effective for selling books?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve not found any free advertising. Everything comes with a price, or something attached that I have found, and if I’m not careful I could find myself busier promoting other things than my books.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Only in that they work to promote free books and get free book downloads. Generally, the readers I have found on the free advertising platforms are looking for free reads, and this rarely moves through to them purchasing further books.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Bookbub and Ereader News Today are the two I typically use for best results.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Newsletters would have to be the best.  They put your book in their newsletter, you put theirs in yours.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Social media, but I’m uncertain on the exact ROI.


If you use paid advertising, do you think it is worth it? Which platforms do you find to give the best results?

 

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I’m still on a steep learning curve when it comes to paid ads. I’ve tried a lot of things.  Amazon Ads and BookGorilla are good for me; I don’t use FB right now because it fries my brain, so it’s automatically not effective when I do try it! I have an upcoming BookBub international ad; I’m not sure how that’ll go yet, but people speak well of them.
I wouldn’t just count the sales that you make on the day of an ad in order to judge effectiveness, but look at the general boost something gives you over time. I know it’s hard to assess how things are doing with Amazon right now; the holiday season is always nuts, either blowing up your sales or tanking them, and leaving little question marks floating around your head like birdies in a Warner Brothers cartoon. I would suggest not to judge your efforts too harshly until like March or so.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I haven’t found one worthwhile yet, and I’m suspicious of most.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t found any paid advertising to be worth it at this point, but I will keep experimenting and see what happens. I’m hopeful that once I have completed my Unexpected Trilogy in 2019, that a marketing campaign will garner more traction.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan No.  I’ve never made back the cost of the ad.  Is it worth it for the exposure?  YES!  Even if one new person reads it, then it was worth it to me.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’ve used Amazon’s ad service but it did nothing for me.


Have you used press releases as a method of creating buzz for your books?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Nope, although I wouldn’t rule it out.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Yes, but with zero effect.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman No. I considered running a press release from a charity anthology I have organised that releases Dec 1, but someone I was talking to in my local library said newspapers are a dying media, social media has more impact. So, I have stuck to creating media kits for bloggers to use if they want to share my releases.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne I have, yet didn’t see positive results.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I did for my first books, but it never seemed to yield good results.  Maybe I wasn’t doing it right?  I know some authors have great success with it.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Yes, but only when the book I wrote had something prominent to say. For instance, in my latest novel Karma (Book 1 in the Silker Butters Superhero Series) I used a woman of Indian heritage as my protagonist. So I released a press release on it because I felt it was important that we start to diversify our characters.


Could you explain what your street team does (if you have one) and how you go about building a street team?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’ve never had a street team, though many of my friends have taken it on themselves to help me advertise my books.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t got a street team, but I do have a close groups of author friends that share any posts for sales or giveaways when I ask them to.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I don’t have a street team anymore, but when I did, I comprised it of loyal readers who asked if they could help me somehow.  We became a close-knit group of friends.  They would often reach out to bloggers on my behalf or share things on social media.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil My street team is amazing.  They share my stuff all over social media.  I do a weekly swag giveaway and tell them what to share and they do it.  Each week we have a winner and I get the swag from the signings I attend.  There is usually a signed book in there as well.  My PA’s have built my team by sharing it in TO’s plus other members share it.


Which types of advertising do you use for your books?  (i.e. email campaigns/newsletters/web content/paid ads, etc…) Which ones do you find to be more effective?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Newsletters, social media, interviews/guest articles, paid ads, blogging, connecting with other writers, appearing at events, getting stories published in anthologies/short story markets, teaching writing classes…  Advertising and promotion kind of folds into networking a lot.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I have a monthly newsletter, and a reader group on Facebook. I try and regularly post on my Facebook page to keep readers in the loop. I have a supportive group of Indie friends that help share my posts across Facebook, extending my reader base. I also find writing in anthologies is a great way of reaching new readers.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Newsletters and social media posts.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I buy ads and utilize newsletter swaps.  The paid advertising always works out the best.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Again, other than social media, I have not used anything else except what is noted above.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’ve dabbled in almost everything. I’ll tell you the least effective was hiring someone else to get the buzz out for my book. I paid two different people who claimed they did promotion for authors and I got little to no return on investment. Buyer beware when it comes to those types of individuals.

The most effective, as I said has been me, face-to-face with people having a casual conversation about books.


Advertising is a visual media and visual images sell better than text alone. How do you provide images to go with your copy?

RA Winter
RA Winter I love Photoshop!  I’ll take my book cover and if  I’m able, I’ll decompose the photo and add in some quotes.  If I can’t separate the photo, I’ll either blow up a section or place the book in a kindle reader and place it at the bottom of a scene that relates to the book.
DeAnna Knippling
deannak The sites I use generally handle that for me.  If not, I can throw something together fairly quickly with InDesign.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My covers are usually eye-catching, and that helps. But the Blurb must also attract the reader. It’s a double-edged sword.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I love creating teasers with powerful images and quotes from my book that stir the reader and pulls them in to want to one click.

Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I create all my images in photoshop. I love the creative process so much I started creating covers for others.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I can spend hours playing around on Canva.  I’d love to invest in Photoshop sometime soon.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy As a graphic artist I can make digital images pretty quick and I use them on different platforms.
Margareth Stewart
Margareth Stewart I use the same image and color of the cover to call readers´ attention and as an easy step for them to identify the line. I find colors very useful as well as the name of the main characters, one or two main lines from the book and of course, reader´s review. For 2019, my plan is to develop a line of products like T-shirts, recycle bags and mugs with best quotes and front cover on ordering by demand. It is surely one more add to the scene as I usually say.

What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?
Tom Johnson
Tom's Back Cover Picture Word of mouth. Friends and true fans recommending or reviewing my books.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t found my magic formula yet. I see a spike in sales when I take part in takeovers and put my work in front of new readers. I’m still looking for the key to unlock the marketing platform for me at present.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Old school word of mouth.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I enjoy entering book fairs online.  You discount your book and buy into the fair.  The fair is seen by countless people online, and hopefully they want to pick your book from the selection.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I only use Amazon.  I have tried using other platforms and have no luck.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy You just have to try as many things as possible to get exposure. The marketplace is saturated, especially in regards to ebooks. That’s why I still prefer grassroots, face-to-face sales like conventions and books signings.


As authors, they say we need to have a brand – an image readers will associate with us and our works. An image that encompasses who we are and the type of writing that we do is a great idea, to be sure, but what if you write in more than one genre?
Logo
I currently have published a western novel, a science fiction time travel short, and a paranormal mystery novelette. What kind of image can encompass all that? I’m currently revising my brand, or logo, (with the assistance of D.L. Mullen and Sonoran Dawn Studios), but you may have seen the red quill and ink I’ve used as a logo up until now, which encompasses all things writing to me, and really, that’s what I’m about. My resulting works are simply the products my writing produces. Below you can see that my new brand encompasses that, as well as being able to apply to all of my writing enterprises. You’ll see this logo soon, along with a full revision of theme on this site and on the new site I’m designing for my other writing endeavors. 
WordCrafter Logo
Tell us about your brand? Why did you chose this image? Do you believe it increases the recognition of you or your work?
RA Winter
RA Winter I write magical realism, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. My Author RA Winter Logobrand is a ghost cat.  Why?  Because I started writing as a way to deal with the loss of my cat, Dingle.  He became the driving force behind my writing.  He’s usually a character hidden somewhere in each novel too and is just as nefariously adorable in death as he was in life.  I’m still playing with my brand, so it might change, but for now, I can’t let Dingle go!
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Strange, wonderful, horrible, interesting. I try to give my readers a senseQonderland Press that the world they’re escaping to is weirder and more interesting than our own, and that it has both wonderful and horrific aspects. I also want readers to be able to come back to the real world with a sense that they know it better, because they’ve been away to one of my worlds. That part is harder to explain…for example, you might put a fairy tale such as Snow White down and go, “You know what that stupid apple reminds me of? False advertising.” Something like that.

 

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Sorry. My only brand is that I am a pulp writer, and there are dozens of platforms for the genre, and my name is well known among them all.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I have created a brand, one that I feel reflects me. I try to use myLilly Rayman Logo branding on all graphics I create. I also have a branded set of takeover posts that I use on Facebook. I’m hoping for brand recognition to work well for readers to remember me by.

 

 

 

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan  My brand was created by Aaron Siddall.  It is my name within a gear.Jordan Elizabeth Logo  I wanted something to reflect my steampunk books, while still being simple and recognizable.  It doesn’t just work for steampunk.  I like to think of it as gears working in my imagination.

 

 

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy My brand is “Original Cyn” It came as a play off my name and it has a softoclogobutton copy biblical reference about the telling of Adam and Eve…or Original Sin. This is why my logo is a snake with an apple. Its not that it signify evil in any way, its more the birth of something. And yes, I believe putting my logo out there does get me recognition I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve even started a new company Original Cyn Content where I incorporate my writing and fitness background to create useable content to help others live their best lives. I also do freelance content creation like writing, design, and video.


Is it more difficult to brand yourself when you write in multiple genres? In what ways?
DeAnna Knippling
deannak Yes and no? I feel like different genres require different emphases. A horror story will focus on the horrible; a fantasy might focus on the wonderful. A mystery might focus on the strange; a sci-fi story might focus on the interesting. But I kind of want all my stories to make the reader feel a little like they’re reading a fairy tale of some kind. A little disoriented, a little more perspective.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Yes, I am a SF writer, but I also write mysteries and westerns, and adventure. Unfortunately, most Groups where I advertise are  heavy in erotica and steamy romance, so I’m wasting my time. Erotica has cornered the mystery and western, and SF genres now. You can’t read any genre today without encountering erotic scenes.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I haven’t found it to be the case. I’ve simply tried to be clever in working the two genres I mainly write in together.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I actually just broke out of my normal writing for a Christmas novella.  My author brand isn’t on that book, but I am still using my pen name (Jordan Elizabeth).  If I decide to write more in that vein, I might come up with a different brand for Christmas novellas…something similar, but different, so people can recognize what to expect.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I think this is why I don’t have a brand yet.  LOL.  I write in many different genres and find it difficult to pinpoint something that covers them all.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart Yes, indeed! It needs addressing different audience, using various platforms, and multiple ways to talk to readers. I actually do this now, but I´d rather stick to one genre in the future. Agatha Christie for instance, she created her style with a peculiar vast audience. That is incredible; it is so rare nowadays, plus her unbeatable style! For me, it is what I head to as a writer.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy So I’ve been struggling with that for a long while now because I simply get ideas that cross genres. It’s difficult to pin them down into one category. For the sake of simplicity I’ve said urban and adventure fantasy but they’re really so much more than that. I have some stand alone thrillers as well.

Look, we all write in different voices. I think its more important to get that across than creating a label that pigeon holes you into a corner. Your readers will get it.


You can see from all the varied answers we have here that different avenues to marketing work for different authors, and what works for one author may not work for the next. Influencing factors may include the genre or genres we write in, advertising budget, and author preferences. Trial and error seems to be the only way to discover what works for you.

I want to thank our author panel members for sharing with us, not only in this segement, but throughout the entire series. Authors are busy people and their taking time out to answer my many questions is greatly appreciated. 

Next Monday will be the final segment of Round 2 of Ask the Authors. Our panel members will be weighing in on follow-up questions in many of the areas we’ve touched on throughout the series. Although we’ve had many readers following this round, we haven’t had a lot of comments, so this will be your last opportunity to post your own questions for our author panel in the comment box for the post on the topic that your question falls under.  Here’s your chance. We want to hear from you. Any questions in the comments will be posed to our author panel for them to answer. So, post those questions and don’t miss the final segment of Ask the Authors (Round 2). 

For convenience, I’ll post the links to each of the previous segments below. 

Meet the Authors: https://wp.me/pVw40-3H7

The Writing Process: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Hs

Plot/Storyline: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ic

Setting/ Tense/ POV/ Voice: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ic

Character Development: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Io

Action Scenes: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Jh

Editing and Revision: https://wp.me/pVw40-3JZ

Publishing Platforms: https://wp.me/pVw40-3Ku

Author Platforms: https://wp.me/pVw40-3KT

 

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“Tales of the Normal”: A Flash Fiction Collection

Tales of the Normal

Tales of the Normal, by DeAnna Knippling is an intriguing collection of flash and micro-fiction that is anything but normal. In fact, I’ve never seen a collection of stories quite like this one. As with all short fiction, some of the stories don’t quite feel complete, but others may leave you haunted.

A flash collection gets a flash review. Tales of the Normal kept me reading and made me think. I give it four quills.

four-quills3

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


How and Why You Should Build an Author Platform

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

1375930515977128357Coloured question marks.svg.hi
Fans, followers, readers: these are what authors strive for. While we obviously want to get our work out there so folks will know about and hopefully buy our books, it all starts with what we call an author platform. Whether you prefer social media promotion or in person appearances, it’s all about making connections and interaction with people. Having an outrageous number of followers doesn’t mean you will sell that many books, it does mean that there are a lot of people who’ve taken an interest in you or your work, and with luck, a percentage of those will actually make a purchase. Hopefully, from there, your work is good enough to carry the ball and bring back repeat customers. But first, you’ve got to have a platform. You’ve got to have followers, and more important, readers.
Today the Ask the Authors panel will be discussing how to go about building an author platform and the options available via the internet in our present media culture. Our author panel consists of authors Amy Cecil, Ashley Fontainne, Cynthia Vespia, Jordan Elizabeth, DeAnna Knippling, Dan Alatorre and RA Winter. As authors, they all strive to gain a following and will be giving us an idea of what is out there, and share their experiences as they’ve built their author platforms.

Hugs for Authors
I think we all would agree the best way to gain a following is to write a good book. But your book could be the best book ever written and no one would know it if nobody reads it. In today’s market, one way to get folks to buy your book is through reviews. Our consumer oriented society has taken to placing high value on what previous consumers have to say. I met many of the authors on our panel when I reviewed one of their books. I do reviews in exchange for a review copy of the book and so do many others, but still it seems like one of the most difficult tasks we’re faced with as authors is to obtain reviews for their books. People are not too busy to read the book, which is good, but they don’t always take time to go to a site and leave a review.
Have you found any effective methods of getting reviews for your books?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I have my own ARC team and I also use Booksprout, which is very effective.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Reviews are difficult to obtain because we, as a society,  are so busy.  I have used many different approaches yet have had the most success with BookBub and audio books. Audio listeners tend to write more reviews. For example,  my novel Tainted Cure has 26 reviews on Amazon and 71 on Audible. I have noticed a lot of audio reviewers don’t post their reviews on Amazon yet I’m not sure why.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Effective? Not really at this point. I’ve done giveaways and requests and its hit or miss.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Unfortunately, no quick fix to getting reviews. You can spend hours emailing book reviewers and suggesting your book to them for review, or you can pay for a platform to put your books out for review. Amazon is also making it harder for people to leave reviews, which makes reviews almost worthless when you don’t know how long your reviews will be up before being pulled by Amazon.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan The best way I’ve found is to reach out to reviewers personally.  I’ll send an email to bloggers and make sure it isn’t just a form email. I always tweak it to match their needs.  Out of every 20 emails I send, I usually get 1-2 bloggers interested. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but its worth it for those reviews.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Not consistently.  It’s one of those things where you scatter some free copies around and hope for the best.  I have an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) list, but people have been drifting away from it–which is understandable.  You could be the biggest DeAnna Knippling fan in the world and still not want to conscientiously read & review everything I freaking write! I have a free Instafreebie/Prolific Works account where I host giveaway copies, so I don’t have to manually send them out now, which is nice.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Asking reviewers who liked and reviewed one of my prior books is the easiest way. How did I get those first review for my first book? I asked EVERYBODY.


Blogging can be instrumental in obtaining followers. I know most of my followers have come from this blog, Writing to be Read. The more valuable the content posted here, the more followers I get, and 2018 has seen my following increase in great bounds. Again, I’m not seeing a monetary value from this blog, but I am watching my platform grow. Many other authors have blogs, as well, and I wonder about the opinions of our panel members.
If you have a blog, how instrumental is it in building your platform?
 
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I have a blog though I don’t post often.
Ramblings of a Mad Southern Woman
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I blog for 2 reasons: to build my platform, and speak on topics I find either useful or entertaining. If you’re going to blog you have to be consistent with it in order to see any growth. I’m constantly updating my blog/site trying to find new ways to attract readers.
Lilly Rayman
L Rayman I’m not a very good blogger. I have a blog on my website, and I tend to share other author’s blog posts rather than blogging for myself.
Blog: http://lillyrayman0007.wixsite.com/lillyrayman/blog
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan My blog is called Kissed by Literature. I originally started it to review books. I still use it for mostly that, but I’ll talk about other book related things at times. To be honest, my blog doesn’t seem as integral as it used to be. I get more traffic on my Facebook Author page.
DeAnna Knippling
deannak I started it in 2003 or so at Blogspot, and it moved to http://www.WonderlandPress.com…I want to say that was in 2009? I don’t remember now. I write a lot of nerdy writing articles. It’s led to more ghostwriting work and invitations to talk at places than actual sales, I think! But I like doing it, which means I do it consistently, and I think that’s the key to platform: What can you keep up with consistently? Not, like, three times a week consistent, but “I just like doing it so I end up doing it even when I don’t actually have time” consistent. That’s your real platform.
Blog: http://blog.deannaknippling.com/
Dan Alatorre
Alatorre I published a book and my wife said I should start a blog to build an author platform and get my book known. I was clueless about blogging, and had NO followers for a long time. I had like 4 followers and one was my wife and one was a spam bot. Now I have thousands, and in 2017 my blog got over 60,000 views. I rarely have a day without 150 views. The secret there was to interact with others, which is part of a presentation I do for FWA and TBAWP and other writing groups, and is part of a planned webinar and book I’ll be selling. However, if I were starting today, I’m not sure I’d blog. Don’t get me wrong, I get a kick our of blogging and interacting with my fans there. I have writing contests there and get beta readers there, etc. But as far as strictly selling books, a mailing list is probably better, and I’m building mine now.
Blog: https://danalatorre.com/

I’m hearing that an author has to have a website, and to be sure, it’s convenient to create a kind of virtual store front where folks can find all your books in one place. But websites don’t have a lot of direct interaction with visitors to the site, so I have to wonder if they are useful for gaining readers or followers.
How effective has your website been for bringing in followers?
 
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Not effective at all. My Facebook author page does much better.
Website: http://acecil65.wixsite.com/amycecil?fbclid=IwAR2RzmgKSWbBoNn7g8O1i8GreIwNZsrPHVcyVtlpIlHkobx7XvMJSw3P24s
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Not as effective as I have hoped in the past, but that’s all about to change. I’m employing a new strategy, new design, and better content to draw in outside eyes. To you newbies out there don’t be afraid of switching things up. If something isn’t working try a new strategy. I’ve streamlined my author site at www.CynthiaVespia.com but most of my attention is being set on my other site www.OriginalCynContent.com so I can bring useful information regarding marketing, building a business, and building your best self.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Honestly? I’m not sure it has, but I like that I have it there, I can update my books on my website, share a sample of my work and other authors I have come across.

Website: Http://www.lillyrayman0007.wixsite.com/lillyrayman

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan People tend to look at my facebook page more than my website.  When talking to people and the website comes up, they always seem surprised to find out I have one!

 
DeAnna Knippling
deannak It hasnt brought me a lot of newsletter subscribers yet. But everywhere I go, people are like, “So I read your website and…” and want to have some kind of conversation about the things they’re wrestling with because of some blog post I wrote, so I’m good.
Website: www.WonderlandPress.com
Dan Alatorre

Alatorre For me, advertising and newsletters get followers for books. My blog and FB sites are more for existing fan interaction.


Many sites now offer authors a chance to showcase their work on author pages.
Which sites do you hold author pages on? Which ones have you found to be most effective for gaining followers?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I just use Amazon, Goodreads and Facebook.
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Cecil/e/B00XUPU5Y8/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1542940066&sr=1-2-ent
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5888015.Amy_Cecil
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/authoramycecil/
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’ve signed up to so many, I probably couldn’t remember them all. Bookbub has so far been the most influential in bringing in followers.

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lilly-Rayman/e/B00X5CR5QC

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9866872.Lilly_Rayman

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/lilly.rayman.7

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MrsL0007

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/mrsl0007

BookBub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lilly-rayman

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Lilly-Rayman

Romance IO: https://www.romance.io/authors/5617d075bfc6b5c0fa94082f/lilly-rayman

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’ve found Facebook to be the most lucrative.

Facebok Author page: https://www.facebook.com/JordanElizabethAuthor/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Jordan-Elizabeth/e/B00P0KBRD4

Curiosity Quills Author page: https://curiosityquills.com/authors/jordan-elizabeth/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jordan-elizabeth

DeAnna Knippling

deannak A lot of these places, you don’t even know that you have an author page.  But I’m involved in the Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub ones.  I don’t know which ones are effective, but they seem to interact with the GR one the most.

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4456773.DeAnna_Knippling

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/DeAnna-Knippling/e/B0049HF320/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1543066052&sr=1-2-spons

BookBub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/search?search=DeAnna+Knippling

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I have a Blog, a Facebook page, and I use Twitter. I wouldn’t say I showcase my work on them all, but I do occasionally on my blog. That’s not how I gain followers, though. The blog is for other things, like interaction, writing contests, etc.

Blog Author page: https://danalatorre.com/about/

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/DanAlatorreAuthor/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU

Goodreads Autor page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7847408.Dan_Alatorre


Free books abound these days. Freebies are a marketing strategy which many book marketers swear by, and there does seem to be a rising trend toward using this strategy. Give away something for free and people will buy something else. While it may bring in sales, I’m skeptical. Even if it doesn’t bring sales though, if it brings readers to your platform I can see value in it. I use my perma-free novelette, Hidden Secrets, in conjunction with my newsletter. If you sign up for my monthly newsletter, you get a link for a free copy of the book, but only a few of those who have subscribed have claimed their copy, so I don’t know that it’s the book drawing them in.
For authors who have played with this strategy, fill us in. Does it work to bring in new followers? What has your experience taught you?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Yes, it works. I have a series and I always offer the first book free when a new book in the series releases. The first book draws them in and then it goes from there.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I  have a newsletter and if someone signs up they receive two free PDFs. I have done freebies before and had fantastic results, but only when using Bookbub and the book promoted was in the KDP program. The book had thousands of downloads and was over 600 pages, so even though I didn’t make money off the downloads,  I did on the pages read, plus I gained 75+ reviews.
(Side note: Since we’re talking about freebies, Ashley Fontainne’s Ruined Wings has recently been made into a film, which you can now view for free at the link below.)
Ruined Wings
Website: The Dark Southern Bell
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I’ve not done the “free book for sign up” bit yet but I have done some freebies and they haven’t done anything for me. The only traction I saw was when doing ARC giveaways for a new release and even then it didn’t get the response I was hoping for in terms of reviews. So now I’m very selective in who I give my books away to because everyone I talk to is constantly asking for a free book and it just doesn’t do me any good to keep giving away my profits like that.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I offer a permafree book across all platforms, when I do a Facebook event I share the link. I also have details of the permafree in all my books. I also offer a flash fiction exclusively to subscribers of my newsletter. When I share with people on Facebook they can get a free read for signing up, they usually do.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’ve done sales with free books. I’m not sure if its brought in sales for my other books. No one has told me that they read it for free and then bought more.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak It depends.  I saw a post recently with (to paraphrase): “Your freebies should be selected based on why you sign up.”  In technical terms, the article suggested “segmenting your list” so people who signed up on a mass giveaway (and who had probably never read your work before) got the first book in a series, and the people who sign up on your website get like a short story, character interviews, etc., in an ongoing series (because presumably they already have the first book in the series and read and liked it, and are there for more).  I’m thinking of doing that, but I haven’t yet.
The mass giveaway things, they’re more about performing a scattershot across a genre or a subgenre:  “If you like steampunk, you’ll like at least some of the books in our steampunk giveaway! But you have to sign up for the author’s newsletter list!”  The newsletter signups on your site, those people should be treated like they’re part of a secret club, where they get info & bribes & treats that a new reader could care less about.  I like that as a theory.  The thing I’m pondering right now is how to send out some automatic posts for the mass-giveaway people so they have enough interest/information to feel like they already belong to the secret club.  I really only have one newsletter, though: the secret club one.
RA Winter
RA Winter About freebies.  If they are used strategically, they can be an excellent marketing tool.  For that to work though, you need a series of at least three books, the more the better return on your investment.  Also, there are sites who won’t charge to post your free books.  Readers who become invested in your story will buy the second and third novels without batting an eye.  I always recommend giving the first book in the series away or writing a short novella that will feed off the series.  Giving away book two or three just isn’t profitable.
Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Free books have to be advertised, too, and on sites that make a splash. As mentioned earlier, those change all the time. The free book has to be of great quality or no one’s gonna read anything else you have, but you still have to have other things. Quality things. And a newsletter to keep everyone updated. A friend has had several books get over 100 reviews by using the Reader Magnets method and as far as I can tell, most authors with successful newsletters used a very similar approach. I mention this because I checked it out and I’ve seen it work, but most people don’t do it (including me). That’s changing. I started working on growing my newsletter last week and plan on getting it to 10,000 subscribers by December 31, 2019. That should help.

Dan, can you explain for those who may not know, what the Reader Magnet method is?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre It’ free: https://www.amazon.com/Reader-Magnets-Platform-Marketing-Authors-ebook/dp/B00PCKIJ4C


Which sites would you recommend for giveaways?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I don’t do a lot of giveaways, I have used Goodreads and Amazon, but Facebook works the best for me.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I have had the most success with Bookbub,  however,  it is expensive and hard to get picked up.
Bookbub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/ashley-fontainne
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Obviously Amazon is the biggest platform. I’ve had success on Goodreads for print books and I understand they’re doing ebook giveaways now as well.. Smashwords lets you set your own discount pricing so you can do a freebie there. I’ve also done some giveaways on FB during author events with some success.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I use Instafreebie which is now called prolific works for my giveaway links.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I’ve found the best to be Amazon.  You can set up a giveaway and plan to get followers on Twitter, Amazon, etc.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I use LibraryThing and Goodreads (on GR, I set up an event where I link to the giveaway code; I’ve also done GR print giveaways and liked those as well). I’m getting prepped to go back into Instafreebie/Prolific Works in a bit. I like them, but it tends to be more newsletter signups than reviews.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I don’t recommend sites publicly, but not because I don’t wanna give away my best secrets. (I can’t write enough books in a year to have a site all to myself, and I need other authors selling books and telling me which sites are doing well for them.) I don’t recommend sites publicly because they aren’t paying me to endorse them. Also, things can and do change quickly in this business. A site I used very successfully five years ago hasn’t done anything good for the past three years. When did it change? It was probably gradual, but what worked for me and my last book might not work for your book or still be working when you publish your Work In Progress. It’s safest to ask all your friends which sites work best right now and to get numbers, see what genre they wrote, and go from there. Track everything and keep using whatever worked, avoiding the sites that are crap. I will say this. When you do a free day or a 99 cent day or whatever on Ammy, do it in conjunction with a site (or sites) your friends have recommended. You’ll make a bigger splash and will usually sell books at regular price after the sale ends as long as your regular price isn’t crazy.


Which social media sites do you use to network? Which sites have worked best for you for gaining followers?

Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Facebook and Goodreads.  Facebook has worked the best. I have used Twitter a little – but I don’t see a lot of action there.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amy.p.cecil
Amy’s Amazing Street Girls: https://www.facebook.com/groups/201903646918497/
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Facebook and Twitter are the two sites I tend to frequent.
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/ashley.fontainne/
Twitter: @AshleyFontainne
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AshleyFontainne
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Honestly, I’m not the best at utilising social media. I have a more interactive network on Facebook, but I try and post in Google+ and Twitter when I remember. Generally, I prefer to be writing than to be trying to promote myself.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LillyRayman0007/

Twitter: @LillyRayman0007 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lilly_rayman/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LillyRayman0007

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I use facebook (the best for networking), Instagram, twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Twitter: @JaliaDarkness

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I use Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads; Facebook’s the primary one, though.  I don’t really do Facebook networking on purpose so much as read someone’s comment and go, “That was well said,” and friend them, and then get pulled along into something else because someone knew someone else who knows me.  I think trying to use social media to gain followers is a bad idea in general, though.  It’s the trying and trying and trying part that concerns me.  “How can I try to get more followers?!?” asks the author, and ends up being a sleezy salesman for something that doesn’t naturally appeal to people.  Like, if you want to be a good seller, ask yourself, “How can I make this so tempting they can’t say no,” not “how can I get more followers?”

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanna.knippling

Twitter: @dknippling

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105906027867306495546

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I blog a lot, so that’s where people come to talk to me. Second is my Facebook page. After that, my newsletter, small as it is, and form there I rarely interact on Twitter or other social media. That’s not where my readers are. That can change with different books, though. For my upcoming YA book to do well, I’ll be pimping it on Instagram, etc.

Twitter: @savvystories

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dan_alatorre_author/


I share links for Writing to be Read and my books on all my social media sites, as well as participating in Facebook book events. I like and comment on the posts of other authors and interact with people. None of this sells a lot of books, but it does bring me followers and new friends.
How do you network on social media? Do you feel it to be effective?
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil I have two P.A.’s that share my links. I have a great street team that shares my stuff everyone and most of the stuff I do on Facebook is in my street team. I do a live video with them every week and am always visible to them.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I used to network quite a bit yet didn’t see any real benefits other than making connections with other authors, so I stepped away from doing events.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy It’s like you said, it may not be selling alot of books yet but as you gain followers this increases the chances of getting your work out there. But you have to network. Many people make the mistake of just posting about their books constantly and people don’t like to have promotions in their face at all times. When you deliver content to them that they can use or enjoy then you gain a fan and a fan is more important than just a follower because they will buy your books and support you. It makes me laugh when “influencers” talk about how many followers they have. How many of those followers translate to sales? If you’re not making progress in turnover what difference does it make how many people are following you? Again, be smart in your approach. It’s not a popularity contest, its about make intelligent moves in the social media realm that make people want to support you and read your work.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I share posts from my author friends, and try and interact where I can on Facebook, my name being seen, being active within the Indie Community opens the door for other opportunities to utilise other authors and their followings, but its important to remember it’s a game of give and take. As long as you share as much as you hope others will share you.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I like to reach out to people who have enjoyed my books.  I like to connect with other writers, especially so we can share tips.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I pass on what interests me. Is it fascinating? Funny? Horrible? Insightful? If it feels like something that I like that’s pretty normal for me to like, then I’ll share it. Like puns. I’ll share a good pun in a heartbeat. Doing that consistently, over time, tends to become your brand, or part of your brand, without being fake and calculated. Writers are there to entertain, interest, and educate people. Do that. Do the things that you’re comfortable with, and do them consistently and fairly. When people buy stories, they buy them because of your voice, your view of the world. So share that view of the world; don’t keep it bottled up. That’s my theory, anyway. And listen to and interact with other people. It’s networking. It literally is not all about you as an author 🙂

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I’d say this: have a presence on them all, but only use the ones you enjoy. If you aren’t having fun using Instagram, it’ll show, and people won’t have a positive experience with you there. That’s bad, and it’ll hurt business. Take on one new social media every two weeks or so, and work it until you master it. Then decide if it’s for you, while you take on the next one, and the one after that. Don’t try to learn them all at once; it’ll be overwhelming. One at a time, on a regularly scheduled basis, so you actually get to them all, and then work each new one until you get it. THEN decide which ones are for you. I have a presence on all of them except a few, but I use my blog and Facebook because I like them and that’s where my readers are. Don’t try to be all things to all people. I have bestselling author friends who don’t do any of this stuff and sell just fine via lots of paid ads. That works for them. It won’t be the right approach for everyone. What works for your friend might not work for you because she writes murder mysteries and you write romance. That’s always a factor.


Where have you found the most readers/followers?
 
Amy Cecil
Amy Cecil Facebook
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Goodreads and Bookbub
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Personal appearances. When readers meet the author face-to-face they remember you more than if they just buy your book online or interact on social media. This is why I always tout that in-the-flesh marketing is still very important when building your author empire.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Facebook, posting in author or reader groups, participating in page hops, and online party events. Although my BookBub following is picking up.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Reaching out to bloggers has helped me to connected with the most readers, and that in turn has delivered the most followers.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I’m not sure, but I want to say Goodreads.  But I’m a book nerd, as in I read more than I watch TV or anything else, and I review everything I read, so I end up attracting a lot of followers who are like, “I just want to talk about books in general, not necessarily yours.”  Hm…either that or running with several giveaways on Instafreebie/Prolific Works.  I got a lot of signups.  I lost most of them, but the ones who stayed like what I write.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I definitely have the most quality followers on my blog. Twitter says 11,000 people follow me, but I don’t interact much on twitter, so it’s not the same quality as my blog. I’m too wordy for 140 characters. I interact most on my blog, then second would be my Facebook page. Most of my readers come from ads I buy.


There are many paths for promoting our writing available, but not all avenues will end in book sales. Some may be routes that intersect with the roads that lead to book sales, and some may just lead to connections which build our author platform. We, as authors must learn to value those connections for what they are and not expect more than each small venture has to offer. If the path we take leads into an eventual sale, then that’s a sweet surprise at the end of the adventure and we should still value the connections and interactions we’ve had along the way.
Thank you to my author panel members for sharing and to my readers for reading. Their links are listed so you can visit their sites to use as examples. To give you a few more, I’m including my own links below, and you can check out my blog and website right here. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click through my pages. If you find something useful on any of the sites listed here be sure to let the author know with a comment, and if you like their stuff,  let them know by subscribing or following on the site.
My Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kaye-Lynne-Booth/e/B071791Y9W/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1501007020&sr=1-1
Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16728576.Kaye_Lynne_Booth
My Facebook: Kaye Lynne Booth – Author & Screenwriter
                          Delilah – Kaye Lynne Booth
                          Playground for the Gods – Kaye Lynne Booth
                          His Name Was Michael – Kaye Lynne Booth
My Twitter: @GodsAngel1
My Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KayeBooth
My Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kayelynnebooth/
My Tumblr: https://writeitrightediting.tumblr.com/
It’s clear that we each do it different, but we all have to find the way that works best for us. I hope you all will join us next Monday when the author panel will discuss the thorn in many authors’ sides, marketing and promotion. See you then.

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