Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Most Frightening Question for Authors - "What Is Your Marketing Plan?"

I expected a fair share of rigors to come with the writing profession – research, storyboards, graphic organizers, drafts, re-writes, revisions, editing, proof readings and the like. But marketing? Up until five years ago I had operated under the illusion that marketing was something your publisher did.  Ever hear the term “Sticker Shock?” Well, this is worse- it’s “Authors’ Shock” and it can leave seasoned and neophyte writers in a daze for weeks!

I spent over thirty years in education. (Yes – thirty!). First as a teacher and later as a middle school principal. And believe me, we had a plan for everything!

Your kid’s been caught throwing one spitball too many? – The Behavioral Management Plan
Your kid can’t sit still for more than seven seconds – The Behavioral Modification Plan
Your kid called his/her teacher something that even the most hardcore rapper wouldn’t repeat – The Behavioral Impulse Control Plan
Your kid’s failing? – The Individualized Academic Improvement Plan
Your school is in need of improvement? – The Academic, Social, Emotional School Improvement Plan

And the list could go on. (In fact, it does. Ask any school teacher or administrator).
I’m quite familiar with these plans, having written so many of them that I could do it during a root canal. But nowhere in my thirty+ years of education did I ever have to write a marketing plan. Until now…

But I think I’m getting the hang of it. I just keep asking myself, “What are you doing to let people know about Time Travel Mysteries other than handing out your business card at the dog park?”
Surprisingly, I’ve done quite a bit – from social media like Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and  YourBookLaunch to my own website ( and my blog. Not to mention the blogging opportunities I’ve used with forums in the U.K. as well as right here in Arizona. And then of course, there’s the media stuff – bookmarks, business cards, and rack cards. All of these work if you have crowds to work. I manage to find them. 

I conduct workshops at schools as well as teach writing for adults. Then, the book clubs. I’ve been a guest speaker for a number of book clubs; and the wonderful bonus is that they read my books!
In addition, I take every advantage of book signings at local, state and out-of –state venues. The last one was a trip to Albuquerque for the Southwest Book Fiesta in the convention center. I was just glad to get there alive. The entire trip was uphill around mountains. My car threatened death every few miles. Then the return trip was a frightening slalom down the same treacherous curves. I kept screaming to my husband, “I just want someone to read these books before I die!”

And then there are the memberships. If I thought the education profession had a plethora of organizations, it was nothing compared to what’s out there for writers. I have enough cards to support a full deck.

Impressive, huh? NO, not really. Every aspiring writer in the 21st century does this. So now, I am actually writing a plan – complete with goals, strategies and a timeline. It’s exhaustive. But, I smile when I think of the alternative. I could be writing a behavioral modification plan because some kid took a less than flattering picture of his/her teacher and posted it on Facebook!  


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hey Adult Readers - Don't Shy Away From YA Novels

Whether I’m at book signings, libraries, presentations and other miscellaneous events that bring authors and readers together, I often hear the same thing, “Oh, you write for young adults, well, guess that leaves me out!”

Hold on! Stop everything! Just because a book is intended for a YA audience, it does not preclude it from being enjoyed by adults. In fact, many of the “hottest” novels in today’s marketplace are YA books and their titles are familiar in households everywhere. To cite a few – Twilight, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and….( you can fill in all seven titles), Eragon and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

They range from Romance to Mystery, Fantasy to Adventure, and Comedy to Psychological Drama. Everything from Science Fiction to 21st Century Survival. So why not include them on your reading list?

YA novels are often edgy, insightful and complex. It’s not just about plot and character development, but about strong themes and pertinent topics that shouldn’t be avoided. Take Suzanne Weyn’s novel, The Bar Code Tattoo. When I first read this book a few years ago, I couldn’t imagine a society where all your vital information (SS number, driver’s license, birth certificate, etc.) was tattooed on your arm in the form of a micro-chip when you came of age. Now, in 2013, it seems almost probable, if not inevitable. Frightening, huh? And well worth reading. 

Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel, Speak, deals with the unmentionable topic of rape and how its survivor comes to grips with this event. It shines as an example of empowerment and ability to overcome the worst as its victim sinks deeper and deeper into a silent depression before finding a way out.  

Yep, these books aren’t just for teens! Consider other ones as well. Like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

I have to admit, my novels are meant to engage and entertain readers. My protagonists won’t be fraught with angst but they will be faced with choices that all of us have to make at one time or another. In addition, young adults read my books at one level, but often times, it’s the adults who catch the nuances, humor and references to events and people. 

So next time you pass the YA section of your library or have the opportunity to get your hands on a young adult novel, don’t pause. Rush in and enjoy the reading!  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Writers Forums? Enter If You Dare

            If ever Harry S. Truman’s quote, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” held true, it’s in a writers forum. So enter cautiously. Unlike reading someone’s blog and responding, forums are far more interactive. And that means its participants may be subject to criticism that’s not constructive or supportive. But don't let that stop you. There's a great deal of solid information out there!
            With a plethora of forums available to writers it’s a good idea to do your homework first. Who’s running the forum? Are there just a handful of participants or does the forum have a broad outreach?
            I’ve seen great advice for a number of relevant topics ranging from writing a query letter to the sticky categorization of middle grade/YA novels. But I’ve also witnessed snippy answers, rude remarks and general “put downs” that I thought were best left in junior high. Trouble is, you never know how someone is going to respond to your questions, ideas or samples of your writing. I can warn you of one thing – whatever you do, DO NOT advertise your book. This is a no-no. Strange as it may seem, book promotion on forums is about as welcome as dog poop on the bottom of your shoes. And honestly, I don’t know why. But whenever someone even mentions their books, responders jump on them like mosquitoes on hikers.
            Enter the waters slowly and carefully. Take some time to peruse the discussion forums and threads before getting involved. And ask yourself the following questions:
            “How can this help me to improve my craft as a writer?’
            “Can I offer any sage advice to neophyte authors?”
            “Are the topics just getting re-hashed or are they remaining current?”
            I’ve found the following forums to be insightful and interesting. But that doesn’t mean responses and advice are always going to be doled out courteously. So if you’re really sensitive, take heed.


            And if forums are not for you, try getting support and feedback from local writers groups and your library. And don’t let a few off-hand remarks keep you away from your writing!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Forget the Headstone, Just Read One of My Novels

            I was enjoying a perfectly wonderful walk with my dog today when one of my neighbors approached me and informed me that she and her husband were flying back east to pick out a headstone for their graves. I’m usually not at a loss for words, but today I just stood there, hoping the dog would bark, pee or do something. Anything.
            A headstone? Now? These folks are in their late fifties, maybe early sixties at most. So why do they need to do that now? Talk about planning ahead. I’m lucky if  I remember to renew the car insurance!
            Then it got me thinking. Who on earth is going to come and look at my headstone? I’m not Jim Morrison, or Edgar Allen Poe. They have lots of headstone followers. I’m just happy I have readers. And that’s where I’d like my posterity to wind up – with my books.
            If “Time Travel Mysteries” manages to catch on and gain readership, that’s enough for me. I’d like to believe that once I’ve departed from this life, my novels will continue to entice and engage readers. That’s far more interesting than staring at a piece of granite with my name on it. (Unless of course I decide to carve something relevant on my kitchen counter top…).
            Like most authors, we hope our writing spans the generations. So, as long as readers want mystery, suspense and adventure, I might stand a shot at this. Besides, novels weigh a whole lot less than headstones!