Friday, August 31, 2012

Strategies to Create an Effective Blog by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I've been blogging since 2006, but I didn't get serious or deliberate about it until 2008. During that time, I've noticed some key strategies that helped me build more followers and generate interactions from readers. Below, I've highlighted a few things that your blog should do, and included some things that your blog should not do.

  • Content - Know what you want to say and why it will help others. Unless you're a celebrity, people aren't interested in what you had for breakfast. Your blog shouldn't be a place to rant and complain about your personal circumstances or the drama you might be enduring from other people in your life. What expertise can you offer that will benefit others? It doesn't have to be writing-related. It can be parenting, a particular ministry, cooking--something that you enjoy, have an interest in doing or learning, and sharing.

  • Schedule - Be consistent so people will know what to expect from you. It isn't necessary to blog every day, but you need to blog at least once a week to a few times each week. Random posts will not lure regular readers. If you post nothing for several weeks or months, why should readers bother coming back to read nothing? If your blog covers a few related topics, it would be a good idea to schedule particular posts on specific days. For instance, Mondays can be for one topic and Wednesdays could be for another related topic. I've said this before, people are creatures of habits, get them in the habit of visiting your blog.

  • Design & Layout - It should be appealing and easy to navigate and read. The color of the text should compliment the background, but be enough of a contrast to read without creating sore eyes or making readers squint, which means large enough text and a simple font for those needing reading glasses. Make sure your static web pages are easy to find and the links work. Also, give people the option to share your blog posts on their Social Media accounts. They may not have anything to say, but they might like your post enough to share it with others and this is what you want. Often, I may not have a comment on my blog, but I've had readers share my posts on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter and this is important. It's still considered engagement.

  • Don't Give Up - If you really want to blog and build an online readership, keep blogging even if it's irregular. Don't get discouraged, if you have trouble keeping a regular blogging schedule for a while, you can always get back into the swing of things. Don't quit and lose the readership you've worked so hard to gain. It's much easier to re-engage readers who still follow your irregular blog posts than to start all over from scratch a year later and try to find them again after they've stopped following your blog or you closed it down. 

I can look at my blogging history and see how much better I did with a consistent blogging schedule in 2009-2010 than I did in 2011-2012. Things will happen to distract you, and sometimes you have to set priorities. For me, I choose to skip a few blog posts when we were experiencing the loss of a loved one, my mom's battle with cancer, an unexpected move, and then the onset of my daughter's epilepsy these past five months, plus book deadlines.

My blog may not have have grown in readership as I would have liked, but I didn't lose any readers. I was honest and transparent in letting them know some of my challenges without allowing my blog to become a public complaint board. When I did post something, it was an update, a praise report, or a request for prayer. I kept these blog posts to quarterly or every couple of months so that my blog didn't become about ME. 

Other ways to grow your readership is to comment on other blogs, host giveaways, and bring in guest bloggers who have a following. What about you? How have you grown your blog?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A public apology by Terry Burns

In my last blog post I talked about how much I was being distracted about the upcoming election and about how distractions could keep writers from writing. It's true, I am very concerned about the election and have made comments over on my personal facebook page concerning it. Some feedback that I am getting makes it clear to me that I should not be doing that.

Theoretically I should be able to say what I think on a personal site even if I am an agent, but apparently it bothers some people and if I have offended any of you with my comments I apologize. I shall refrain from doing that further if it is going to reflect on me professionally or on the agency. I certainly don't want that.

I suppose I should have known better. I was a chamber of commerce manager for 30 years and could not be vocal about personal opinions because it was necessary for me to work with both parties. That's one reason why I am a lifelong independent and  have never been affiliated with a political party. I guess I should have realized I am still working with people on both sides of the aisle and nothing has changed. I would have never done it on this Hartline site, of course, but now it is clear to me that I should not do it there either.

If you have agreed with me, thank you, and if you have not I have realized the error of my ways. I shall now go back to being a full time literary agent and not a political pundit.

Just Write It by Andy Scheer

Have you written anything today? Will you? What about yesterday—or tomorrow?

This past week a friend sent me a set of quotes from famous writers. My eyes gravitated to a statement by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury:

Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed.

I've been reading Emperor Norton's Hunch,* a history of trumpet player Lu Watters, who sparked a revolution in jazz in the 1940s and early '50s. Like many of his generation, his career was deferred as he answered his country's call to arms. But rather than abandon his dreams or put them on a shelf, he did what he could during the war to prepare to launch a reconstituted band in peacetime.

Serving in the Navy aboard a slow transport, the S.S. Antigua, bound for Hawaii, he forced himself to engage in what became his most productive period as a composer.

Every day, just to get away from everything . . . I went to the bow of the ship . . . and I wrote a tune a day. Some of them weren't very good, and . . . of course I knew this. When you write a tune, once in a while you get a wild inspiration and you outline a tune and if you have any sense after that initial stage you'll play around with it a little bit, but anyway I wrote one a day.

Those “tunes,” the author notes, were not just simple compositions, but ones of some complexity. And thanks to Watters's postwar band, The Yerba Buena Jazz Band, and others they influenced, many become traditional jazz standards.

A photo caption in the book identifies the dates that Watters, at the bow of the S.S. Antigua, wrote these tunes:
Annie Street Rock”—Sept. 10, 1944
Sage Hen Strut”—Sept. 11, 1944
Antigua Blues”—Sept. 12, 1944
Big Bear Stomp”—Sept. 13, 1944
Hambone Kelly”—Sept. 14. 1944

If you want to write something good, you have to write something. To avoid writing mistakes, false starts, and material you'll have to discard, don't write anything.

The acronym comes in several forms, but the one I know is FOKSIC. Fingers on keyboard, seat in chair.

Your turn.

* See for a video of the Yerba Buena Stompers, a Lu Watters tribute band, playing “Emperor Norton's Hunch,” composed aboard the S.S. Antigua.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Real Men Eat Quiche! By Linda S. Glaz

And real men read romance!

Not so much. 

And the few who write it, hide the fact with maybe the exception of Nicholas Sparks.
Last year at a local conference, I noticed that there were only a handful of male attendees. Maybe 10 or 12. I asked one of the men what he wrote. Answer? Romance. But he said it so quietly I had to ask again as I hadn’t heard him. He looked around, leaned closer, and in the same voice said, “Romance. But I sort of keep that on the down low.”
He told me he would be submitting under a pseudonym and had no intentions of ever revealing that he was the author.
I didn’t bother to ask him if he ate quiche. The guy had courage, just not enough to admit to anyone else that he wrote romance.
Now, one of my favorite romances is James Patterson’s Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas. Great romance! Wonderful romance! How’d he do it?
I’m not sure how women would feel in general about reading romance from a guy, so I’m asking here and now.
Would you chance a read ?
Fellas, would you write it ?   Read it ?
Please fill us in on your honest responses. I’m rather curious…

Friday, August 24, 2012

Surviving the Pitch to Editors & Agents by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

With so many writing conferences coming up, and the ACFW National Conference around the corner, I thought it would be worthwhile to repost this from my blog. 

When are you ready?
1. When writing fiction, you don’t want to pitch until you’ve completed at least one book. Nonfiction proposals or articles can be pitched as long as you have a solid concept of your idea.
2. When you know you want to be published.
3. Do your research on the conference and know which editors and agents are going to be there. Visit their websites, try to find out what they like and dislike. What kind of works have they recently purchased? What are they acquiring?
4. You may not want to set up an appointment if there are only two editors and both are acquiring contemporaries and all you’ve written is a historical.

Pitch: Is a one-two sentence description of your story.

A pitch should contain four elements:
1. Two Main Characters
2. Goal
3. Conflict
4. Goal + Conflict = Hook

When meeting with an editor or agent in a one-on-one interview, be prepared to discuss the main plot points in your story, as well as goals and motivations of your characters. After hearing your pitch, they will ask you questions about your story and about your writing.

What to bring
1. Business cards
2. Sell-sheets or One-sheets
3. First five pages of manuscript (do not show unless they request it)

What to Expect
At conferences they schedule editors and agents all day long with back-to-back 10-15 minute appointments. You will want to arrive 5-10 minutes early to get in line. If a prayer room is available, you might want to visit it ahead of time.
1. Dress like you’re going into an interview, but be comfortable.
2. Be professional
3. Introduce yourself and ask them how they are doing. Treat them like an individual.
4. You can take note cards with you, but you shouldn’t read from them. This gives them the impression that you’re not as familiar with your work as you should be.
5. Make eye contact. Talk to them like you’re chatting with them. You don’t want to sound so rehearsed that you remind them of a used car salesman.
6. There will be a monitor who will be keeping time. The monitor will tell everyone in the room that they have 1-2 minutes left. When this happens, wrap up the conversation and move on so you don’t take time away from the next person and put the editor behind schedule.

Possible Scenarios

If you only have one proposal, and they aren’t interested, what should you do?
1. Ask them what other genres they are looking for.
2. If you have time, chat with them and spend a few minutes getting to know them. After a while their eyes begin to glaze over from hearing one rehearsed pitch after another.
3. If an editor gives you ideas on how to improve your plot, please be courteous and listen. Ask if they would be willing to look at a proposal if you make their suggested revisions.

What if you have more than one project and you don’t know which one to pitch in your allotted time?
1. Tell them the categories you’ve written such as (contemporary, a Scottish Medieval, Regency, young adult, children’s book, etc.) Then ask them which one they would prefer to discuss.
2. Or choose the one that you feel is written the best or closer to being finished.
3. The editor or agent will guide you in their interests.

Editors and agents will ask questions. Examples include:
1. Why did you write this story?
2. Do you have any other stories or ideas?
3. Can you expand this into a series?
4. If we publish it, how do you plan to market it?

1. Leave your business card, even if they do not ask to see your proposal.
2. Make note if they ask for a query letter, proposal, or the complete. Send them exactly what they ask for and nothing more and nothing less.
3. If they refuse your sell-sheets, don’t force it on them.
4. Thank them for their time. Be sure to walk away with a smile.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writing distractions by Terry Burns

I've gotten enough of the negative campaigning by both political parties, name-calling, half truths, inuenndos and outright lies. I said something about it online, and then wrote a personal blog on it on my website. I want the character assassination to stop and for them to get down to talking about issues . . . how they are going to fix this country.One lady agreed with me, then went on to say that Republicans should wear white hoods so we would know them for what they are. Oh yeah, she got what I was saying.

But my purpose here is not to get political on a literary site. The point I am leading up to is all this has me very distracted. At the Oregon Christian Writer's Conference we were talking about writing time, and one of the biggest thieves of this time is distractions.

I've heard it all of my writing life. "When the kids grow up and move out I'll have time to write."

"When I retire I'll have plenty of time to write."

"When I finish doing (insert big project here) I'll have lots of time to write."

There is never time to write. We don't have it now, and we aren't going to magically have it down the road when some big life change event happens. Life expands to fill available time. Writing time has to be carved out of whatever we are doing at the time and jealously protected. That can be difficult if those in our life haven't "gotten it" yet and aren't helping us to do it. If we aren't getting that support at home we have to take steps to get those closest to us to see that we are serious about our writing, that it isn't just our newest hobby.

I've been lucky. The two people closest to me in my life 'got it.' Mom was the one that really pushed me to write in the first place and was my biggest supporter. I'm so happy she got to see me achieve some measure of success at it before she passed away. My wife, Saundra, is the strongest supporter a man could want. Both of them not only would help me carve out the writing time, but would get on me if I wasn't doing it.

These days writing has to a large extent given way to working as an agent, spending my time trying to get the work of my clients out instead of writing myself. I still get to write some but for the most part my focus has changed. But I still have to work to carve out the time for it because life is still there, still expanding to fill my time, and distractions are still rampant, like social networking . . . and political campaigns.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Would you read on? hosted by Diana L. Flegal

Welcome to our weekly column: Would You Read On? 

Please let us know if you are willing to read on by leaving a thoughtful comment for this contributing author. At the close of this first page you will find a reveal of last weeks nonfiction contributor.

The following page is in the Sci Fi genre.

Kita wasn’t supposed to come home—ever.
Molly rushed through the crowded transportation station, ignoring the sensation of gooseflesh rippling across her arms. Kita, her sister, left seven years ago on an Abraham Project—a missionary pilgrimage six-hundred light years away. It was a life-time commitment…supposedly. The telecom said Kita would need help getting home. But why?
“Molly Jacobsen, report to gabardine info mation kiosk.” The announcement aired across the mass com system, so every person in the transportation station heard it in their personal com link. Molly reached up behind her ear and pressed her own com link. The message repeated in her hearing only. Her stomach already felt tight, now it was cramping.
Gabardine information kiosk? She looked around for something—anything that had any resemblance to what gabardine might be. The communication-translation software missed the mark for the word, “information.”Perhaps it missed translating the color and called it gabardine. Was that green? Grey? Brownish-green? Who knows? It made no sense.
Molly half ran, half walked through the T. Station. Fear drove her on. She calculated Kita had been on the planet ten months, maybe eleven, before the decision was made to send her back home. Why? What went wrong? You’ve always been the stronger person, braver too. Still, it was a three-year suspended hibernation trip—how could anybody survive two suspensions in seven years? It just does NOT make sense!The selection process was so thorough. Kita was one of the top candidates. Why would they send her back?
Anger boiled in Molly’s gut. This pilgrimage made her mad from the get go. She knew her sister would go the minute she started talking about it. It was so like her.
Molly believed in helping the underdog, the helpless innocents, the oppressed.That’s why she became a law enforcer. But to trek across the universe for people who needed help with fertility and at the expense of her own family, no way! Not to mention forever leaving her twin—

Would you read on?

Last weeks courageous author was Jenny Smith. Her newest book is titled; Seriously God? I'm Doing Everything I Know to do and It's NOT Working.  You can connect with Jenny at the following links. Website: Facebook: keepinginstride Twitter: keepinginstride

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Washboard Prose by Andy Scheer

I started reading two novels this weekend. I'd not meant to begin the second so soon, but after several attempts to engage with the first, I gave up.

Outwardly, the two were similar: mass paperback international thrillers published in 2010 by New York houses. The first involved a quest for the tomb of Alexander the Great—the subject of at least three other novels I've enjoyed. The second promised a search for an ancient lost religious artifact.

Despite my interest in the first book's topic, the prose quickly reminded me a trying to drive a washboard road. (If you drive only on pavement, it's a poorly maintained gravel road that's developed a series of closely spaced ridges—like an old-fashioned washboard.)

I'd encountered such a road a few weeks ago when trying to visit a waterfall in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. The online guide said the three and one-half mile drive from the blacktop to the trailhead was well maintained. But I suspect that description was placed by a company that sold replacement tires and performed wheel alignments.

Our view as the road snaked up the side of the mountain was gorgeous, but I was so concerned about not damaging the car, I couldn't enjoy it. If Zapata Falls hadn't come so highly recommended, I'd have turned around after the first half mile.

I remembered that road as I tried to read the Alexander story. Page after page I was distracted by the kind of elements I've told people for years at writers conferences to edit out of their drafts. The author did okay with narrative summary, but his dialogue was piled high with telling. And his characters seldom said anything. Given the choice, they'd grin or laugh their words—or, in a more serious moment, demand or insist them.

If you can write this way and get published by a New York house, why bother to polish your prose? Or so I wondered for a few more pages—until I had to put the book down. I just couldn't get into the story. The writer's technique—if I could call it that—kept calling attention to itself and pulling me out of the story.

So I picked up the other novel—and quickly found myself seventy-five pages in, enjoying the characters, the setting, and the action. It reminded me of driving the previous weekend to La Veta, Colorado, to catch a ride on the Rio Grande Scenic Railway. Smooth pavement, no steep grades, the curves and intersections well marked. Just as it should be.

The weekend after Labor Day, we're considering a return trip. And this weekend, I got another story by the same writer. I think I'll enjoy it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blog or Website? By Linda S. Glaz

A lot of discussion of online presence is going on at my clients’ loop. And one of the questions is:
Is it better to blog or to maintain a website or have both?
Most folks have been in agreement that a blog can serve the same purpose as a website only it gets a fresh makeover every time you leave a new post. You can have the same tabs, links, etc. without being static.
Why would you want to do that? Why not just set the post and leave it alone?
People aren’t going to return to see and read the same old things. You have the opportunity on a blog to review books, interview your favorite authors, and post pictures of your cats and dogs that nobody really wants to see on either one. But hey, you paid $2000 for Rover, so why not? With a blog you have the chance to keep it fresh.
What about a website? The good news here is you can do the website and not be bothered with daily/weekly/monthly maintenance. You set it and go. A new book out? You might add that, but you don’t have the regular changes that you would be investing in a blog.
Then why did my client group choose blogs?
Easy answer. Your updated posts are driving people new and old to your blog. They interact with you. You and they learn new things about the industry. You have the opportunity to voice your opinion. On ANY topic you choose. I know a few folks who maintain 4-6 blogs. All on different topics. A blog is little more than someone digging deep inside and posting their thoughts on a topic. (I guess you can see where blogs might be WAAAAY more information than you’d want) But you’ll soon find those who share your passion for writing, Rover, or any number of topics and can visit like an old friend.
Just remember, if bloggers visit your site, reciprocate, or you find them hanging around much.
Happy blogging!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Making the Most of YouTube by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

This week YouTube has announced that they are disabling the tag options on videos to the public. This is a significant change since most people rely on tagging their video content in a way that allows people to search relevant key words and search terms to find corresponding videos.

Some view this as pure genius on YouTube's part, while others consider it a disaster. People were abusing the tagging feature. Ever wonder how you can type in something and get a few results mixed in that have absolutely nothing to do with your search terms? It's because these abusers go to a very popular YouTube channel and copy and paste their tags into their own. Quite sneaky. And annoying to the rest of us.

The policy evens the playing field a little better. Here are a few tips in making the most out of your YouTube channel.

Don't Forget SEO

All search engines, including YouTube, are designed to deliver the best results that are most relevant to each search. This includes the metadata that you provide when you upload a video. YouTube reads the text that you enter for your channel description/bio, each video’s description and title, as well as closed captioning information and annotations added to your videos.Group your videos into playlists, and optimize those playlists for relevance.

Upload Fresh Content

Since YouTube is owned by Google, new content is ranked higher than old content in the same way as it is with Google. In an attempt to keep your content fresh, don't publish duplicate videos or replace videos with new edits. Instead, use YouTube's video editor for minor edits. Replacing videos restarts the view count, which will make it look lower than it should be for that particular video. Higher view counts are also ranked better than lower view counts.

Encourage Viewers to Rate Your Videos

Since visitors to your YouTube channel can give your videos a rating, YouTube ranks these ratings against other ratings in the search feature. Therefore, encourage your followers to rate your videos. Post your video in as many places as possible to increase your views and rankings. People can actually view your video on other sites where it is linked or embedded.

Create Playlists

Playlists allow you to organize and group videos on your YouTube channel so you can highlight the ones you feel best represent you. Also, you can choose a playlist to feature on your blog or website to further promote them.

Create Annotations on Your Videos

This is one of the best and underutilized YouTube features. Add annotations to videos that include clickable calls to action. These annotations appear on top of your videos for a specified length of time and can include links to other videos, playlists or channels, or include a subscribe option.

All you have to do is go to Video Manager, click Edit on the video of your choice, and select Annotations. Follow the additional options from there.

Design Your Channel with a Brand

You can upload a custom image as the background and choose from a few different layout designs. Include links to your website, blog and other social media sites. Upload your image or logo in the square avatar to give people a sense of who you are.

Do you have a YouTube page? How are you utilizing it?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Computer Glitch by Terry Burns

Have you sent me a submission or an email in the last couple of days? Well, I may not have gotten it.

I hate it when that happens.

I had a computer glitch pop up. I won't go into the details, but all of a sudden all of the email I had worked and deleted showed back up again. That's not so bad. I just check them against the logs and the ones that I've worked I can just delete them again.

But how about messages that have come in and haven't been worked yet. Near as I can tell, those are just gone. Bummer!

I don't know what I can do about it other than put the word out by social media and hope anyone who has sent me something and not gotten a letter of acknowledgement (I try to always acknowledge submissions) will see the note and re-send.

The only alternative that I see is waiting until they write me to check on it and I have to admit that I don't have it. There aren't that many, maybe a couple of dozen, but that's a couple of dozen more than I would like to see this happen to.

Did I mention that  I really hate it when something like this happens?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lessons at a Concert

When you hear the same message several times in one day, maybe it's a good idea to pay attention.

My wife and I, with another couple, drove from Colorado Springs to the small town of La Veta. There we rode the Rio Grande Scenic Railway to their “Mountain Rails Live” concert near the summit of La Veta Pass.

We listened first to Dana and Susan Robinson, folksingers and songwriters from Asheville, North Carolina. Cowboy and country singer Michael Martin Murphey (“Wildfire”; “Carolina in the Pines”) headlined the show.

Having long been professional musicians, both the Robinsons and Murphey have experienced the tension of trying to:
make a living at their craft
please audiences
satisfy demands of publishers
communicate their own messages

Like many folksingers, the Robinsons followed in the tradition of using their lively narrative music to alert and inspire people to the need for change. One of their songs, “What Would Woody Do?” drew on the example of Woody Guthrie (born in 1912 and the author of hundreds of songs, including “This Land Is Your Land”).
What would Woody do?
Write about it,
Talk about it,
Sing about it too.

Murphey played songs from throughout his career, including when he wanted to sing encouraging love songs—in contrast to the lyin' and cheatin' songs that filled the country charts. Recounting his struggle to find positive lyrics—and to convince producers that such music would sell—Murphey paraphrased Woody Guthrie's philosophy that he never wanted to sing songs that made people feel worse.

Back home I found the full Guthrie quote, transcribed from one of his concerts:

I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs that I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you. I could hire out to the other side, the big money side, and get several dollars every week just to quit singing my own kind of songs and to sing the kind that knock you down still farther and the ones that poke fun at you even more and the ones that make you think that you've not got any sense at all. But I decided a long time ago that I'd starve to death before I'd sing any such songs as that. The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow.”

In the early 1980s Murphey found and recorded such a counter-cultural love song, “What's Forever For” (by Rafe VanHoy), and it spent sixteen weeks in the top forty. He followed it with “A Long Line of Love,” by Dove award-winner Paul Overstreet and Thom Schuyler, which also reached number one on the country charts.

Murphey didn't preach. He spoke of his own experiences, his struggles, his convictions--then followed those statements with uplifting songs. Appropriate to the venue, he closed with “This Train Is Bound for Glory” and “Life Is Like a Mountain Railroad (by M. E. Abbey and Charles Davis Tillman):

Life is like a mountain railroad, with an engineer that's brave;
We must make the run successful, from the cradle to the grave;
Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels; never falter, never quail;
Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.

Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore;
Where the angels wait to join us
In Thy praise forevermore.

I came home wanting to “write about it, talk about it, sing about it too.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

I again! Me again! by Linda S. Glaz

I got it again!
So they gave the puppy to John and I. Errghhh.
I can understand when you use I incorrectly in dialogue, because folks speak that way, but just because it sounds like it’s hoity toity better to say it, don’t! When I is used incorrectly, it stands out so much. There’s an easy solution. Whenever you are tempted to say him and I, or her and I, or John and I, just drop the other person.
Would you really say:
So they gave the puppy to I? Of course not. Just by adding another person doesn’t mean you have to switch from me to I.
So they gave the puppy to John and me.
They gave the puppy to me.
See how much better that sounds?
This is one of those that when I read it, I go nuts. How about you? Do you have one grammar/punctuation issue that sends you off the deep end?

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Genre Is Your Book Publicist?

Too many authors make the mistake of hiring a publicist with the expectation of a miracle and with no realistic idea about the buying market in their genre. I'm not saying it's a mistake to hire a publicist, but what I am saying, is that you need to do your homework about the publicist and their area of expertise. Also, you need to do some research on what to expect for your book genre for a first-time author versus a well-established author and start pulling together some ideas and goals.

You really shouldn't hire a publicist until you know what you want and what to expect. Otherwise, you're just leaving yourself wide open for a sales pitch. Publicists know their business and many of them are good at what they do, therefore, they can make it sound like a wonderful package. It's just like any other business. There are legit publicists who will do a great job and give you your money's worth. Some are not so legit, will promise the stars and the moon and you will end up disappointed. Others who mean well and will do their best for you, but their contacts and networks aren't in the realm where you need to take your next book.

It's no different in shopping for a car. You wouldn't plunk down several thousand dollars on a vehicle without doing some research and going for a few test drives, would you? Why should investing in your book or writing career be any different?

Even though you hire a publicist, that doesn't mean they will be able to handle everything and you can go back to researching and writing the next book. They need bios, book covers, endorsements, and answers to interview questions from you. They may need to clear some time on both yours and their schedule to plan and discuss things. They may need you to meet people for live interviews, to be available for podcasts and other media recordings, and give feedback on mockup designs.

Will you have time for these things? If not, you may need a different publicist or package. Most authors work WITH a publicist. Each author is different. Their work habits and styles are varied and just as some agents work for some authors, other agents don't work as well. It's the same with publicists. Are you the type of author who really needs to develop a relationship with your publicist so that you will feel you can trust their judgment? Are you the type of author who doesn't need that tight connection and you can go anywhere as long as they give you a good price and provide quality work?

Are you an author who may want to work on one core area of your platform at a time? For instance, with your first book you just need to establish a platform, but for your second book you might need to build on that platform and make your foundation more solid. By the third book you might want to focus more on increasing your Social Media, or your public speaking engagements, or revamp your online presence to target your market and establish your message more accurately to reflect what you write.

Not all publicists offer the same services, but many offer multiple services. In spite of the wide range of services they may offer, keep in mind that they will have strengths in core areas of the business. This is important as you determine what your needs are and you narrow down your selection. As your writing career advances to various levels and you begin to concentrate on specific areas of your platform, you may find that working with more than one publicist for specific needs off and on at various times will work best for you. It will also open your platform and writing to more networks than what one publicist has established.

Know your needs. Know your expectations. Do your research. Then make a selection.

Post your questions and concerns, and I will do my best to answer. 


Thursday, August 9, 2012

On the Road Again by Terry Burns

Time to get back on the road.

Next week I’ll be at the Oregon Christian Writer’s conference. I’ve been invited there before, good conference, beautiful country, good faculty and the caliber of the writers that attend is very good. It’s August 12-16th just outside of Portland Oregon.

Following that is the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference September 20-23 in Dallas. This is the premier conference for Christian fiction writers and will draw a large delegation of writers. The strength of the programming and the faculty at this conference is outstanding.

October 10-12th I’ll be at the Antelope Valley Christian Writers conference at Lake Hughes just outside of Los Angeles. This will be my first time at this conference but I’m looking forward to it.

October 26-27th will be the East Texas Christian Writers Conference at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall Texas. This is another conference I have attended a number of times, fast-paced, economical, with excellent programming and facilities on a beautiful college campus.

A quick turnaround on October 31st through November 4th will have me at the “Writing at the Ranch” Christian Writers Conference at the Ghost Ranch at Abique New Mexico. This is a beautiful retreat setting that helps recharge your batteries as well as providing terrific program content.

I don’t do conferences between Thanksgiving and New Year, that’s family time, so that will wrap it up for the year. I enjoy doing conferences and trying to work with and encourage writers. Most of the clients that I have came from a conference contact. It’s also a time to make contacts with editors and other industry professionals, seeking information that will help me better serve my clients.

My efforts are leveraged by clients attending conferences themselves and reporting back any information they can gather whether it might be useful to them or not. Gathering such information from any and all sources helps us keep track of an industry that always seems to be in a state of change. The writers? They are there to improve and develop their craft, and to make contacts much in the same manner that I’m trying to do. For writers who are often surrounded by people who don’t really ‘get it,’ it’s good to get off and interface with other writers. Even before I became an agent for years I attended 2-3 writing conferences a year and it has really paid off for me.

How about you? Hope I meet up with you at one of these events.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Welcome once more to our weekly column: Would You Read On?
Please let us know if you are willing to read on by leaving a thoughtful comment for this courageous contributing author. At the close of this page you will find a reveal of last weeks contributor.

The following portion is from a Nonfiction piece:

How did we get to this place?
Oh, I remembered all the mistakes we had made, but when we finally began to wake up, we immediately turned to God.
We had thought he would come through.
He didn’t.
Our house was going into foreclosure, we were moving into a rental house, and God didn’t seem to care. There was no time to rehash this again; Chad and the girls were waiting. They needed me to put on a smile. It could have been worse. As I walked down those steps, I didn’t know it was about to get much worse.
Over the course of two years, like so many families, we faced foreclosure, job loss, the anxiety of no health insurance, and having to learn to adapt to a different income bracket. Somehow, adapting to a higher one had never been an issue.

Please let us know if you are willing to read on by leaving a thoughtful comment for this courageous contributing author. At the close of next Wednesday's post you will find a reveal of this weeks contributor.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

That Spark of Energy by Andy Scheer

For all that I've ranted about the important of tight, accurate writing, I recently got a powerful reminder that there's a lot more to art than mere precision.

The last weekend of July, I enjoyed the traditional jazz festival in Evergreen, Colorado— centered around musical styles from the 1940s and earlier.

Take the Hay Train at the
Evergreen Jazz Festival
Just as novels fall into many sub-genres (how many categories of romances are there?), even traditional jazz comes in many flavors. This year the festival organizers branched away from the more usual styles (New Orleans, Chicago, West Coast) and invited a new group to play in the genre called western swing (a fusion of cowboy music and big band jazz).

A few years back a western swing band had been popular at the festival, so the organizers searched for a group that could come. But they have a tight budget and the big-name acts (such as Asleep at the Wheel) were out of the question. So in the spirit of jazz they found a creative solution: bring from Florida a group of five talented professional musicians who would make their world debut playing in this style—in eight performances over three days.

The opening day I try to catch at least one set by each new group so I can discover which ones to follow from event to event. Having attended the festival before, I expect excellence. And I appreciate most of the sub-genres (even the more obscure ones such as the group playing in the Gypsy style of Django Reinhardt and one playing like Benny Goodman's sextet).

But this year a few groups seemed on the verge of just going through the motions. The musicians were top-notch and they followed carefully crafted arrangements, but their heads stayed buried in their charts. They played all the right notes, but something was missing.

The two groups I most enjoyed did have some charts to refer to, but that's not where their eyes were. They were looking to each other—seeing what spontaneous riff the soloist of the moment was taking and deciding how they could both complement and respond to each other's creativity. They also made good eye contact with the audience—and when they did they were smiling.

This was especially true for Take the Hay Train, the western swing group that had never performed together in this style. In the spirit of jazz they took familiar instrumental and vocal tunes (“San Antonio Rose,” “Jambalaya,” “Lady Be Good,” “Stormy Weather") and experienced the joy of bold experimentation. Yes, they missed some opportunities. At times they could have done better.

And that's just what they did. Each of their next four performances I watched just got better—without losing any of the spark of creativity they were enjoying by taking familiar stories—familiar tunes—and contributing their blend of unique skills and styles.

Before they attempted it, I would have never expected the classic Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol big band tune “Caravan” could be performed by an accordion backed up by a fiddle, guitar, and upright bass. As I think about it, I'm still grinning. Fortunately, Take the Hay Train had the chutzpa to try. Maybe there's a lesson here for artists whose keyboard says qwerty.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Go For the Gold by Linda S. Glaz

Well, it’s been quite the week. Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Ryan Lochte, all with gold medals and that was only the beginning.
Waking up at five or six in the morning, training four hours early and four to six hours later in the day. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. The training doesn’t end. Sweat, hydration, healthy food, good trainers. In between, many of the Olympic hopefuls must hold fundraisers in the their spare time.
Setbacks: pulled muscles, torn ligaments, breaks, strains, shin splints. It never ends. But the goal is always in sight. So elastic wraps, air casts, Icy Hot, physical torture—therapy, and the routine starts all over again.
Before “the competition” there are smaller ones. Local competitions, regional, state, national, and international—World Championships. More pain, more injuries, more challenges and back to square one.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know about the Olympics, but have you ever thought? With their years of hard work, they don’t always win the Gold.
Why should we think as writers that we can sit down without the hours, days, months, and years of sweat, learning, coaches, setbacks and disappointments? Is it really just sitting down and scratching out a story? Or does it follow the Olympic standard of incredible hard work if we want to win the Gold?
Hard work and perseverance pay off.
Go for the Gold!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where to Find Royalty Free Images & Footage by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Even though I'm an author who loves the written word, I'll be one of the first to admit that images are often just as powerful--sometimes instantly--through first impressions. That's why I believe images should accompany blog posts, articles, and are instrumental in video book trailers. It's also why YouTube made such a huge splash and isn't showing any signs of slowing down, and Pinterest is emerging as one of the top Social Media sites these days.

However, since many of us aren't professional photographers, and we can't be everywhere catching every possible image, we often have to rely on photos that others have taken. Therefore, we need to make sure we aren't violating any copyright laws by posting our images. If you take a photo, of objects and places then you have ownership of those photos, but if you take photos of people, you will need to get them to sign a permission release form giving you permission to use and publish their photo. If you choose to use stock photos and video, you'll want to make sure it is royalty-free or in the public domain.

Royalty-Free photos are NOT necessarily FREE!

Royalty-Free refers to the right to use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties for each use or per volume sold, each time it is posted or used, or for a specified time period of use or sales.

Public Domain includes works or intellectual property in which the rights have expired, been forfeited, or are inapplicable.

When I need to use stock photos and videos, here are a few places I go:

Wikipedia - They have lots of photos that have been released into the public domain. I often use them for images of other places I cannot personally visit or things I cannot personally obtain.

Stock.xchng - This is my favorite site for still photos! They often have some great images that you won't find anywhere else. Most of them are free, but once in a while, the author will want permission and you have to email them and ask, or they would like you to give them credit in a byline or link back of some sort.

Flickr - This site has some copyrighted material, but you can do an Advanced Search in the Commons section for public domain images and add to them if you want.

Dreamstime - Free photos that are royalty-free.

iStock Photo - If you have to pay for royalty-free images and video, I like this site the best. You can purchase credits as needed and download the files when you need them. I like this site because of the wide variety of selections they provide in both still photos, illustrations, and video clips.

Free Stock Footage - Royalty-free video footage. You may need to install a plugin to view the video feeds.

ShutterStock - Royalty-free video footage as well as motion animations and still photos. 

Animation Factory - Provides some great motion animations that are royalty-free, as well as PowerPoint backgrounts. 

Pond5 - Royalty-free video, photos and illustrations. Some of the videos are a little pricey, but the still images are $1-$2 ea.

Do you use any sites for images and videos that you would like to share that I haven't listed?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Poor Businessman? by Terry Burns

I was sitting out on the deck having a cup of coffee and thinking about my day. I was a chamber of commerce manager for nearly thirty years representing businesses and doing business. When I had a chance to become an agent I immediately saw there was little difference between representing businesses to other businesses, to suppliers, to government, in all sort of relationships, and representing authors in their relationships, primarily to publishers.

It was like I had been training for thirty years to do the job. But the question that came to my mind over my coffee cup was “as an agent do I make some decisions or choices that are not good business decisions?” I don’t know . . . maybe.”

First, business is necessarily about making a profit. Since I’ve started working as an agent it has been more about trying to help good authors, almost exclusively Christian authors, get their words our there where they will serve the Lord than it has been about money. I’m good with that decision, but is it a good business decision?

I know a lot of agents and editors don’t necessarily answer everyone that submits to them. It takes a huge amount of time, but I do, every one of them. Do I waste a lot of time that way? It’s something I really have to do, but is it a good business decision?

I require all of my clients to be in an online client group so I have the ability to contact all of them at one time but they can choose to only receive such priority messages or to be in the group that can interface with one another which they do . . . a lot. I’ve been told I interface with that group too much, again wasting a lot of time. I like being close to my clients, but is it a bad business decision?

When I took a test at a conference to see how to use what talents I might have for the Lord I came up with three special gifts, writing, music, and the gift of encouragement. I go to a lot of conferences primarily as a use of that gift of encouragement, but even though most pay expenses they cost money anyway and many of them are a straight expense. I’ve gotten most of my clients from conference contacts but for the number of clients that I have, am I spending too much there? Is the number of conferences that I do a poor business decision?

Our agency doesn’t charge any money up front but we do have the ability to charge back telephone, postage and copy expenses. I don’t, I’m not happy charging such things to authors unless I have first made them some money. Another poor business decision? 

I don’t represent profanity or content that I’m not comfortable having my name associated with. I’ve turned down some projects that I could have made some substantial money on for just this reason. It’s a decision I’m comfortable with as a Christian agent, but is it a good business decision?

Better than 80% of my clients have published or contracted since they signed with me, but after we exhausted the more lucrative contacts we got some of them started by going to small publishers. Chances are I won’t even recover expenses on many of these, particularly if we count my time worth anything, but we’re building writing credits on them and I hope they will pay off in the future. A good business decision?

I smile as my coffee cup is now empty. Am I a poor businessman? Maybe so, but as I get up to come back in here and get to work I smile . . . is it possible for that to be true and me still be a good agent? My clients are happy that I’m doing my very best for them. Maybe that’s the only measure that really matters.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

Welcome once more to our weekly column: Would You Read On?
Please let us know if you are willing to read on by leaving a thoughtful comment for this courageous contributing author. At the close of this page you will find a reveal of last weeks contributor.

Prologue (Bangladesh, current day)

            Neena shrank back but Shazari stood firm. “Get away from us,” she hissed.
            Ahmad continued toward them, laughing off Shazari’s fury. “Your husband is dead. You have no income. Soon you will have no food.”
            His grin was sly, evil. “You know you have no other choice.”
            Neena backed against a large tree, trembling. “I will never marry you!” she shrieked. She flung an arm up to shield her face from his sight. “How could you even think I would want to marry you?”
            “Want to?”Ahmad shoved Shazari aside. She pummeled him with uselessly small fists as he drew closer to Neena, close enough for Neena to feel his hot breath against her.
            “It is completely unimportant to me what you want.”
            Neena was shaking violently. Her voice came out in a desperate whisper. “Then . . . why?”
            He gripped a handful of her long, silky hair. “I want to own you,” he said. His chest heaved. “I want your husband’s daughter to know that I won.”
            His voice rose. “I will exact my vengeance on her by destroying your future.”
            Neena slumped down against the tree. Where had Shazari gone? Where had God gone?
            “Let her go.”
            Neena’s head shot up. Rashid stood behind Ahmad, feet planted, a weapon in his hand.
            Shazari stood directly behind him. Her chin was up. Her eyes shot sparks. “We are not as helpless as you think.”
           Ahmad burst into laughter. “You think my weak little brother, who has never stood up for anything in his life, is going to help you?”
            Rashid pointed the gun at his brother. “Let her go, Ahmad. You have made my life miserable since I was a boy, but I will not let you do that to them. I’ve had enough.”
            Ahmad’s eyes blazed, but his gaze failed to force Rashid’s submission.
           Very slowly,Ahmad’s hand released Neena. She rushed around him to Shazari’s side. Both women huddled behind Rashid, taking small steps backward toward the path that led away from the village.
            Rashid backed away with them. “I will take you away from here,” he said. “I will stay with you until I am certain you are safe.”
            Neena, Shazari and Rashid fled the village. “We’ll go to Asha,” Shazari whispered to Neena.“She rescues women in danger. She will have a place for us.”
            “You will never be safe,” Ahmad called after them. “Do you hear me, Rashid? I will find you!”
            He slammed his palm into the tree, shouting words raw with hate. “No matter where you go, or how far, you will never get away from me.”
            Ahmad clenched his hand into a fist, closing fingers around a piece of bark and crumbling it into dust.  “I will have my revenge.”

Would you read on?

Last weeks contributor was Lisa Fowler. Be watching for more about Lisa as she develops her 'Platform'.