Thursday, July 30, 2015

Distractions by Terry Burns

We have coffee each morning out on the front porch. Usually a neighbor or two come join us. We kinda line out our day to get the most out of it. If the wind dictates we often do back deck instead. Usually we watch the sun come up out there.

Front or back deck I see the things that need to be done while I'm sitting there and the priorities of what I have to do often get re-arranged. If I am going to do something outside I have to start early and finish mid-morning when it starts getting very hot.

The things that need to be done are a distraction from what I need to do as an agent or writer. Necessary, or it will entirely get away from me, but a distraction. This morning I was aware of how many distractions there are vying for my time. Our kids have grown up and gone so I can't claim that one, but we have two dogs that demand a lot of attention and care.

Facebook, twitter and other social media are a distraction and we talk about that a lot . . . generally on facebook or twitter. Some degree of interaction there is a necessity but do we spend too much time there, or in the task of promoting ourselves and getting our name out there, too little? Interesting question and one we talk about a lot.

Then there's the list. You know, THE list. Honey-dos, things that need to be done that I don't want to forget but are not as important as something else on my plate at the time. Priorities on this list seem to constantly shift as things are moved forward or back in relation to other things. A lot of things would fall through the cracks without this list but it is always there, nagging me, demanding time.

The world is a big distraction. What is happening in our country and the world at large is hard to ignore. But we can control the amount of time that we allow it to intrude on our thinking.

I have responsibilities to the family, to church, to friends and neighbors and along with responsibilities come tasks and demands on my time. My in-box is a distraction and has to be dealt with, but it is also an important link to my clients and what I need to be doing for them. Most of the time they all need something, and priortizing who to work on can be quite a problem.

It can take a full day to work up a submission, go through my publisher database and get submissions out on a client. With sixty clients that would seem to suggest taking two months to work my way through, but as with other things, nothing is quite that simple. External forces and industry communications can force a client to the top of the list or away from it.

There are submissions coming in from people who would like me to represent their work. How long each of them takes depends on how long it takes to come to a decision as to whether it is a fit for me or not. Yes, I do respond to each one, momma raised me to be courteous.

There's a lot more but you get the idea. All of these forces pulling on me, decisions to be made on the allocation of my time. All of this makes me . . . well . . . normal.

We all have things competing for our time. In fact it is an old saying that "Life expands to fill available time." We just have to be smart about how we do the allocating so that time gets applied to what is most important to us.

How about it? What are the demands on your time? We have 24 hours a day to spend and there won't be any more made available. Are we truly spending it on what is important to us?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Where Do Your Readers Live? by Andy Scheer

They might be clustered in these 20 cities.
Here's one fact about your target readers you likely never consider in your proposal and marketing plan: the cities where they live. But if a recent Amazon statistic is true, that location might make a difference.

The mega-retailer recently released its fifth annual list of the “most well-read cities in the U.S.” The ranking of twenty cities is based by tallying sales data for all book, magazine, and newspaper sales—in both print and electronic format—from April 2014 to April 2015. Cities with more than 500,000 population were ranked according to their per capita sales.

For some reason, the top spot went to Seattle, Washington, home city for Amazon.

The other 19:
2. Portland, Oregon
3. Las Vegas, Nevada
4. Tucson, Arizona
5. Washington, D.C
6. Austin, Texas
7. San Francisco, California
8. Albuquerque, New Mexico
9. Denver, Colorado
10. Louisville, Kentucky
11. Charlotte, North Carolina
12. Baltimore, Maryland
13. San Diego, California
14. Houston, Texas
15. Indianapolis, Indiana
16. San Jose, California
17. Jacksonville, Florida
18. San Antonio, Texas
19. Nashville, Tennessee
20. Chicago, Illinois

If your target readers are clustered in these cities, take a bow.

As for me, I'm happy to live under the radar in a city with only 416,427 population. (In case Amazon is watching, I do subscribe to print versions of two daily papers.)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Slept off the Jet Lag by Linda S. Glaz

Finally home and slept off the jet lag. Great conference in Montrose with wonderful people. Classes and more classes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this week with many brand new writers. They are why I do what I do. The looks on faces when they “get” a concept is priceless. You can tell they’ve been chewing on it for some time and suddenly the light goes on to use a trite expression.
There is a flair and excitement with a huge conference, and there are plenty of them to attend, but for me, the smaller more intimate conferences are where I love to teach and take appointments. You get to know folks on a completely different level. You make friendships that last for years. And, yes, I’m a George Bailey. I love to meet and make friends who come from all imaginable backgrounds and with stories to tell.
And with so many things to learn…for everyone.
Hopefully new writers leave with a better understanding of the elements of writing. Seasoned writers might pick up that one nugget they’ve been searching for, or an agent, or a contract as one woman did last week. The agents and editors might get a stronger grasp of the fears writers carry with them and how to better help them get over those fears.
For me, it’s a matter of getting to know more folks. Seeing into the human condition and hopefully walking away a better person. I do try.
Can we learn from each other? Yes. Can we help one another over bumps in the road? Yes. Can we strike a chord in someone else’s life? Absolutely.
In a couple months, I’ll head out for another venue very similar to Montrose. I’ll be going to Maranatha on beautiful Lake Michigan close to where I grew up. There, another group of emerging authors will be waiting: to learn, to interact, to get over fears, to show their mettle. And I’ll love every second of it until I come home, collapse in my fave lounge chair, and sleep off some of the jet lag. Or, in this case, car lag.
One thing I’ll never forget is the look on faces when someone finally gets it, and I’ll go back again and again in the hope that I can say or do one thing that will encourage a writer to keep writing until they feel as much an author as they truly are.
Enjoy the conference season, folks. It’s gold!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Blog Elements by Jim Hart

As a writer, or author, you need to have a purpose for your blog. It can serve several purposes:
1) Connect you to potential readers who will buy your book(s)
2) Offer some sort of information that will be of value and benefit to the reader
3) Simply entertain the reader

Regardless of why you blog you want people to connect with you on more than a surface level. You want to encourage them to engage with you, and the community or tribe that you’ve formed.

But to do this, you need to offer content of interest to the people that you are already reaching. A consistently strong blog will lead to a stronger marketing section in your proposal. It’s writers’ conference season and soon there will be hundreds – nay, thousands - of new blogs from aspiring writers who have been told to “go forth and blog!”

Here are some things that you can interject and include in your blog to help your blog standout:

Interesting quotes are often shared or re-tweeted! You can use:
  • A quote from an author who writes in your genre
  • A quote from your latest book (just a sentence, maybe two)
  • A quote from another blogger
  • A quote from a person who is somehow historically tied to the subject of your book
  • A quote from the Bible
  • A quote from a popular media figure that somehow ties into the subject of your book
A short memorable fact such as:
  • A fact about the book you just read
  • A fact about the book that you are writing
  • A fact about what you’ve learned about publishing
  • A fact or statistic that you uncovered while researching one of your books
  • A fact about you that would be surprising to your readers
  • A fact from the period in history that you write about
Everyone appreciates some good advice now and then. Share:
  • A tip on how to write the perfect first line of a novel
  • A tip on how to graciously accept a rejection of your proposal
  • A tip on a cool life-hack that you’ve discovered
  • A tip on how to work a writers conference
  • A tip on how to write a great synopsis
  • A tip from something related to your non-fiction book
  • A tip on a tricky grammar rule
Include a link in the body of your copy:
  • A link to one of your older blog posts
  • A link to a blog that you often read, or are quoting
  • A link to where you just wrote a guest blog
  • A link to support something that you wrote about
  • A link to another site that would interest your readers
There’s a reason Pinterest is so popular. People might like to see:
  • A picture of the space that you write in
  • A picture from some cool place that you just visited
  • A picture that makes the reader laugh
  • A picture of you from 20 years ago
  • A picture of a calm nature scene
  • A picture of your cat
  • A picture from you book signing
These are great for eliciting a response and a comment:
  • Ask the reader if they agree or disagree with your current post
  • Ask the reader to help you name the brother of your protagonist
  • Ask the reader how many times they were rejected before being offered a publishing contract
  • Ask the reader who they would cast in the movie of their life
  • Ask the reader to subscribe to your blog

So…what’s your favorite blog element?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The interview by Terry Burns

It was a one on one meeting at a conference like the one shown here. But this time it was a young lady. She sat down and I waited for her to launch into her pitch.

That's not what happened.

Instead of talking about a project she began to tell me why she couldn't write. She was a working mother which took up her time. What time was left over her kids seemed to take up. There was time given at her church, family obligations, shopping, laundry . . . she went on and on with the reasons she had no time to write.

I knew by then that no pitch was coming but I didn't know why I was hearing all of this. Then she stopped, looked at me earnestly and said, "Do you think I should quit writing?"

I didn't bat an eye, "Yes."

She looked shocked. I think she was looking for some encouragement, maybe a little motivation. i didn't think that was what was needed at all.

"Most of the writers I know aren't doing it because they want to, they do it because they HAVE TO.  It is important to them, something they simply have to do. They can't give it up. But it's a hard business, full of rejection and disappointment. They have something to say and it is very important for them to say it. If you can walk away I encourage you to do it."

She walked away, stunned. It was not what she expected. But if she could give it up it would give her time for her kids and her family without the guilt of feeling the writing was being neglected.

She met me in the hall the next day and said she had thought on it and prayed about it and she knew she was one of those who could not give it up. "Then you have to find a way to carve out the time for it," I said. I told her writing time simply did not exist. That there would never be a time when it was just available for the using. Life doesn't allow that, life expands to fill unused time. The time has to be found, then jealously protected and on some degree of reasonable schedule.

When she sat down with me, neither of us knew what the appointment held in store for us. I think it was a wake up call. I hope it was.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Does Your Title Work? by Andy Scheer

Three words just grabbed me.

I was scanning an email from a local library about author appearances. I didn’t expect any interesting information, but I checked anyway. Maybe something would surprise me.

Kind of like my mindset when I scan the shelves at a bookstore. I need another book like a moose needs a hat rack, but maybe I’ll find something superb. Sometimes I do.

Like today. Those three words ambushed me. They told me the author dared to stand out from the crowd. And that he had the skill to assemble his words in a way to entertain and please.

Enticed by the title, I read the blurb. They confirmed my hunch that this is an author worth investigating:

An Evening with Bestselling Author Spencer Quinn
Celebrate the dog days of summer with Spencer Quinn, the author of seven bestselling Chet and Bernie mysteries. Chet, the dog, who narrates the novels, works with PI Bernie on tough cases.

Bullseye for me, the target reader. I’m a longtime fan of detective stories. Especially ones with a sense of humor. While I’ve read a few cat detective stories (The “Big Mike” series by Garrison Allen, from the mid-1990s in Kensington’s “Partners in Crime” line) I prefer dog stories. Even dog international thrillers (Kill Switch by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood).

Prompted by Spencer Quinn’s three most important words, I plan to look into his series. I’ll start with book one. I’ll check the first line, the first paragraph, the first page. If I like what I see, I’ll jump into the story.

I hope I like it. If I do, I’ll probably read all seven.

Maybe I’ll even buy the newest and see about getting it signed on Saturday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the Philip S. Miller memorial library in Castle Rock.

All because of the title’s three words: Scents and Sensibility.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Further Adventures of.... by Jim Hart

Last weekend one of our local libraries held their annual book sale. This is an event to raise money by selling donated books. Lots of donated books. Tables and piles of donated books.

The smallest sections were RELIGION and SCI-FI, which is where I headed first. The largest section, of course, was FICTION. The MYSTERY section was pretty full also, though.

It didn’t take me long to go through the Religion section and I quickly scored a copy of 90 Minutes in Heaven. The Sci-fi tables yielded Greg Bear’s Moving Mars. In the Fiction section I was pretty happy to find a book by Ted Dekker, and then one by Creston Mapes in the Mystery Section.

It’s interesting to note that I could have bought the complete set, in hardcover, of the Left Behind series. I also could have picked up the entire Twilight trilogy. But I left them for someone else.

I did notice that while poking through the selections I was mentally taking inventory of what titles were already in my private library. And specifically which ones were on a shelf, or in a pile, or in a box. “Do I have this book?” “Do I need another copy of that one?” Can you relate?

I was also wondering why there were fewer books to be found in the religion and sci-fi sections. I only came up with these reasons:

1) Those categories are not top selling, so naturally they are outnumbered by other genres.
2) Readers tend to hold on to, and treasure, their religious and sci-fi books.
3) All of the above

And of course it makes me ask “how hard is it for you to give away your books?”

It’s always exciting to encounter a good used book sale. But, especially for those active in the publishing industry, we still know how important (and thrilling) it is to buy a new book from the shelf of whatever local bookstore still remains in our community.