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Posts Tagged ‘Business of Writing’

Agents and Editors: Do Your Due Diligence

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 1, 2014

 Do Your Due Diligence

My husband and I have been investigating local contractors prior to doing an update on our three bathrooms. Here are the results of our search. Stay with me, and I’ll relate this process to your writing career.

Contractor #1 has a modest showroom that offers a variety of product choices and designs. Their rep came to our house, took measurements, and made knowledgeable suggestions. He pointed out the electrical outlets that he said needed to be updated to code, and that would cost $150 for an electrician. He gave us a written estimate, and the pricing seemed reasonable.

We got the name of this company through ads in the unsolicited home circulars we receive. I looked the company up online. Bad reviews. Then I called an electrician as one of those outlets he’d mentioned failed. The electrician found the fault in the overhead light wiring, fixed it, put in a new dimmer switch at my request and charged only $85. He said the other outlet was fine and neither needed to be changed to be brought up to code. Uh-oh. If Contractor #1 wasn’t telling the truth about one item, what else might he suggest that would inflate the price? My husband was turned off by the negative reviews.

Here is what we have:

FamilyBR Cabinet  Shower Wall

Contractor #2 has a ritzy showroom with high-end sinks, cabinets, toilets and accessories. A receptionist greeted us upon our entry and asked if we’d like coffee or a soda. Then a salesman came to guide us around and ask about our needs. Right up front, without viewing our measurements, he quoted a remodeled shower at $10-15,000. This wasn’t for anything else we needed and seemed extraordinarily high, nearly double what the first guy had quoted. We weren’t changing the configuration, just redoing the walls and fixtures. Glancing at our casual clothes, he didn’t bother to have us fill out a customer form but gave us his card.

How did we learn about this company? It was recommended by a friend, who knew another friend who’d used them and was happy. They lived in a waterfront condo on the Intracoastal and no doubt had funds to spare. Clearly this company, with its high overhead, catered to wealthy customers. My husband didn’t care for their arrogant attitude.

Here is what I want:

P1000928   P1000927

Contractor #3 has a showroom in a quiet back street downtown but not in a great area. The office is tiny with a few choice cabinetry samples as well as a narrow choice of hardware and sinks. You have to order your own tile but they would install it. We were referred to the owner by a friend who’d used her services and was pleased with the results. The lady in charge wouldn’t give us a quote until we gave her our measurements and picked samples of styles we might like. Her base quote was within range of what we’d like to spend. When I looked them up online, I found a basic website but not much else.

Contractor #4 we discovered by viewing their name on a truck in the neighborhood and seeing their workmen in action. I found their website and got the address. Where was it? It turned out to be a mail box in the local UPS store. No physical presence. As I walk around the block, I see their logo trucks in front of the neighbor’s home. They’re obviously working there. But no physical office or showroom? That’s always a warning sign for me.

So what’s our choice? We’ve asked Contractor #3 to come out with her installer and see our layout before giving us a more accurate quote, and that won’t include the cost of the tile. But so far, she’s the best of the bunch.

Which one, if any, would you choose?

So how does this lengthy dissertation relate to writing? You need to be just as careful when researching agents and editors. Do they work for a reputable firm? What can you find out about them online? Can your fellow authors provide recommendations? Who’s worked with this person or publishing house, and were they happy? Check over at Editors and Predators for warnings about unscrupulous persons to avoid. Google them online and see what pops up. Look for them on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. In other words, do your due diligence. Don’t accept someone who looks good, like that company with the ritzy showroom. They might be perfect for certain clients but not for you. Check the approved publisher list of a professional writing organization in your genre. And determine your criteria before starting your search. If you get any negative vibes, listen to them. Here are some additional resources:

http://aaronline.org/
http://www.agentresearch.com
http://www.agentquery.com
http://pred-ed.com/
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com
http://www.querytracker.net
http://www.savvyauthors.com
http://www.sfwa.org/Beware


Tomorrow I’m at the Kill Zone speaking about “Avoiding Info Dumps.” Be sure to visit!

 

 

Posted in Business of Writing, That's Life, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Social Media Tips

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 28, 2014

Humanizing the Web with Marc Ensign

Marc Ensign

At a recent meeting of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, nationally acclaimed social media expert Marc Ensign advised us to be a Dick and follow the Ten Virtues when it comes to social media. He described his neighbor named Dick who welcomed him into the neighborhood and was always looking after Marc’s interests, sharing his resources and time very generously. From studying Dick’s manner, Marc decided this approach could work on social media as well. His philosophy is akin to Do Unto Others as you would have them Do Unto You. Be kind, generous, and giving, and you’ll help to save the Internet. Here are his Ten Virtues, subject to my interpretation and the accuracy of my notes:

Be Engaged with other people. Listen intently to your connections. Build relationships. Market the people around you. Listen to them and comment on their sites. Like aspiring authors’ posts and websites. Help others get their message out. Connect and give people what they want.

Be Valuable by helping other authors who want to get published. Mentor them, tell them how you did it, and offer tips. Add value to your relationships. Make it about “let me help you” and not about selling.

Be First to offer help before you’re asked. “Let me give something to you first.”

Be Welcoming by putting people at ease, sharing ideas, introducing new options. Welcome everyone even if they disagree with you. Talk about it with them. Make it a conversation. Be open to hearing what people have to say.

Be Humble. Your purpose should be bigger than yourself as an author, than being on the bestseller list or having a high Amazon rating.

Be Authentic. Be true to yourself in all that you do.

Be Generous by helping people and giving information away. People will see you as a resource. On your website, offer free articles and other resources. Your philosophy should be “Let me give to you” rather than “Let me give to you and see what I’ll get from it.”

Be Transparent to appear more human. Talk about what problems you’re having in your writing. Like, “Here’s what I’m doing with this character. Why isn’t it working?” or, “Why isn’t this book selling?” Let people into your life and into the scary stuff of your career.

Be Perceptive by being aware of what’s going on in other people’s lives. Follow up on people’s blog posts by returning later and inquiring about an earlier issue.

Be Awesome. Reach out through your blogs, comments, and sharing. How can you be awesome for someone else?

It’s all about caring, giving, and sharing yourself without being concerned about what you’ll get in return.

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Marc Ensign has been featured in/on CNN, the Huffington Post, Inc 500, Forbes, New York Post, PR Daily, Jezebel, and ProBlogger.

Website: http://www.marcensign.com
Twitter: @MarcEnsign
http://Googleplus.marcensign.com
http://Facebook.marcensign.com
http://Linkedin.marcensign.com

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Technology, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teamwork for Cross-Promotion

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 27, 2014

Teaming up for Cross Promotion with Nancy J. Cohen, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Erin Mitchell and moderated by Maggie Toussaint

This is my last recap of panels from SleuthFest 2104. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Like my page, then click on Photos, Albums, and SleuthFest 2014.

Cross Promotion

Erin says cross-promotion works best when there’s something in it for everyone. When you have an audience, you have something to bring to the table. Readers are a good resource. Ask them questions and engage them directly. Know where you can find them. The purpose is to build your brand. Write some valued content and distribute it into various venues.

I discussed my lifeboat team, Booklover’s Bench. We’re a team of seven multi-published authors who have a website together where we offer monthly contests, behind-the-scenes glimpses of our working life, excerpts, profiles, and more. We cross-promote by offering prizes for each other’s contests in some cases as well. Measurable results include increased numbers of names for our mailing lists, added Likes to our Facebook author pages, more followers on Twitter, additional Likes on our Amazon author pages, and having our books placed on Goodreads TBR lists.

I’m also a regular blogger on The Kill Zone, a blogging site with 11 mystery/thriller authors where we offer writing instruction, publishing advice, and marketing tips along with our musings on The Writing Life.

Libby cautions that you should be careful and must really like the work of people in your group. Some may be more invested than others. Personalities are important. She belongs to a group of suspense writers, both hybrid and traditionally published authors who’ve moved on to self-publishing. They have done a round robin story together, two anthologies, and a how-to write crime fiction work. They’ve tweeted and shared posts on FB for each other. One advantage of a sizable group is that they can negotiate terms with online book retailers.

Her group invested money to hire a website designer who also maintains their site. They also paid for a cover designer on the anthologies. Their income helps counter expenses. They have rules for dissolution in their LLC’s operating agreement or for dissolving the LLC in the future. This helps members take their commitment seriously.

Libby recommends the following blogs:

The Passive Voice

Digital Book World

Joe Konrath

Kris Writes

The Dames of Dialogue

Indie Chicks

Nancy J. Cohen and Maggie Toussaint

Maggie and Nancy from Booklover’s Bench.

This concludes my SleuthFest report. I hope you have enjoyed these summaries and will consider attending in person next year! Keep watch for details at http://mwaflorida.org/

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What is the Best Publishing Path?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 10, 2014

“What is the Best Publishing Path?” with Marty Ambrose, Doug Giacobbe, Julie Compton and moderator Joanna Campbell Slan at SleuthFest 2014.

We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Like my page, then click on Photos, Albums, and SleuthFest 2014.

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Julie said, “What you think you want before you get published is different from what you realize you want after you get published.” What she really wants now is for readers to read her book whichever way she can get it out there.

Regarding self-publishing, Doug said that you have to get involved. “Get out there and push it. It takes a commitment to make things work. You’ve got to take the time to work it.”

Marty suggested you get an agent at the conference if you want to go the traditional route.

Regarding agents, Julie said to find someone who is forward-thinking and who will support you if you decide to self-publish.

“The whole game has changed in regard to agents,” Joanna advised. “This is your career and your book, and you need to be in the driver’s seat. Be wary of giving away your rights to gain a publisher, or it might come back and hit you in the face.”

Ask yourself why you want to publish your own work. Is it because your manuscript has been rejected? If so, you need to hire an editor.

Joanna mentioned that you might need three types of editors. First there is the concept or story editor, followed by a copy editor, and then a galley proofreader.

Doug cautioned that if you have a book, don’t just slap it up on Amazon. If you’re going to do it right, it takes time and commitment, and it will cost you.

Marty suggested you examine what it is about writing that you absolutely love. You can get caught up in the marketing, so go back to basics and rediscover what you love about storytelling. Regarding marketing, she takes the grassroots approach into colleges, the community, and women’s clubs where she collects names for her mailing list. She also does online marketing.

“It’s a business,” Julie said. “You are not just writing now. You need to take the time to learn the craft and business of writing. One of the advantages of self-publishing is that your book is available quicker.”

No matter which route you go, you’re going to have to learn marketing because you’ll do it either way.

Suggested blogs to follow: The Passive Guy, Jane Friedman, Hugh Howey, and Joe Konrath.

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Self-Publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 9, 2014

We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Go there, Like my page, then click on Photos. Next click on Albums and then SleuthFest 2014.

“What I Wish Someone Had Told Me” with Spotlight Speaker Hank Phillippi Ryan at SleuthFest 2014

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Approach your writing one page at a time. Just do it and follow your dreams. Be ready for the 40,000 word slump. Somewhere in the middle, we all have a slump. “I’m just not sure if I can finish it.” You will if you want to. So how do you get rid of this panicky self-doubt? You don’t, but know that you are not alone. Power your way through your first draft. Just tell the story. You can fix it later. Go word-by-word. Everyone has doubts. But it is never that bad, and it might even be good. So before you crash and burn your manuscript, make a copy. Also remember when you first had the idea for the book and fall in love with your story again. You’ll have renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

Don’t waste time seeking the Holy Grail. There is nothing. There is only your way. If it works for you, that is the right way. If you stall, there is another way. There is always another way.

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Get yourself into the real world and put yourself in a community where you can talk to people about the same things. You are not alone. You write alone, but we are all here with each other, and we all have the same goals.

Don’t underestimate how hard it is to take criticism. Listen with an open mind. You don’t have to do it the way they suggest.

What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail? There is no writer’s block. Open your mind to see what’s wrong. Don’t panic. Listen to your inner voice.

Don’t rush. Wait until your book is ready before submitting. Then get ready to be rejected. Every “no” means you are one step closer to a “yes”. Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence.

Be careful of the Internet. Write first. Ask yourself, What is the most important thing for you to do today? Don’t forget to celebrate at every turn. Be happy. We all want more, but be happy with the journey as it’s full of wonders.

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Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

“Why Write a Series?” at SleuthFest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 8, 2014

We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Go there, Like my page, then click on Photos. Next click on Albums and then SleuthFest 2014.

“Seriously Series” with Joanna Campbell Slan at SleuthFest 2014

In choosing what to read, knowing a book is part of a series might convince you to buy it since there’s a certain degree of success involved. If you really love a book, you’re also happy to know there are more to come in a series. So readers gravitate to series for many reasons. “The richer the world you create, the richer the experience for your readers.”

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What returns readers to a series? It feels like you’re revisiting an old friend. This offers a sense of comfort. Plus you know what you’re getting. Familiarity is at the heart of a series. Characters, setting, and occupation may be recurrent.

“You create a universe and populate it.” Do a street chart and a floor plan. Sensory details make the story rich for readers. Have a timeline for your characters. Determine the timing between stories, character ages, grades, and birthdays. “The best part of being an author is when readers believe your characters are real.”

Keep track of places as you write. If you have a fake town, get a map of a real town and change the names. Use it as a model for your town. In your story bible, put a snippet of background on each character, locations, stores in the town, along with stylistic notes such as the chapter heading. Include a style sheet for grammar and special items, such as how to put in craft instructions or recipes. This story bible may also include social issues, time of year, and more.

“Novels are about people. You don’t have a novel about scrapbooking. You have a novel about a character who does scrapbooking.”

If you have a scene that doesn’t go anywhere in a long novel, consider writing a short story. Short stories are also good for side issues, like pre-wedding details or for exploring secondary characters.

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Poll your readers and ask what character they would like to see more prominent in your next story.

“Every strength overused is a weakness” in your character. Try to give each person a personal problem to overcome. What are they trying to work out? What are they worrying about? Make the characters different ages because then they’ll have different issues. Everybody has angst. Every now and then, your character’s mask should slip so the reader gets a glimpse of what’s there.

End every book with a cliffhanger. Solve the mystery in this story but start a new one. Ask yourself, what seed can I plant now that will bear fruit in a future book?

“The first line sells that particular title; the last line sells the next book.”

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Joanna is the author of the Kiki Lowenstein mystery series and the Jane Eyre Chronicles.

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Preparing for a Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 21, 2014

How long does it take to prepare for a conference? Soon I’ll be heading to SleuthFest in February, Lake County BookFest in March, Malice Domestic in April, the Florida Library Association Convention in May, and Mystery Writers Key West Fest in June.

It can take me several weeks to get ready for each event and another couple of weeks to decompress and get caught up upon my return home. That’s a lot of time lost, not to mention money for gas, lodgings, registration fees, promo materials, etc. However, it’s time and money well spent from the benefits you receive by meeting other authors, booksellers, fans, and industry personnel.

FLA2013 Mystery

Conferences necessitate a lot of preparation, especially if you’re going as a speaker. Aside from determining your particular goals for this event—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to consider.

  1. Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.
  2. If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material and get copies made of handouts.
  3. If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.
  4. Order business cards unless you have them already. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.
  5. Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the tables.
  6. Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways.
  7. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.
  8. Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price.
  9. Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.
  10. Consider giving a couple of books away at the Q&A sessions for your talks.
  11. If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.
  12. Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to put out at signings.
  13. Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.
  14. Bring a highlighter along so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.
  15. Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.
  16. Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching shoes, handbags, and jewelry.
  17. Determine what gadgets to bring along: iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?
  18. Pack a notebook to take notes. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge.
  19. Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.
  20. If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.

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And the countdown begins. What else would you add to this list?

To see my upcoming conference appearances and virtual blog tour, go here: http://nancyjcohen.com/appearances/

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Building Reader Loyalty

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 11, 2014

Barbara Vey was the guest speaker at the February 2014 meeting of Florida Romance Writers.

Barbara Vey1

As Contributing Editor for Publishers Weekly, Barbara Vey brings readers and writers together with her popular Beyond Her Book blog. An avid reader as well as a blogger, Barbara spoke about how authors can build and retain their readership.

“Think in terms of one reader at a time,” she advised listeners. Here are her pointers for gaining and retaining readers. Any mistakes in paraphrasing or interpretation are mine.

Find a common ground with your readers and form a community. How can you do this? By branding yourself. Be consistent with your brand. Use your author name and brand for everything.

“You are your product. You are a business. Act like it.” Avoid religion, politics, or anything controversial so you don’t alienate people.

“Be prepared when you go out in public. Carry copies of your books, bookmarks, and business cards. Talk to people everywhere, i.e. restaurants, bookstores, airplanes, the supermarket. Ask folks what they like to read, get a discussion going, and then mention you’re an author.”

“Visit and comment when people mention you online in tweets, posts, etc. Show that you have noticed and are paying attention.”

If you get a good review or a reader makes a positive comment on your work, be polite and say “I’m so glad you enjoyed my book. Thank you.” But don’t go near a negative reviewer.

Be seen on Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Talk about fun and interesting things rather than your books all the time. On Facebook, focus on your Author page and not on your personal page.

For unpublished writers, “the time to start marketing is before you publish your book.”

Re advice others will give you: “Listen to what people say and then pick what applies to you.”

Barbara Vey2

“Be yourself. Talk like you’re talking to friends. Be friendly, ask questions, reply and retweet.”

Don’t have someone else do your posts and lie about it. If you have an assistant, for example, have them identify that they are posting on your behalf. Don’t let them pretend to be you.

Use hashtags during TV shows, sports events, elections etc. and tag people with the @ symbol.

Don’t use foul language or talk politics/religion, or you’ll always offend someone.

Map out your plan of action for the day and do what needs to get done.

“Follow people who are fun and who say interesting things” to learn what they do.

Comment. Like. Share. If you Like someone’s FB post, you’ll keep seeing their posts in your newsfeed.

Help each other out. Link to websites in blogs when you mention someone. Everyone MUST have a website. Make sure your About page shows something interesting and unique about you.

Post daily, share yourself, and ask readers their opinions.

“Giveaways are huge.”

Promote others. If you promote them, they’ll promote you. Barbara especially loves the romance community because “everyone helps everyone else.”

If you build your community, readers will come and they will stay.

“If you want to be successful, consider this a career.”

Tell people about your writing and let them make the decision about what they read. Don’t make assumptions, like a guy won’t want to read your book. You never know what will appeal to someone.

What do Readers want?

“Series that pull you in so the characters become like your family.”
“Respect for the reader.”
“Consistent writing.”
“Authors must have a warmness, or at the very least, politeness.”

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An avid reader, Barbara consumed a book a day before taking on the glamorous life of a roving reporter. Traveling all over the United States to Barbara Veyconferences from Romance to Thrillers, Mysteries to Horror, Historicals to Comic Con, Barbara has even broken through the barrier into the entertainment industry by covering Red Carpet Events and interviewing the likes of Richard Dean Anderson, Joshua Jackson, Joss Whedon, Chris Evans and others. But her love of Romance keeps her grounded while she offers readers a place to step away from life’s daily trials to take a positive journey through the world of books.

Website: http://barbaravey.com/
Blog: http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/beyondherbook/
Reader Events: http://www.readerevents.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barbaravey
Twitter: @BarbaraVey

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ENTER MY VALENTINE’S DAY CONTEST NOW. Go here to enter and for more contest info: http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

If you’re a reader, what do you want from an author?

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Business Card Protocol

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 27, 2013

“Never leave home without it.” American Express uses this advertising slogan but it can well apply to your life as a writer, too. Always carry bookmarks, postcards, or business cards with you. You never know when the opportunity will arise to pass them out.

Today, we met up outside the post office with a former colleague of my husband’s whom he hasn’t seen in years. The men got to chatting. When the friend mentioned how he listened to audio books on his trips north, I whipped out my card. Ah ha, a booklover, I thought! Even though my mysteries are not available in audio formats (and I have asked for my rights back, in case you are wondering, but the publisher is hanging onto them), I figured he might look up my works or pass the card along to his wife.

Then I went shopping for some black leather gloves to take to New York City, when I go there next month for my orientation as President for Florida Chapter of MWA. I gave the saleslady a business card in exchange for my receipt. She was delighted to meet an author. So maybe I scored two readers out of today’s excursions, who knows?

It’s easier to carry a business card than other formats in your purse or pocket, so what should you include? I buy my cards at Vistaprint and use their templates. That makes things simpler. Since I brand myself as a Florida author, the palm tree motif suits my needs just fine.

Side One

You could put your book cover on side one and the information on the other. But I use my first side to introduce who I am as an author.

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Here you’ll find my tag line, social links to Twitter and Facebook, my Website and Blog URLs, plus my email address. In the early days, I listed my PO Box address and phone number. I wouldn’t do this anymore. Few people contact me this way now. However, I do keep a couple of those cards around for conferences or events where I might make contact for a possible speaking engagement. I’ll hand those people the cards with my phone number. Everyone else gets this card, and I carry them everywhere.

Side Two

This is where the book info goes: title, author name, series, ISBNs, formats and buy links. I provide QR codes that take readers either to my Website or my Amazon author page.

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What is a QR code? It’s a box with encoded information that sends customers to a page online where they obtain information or perform an action. The site may be a URL or may show text such as an excerpt from your latest book. Smartphone users must download a free QR reader app to scan the codes. How do you get your own code? Type “QR Code Generator” into your search window. Go to the site and follow directions. Save your code as a picture file to your computer. Make sure you label what it is so you can remember. Then use it on your printed promotional materials.

Since I write in two genres, I’ve put one mystery book cover and one romance book cover on my business cards. My latest title is the one that’s usually featured (Warrior Prince isn’t my latest, but you get the idea). Once you have the template on Vistaprint, it’s easy to substitute new book covers and data.

Besides handing out your business cards at conferences or putting them on your book signing table, what else can you do with these items? Stick them in the bills that you still snail mail to the vendor. Hand one with your restaurant receipt to the waitress. Give one to the post office clerk, people you meet at parties, anyone who mentions they like to read. One thing I do not stoop to doing is approaching strangers who are reading. I don’t care to intrude. Otherwise, blatant self-promotion is the rule. Don’t be afraid to toot your horn.

What do you put on your business cards?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Make Your Own Book Trailer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 19, 2013

Would you like to create your own book trailer in Windows Live Movie Maker? It’s a way to save money and to maintain control over your project. If so, be prepared to spend time on a learning curve. The first effort is the hardest, but then you’ll know what to do for subsequent titles. Just follow these steps for Windows 7, and you’re on your way. Most likely, if you have a PC, you already have this program on your menu. If not, Go Here and download it for free. (I also use the Windows Live Photo Gallery to store and edit my photos.)

My recent trailer for Hanging By A Hair cost me $58 for the images and music from 123rf.com. The images are perfect for the story, and the music adds tension. Click below if you haven’t seen it yet.

There are some companies that will do trailers for you on the cheap, but their work is similar to mine with a slide show. As the author, I’d rather pick out the photos and music that best suits my story. If you’re a big moneymaker, a bestselling author, or perhaps a thriller writer whose work demands a broader canvas, then you can go for the moving videos, the productions using real actors, or the voiceovers. But if you’re the average writer who wants to give your readers a taste of the story without making a big splash, this will work for you.

Do Your Homework By Watching Book Videos

Go to author sites or YouTube and find trailers for books in the same genre as your work.
Write down the text on each slide and note the type of image accompanying it.
Listen to the music. How does it make you feel? Does it create a certain mood?
Does the story move quickly while giving you an idea of the plot and main characters?
How long is the trailer?
What do the credits say at the end?

Write Your Text

Now write your own text in verses to fit on each slide. Remain brief, offering your story points in as few words as possible. The text should give the reader an idea of what your story is about, the tone of your work, and an introduction to your main characters.

Ask your critique partners for input. You’ll need other critical eyes to help you hone down your plot to a few jaunty sentences. It’s not an easy task.

Remember the adage: Short and Simple. Try to keep your video under 2 minutes.

Search For Images

These are the main three sites that I’ve used:

http://www.123rf.com Medium-sized image is 565 x 847 px and are 2 credits each. You can by 20 credits for $20 or 40 credits for $38. Music is available here too. I bought mine for 30 credits. Make sure you read the fine print on the terms. I bought standard licenses. If you want to use an image as a book cover, you’d need a print only extended license.

http://www.bigstockphoto.com/ Small-sized images are 600 x 900 px and are 1 credit each. You can buy 10 credits for $35 or 25 credits for $49.

Reading the fine print on the terms for this site, you’ll see that you cannot use images as part of an online album or collection. I’ve interpreted this to mean you cannot pin these images to your boards on Pinterest. Since I like to make an image board for each book, I won’t buy my trailer images here unless they have one I can’t find elsewhere.

If you see a photo you like, look at the description under it and go to your preferred image site. Put that same wording into the search box. A similar photo might pop up there. You can also click “similar images to this one” if you want more pictures with the same actor.

http://www.istockphoto.com/ Small is 567 × 847 px. 10 credits cost $19.99; 30 credits costs $49.99, but you may be only getting 6 images at 5 credits each for this price.

Credit package prices are current at the time of this blog post and may change, so check for yourself. Figure out how many credits you’ll need per photo for the above mentioned sizes and what the packages cost. Also check the licensing terms to make sure they meet your needs.

Here are more sites I’ve collected:

http://browse.deviantart.com/resources/stockart/
http://www.canstockphoto.com
http://www.corbisimages.com/
http://www.dreamstime.com/
http://www.epictura.com/
http://www.flickr.com/
http://us.fotolia.com/
http://www.fotosearch.com/
http://www.freestockimages.net/
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
http://www.freefoto.com/index.jsp
http://www.freephotosbank.com
http://www.fontplay.com/freephotos/
http://www.jupiterimages.com/
http://www.gettyimages.com/creativeimages
http://www.gettyimages.com/photolibrary
http://photopin.com/—Images for your blog with proper attribution
http://www.reflexstock.com/
http://www.sxc.hu/

Whichever site you choose, register for an account so that you have a Lightbox, or a Likebox as it’s sometimes called.

In the site’s Search feature, put in keywords for the type of picture you want (i.e. romantic couple, beautiful redhead, man with gun, airplane over island). Scroll down until a photo catches your fancy. Click to add it to your Lightbox (at 123rf, you click the little heart). If you like the model, click where it says Other Images Using This Model or Similar Images. You can search this way for Photos, Video Clips, and Music.

Keep collecting images until you have enough to match each line of text. Then purchase enough credits to buy the ones you want. Click on each image and then on Download. Save it to your computer. I keep mine in a folder labeled Cover Images.

Whichever site you use, check the licensing requirements before you make your purchase. As mentioned above, some may require an extended license to use the image as a book cover, in a collection such as on a Pinterest board, on a coffee mug you offer for sale, and so on.

Tip: All of these sites have periodic sales. After you’ve set up an account, watch your emails for discounts on credit purchases.

Search For Video (Optional)

Live action can add spice to a video but it also takes up time and increases the size of your file. Many of the sites listed above will also have royalty-free video clips, but here are some more.

http://www.alunablue.com/
http://www.alwayshd.com/
http://www.archive.org/details/stock_footage
http://www.artbeats.com
http://www.footagefirm.com/free-footage
http://www.gettyimages.com/Footage
http://www.gotfootage.com/
http://www.stockfootageforfree.com/
http://vimeo.com/groups/freehd
http://worldclips.tv/

Search For Music

Searching for the right music can be a time-consuming task. Decide upon the tone of your video and put keywords into the search feature on these sites. Is your story dark and scary? Light and funny? Upbeat and bouncy? Intense and mysterious? The music is important because it elicits an emotional response in your viewers.

Check the length of the music clip against the length of your trailer, and make sure it’s long enough. You can repeat the music if necessary to extend its length on your video. Likewise, you can clip it to start where you want if it’s too long.

These are the two sites I’ve used:

http://www.123rf.com Music tracks vary in cost. Buy a credit package and use extras for photos.
http://www.stockmusic.net/ $39.95 per track; Pay once, use forever.

Here are more:

http://www.audiomicro.com/

http://freeplaymusic.com/

http://www.freesoundtrackmusic.com/

http://www.gettyimages.com/Music

http://www.ibaudio.com/

http://incompetech.com/music/

http://www.istockphoto.com/audio.php

http://www.opuzz.com/

http://www.stockmusic.com/

Now What?

Open a New Project in Windows Live Movie Maker (File; New Project) and click Add Videos and Photos. Add one photo at a time, and the program will produce slides. If you want a blank slide to add text only, click the Credits button.

Once you have your pictures added, go back to the beginning. Click on Add Caption for each slide and add your text in the text box. You can drag this box to wherever you want it placed. You can also change the color of the text. If it’s a light background, choose a dark text. If you have a black or dark background, make the text white. Alter the font as needed.

You’ll now see Video Tools and Text Tools. These have little boxes where you can see the Duration. I try to have the duration of my text shorter than or equal to the video. So a video slide might run for 5 seconds, and the text for 4.50. Some slides you’ll want longer, if you have more text or if you have an image like the book cover that you want to linger on screen. Under Text Tools, choose Effects. This gives you options for how you want your text to scroll or appear on the slide. Click on Edit if you want to make changes.

Under Video Tools, click on Animations. Here you can add Transitions between slides. Position your cursor in front of each slide. Then hover your mouse over each transition effect to see what it does. Click to select. Keep in mind that the transitions cut some of the time out of the slide before and after. Each time you want to view the effect, put the cursor in front of a slide and click the Play button. Next do the same for Pan and Zoom. Make choices there so your pictures aren’t static.

When you have arranged your pictures and text to your satisfaction, click on Home and Add Music. Browse for your music file and click Open. The program adds it to your slide show. You can adjust the track as needed, like timing it to start further in by changing the Start Point. Also, hit Fade In at the beginning or Fade Out at the end if desired.

Add credits at the end by clicking Credits. This will be a text only slide. Here’s where you put the sites where you found your images and music. You’ll also want a slide to show your book cover. Either add text there or on a separate slide with your book info: Title, author, publisher, etc. The same Text Tools apply to these slides as for the others.

Remember to save your project often. Hit File and then Save Project.

When you are totally done, click File, then Save Movie and choose the Widescreen/HD version to Your Computer. I save them in a folder called My Videos. Your trailer is ready to upload to YouTube and elsewhere. Don’t hit the YouTube button on Live Movie Maker, or it’ll upload a smaller version. Save the version you want and then upload it from YouTube itself. For a site like Linked In, you will need the smallest version available, so you’ll want to save it different ways as needed.

The idea is to offer your readers a bit of insight into your story, to maybe tease new viewers into buying your book. A book video is another tool in your promotional arsenal, but since many readers don’t even watch them, it’s not worth breaking the bank over one. Doing it yourself or hiring a low-cost company is the ideal way to go. Here are some companies who offer inexpensive trailers. Many other sites offer them and so do virtual assistants, graphic artist companies, promotional sites.

Where To Post Your Book Video

Amazon: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/
Book Goodies: http://bookgoodies.com/contact-us/video-trailer/
Book Trailer Central: http://booktrailercentral.co/
Book Trailers: http://booktrailers.ning.com/
Book Trailer Theatre: https://www.facebook.com/BookTrailerTheatre –Promo on Fridays only
Daily Motion: http://www.dailymotion.com/us
Livewriters: http://www.livewriters.com/video.php
Preview the Book: http://www.previewthebook.com/previewupload.php
Shelf Pleasure: http://www.shelfpleasure.com/contribute/
Veoh: http://www.veoh.com/
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/
Watchthebook: http://www.watchthebook.com/

Remember to add your video to all your social networking sites plus your website and blog.

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Watch my Trailers

Mysteries
Hanging By A Hair: http://youtu.be/gv5ldn9uw7I
Shear Murder: http://youtu.be/ePpShWy3Wbw

Romances
Warrior Rogue: http://youtu.be/cjV-PRVGoVs
Warrior Prince: http://youtu.be/aVm2FIumw0o

Follow Me Online

Website: http://nancyjcohen.com
Blog: http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nancyjcohen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-J-Cohen/112101588804907
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyjcohen
Google Plus: https://google.com/+NancyJCohen

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