Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

Archive for February, 2010

PLANNING A PROMO CAMPAIGN

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 25, 2010

How soon should you begin publicizing your new release? As soon as you sign the contract. But what if you only have a short lead time? In four months, my new book will launch. Am I prepared to announce it to the world? Not totally. There’s a lot of work to do first.

In this digital age, most of my promotion will be online. But with the choices of what to do being so overwhelming, how can you choose which are the best? Don’t be like me: I take a look at what other authors are doing and hit the panic button. Where will I find the time to do all that? Then I remember the advice from workshops I’ve attended: focus on a few targets and spend your energy there.

Where should you start? Consider breaking down your campaign into manageable parts and tackle one at a time. Decide on a countdown. What’s the most important item to start working on now? Get a calendar and mark out your dates. Here are some items for your list:

BLOG TOUR: Besides keeping up with your own blog, look for popular bloggers with a focus on your genre, inquire about a guest blog opening the month of your release date, and fix a schedule for a visit. Your host may want you to offer a giveaway, so decide upon the book or item you’re donating. An ebook download or bookstore gift card are alternates to a signed print book and will save you postage. Once your tour schedule is arranged, publicize it on all your sites.

BONUS FEATURES: Add bonus features on your website related to your story so readers who like the world you’ve created can read more about the characters, immerse themselves in the world building details, consult a glossary, or get a taste of sequels to come.

BOOK TRAILER: Have you uploaded your trailer to all the possible sites?

CHAT ROOMS: Find the chat rooms for your genre, decide which ones to target, and garner an invite.

CONTESTS: Plan contests leading up to your release date and celebrating the book’s debut. What prize will you offer? Consider a bonus item for people who leave blog comments or for your newsletter subscribers. Publicize on sites beyond your own.

INTERVIEW: Interview yourself about the new book and offer it as a guest blog, post it on your website as a bonus feature, or consider recording it as a podcast.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: If you already have friends on Facebook, should you start a fan page? Are you taking advantage of all these sites have to offer? On Goodreads, for example, you can now offer giveaways. Spend a day at a time on each site to make the most of them. Some examples: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, LinkedIn, Filedby, Authors Den, and more. Or pick one day a week and that’s your day to put aside writing and spend it on promotion.

READER FORUMS: Visit discussion groups in your genre and begin participating several months ahead of your release date. Avoid blatant self-promotion unless it’s a group just for that purpose. Look on the social networks for these discussion groups as a way to get started. Your publisher may also have a listserve for this purpose.

VIRTUAL BOOKSIGNINGS: Okay, I’m not quite sure what this is but I’ve read about it. I believe you sign up with a bookstore online, like an indie, and show up for a virtual event. This concept requires more research on my part.

It’s a lot easier to write this list than to do it. As with any overwhelming project, it will be more attainable if you break it down into manageable tasks. This means focusing on one item at a time.

My first goal is to design my contests for the next four months, decide on the prizes, and load up the info onto my sites. Then I’ll send out an email newsletter announcing the contest to my fans along with other news I want to share. But wait…this may bring people to my website. I already hope to gain more readers from eBook followers when Silver Serenade comes out from The Wild Rose Press. Have I updated the books list on my website with the ISBNs and such for my titles which are available in eBook format? Not yet.  Better get cracking.  Onward and upward!

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THE ACCIDENTAL READER

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 20, 2010

In this dawning digital age, when people download books onto ebook readers like the Kindle or Nook, how will an author get noticed? It’s hard enough already with so many books on the shelves, but what happens when your book no longer appears in brick-and-mortar stores? I’ve received many letters from fans saying my book cover caught their eye in the library or my catchy title snagged their attention in the bookstore. Am I going to lose those accidental readers when my books can only be ordered online?

Internet marketing will become even more important in this new age. But participating in guest blogs, chat rooms, review sites, social networks, listserves, and discussion groups can leave no time for anything else…like writing the next book. Commenting on sites of interest, hosting guest bloggers, posting online book reviews, and interviewing other authors are some other ways to gain recognition. Myriads of possibilities exist, limited by time and energy.

As a reader, I like to browse through bookstores. It’s a pleasure we’ve taken for granted. Now you have to read excerpts online or examine the virtual book cover. Will this give you the same thrill as holding a book in your hand? Do you care? How can we, as authors in the digital age, attract new readers without spending hours at the computer after we’ve already spent the day there writing? Because we can’t rely anymore on the accidental reader who spots our book on a shelf made out of real wood.

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GETTING AN AGENT

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 16, 2010

One of the popular questions every author is asked is “How do you get an agent?” Here are some tips to start your journey.

Complete your manuscript in the proper format.

Be prepared to suggest possible markets to an agent. Also have two or three bestselling authors to compare your work to in terms of genre and tone.

Where do you find an agent? Attend writers’ conferences with editor/agent appointments. Study the Guide to Literary Agents by Writer’s Digest Books.  Check out the online resources below. Note the acknowledgments in books by your favorite authors. Or enter writing contests where editors and agents are the final judges. When deciding which agents to query, make sure they represent the genre you write and that they take on new authors. Be sure to check their submission criteria.

http://www.querytracker.net

www.aar-online.org

www.agentresearch.com

www.sfwa.org/Beware

www.writers-free-reference.com/agents

www.anotherealm.com/prededitors

www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22

www.publishersmarketplace.com

www.agentquery.com

 Write a snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and category for your book, your writing credits, and a few sentences about your story. Include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This letter should be no longer than one page.
If you hear nothing for months, send a follow-up letter or email to ask if she received your letter. Be courteous and respectful of an agent’s time. If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note.

Always include an SASE in your correspondence.

Never pay an agent any fees.

Once an agent has read your work and you are seriously considering retaining him if he makes an offer, here are some questions to ask.

How many clients does the agency represent?

How many clients do you handle personally?

How long have you been an agent?

Are you a member of AAR?

What is your particular area of interest?

How many new authors have you sold in the past year?

What is your average response time for reading a proposal? A completed manuscript?

When is the best time to call you? Do you prefer email?

Who answers the phone: you, a receptionist, or a machine?

How long does it take for you to return a phone call?

How do you feel about multiple submissions?

How long do you wait after sending an editor a manuscript before following up?

Do you contact your clients to update them on the status of their projects, or do they have to contact you?

How many rejections would it take on a manuscript before you stop marketing it?

Do you handle foreign sales? Film/TV?

Do you offer a written or verbal contract?

What percentage do you charge? (Most agents charge a standard 15% commission)

What happens if you die or are disabled?

Do you deposit money received into an escrow account for clients?

How soon do you pay clients after receiving a royalty check?

How do you keep track of submissions?

What do you expect from your clients?

Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry, and hopefully you’ll acquire the agent of your dreams.

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BOOK & FILM REVIEWS

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 14, 2010

Every so often, I share what I’ve been reading or seeing at the movies. So here are my latest reviews.

AVATAR (Film Review)

Several words come to mind to describe this film: Awesome. Revolutionary. Mind-Blowing. The story itself is nothing new. Technologically advanced militants seek to exploit unskilled natives who live close to nature and worship spirits of the land. It’s environmentalists versus developers. Warriors versus innocents. Foreign invaders versus Native Americans. The parallels to Pocohontas are clear. What’s different is the amazing 3-D technology, the film making, the fantastic world building that makes you feel you are on this planet with these people. Amazing creatures. Floating mountains. Beautiful lush greenery. Fearsome beasts. Willowy seeds from the spirit tree. The Home Tree reminded me of the Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or the great World Tree in Norse mythology. The blue-skinned natives, created through special effects, look wonderfully real as does the world they live in. But why must the military commander in sf/f always want to kill the poor natives or the friendly aliens? Can’t we make a genre movie without stereotypes? At least the story has heart, and you feel the triumphs and sorrows of the characters, but it’s really the feeling of being in this wondrous place that will stick in your mind when you leave the theater.

WHEN IN ROME (Film Review)

Movies have been done before when a person tosses a coin in a magic fountain and wishes for love, except in this story, the roles are reversed. A girl takes coins from a fountain on a lark and becomes the object of love for several wacko suitors. The only man she wants is charmingly real, but is his affection true or is it inspired by the magic spell? She has to return each coin to the man who tossed it in to undo the enchantment. Will she be able to give back the coin to the man she loves?

THE SLAYER by Cindy Dees (Paranormal Time Travel Romance)

Tessa Marconi jumps back in time to the Persian Empire to recover a stone fragment that will help mankind in its quest to reach the stars. But opposed to her is court wizard Rustam, who turns out to be a Centauri agent sent to stop her. Rustam’s duty is clear, but his heart is captured by the lovely woman who possesses the ability to soar with him into space every time they make love. He understands the significance of this latent talent Tessa harbors, and it just might bring about their doom. An unusual twist on the time travel theme.

THE NUDE by Dorothy McFalls (Regency Romance)

Widowed Lady Mercer has always harbored a secret crush on the artist known as Dionysus, until a nude portrait of her shows up at an affair of the ton. With her reputation in tatters, Elsbeth accepts an invitation to a house party from Nigel, Marquess of Edgeware. For some mysterious reason of his own, Nigel insists on repairing her standing in society. As she is drawn to the kind man, she realizes someone is trying to kill him. Is it Dionysus, the reclusive artist whose identity no one knows? His cousin Charlie who stands to inherit his estate? Or his trusted friend George who might be involved in smuggling? The Nude is a good murder mystery in addition to a worthy and engaging historical romance. It kept me guessing whodunit until the end.

DESIRE UNTAMED by Pamela Palmer (Paranormal Romance)

Kara MacAllister’s life changes abruptly when her ailing mother dies, abnormal creatures attack her, and a powerful stranger abducts her. Lyon says she’s destined to become the Radiant and save his alien race. Seduced by his sensuality, she opens herself to the possibility that she’s an immortal like him and his brethren, the so-called Feral Warriors, protectors of Earth and foe to an evil demon trying to rise again. She must assume her powers if her people and Lyon’s are to survive. But there’s one thing he neglected to tell her, and that’s the men’s shape shifting ability. Can she help him regain his animal form while taming the beast within? Imaginative world building, likeable heroine, and a unique premise. 

BEGUILED by Maureen Child (Paranormal Romance)

Artist Maggie Donovan has only recently become Queen of the Fae. She’s not too happy about this development especially when Fae Warrior Culhane pushes her to assume the throne. She likes her life in California just fine, at least until the former evil queen Mab escapes and Maggie’s niece is kidnapped and demons attack. Her peace shattered, Maggie has no choice except to accept her destiny along with the warrior who captured her heart. A delightful read.

KRIS LONGKNIFE: UNDAUNTED by Mike Shepherd (Science Fiction)

Princess and Lieutenant Kristine Longknife activates a political maelstrom when she brings onboard her explorer ship an Iteeche Imperial Representative. Why does the member of an enemy race want to meet with her grandpa, King Ray? Ron, the taciturn official, won’t say, except that the grave matter concerns both their peoples. This meeting opens up a can of worms that King Ray is reluctant to expose, so instead he sends Kris on an out of the way mission to Texarkana to quell the flames of political unrest. Kris, with the Iteeche entourage aboard, meets more resistance than expected, but with her usual panache she accomplishes her task. Returning home, she only has to convince her superiors to listen to what the Iteeche have to say. Great setup for a sequel.

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BOOKSIGNING CHECKLIST

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 12, 2010

What should writers bring when going to a booksigning?  Here’s a checklist:

Autographed by Author stickers   (optional; not all readers want a sticker on their precious signed book)

Book cover of upcoming release

Bookmarks

Book to donate  (optional; for library donation or for a door prize if you’re a guest speaker at a community event)

Box of Books (for when you sell your own; otherwise keep in car trunk in case bookseller doesn’t come through)

Bottle of Water

Business Cards

Calculator

Camera  (if you want to put pix of your event on website)

Cash

Flyers/Brochures/Postcards

Mailing List Sign-up Sheet

“Meet the Author” Poster 

Notices of upcoming appearances at other local events

Sharpie ultra fine point black ink permanent markers

Wheels  (to carry boxes of books when you bring your own; look in luggage store for folding wheels)

What else would you add?

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

PRESS RELEASES

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 8, 2010

As a new writer, you’ve been advised to send out a press release. What does this mean? Let’s answer your questions one at a time.

WHEN DO YOU WRITE A PRESS RELEASE?

Write one when you have a first sale to announce, when you contract a multi-book deal, when you win a major award, when you hit a bestseller list, or when you have upcoming appearances.

WHAT SHOULD YOU INCLUDE?

Think of the five W’s: Who, What, Why, Where, and When. Include your contact info, what news you have to share, why readers should care, when they can meet you in person, where to buy your books. If you do give your book info, don’t forget the ISBN, format, publisher, and price.

WHAT FORMAT SHOULD YOU FOLLOW?

Here’s a sample letter publicizing my signing dates. It always helps to find a local hook or angle that will capture the reader’s attention. Tying your release in to a current issue in the news will also help gain interest.

For Immediate Release

Plantation author of Bad Hair Day Mysteries to sign PERISH BY PEDICURE and DEAD ROOTS at local events.
 

 

“A mystery series to dye for!” The News-Press

Pedicures can be as dangerous as they are pampering.
Plantation, FL resident and author Nancy J. Cohen knows this well. The eighth book in her humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series is titled PERISH BY PEDICURE. This hardcover title is scheduled for a December release.

 

Just as her fiancé Detective Dalton Vail’s uptight former in-laws are descending on her home, Marla is up to her roots in a big-time beauty show that could make or break her career.
 

 

“Locales for this story include Fort Lauderdale, North Miami Beach, and the Keys,” Cohen says. “I like to include Florida issues in my books, and this one touches upon melanoma warning signs and prevention. Hair has to be protected from the sun as well as the skin, and tips are provided in this fun, fast-paced tale.”

Cohen will be discussing her work and signing books at the following locations. Please call ahead to confirm dates and times.

[Booksigning Dates Follow]

####

For more information, please contact [YOUR NAME] at [PHONE NUMBER] or via email: [EMAIL ADDRESS].

TO MY READERS: I do not profess to be the expert in this topic, so who else can offer tips and suggestions on writing a press release?

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

HARRY P. LEU GARDENS

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 6, 2010

Harry P. Leu Gardens is one of my favorite haunts in Orlando. I modeled a location after it in my tenth Bad Hair Day mystery (yet to come), so I count a visit as part of my research.

There’s so much more to do in Greater Orlando than the theme parks. When you have a day to spare, consider spending it at Winter Park. Stroll Leu Gardens in the morning then drive over to Park Avenue and park on one of the side streets. Have lunch in one of the many cafes lining the popular thoroughfare. Shop in the boutiques. Visit a museum, or take an escorted boat ride on the lake. I like this little city so much that I centered my proposed new mystery series there.

Enjoy these photos from Leu Gardens and plan a visit next time you’re in Orlando. Founded by the Mizells in 1858, the park hosts a family cemetery among its attractions. The park covers fifty acres with over forty plant collections and is a favorite site for weddings. Besides a butterfly garden, vegetable garden, herb garden, and citrus grove, there are sections with flowering camellias, cycads, bamboo, camphor trees, and more. An indoor gift shop and catering hall are in the main building but there’s a bride’s cottage on the grounds for outdoor weddings.

Spanish Moss covered tree

Shady paths

Shady paths

Lake Rowena

Fish in Lake

Turtles by Lake

Can you spot the alligator?

Camillia Tree

Camillia

Fountain

Sundial

Floral Clock

Leu House Museum

Vegetable Garden

Family Cemetery

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Amazon vs MacMillan

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 3, 2010

From The Author’s Guild:

Macmillan’s current fight with Amazon over e-book business models is a necessary one for the industry. The stakes are high, particularly for Macmillan authors. In a squabble over e-books, Amazon quickly and pre-emptively escalated matters by removing the buy buttons from all Macmillan titles (with some exceptions for scholarly and educational books), in all editions, including all physical book editions. Thousands of authors and titles are affected; hardest and most unfairly hit are authors with new books published by Macmillan that are in their prime sales period.

Yet if Macmillan prevails, the eventual payoff for its authors (and all authors, if a successful result ripples through the industry) is likely to be significant and lasting.

For those of you who may have missed it, here’s the story so far:

Last Thursday, Macmillan CEO John Sargent informed Amazon that beginning in March, it would offer Amazon access to a full range of e-book titles only if Amazon were willing to sell books on an “agency” model that would pay Amazon 30% of e-book proceeds and allow Macmillan to set its own retail price for e-books. (Currently, Amazon buys e-books as a reseller at a discount of 50% off the retail list price and sells at the price it chooses.) Macmillan’s price under its agency model, in many cases, would be higher than the $9.99 ceiling that Amazon has been seeking to impose on the industry.

If Amazon didn’t find the agency model acceptable, Sargent said Macmillan would expand its “windowing” of e-book editions. “Windowing” is the practice of waiting until a particular edition of a new book has been on the market for a while before making cheaper editions available. Publishers have for decades waited until the hardcover sales window has closed before opening the sales window on paperback editions, for example. This helps protect the sales channels for hardcover books. Windowing e-books is similarly believed to help protect a publisher’s sales channels for physical books. The risk with windowing is that some owners of e-book devices are angered that low-priced e-book editions aren’t available as soon as books are released in hardcover form.

This was a bold move by Macmillan. Amazon has a well-deserved reputation for playing hardball. When it doesn’t get its way with publishers, Amazon tends to start removing “buy buttons” from the publisher’s titles. It’s a harsh tactic, by which Amazon uses its dominance of online bookselling to punish publishers who fail to fall in line with Amazon’s business plans. Collateral damage in these scuffles, of course, are authors and readers. Authors lose their access to millions of readers who shop at Amazon; readers find some of their favorite authors’ works unavailable. Generally, the ending is not a good one for the publisher or its authors — Amazon’s hold on the industry, controlling an estimated 75% of online trade book print sales in the U.S., is too strong for a publisher to withstand. The publisher caves, and yet more industry revenues are diverted to Amazon. This isn’t good for those who care about books. Without a healthy ecosystem in publishing, one in which authors and publishers are fairly compensated for their work, the quality and variety of books available to readers will inevitably suffer.

Macmillan’s move is timely because, at the moment, the e-book market is still far smaller than the physical book market, but the e-book market is growing quickly. The longer Macmillan waited, the more difficult the transition.

Amazon didn’t wait for March, when Macmillan’s new policy is slated to go into effect; it decided to hit Macmillan immediately and comprehensively, removing the buy buttons for nearly all Macmillan titles, in all editions. This is a direct attempt to use its clout in the physical book industry to enforce its business model in the e-book industry. In some ways, it was an unusual exercise of power for Amazon. The company has used the tactic of turning off buy buttons on several occasions before, but, with major publishers it’s usually selective, and doesn’t turn out the lights on nearly all titles. That treatment is reserved for smaller publishers. (Authors receive no advance warning of Amazon’s treatment of their titles, nor can they do anything about it.)

Amazon, it appears, overreached. Macmillan was a bit too big a foe, and Amazon’s bullying tactics were a bit too blatant. (For a flavor of media reaction, see this story in Fast Company.)

Sunday evening, Amazon announced that it would have to “capitulate” to Macmillan, “because Macmillan has a monopoly over its own titles.” (By this definition, nearly every company exercises a monopoly over its products.) We’re all still waiting for that capitulation: Macmillan’s books still weren’t available on Amazon on Monday evening.

If Macmillan does indeed prevail, the economics of authorship in the digital age are likely to improve considerably. We may go through some rough stretches to get there, however.

You’ll be hearing more from us on this matter soon.

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For More information, go to http://tiny.cc/Oxglk

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