Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Archive for the ‘Business of Writing’ Category

Critique Groups

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 21, 2016

Thanks to a post by author Terry Odell, I am turning back the clock to my early blogging days. It’s incredible to realize I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I didn’t start out on WordPress and converted my site somewhere along the way. Fortunately, I save all my posts in Word. My very first topic was on Critique Groups. Believe it or not, much of the same advice applies today. Here’s what I said back then:

CRITIQUE GROUPS (August 2005)

Yesterday I went to critique group. Including myself, this consists of six authors, most of us published or agented. We meet every other week and rotate houses. While eating a sumptuous brunch, we discuss publishing news, share personal insights, and encourage each other to keep writing through the ups and downs of our careers. I can’t tell you how invaluable this group has been to me. I could not have achieved what I have without them.

After exchanging news, we get down to work. We read each other’s manuscripts silently for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, passing the pages around the table, until all of us have been read. Then we share our comments aloud, focusing on one person at a time. We do not do line editing. Mostly we focus on character development, emotional reactions, dialogue, plot consistency, and so forth. For example, when my sleuth Marla asked a suspect outright if he might have killed the victim, one of my critique partners said this was too blunt. So this morning, I toned down Marla’s response in my WIP (work in progress). We catch typos, point out clichés, and suggest ways to restructure for more impact. But more importantly, we’re there for each other to gripe, to cheer, to support, and to listen.

I wrote an article for Romantic Times Magazine [now RT Book Reviews] on how to set up a critique group. Here’s an excerpt with seven tips for getting started:

1. To find other interested writers, join a local writers group and put a notice in their newsletter that you are looking for critique partners.
2. Limit your group to six members or less.
3. Seek friends with compatible personalities and a similar writing level.
4. The focus of your meetings should be on critiquing content, not line editing. Consider holding a separate meeting on occasion just for brainstorming plot ideas.
5. Determine a procedure for your group that is agreeable to everyone. Some groups read aloud, others pass pages around the table and read silently, and still others e-mail chapters ahead of time. It’s up to you how you want to run your show.
6. Offer constructive criticism. If you see the need for change, make suggestions for improvements in a positive manner. Don’t forget to give praise where it’s due.
7. Have fun! Enjoy refreshments and spend time chatting about the industry. Being sociable will draw you closer together and enable you to accept advice more readily.

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My current group has six members, most of whom were around back then. See how long we’ve known each other? These are steadfast friends, and they understand me on a level better than most people. We share common needs and goals and understand the foibles of the business. We’re also pros at our jobs, producing a constant stream of material, attending conferences, and supporting each other via social media. When you find a good critique group, it’s like discovering gold. Treasure your partnerships.

Critique GroupcritiqueCritique2014critque Dec09

In these photos, besides myself, are Zelda Benjamin, Sharon Hartley, Alyssa Maxwell, Kat Carlton, and Cynthia Thomason. We do like to eat!

CritiqueJan12 (800x600)CritiqueTableKaren Table

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, what is your process?

 

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

Florida Romance Writers Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 18, 2016

Saturday was a one-day mini-conference for Florida Romance Writers. The day started off with an inspirational keynote address by NY Times bestselling author Carla Neggers. She spoke about the ups and downs of a writing career and how we balance these setbacks and successes.

Carla Neggers

A panel followed with agent Marlene Stringer, Cleis Press Publisher Karen Thomas, Harlequin editor Charles Griemsman, and Berkley editor Kristine Swartz.

Editors Panel

Charles from Harlequin mentioned how he works with short category, contemporary romance series. He prefers alpha males who are wealthy and passionate, hard men with an underlying vulnerability. Tycoons and ranchers are ever popular as are stories with babies. He looks for books that focus on romantic tension and internal conflict. The Special Edition line is more family-oriented but its stories are still sensual.

Kristine from Berkley likes epic and urban fantasy, sexy romance, women’s fiction, and some mystery. She likes humor in stories as well.

Karen Thomas spoke about her publishing house that produces erotica and gay/lesbian fiction.

Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Agency is looking for commercial fiction but no erotica, inspirational, or space opera. She says there aren’t any bans in romance anymore like there used to be for musician or actor heroes.

Regarding genre fiction, paranormal isn’t dead if it’s something fresh. New Adult is a hard sell because booksellers don’t know where to shelve it. The Chick Lit label is gone, but the stories are still there. As for historical romance, it’s on the rise again. Regency, Victorian, and Scottish settings remain popular. Stories set in France do not fare as well. Books today need more diversity to reflect our society.

We ate a box lunch following the agent and editor panel. Then Dr. Debra Holland spoke about how she became a bestselling indie author.

Deborah Holland

At 2:00, I gave a workshop titled Marketing on a Shoestring.

Nancy Speaking

Then I listened to my friends Carla Neggers, Alyssa Maxwell, Kat Carlton, and Traci Hall speak about Revitalizing Your Career. A general booksigning followed with Murder on the Beach booksellers present.

Career Panel

As it is with any conference, networking with other authors was the best part. Now I am looking forward to SleuthFest next month.

Nancy VickiLisa DebbyGrahl

Contest Alert!

LAST DAY! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

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

Setting Goals

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 4, 2016

Happy New Year! It’s time to look forward to what we hope to accomplish in the coming months. Every year, I set goals and separate them into the creative and business aspects of writing. So here are my goals for 2016.

You’ll note there’s only one new book in the mix. I still need several months to finish this story and polish it before submission. Then I plan to continue revising my backlist titles and get them into audio. I’ll have a big learning curve involved with the audio process using ACX. I have to learn how to attract a narrator, what qualities to look for in choosing one, how to evaluate each chapter as it’s done in audio, and where to promote audio books. This process is apt to take quite a few months, at least for the first time until I know what I’m doing.

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I’ll also have a steep learning curve if I decide to bundle my first three revised backlist titles into a box set. This involves cover design, formatting, scheduling, pricing, and promotion. It promises to be a time-consuming venture should I go this route, but it could be a bonus for readers. What do you think? Is this something that might interest you?

Plus, I need to spend more time on exercise in 2016 and less time in the chair. That’s a prime goal for the new year. So here’s a glimpse of what’s on my list.

Goals

 

WRITING GOALS

Finish and Submit Hair Brained, #14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Publish Author’s Edition of Permed to Death, #1 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Commence audio book process via ACX, starting with Permed to Death.
Revise backlist mystery titles Highlights to Heaven, Died Blonde and Dead Roots.
Learn how to write short fiction.

BUSINESS GOALS

Enter Peril by Ponytail in writing contests.
Learn about box sets. Consider bundling books 1-3 as a special offer.
Hold launch parties for each backlist Author’s Edition and audios.
Plan promo campaign for Facials Can Be Fatal to be released Feb. 2017.
Keep up with quarterly newsletter, blogs and social media.

Have you set your objectives yet for 2016?

Contest!
Enter January 1-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

2015 in review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 31, 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Business of Writing, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Writing Goals Met

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 30, 2015

It’s traditional at the end of the year to revisit what we’ve accomplished and to set new goals for next year. So I dug up my goal list for 2015. Let’s see what actually got done.

WRITING GOALS

Finish and Submit Facials Can Be Fatal, #13 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. (DONE. This title is scheduled for release on February 22, 2017.)

Revise backlist mystery titles, starting with Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, and Body Wave. (DONE. These titles are available in ebook and print formats.)

Commence audio book process starting with Permed to Death. (Not Done. Move to 2016.)

Hire editor for two standalone mysteries and consider bundling them as a box set. (Not Done. Move to 2016)

Begin plotting #14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. (DONE. I’m more than halfway through writing Hair Brained.)

Consider timeline for writing books #4-6 in the Drift Lords Series. (Not Done. Postponed indefinitely.)

BUSINESS GOALS

Hold launch party for each backlist title as the revised Author’s Edition is published. (DONE.)

Plan promo campaign for Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, due out Sept. 16. Plan contests, buy ads, order swag, set up blog tour, write newsletter, plan launch party. (DONE.)

Enter books in writing contests. (IN PROGRESS. Now entering Peril by Ponytail.)

Keep up with quarterly newsletter, blogs and social networking sites. (DONE.)

Finish Line

How about you? Did you get done all you’d set out to do?

 

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

Gifts for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 22, 2015

What should you buy for the writer on your gift list? Some of the more interesting gifts I’ve received have come from my writer pals or my kids, like the jar labeled Writer’s Remedy that holds little squares with different words for inspiration, or the figure holding a hammer to his computer with a plaque that says #1 Author & Mom, or the coffee mug with my book title. My husband gave me a glass blown Disney castle to represent my dreams coming true. Be imaginative or be simple. Whatever you give will be appreciated.

Gifts

1. Books on their Wish List, or a gift card to Amazon or BN.
2. Gift Card to Starbucks or their favorite shopping site.
3. Office Supplies: Sticky notes, highlighters, novelty ballpoint pens, paper clips, pocket notebooks. You name it, we can use it.
4. Personalized notepads or sticky notes.
5. Cute desk accessories like Brighton desk clocks or magnetic paper clip holders.
6. Scented candles to make the office smell good.
7. Body lotions, hand cream, scented soaps. These are always welcome.
8. A gift certificate to a day spa. A manicure or massage can go a long way toward relaxation.
9. USB Flash Drive. We can use several of these as backups to keep in different locations.
10. Portable charging device for electronics.
11. Food baskets, chocolates, and wine. You can never go wrong here.
12. Decorative coasters for their desk or side table near where they work or read.
13. Collectible paperweights.
14. Restaurant gift cards so they don’t have to cook.
15. Cute novelty items for writers. Look in those catalogs you get in the mail. Tee shirts, mugs, nightshirts or other items with funny sayings relevant to writers.
16. Movies. Look for films about writers. For example, Her Alibi starring Tom Selleck is a very funny movie about a mystery writer. See the many take-offs on Jane Austen (Austenland, Lost in Austen, plus the works themselves), English period murder mysteries such as Gosford Park or seasons of Downton Abbey. Remember how we all loved Romancing the Stone? The classics never go out of date. See more suggestions here:
https://killzoneblog.com/2015/12/mystery-movies.html Or give a Fandango gift card, so they can buy movie tickets of their choice.
17. Did I mention chocolate?

What else would you add to this list?

Posted in Business of Writing, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Marketing Tips from Book Publicist

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 24, 2015

Maryglenn McCombs, book publicist, spoke at the recent Florida Chapter of MWA meeting. These are my notes from her speech.

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“Publishers are looking for authors who have platforms.” How do you get one?

  • Join professional writers’ groups and get involved. Besides the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, Maryglenn mentioned Crime Writers Association of North America, Independent Book Publishers Association, and StoryCircle.org.
  • Attend conferences and get connected with other people in the industry.
  • Ask your writer friends for endorsements. Make sure they are recognizable names in your genre.
  • Write a good book.
  • Have a professional product so that you’re taken seriously.
  • Also: Write a blog; comment on other authors’ posts; become active on Facebook and Twitter; share news and interesting articles.

Maryglenn mentioned that an off-press date is when the printing is finished, but it’s different from the release or pub date when the book is available for sale. If you can do it, time your pub date with an event or holiday. For a historical, you can set the release date around an event or a particular date in history.

Aim for review coverage at or after the book is available for purchase. Reviews any earlier are not helpful. The exception is trade media that serve bookstores and libraries.

Readers read. Radio people listen. TV viewers watch. So how do you reach the readers?

“Book promo is a marathon, not a sprint.” Three to six months ahead of your pub date, send info to syndicated reviewers, consumer print media, trade media, and larger online outlets such as:

The Freelance Star
The Bismarck Tribune
Mysterious Reviews
Mystery Fanfare
Stop You’re Killing Me

Promote your book for up to one year after its release. Target local media, alumni groups, newspapers where you grew up, niche markets relating to topics in your book, other groups where you’re a member, media in the town where your book takes place.

Share your news if you win an award, your book goes into a second printing, or you sell more rights.

Have available advance reading copies in print and digital formats; a jpg of your cover in 96 dpi and 300 dpi; a professional headshot; a website with your contact info; a one-page press release or media sheet with your book’s data; a 175 word or less story blurb; web links, and an author bio. “Brevity is the soul of wit” for press releases and pitches. Also prepare your elevator pitch.

To find reviewers, look for similar titles and Google them for reviews and media coverage. When contacting reviewers or press people, cast a wide net. Do your research ahead of time and address the proper person by name. Be polite, but also be persistent. Follow the submission rules on blogs and review outlets. Be accommodating to their requests. Do not ask a reviewer to send you a copy of the review. It shows you’re not reading her posts. Follow their sites and leave comments to maintain a relationship. Send a follow-up thank you for a review and ask the reviewer’s permission to use quotes from it. What counts is how you react after media coverage. Always say thank you, even for a bad review. i.e. “It’s feedback like this that will make me a better writer.”

What Works

Print Media
Launch Parties
Steady Media Coverage
Personal Contact with Booksellers
Starred Reviews
Winning Awards or Being Nominated
Big Endorsements
Your book put on “Best of…” Lists or Gift Guides

What Doesn’t Work

Radio Tours
Bad Covers
Lengthy Book Tours
Book Trailers
Mass Mailings
Swag and Gimmicks
Asking Readers for Amazon Reviews
“Buy my Book” Social Media Tactics. Share your real news, research tidbits, history of a region, writing tips. Work on social media for up to thirty minutes twice a day. Be engaging and play nice.

Seek “evangelists” or fans who will tell everyone about your book. But don’t let them manipulate posts online as that’s unethical. You want people who will tell their friends and book clubs about your work, hand out your bookmarks, and recommend your titles.

Disclaimer: These statements are my interpretation and any errors are my own.

Here I am with Kathryn DePalo and Kat Karlton aka Karen Kendall.

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Self-Discipline

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 19, 2015

You can’t complete a full-length novel without a strict code of self-discipline. Imagine all the distractions we have throughout the day. How can a writer put these aside to focus intently on a book? How can we face a blank page each day, knowing we have to fill in the words? How can we concentrate day after day, month after month, on the same story until it’s done?

It takes immense self-discipline. You can train yourself to do it. First, you must set an attainable goal. Don’t think about the 300 page manuscript you have to complete or the 80,000 minimum word count. Consider how many pages you can reasonably complete each day. Set a daily goal. Determine what time of day is your most creative and set your starting hour. You will complete your pre-writing rituals and get down to business each day…when?

Now consider how many days per week you’ll be able to get this done. Do you want a five-day work week with weekends off? Or do you have a day job, so you have to binge write on weekends? How about allowing for doctor appointments, lunch with friends, and business meetings? Now set a weekly goal.

Use your tabulations from above to figure out your monthly projections. Then set monthly goals.

Beyond all this is the deadline you set for the first draft. Always leave leeway for sick days or vacations or unexpected visitors from out of town. When is your expected completion date?

Keep in mind that these deadlines are somewhat variable. Let’s say you’ve set five pages per day as your attainable goal. One day you might write two pages. Another day you might write seven pages. But your overall goal is twenty-five pages per week. As long as you reach the weekly goal, you’re okay.

Now comes the hard part. You need to practice BICHOK: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. You must do this day after day, no matter how tedious it becomes. Progress may seem slow, but even if you complete two pages a day, you’re moving forward. That’s the important thing. Do not stop to revise your work. You can fix it after it’s done. Keep moving ahead.

woman computer

Non-writers don’t realize how hard it is to accomplish these goals. It’s easier to make plans with friends, play on Facebook, or do the household projects you keep putting off. You’d rather do a hundred other things than stick to a writing schedule. But the only way you’ll write that book is through sheer determination. You WILL do it despite temptation.

So set your goals, grit your teeth, and get your butt in the chair. You’re allowed to take an exercise break, but then sit back down and finish your daily goal. When done, you can have the reward of checking your email and social media and going out to have fun. The next day, it starts all over again. Put on those blinders while you write and keep going full-speed ahead. Many people say they want to write a book. Only a true writer at heart will finish one after the other.

What’s your method for getting the work done?

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Fun in the Sun Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 13, 2015

Florida Romance Writers Fun in the Sun Conference

Featuring Keynote Speaker NYT Bestselling Author, Carla Neggers, with Special Guest Speaker, Dr. Debra Holland, Bestselling Indie Author

Conference 2016

DATE: Saturday, January 16, 2016
TIME: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
PLACE: Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., 6th Floor, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

Editors & Agents:
Kristine Swartz, Berkley
Charles Griemsman, Harlequin Desire
Karen Thomas, Publisher of Cleis Press
Marlene Stringer, Stringer Agency

Great Workshops:
Marketing on a Shoestring
The Indie Road to Success
Maintaining a Long-Term Career
Beginning Writers’ Boot Camp
Conquering the Synopsis
Editor/Agent Panel Spotlight

Event will conclude with a public BOOK SIGNING that is open to all registered authors! Anyone interested in signing should email frwfuninthesun@yahoo.com

PLUS…PLUS!!! A Sunset Cruise on the Intercostal Waterway – Friday @ 6:00 pm

COST:
FRW Members:
Saturday only – $90
Conference + Sunset Cruise – $115
Sunset Cruise only – $35

Non-Members:
Saturday only – $100
Conference + Sunset Cruise – $125
Sunset Cruise only $40

Hotel accommodations are available. Visit our website for more information and to register: http://www.frwriters.org/conferences/2016-frw-conference/
For questions, please email
frwfuninthesun@yahoo.com

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench. Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

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

Bradenton

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 9, 2015

I was invited to give a talk for the Manatee Arts and Lecture Series in Bradenton, Florida, followed by a high tea, on Wednesday, October 21. https://youtu.be/_hRX_Pt18LY

We arrived the day before at this surprisingly large town on Florida’s west coast just north of Sarasota. After crossing a bridge spanning the Manatee River on Business Route 41, we swung left to the Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast. This lovely historic house was built in 1913 and later expanded as a wedding venue. It has six bedrooms, each with private bath. The rooms are decorated with many interesting knickknacks. From the moment you enter, the host and hostess greet you warmly and see to your every need.

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Here’s the house next door:

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Drinks and appetizers are complimentary pre-dinner. We enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and chatting with other guests before heading over to the Riverhouse Reef and Grill for dinner. This was a lovely setting on the river, and we enjoyed our meal of salmon with a lemon dill sauce. Here we visited with my former critique partner, author Sharon Hartley, who’d made the trip to join us. Our appetizers, besides a bowl of green olives and another one of a strange orange fruit:

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In the morning, our B&B hosts served us a sumptuous breakfast on the sunny enclosed porch. The choices were too many and highly tempting. A cart was rolled over to our tableside. It held a bread basket (croissants, nut bread, French bread slices); yogurt parfait; fruit cup; selection of cheeses; orange juice; watermelon smoothie. Who could eat all this? But that wasn’t all! Our host brought over a plate with scrambled eggs and a panini sandwich. More weight gained!

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Barely able to move after this enormous meal, we staggered to the car and headed into town. Free until the afternoon, we visited the South Florida History Museum before moving on to my first engagement of the day at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. I gave my scheduled talk, which was video recorded for an educational TV station, fielded questions from readers in the audience, and signed books courtesy of Bookstore One from Sarasota.

P1050056Nancy Bradenton

Then we moved on to Latte Luna, a delightful café in town, where we and other guests were treated to a high tea. More food! This meal started with scones and jam, then proceeded to a plate filled with some sort of spinach and cheese concoction, plus three little sandwiches. We finished with desserts including an iced banana cake, oatmeal cookie, and iced cupcake.

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If you’ve been following my blogs, now you know why going away from home is a sure way for me to gain weight. A couple of Halloween events coming up will be fun but won’t help in that regard. Then I MUST focus on losing the extra pounds before our upcoming cruise.

Since we got out of the tea room late, we stayed for a night at the historic Hampton Inn in downtown Bradenton. I liked the décor and architecture of this hotel that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench. Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

See my Guest Blog on “Far-Flung Family Ties” at http://bit.ly/1WLP0Rr and leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12).

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

 
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