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 ‘The Writing Life’ Category

10 Mistakes for Beginning Writers to Avoid

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 2, 2016

It’s annoying, when I’m judging a writing contest or reading a self-published book, to find common mistakes that could be avoided with editorial help. Unfortunately, many beginning writers don’t even realize they need assistance. They’ll ask a friend or an inexperienced critique partner or a local English teacher to proofread their work, and the result is considered ready for publication. Think again. If you write fiction, you want an expert in the genre to edit your work and not the local journalist who has published nonfiction or the lit professor mired in academia.This post doesn’t apply to indie authors who know the ropes and have an expert eye screen their story.

editing

Revise and polish your work as best you can before submission, whether to a writers contest or a publishing house or even to an editor you might hire. Here are ten common mistakes to avoid.

1. Create an Identifiable Main Character

Get us into the action right away with a sympathetic viewpoint character. Put us in her head and show us the world from her unique viewpoint. Make sure we can identify with this character throughout the story, so stay in her head as much as possible. Even when you use multiple viewpoints, we want to root for the hero.

2. Make Your Characters Likeable

Remember to address your character’s goals, motivation, and conflict. What does your character want? If she wanders aimlessly through life with no particular goals, that makes me as a reader less interested in her. Give me a reason why she behaves that way. Maybe she lacks confidence because of a past event. Maybe she’s afraid of failure. Knowing this will make the reader become more engaged with her. Give her redeemable qualities so we’ll like certain aspects of this person. If not, the reader won’t care, and that’s the death knell to your story. This also applies to the anti-hero. What makes him redeemable? Why should I, the reader, care about him? By balancing action with reaction, you’ll motivate your characters and make them more believable. For every action, you need a reaction. Don’t focus on plot to the exclusion of emotion. Make me care about your characters’ lives.

3. Avoid Bouncing Heads

Don’t switch viewpoints in mid-scene. If you must switch viewpoints, use a space break. Don’t leap into the head of every minor character. We cannot know a person’s thoughts unless we’re in their mind. You have to infer what the other person is thinking through non-verbal cues or dialogue. It becomes very disconcerting when every character we meet has an internal dialogue. Then the story loses focus. Stay in one character’s head. When you switch, indicate it with a space break.

4. Establish the Setting Up Front

As soon as possible into the story, establish the place, season, and time of day. Remember your five senses of Who, What, Why, Where, and When. Try to work these into the opening pages. Examples: Crickets chirped their nightly summer chorus, or late afternoon sunlight glinted off an icicle hanging from the roof. Also, don’t mention a street name or landmark and assume the reader knows where this place is. Be specific and give a location. Use the five senses to bring your settings alive, but remember to describe them from your viewpoint character’s perspective.

5. Watch Your Use of Bad Language

The occasional curse word may be acceptable for a hero who’s a hardass or for a heroine in the urban fantasy genre, but elsewhere it may raise a reader’s hackles. It can also turn off some readers completely, so this language should be sprinkled in judiciously, if at all. Add it only if it helps to define a character, not because you believe it makes your protagonist seem tough. Ask yourself: Is this necessary? If not, leave it out. Or deploy a substitute, like “frak” on Battlestar Galactica. Remember the old adage: Less is better, especially if you want to expand your readership.

6. Show, Don’t Tell

To keep the pace flowing, use dialogue and action and minimal exposition. If you have long passages where nothing happens except the protagonist thinks to herself or explains what happened in the past, the story comes to a dead halt. You want to imbue a sense of immediacy to your story, and that won’t happen unless you involve the reader. Long meandering passages of narration may have been acceptable centuries ago, but that doesn’t work today. Show us what’s happening; don’t tell us.

7. Avoid Flashbacks Like the Plague (and don’t use clichés, either)

The first chapter is your only chance to grab the reader so she’ll continue your story. If you segue into a flashback, the forward momentum is lost. Who cares what happened in the past? Throw in a line or two of dialogue or introspection to show us how the past is relevant to the current action, and then move on. Or make it part of the story action, such as a confrontation with a friend or a hesitation on the part of the main character to perform some act. Work backstory into your chapter with minimal intrusion. Flashbacks, too, will kill pacing, so remove those long passages that reflect past scenes and not the present. Only retain what is necessary to explain the current action.

8. Every Conversation Should Have a Purpose

When I suggest you use dialogue generously, I don’t mean that two friends should get together and chat meaninglessly on matters that don’t move the story forward. Dialogue must serve a purpose: to reveal information, define character, move the plot ahead, offer reaction and reflection on what’s just occurred. So ask yourself as you approach a conversation, what do you want to get across in this segment? If you don’t have a point to make, delete the scene.

9. Use Character Tags Sparingly

Try to replace “he said” or “she said” with actions. Avoid adverbs and show the tone of the conversation in dialogue instead. Don’t use “he thought” or “he wondered” if you are in the character’s head. Do use italics for inner thoughts.

Bad Example:

“You’d better not stick your nose where it doesn’t belong,” he said in an angry voice.

You’re telling me to mind my business? she thought. “I’ll do whatever it takes to find Angie’s killer,” she replied. “You’re the one who should watch your back.”

“Oh, yeah?” he sneered nastily. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Better Example:

“You’d better not stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.” He towered over me, as though his superior height could intimidate me into behaving.

You’re telling me to mind my own business? You’re the one who should watch your back. “I’ll do whatever it takes to find Angie’s killer.”

“Oh, yeah?” He jabbed his finger in the air. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

10. Proofread Your Work

Would you enjoy reading a book riddled with spelling errors or misplaced commas? No? Then why send one to a contest where mechanics are judged? Proofread your work for typos, dropped quotation marks, missing periods, and misspellings. Same goes for your work before you indie publish it. Get beta readers to help if you can, and definitely hire both a developmental and a copy editor. You want your work to appear professional, not only out of respect for your readers but also for your future career as an author. If the goal is to increase your readership, you’ll strive to publish a polished product so readers will want more.

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Living with a Writer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 1, 2016

My husband and I took a walk on Saturday, since we finally had a break from the rain and cold weather in South Florida.

Plantation Preserve

Our conversation went something like this:

“I finally figured out the murder weapon,” I said. “Now I just have to determine whodunit.”

“Oh, and I thought you were looking at knives on the computer to use on me.”

“No, I found the perfect blade with a special handle. It’ll help lead to the killer’s identity. But I’m not sure how I’ll get there. I have to eliminate each suspect one-by-one to reveal the bad guy.”

“I don’t know how you can do all that. It would give me a headache.”

“Me, too. I haven’t figured out what Marla will do next. Her stepdaughter just had an emergency. We have to get past that, and then….”

And so on. You get the idea. Our imaginations are always active. I tend to zone out at times and have to remind myself to live in the moment. But it’s hard when you’re in the middle of writing a novel to stop thinking about it. We need the momentum to keep going, until the final page where we can write The End. Then it’s like a great burden lifts off our brains…at least until we start revisions.

 

Marla

 

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Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

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!

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

Avoiding Info Dumps

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 15, 2016

An info dump is when you drop a chunk of information on the hapless reader. This can take various forms. Here are some examples:

Overzealous Research

You love your research, and you can’t help sharing it with readers. These excerpts are from Facials Can Be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13). The first paragraph is the original. The second one is the revised version.

Original

“The company built houses and rented them to the miners and their families. Single men would have shared a place together, eight to twelve of them in one dwelling. The homes were shotgun style. You could see in through the front door straight back to the rear. Since the miners worked twelve hour shifts, they weren’t all home at the same time. The rent was taken out of their paychecks.”

Revised

“The company built houses and rented them to the miners and their families. Single men often shared a place together. Since they worked twelve hour shifts, they weren’t all home at the same time.”

P1030065 (800x600)

Original

“The Colorado River Compact of 1922 divided the waters of the Colorado River between seven states and Mexico. Getting it to the farther regions of our state proved difficult. Thus was born the Central Arizona Project Canal, or CAP as we call it. This required pipelines and tunnels to move the water. That can be costly, which is why our cities obtain most of their water supply from underground aquifers. Groundwater is our cheapest and most available resource.”

Revised

“The Colorado River Compact of 1922 divided the resource between several states. The Central Arizona Project Canal, or CAP as we call it, uses pipelines to move the water to the far reaches of our state. That can be costly, which is why many of our cities obtain their water supply from underground aquifers. Groundwater is our cheapest and most available resource.”

Laundry List

Any kind of list runs the risk of being tedious. Here’s a litany of symptoms you might get after being bitten by a rattlesnake. This passage is from Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12):

Western rattlesnake strike ready

“You’d have intense burning pain at the site followed by swelling, discoloration of the skin, and hemorrhage. Your blood pressure would drop, accompanied by an increased heart rate as well as nausea and vomiting.”

As this passage wasn’t necessary to my plot, I took it out. Be wary of any list that goes on too long. Here’s another example:

He counted on his fingers all the things he’d have to do: get a haircut, buy a new dress shirt, make a reservation, call for the limo and be sure to stop by a flower shop on the way to Angie’s house.

Do we really need to know all this, or could we say, He ran down his mental to-do list and glanced at his watch with a wince. Could he accomplish everything in one hour flat?

Dialogue

Here’s a snatch of conversation between my sleuth, Marla the hairdresser, and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail:

conversation

“I’m going to talk to our next-door neighbor, who happens to be the Homeowners’ Association president,” Dalton told her. “Wait here with Brianna. Since my daughter is a teenager, she won’t understand the argument you and I had yesterday with the guy.”

“Yes, isn’t it something how he made a racist remark?” Marla replied.

“I thought it was kind of Cherry, our association treasurer, to defend you.”

This dialogue could have come from Hanging by a Hair (Bad Hair Day Mystery #11). But why would I have Marla and Dalton talking about something they both already know? This is a fault of new writers who want to get information across. It’s not the way to go, folks. Show, don’t tell. In other words, show us the scene and let it unfold in front of us. Don’t have two characters hack it to death later when they both know what happened. Now if one of these participants were to tell a friend what went down, that would be acceptable.

No doubt you’ve run across info dumps in your readings. Can you think of any further examples or other forms this problem might take?


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Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Book Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 11, 2016

As an author, I’m often asked what I like to read. Basically, my taste runs to genre fiction. I like to escape to other worlds far away from the reality of daily news. Here are some of my recent reads from Fall 2015. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Bookshelf

A Matter of Honor by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)
Captain Liam Hoffen and crew are determined to rescue the survivors from Cape of Good Hope, a ship abandoned by the powerful Belirand Corporation. But even as they set this goal, they’re marked for death. Because now they know the secret that Belirand will kill to keep. Aiding their quest is the mysterious inventor, Phillipe Anino. While avoiding Belirand’s assassins, Liam and friends discover the issue is way bigger than they’d thought. It could blow a hole in everyone’s concept of the known universe. And Belirand is willing to guard this knowledge at the expense of Liam, his crew, and their families. Is he willing to risk all to save the forty-five crew members of Cape of Good Hope?

A Matter of Honor is another action-packed installment in the Privateer Tales. What makes you care are the characters who are noble at heart and take the moral high road. They are heroes you can cheer for until the final page is turned, and then you have to wait impatiently for the sequel.

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron (Mystery)
Cajun cuisine mixes with murder and history in this delightful debut novel from Ellen Byron. Maggie Crozat, an artist from Manhattan, goes home for a stay at her family’s B&B. The mansion’s rooms are filled, but no sooner can you say “Laissez les bons temps roulez,” than the shenanigans begin. First one guest meets her demise. When her death appears suspicious and the finger points to Maggie’s relations, Maggie vows to uncover the truth. Impeding her progress is the sheriff, whose feud with the Crozat family is legendary. Fortunately, his handsome relative shows up on the force and quickly becomes Maggie’s ally. Will she unmask the murderer before more guests meet their untimely end? Can she save their plantation from financial ruin? Maggie needs to fire up her southern charm and sniff out a killer to save the estate. With the richly Southern setting, quirky characters, and evocative descriptions, you’ll be wanting more in this charming series.

Kris Longknife: Unrelenting (Science Fiction)
Admiral Princess Kris Longknife is in charge of Alwa’s defense, a planet under imminent threat of attack from a homicidal race. Her resources are limited. But it’s hard for her to remain focused when an act of sabotage within her own ranks neutralizes a number of military women’s birth control devices. Kris is one of the affected officers who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. With a baby on the way, she faces her biggest battle yet. The survival of the planet depends on her. Will her forces be strong enough to defend this one world and prevent the aliens from eradicating humanity elsewhere in the galaxy? Natives, colonialists, scientists, and soldiers join forces in the ultimate confrontation.

Kris Longknife is a sympathetic, strong female protagonist who keeps being forced into military space battles when she’d rather seek peace. But with her brilliant strategic mind, she’s best suited to lead her people toward victory. I’m eager for the next installment.

A Cup of Jo by Sandra Balzo (Mystery)
The grand opening of Maggy Thorsen’s coffee shop by a train station is proceeding according to plan, until the event organizer is found dead inside an inflatable coffee cup. Suspects abound, from the woman’s husband to various acquaintances, most of whom have motives. When her boyfriend’s integrity is called into question, Maggy decides to do some investigating of her own. A solid mystery, a cast of quirky characters, and a savory setting make this a pleasant whodunit to add to your shelves.

Killer Transaction by Catherine Bruns (Mystery)
Real estate agent Cindy York has the job from hell. She’s consistently cheated by rival Realtor, Tiffany Roberts. Tiffany steals her listings and woos her clients while their boss looks the other way. Being cheated one time too many, Cindy leaves a nasty message on Tiffany’s voice mail. This comes back to haunt her when she discovers the woman’s dead body. The police focus on Cindy as the main suspect. With her job in jeopardy and being a hairsbreadth away from serving jail time, can Cindy find the culprit and clear her name?

Smuggler’s Dilemma by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)
In Book 5 of the Privateer Tales, Captain Liam Hoffen and company are hired to locate a battleship operated by the deadly pirates known as Red Houzi. The pirate fleet has just decimated a naval force, and the Navy must regain control so people don’t panic. Liam’s unorthodox tactics are the only thing that might help them gain the upper hand. But when Liam spies the enemy ship, he decides that rather than call in the Navy as he’d been ordered, he’ll attack the vessel and take it over instead. Meanwhile, he struggles with his girlfriend’s recovery from disabling injuries. Can she manage well enough to come along as his pilot? This story contains the usual battle scenes, along with personal interactions that develop the characters.

Mercy’s Prince by Katy Huth Jones (Fantasy)
Valerian is second in line to the throne until his brother is killed in battle. Now the Crown Prince, Valerian must live up to his father’s expectations and become a warrior. While he’s struggling with his fate, Mercy lives in a nearby village and has to discover her destiny. Aware only recently of her healing power, she has no idea how extensive her gifts are until forced to use them. When Valerian and Mercy meet, they slowly realize they belong together. United, they can defeat the enemy. But how long will the peace last before the fearful soldiers come back stronger? Dragons, mind melds, magic, and romance blend together in this coming-of-age tale. Mercy’s Prince is a pleasant escapist read.

The Savants by Patrick Kendrick (YA SciFi Thriller)
The Eastern seaboard of the U.S. is imperiled when a nuclear bomb explodes underwater off the coast, triggering a fault line to crack apart. A gigantic tsunami will flood a number of states unless the President can find a solution. He discovers unlikely help at a research institute for savants, individuals who’ve suffered brain damage but are gifted in unique ways. Working together for the first time, these young people believe they can help. But their leader, who has brought them there to study the group’s dynamics, hides a secret of his own. Much worse is the secret guarded by the Vice President, who sows the seeds of distrust in our government. Can disaster be averted and the traitors in our midst exposed in time to save the world? Scientific theories collide with political intrigue in this fast-paced thriller. Kudos to Mr. Kendrick for educating us about savants and their special talents.

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (Historical Mystery)
This installment in the Royal Spyness series is the best yet. A trip to America for Lady Georgiana, distant cousin to the royal family, provides laughs with its fish-out-of-water theme. Add to this a wacky cast of film stars, an eccentric producer, and a jewel thief, and the fun accelerates. Georgiana’s suitor, the mysterious Mr. Darcy, appears when the crew congregates at a glitzy Hollywood mansion. He’s after the jewel thief, but then someone turns up dead. As the puzzle deepens, Georgiana wonders which one of her new friends is the culprit.

G-2 (The Guardian of Earth Series) by Nigel Carson (Science Fiction)
When Zeke discovers a hostile alien fleet is headed to Earth, he is determined to stop them. His role as Guardian of Earth and descendant of a faraway race is a secret. He trusts no one for help, including his robot valet, Forman. It’s a good thing, since Forman’s creator has tampered with his programming. She’s put a locator inside him, and this becomes useful as Zeke and Forman are compromised by the Maleem invaders. Zeke has a narrow escape aided by his girlfriend, Jessie. Could they use the way she freed him as a means to repel the alien force? Why is it that humans are disappearing around the globe? As more world leaders succumb to the Maleem mind link via a mysterious necklace, Zeke consults his Taman relatives for answers. How can he defeat an ingenious enemy who is seemingly unstoppable? They tell Zeke that he needs to have faith in his own powers and the help of others who believe in him. Can he use his newfound heritage to protect the planet? Filled with action, adventure, and suspense, this story will take you on a ride that’s out of this world. The secondary characters are memorable and unique. An exciting, edge-of-your-seat read!

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Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 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.

P1030932

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!
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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.

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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: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

 
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