Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Business of Writing’

How to be a Great Speaker

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 2, 2015

At the March meeting of Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter, bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan spoke for an hour on how to be a great speaker. Her talk was riveting and the perfect example of what she was saying. She should know. Joanna has been named by Sharing Ideas magazine as “one of the top 25 motivational speakers in the world.” Her personal essays have appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and one was made into a television program on the Pax Network. So here are her tips:

JoannaSlan2Tailor your introduction to meet the needs of the audience. What connection do you have with this group? Praise them for their work. What have they done that makes your life better? Practice out loud. It gives you muscle memory.

Before you speak, listen to group dynamics to learn what’s going on. This will also predispose people to like you. When addressing the group, “Charm their socks off.” When you reference people you’ve met who are in the group, you close the gap with the crowd. “It was great to sit with Mary today.” Listeners want a connection.

The group wants to learn about you as a person. What can they gain from hearing about your experiences?

Mention the importance of a signed book, how it might inspire a younger person to read or to write stories someday. If your readers aren’t in the audience, instill good will so the listeners want to take home a piece of you or give your book to someone who loves to read. A physical book can be kept as a souvenir or passed on.

Anything you can do wrong has already happened to someone more important. The audience is rooting for you to succeed. Nobody expects perfection, but they don’t want you to waste their time either. What can you do that benefits them? Regarding handouts, people often keep them for years.

Prepare your introduction. Prepare a testimonial that relates to your expertise. Find someone in the audience who can back up your claims. Prepare something fun, like putting sticky notes under a chair so someone wins a prize.

Catalog your personal anecdotes and practice them. You shouldn’t be the hero of your own story all the time, i.e. “I did this and everyone loved me.”

Get the audience engaged by asking them a question. Perform an activity, like asking them to speak to a neighbor or write something down on an index card. End your talk with a call to action, i.e. sign up for your newsletter. Hand around a slip of paper and offer a freebie for people who sign up. Or do a special offer: If you buy 5 books, I’ll donate one to your library.”

Now to go practice what Joanna taught us….

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Joanna’s first mystery novel—Paper, Scissors, Death—was an Agatha Award finalist. It features Kiki Lowenstein, a spunky single mom who lives in St. Louis. Joanna’s next series—The Jane Eyre Chronicles—began with Death of a Schoolgirl and continues with the release of Death of a Dowager. Her newest series—the Cara Mia Delgatto Mysteries—is all about second chances. Tear Down and Die and Kicked to the Curb are just the beginning. The college textbook Joanna wrote—Using Stories and Humor: Grab Your Audience—has been praised as an invaluable resource by Benjamin Netanyahu’s speechwriter and has been endorsed by Toastmasters, International. http://www.joanna-campbell-slan.com/

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Agents and Editors

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 3, 2015

Friday morning at SleuthFest began the editor and agent panels. Here’s a summary.

AGENTS

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Kristyn Keene likes women’s fiction, thrillers, crime fiction.
Mel Berger likes an “important” book or one that has potential for being a commercial success, including romance and thrillers.
Victoria Skurnick is looking for “great” books with a unique voice. No sf/fantasy.
William Callahan is “interested in everything” but especially works with a historical element, true crime, or psychological suspense.

Queries must have a professional look with no weird fonts. The story should be told in a concise summary. Mention your awards and writing credentials. Lead with your strengths and kill the adjectives. Mention why this agent is right for your book. In the body of your e-mail, include a sample such as the first few pages. Do not attach files because the agent will not open them from strangers. Avoid gimmicks and gifts. Don’t use redundancies like “I’m sending you a fiction novel.” A novel is fiction. Don’t say your book is “better than Gone Girl.” Watch the clichés like “grim satisfaction,” or “he said dryly.” Kristyn took on an author who’d first self-published her book, and she’s been very successful. What works? Memorable characters, interesting settings, uniqueness, something the author brings to a genre that’s different. Your confidence as a writer and the momentum count as well. The agent wants to keep turning pages.

They all prefer e-mail submissions. Multiple submissions are acceptable. Would they accept a previously published e-book? It would depend on the sales figures. Does having a social media presence matter? Not to them. They suggest you focus on the manuscript.

EDITORS

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Neil Nyren is looking for a book where the author is in control plus something extra, a certain intensity. He has to love the book and believe in it. Christine Pepe wants a story that connects with her, so that she gets what the author is trying to say. Hannah Braaten has to love the characters and the place, so that it becomes somewhere she wants to go. She prefers writing where she doesn’t have to work too hard and can sync right into the story.

The editors discussed changes in publishing. Frequency enhances your brand and doesn’t cannibalize your own work as previously thought. We have more choices today in how we can publish books, including enhanced e-books and trade paperbacks. Readers have higher expectations than ever, and ways to acquire printed matter will expand. The publisher still wants a full year to prepare a book for publication. They need to get the editorial staff excited, produce galleys, build media buzz in-house and out in the world.

“There’s room in the marketplace for other formats.” Regarding advances, it’s safer to have diminished expectations. Normally there’s a proportional commitment to promote a book based on the advance. It’s because the publisher feels this book is more likely to succeed. “You’re always trying to build the author and not only the book.” You can start small and show an editor that you have a fanbase of readers.

What is not selling well? Battered women and children in danger. Also, don’t kill the dog.

Don’t follow trends, such as dystopian novels. Write a story that drives your passion.

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View the photos in my SleuthFest 2015 album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

I’m appearing today at Maggie Toussaint’s Book Launch Party for her new scifi novel, G-1. Join the party from 11am – 2pm at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Book Cover Design Process

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 25, 2015

When designing a book cover, a number of items need to be considered. What is the genre? The mood of the story? The background setting? What type of “look” do you want to get across? Is this best done with photography or illustration? Do you like people on the cover? Can you describe a particular scene you envision, or images that might work?

When I contacted Patty G. Henderson from http://boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com about doing my cover for a revised edition of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2), I gave her a basic summary of the plot. Hairstylist Marla Shore volunteers for Taste of the World, a fund-raiser to benefit a coastal preservation society. Someone is sabotaging the chefs involved in this gala event set in South Florida. I wanted to blend elements of the tropical setting with the food theme and also give a hint about the murder mystery.

I mentioned Bonnet House to Patty. This Fort Lauderdale historic attraction served as the model for cousin Cynthia’s estate in the story. Photos on their website could provide inspiration. After a while, Patty sent me these two mock-up covers for my initial inspection. What did I like or dislike about them? What should we change?

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I was awestruck at how Patty instinctively understood my brand as an author and the genre in which I write. Since I write humorous cozies, I’ve noticed these covers are mostly illustrations rather than photographic portrayals. Readers like me want to be able to tell the genre at a glance. I had sent her a list of covers on Amazon that appealed to me as a reader. This mockup got the concept just right.

Patty covered the murder mystery aspect perfectly with the bloody scissors. She got the chef part of the plot correct with the serving dish. And she got the seaside location fine. However, Florida doesn’t have mountains. So that hill behind the building had to go. I’m also not fond of pastels. I like sharp, bright colors representative of the tropics. But I did like the green, coral, beige, and turquoise tones. However, they needed to be sharpened and made darker.

On proof number one, the cover on the above left, the title font is cute and appropriate to a humorous mystery. But it’s too light. So is my name. And from far away, you can’t see the series title at all.

On proof number two, I don’t care for the series logo either. We need a different symbol than the shears because Five Star uses them on my new titles. And this wave design would have to be carried through on subsequent books in the series. I liked the one on the left but that wording doesn’t show up. So let’s get rid of the wave altogether and work on a series title that’s more visible.

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These are better with brighter colors and sharper wording. Looking at proof number 3 on the left, I note the mountain is gone. I like my name at the top in dark green. The top of Hair Raiser, though, is hard to see because of the busy background elements. And I’m not crazy about the three combs. They’re cute but show no element of mystery.

Number 4 on the right is better. But oops, the mountain is back. I like the title font, color and placement. I like my name where it is but more to the right, so it’s all in the turquoise section. And I like the crossed teasing combs for the series logo but not dividing up the wording. What if we move the series logo above my name? That might work.

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“Is this the winner?” Patty asked. “Oh, yes,” I replied. ”It’s perfect.” Finally, we had our cover! I do love it, the images, the fonts, the colors—everything.

But were we done? Not yet! Next came the paperback edition. What did I want on the back side? A solid color or some of the front image? Did I want the book title at the top of the back or the series title? What do we want on the spine? And so here is the final result of this process:

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It requires a lot of patience between both parties to get things done just right. But the results are definitely worth the thrill you get when everything falls into place.

To contact Patty G. Henderson, go to http://boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com/

Join my book launch party on Tuesday, Jan. 27, from 6:00 – 8:00pm EST at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty for Fun and Giveaways!

HAIR RAISER Buy Links:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/14M9l5B
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/hair-raiser/id957020158?mt=11&uo=4&at=113vsrx
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hair-raiser-2
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hair-raiser-nancy-cohen/1017599109?ean=2940149980222
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00S4VCUM8
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5253406

Add to Goodreads List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24478683-hair-raiser

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Writing Goals for 2015

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 4, 2015

Usually I split my career goals into two paths, the creative end and the business of writing. So here are my upcoming objectives for 2015.

WRITING GOALS

Finish and Submit Facials Can Be Fatal, #13 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Revise backlist mystery titles, including Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, and Body Wave.
Commence audio book process starting with Permed to Death.
Hire editor for two standalone mysteries and consider bundling them as a box set.
Begin plotting #14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Consider timeline for writing books #4-6 in the Drift Lords Series.

BUSINESS GOALS

Hold launch party for each backlist title as the revised Author’s Edition is published.
Plan promo campaign for Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, due out in October.
Enter books in writing contests.
Keep up with quarterly newsletter, blogs and social networking sites.

And what do you hope to accomplish this year?

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There’s still time! Vote for Hanging by a Hair under Mystery Novels in the Annual Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll: http://critters.org/predpoll/novelmys.shtml

Today begins the next Booklover’s Bench contest. Visit our site and enter now: http://bookloversbench.com. I’ll be giving away a first edition signed copy of Moonlight Rhapsody, one of my earlier sci-fi romances.

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

2014 in Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 1, 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 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 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Goals Met

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! It’s traditional on this day to revisit what’s been accomplished over the past twelve months. So I dug up my goal list from this time last year to see what actually got done. Here we go:

WRITING GOALS

Finish Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. (DONE; Turned in, edits finished, book is scheduled for release in October 2015)

Do edits for Warrior Lord, #3 in the Drift Lords series, when I get them from my editor. Read through the page proofs until this project is complete and in production. (DONE; Book Released August 2014)

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Complete edits on Murder at Your Service, an original mystery that I plan to indie publish. (NOT DONE; put this project on the back burner.)

 

BUSINESS GOALS

Implement marketing plan for Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, due out in April. (DONE)

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Complete legal preparation for indie publishing venture by the end of January (DONE). Hire book cover designer and book formatter (DONE).

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Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery in time for SleuthFest at the end of February. (DONE).

Cozy

Design marketing plan for Warrior Lord (DONE).

Begin prep work for Thumbs Up, my father’s travel memoir, a true adventure of his cross-country hitchhiking journey in 1929. (DONE AND PUBLISHED).

Thumbs Up

So it appears I’ve accomplished all but one of my goals. I had two works of fiction and two works of nonfiction published in 2014. That’s quite enough, since launch parties and promo took up the rest of the time. In fact, that’s more than what I hope to do in 2015. In another post, I’ll share my new goals for the coming year.

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

 

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

Marketing to Bloggers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 16, 2014

At a recent meeting of Florida Romance Writers, we heard Ana Ivies speak about Marketing, Blogs and Reader Events. She runs http://wickedbookevents.com and http://anasattic.com which cater to readers.

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For those who use affiliate links on their blogs, Ana says blog revenues have decreased since Kindle Unlimited got started. KU “has changed the landscape of reading.” Many bloggers won’t promote KU books. Ana sells books from her sites and puts up free and $.99 book specials there too. She advises authors that KU may be better for backlist titles. Bloggers want to promote new releases. Don’t undervalue your book to $.99 unless it’s a novella. When the third or fourth book in a series comes out, put book one on sale.

Advice For Approaching Bloggers

Find bloggers who review books similar to yours.
Research the site before querying to see if a blogger will promote your book.
Review their submission requirements. Ana says Net Galley is a good way to reach bloggers. Make sure you grammar check your query.
Follow the blogger on social media.
Address the blogger by name. Say, “Hi, I’d like to introduce myself…”
Give your name, book title, and a link to your book on Amazon. When asking to sign at an event, provide all of your links.
Support other authors.
Interact; don’t only promote.
Include all of your social media links in your email signature.
Put your Amazon author link on your FB page.
If a blogger gives you a positive review, comment on it and share it. Express your gratitude. “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book.”
If you do a blog tour, go over and thank the host for being part of your event. A tour-wide giveaway draws readers in but don’t give away the ebook the blogger is promoting.

What Not To Do

Do not post your book or buy links on a blogger’s Facebook page. It’s okay to comment on a blogger’s FB posts and share their links.
Don’t tag a blogger in a promo post.
Don’t have your street team hijack a thread on her site and flood it with comments. One of two of your fans replying to a post is enough.
Don’t have your virtual assistant pose as you.
Don’t compare one blogger to another.
Don’t sign up a blogger for your email list without asking.
Don’t make fun of 1 star reviews.
Deal with drama privately, not online.

“When you write a book, it’s thirty percent writing and seventy percent promotion.”

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Final Words from #Ninc14

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 12, 2014

Final Advice for Writers from #Ninc14
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

To summarize the concluding talks from #Ninc14, here are the final points.

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If you have a lifeboat or collaborative team, specify your goals. Is it to increase sales or readership, or to reach bestseller status?

Series or related books sell the best. Make the first one $.99 so it can be called a bestseller as opposed to free.

Check to see if you have some rights back if not all, i.e. Do you have the rights for non-US territories, audio, translation rights?

Hire translators from the United States and not from other countries. If you hire somebody from outside the US, you will have to pay them royalties.

Don’t get discouraged. Just get more material out there. It’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed. Once you’re making money, hire people to do everything.

It’s the technology age and you have to do social media, whether or not it’s in your comfort zone.

Ask your readers what they prefer in how they buy books. Do they pre-order?

Don’t just dip your toes in the brave new world of self-publishing. Jump in naked.

Don’t make decisions based on fear. Make it based on your intuition. Know what you are good at and what you need help with. What does success mean to you?

Get your titles out there. They don’t all have to be full-length novels.

Ask your publishing partners these questions: What can you do better than anyone else? What do you think I do well? How could I do better? What skills can you contribute? What market intelligence do you have that we can use together? What information do I have that you need, and for what purpose? What’s the best way we can add value for each other?

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Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery, Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

 

Posted in Conferences, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

iBooks Tips for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 10, 2014

Working with iBooks
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

iBooks

Representatives from iBooks spoke at the Ninc conference. They said their readers like free ebooks, so Apple offers the first free in series promotion. Their readers are also willing to pay more for a book so don’t be afraid to price higher.

Pre-orders count double toward your sales ranking—when a pre-order comes in and when the book releases. You can do pre-orders up to one year before the book’s release. You can offer a sample of the story when the book is in pre-order. So Step One is to set the pre-order date, which is when the book is available for ordering. Step Two is to set the sales start date, when the book can be sent out.

iBook sales count on the USA Today list. iBooks are only allowed on five devices for one person. You should put your iBook links on your websites, Twitter, newsletter and elsewhere. For Twitter, use the hash tag #iBooks, not #iTunes.

It takes time to build readers on this platform. They recommend you have three books minimum in your series when you offer the first one free. In the back material, make sure you include links along with covers for your other books.

Make sure your name is readable on a thumb-sized cover. For the URL, take out the specific country, and the URL will redirect to the country of the buyer.

i.e. Take out the U.S. part from this link:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/nancy-j.-cohen/id411505950?mt=11&uo=4&at=1l3vsrx

And it becomes this link that redirects to the buyer’s country. See if this works for you:
https://itunes.apple.com/artist/nancy-j.-cohen/id411505950?mt=11&uo=4&at=1l3vsrx

They can only link your series titles if the books are uploaded by the same publisher. So if the books come from different sources, they won’t be able to link the titles in a series.

You might want to join their Affiliate program so you can share in some of the revenue from sales.

iBooks is in 51 territories. The German market is huge. We need to think more globally. Apple has a strong worldwide presence. India will be an emerging market for ebooks.

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery, Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Pitching your Book to Hollywood

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 5, 2014

How to Attract Hollywood to your Book
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

Why does Hollywood keep doing sequels and remakes? The simple answer is fear. Studios are filled with people who have legitimate fears about their jobs.

Hollywood Ninc14

China is a huge market right now. A movie might not do as well in the United States as it does in the international market. Character dramas and romantic comedies do not travel globally. The failure rate for romantic comedies in the United States is high. They are under-performing in theaters, so they’ve migrated to television. Romance is alive on the big screen but in melodrama, not comedy. These films do well in English-speaking, Western European countries but not in Asia. Character driven stories do not perform as well as dialogue driven ones. Hollywood honchos have to consider the P&A Cost or Print and Advertising budget. A $100 million movie costs $200 million to market. Smaller movies do not work as well because of this factor, and they do not attract as much attention.

Movie Sequels

Television has a bigger audience, so character driven stories can work better here. Authors should point to their sales to convince filmmakers there is an audience for their work. Pitching in Hollywood is for seasoned writers-producers. These people create TV shows. The speaker said she does a preliminary pitch first and then a more formal pitch. Then they “clear the arena” to see who else is doing similar projects.

Tips for Authors

Understand Hollywood is looking for something different.
Boil your novel down to one sentence.
Don’t say “this meets that” to describe your work comparing movies.
Be open about casting.

Trends

Hollywood is making more features for the international markets.
African-American romantic comedy ensembles are finding audiences.
Low-budget Christian films are finding audiences.
There is a market for romantic melodramas in feature films.
TV is great for character driven stories. They can deliver bigger audiences than features.
Traditional romantic comedy has migrated to TV.

How to Approach a Writer-Producer

Have your agent submit your published novel. The writer-producer may request a “shopping agreement” which gives them one year to pitch your story with no payment. If interested, the studio or network will pay the author and the writer-producer separately.

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery, Killer Knots, in our December contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

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

 
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