Marketing and Revising: Ways and Means and Help

_MG_0835 - Version 2

Setenil de Las Bodegas, Spain, setting for The Child on the Terrace

I spent most of this week learning about marketing. Earlier, I received a series of e-mails from Nick Stephenson, writer and teacher of marketing about “Your First 10K readers“. He supplied 3 videos on the subject. Well worth the time spent, if only for the insight into how Amazon and other on-line retailers find books, but also for the methods of applying that insight to one’s own books. I haven’t applied his method as yet, mostly because, as I have a publishing contract, choosing such things as category and key words isn’t up to me. However, I shall put together a plan and suggest it to the publisher, Cambridge Books.

Laurence O’Bryan at Books Go Social offers a great service, connecting authors with each other and customers.

I’m revising my next book, working title Saving Fillide. One bit of advice that keeps popping up is to “kill your darlings”. and I did just that, moving the opening of the book to the third chapter. It has made for a more suspenseful opening, but in the process, I lost some back story and one subplot that needs to go back in but in a different place and manner.

Barbara Kyle, at a Turning Leaves, a Writescape retreat, suggested a book by her agent, Al Zuckerman, called Writing the Blockbuster Novel and it is immeasurably helpful in revision. I’m attending a workshop Barbara is giving on Friday, Feb. 20th at the University of Guelph Writers’ Workshop on Crafting the Bestseller; Your first 50 Pages and know I will learn more. She is an excellent teacher.

The Child on the Terrace is now available on major e-book sites. Connect through the link to my book launch page.Winters_Child_RT_jpgSM copy2

New book: The Child on the Terrace

At last, the advance reading copies of The Child on the Terrace are available, in print for now, at Amazon.com and writewordsinc.com. Comments, reviews welcome.
Winters_Child_RT_jpgSM

 

 

 

Anne McPhail, retired pediatrician, shattered by her experience in Bermuda, rents a tiny house in Setenil, Spain, hoping to reconcile what she learned about herself and Thomas after the gunfire in that dark room on the island.

But she sees a child on the terrace of the local cafe who doesn’t seem to belong to her minders and then Ari, the Mossad agent who saved Anne’s life, seeks her out with a plan to rescue the child from kidnappers. Should she trust him? Three days later, she is on the run with Ari and the little girl, with killers Esti and Sergio on their trail. She glimpses a man she thinks is Thomas. Is he, too in Spain?

And why? How far will Anne go to save Naomi?

From Spain to France to Italy, this is Anne’s most dangerous journey.

 

Watch on Thursday for my interview with author Max. E. Stone about his new book, One Minute There.

 

16 ways to market a novel.

A beautiful Sunday morning here in Southern Ontario, cold but with a robins-egg blue sky and a touch of fresh snow, patterned with long shadows by the rising sun.

The work for this winter is two-fold: marketing The Child on the Terrace and rewriting Saving Fillide. Last week I reviewed a critique of the first twenty pages of Saving Fillide by an editor, Lindsay Guzzardo, of The Editorial Company. Included in her recommendations was advice that I read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, which I had some years ago and Syd Field’s Screenplay, The Foundations of Screenwriting.

Screenwriting? No, I’m not writing a movie or television script, but Field’s book is an excellent source of advice about plotting.

Marketing. Marketing wasn’t a part of the writing career that I gave much thought to in 1998 when I scribbled the beginning of Murderous Roots but since then I’ve spent many hours thinking about it, designing web sites and book launch pages, researching promotional sites and twitter services. The list of people who would be happy to take money for alerting the world of the internet to a new book is endless. A list of sites I’ve looked at and think worthwhile to consider include:

1. Enchanted Book Promotions. This service provides everything from a one day book launch package to a full promotional service with blog tours of many lengths.

2. AskDavid. This tweeting service and book review site is inexpensive, easy to use and delivers.

3. BooksgoSocial Lawrence O’Bryan’s business includes promotion, book reviews, an author page and a very active Facebook page for authors to connect with other authors.

4. 1888PressRelease: Another paid service that I’ve used twice before. Packages vary in add-ons. You can pick which package has the most potential value for your writing business.

5. Booklaunch.io A site that allows you to design a book landing page with all the required elements, including video trailers and links to many online booksellers imbedded in the page. Click to see mine for No Motive for Murder.

Book review sites:

6. The Book Report Book review site on radio.

7. The New Kindle Book Review This site has a book contest as well as reviews.

8. Dealsharingaunt Book reviews, contests and giveaways.

Other Suggestions:

9. Authors you know. Ask for review.

10. Authors you have an introduction to. Can’t hurt to ask politely.

11. Local Media:

Newspapers, radio stations, television stations.

Other ways to market

12. The authors pages at Crime Writers of Canada, The Writers Union of Canada, Canadian Authors Association.

13. Email your friends.

14. Mailchimp: Mailchimp is a service which allows you to set up an email sign-up page, develop a marketing letter and send it off in a marketing campaign.

15. Email librarians in the neighbourhood that a new book is available.

16. Book contests: I’m looking at a number of contests and lists of contests to send The Child on the Terrace to this year.

US Book News

Epic’s  awards for e-books.

Ippys awards for books from independents, self-published, small presses.

Bath Novel Award

Exeter novel prize.

So that’s it so far. But the most important is word of mouth, so don’t forget Facebook, Goodreads, Wattpad, tell your friends, tell your aunt, tell your coworkers, tell the checkout girls at the grocery store. Take those speaking engagements, go to the book clubs. Blog. And sometime in there find time to work on the next book.

 

 

 

 

 

Editors and Writers

Autocrit, an online editing service which I use because it is useful in many areas of revision, offered a deal before Christmas: for $99US, editorial comment on the first 20 pages of a manuscript by The Editorial Department. Renni Brown, who wrote Self Editing for Fiction Writers, is one of the founders of the company.

The editor assigned to me, Lindsay Guzzaro, is a well-respected editor and author. She identified what worked and what didn’t in the first 20 pages.

Now I have to decide whether I can use her comments to improve not just the first 20 pages, but the remainder of the manuscript. She did recommend I read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, which I did some years ago and will do again, and Syd Field, The Fundamentals of Screenwriting, not because I am writing a script, but for his teaching about plot and dialogue.

I’m part way through Field’s book, and I must say he is an excellent teacher and I am finding the book relevant to my work.

When I finish reading, I’ll begin the task for 2015, which is a rewrite of the manuscript, bearing in mind advice from Lindsay Guzzaro,  teachers Ruth E. Walker and Gwynn Scheltema of Writescape, as well as teaching from Barbara Kyle at a recent retreat. Too much advice? Perhaps, but I see a way forward now.

Also reading Between Gods, by Alison Pick, an intimate biography of a woman’s search for her Jewish identity.

Finished reading The Best Laid Plans, by Terry Fallis, a hilarious political comedy. A recommended read for political junkies.

 

Book Review: Land of Careful Shadows

Book Review: Land of Careful Shadows, A Jimmy Vega Mystery

A few weeks ago, I posted an author interview with Suzanne Chazin, author of Land of Careful Shadows. Yesterday, I finished reading her compellingUnknown new novel, a mystery set in New York State, some of its characters a few of the undocumented millions of living in America.

Her protagonist, Jimmy Vega, a police detective uncoupled from his Latino roots by marriage, divorce, and the death of his beloved mother, investigates the apparent homicide of an anonymous woman pulled from a local river. Before the investigation reaches its sad conclusion, his life is shattered and the pieces coalesced into a new beginning.

Vega is complex, at times difficult and abrasive, at times soft and compassionate. Of the rest of the characters, I found Rodrigo, a Guatemalan suspected of the crime, to be the most interesting and sympathetic. The villain of the piece is not a person, but a culture that denies the people living within it.

Overall, the book is well-written and engrossing. I recommend it both as a mystery and as a window into the unfortunate and demoralizing world of the “illegal alien” in the United States.

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

My friend Barb suggested a book to me a couple of weeks ago, a mystery/suspense novel by Kerry Greenwood, an Australian writer.

Her character, a woman with the impossible name of the Honourable Phryne(fry-knee) Fisher, has moved back to her native Australia from England. Multiple deaths in WWI of the sons of one aristocratic family left her father an Earl and her with an English education and a fortune.

Cocaine Bluesis her first adventure.

From Wikipedia:

After the Honourable Phryne Fisher solves a country-house jewel robbery in record time, she is asked by Colonel and Mrs. Andrews to look into the matter of their daughter in Australia, who they fear may be being poisoned by her husband. Having grown bored with English social life, Phryne is happy to have an excuse to put off making decisions about her future for the next few months or so, and promptly relocates to Melbourne.

UnknownThe twenties were roaring in Australia too, if one had money and status. I love the description of Phryne’s clothes and car and jewellery. Greenwood recreates the world of the rich, bored and drugged-up in an adventure with a twist at the end.

Phryne loves beautiful young men and Greenwood doesn’t stint in detailing her heroine’s sexual adventures.

Phryne is engaging, clever, quick-witted and brave. I’ve read books 1 through 5 and recommend them all. The good news is there are twenty all together as well as another series to go.

Available at Amazon.com in paper and e-book.

 

Five sites for marketing the book

After three novels and many short stories that failed to make me the wealthy writer, I set out to learn about marketing. Hiring a firm to do PR for the novel is out of the question for me and I suspect most of us, but buying pieces of the marketing is not. Some of what I found is below.

I started by, of course, googling the idea on Firefox to check the Alexa rating of the various offerings. For those who don’t know, lower is better and means more visitors to the site.

AskDavid.com Alexa rank 95,082.A free service for listing your books and promoting them on twitter. . The site starts with 5 free tweets and a further 30 are $10 dollars, and expands the reach of your own twitter account, at least for me.

1888PressRelease  Alexa rank 18,430. I’ve used this one twice at the 50$ level. It performs as advertised. They vet your release and send it out when you want. Many levels of distribution including Free.

Book Buzzr Alexa rank 130,343. I set up my free site on BookBuzzr this weekend. It includes a number of goodies including a flip-book feature for the my page on their site as well as on my website. Check that out at virginiawinters.ca. I haven’t added a subscription as yet but I may when my new book, The Child on the Terrace is released.

Books go Social Alexa Rank 569,998. No Motive for Murder is listed on this site(for a fee). The Facebook group is active and after the first book, new ones can be added for $39. Owner Lawrence O’Bryan tells me there are more than 300,000 followers now. He’d like three reviews and then he will promote on the site. A good site to look for books from indie authors.

Enchanted Book Promotion Alexa rank 910,437. This site sets up blog tours, release parties(on-line), writes press releases, develops full marketing plans: all for different fees. One author I contacted said that he had signed up at the Princess level($100) and the site performed as advertised. He didn’t know if it increased sales or not. Levels start at $29 and go up from there with additional tour stops or services at increasing cost.

If you have any other sites, strategies or comments, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

New Mystery Novel: Land of Careful Shadows

UnknownToday, I have a guest—mystery writer Suzanne Chazin’s new release, Land of Careful Shadows.

 

“Hits the heart, not just the pulse, with people you come to care about. First rate and highly recommended.”—LEE CHILD

 

 

 

A body is found in a reservoir fifty miles north of New York City. The victim is young, female and Hispanic. In her purse, the police find a photograph of a baby they believe is her daughter–a little girl they can’t identify. Or find. Where is the child? Is she still alive? And what is the meaning behind the disturbing note in the woman’s bag? “Go back to your country. You don’t belong here.”

Arriving at the scene is homicide detective Jimmy Vega, who spent the better part of his childhood in the area and still carries the scars. A Latino himself, Vega knows all too well how hard it can be for an outsider to fit into a close-knit place like Lake Holly. Even now, as a respected officer of the law, he has to watch his step in an investigation simmering with ethnic animosities and steeped in local gossip. Both challenged and intrigued by Adele Figueroa—a passionate defender of immigrants’ rights who reminds him uncomfortably of his own family’s struggles—Vega must rethink everything he believes to uncover long-buried truths about his community, his loved ones . . . and himself.

Filled with drama, mystery and raw emotions, Land of Careful Shadows shines a nuanced and timely light on a small town’s darkest secrets and deepest obsessions. It is not only a tour de force of literary suspense, but an intimate journey into the human heart.

 

 

I asked Suzanne to comment on her writing process and inspiration for her writing. Check out her website(address below) for more about Land of Careful Shadows and Suzanne.

 

 

Q&A on the writing process with Suzanne Chazin, author of Land of Careful Shadows, the first installment in the Jimmy Vega mystery series to be released November 25th, 2014 in hardcover from Kensington Books:

 

How do you come up with book ideas?

I’m curious by nature. I think writers have to be. The curiosity can be about something you’ve experienced or something someone else has experienced. But you need to feel drawn to that sense of wonder and surprise at the human condition.

My new series started from personal curiosity. My family and I were living in Mount Kisco, NY when my son was small. I was writing my first mystery series back then, about the FDNY (my husband is a chief in the New York City Fire Department). Every morning, I would take my son for a stroller walk downtown. I was struck by all the Hispanic men waiting for day-labor jobs by the train station. Even in the bitter cold, they were there and many of them went un-hired. I started to wonder about their stories—where did they come from? What had their life been like to make standing out there a good alternative? I wanted to find a way to explore their stories that didn’t feel heavy and preachy. As a mystery writer, I am always interested in stories that

Whether you write from your own personal experience or not, I think every good story comes from the unanswered questions inside of you.

 

What about that old adage: write what you know. True or false?

Writing, to my way of thinking, is always an exploration. Even people who write about their own lives are writing what they don’t completely understand in the hopes that the process of writing will sort things out more clearly.

A better adage, I think, is to write what you “want” to know. This could be trying to understand your parents’ divorce, a friend’s betrayal or—in the case of Jimmy Vega, the main character in my new series, how to come to terms with who you are when you never feel like you belong.

 

Tell me about Jimmy Vega. How did you come to write about a male Puerto Rican detective:

I’m a first-generation American and an only child. My father was born in Russia and my mother was born and raised in England. My parents didn’t really understand the cultural norms of suburban America in the 1970s. We weren’t the family that hosted barbecues or belonged to the PTA or rotary club. We didn’t follow football or baseball. You got good grades in school and got an after-school job as soon as you were old enough to work.

I understand immigrants. I understand that single-minded desire to succeed. But it can take a toll in the sense that you often feel different from your peers. There is always the sense that you’re an outsider looking in.

I have always been drawn to writing characters like that in my fiction. In my first mystery series, about the FDNY, my main character was a 5-foot-2-inch female firefighter-turned-fire-marshal. She was a short woman in a world of big, macho men. Although my husband is a firefighter, I have never stepped inside of a burning building. Still, I felt entirely comfortable inhabiting the skin of a woman my height who had to take on a challenge and prove she was capable. I think all women at some point find themselves in a position where they have to prove they are as a capable—if not more—than the men they’re around.

It may seem a leap to go from my fire marshal, Georgia Skeehan, to Jimmy Vega, a male, Bronx-born Puerto Rican homicide detective. But if anything, Jimmy is more like me than any character I’ve ever written. He constantly straddles two worlds—that of his traditional Puerto Rican upbringing and the suburban cop world he inhabits now. He is not traditionally religious. He has no political agenda. Because he’s not entirely enmeshed in any one point of view, he tends to be able to see most things with a dash of skepticism and humor.

 

What advice would you give to a beginning mystery writer now?

The world of publishing is much more difficult than it was when I started my first series. A manuscript has to be in pristine shape before an agent will take it on or a publisher will publish it. You need to be willing to write and rewrite your work—and don’t be shy about hiring an outside editor. An experienced eye is worth your time and money because often, once an agent or publisher rejects a book, they won’t look at it again so you don’t want to go out with anything that isn’t the absolute best you can make it.

 

 

About Suzanne Chazin:

Suzanne Chazin is the author of two mystery/thriller series. Her first, about the FDNY, include The Fourth Angel, Flashover and Fireplay. The series has been called “searing and emotionally explosive” (USA Today), and her heroine, fire investigator Georgia Skeehan, “incredibly strong” (People Magazine).

Chazin’s newest mystery series stars Jimmy Vega, an upstate New York cop navigating the world of the undocumented. The first book in the series, Land of Careful Shadows, has just been released by Kensington Books. “Timely and engrossing,” writes Publishers Weekly. Jimmy Vega is, “engaging, psychologically complex,” and the story “builds to a shocking conclusion.” Lee Child raves: “Hits the heart, not just the pulse, with people you come to care about. First rate and highly recommended.”

A former journalist, Chazin’s essays and articles have appeared in American Health, Family Circle, the New York Times, and People. She has twice been the recipient of the Washington Irving Book award for fiction. Her short fiction appeared in the anthology, Bronx Noir, which won the 2008 Book of the Year Award for special fiction from the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association.

Chazin has taught fiction and non-fiction writing at New York University, The New School for Social Research and Sarah Lawrence College. She was a 2012 writing fellow at Purchase College and is a frequent guest lecturer on writing at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

Her website is: www.suzannechazin.com

 

Sent! Last Sunday I emailed the latest installment of Anne McPhail’s Dangerous Journeys to Arline Chase of Cambridge Books, Maryland. Working title is The Child on the Terrace and it’s set in Europe: Spain, the south of France and Liguria in Italy.
Writers write, but they also market, look for sources of income while waiting for the book to sell, and take courses to further their craft and to meet other writers.
Marketing The Child on the Terrace is next for me, but most of that waits until the book is actually available to buy. In the meantime, I’ve applied for a grant from the Ontario Arts Council for my work-in-progress. Applying is a time-consuming process, involving editing the first forty pages of the novel-to-be into the best it can be at this stage, printing 5 copies, and a synopsis and sending the lot to the office in Toronto. Novelists can also apply for Writers’ Reserve Grant: 10 pages but the applications go to recommenders(publishers) who support(or not) the application. http://www.arts.on.ca/site4.aspx

 
On October 17th, I’ll drive to Fern Resort for this year’s Turning Leaves writing retreat from Writescape. Always a fun and productive weekend. This year’s guest is Barbara Kyle, writer of historical fiction and crime novels.
Plans for the winter include rewriting several short stories that have yet to be sold or win prizes, work on the as yet untitled new novel, and proofreading The Child on the Terrace.
Recently I attended a tax seminar presented by Gwynn Scheltema of Writescape who, among other careers, was and is an accountant. Very useful and well worth attending when she next offers it through Writescape. Another visit to my own accountant coming up!
I’m off to Toronto for a few days next week to visit an old friend and perhaps the Alex Colville show at the AGO.
Happy Thanksgiving.

The Railway Trail, Lindsay, On.

The Railway Trail, Lindsay, On.

October walk along the Railway Trail, Lindsay, On.

October walk along the Railway Trail, Lindsay, On.

James Scott Bell and the Magical Mirror Moment

Storytelling has a rhythm, a structure based on centuries of tales recounted wherever people sat together, around a fire, or a table, at a bedside or in a classroom. Three acts, a middle turning point, a crisis and a denouement comprise most. Simple enough, I hear someone say. Not at all.

Countless books on writing have dealt with the structure of novels, and now websites devoted to writing and bloggers eager to help other writers, do the same.

Until my current WIP(work-in-progress), I’d been a pantster, getting on with writing and worrying about structure later. This time, I plotted and outlined and followed my work count, making sure that the ends of the acts fell where they should, that there was a middle turning point, that a hook moment existed, not too far into the first act and so on, and so on. All great, until James Scott Bell wrote Write Your Novel from the Middle, a terrific(and short) book that defines a mirror moment, at the exact middle of the book, in which the protagonist assesses herself, and makes a decision based on her own psychology, what sort of person she is going to be, or assesses the forces against her and the certainty of her death, whether physical, psychological, or professional. From that, the writer develops the pre-psychology and post-psychology. So far so good. Then he writes about the two pillars, or doorways of no return. I was familiar with those. I’d read his excellent book Plot and Structure. So now the novel has three points: a first doorway at about 20% in, the mirror moment and 50% and the final act, again shorter at 20%. Other writers suggest longer first and final acts.

His description of the method is clear and freeing. Writing the mirror moment, the point of realization, means the first half must lead to this moment and the second half lead to the crisis and transformation.

My personal problem with this is that the WIP was more than half done when I read about the mirror moment. It turns out that this is not the problem, but part of the solution. I found my mirror moment, tucked into the middle of the book, where it belonged, and now I’m revising with a surer grasp of where I need to strengthen the plot or make the psychologic pressures clearer.

So yet again, I’m grateful to James Scott Bell, for his concise, entertaining and useful books about writing. I buy them on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/James-Scott-Bell/e/B000APSY8A or at Writers Digest Shops http://www.writersdigestshop.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=james+scott+bell

Disclaimer: No connection whatsoever with James Scott Bell, except that of reader and student.