Marketing Strategy

Most authors starting out, rely on word of mouth by their family and friends, but is it enough to get your book noticed? According to Sarah Patsceras, author and marketing strategist, it’s not. You need to make a plan before you get your book published. Ask yourself, who is my audience, who are my readers? You need to aim your market tactics towards them. Why would they want to read your book? What does your book offer?

Facebook is a good start of social media for adult books, but what about those authors that write for children and YA? Build on where your readers are. It also depends on the age group. Parents buy the majority of children’s books so you need to appeal to them as well as the child. Check out your name on the google search engine and how it appeals to your audience.

Use the setting of your book, if it’s non-fiction, and join the Chamber of Commerce of that city. It will bring attention to you as an author. Start a newsletter and add a blurb about your book. Talk to librarians and teachers. Build trust in people who don’t know you. Word of mouth is everything in this business. Does your book solve some problem your audience can relate to?

Don’t rely only on Amazon feeds for ads. Figure out a marketing budget. What can you afford? Join writing groups. Go to conferences. Place ads on sites such as the writer-editor network. Think outside the box. A clever person might put recipes from their book on the back of a book mark. Promote your book through charity organizations.

Get noticed and your book will too.

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Tips for that Great Query

Most publishers and agents accept queries via e-mail in today’s world, but check their guidelines. Remember to be respectful and formal as you would in a query per snail mail. With e-mail queries, it’s recommended you add your contact information at the bottom, under your signature. In the subject line, put your title, and the editor or agent   if it’s not in the e-mail address.

Open up with a great hook. Many agents and editors are busy and don’t always read through the entire e-mail. You need to capture their attention. Think of your query as your selling point or the pitch on the back cover of a book. A paragraph or two is sufficient. Include your word count of finished manuscript, genre, and title.

Break your query into block paragraph format. Forget the indentions and one space between the paragraphs. First one is about your manuscript. The second is the reason you submitted to this particular person or agency. Know the books the agency or editor is looking for and the books they have published. Compare your book to another book that is similar. Third paragraph, name your publishing credits that relate to this genre. Name any associations you belong to and why you are a good candidate to write this story. And last, thank the person or agency for their time.

Don’t mention if you have never been published. Don’t state if anyone has rejected your piece. Don’t bring up payment expectations. Don’t mention copyright information.

Do mention if you have won awards. Do mention if your occupation is relevant to writing the story. Do mention if you belong to any critique groups or writing associations.

I hope this helps. Keep on writing.

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Tips For Writing That Middle Grade Novel

A Middle Grade novel are for elementary and middle school themed. They have less darkness and sweeter endings than YA. They are more open to curriculum tie-ins and educational content. The view of the story is through the eyes of the MG character. It starts with the character. Ask yourself these questions about your character before you write the story:

  • What are their hopes & dreams?
  • What do they want?
  • What obstacle is standing in their way?
  • What problem must they solve?
  • What specific action must they take to overcome obstacle?
  • What is their flaw?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What does the character need to learn & evolve over the course of the story?

The protagonist needs to be someone the reader cares about and wants to know better. They should be active in their own story. They should have believable motives and care deeply for things and people. The character should not be afraid to take risks and have strong opinions and believes about the world and themselves. Kids are real people with real problems, yet use humor whenever you can. It can be situational funny, instead of comedy. Don’t preach or talk down. Kids hear enough in real life. Balance actions and feelings. Read a lot of MG to get a handle on it. Sit at a mall or other places where kids hang out and just listen to their speech and the things they talk about.

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REBIRTH

Here is a poem I wrote.

REBIRTH

Madronas hung precariously along the bluff in irregular fashion.

They shed their bark like creamy butter, rolling from a knife,

And fall as rotten apples to the ground.

Brittle leaves, once vibrant and glossy,

Crumble like dry, caked mud,

Tumbling into the pile of defecation.

The earth embraced their warmth,

As worms danced in a comical masquerade,

Forming compost around the trunks.

Their lives sustained,

The branches caress the dirt,

And buds sprout from their limbs.

Clad in newly grained burnt-orange bark,

Green leathery leaves emerge,

And white pyramid flowers blossom.

The Madronas have

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rebirthed.

Mystery Writers Info

I found out about the NW chapter of the Mystery Writers of America while I was at the PNWA writing conference. For those who are writing mysteries and thrillers, this a great bunch of people that have organized meetings for mystery writers. You can join on Facebook without any fees. I went to their meeting last night. They had Criminal Judge Sean O’Donnell as a guest speaker and I was glad I went after hearing him speak. He was a prosecutor during the Green River Task Force. The killer was Gary Ridgeway that murdered many young girls, especially street walkers, by choking them, then raping them after they died. During one of his killing sprees, Gary had his sleeping eight year old son in the car! When one of the detectives asked Gary what would he have done if his child had woken? He answered, “Well, I couldn’t have any witnesses, so I’d kill him.”  Ridgeway also posed his victims after death. He did this because he didn’t want rigor mortis to set in, so he could defile and have sexual acts with the bodies. He was one sick-o!

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Anyway, for those writing crime mysteries, Mr. O’Donnell said in King County of Seattle, the prosecutor and ME come with the homicide detectives on a case. The Coitus program for DNA kits didn’t exist in the 70’s & 80’s. One detective made Gary Ridgeway chew on a piece of gauze to get a sample of his saliva. They saved it all those years until those tests were available and linked him to some of the murder victims. Smart!

Tips on Writing Urban Fantasy

I listened to Craig English, a teacher and author at the PNWA conference about how he creates urban fantasy. He said urban fantasy is something freakish or a personal moment of otherness that happens to a character. The character might not embrace the strangeness at first, depending on their background, turmoil, and religious preference. Then up the stakes after the odd episode and see how the character deals with it. It could be a flexibility of reality. Establish the mundane world, then the fantasy, and balance the two. Decide on a theme and the rules of the weird. The character realizes the world is not quite what it seems.

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Creating The Magic

I attended a writing class discussing magical symptoms in SF, fantasy, and paranormal. So here are some things to bring your writing up to par dealing with magic elements. Ask yourself, how do you plan a rational symptom? These are some guidelines:

  • where does the source of the magic come from?
  • if it’s from an energy source, are there constraints using more or less energy?
  • how can it go wrong?
  • can anyone access the energy source?
  • if the person is tired or drunk, are there consequences to the magic?
  • how did the person get the magic?
  • who else can cast the magic?
  • what are the set of rules using magic?
  • how could the power get abused?
  • how important is the magic to the plot?
  • what are the trials & tribulation to do the magic?
  • what are the physical & mental costs using magic?
  • what kind of magic are you using? There are 4 different choices: arcane, divine, elemental, and demonic

Arcane is the inner ability to do spells & incantations. Divine is god-like beings. Elemental is the use of fire, earth, wind, and water. Demonic is obvious powerful being.

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Plot Elements

I attended the PNWA conference and one of the speakers was Cherry Adair. She talked about plot. For a good plot it must have these elements: story goal, scene goal, and black moment. A story also needs these 7 things:

  • a succession of significant events with consequences
  • things characters do, feel, think, and say
  • a way of looking and doing things
  • deciding what’s important and showing it to be important
  • showing what matters to your main character
  • one or more characters have something vital at stake
  • something happens

Cherry also suggested not to bog down the opening with details and descriptions, but open with a bang. In other words, start novel with first crisis. There must be some kind of struggle for your main character for the reader to care. The first quarter of the book is the buildup. The middle is the emotional journey and always in trouble. The last act ties up everything. Give characters choices. The main character must grow in some way by the end of the novel. Each scene must have a motivation, goal, and conflict. The higher the stakes the longer the scene.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the point of the scene?
  • What does the reader need to know?
  • What does your main character have to find out?
  • What backstory do you want inserted?
  • What is the time and place?

Emotion, thought, decision, action moves the plot. Define the character’s needs and create obstacles.

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TABLE of PLENTY

Their heads bobbing up and down,

Doves peck the ground,

Resembling sewing machine needles,

Eager for fallen seeds.

Squirrels climb the pole

And hang upside down,

Stretching to reach the sunflower seeds.

Little birds flutter round,

Red-headed finches, wrens, and dark-headed chick-a-dees,

Inching their way to feed,

on the variety of seeds.

But woe to the keeper

That plucks the empty shells from the ground

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of the scattered seeds.

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

The moon shone down upon the campsite like a giant eye. A gust of wind rustled the dry, summer leaves of the maples. The fire crackled and popped. The counselor gazed at each boy’s face. His eyes gleamed in the fire light.

“Some of you heard these tales before. Please don’t spoil it for the new recruits. Tonight’s story is about the green man of the woods. It’s said that he snatched young boys that wandered off and lost their way. I was skeptical once, same as you, but as I live and breathe, this story is true.” He looked at the younger boys and rubbed his hands together.

Now Bobby looked up to his best bud.  Eddie was older by a couple of years. He had long legs and fast on his feet.  He climbed a rope with ease, excelled in sports, and beat most of the others in a race. Bobby was short for his age, chubby, and picked on at school. He didn’t have any brothers and was left alone more times than any ten year old. His mother worked long hours as a nurse. She felt guilty and decided Bobby needed companionship. She sent him off to Camp Crockett. At first, Bobby felt all alone, until Eddie stepped in to show him around. With Eddie as his friend and on the same team, Bobby felt proud and knew they’d win most of the games.

Some of the older boys told of a camp across the lake that had a swimming pool and a bowling alley. Eddie talked Bobby into stealing one of the rowboats. Bobby had never stolen anything and was nervous, but he’d do anything for Eddie. He scanned the area, before he shoved the boat out. Bobby ran and jumped in. Eddie waded out and climbed inside. They paddled, with all their might, to the other side of the lake. Their arms ached, by the time they reached Camp Boone. It had been further away than they had anticipated. They set the oars inside and hauled the boat to shore.

A thin girl, around twelve, with white-blond hair and dressed in a white tennis dress, emerged from the bushes. “What are you doing here?”

Eddie licked his fingers and smoothed his cowlick down. “Hi, we’re curious. Is it true your camp has a swimming pool and a bowling alley?”

“Yes, and other things. My name is Diana and you are?”

“I’m Eddie and this is Bobby.” Eddie pulled Bobby over.

“Do you want to peek inside?” she asked.

“Yes!” the boys chorused.

Diana unlocked the padlock on the gate. She pushed it open and the hinges squealed. The boys entered the campsite. As they wandered the grounds, they noticed garbage littered the area. Cabin porches looked damaged and the windows broken. The swimming pool smelled foul and green slime floated on top of the water. The boys gazed at each other. Eddie  walked over to a cabin. He waved Bobby over. He lifted Bobby up to look inside. Bobby paled.

“What do you see?” Eddie asked.

“Put me down!” Bobby cried. He raced to the gate with Eddie behind him.

The gate slammed shut before them. They looked behind them and couldn’t believe it.  Diana’s arms and legs changed into vines that rolled and entwined over each other in their effort to claim the boys. They scaled the gate, but Diana caught Bobby by his leg and dragged him back.

“Don’t leave me, Eddie!” Bobby yelled.

Eddie’s eyes widened as the vines slithered up the fence. His jacket sleeve snagged on a wire and he couldn’t budge. He yanked his arm free and jumped over the fence. The ground rumbled under his feet. He leapt for the boat. The vines tunneled under the rowboat and lifted Eddie and the boat as one. Eddie grabbed an oar and smacked it across the vines. A shrill rent the air. Eddie covered his ears. The vine shrunk back. Eddie took the opportunity rowed to the middle of the lake.

Eddie drifted on the water for hours. He started to row back to their camp when Bobby called his name. Eddie rowed back to Camp Boone and saw Bobby standing by the gate.

“Diana’s sleeping. Please take me back with you,” Bobby said. “Can you carry me? My legs hurt.”

Eddie climbed out of the boat and strode over to Bobby. He carried his friend to the rowboat and sat him down on the seat. Eddie pushed the boat out and jumped inside. “You look a little green.  Did Diana poison you?”

Bobby’s arms and legs turned into vines. Eddie screamed and the vines entered his mouth. Only hollows were left of Eddie’s eyes and slime covered his skin. The camp leaders found the rowboat circling the lake. Bobby wasn’t anywhere in sight. And so the tale of the watcher in the woods continues to this day.

“What a bunch of hogwash!” one of the new boys exclaimed.

“My name is Bobby. Now do you believe?” The counselor changed into an alien of mossy vines and snatched the boy’s tongue.

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The End