Writing Inspiration is Everywhere

Please stop by fellow Fire and Ice author, Nina Mansfield’s, blog today to read my guest post on writing inspiration and to enter to win a digital copy of Trail of Secrets! Nina is the author of Swimming Alone (Fire and Ice YA, 2015), a fun and suspenseful YA mystery. I read it a few months ago and highly recommend it to any mystery-lover!

CLICK HERE to visit Nina’s blog – NOT EVEN JOKING

Not Even Joking

Please stay tuned to this blog for an exciting announcement related to the imminent release of my children’s picture book, Henrietta’s Hoof Polish!

 

Book Signing Checklist

checklistLast weekend I participated in my first large book fair as an author at the Women’s Expo in Grand Rapids, MI. Attending the event was a last-minute decision and I’m the first to admit I was woefully unprepared. I arrived ten minutes before the expo began carrying an ambitious stack of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, some bookmarks, a pen, and a Square Reader for accepting credit card payments. My hopes were high as I made my way back to the author room in the corner of the enormous expo hall, but my heart sank as soon as I saw the swag all the other authors had incorporated into their tables. I’d miscalculated the “sales” aspect of the book fair.

Did I sell any books? Yes. A few. I’m guessing I could have sold a lot more if I’d bothered to read a blog post about how to stand out amidst thirty other authors at a book fair. I’m going to chalk it up as a learning experience. This checklist is for others who may have a book signing in their future (and  a note to myself to step up my game next time!)

  1. Candy (or some other giveaway) — Everyone (except me) had a bowl of candy placed on their table. Some authors had additional freebies to attract people, such as keychains or soaps personalized with the name of their book. This may seem like a gimmick, but it works! Once people approach your table, they’re much more likely to talk to you and buy your book.
  2. A sign, poster, or banner — Take the time to create an eye-catching poster, sign, or banner that clearly displays the cover of your book and why people should buy it. Once again, I did not have any signage with me and it put me at a disadvantage. I’m currently having a foam-board poster made through Overnight Prints. FastSigns also sells attractive pop-up banners.
  3. Square Reader and small bills for change — Register for a free Square Reader to plug into your phone or tablet. Square Readers allow you to accept credit card payments for your book. You don’t want to miss out on a sale because someone doesn’t have cash on them. Similarly, remember to bring small bills so you can provide change to people who only carry $20s.  
  4. Bookmarks or Cards — Place your bookmarks or business cards next to your book and encourage people to take them. People may not be ready to buy your book at that moment, but at least they’ll remember the name of your book later.
  5. Email signup list — Print out a professional-looking sign-up sheet for people to receive your author newsletter. This is a great way to connect with readers and keep people coming back for your future books.
  6. A suitcase with wheels — This is a classic case of “Why didn’t I think of that?” My arms practically ripped off my body as I lugged grocery bags full of books out of a parking garage, across a city street, and through an  enormous expo hall. Meanwhile, other authors glided past me with their book-filled, wheeled luggage. Next time…
  7. Books — Obviously. This probably should have been number one on the list.
  8. Pen — Make that pens, in case one runs out.
One additional thought–when deciding whether to buy a table at a book fair, be sure to consider the crowd who will be there. I learned this the hard way last weekend. The majority of the women attending the Women’s Expo seemed to be there for the free cheese samples and makeup demos–not to buy books. This reflected in sales. In the future, I’ll likely only invest in book fairs where books are the focus.
I hope this checklist helps you arrive at your next book fair prepared and confident! Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Let me know!

 

Cover Wars Update

For the last five days I’ve been on an action-packed and computerless family vacation in

Cowboys 3.6.16
We ran into a few cowboys out in AZ

sunny Arizona. In between hiking, swimming, and helping my kids pan for gold in a wild west town, I monitored the voting on Cover Wars via my phone. As of last night, my family and I are back home, slightly jet-lagged, and a few days late reporting the results of Cover Wars. It was worth the wait because Trail of Secrets won Cover Wars and is now the BOOK OF THE WEEK on AuthorShout.com!

Cover Trail of Secrets
The winning cover!

 

Thank you to everyone who voted, and to Caroline Andrus of Fire and Ice for designing such an eye-catching cover.

In other exciting news, Trail of Secrets is now available as an audiobook on Audible. Check back soon for more about my experience turning my novel into an audiobook!

Trail of Secrets on COVER WARS!

I fell in love with the cover of my YA novel, Trail of Secrets, the moment I saw it. (Thank you Caroline Andrus!) So when I heard about Cover Wars on AuthorShout.com, I knew I had to enter the battle for the week’s best cover. Finally, MY WEEK has arrived and I really want to WIN!

Here’s how you can help:  Cover Trail of Secrets

  1.  Visit AuthorShout.com/Cover-Wars and select your favorite cover (Hint:  It’s Trail of Secrets!)
  2. Return ever day February 28th-March 5th to vote. You can vote once per day.

I’ll post an update on the final results after March 5th. The winner of Cover Wars receives a free week of advertising for his or her book.

Thanks for your support!

 

 

 

Writing and Marketing in the New Year!

2015-2016The new year brings a sense of renewal and hope–something most writers can always use! I kicked off my 2016 with several writing resolutions, including completing (and perfecting) my latest YA novel, Barn Shadows. I’m continuing my quest for an agent for my recently-completed thriller, Top Producer, and thinking of new and exciting ways to market Trail of Secrets. I plan to attend at least two writing conferences. Finally, I strive to read at least five books on writing in 2016.

I’m on track in the reading department. This month I read Stephen King’s highly-on writing stephen king tenth anniversaryacclaimed book, On Writing, and loved it! It was not what I was expecting, especially the first half which was more of a memoir and less of a “how-to” book. The second half covered the nuts and bolts of the writing process, as it applies to Stephen King. I found the whole thing engaging and difficult to put down. I don’t often read books more than once, but this is one that I may revisit in the coming year.

As for revising my work in 2016, I plan to make more use of a tool I discovered through my publisher called EditMinion.com. This fun website allows writers to paste one chapter at a time of their writing into its screen. The program identifies common mistakes, such as over-used words, clichés, adverbs, and so on.  The best part? It’s free! While the program may not replace the use of a human editor, it is a great way to get an extra set of (virtual) eyes on any work-in-progress.Minion_Coloring_Pages_03

Now for marketing in the coming year…I plan to win awards. Many awards. But if that doesn’t work out, I’m going to check out BookBub — a website which compiles free and deeply discounted books for its readers based on their interests. Authors may list their books when they have a sale or if they’re willing to give away their book for free for a limited time.  One word of warning, listing a book on BookBub takes some planning, as the website approves each book individually and coordinates posts with the book’s sale dates.

So that’s me. What writing tools and marketing ideas do you plan to use for 2016?

Be sure to check back in a couple weeks, when I’ll report back on the top five things I learn at the upcoming Write on the Red Cedar conference in Lansing, MI!

Book Blast and NaNoWriMo Results

Trail-of-Secrets-Blast-BannerIt’s another GIVEAWAY! Stop by any of the blogs on the Trail of Secrets BOOK BLAST December 2nd-4th to enter my Trail of Secrets giveaway, including a $10 Amazon Gift Card!

Now for my NaNoWriMo results: I finished my thirty days of writing a little (or a lot) short of my goal of 50,000 words. My final word count on November 30th was 27,530. At least it’s a start! I did rake raking-leavesand bag approximately 50,000 leaves in my backyard and tend to my *adorable* kids what felt like 50,000 times. Do I get any extra-credit for multi-tasking? I plan to finish the remainder of my first draft of Book 2 in my Dark Horse series in January 2016.

Did you complete the NaNoWriMo 2015 challenge? Tell me about it!

Book Signing and NaNoWriMo Check-In

book signing 2Last Saturday, I participated in my very first Book Signing at a local coffee shop–Biggby Coffee in Commerce Township, MI. The owners contacted me after seeing an article about my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, in the local paper. Of course, I was thrilled to accept their invitation. Nothing makes a writer feel like a real, live author more than holding a book signing!  On the flip-side, I was also a little terrified. What if no one bought my book? What if no one showed up?

On the morning of the book signing, I arrived fifteen minutes early carrying a bag full of books and bookmarks. A table had been set up for me at the front of the store with a sign reading “Author’s Corner.” Another sign outside read “Book Signing Today, sign10am-2pm.” My heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe this was really happening! The owners of the shop even provided me with a free cup of delicious coffee–not that I needed any additional caffeine. My husband and kids arrived a few minutes later and sat at the table next to me. People looked at me, ordered coffee, walked past, looked at me again. I smiled and offered free bookmarks. Several patrons told me stories of books they’d written or attempted to write. My husband and kids left about twenty minutes later. I still hadn’t made a sale. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

Then, a woman burst through the door and marched directly over to me. “Are you the author? ” she said.

“Yes,” I replied.

“I’ve been waiting weeks to get my hands on this book!”

She had? I signed the book for her, not even attempting to hide the huge smile on my face. She paid me and we chatted for moment. Then another person came over and bought two books. Then a man walked in with his daughter and told me they’d seen my flyer and wanted a copy of my book. The girls working behind the counter bought copies. Mothers of teens and tweens came in to buy books for their horse-loving daughters. A few friends stopped by and bought books. At one point, I worried I might run out of books!

In the end, it was successful day. I sold sixteen books in four hours. I met so many interesting people and was floored by how many of them were willing to take a chance and buy and book from an unknown author. I owe a big thank you to the owners of the coffee shop for supporting local authors. More stores should follow their example, as it seemed to be a win-win for everyone.

The only downside to the book signing? I didn’t get to add to my NaNoWriMo word count last Saturday. It’s a little over the half-way point and I’m Printchecking in at approximately 20,000 words. That’s short of the 25,000 I should have had by November 15th, but I’m plugging along. I’ll check in again at the end of the month with my final word count!

Have you done a book signing recently? How did it go?

Book Marketing: Exiting the Comfort-Zone!

When I dreamed of the joys of being a published author, I guess I skimmed over all the parts about book marketing. I’m completely aware that authors are almost always one-hundred percent in charge of their own marketing, I just never promotionstopped to think about what that would mean for me until I was in the thick of it. After the first couple of weeks of promoting Trail of Secrets to everyone I know on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, newspapers, bookstores, libraries, and around town, I started to wonder if people were getting annoyed with me. Was I too “in your face”? Was I being too braggy? Were people sick of hearing about all the reasons to read my YA thriller? Despite my hesitations, I have to give my introverted-self a pat on the back. I’ve completely stepped out of my comfort-zone in order to do everything in my power to market my book.

Here are a few examples of things that I NEVER thought I would do:

1.  A podcast (Done!)
     Click HERE to listen to my podcast on Straight from the Horse’s Mouth Radio!
2.  A book signing event (Doing it on November 14th!)
     Click HERE for details!
3.  Speaking at a teen writing conference (Doing it on November 21st!)
     Click HERE to register for the Get Inked! Teen Writing Conference!
4.  Writing guest blog posts on other people’s blogs (Doing it! I’m currently writing three guest posts.)
5.  Meeting with owners of bookstores and librarians to persuade them to put my book on their shelves (Done! Trail of Secrets is in at least five MI stores and several libraries in MI and AZ.)
6.  An interview with the editor of a newspaper (Done!)
You’re probably wondering how all of this activity translates into sales. I’m wondering that, too. I’ll find out at the end of the quarter when I get paid by my publisher. As my husband said, it’s kind of like playing a football game and not finding out if you won or lost until months later. That might be true, but I know one thing for sure. Win or lose–I’ve played my heart out!
Have you done something you never thought you’d do in order to promote your book? Tell me about it!