Trail of Secrets is an Award Finalist!

IndieBookAwards2Several months ago while searching online, I happened to come across the website for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I perused the site, checking out the categories and last year’s winners. A category for First Novels under 80,000 words caught my eye. I had a first novel under 80,000 words! I thought, “Why not?” A couple of hours later I was standing in line at the post office to mail off a few copies of Trail of Secrets to Seattle, Washington. Then I got busy with life and completely forgot about this book award competition.

Fast forward to yesterday. An email from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards waited inCover with Sticker my inbox, promising “exciting news.” I still didn’t let myself get my hopes up. Perhaps the exciting news was only to let me know who the winners were. It didn’t mean anything. Then I read the first word- “Congratulations!” and I started to realize maybe this really was “exciting news.” As I read further, I realized Trail of Secrets had indeed been selected as one of five Finalists in the First Novel (under 80,000 words) category!

For all of the lonely, depressing, and frustrating moments that writing can bring, it can also provide the highest of highs. I know because that’s how I felt yesterday after reading that email. I’m so glad I took the chance and entered my book. I’m not sure if I’ll attend the award ceremony in Chicago in May. Regardless I am basking in the glow of unbiased validation of my book. There’s no better feeling!

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!

 

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!

 

 

 

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?

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo!

PrintIt’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, a chill whips through the air, aging pumpkins sit on every doorstep, and grown adults take on the personas of interesting and outlandish characters. No, I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month! For writers, November can be the most exciting and challenging month of the year. What could be more motivating than accepting a challenge to write a novel in thirty days?

This will be my third year participating in NaNoWriMo. I consider my first two NaNoWriMo years successful, even though I did not reach my 50,000 word goal in thirty days either time. In 2013, I ended up with a great starting place for what would later become my now published YA mystery, Trail of Secrets (Dark Horse Series, Book 1). In 2014, I wrote the bulk of the first draft of my adult thriller, Top Producer, which I recently finished revising (for the 800th time) and am currently submitting to agents. This year, I’m diving into NaNoWriMo with high hopes of writing the first draft of Book 2 in the Dark Horse series.

In order to prepare for the challenge, I’ve drafted a rough outline of my general storyline. I’ve fired up my Scrivner software. I’ve created my profile on NaNoWriMo.org to track my word count. Now all I need is for my kids to go away to boarding school for thirty days and to move Thanksgiving to the month of December. Oh yeah–I’d love to connect with some other NaNoWriMo participants for mutual motivation and support. Find me on NaNoWriMo.org under my username, LWolfeWrites, and add me as a writing buddy. LET’S DO THIS!!

Stay tuned for my NaNoWriMo mid-month update and end of the month results.

Do you have NaNoWriMo success story? Tell me about it!

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!

Things I’ve Learned in the Two Weeks since Publication

Welcome to my new writing blog, which is dedicated to all things writing, reading, and publishing.

It’s been a little over two weeks since my young adult mystery, Trail of Secrets, was published, and it has been a whirlwind! Things have not always gone as I’d envisioned. (Nope, still not on the Best Seller’s List), but I have learned a ton about book marketing, the publication process, and managing expectations. For all the new authors out there who are preparing for, or stumbling through, their first book release, I thought I’d try to make things easier by sharing a few things I’ve learned:

SONY DSC1.  Friends and family can be your biggest supporters, but not all of them will be. On publication day, I kind of thought all of my family and friends would be as excited as I was about my book release–you know, in a “shout-it-from-the-rooftops” kind of way. It is true that a handful of them certainly were. In fact, I can name several people (some who are not even close friends) who went way beyond my expectations when it came to supporting and promoting my book. The thing I realized, though, is that while most people will offer their congratulations to you, they will never be as excited as you are about your book’s release. This was a shocker to me. After all, if one of my friends had a novel published, I would be ALL OVER THAT. I’d buy it, read it, and leave a review all before release day was over. But I’ve realized over the past two weeks that everyone does not view books the way I do. People have busy lives filled with careers and kids and drama. While they may have been sincere at the time they promised to buy a copy and leave a review, it might take them months to get around to it, if it ever happens at all. Maybe they are overwhelmed with other commitments. Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they don’t enjoy reading books. Whatever the true reason, don’t take it personally. Thank the people who ARE helping and supporting you. They are invaluable. Most of all, remember that YOU are the biggest champion of your book.

2.  Twitter works! This may be the most surprising revelation of all, coming from me–a former Twitter-hater. I’ve been using Bitly to shorten and track the number of clicks on my links. I can’t believe how many people click through! TweetDeck allows me to schedule multiple tweets in advance so I don’t have to be checking my phone and/or computer constantly. In the last two weeks, I’ve seen first-hand how effective Twitter can be in pushing people through to websites, blogs, and purchase links. I’ve also discovered the magic of hashtags. (More on #hashtags below!)
3.  Do a goodreads giveaway. In Twitter terms, that’s a #goodreads #GIVEAWAY! I set up a Goodreads giveaway for Trail of Secrets a week before it was published. I chose to run my giveaway for a month and give away a signed goodreads_fcopy of my book to three winners. It has almost been a month now, and 427 people have entered the giveaway. That is 427 people who have seen my book and read the description who otherwise may not have. As of now, over 200 people have added my book to their “To Read” shelf on Goodreads. In my opinion, that’s well worth the cost of the three signed copies I’ve agreed to send out!
4. Book reviews are hard to obtain.  I never thought that finding an objective person to review my book would be almost as difficult as getting it published! Bloggers who review books for free are swamped. Sure, there are the paid reviews, but few of us are eager to shell out $500 for a review. I’ve sent queries to between thirty and forty free reviewers and have received five responses. Even when someone agrees to do a review, the timeline could be several months out. I wish I knew this before my book was published. If I did, I would have spent more of my pre-publication time submitting for reviews.
5.  Make friends with librarians. I don’t know why, but I was scared to approach librarians with my novel after it was published. Librarians often seemed unapproachable and intimidating to me. Despite my irrational fear, I forced myself to take a copy of Trail of Secrets to the teen librarian at our local library. I positioned my kids in front of me in the hope that she would be softened up by 8cxKn4E6itheir pudgy, little faces. It turns out, she was less than thrilled to be presented with my book. She did, however, agree to read it. “If it meets the library’s standards,” she said, “then we’ll buy a copy for the library.” I waited on pins and needles for several days, entirely sure that she was going to hate my book. Imagine my surprise when I received an email from her several days later saying that she “really, really liked” my book. She said she would buy a copy and recommend it to teens who enjoy mysteries and/or like horses. She also left a 4-star review on Goodreads. What?? This was the last thing in the world I expected from her, but it was a terrific outcome. I realized that librarians can be amazing proponents of authors. I’m trying to find the time to approach more librarians in my area. Lesson learned.
6.  Share your news! You never know what kind of opportunities are lurking in the shadows. I posted my publication news on my local SCBWI list-serve, expecting to receive a few half-hearted “congratulations.” Instead, I was met with thunderous applause and several opportunities I never would have received had I stayed quiet. First, I was invited to submit a guest post for the Michigan SCBWI blog. I also received an invitation to be a speaker at a teen writing conference in November. I’m a little nervous about this second one, but I’m going to do it. These are both tremendous opportunities that could become great resume-builders. So, don’t be shy. Share your news!
Are you a recently-published author who is navigating your first few weeks or months of publication? Tell us what you’ve learned!