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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marcia James

I'm always on the lookout for people with great promotional ideas. Well, I hit the motherlode with Marcia James.

I met Marcia on Shelley Munro's blog last year and I was blown away by her promotional savvy. I had to have her come here.

Marcia, sensing a fellow dog-lover when she sees one, graciously agreed.

Marcia is an advertising copywriter and marketing consultant, and she presents author promotion workshops. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, Marcia is enjoying “researching” her novels' steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years.

And to any reader of this blog...
She offers her 200+ page file of author promotion options to any author who requests it. Just email her through the “Contact Me” page on her Web site: http://www.marciajames.net/

When Marcia asked me what she should talk about I immediately asked about my favorite subject; low or no-cost promotional techniques. As you read through this post, you'll discover she doesn't disappoint.

Post your comments and questions below and Marcia will answer each of you.

I give you, Marcia James.


PENNY-PINCHING PROMOTION: How to Make the Most of Your PR Budget

There’s an old saying in advertising/PR circles, “Only half of all advertising works, and nobody knows which half.”

I wish I had a definitive answer to the question, “Where can I get the biggest bang for my PR bucks?” But like so much about promotion, it depends on a number of variables—including an author’s budget, time constraints, and product. What’s an outstanding opportunity for print books might be all wrong for e-books. Category romances with a limited shelf life might require a different PR approach than single title novels. And authors who do 100% of their own promotion face different challenges than those who have support from their publisher’s PR staff.

If you have the time (and in some cases the skills), you can do a lot of promotion that is inexpensive or free. Here are some ways to stretch your PR dollars:

1. Reader and Writer Email Loops – There are many free email loops that allow author promotion, from publisher loops to loops dedicated to specific fiction genres and sub-genres. (You can do a search on Yahoogroups.com for the latter.) Participating on these loops can be time-consuming but very effective. However, most readers gravitate towards authors who post regularly vs. just posting when they have new releases. And don’t forget to reinforce your pen name by adding an automatic signature line to your emails. Some email loops restrict the number of signature lines to three, but you can easily add your Web site URL, possibly several social media site URLs, and the name of your current release or next book. Note: URLs are not case-sensitive. So make sure it’s easy to read your pen name in your URL. For example, instead of http://www.marciajames.net/, I use http://www.marciajames.net/.

2. Author Co-Promotion – Joining together with other authors for promotion can save both time and money. For example, authors can:

* Split the cost of print ads in magazines such as Romantic Times BOOKreviews

* Design and produce joint print or trinket PR materials (e.g., for authors who are in an
anthology together, share the same publisher, or write in the same sub-genre can co-promote)

* Arrange online chats and in-person booksignings together

* Create a joint Web site or blog (Group blogs are very popular right now.)

* Present online or in-person workshops together

3. Author Cross-Promotion – There are a number of ways for an author to promote another author, which results in both benefiting from exposure to each other’s readers. For example, authors can:

* Share reciprocal links (i.e., putting other authors’ Web site, blog and social media site URLs on your site, and having them return the favor)

* Interview other authors for a Web site or blog (e.g., my monthly James Gang interviews -- http://www.marciajames.net/James_gang.html)

* Guest-blog (as Maria has so nicely allowed me to do today!)

* Quote or promote other authors in articles you write, on your blog, and in workshops you present

* Participate in non-profit fundraisers, such as Brenda Novak’s May online auction for juvenile diabetes research

* Create a unique cross-promotion opportunity, such as Paige Cuccaro’s Writer’s Caves (http://www.paigecuccaro.com/html/the_cave.html) and Janie Mason’s Happily Ever Afters (http://janiemason.com/HEA/).

4. Social Media Sites – Online promotion through sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, can be free but very time-consuming. Even technophobes, like myself, are starting to explore the ways to reach new readers through these sites.

5. Design and Maintain Your Own Web Site – An author’s Web site is her number one promotional tool. If you have the skill to design and maintain it (or the interest in learning to do so), then this can save you quite a bit of money.

6. Create Your Own PR Materials – You can produce lots of print promotional materials on your computer – including book plates, bookmarks, brochures, excerpt booklets and even iron-on designs for t-shirts. And some talented authors create promotional items or trinkets, such as book thong bookmarks. If you have children or a kind husband who can help you with the crafty items, that’s a plus.

7. Podcasts and Vidcasts – If you aren’t too shy to be interviewed for Internet Radio or Video, there are a number of shows that feature authors. One example is author Rachelle Chase’s “Chatting With Chase” show on BlogTalk Radio.

8. Create Your Own Book Video – Technophobes might be intimidated (raising my hand here), but creating your own book video can be fairly simple and inexpensive. You’ll need a program like MovieMaker, then you can buy music from sites like Stock20.com and images from sites like 123 Royalty Free and create a video to post on your Web site, YouTube, etc.

9. Networking – Power-schmoozing is a great way to gain name recognition and make contacts that can be important to you in every area of your career, including promotion. Even introverts can learn to be successful networkers. You need to perceive “scary” networking in a different light and prepare to schmooze:

* Always remember that romance authors (and readers) are 99% incredibly nice and non-threatening. ;-)

* When you approach another author, you’re not asking for something, you’re offering something—friendship, information, conversation, etc. Most will be grateful and/or happy to be approached.

* Mentally and physically pump yourself up with a dose of chocolate, caffeine, or exercise, but avoid alcohol.

* There are two sure-fire opening questions you can ask: Where are you from? (What chapter or state?) and What are you writing? (What genre or sub-genre?)

* Compliments are also a great way to open a dialogue. Compliment the person on her outfit, jewelry, etc.

* Wear or carry your own conversation pieces, e.g., a book pin or an interesting tote bag, that will give others a reason to approach you and start a conversation.

* Network by yourself or with a single friend by your side, but avoid going around in a group of friends.

* Smile and project an approachable demeanor.

* If networking exhausts you and you’re at a conference, go back to your hotel room for mini-breaks, to relax your smile and put your feet up for a few minutes.

10. Niche Marketing -- If you can spot elements in your book that lend themselves to niche promoting, you can win new readers and help grow the romance market. For example, since my books have Chinese Crested hairless dogs in them, I joined an international message board for “crestie” owners to chat with people who not only are great subject matter experts when I need detailed information on cresties, but are also interested in buying books that feature the breed. And once you have determined your niche market(s), you can look for groups within those areas in reference books, such as The Encyclopedia of Associations and Associations Unlimited.

To reach niche markets, you can send press releases (by snail mail or email) to the contact person listed for the group. Sometimes the person will print the press release about your book in the group’s newsletter. You can also contact bloggers who post on the elements in your book. One way to find such bloggers is to set up a Google Alert for the element or topic. For example, you might have a heroine who practices t’ai chi. Set up an Alert for “t’ai chi” (put the topic in quotes so you have less false hits), and Google will send you regular emails whenever the topic is mentioned online. Once you have found groups and bloggers involved in your book’s elements, you can ask them if they’d review your book in their newsletter or on their blog, if you sent them a free copy. It can really kick-off some valuable word-of-mouth.

Here are some "niche promotable" book elements:

* Hero and heroine's vocations – What are your protagonists' professions? If your heroine is special events coordinator, there is a professional association for people in that field. If your hero is a veterinarian, you can look into marketing to the veterinarians’ professional association.

* Hero and heroine's avocations – What are your protagonists' hobbies? You might have a character who collects vintage cars, and there are many groups of vintage car owners. Your hero or heroine might knit or quilt (okay, your Beta hero might do these things!), and there are probably groups in your community of knitters and quilters.

* Hero and heroine's sports/physical activities – Do your protagonists play softball or volleyball, fish, jog, hike, canoe, etc? There are groups devoted to all sorts of sports.

* Hero and heroine's charitable activities – Do your protagonists volunteer for Big Sisters, Special Olympics, homeless shelters, or animal rescue? Is your hero or heroine dealing with a medical challenge, such as cancer, or a physical disability? Charities -- and the people who support them -- love to know when their causes are mentioned in a fiction book.

* Do you have any 4-legged characters (not counting shape-shifters!)? – There are many, many organizations for those who love animals. And there might be marketing opportunities at a pet adoption fair or a Humane Society fundraiser (you could donate a themed basket with a signed copy of your book).

* What is the timeframe and location of your novel? – If you write historical novels, there are groups interested in many historical eras. For example, there are Renaissance Fairs and Civil War reenactments that might offer a chance to promote your work. If you set your books in a certain city, state, or country (and maybe feature events specific to that location), there might be events that offer marketing opportunities, such as a state bicentennial celebration, the Kentucky Derby, a Scottish festival, an art fair, a jazz festival, or a Taste of the Town.

* Do your books have paranormal, science fiction (s/f), or fantasy elements? – Quite a few romance authors in these subgenres promote their books at s/f or fantasy cons. There are also groups who are into vampire lore, shape-shifters, and dragons.

* Does your book contain elements that would appeal to specific fans? – For example, do you have an Elvis impersonator in your book? Is your heroine's younger sister a Jonas Brothers' fan? Does your hero love film noir or NASCAR? There are groups for all of these.

The bottom line is nothing can beat or even match the support of your publisher—such as distribution, store placement, marketing, etc.—but you can supplement their efforts and build your readership. And the first step is continuing to write your “keeper shelf” books. ;-)

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia James

PS: I love talking about promotion. ;-) Just post questions or tips in this blog’s comments, and we can have a lively discussion!

***
Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven RWA chapter contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, to Cerridwen Press.
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In June 2009, her short story, "Rescue Me", will appear in Tails of Love, a Berkley anthology. 100% of the author and agent proceeds from Tails of Love will go to the Animal Adoption Foundation, a no-kill animal shelter in Hamilton County, OH. This benefit anthology is the pet project (pun intended) of New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster, who contributes a story along with those of award-winning and bestselling authors Kate Angell, Stella Cameron, Dianne Castell, Anne Christopher, Marcia James, Donna MacMeans, Sarah McCarty, Patricia Sargeant, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder. Tails of Love is available for pre-order at:

Borders
B&N
Amazon

Maria says: You know where I stand on animal rescue. I implore you to buy this book, not just for the fabulous stories, but for the profound difference you will make to animals that really need your help. If you know an animal lover, they will LOVE this gift.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TOUCH OF FIRE Releases Today!

TOUCH OF FIRE is in bookstores today!
...I hope.

If you happen to see this book out there and you have a camera phone with you, I'd love it if you took a picture of it and emailed it to me. There are no big box bookstores out here in the wilderness.

I am soooooo isolated! This is why I reach out to you guys over the internet.

Okay, here is my final guest post for a while (but do come back because I am having a very special guest here tomorrow.)

Today's post is over at Romance Novel TV. I LOVE this website. There is so much to see and the ladies who run it, Marisa and Maria are constantly updating and polishing this site.

The post I sent them is one I'd written several months ago. I knew I wanted to save it for a special occasion. And what better occasion than my book release?

This is probably one of my favorite posts of all time. I hope you like it too. Leave me a comment over there so I can look back on that day and reminisce.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Otherwise Involved

No markets today. Instead I'd like to direct you to a new and improved interview that I had with Greta Wheeler. This time, Tank takes over and answers for me.

What won't that big guy say about me?

Still, we both had fun with this interview. Go check it out. Tank is available to do your interviews and news releases if you give him enough notice. When you stop by, tell me what kind of pets live at your house.

My other stop was at the Fallen Angels Reviews website where I reminisce on how TOUCH OF FIRE came to be.

Tomorrow is my big day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Survival Guide For The 33rd Century

I'm still working on the sequel for TOUCH OF FIRE. This is my second draft. The first one was leaning more toward urban suspense and that's not the genre I want to embrace. We write fantasy in this house.

Struggling with the sequel did give me some insights. I want to continue writing post apocalyptic stories. For that to happen I need to get the heroes closer to Armageddon. LOL. (Right now they've traveled back in time to pre-apocalyptic Earth.)

But the first book, which comes out in bookstores on April 28, is a primer; a guidebook, if you will.

I realized (after the fact) that it does indeed offer excellent advice on how to live, behave and thrive in a post apocalyptic world. So I've decided to market it as a guide instead of a novel.

You think I'm kidding, don't you?

Check out my short post over at Samhain and tell me if this marketing ploy will work.

Evil empires, DNA meddling, swine flu, global warming... hmm...conspiracy theories galore. Come to mama!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It pays to comment...

Catie, that lucky woman, is the winner of BAD BOY by Maya Reynolds.

Catie, I am emailing you now. Congratulations!

Dream Post

This morning I am talking about dreams.

Shelley Munro was nice enough to have me over on her blog and I was nervous as heck trying to figure out what to talk about because Shelley always covers such interesting topics on her blog.

I was so worried it was giving me nightmares! Yes. I fret waaaaay too much.

But there was my answer. I decided to talk about dreams.

I am a very peculiar dreamer, so much so that I've never met another person who dreams with the same bizarre traits.

If you're a dreamer (*g), stop over and drop a comment on Shelley's blog. I'd love to hear from you.

***
PS The winner of BAD BOY by Maya Reynolds will be announced later today. Check back.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Advertising, part 2

For the purposes of this post, I will be discussing advertising your book.

In last week's Killer Campaign post on Advertising, I mentioned that an ad must do three things to be effective.

• Intrigue
• Induce
• Entertain.

But there is a fourth element that is just as important. The first three won't matter if you don't get the fourth one right.

You have to know who your audience is. In other words, who are your readers? Knowing your readership is going to define how you approach them when introducing a new book to them.

For example, if you write western romance there are certain themes that are expected. Such as cowboys, six-shooters, or boots. Your audience anticipates this so you want to make sure you're meeting their expectations. That's not to say you couldn't throw in something extra. What if your cowboy was also a preacher? You might have a revolver on top of a bible. (There's your intrigue factor in visuals.)

It's important to define your novel and your genre. But have fun with it too. You want to take the consumer along for the ride.

Good advertising should:

• start with a good headline
• keep copy tight and short
• always provide contact information
• have a call to action
• have art that complements the copy

Headline Good headlines are short, punchy and preferably under seven words. You could use your brand's tagline or something that relates to the book specifically.
Example (totally fictitious): Hunky Heroes Found Here (brand tagline)
Example (totally fictitious): Someone Wants Her Dead…Undead (story tag)

Headlines draw attention to the ad. Fonts are always larger than the rest of the text and usually bolder.

Body Copy
This is where a lot of people get into trouble. They have a certain amount of space and they want to fill it up. It's totally understandable. Running an ad is expensive. You want to get as much as you can.

But here's a tip. Sometimes less is more. When you design your ad don't forget to include plenty of negative space. It will make the ad more visually important and give it greater impact.

Think carefully about what you want to say. Intrigue the reader, don't give him a blow by blow of the story. This is where your clever blurb might come in handy.

Contact Information
Always have it. For books, you want a website where they can get more information about the book and your back list. If you want consumers to physically contact you, put in an email address or a PO box. Never put in your physical address.

Make sure the contact information is clear and pronounced.

Call to Action
This is buying information. Tell the consumer what you want him to do. I know it sounds lame, but trust me. The consumer wants this information. If you want him to buy the book, say so.

Examples: (choose one, not all)
• Buy TOUCH OF FIRE at Barnes & Noble
• Pick up your copy today
• Order online for faster delivery
• See my website for my back listed books

Art
There are so many art choices out there and the software to customize them to your needs so I won't go into it. For the most part if you are selling your current book, the cover art, unless it is hideous, should be your background art. I like this for a couple of reasons.

#1 People are visual creatures. Get them used to what your cover art looks like and that's what they'll hunt for at the bookstore.
#2 The art is already made for you. No need to find additional art.

If the cover art is hideous (and I have seen a few book covers I wouldn't wish on my enemy), take one identifying element from the cover. This can be the color, the font, or an item (or person) from the cover.

Use that as the central theme of your ad. This will help tie your ad to your book without using the bad art. You might need an artist for this unless you feel comfortable using something like Photoshop.

When left with ugly---salvage. It will help tie your ad to your book.

How to lower your advertising costs
• Ask the advertiser what kind of deal he will cut you if you repeat the ad.
• If you can't design your own ad, find an artist and see if you can trade goods or services.
• Consider doing a black and white ad. Color (in print ads) is much higher than b&w.
• Offer to write a column or article for the advertiser and see if you can trade your pay for an ad.
• Do a co-op ad with one or more other authors.

And finally...Budget for your advertising. Know upfront how much you're willing to spend. It won't lower the end amount, but it will give you guidelines so you don't overspend.


If you have any questions about your specific ad, feel free to post it in the comments or email me.
***
I am everywhere lately. I'm talking about what to expect after the apocalypse here and here.

And tomorrow I'll be talking about dreams.

…but I think I'll sleep on it tonight. :o)


See you tomorrow.


Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.
 


Maya Reynolds: Building Suspense

I think Maya Reynolds has a great instinct for writing suspense so I begged her to write about her technique, and she delivered, complete with a little taste of BAD BOY.

As an extra special treat she is also giving one signed copy of BAD BOY to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post.

Drawing will end Saturday noon.

Enjoy!

***

Good morning. I’m thrilled to visit today. I love spending time with Maria, one of my favorite people and a very talented writer.

Maria asked me to describe how I go about building a suspense scene. I’m going to use a scene from my new novel Bad Boy to help explain my process. I plan to skip through the scene, picking out the sentences I need to make my points.

Begin in the Ordinary World
I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, described in great detail in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell believed in the monomyth, a similar structural pattern found in myths throughout the world.

In all the myths Campbell examined, the story always began in the ordinary world. When I write a suspense scene, I start out with my protagonists going about their business with no expectation of what is to come. In the scene I have in mind from Bad Boy, Leah and Quin are leaving a restaurant where they’ve created a bit of a stir:

. . . the couple headed out of the restaurant, leaving the waiter smiling at the hundred-dollar bill in his hand . . . As soon as they got outside, Leah gave in to the bout of giggles she’d been fighting, and Quin quickly joined her in laughing. They walked around the building, reminding each other of the outraged expression on the faces of the manager and . . .
Keep the Description to a Minimum
This is not the time to go into flowery descriptions. Give enough information so that your reader can track the action, but be careful not to slow things down by a leisurely description of everything in sight.

As they turned the corner to the parking lot, three shadows separated themselves from the darkness crouched at the foot of the building.

“Hey, wetback, I got business with you.”
Use Short Sentences and Action Verbs
Short sentences are a writer’s trick to speed up the pace. If you write a forty-word sentence, everything slows down. This is also not the time to go Thesaurus-hopping for fancy words. Stick to action words.

Notice in my third sentence below, although it has twenty words, it is building the pace in short, action clauses:

Jake, the blond from the restaurant, surged toward Quin. At the same moment, Frank made a feint forward. Quin threw the bag of food at Frank, spun out of Jake’s path and grabbed his arm, pushing him past.
Raise the Stakes Every Chance You Get
Every scene should have an emotional arc. You want to build toward a crescendo so you need to keep piling on the danger (or suspense).

Seeing Frank move to jump Quin from behind, Leah ran at him. She swung her shoulder bag as hard as she could at his head.

“Bitch!” he yelled, fending off the bag.

She opened her mouth to scream, but he backhanded her, striking her chest hard.
Share Information about Your Characters’ Personalities
I used this scene to reveal information about Quin, but notice that I didn’t TELL, I SHOWED.

Quin twisted to catch and steady her.
“Don’t call for help,” he said as his gaze went beyond her to Frank, who was fumbling in his pocket.

“What?” she asked, disbelieving what she’d heard.

“Don’t call for help,” he repeated. “I’ll deal with this.” His voice was hard, his eyes focused on the only man still looking for a fight.
If You Have a Chapter Break, Keep the Tension High and the Arc Building
I like short chapters: eight to ten pages is my norm. I try to end every chapter with a hook to force the reader to keep reading. I resolve that scene at the beginning of the next chapter and then start the arc toward my next hook which will occur at chapter’s end.

The chapter in which the ambush started is eight pages with the last three pages devoted to the beginning of the fight. This is the ending paragraph to that chapter:

Instead of taking advantage of Quin’s distraction to escape, Frank had pulled a switchblade from his pocket. He stood his ground, holding the knife in his right hand. “Come on, Mex,” he taunted. “Let me stick you.”
And here’s the beginning of the next chapter:

The blade gleamed evilly in the yellow light.

“Quin!” Leah cried.

“Shhhh. It will be all right,” he soothed. “Give me two minutes, and I’ll take you home.” He pushed her toward the parking lot.
When You Aren’t Stressing Your Characters Physically, Stress Them Emotionally
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve critiqued manuscripts where writers finish the suspense scene and then just wander around, figuratively smelling the roses. It’s as though they feel they’ve paid their dues and are now entitled to relax for a half dozen pages.

Not me. I’m always putting my characters under some kind of stress: physical, emotional, sexual. I try to mix it up, and I try to vary my pace from fast action to warm and fuzzy romance. But something is always happening. Here’s the end of the knife fight scene and the seque into the next scene, which is filled with sexual tension.
They had just started toward the motorcycle when the squealing of brakes on the avenue warned of the arriving squad cars. Quin grabbed Leah’s hand and pulled her back toward the buildings.

“Wait!” she said, tugging her arm from his. “Shouldn’t we stay? We’re the victims here.”

“Princess, with my record, I’m guaranteed to spend the night in a cell while you tell your story over and over again until six a.m.” He glanced in the direction of the crunching gravel. “Make up your mind fast. Is that the way you want our first date to end?”

Anyway, that’s my take on the suspense scene. Thanks to Maria for letting me take up space.

See you around.

***
Don't forget to catch Maya's interview on Radio Free Bliss and see what makes her tick!

Maya Reynolds blog

Buy BAD BOY at:
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Post a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of BAD BOY.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Computer Woes

I think I need a new computer.

Much like a bad tooth, I've been avoiding confronting the inevitable. I've held on to it for far longer than I should have only because I HATE having to reload all my software.

I have a lot of software. Much of it is graphics related with version after version layered on top of the other. I don't even know if I have the original software codes for some of these programs.

Greg was going to try to add more RAM but all my memory slots are full. I'm going to go through my programs and see if there's anything I can get rid of in the hopes that it might buy me a little time.

I realize it's futile...

Any ideas out there? Is there any brand of computer you recommend? I am looking for a desktop model. Preferably without VISTA. Though I will admit Greg has never had any trouble with VISTA on his computer.

***because of unconscionable spammers, I have to once again put comments on moderation. Sorry guys. These spammers have no social redeeming value.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hey, check out Maya Reynolds on Radio Free Bliss. This is a podcast that Kaz Augustin runs. Check it out! She sounds terrific!

PS ...and Maya is going to be on this blog tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Markets

New Author Contest

Simon & Schuster and Cheerios Cereal is sponsoring its third annual New Author Contest for previously unpublished authors of children's books. Entries are being accepted through July 15, 2009 and the winner will be announced in March 2010. There is no cost to enter. The Grand Prize is $5000, with two first prizes of $1000 each.

Submit an original story for children ages 3-8. The contest is open to any United States resident who is age 18 or older who has never received payment for a work of fiction in any format.

***

Chimeraworld #6

For Chimeraworld #6, I want stories depicting THE WORLD AFTER THE COMING REVOLUTION, as mankind returns to a life stripped of Capitalism and Mass Media Propaganda. Is this a worse or a better world, without the Google-fuelled glare of the bankers dictating every move you make? I want insane stories about a travelling life, a journey through real freedom. I want uncensored stories about chaos, uncertainty and anarchy. I want enlightening stories about how the world deals with no money, no banks and no business loans.

I want your story of how yourself and your family get by once everything you know about Modern Society has been eradicated, when the Global Elite's power grab has been exposed and has failed in spectacular fashion. I want stories about life after global brain-washing, stories of life filled with compassion and promise that one day we'll be embraced by the wider society of our galaxy. What was your part in the revolution and how you made a difference to the new world disorder?

I want Chimeraworld #6 to be a testament to the awakening of mankind, stories about immersion in the galactic melting pot – hardcore experimentation, dimensional travel, body-swapping with alien races, DNA bartering, galactic superheroes, real cultural exchange. Everything is permitted. Nothing is a crime. Surrealism is your saviour.

Chimeraworld #6 (new world disorder) will be published by Chimericana Books, late 2009 in American format 6" by 9" trade paperback.

Word count: 2,000–4,000 words, strict.

Payment: £10.00UK (approx $20.00US).

Esubs: only to m.i.k.e.@m.i.k.e.philbin.com (remove the dots in m.i.k.e. ).

Format: Rich Text Format only.

Font: Times Roman, 12 point, single space.

Add postal address, email and word count to first page.

Add 50–100 word bio after THE END.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lucky Eight!

Stephanie Burgis, come on down!

You are the winner of Suzanne McLeod's novel, The Sweet Scent Of Blood.

I am emailing you now.

Congrat, Stephanie!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Advertising, part 1

Before we get into today's post, please visit me at The Romance Studio blog where I'm talking about collectibles. Be sure to leave a comment over there and tell me what you hoard--er, I mean, collect. In return, I'll show you a few of my lovelies.
***
On to today's Killer Campaign post on advertising.
My art career began as a graphic artist, but my writing career began as an advertising copywriter. I started as a freelance artist designing logos and advertising collateral like business cards, flyers and postcards. I learned quickly that building a turnkey business where I provide the art and copy was the way to go. I also discovered I actually had a knack for writing good copy.

I enjoy the advertising industry. I enjoy creating something that will intrigue, induce and entertain the consumer.

Remember those descriptors. That is what you want to aim for when we go into next week's post on how to create an ad for a book or author.

Today, let's discuss on whether advertising makes good financial sense for an author.

Successful advertising relies on several factors.

• Frequency of ad
• Venue
• Target audience
• Strong copy and design

Frequency: Unless you have a publisher willing to foot the bill, inserting an ad in trade magazines, newspapers and websites on a regular basis can be cost prohibitive. The key is to target the venue that would not only draw the largest (interested) audience, but also one that would be easy on the pocketbook.

Venue: You could take out a display size ad in the Sunday paper for the next sixteen weeks and still not see any significant rise in revenue. You could also put in a rotating ad in a genre-specific website for a fraction of the cost of that same newspaper ad and get a lot more blog traffic and sales.

I can't tell you which venue is going to be your best bet, but I can tell you that as a whole, advertising can be hit or miss.

If I had the money, I would probably put an ad in Romantic Times Magazine where book sellers and librarians will see it. This is an excellent source for targeting the wholesale buyer. But the cost is right next to an arm and a leg unless you are getting a beefy advance.

A 1/3 page 4-color ad appearing only one time will cost you $1,075. I have friends who would consider splitting the cost three-ways, but it's still a shot in the dark. I have no concrete evidence that the ad will be worth the money, other than knowing that RT is a respected and well-known institution.

Target Audience: Know your audience. I cannot stress this enough. If you write vampire stories, you want to be seen in venues that cater to that audience. I would look at placing an ad in magazines, stores or catalogues that sell to goth enthusiasts. Do a Google search and see what you can find.
I did a quick one and found Bite Me Magazine, a UK periodical that might be the right forum for a vampire writing author.
Renaissance Faires usually publish a catalog and/or map. That might be an inexpensive way to reach an audience more attuned to the genre you write in.

I did some more surfing and came up with an online store called Morticia's Morgue. And they sell books too. So not only might you have an outlet for an ad, you might also find a seller for your books.

I chose vampire fiction as an example but you can do this with any genre. Know where your audience hangs (no pun intended) and you'll know where to advertise.

Strong Copy and Design: It's getting harder and harder to find bad graphics. The software is so good that anyone with a fair amount of color and spatial sense can design a decent ad. But copy is where most people fail. This sounds particularly strange considering that we WRITE for a living, but the sad truth is that copywriting is the distant ugly bastard cousin to fiction writing.

Good copywriting is tight, to the point and elicits strong emotion in less than a dozen words. Difficult, but not impossible.

Now that I've told you all the things a good ad should have, the question you have to ask yourself: Is it worth the money? Only you can answer that.

Ask yourself these questions:

• How often will the consumer see my ad?
• What kind of consumer will see my ad? No ad is worth the money if it's not getting in front of the right people.
• How big is your target audience within this particular publication?
• What is the cost breakdown per issue?
• How many books might I potentially sell through this venue? (Obviously, this is a guess. Or you can bite the bullet and see what kind of response you get from your ad.)

I personally feel that advertising is only a TINY benefit for selling books. If you want exposure, there are plenty of FREE outlets if you're willing to put in the effort. That's not to say that I won't ever advertise. I've seen a good response from The Romance Studio where the cost was minimal. (I got in during their half off sale.)

I also might go in a bigger publication if I can share the cost with others like I did in the last issue of Realms Of Fantasy.

It's a personal choice based on your promotional budget, your long-range agenda and where you'd like to be seen.

Next week, we'll talk about how to create a persuasive display ad and some options on how to lower the cost of advertising.


 
Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.
 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making Characters Real

I am so pleased to introduce today's guest blogger, who is herself a real character. Suzanne McLeod is the author of the Spellcrackers.com series set in a contemporary London about dangerous faeries, seductive vampires, bureaucratic goblins, magic, mayhem and murder!

I met Suzanne when I interviewed her for the OWW newsletter and I became an instant fan. She has graciously agreed to guest blog today and talk about how she develops the characterization in her novels.

I give you...Suzanne McLeod

***

Making Characters Real

Hi, my name’s Suzanne, I’m an author, I’m five four tall, I weigh a hundred and cough pounds, I’m of undivulged age with long brown hair, dark brown eyes and I’m currently wearing black jeans, a grey t-shirt and a mint green sweater. And I’d like to thank Maria for inviting me to guest blog about how I create my characters.

Strange as it might seem from my introduction, appearance is literally the last thing I think about when it comes to characters, because after all if you met me in real life, what does hair colour, eye colour or even the colour of my clothes tell you about me and the type of person I am?

Not much, other than I dress for comfort and have very little fashion sense. :o)

But what if I crush your fingers when we shake hands, what if my palm is damp and sweaty with nerves, what if I babble over-enthusiastically about how wonderful it is to meet you, what if I leer at your cleavage instead of making eye-contact, or maybe I give you a perfunctory look and then disdainfully dismiss you to talk to the person behind you. Now you’re getting a much better [or worse *g*] impression of me.

And impressions are good; they help you form an opinion about what I’m like and you automatically react to them. Maybe you’re sympathetic because I’m anxious, or you think I’m like some cute puppy you want to pat, or that I’m such a jerk you decide I’m the last person you want to spend five minutes making stilted small talk with.

But while our brief meeting might give you a momentary snapshot of me, it doesn’t tell you the reasons behind my behaviour. And of course in real life you’re never going to know that my sweaty palms are because a pack of pixies have turned up unannounced and are about to decimate the buffet I’ve so painstakingly prepared, or that I’ve ignored you so that the demon possessing me doesn’t decide to strike you dead on the spot!

Neither catastrophe is one I want to happen *g*.

And that’s where I start creating characters.

I find out what they want.


‘Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.’
- Kurt Vonnegut

But while finding out what a character wants – whether it’s how to save the buffet so there’s something left for the guests, or even how to save the guests themselves – is an essential part of making characters real and believable, even more important is discovering *why* characters want what they want.

Until I know why, I can’t add the right nuances to the characters’ actions.

So *why* exactly do I ignore you and stop the demon from killing you?

Is it because I’m appalled at the prospect of snuffing out your life? Or do I have a more practical concern like how much mess it will make and will I ever get the blood out of the carpet? Or could it be I’m looking to satisfy the demon’s demands with just The Right Victim. Or maybe I know that if I let the demon have its way, we will all be sucked straight into a fiery hell dimension and life as we know it will end forever . . .

What do you think?

Yep, you’ve got it in one *g* I’m looking for just The Right Victim: that disdainful look I gave you says it all!

Of course, not everything characters want is of world ending proportions.

When Genny Taylor, the main character in my Spellcrackers.com series, has to deal with recalcitrant magic what she wants is liquorice torpedoes.


‘Standing on the hot pavement, staring at the clear blue of the sky, I let the heat of the day burn away the air-conditioned chill of the restaurant. The magic fizzed and churned restlessly inside me. I dug into my bag and pulled out three liquorice torpedoes, stuffed them into my mouth and crunched down hard, shuddering as the sugar hit my system. The magic ate the sugar up and I willed it into a sleepy calm.’
- extract from chapter two of The Sweet Scent of Blood

The reasons why Genny wants liquorice torpedoes are simple: the sugar helps her to control the magic, the sweets are a practical option to carry round since they don’t melt like chocolate and the liquorice centre mutes her cravings for vampire venom*.

So once I know why my characters want what they want, I find it easy enough to work out everything about them from what they eat, what they decide to wear, how they speak and react to other characters, where they live, who they decide to kill and even if they’re going to be brave enough to save the world or evil enough to raise the demons of hell.

Of course after figuring all that out . . . then comes the hard part; the actual writing.

Thanks again to Maria for having me. To celebrate the release of the print copy of Maria’s book – Touch of Fire – and the paperback of my own book – The Sweet Scent of Blood – at the end of April, leave a comment telling us which is your favourite candy [and why it is, if you want to] before noon, Sunday (cst) to be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of The Sweet Scent of Blood.

Read chapters one and two here.

*
Vampire ‘venom’ – a combination of hormones and proteins injected through biting which boosts production of red blood cells and also addicts the victim, turning them into an ideal blood-slave – one with lots of hot thick blood on tap, and who is dying (literally, on occasion) to have a vamp sink fangs into them.

***
Okay, folks. Tell us your favorite candy before noon, Sunday, 4-19 and you may win a signed copy of The Sweet Scent of Blood! This is an awesome book, so post away. Suzanne is definitely an author to watch.

Suzanne's Website
Suzanne's Blog
Suzanne on Twitter

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Saving Tips for Writers

Today is April 15. In the US, that's our deadline for filing our taxes and hope we don't owe Uncle Sam anymore than he's already received.

I put together a few money saving tips for writers as the subject of my guest blog over at Michelle Miles' blog. Go over for a visit and tell Michelle, howdy.

Meanwhile...I have to do my taxes.

Really. I mean it.

This is the latest we've ever been. But we'll make it. I'm too young and pretty to go to jail.

Well, too young anyway.

Oh, all right. I just don't want to go to jail, okay.

Visit me at Michelle's!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Hit On The Side Of The Head

I'm a guest at Rose Marie Wolf's blog. See how I got the name Bob-and-Weave.

Violence, epiphanies and mothers with good right hooks. It made me the moving target I am today.

Drop in and leave a comment over there...or I'll send my mother after you. LOL!

Seriously though, she's coming to visit me next month. It would be no trouble at all to send her to your house next. The woman loves to travel and she's looking for sparring partners.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Markets

Growing Edge Magazine

The Growing Edge magazine and website provide the latest news & information for indoor & outdoor growers, including hobbyists, educators, researchers, and commercial growers. A moderate to high level of experience and knowledge is necessary for successful articles. Some research may be necessary. The Growing Edge is actively seeking writers and photographers to cover hydroponics, aquaponics, greenhouse growing, and other related subject areas. Freelance article inquiries are encouraged.

Pays: 20 cents a word

***

Life Without Series

The Life Without ... series - will be divided into a mixture of different underlying themes that thread together similar stories. These themes are meant to help rekindle some memories to form the basis of your story. There is no need to limit your story to neatly fit into the array of themes listed. We are open to new and unique themes that we might not have thought about; just let us know the theme that runs through your story.

Beauty • Belief • Courage • Curiosity • Dreams • Forgiveness • Happiness • Hope • Humility • Kindness • Laughter • Love • Luck • Success • Trust

Length: 500 – 2,500 words

Genre: Non-fiction

Point of View: First person

Style: Narrative, creative, or literary nonfiction. We do not include any fiction, poetry, letters, articles, biography, academic papers, testimonials, or graphic depictions.

Multiple Submissions: We accept multiple submissions / stories. Pleaes note though only a maximum of one story if any will be included per series.

Previously Published Works: Please submit only stories that have not been previously published. The only exception is if your piece was published in a publication with limited circulation.

Submission Due Date: June 1, 2009

Payment: $25

Friday, April 10, 2009

Not Fit To Write

I had planned on doing a post (and quite possibly a 2-part post) on Advertising for Killer Campaigns today, but I was out late last night--okay--late for ME.

No point in throwing something together haphazardly. If I post, I always want to make sure I give it my all, so you'll have to wait until next week. But it'll be pretty in depth. I promise.

Advertising is my domain, so I can speak pretty confidently about it. I'll be covering both the pros and cons of advertising with a second post on how to design your ad for maximum impact.

***

The reason for my lapse in posting is all due to getting older. LOL.

Maya Reynolds and I decided to celebrate our birthdays together since they are only about a week apart. I adore talking to her. I am trying to coerce--er, I mean invite her over to my house when we're both available. I found a neat little indy bookstore not more than 15 miles from where I live. The store is called Books and Crannies and is housed inside an old movie theater. It also has Maddie, the resident cat.

I picked up a couple of books from LS Viehl and Catherine Asaro, and I could've stayed for hours. It was the most charming bookstore I've ever been in. If they let me, I'll have to take some pictures the next time I go back. All bookstores should be this quaint.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Linky Luv

In my effort to link more often and promote my fellow writers, here is today's Link-O-Rama and other drama.

Contests

My buddy, Sandra is hosting a little contest to get more followers on her blog. Yes, we know you all lurk on our blogs, but wouldn't it be friendlier to actually stand up and be acknowledged?

I'm giving you nuthin' but love on this blog if you follow me, but Sandra is giving away some real moola in the form of a B&N card to one lucky follower. Go over and be counted.

Oh, and if you tell her I sent you, she'll do a second random drawing too. The woman's a maniac!

***

Well, you know about my little bitty contest, right? Keep posting these magic words on any public forum: THE APOCALYPSE IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK, Buy Touch Of Fire by Maria Zannini. The more often you post-link about my book, the better your chances of winning a $100 prize package. Be sure you are sending me the links to your postings to countdown DOT apocalypse AT gmail DOT com.

***

For the price of a comment, Bianca D'Arc is giving away some swag-a-licious goodies. Hurry, over and comment and tell her your favorite sub-genre(s) of romance and why.

***
And the drama...

Death comes in the color of wilt. We had a surprise freeze down here and it destroyed a good dozen plants. Most of my lovelies were covered, but I ran out of plastic toward the end and I knew some would have to be sacrificed. I wish I had paid more attention to who got left out. I lost a few of my plum tomatoes. Drat!

***
Still no dogs yet, but I think we are getting closer. We got a lead on two rotties and newborn Australian shepherds. We weren't looking for babies, but I can handle them now that I'm home. I'll wait a few more weeks to get a better idea on how their markings will manifest.

***

We are the proud parents of a second tractor. You think you had labor pains! I had to write the check!

***

So what's new at your house? Contests, releases, good gossip? Post it here and we'll pass it around.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bad Boy Release

Somebody throw some cold water at me!
BAD BOY by Maya Reynolds is hot!

It releases today, so you must go to your local bookstore and buy it for your very own. I got the lowdown on this book before it ever hit market so I can promise you Maya went hotter and sexier than ever before.

This isn't your plain old erotica. This is erotica with suspense and danger. It's a Thriller with a capital T. And if you read Maya Reynolds faithfully, you know she won't disappoint. Here's a little excerpt from her blog.
.
Sometimes being bad feels really good.
.
As the owner and editor-in-chief of Heat, Dallas’ hottest new e-zine, Leah Reece will do anything to get her story, even venture into the shady underworld of 69, an erotic club which caters to the needs of those with enough money to get anything they want. Leah expected to get her scoop and run, but didn’t count on getting sidetracked by a sinful encounter with a dark and sultry bad boy.

Quin Perez is a bodyguard at 69. He can’t afford to lose his concentration for a second, but he can’t help lusting after the sexy editor who stumbles across his path. Now Quin is asking Leah questions she doesn’t want to answer—and making her do things she never dared.
.
Buy BAD BOY at your local Barnes & Nobles or online
.
Don't forget to bookmark Maya's blog too. If you go over there today be sure to wish her a Happy Birthday.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Markets

Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine

Open for submissions from March 1 to August 31.

Neo-opsis will consider material submitted by any writer, professional or amateur. It is our intention to not set down a lot of ground rules for these stories. We don’t want to miss something that we would really like just because it doesn’t fit our rules, but we are more likely to publish stories that are less than 6000 words and fit a science fiction or fantasy theme.

Payment: 2.5 cents Canadian


Zahir

Ed. note: Speculative fiction leaning toward literary.

We are looking for well crafted speculative fiction. This can include science fiction, fantasy, surrealism, magical realism, or something unclassifiable that we haven't thought of yet. Most of the stories we choose lean toward the literary end of the spectrum.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Launch Parties

Launch parties are like tarot cards. They work best if they're given to (for) you by someone else.

I have never had a launch party, but I have offered to host one for a friend of mine. She declined, not wanting her friends to go through so much trouble, but now I'm sorry I didn't insist.

My launch parties would be just like a regular party, only I would create a concentrated guest list of readers.

Since I didn't get a chance to give my friend her launch party, I'll at least run through the steps on how I would have gone about it.

While it's possible to have an internet launch party and invite a bunch of people to visit on a blog or chatroom, it's FAR more effective to hold a live launch party with real human bodies (and real food). *g*

Like other product parties (think Tupperware or cosmetic parties) you want to focus on the product. In this case, it's not just the book, but the author. A good launch party should introduce the author as the most interesting person on the planet. A book is a book, but an author is a commodity. Publicize the commodity and you stoke a career. Book sales will follow.

Here are some tips for good hosting.

• Location is important. Many launch parties are held in homes or offices. This way you can hand sell the book. You can also serve alcoholic beverages if you like. If you decide not to sell immediately and won't offer liquor, you could inquire about using a public facility like a library or school assembly room. Contact book stores too and see if they'd be willing to accommodate you. It never hurts to ask.

• The guest list is perhaps the most important aspect of a launch party. If the party is in a public place, like a bookstore, you already have walk-in traffic. But if your party is private, the guest list is entirely in your hands. Pay close attention to how many people your home can accommodate. Always invite at least a third more than that number because chances are you'll have plenty of no-shows.

Invite actual book readers. There's no point in inviting the neighbors and your sister's babysitter if they don't read--or don't read that particular genre. This is a networking party, not a coffee klatch.

• Food. Simple appetizers like meat roll-ups and veggies are crowd pleasers and not too messy.

• Beverages. I'll be honest. I don't care for liquor at a networking party. The wine is usually cheap and tasteless and you always run the risk of exposing a closet drunk. It's usually the expected beverage of choice, but I much prefer soft drinks and water. Use your discretion.

• Make sure the author has a speech or excerpt prepared. S/he is the guest of honor. You want him to always be "on" because he'll be the center of attention all night.

• Be sure you have promotional collateral flowing freely on the floor. Have ample bookmarks, brochures, business cards and swag to give away.

• A drawing is a nice feature. If the author can afford it, give something away.

• If possible, have enough books on hand or at least order online. You want people to buy there and then.

• Make the author as comfortable as possible. S/he is already stressed out--especially if it's a first book. Do all you can to make the author's life as uncomplicated as possible. All you want him to do is shine. It's up to you and your team to do the work and keep the spotlight on him.

• Do have a team. You don't want to collapse prematurely. A team divvies up all the chores evenly.

• The bills. Decide ahead of time who is paying for what. A good party is one with no surprises.

If you are friends with a local author, offer to host a launch party for him. Not only is it good networking for the author, it is a goldmine of future prospects for you too. Sometimes karma repays a lot sooner than later.


Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.
 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Touch Of Fire Contest: It Begins

This is NOT an April Fool's prank. Today begins the official start for the Touch Of Fire contest with a prize worth $100.

If you normally read me off a reader or other feed, you might want to visit my blog in person today and check out the mega huge announcement on the main page.

Starting this very minute and until noon (cst) May 28, 2009 you will earn points for every time you post these words:

The Apocalypse is closer than you think.
Buy TOUCH OF FIRE by Maria Zannini

Post this on ANY blog, forum, or social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook and earn one point. You will earn 3 extra points if you post it on Twitter. (Multiple postings on Twitter are allowed as long as it's on different days.) And you will earn a whopping 5 extra points if you post a review on any review site including Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Shelfari, Goodreads, Red Room and any social networking site.

What do you get?

A super prize package worth $100. This includes a signed copy of Touch Of Fire, a $50 gift card to Amazon, and other goodies worth up to and maybe more than $35.

The thing I want you to take from this is that I need your help to get the word out. I'm no celebrity and I don't know a gazillion people, but I do know that Touch Of Fire is a great book and I need other people to know it exists.

This contest lasts nearly two months because I want this grassroots movement to build momentum. I promise you, it will be worth it!

Help me spread the word. Thanks!

PS Be sure to send me every link where you've posted the phrase and web link to this specific email address: countdown DOT apocalypse AT gmail.com

I've set it up exclusively for this contest so I don't miss anyone.