Thursday, December 7, 2017

Meet our Authors: Karen Mutchler Allen

Today we welcome Karen Mutchler Allen, author of the best-selling Couth Fairy series.

Favorite Christmas Memory

I remember turning the corner and coming into our living room to see a homemade dollhouse that my dad had built.  I don't even know when he had the time to build it...he worked so hard to provide for all of us.  My mom had decorated the inside of the house and I remember the floors were covered with colored contact paper to look like linoleum.  Other kids were getting the big Barbie dream houses but what I received that Christmas was so much more meaningful and precious.  I'm so thankful for parents who made our Christmas so very special!

Favorite Christmas Movie

By far, my all time favorite Christmas Movie is National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.  I can quote the movie in its entirety.  Trust me.

Favorite Christmas food

Egg Nog...yes, I LOVE egg nog. 

Favorite Christmas tradition

We recently started going to a tree farm to get our real tree with our family.  My husband grew up with artificial trees but I grew up with real trees so I guess I won him over to the dark side ... which includes needles everywhere! Our family has fun looking for our "perfectly imperfect" tree!  O' Tannenbaum!

About Karen's books:

The Couth Fairy
Available on Amazon and from your favorite bookseller by request.

Join Annabelle as she learns the importance of manners from The Couth Fairy. This Fairy helps Annabelle know just what to do when it comes to minding her manners! The Couth Fairy guides Annabelle through everything from picking her nose, not talking with her mouth full, burping at the table and so much more!

Available on Amazon and from your favorite bookseller by request.

And POOF! Just as quickly as the Couth Fairy appears… she vanishes. In The Couth Fairy Returns, Annabelle's little sister, Abigail, is in desperate need of The Couth Fairy's help! Join Abigail as she learns the importance of minding her manners each and every day! The Couth Fairy guides Abigail through everything from pitching fits, using kind words, sneezing and so much more!

Available on Amazon and from your favorite bookseller by request.

And POOF! Just as quickly as the Couth Fairy appears… She vanishes. In The Couth Fairy Goes To School, Annabelle and Abigail’s brother, A.J., is in urgent need of The Couth Fairy’s help! Join A.J. as he learns the importance of minding his manners in school each and every day! The Couth Fairy guides A.J. through everything from respecting students with special needs, the effects of bullying, appropriate behavior in the cafeteria and so much more! 

About the Author:

Karen is married and a mother of three children. She and her husband live in Forsyth, Georgia. 

Karen has hosted a radio show, Acquire the Fire with Karen Allen, and a nationally recognized TV talk show, Talk of the Town. A graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Education, Karen worked as an Elementary School teacher before becoming a stay-at-home mom.









Recent Articles:



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Meet our Authors: Dana Morgan-Murphy

Today's featured author is Dana Morgan-Murphy.

Favorite Christmas Memory

My favorite Christmas memory was a few years ago I gave my 4 boys (all in their 20's)
matching Christmas boxers and a script for a Christmas rap song I'd written about the 4 of them. They had to perform outside in their boxers and work boots ... no shirt ... Christmas Day! It was a ball!!!



Favorite Christmas Tradition

My favorite tradition is giving my boys Christmas Eve individualized hand painted ornaments by the same friend who illustrated my two books. She puts the significant things that happened in each of their lives that year.

Favorite Christmas Book

Favorite book ...The Grinch. Both my mom and my grandmother were elementary school librarians and knew this book by heart ... and they would do all the different character voices.





Favorite Christmas Food

Favorite food is the Christmas Chex mix my mom made at Christmas.

Not sure if this is the same recipe Dana's mom made, but here's a great recipe from the Chex website:

Christmas Chex Party Mix

Ingredients

6 cups Rice Chex™ or Corn Chex™ cereal
2 cups miniature marshmallows (from 10.5-oz bag)
1 cup mini pretzel twists (from 16-oz bag)
15 oz vanilla candy coating (almond bark) (about 9 cubes from 20-oz package)
3 tablespoons holiday-colored sprinkles or nonpareils
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup holiday-colored candy-coated chocolate candies

Steps

Line large rimmed cookie sheet with waxed paper. In large bowl, mix cereal, marshmallows and pretzels.

In medium microwavable bowl, microwave candy coating uncovered on High 60 to 90 seconds, stirring after 1 minute, until almost melted. Stir until smooth. Pour onto cereal mixture; mix well.

Spread on cookie sheet; sprinkle with holiday sprinkles, and cool completely, about 15 minutes. Break into bite-size pieces.

In 2-quart resealable food-storage plastic bag, add coated cereal pieces and powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake to coat. Remove from bag; discard any remaining powdered sugar.

In large serving bowl, mix coated cereal mixture and chocolate candies.

Tips

Store in covered container at room temperature.

About Dana's Books:

Mommy, Tell Me About Heaven
Available on Amazon and from your favorite bookseller by request

Mommy, Tell Me About Heaven was inspired in 2003 by Dana’s youngest of four sons, Marshall. While the two were riding in the car he asked her to tell him about heaven. Dana quickly pulled the car over and wrote a little poem God put in her heart. Marshall was not only satisfied with the rhyming response but it became his most cherished bedtime ritual for months. It wasn’t until years later that longtime family friend Michelle Morse brought the words to life through vivid illustrations. By bringing this inspired book to print, the author prays heaven would become a very real place to children. Through receiving the free gift of God’s grace they can look forward to living for eternity with Jesus Christ.


An Orphan Named Eva
Available on Amazon and from your favorite bookseller by request

Eva the Orphan was inspired in 1998 when Dana traveled to Guatemala on a fourteen day mission trip to volunteer in an orphanage. Between the windowless walls of the dark, empty dirt floor room her heart strings were pulled in half. Nothing could have prepared her for the deep heartache as well the unexplainable joy she would experience. Forty barefoot excited little orphans all clamoring for her open arms to hug them tightly. However, there was one teenage girl who swept the floors and seldom looked up. Her name was Eva. Slowly over several days Dana befriended her and a trust was built. The lonely distraught orphan wanted to be held and adored like all the others. Thankfully Jesus showed up in a very real way using the love of a stranger to help knit the broken pieces of Eva’s heart back together. Two lives were changed that day.

About Dana:

Dana Morgan Murphy lives in Athens Georgia with her husband Mark. Both have been involved in children’s ministry most of their adult lives.

Mark is an ordained minister on staff as the family and children’s pastor at Classic City Community Church. Dana serves alongside him and teaches third through fifth grade Sunday school. She has always had a passion for writing, reading and sharing her faith, especially with children. Her love for seeing young people’s lives changed through books comes from her mother and her grandmother, who were both elementary school librarians. Some of Dana’s fondest memories growing up are of being read to by these two gifted women. They could bring every page to life from memory as they held the book so only she could see the pages.

Eva the Orphan was inspired in 1998 when Dana traveled to Guatemala on a fourteen day mission trip to volunteer in an orphanage. It was there between the windowless walls of the dark, empty dirt floor room her heart strings were pulled in half. Nothing could have prepared her for the deep heartache as well the unexplainable joy she would experience. 
Forty barefoot excited little orphans all clamoring for her open arms to hug them tightly.  However, there was one teenage girl who swept the floors and seldom looked up. Her name was Eva. Slowly over several days Dana befriended her and a trust was built. The lonely distraught orphan also wanted to be held and adored like all the others. 

Thankfully Jesus showed up in a very real way using the love of a stranger to help knit the broken pieces of Eva’s heart back together. Two lives were changed that day.



Other articles of Interest:

Meet our Authors: Shirley Crowder
Latest Release: The Couth Fairy Goes to School
Call for Submissions: Love Letters from the Heart 2



Monday, December 4, 2017

Meet our Authors: Shirley Crowder

We've invited our authors and some of our illustrators to share the month with us here on the blog.

Today's featured author is Shirley Crowder, co-author of the beautiful holiday devotional, Glimpses of the Savior.

Favorite Christmas Memory?


One Christmas my mom, brother Tim, and I invited family, in-laws, out-laws, and even strays off the street to join us for Christmas dinner. My brother Tim and I spent hours decorating the inside of the house and the yard. Tim and I worked all day and night Christmas Eve to make certain everything was perfectly placed and decorated. There was not a nook nor cranny left undecorated. I do not remember how many people came for dinner that day, but the house was full of family, friends, and strays off the street. Our home was full of laughter, story-telling, and sweet tear-shared memories as one of my uncles read the Luke 2 account of the birth of Jesus, another uncle read a favorite Christmas poem, we sang Christmas carols and prayed together.

Favorite Christmas Book or Movie?

The Gift by Jan Haley, Focus Publishing, Bemidji MN

One of the wise men is preparing to leave for his long journey to follow the Christmas Star when his young son asks hi to bring him a gift. It is the account of the birth of Christ through the eyes of one wise man and his young son. It is not only a great book to read, but it is beautifully illustrated.


Favorite Christmas food?

Jeannie’s Microwave Fudge—my mom’s

3 cups of Chocolate chips
1 can (14oz) of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
4 TBS butter (at room temperature)
1 TSP vanilla extract
¼ TSP salt
8x8 pan, line with aluminum foil, spray foil with Pam.

Put chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter in microwave safe bowl.
Heat for 1 minute (note: if butter is very cold you may need to cook an additional 30 seconds. DO NOT OVERCOOK.)
Mix all ingredients until well blended.
Add vanilla & salt.
Continue stirring until thoroughly mixed.
Pour into pan and refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours.
Cut into squares or triangles.
Best served room temperature.

Favorite Christmas tradition?

Making Christmas candies (fudge and chocolate dipped pretzels).

Mom and I would begin making candy weeks before Christmas. The candies would be places in Christmas boxes or bags, and hand delivered with love!

About Shirley's book:

In early November, we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and we often forget the real meanings behind these celebrations. We can guard against this by preparing our hearts to seek Him as we focus on God’s Word, and by remembering that Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is the celebration of the Savior’s birth; the New Year brings new beginnings. Then, as we go about doing the things the Lord has called us to do where He has called us to do them, we catch Glimpses of the Savior and biblical truth in the things we experience and observe. These devotionals are based on memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations in Africa and America. May the Holy Spirit work through these meditations to help readers recognize Glimpses of the Savior in the things they observe, and become skilled at finding Jesus among the celebrations and decorations.

Available on Amazon and Kindle.


About Shirley:

Born in a mission guest house under the shade of a mango tree in Nigeria, West Africa, where her parents served as missionaries, Shirley is passionate about disciple-making, which is conducted in and through myriad ministry opportunities.

She is a biblical counselor and co-host of "Think on These Things" a Birmingham, Alabama, radio/TV program for women. Shirley is commissioned by and serves on the national Advisory Team for, The Addiction Connection. She co-authored the chapter, "Paul and Women in Ministry" in the book Paul the Counselor published by Focus Publishing; and has several articles which have appeared in The Gadsden Times’ Faith section's Paper Pulpit. She and Harriet E. Michael are co-authors of a holiday devotional, Glimpses of the Savior, published by TMP Books in 2015.

Shirley has spiritual children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren serving the Lord in various ministry and secular positions throughout the world.

Follow her on:

Facebook: /ShirleyCrowder
Twitter: @ShirleyJCrowder



Friday, December 1, 2017

Latest Release: The Couth Fairy Goes to School

Congratulations to Karen Mutchler Allen on the release of her third book in the best-selling Couth Fairy series, The Couth Fairy Goes to School.


Available on Amazon and at most booksellers by request

About the book:

And POOF! Just as quickly as the Couth Fairy appears… She vanishes. 

In The Couth Fairy Goes To School, Annabelle and Abigail’s brother, A.J., is in urgent need of The Couth Fairy’s help. Join A.J. as he learns the importance of minding his manners in school each and every day. The Couth Fairy guides A.J. through everything from respecting students with special needs, the effects of bullying, appropriate behavior in the cafeteria and so much more! 

Other books in the series:

The Couth Fairy
The Couth Fairy Returns
   



About the author:

Karen is married and a mother of three children. She and her husband live in Forsyth, Georgia.

Karen has hosted a radio show, Acquire the Fire with Karen Allen, and a nationally recognized TV talk show, Talk of the Town. A graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Education, Karen worked as an Elementary School teacher before becoming a stay-at-home mom.


About the illustrator:

Jaclyn Sloan lives in the little town of Bethlehem, Georgia, with her loving husband and two  adventurous children. She has a love for the outdoors and her family can often be found on hiking trails, mountain biking, or kayaking.

What originally started as an artistic outlet for her creative soul, her ceramics business, The Painted Frog Studio, has grown into so much more. She actively creates one-of-a-kind, quality pieces, including functional pottery, canvas paintings, and illustrations. Along with owning her own pottery business, she also is a high school art teacher, where her passion for arts and creativity overflows to her students.

In the future, Jaclyn hopes to continue growing her business and sharing her creations and passion for creativity with more people.  She also plans to eat a lot of chips and queso.




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Crush the Rush: Black Friday-Cyber Monday Sale NOW!

Crush the rush and beat the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with our special sale, and take home some goodies for yourself or your loved ones!

We're offering some fun bonuses when you purchase any of our packages now through next Wednesday, November 22, 2017.

Packages can be purchased for yourself OR as a gift certificate for your favorite writer! (Send us an e-mail if you want to send an gift certificate, and we'll provide one you can gift wrap, or we'll gift wrap and send to your recipient for you.)

If you purchase:

a Print or E-book Package, you'll receive a $25 gift card to Amazon OR Longhorn's Steakhouse (your choice).

  • Print Package – regularly $499 on sale now $399! – This package provides authors with the easiest tool to get their print book into readers’ hands as quickly as possible. The author provides us with an edited manuscript and a PDF of the cover, and we do the rest. All authors will receive and must approve a print proof before a book can be put on the market. We publish the book with our publishing company name and logo. You retain all rights to your book.
  • E-book Package – regularly $599 on sale now $499!– This package provides authors with the easiest tool to get their digital book into readers’ hands as quickly as possible. The author provides us with an edited manuscript and a PDF of the cover, and we handle the digital formatting. All authors will receive and must approve a digital proof before book will be put on the market. We publish the book under our publishing company name. You retain all rights to your book.


Crush the Rush Specials

If you purchase:

a Complete Package, you'll receive a $75 gift card to Amazon or Longhorn's Steakhouse (your choice).

  • Complete Package – $899 on sale now $749! – This package provides authors the best of both worlds: control of their project, yet with the help of experts to produce a book of utmost quality. This package is best-suited for books with basic to moderate formatting needs. (If you need editing services, please contact us for an additional quote.) Just send us your edited manuscript attached as a document (Microsoft Word) and we do the rest. You may submit your own cover (as a PDF) at no additional charge or you may order an original cover design from us, for an additional fee. The book will be formatted and published in both print and digital formats. All authors will receive proof copies in both formats to approve before we publish.

Crush the Rush Specials

If you purchase:

The On Your Own Package,  you'll receive a $100 gift card to Amazon or Longhorn's Steakhouse.

  • On Your Own Package - regularly $1499 on sale now $1299!– This package provides the author the most control and 100% of the income from book sales. This package provides all the services included in the Complete package, and goes one step further. TMP will set up accounts for you to later manage, once we get your book to publication. Royalties will be deposited to your own account – TMP will not take a portion of the proceeds and you won’t have to wait for quarterly statements and checks to arrive. You’ll be paid monthly as the vendors send payments, and you’ll be able to buy any quantity of your book at cost, whenever you need them. Like the other packages, this packages does not include editing services. All editing services are offered a la carte, because all manuscripts are different and require different levels of edits.

Crush the Rush Specials


If you REFER someone who purchases one of the packages above during this sale, you'll receive a gift card, too, just like the one they receive for the package they purchase! Just e-mail Tracy at info@TMPbooks.com and your referral in a single e-mail, introducing us, and when your referral makes a purchase, we'll send out your gift cards!





** Package prices do not include editing or cover design. If you need either of those services, please ask for a quote.


Sale prices and bonuses valid November 15, 2017 through November 22, 2017.

Click on the BUY NOW buttons above OR send us an email at info@TMPbooks.com to discuss your project. You may also use the Contact Form located in the right column.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Call for Submissions - Love Letters from the Heart 2

In 2012, our publisher Tracy Ruckman compiled an anthology she published through Pix-N-Pens Publishing. The book was entitled Love Letters from the Heart.

Tracy retained the rights to the book when she handed over the reins of PNP and WIP, and will re-release that book within the next couple of weeks, under the TMP imprint.

Today, we announce a call for submissions for the sequel, Love Letters from the Heart 2, which will release in February 2018.

Have you ever longed to share your heart - your testimony - with someone, but couldn't work up the nerve to do so? Well, now is your chance. We are currently compiling testimonies - in letter format - for Love Letters from the Heart 2, to be released February 2018.

You may submit a new letter if you were in the first book, but we will not reprint the same letter. You may submit a letter you submitted previously, but realize that if the letter wasn't chosen the first time, the reasons for non-selection this time might still apply, so consider carefully before sending a previous entry.

The testimonies/letters should be 1,000 words or less, written in the form of a letter to someone with whom you want to share the Gospel and/or your testimony.

The printed letters will be universal, and won't have names connected to them, you'll be writing them anonymously. Keep in mind that although you are writing the letter to someone specific, our goal is for the letters to resonate with someone who might need to hear/read what you have to say - whether you know that person or not.

Anyone who contributes to the book will have his/her name and a brief bio listed in the back of the book. If the writer chooses to share which testimony is his/her own, they are welcome to do so, but they are not required to do so. The scope of the book should appeal to a wide variety of people - so that it may be given to people who might be traveling similar paths.

Writers whose testimonies are selected for the book will receive a $25 honorarium, a copy of the book upon publication, and a steep discount on purchases of that book.

Deadline for submissions is December 15, 2017. Please submit your letter as a Word document attached to an e-mail, and send to Tracy Ruckman at: info@TMPbooks.com with the subject line: LOVE LETTERS 2. Letters will be printed anonymously in the book, but they should not be sent anonymously.

In the body of the e-mail, please include a short bio (100 words or less), and up to two links (website/blog/social media), and your shipping address. If you prefer not to have your name and/or bio listed in the book at all, please state that in your original e-mail, and if your entry is selected, we will abide by your wishes.

You may submit up to three letters for consideration.

Receipt of entry will be acknowledged; writers of chosen entries will be notified by mid-January.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fiction Series: Hone the Dialogue

Dialogue can make or break your story.

How many times have you read a book where the characters didn't "sound" right? Could you identify why?

Here are some common pitfalls we see regularly:

Lack of contractions. Very rarely do we encounter folks who don't use contractions. They're a common way of speaking. It's okay to include one character who doesn't use contractions in their speech - that could be one way to identify that particular character who is probably an extremely formal and highly educated person - someone very confident. Or even someone totally opposite - someone lacking education, with low self-esteem, but great pride, who doesn't want anyone to know lack of education. Either way, their speech can identify them. But if every character speaks without contractions, the dialogue is stilted, formal, and is usually the sign of an amateur.

Full sentences. When was the last time you had a real conversation with a close friend or in a family group, and all of you spoke in complete, uninterrupted sentences? Sure doesn't happen at our house. We finish each other's sentences, or like my beloved hubby tends to do, he'll start a sentence but then it slowly ...

He doesn't finish the thought, so I either finish it for him, ask what he meant, or change the subject.

Or, we'll be discussing a topic, and someone remembers something they were supposed to tell us, so they abruptly change the subject.

Real dialogue is like that, so for your characters to be real, their dialogue needs to be real, too.

Lengthy passages of dialogue. Unless a character is giving a rare monologue, dialogue should be broken up with narrative. Show us what the characters are doing while they're talking. Show us movements, reactions, bring in sensory details (sounds, smells, textures, lighting, tastes, colors, etc.)

Name calling. When you're having a conversation with someone, how often do you use his or her name? Perhaps in greeting or to stress a point, but rarely do you repeat the name again and again. Avoid this in your dialogue as well.

Rhythm. Read your dialogue aloud. Does everyone talk in the same rhythm? Same sentence length? Same number of sentences per bit of dialogue? If so, rewrite for variety.

"Reality." When we write dialogue, we want to make it real, but not really. You can add in dialect, odd phrases, and 'umms and ahhs' on occasion, but do it sparingly. Yes, we may stutter and stammer every time we speak in real life, but readers will tire of that easily. Clean up the dialogue enough to make each word count. If you're using dialogue to typeset a character, use it briefly for only a few pages - enough for the reader to "hear" that character's speech, then they'll hear the dialect, even if you don't write it. (Similar experience with subtitles at the beginning of the movie. Characters in the movie may be speaking Italian, French, or Arabic, but we're reading it in English subtitles. After a few minutes, the characters - still in the same place and time - suddenly start speaking English. We "know" the characters are "really" still speaking in those foreign languages, but now we don't have to read subtitles.)

Dialogue is meant to convey character and to propel your story forward. Hone these areas to improve both your dialogue and your overall manuscript.


Previous articles in our Fiction Series:

The Road to NANOWRIMO
Determine Your Setting



Other articles of interest:

Marketing Series: Build Your Team
Marketing Series: Define Your Audience
Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box
Marketing Series: Build Your Platform
Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

Recent articles:

Two Keys to Finding Your Author Voice
I Want to Write a Book - Where Do I Start?
From the Edit Desk: Before Sending that Manuscript to Editor or Publisher
From the Edit Desk: Sense of Place
From the Edit Desk: What's the Takeaway?
Do You Dream?
Need an Illustrator?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fiction Series: Determine Your Setting

Most of my fiction - novels, short stories, and screenplays - start with location, because places intrigue and inspire me.

One question I encounter often is: should I set my story somewhere real, or create a fictional story world?

The best answer for that question is: It depends.

If you write sci-fi or fantasy, most likely your story world will be fictional and you will need to create it from top to bottom, inside and out.

If you write most any other genre, the choice is yours to make. Here are some tips to help you decide which route is best for you:

1) Consider the amount of research you'll need to know your setting(s). Are you familiar with the territory? If not, are you able to travel to the location to scope it out? Or do you have the research skills to learn specifics about the area? If you can't travel there, be sure to research more than just facts and figures - you'll need to study demographics, terrain, weather, language, customs, and more. Is this setting somewhere you want to spend time as you write?

Tip: Do more than a simple search for potential locations. Also check places like TripAdvisor, Instagram, and Twitter for things to do in the area, photos, annual events, and overall vibe of the place. Don't forget maps - if you use Google maps, you can see street views for many locations. Check the visitor's bureau or Chamber of Commerce for the town to request physical maps and information, too.

2) Do your story, plot, characters "fit" the setting? For example, if your art-theft-mystery involves pricey galleries, and your suspects hob-nob with the rich and famous, the story itself would probably seem out of place in rural mid-America, but would fit right at home in New York City. Your setting needs to fit the overall tone and mood of your story, too. Urban stories won't fit the same setting as a cozy mystery.

Tip: Check current events for the area you've set your story. Would your character be a misfit (intentional or accidental) at some of these events?

3) If setting is to serve as a character in your novel, would it be helpful to create a fictional town and plot it into the map, in an area you're familiar with, and that will be familiar to readers? For example, you create the town of Peaceland, with all its quirks and quibbles, and plot it on the map in the middle of Texas, close enough to Dallas, Austin, and Abilene that your characters can mention one of them in passing and the reader will instantly be transported to that setting.

Tip: Think of giving your character a day off to explore one of the nearby towns. What would your character be doing there? Where would your character eat? What would your character explore? If this is an overnight trip, where would the character stay?

4) If your story takes place in more than one city, consider travel logistics of getting characters from place to place. You'll need to factor travel time into your overall timeline.

Tip: Create a calendar for your story's timeline.

5) How does this setting serve your overall story and its characters? Why this setting for these characters? Why not somewhere else? Make the setting relevant to the characters and to the story, so that when the book is done, a reader can honestly feel it couldn't have happened elsewhere.

Just remember as you write that your readers will all be different - some may know the area well, and some will be totally unfamiliar. If you use a real place, make sure you get the facts right, because readers will catch mistakes. If you use a fictional place, be sure to layer in enough details that the place becomes real in a reader's mind. (The key is layering, not dumping loads of information.)


Do locations inspire you? What kinds of settings do you most like to read? Do you like writing the same kinds of settings or different ones?


More from our Fiction Series:

The Road to NANOWRIMO


Other articles of interest:

Marketing Series: Build Your Team
Marketing Series: Define Your Audience
Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box
Marketing Series: Build Your Platform
Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

Recent articles:

Two Keys to Finding Your Author Voice
I Want to Write a Book - Where Do I Start?
From the Edit Desk: Before Sending that Manuscript to Editor or Publisher
From the Edit Desk: Sense of Place
From the Edit Desk: What's the Takeaway?
Do You Dream?
Need an Illustrator?




Monday, October 16, 2017

Fiction Series: The Road to NANOWRIMO

Today, we start a new series on fiction writing, with our eyes on NANOWRIMO 2017. I hope our posts will be helpful and serve as a great "warm-up" for the big event, and be useful to anyone wanting to write fiction, whether you're participating in NANO or not.

Image Courtesy of
National Novel Writing Month
NANOWRIMO? I hear some of you asking.

NANOWRIMO is the acronym for National Novel Writing Month which takes place every year during the month of November. From their website:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.  
On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.
Almost 400,000 writers participated last year.

Today's tip is short, and sounds more simple than it is:

Write the book you want to read.

You'll be spending many hours with the characters, setting, and plot of this book - more hours than you imagine because once the story comes alive in your brain and heart, it will always live there. If you like romance novels, write a romance novel. If you like horror, write horror. If you write mysteries, write a mystery. If you're not sure what genre you prefer, think of your favorite books and that should help. If you're like me,  you may like several genres - if that's the case, think about setting or characters, and let one of those lead you to the genre you should write first.

Some "experts" may tell you to write for the market - write what will sell. You can choose to listen to them - and be miserable about halfway through - or you can write the book you want to read and enjoy yourself, even when the writing gets hard. (It will.)

Come back tomorrow for our next post in this fiction series. Topics we'll be discussing in future posts include characters, theme, setting, tension, dialogue, plot and more.


The Fiction Series:

The Road to NANOWRIMO
Determine Your Setting

Other articles of interest:


Marketing Series: Build Your Team
Marketing Series: Define Your Audience
Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box
Marketing Series: Build Your Platform
Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

Recent articles:

Two Keys to Finding Your Author Voice
I Want to Write a Book - Where Do I Start?
From the Edit Desk: Before Sending that Manuscript to Editor or Publisher
From the Edit Desk: Sense of Place
From the Edit Desk: What's the Takeaway?
Do You Dream?
Need an Illustrator?




Monday, October 2, 2017

Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box

When it comes to marketing your books, think outside the box. Yes, everyone does bookmarks, websites, business cards, but what is unique about your book that you could use to draw attention?

For fiction writers, draw on your characters' personalities, hobbies, hometown, occupation, or idiosyncrasies to create a contest or marketing memes.

Create a float for your town's homecoming or Christmas parade and ride in it as one of the characters. (With a book cover image plastered boldly somewhere on the float or car!)

If your character likes to cook or is a foodie - or even a klutz in the kitchen - write a series of blog posts with some of that character's favorite recipes (or goofs) - even if they're not in the book.

Make the characters come to life through behind-the-scene glimpses into their lives.

For nonfiction writers, tap into your book's themes to create some of your marketing. If your theme is a social issue, check calendars for national awareness days and build some of your marketing around those days. Even if you don't write about social issues, check out the "national days" calendar to see what topics might fit your book and your message and have fun with it.

Use art, videos, symbols, costumes, unique key phrases, locations (yours) or settings (your character's) to reach readers in unexpected ways. Seek out groups that might be interested in having you speak on your theme - they may even allow you to set up a book table for sales and autographs after your talk. (Just don't use your speech to promote your book.)

Tap into your own hobbies and interests to attract readers with similar interests. One awesome author I know travels frequently. One part of her platform revolves around her travels - and her characters' journeys, too. Readers know that when they pick up one of her books, they'll be transported all around the world as the story unfolds. Another incredible author is a hometown girl, and she shares her hometown as part of her platform. When readers pick up her books, they know they're going to get a hometown family feel (even in the midst of chaos!)


Other articles of interest:

Marketing Series: Build Your Team
Marketing Series: Define Your Audience
Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box
Marketing Series: Build Your Platform
Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

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From the Edit Desk: Sense of Place
From the Edit Desk: What's the Takeaway?
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Marketing Series: Build Your Team

Although writing is a solitary profession for the most part, when you get ready to market your book, you need a team. This team, sometimes referred to as a street team or a tribe,
serves as your immediate marketing team - they help get the word out about your book.

A team can be as simple as a small group of family or friends who tell others about your book, or as complex as an entire network of people (some may be acquaintances or even strangers) who promote your book for review copies or other incentives.

Folks within the industry have mixed feelings about street teams in general, and that's understandable.

Some of the ambivalence has to do with credibility. By assembling a random street team, you as the author are entrusting your marketing to strangers. You don't know the reputation of the members, or their credibility within their own circles - and honestly, they could do more harm than good for your book.

During the years I've been in the book industry, I've learned from the pros that it makes sense to compile a team that you know and trust. If your team is comprised of other authors, make sure you read their books for quality and content to ensure they match your own quality and values. If the quality is sub-par or the values are in direct opposition to yours, their marketing could alienate your audience or be directed at an audience that's not a good fit for your book.

Marketing teams are effective in different ways, and could work online and/or in person (boots on the ground).

Online teams will:
  • Buy your book on release day.
  • Write blog post(s) about your book and its themes.
  • Interview you for their blogs.
  • Review your books on multiple online sites (Amazon, BN, Books-a-Million, Goodreads, Book Depository, etc.).
  • Post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. about your book, consistently and repeatedly. (Not an overload and they definitely should NOT spam folks, but they should be willing to offer more than a single post or tweet.)
  • Attend any online parties/events that you may host or be invited to - offering support and encouragement and - well, attendance. 
In-person teams will:
  • Buy your book on release day.
  • Visit their local bookstores, taking bookmarks, postcards, chocolates, and perhaps even a copy of your book to the manager, asking if they might be interested in hosting a book signing or selling your books. 
  • Connect with their local libraries to discuss your books. 
  • Distribute promotional materials wherever appropriate (coffee shops, book clubs, writing groups, church, social groups, civic groups, etc.)
  • Attend your local book signings and speaking engagements, offering support and encouragement - and assistance as needed.

Reward your team with incentives like small gift cards, autographed copies of your book, t-shirts, chocolate (of course!), coffee mugs, special discounts, or even "insider" information about you or your books that only the team will know (or will know in advance of others). Come up with other ways to recognize their efforts. Some examples: let them name one of your characters or setting in a future book, thank them on the acknowledgements page of your book, host a party in their honor if your team is local.

Remember to set aside time for marketing and team building, but don't let the marketing overtake your writing. Having a team to help you market will free up some of those hours so you can do just that.



Other articles of interest:

Marketing Series: Build Your Team
Marketing Series: Define Your Audience
Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box
Marketing Series: Build Your Platform
Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

We asked FB and Twitter friends to send us questions about marketing so we could provide some answers. Questions and answers are below.

Why do authors have to do the marketing? Why don't publishers do it for them? ~ from Phee Paradise and Grace Brooks

Marketing is a cost that larger publishers once absorbed and recouped with book sales, but now is mostly obsolete. If an author has a huge platform (celebrity or public figure status), the publisher will likely send the author on tour or pay for an advertising campaign, but for the most part, the author is on their own when it comes to marketing, regardless of whether they choose the traditional publishing route, a subsidy press, or self-publishing.


I want to publish more children's books in the future...when you have more than one book that you are selling, do you need to market each book separately or can you lump them together when attending an event or with the online presence (in my case facebook)? ~ From Julie Landon, author of The Little Voice

Great question, Julie. If the books are in the same genre, there's no need to separate marketing. At times, you may want to focus on your newest book, but you can always include the others when designing marketing materials like bookmarks, flyers, posters, etc. With social media, blogs, and websites, it's always good to have everything together, so readers don't have to chase you down. They should be able to find links to all your books on any of your sites.

How do you market with any success? ~ from Peggy Trotter

First, you need to define success. What would make a marketing campaign successful for YOU? Are you trying to reach readers? Make money (how much equates to success for you)? Increase your visibility? Grow your network? Get 5 reviews on your book (or 10, or 50, or 100)? Have one person tell you their life was changed because of your words? Have Jimmy Fallon invite you for a chat on national television? Sell x-number of books in an x-amount of time?

Your answers can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, but they must be reasonable for your platform, your topic, your market.

Some authors want to hit the New York Times' Bestseller list with their first book on an aardvark's eating habits. Unfortunately (or, honestly, fortunately), that's not likely to happen unless you're Oprah or Elvis.

Other authors only want to make their mom's proud. Or their neighbor's jealous.

Define what success means to you, then work toward that goal with your marketing plan.


Which genres are easiest to market? Is marketing significantly easier/harder if you stick with one genre/subgenre and make it your brand? ~ from Ann Evans

Marketing tasks are basically the same for every genre (and depends on how much effort you choose to put into it), so the real question isn't which genre is easiest, but perhaps which genre is most popular? The list varies, depending on the source, with romance/erotica, sci-fi/fantasy, crime/thriller/mystery, religious/inspiration, nonfiction, and horror all filling top spots. The very best advice anyone could give you is this: "The single most important factor determining whether you succeed (and get published) is the quality of your writing." ~ Scott Francis in his article, "Easy Genres to Break In To."

Branding is a great way to market your books, if you always write the same genre OR have the same underlying message in multiple genres that you can use to build your brand. Establish yourself as an "expert" or "go-to" person in your topic or genre, and then create marketing materials to reflect that expertise. Develop catch phrases and logos for your brand, even choose specific colors and fonts to become "your" look, and use that same look across all social media and blogs. Use that branding as your foundation for all your promotional materials and marketing ideas.

With all the social media outlets, which one(s) are better to focus your energy on marketing? ~ from Vanessa Rose Lee

The best social media outlet for your energy depends on several factors: your book, your audience, your own social media habits, and the actual outlet itself. I'll take the last one out of the equation first: if the outlet is new and has a limited audience of only a few hundred members, you're obviously not going to have the outreach you'd have on Facebook (1.32 billion users log on daily) or Twitter (100 million users daily).

With that being said, let's focus on the other factors. Your book and your audience - where do potential readers for YOUR book hang out?

Here's a great chart that shows social media outlets broken down by age groups:


Look for the age group of your target market - your audience - and see where those readers are most active. If you write for readers age 18-24, you'll definitely want to focus more on Snapchat, Vine, and Tumblr than on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Also consider your own social media habits. If you like to hangout on Facebook, by all means do so. Don't make your social media connections all about book promotions. Readers want to connect with authors, so make yourself available to connect with them.

How do I market fiction? ~ from Cynthia Simmons

Most of the tips in this marketing series can be used for both fiction and nonfiction books. One thing to remember about fiction readers: most like series and many are voracious readers, so the more books you have, the more readers you should have, if you provide a great story. Fiction readers also usually stick to the same genre, so focus your efforts toward readers of those genres. (Here's a helpful list of hashtags to use on Twitter and Instagram for reaching specific readers.)

Don't forget to set up your Author Central page at Amazon, where you can link all of your books, your website/blog, and social media.



Other articles of interest:

Marketing Series: Build Your Team
Marketing Series: Define Your Audience
Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box
Marketing Series: Build Your Platform
Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

Marketing Series: Build Your Platform

Writers fall into one of those frustrating "Catch-22" situations with their books: the big publishing companies require authors to have a platform before they'll offer a contract, but it's hard for authors to build a platform without the book.

Thankfully, small presses and self-publishing companies usually don't have a platform requirement, but one is still necessary.

What exactly is a platform? And why is one needed?

Your platform is your podium - the dais you stand on to get people's attention. From this podium - this platform - you share your stories, your message. If done well, your platform will set you apart from other authors who write on the same topic, and help you become the "go-to" person in your specific area.

Your platform consists of many elements that you build and grow over time.

These elements include:

Social media
Blog(s) & website(s)
Videos
Media Kit
Specialty groups & forums
Speaking engagements
Mailing lists
Interviews

Let's explore each element.

Social media: as an author, you MUST have an online presence, whether you're active online or not (and in today's world, the "not" is no longer really an option if you intend to sell anything.) Growing the accounts will take time, so don't get overwhelmed by it all - just take your time to build.

At the very minimum, you need to set up a Facebook personal profile and a Facebook author page. The profile allows for more interaction with other Facebook members, while the author page provides a landing page for all information about your book. If you're concerned about privacy (and you should be), just be cautious about how much information you post.

FACEBOOK TIP: When you share posts on FB about your book, public appearances, book signings, themes, etc., make sure you mark the post as PUBLIC or your reach will be limited.

A Twitter account is also a good idea. The audiences will probably be quite different, and the way you share your own content will be different, too.

LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest all have their own purposes, and their own demographics. After you've defined your audience, research each of these social media platforms to see which one(s) are frequented more by your audience, and then set up accounts there. (I've included a chart with these numbers in the You've Got Questions post.)

One final tip about social media - do NOT use it only to sell books. The point of social media is to be SOCIAL. Participate. Listen. Ask questions. Be relevant. Be helpful. The sales will take care of themselves.

Blogs & Websites: When you decide to become an author, buy your domain name (preferably in your own name, if it is available.)

Even if you don't have a huge, busy website, a static website is the very minimum that an author should have when they've published a book. The website will give readers more information about you, about your book, where to find your book, and perhaps even make them want to know more about you and your books, so they'll continue to buy.

Blogs (separate or as part of your website) help grow your audience, because readers will get fresh content from you on a regular basis, and can communicate with you. Readers want relationship - they want to connect - and blogs are a great way to make that connection on a regular basis.

Blogs are also an inexpensive (free) way to establish a website. Both Blogger and WordPress offer free blogs, and you can forward your domain name to your blog. If you customize the blog, it can serve as your regular website, too.

BLOG TIP: If the blog platform you use (Blogger or WordPress) doesn't automatically include links for readers to share each individual post (some templates may not), add that option through gadgets or widgets.  Just make sure that each post is shareable. You can also add other plug-ins, like Click to Tweet to create shareable links within each blog post.

This is what the share buttons look like at the bottom of each of these blog posts - yours could have a slightly different appearance, but still serve the same function:



Videos are all the rage right now, so consider creating mini-videos (a minute or less) to reach your audience. Strive to provide relevant and useful content that connects readers to your overall message. Facebook allows you the option to do live videos right from their platform, or you can film yourself with your camera or phone and upload to YouTube, then share on various sites.

Don't forget book trailers, too, for promotion of your book. Whether you hire someone to create the video or you decide to do it yourself, be sure to include a book cover image and your website address at the end of the video, so readers can find you. You may also want to include a line or logo, showing where your book is available. You can create these trailers using PowerPoint, Animoto, or Vimeo, but do some research first to learn the basics of creating something worthwhile.

Before your first book releases, build your media kit. A media kit consists of headshots (at least two different poses, three is even better) in large format, long and short bios, book cover blurb, book cover image, and a list of 5-10 questions and answers. You may even want to include a list of topics you would discuss during an interview. Don't forget to include your contact information, so the media can get in touch with you or your agent.

Seek out groups and forums - online and in person - related to your book's theme, then get involved. Within these groups, you may find some like-minded folks who could become part of your own marketing team. Just remember to give back to group efforts and not just take from them.

Public speaking is feared by some of us (ahem!) more than death, according to a Psychology Today report. But as an author, you may be called upon to speak and/or teach, and speaking engagements help build your platform. If you're like some of my friends and love to speak, research then join some speaker's bureaus to get your name out there. Depending on your topics, you could get regular engagements.

If, on the other hand, you're more like me and prefer not to speak, but know it's necessary, try doing workshops instead of keynote speeches. Practice, join Toastmasters, and practice some more. (And realize that some of us just prefer the written word instead of spoken, and that's perfectly okay.)

Mailing lists: Grow your readership by building mailing lists for postcards and newsletters. (MailChimp is free and easy-to-use for beginners. As you grow, you may have to upgrade to a paid account.)

Building a platform can be overwhelming, especially if you try to do too much. So don't. Take one area at a time, build on it, then add other elements when you get comfortable.

Interviews: Seek out opportunities for interviews in newspapers, and on blogs, radio, podcasts, and TV. Write a press release to distribute to newspapers (don't forget to include your contact information.) Contact your local radio and TV stations, and ask what options they have available for you to be interviewed. Some local stations may cover book signings or readings, others may be seeking experts to interview on specific news topics. Prepare materials ahead of calls or visits, so you can give them marketing materials and a list of your topics and areas of expertise. Always present yourself as a professional.


Other articles of interest:

Marketing Series: Build Your Team
Marketing Series: Define Your Audience
Marketing Series: Think Outside the Box
Marketing Series: Build Your Platform
Marketing Series: You've Got Questions

Meet our Authors: Karen Mutchler Allen

Today we welcome Karen Mutchler Allen, author of the best-selling Couth Fairy series. Favorite Christmas Memory I remember turning the ...