Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Advanced Social Media

First of all, I'm not even close to an expert on social media. But at the recent Pennwriters Conference, I attended a workshop titled Advanced Social Media presented by Don Lafferty. I'm going to sum up just a fraction of what Don shared but if you visit his website you'll find lots more.

Don is a HUGE proponent of Facebook advertising. He shared some numbers about 'Likes' on your Facebook author page. It seems around 1,000 Likes is a milestone for a dramatic increase in web traffic coming from FB to your site. He said one of the most important things you can do is use FB to gather emails.

Despite Don's big push for spending money on paid Facebook advertising, he emphasized that email is still the leading and most powerful marketing tool. Getting people to sign up for email alerts and newsletters should be one of your goals.

Don also gave some advice about websites. He said to include a books page, an events page and of course, a short bio. And try to have everything important above the scroll. Again use your website or blog to entice readers to sign up for those emails.

Don't also suggested you repeat all Facebook posts on Google+. Google doesn't search FB but it loves all the content on Google+.

Don put forth a way to calculate how much money you should be spending a month on advertising. I think I dropped my pencil when I heard his estimate. It was way out of my budget.

Do you pay for Facebook advertising? Has it worked? Do you have an email list of readers? Do you use Google+? Want to like my Facebook page? I'm a long way from that 1,000 mark.

I'll be out of town on Friday so I'm not posting that day but I'll be around to visit.

Monday, May 26, 2014

In Our Memories Today

I know many people use this day to have cookouts, family gatherings and perhaps even take a vacation. And why not? Hardworking people deserve those relaxing times. But I always feel sad on this day.

Yesterday was my daughter's twentieth birthday. We no longer have any teenagers in our family. This year also marks 20 years since my father passed away. He was a WWII vet, one of those who went overseas to defend his country.

Like so many men of that era, he'd never traveled more than twenty miles from the house where he was born before he signed up for the army. His older brother had left before him and my dad enlisted as soon as he was old enough. He dropped out of school, leaving after the tenth grade. Though labeled a sharpshooter after arms training, my father was never tasked to be a sniper. Something I'm grateful for but he saw enough terrible things to last a lifetime.
My dad is the handsome guy on the right

That wonderful man married my mother before he left for overseas and then came home and fathered seven children. He worked 16-18 hours a day for nearly forty years, putting us through college and being a great father and example of what a man should be. Today, I always spend the day thinking of him and missing him. He died a few months before my daughter was born and never met her. I know he would be proud of her.

Each day when I read or hear of another armed services member dying in the service to their country, I think of the hole left in the lives of those they left behind. I pray they know others mourn with them. Thank you to those that serve and have served. May you be safe and always appreciated.

Is this day a celebration holiday for you or a day filled with memories? Did you attend a parade or memorial ceremony? Do you know any veterans?

Friday, May 23, 2014

5 Agent Insights

I'm continuing with sharing some of the tidbits I picked up when attending the Pennwriters conference. One session I attended, How to Succeed for Writers: Agent Insights and Tips, was led by Marie Lamba and Roseanne Wells, both of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. You'll notice I only have five things to share from the hour long presentation. Both agents were energetic and interesting speakers but in this workshop, they spent all their time talking and allowed little time for questions.

Here is what they shared about their particular agency.

1. Make sure you know what the agent wants to represent. I think we'll all heard this before. Do your research before submitting.

2. On the other hand, at their particular agency if they receive something they think another agent in their company would like, they will pass it around the office.

3. Speaking as if it was a pet peeve, both agents warned writers to make sure you use professional salutations on all correspondence including email.

4. They do expect you to have a social media presence before you contact them. They shared that if they were considering two different projects of equal appeal, they would chose to represent the writer who had an established online profile.

5. Another recommendation from the agents was for a writers to educate themselves on the entire process of a book going from submission to publication. This would help the writer be patient during the sometimes lengthy times between contract and actual book release.

Not a lot of WOW information to be shared here. I think there might have been if there had been a chance for more questions.

Do you write emails with the same professional manner as a snail mail letter? What question might you have asked these agents if given the opportunity? Would you have found this presentation interesting or would you have been on Twitter like I was during some of it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An 'Evocative' Editor's Panel

Evocative: bringing strong memories, images or feelings to mind. Adjective

Continuing with my sharing of some tidbits I picked up at the Pennwriters Conference last weekend, I've selected the above adjective as the most over used word by editors and agents during the two and a half days I spent in their company. I should have kept a tally because that's the kind of thing I do when I'm a little bored.

Three editors attended the Pennwriters Conference and they graciously formed a panel for a question and answer session.

Allison Janice represented Berkley Books and works as an assistant to Executive Editor Denis Silvestro. She's interested in memoir/narrative nonfiction and women's fiction. Allison was very quiet, not jumping in much but answering questions if directed just to her. She mentioned that Berkley books likes at least a year from contract to publication. Also she mentioned that they wouldn't be put off by someone who hasn't developed an online presence before contracting but would encourage them to get busy with it.

Leonore Waldrip is an assistant editor for Harlequin MIRA. She's on the lookout for projects with compelling voices, unique hooks and strong, relatable(her word, not mine) characters. Doesn't really narrow it down. I think she meant 'evocative.' She also encourages anyone wanting to get published to create an online presence. Lenore spoke briefly about the purchase of Harlequin by Harper Collins, claiming nothing had changed for her or any of their authors.

Jason Pinter represented his own publishing house, Polis Books. He actually did most of the talking during the panel, acting confident and knowledgeable. His press needs only six months to take a book from contract to publication. He doesn't respond to queries unless interested. His company is mostly a digital publisher and is interested in most commercial fiction though he is a successful thriller author himself. He made a point to a question that the YA genre doesn't do well in digital publishing compared to many other genres. Teenagers like books with paper.

I was shocked at the small number of people attending this panel. Two years ago when I sat on an agent panel, there were over fifty writers in the audience with endless questions. Was the poor attendance because people didn't care to hear those particular editors? Or are authors looking elsewhere on their writing journeys?

This panel provided little information of value to me. Jason Pinter also spoke at our Published Penns retreat luncheon. He comes across as intelligent and energetic. He's worked in the field since graduating college and knows his way around the publishing business. I would submit something to him if I had a manuscript ready.

Have you ever submitted to any of the above publishers? Why do you think the editors' panel was so poorly attended? What question would you ask any of the above if you had the chance? Do you use the word 'evocative' in your daily conversation?

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Gold Mine

The annual Pennwriters' conference fulfilled all expectations and beyond. I have pages of handwritten notes I'll be converting to blog posts over the next two weeks. And I'll probably save one good one for my next turn at IWSG.

Pennwriters is a non profit group, and one of the ways they raise money is to sell chances on gift baskets provided by members and groups of members. There were many terrific gifts.

There were winners of the writing contest held in the weeks leading up to the conference in poetry, short story, nonfiction and novel beginnings. The winners were recognized at the Saturday luncheon.

Pennwriters contest winners

There also was a large table of books for sale by published members. A local bookseller runs that concession so it works very smoothly. Saturday afternoon had an hour set aside so you could get your purchases signed by the authors.

Ten agents and three editors attended and presented workshops and sat on panels. I'll give some details of their shared wisdom in an upcoming post. The food was excellent and three of the meals included an industry professional as a speaker.

It wasn't all perfect. As with most affairs held in hotel conference areas, the rooms were too cold. Coffee and hot tea weren't available Saturday afternoon. Pennwriters divides the state into six areas and the area meetings weren't well attended. People missed a great networking opportunity by not choosing the bar over the meeting.

Some workshops provided lots of learning for me. Some reinforced things I already know. At least one presenter spouted what I thought of as utter nonsense about promotion. I wanted to stand up and tell all the inexperienced writers to disregard everything he was saying. I didn't, of course.

The last workshop I attended blew me away and set the standard for what a presentation should be. Perhaps because the presenter was a teacher, entertaining and organized. Can't wait to share that with you and have the lovely lady here as my guest.

Ever read a blog or sit in on a workshop where you wanted to stand up and decry the misinformation? Ever been to a meeting in a hotel conference room where it wasn't too cold? Who have you heard speak, on any subject, who really inspired or entertained you? Ever win anything on one of those gift basket drawings?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mixing Work With Pleasure

Today, tomorrow and for part of the day on Sunday, I'll be enjoying myself at the  annual Pennwriters Conference held in Lancaster, PA. This writers' group caters to all levels and genres of writing. Short stories, non-fiction, poetry and fiction will be covered in the workshops. Agents and editors will be taking pitches and offering general advice during panel sessions. Really, there's too much going on to describe here.

I don't have any new works ready to pitch to anyone but I'll attend workshops to hone some skills. I'm looking forward to a workshop on short stories and another on advanced techniques with online media. I still haven't figured out how Linked In helps me. Anything on promotion will probably find me in attendance. The keynote dinner speaker is Kami Garcia. Maybe I can learn how to get one of my novels turned into a major motion picture from her.

Another great thing about the conference is getting the chance to mix with other writers. There are a few I've known for a while but it's been a while since I've seen them personally. And I'm sure I'll meet some new writerly friends.

Like previous conferences, the sessions and the people I meet will provide material for this blog for a few weeks to come. I think I had material for an entire month last time I attended.

And finally, nothing gets the muse galloping for me like mixing around with other writers. I find them so inspiring and supportive that I just want to go home and write and write.

If you could attend a writing conference with any guest speaker you wished, who would it be? What is one workshop you would attend if you could pick any subject? Is there a particular workshop you would feel comfortable teaching?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

10 Things I Learned From Watching Armageddon

As some of you know, I'm on the road writing this. Instead of enjoying a day of hiking in The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, the bone chilling temperatures inspired me to enjoy the hotel's hot tub and exercise room. While taking a time out in my room, I turned on the TV for a weather update and found Armageddon playing on HBO. The adventure movie inspired my blog today.

The movie hits all the marks I try for in my fantasy and science fiction novels. Even though I've seen this movie numerous times, once I tune it in, I want to watch it until the end. It spins its story the way I want mine to go, heroic tales that people have always and hopefully will always love. I picked out ten bullets from the movie and held them up against my WIP. I have some fix ups to do. Here is my list.

1) A great evil (an asteroid) threatens the entire world and provides the external conflict.
2) The powers that be turn to a group of 'every man' types who step up to take on the dangerous mission.
3) Within that group of heroes, a boy loves a girl. The girl's father, leader of the group disapproves of the young man. Feels the young man who is exactly like him isn't good enough for his perfect little girl, creating this relationship conflict.
4) This sets up two parent/child conflicts. The first between the young woman and her father. The second between the father and the young man who loves his daughter. The young man always thought of the older man as his father. Perfect.
5) Despite the differences between the military, scientists and our heroes, they all come together to try and save the world.
6) Of course, everything goes wrong.
7)The secondary characters are well rounded, important and colorful, adding to the story and not distracting from the main characters.
8) The setting is beautiful, frightening and imaginative. If only I could write as well as a movie can show.
9) There is heroic sacrifice, emotional deaths, and tears mixed in with desperate actions. It breaks your heart as the story courageous kills people the viewer doesn't want to die.
10) The world is saved. Boy and girl live happily ever after.

Did I miss any steps in the classic adventure story? Of course there will be character growth by the end of the story and Armageddon does a lot of that though not as much as a novel must.  Are you familiar with this movie? What would you add to my list? Home later today. Yippee!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Know Everything?

Even though I've been published for over six years, every time I attend one of my local writers' meetings, I'm reminded how much I have to learn yet. Not just about the mechanics of writing but pacing, plotting, planning a series, selecting titles, and well, I don't think I need to go on. I'm so fortunate to have all those writer friends I can rely.

One of our members brought her father along to our most recent meeting. He's a lawyer. Besides being a wonderfully entertaining speaker, he answered all our questions in easily understandable terms. But one question led to another and time ran out before even a small portion of the legal issues involved in a writer's life was answered.

When I first started writing, I knew nothing about contracts, little about copyrights or how royalties might be paid. I didn't think I had to know. Fortunately, there were avenues to educate myself when I recognized the necessity of learning. Where and how? Well, check out today's post at IWSG, and find a number of places where you can at least start or hone your understanding of the legal tapestry of being a writer.

As some of you know from my last week's post, I'll be doing a lot of driving today so I'll be checking comments later today. I hope the forecast of a snowstorm in Colorado is just a vicious rumor.

Are you self-taught in the legal issues of writing? Do you have someone look over your contracts or do you understand them all by yourself? What is one legal thing you had to learn as you started your writing journey? Ever worry about infringing on someone else's copyright? Did you check out the post on IWSG?

Friday, May 9, 2014

What Does It Mean?

The big news in the publishing industry so far this month is the sale of Harlequin Romance Publishing to News Corp where the romance giant will become a part of Harper Collins. Harlequin has shown disappointing sales in the past four years, citing the slowdown in paperback sales as part of their issue despite their strong showing in digital and international sales.

I write romance as Susan Kelley and have contracts with two different small presses. Both have been in business for a long time and I'm comfortable with them. What does this big publishing news mean for me? Not a lot at this point in my career. When I first starting writing, signing a contract with Harlequin was the ultimate symbol of having made it as a romance author. I've always written fantasy or science fiction romance so back in the day when I submitted those type of novels, Harlequin wasn't interested. Like so many other writers who wrote something a little different, I found a place that would take a chance on me and my writing.

With this sale, the 'big boy' publishers are becoming fewer in number. The smaller, independent presses are becoming more numerous. Will it be more difficult to 'make' it with a big publisher? Will readers search out those 'outside the box' stories put out by small presses?

Do you care about this publishing news? Do you as a reader purchase books put out by small presses? Do you have experience with Harlequin or Harper Collins? How will affect their current stable of authors? Should any of us care about this if we're not involved with those publishers?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

IWSG: Schedule Insanity

Welcome to May's edition of IWSG. This brainchild of super blogger and generous guy, Alex J. Cavanaugh, is a blog hop occurring the first Wednesday of very month. This is your chance to share an insecurity and ask for help or share your successes and help other people with your experience. And don't forget to visit the IWSG blog where you can find the entire list of those participating. You can also visit the IWSG Facebook page which is growing like the dandelions creating havoc in my lawn.

During my first year as a full time writer, I've settled into a routine that works for me. I do promotional work like blogging, tweeting and whatever in the morning or afternoon. Working on my WIP takes place in the evenings. That gives me all day to think about that next scene. Rainy days when I don't go running or work outside, I may start the writing a bit earlier. I love this schedule. I get a lot of writing work done and all the household chores get done too.

Until this week. I visited my mother for Mother's Day since I won't be able to this weekend. That's an entire day of driving. Today, I'm helping my son move his belongings from Penn State to home as he finishes his college career. And we have to sign the papers and pick up his new-used car. Another day gone. Then I'm riding with him on his move to Colorado to share in the driving on Sunday/Monday. I'll be staying with him for two days to help him set up his apartment. (For those of you who aren't parents, that means I'm buying.) Then a plane trip on Wednesday. Oh, yeah, I have to drive to Boston this Friday to pick up my daughter from Boston University. Another day in the car. The following weekend I'll be at the Pennwriters' conference all weekend. Where did my schedule go?

Having children does teach one to be flexible, but the next two weeks see a total destruction of my lovely, comfortable writing schedule. Everything will be jammed into a few hours in the evening. Kind of like when I worked the day job. Being a writer necessitates using what time is available to do the best you can. That will be me for the next few weeks. I'll be doing all my blog commenting late in the day.

Do you have a set schedule? Does it throw off your creativity is your normal routine gets upset? Did you ever have a period of time where your commitments were a bit crazy?

Don't forget to visit the IWSG site and check out the entire list of participants.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A to Z Reflections Post

April flew by though sometimes I thought I might not make it. Like most of you, I took the first few days in May as a mini blog vacation. But for the most part, I'll be back on my MWF schedule starting today. After catching our breath, now is the time to reflect on the past month's experience. Find the list of all those sharing their reflections, check the A to Z Challenge Blog.

The very first thing that stood out to me was the generosity of my fellow bloggers. More than a few used the challenge as a way to highlight some of their blogger friends. I was privileged to have one of my blog posts shared on Robin's blog. One of my books received a perfect introduction from Michael. Pat mentioned me, I think, as the Susan with a slash in her name. Not only did these wonderful people make me smile, they reminded me again that though writing can be a lonely career, I'm not alone as long as I keep in touch with these people.

The challenge also reminded me that people blog about all kinds of interesting topics. My blog is about writing but I love learning about an abundance of subjects. Foreign countries, history, science and a wide variety of topics held my interest as I worked my way through the list.

A number of bloggers highlighted books and thanks to them, I have at least fifteen new books on my Kindle. Without the challenge, I might not have known about those authors or their books. I hope to do a lot of reviews over the next few months.

The sheer number of participants can be intimidating but I did much better this year accepting that I could only do so much without making myself miserable. I still hope to meet some bloggers I didn't get a chance to visit during the challenge when I check out the reflections posts.

Are you 'reflecting' today? Was the challenge what you expected? Can you name one very interesting blog you discovered during the challenge?

Don't forget that Wednesday is the first one for the month of May. That means IWSG where we do a little more fellowship with others around the blogosphere.