To Vlog or Not to Vlog?

My First Vlog Interview

black action camera
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

I was recently contacted by fellow equestrian author, Carly Kade, to participate in her new equestrian spotlight vlog series. A vlog? It’s like a podcast with video, in case you’re slightly behind the times, like me. Being an extreme introvert, my initial reaction was NOOOOOO! I emailed her back and asked if I could do an audio podcast without the video. I’ve done podcast interviews before and gotten through them without too much embarrassment. She graciously accepted my audio-only podcast alternative and we set a date.

Later that night, I told my husband what happened. He looked at me with a disapproving look. “Why aren’t you doing the video?”

“It makes me uncomfortable.”

“So? Visual marketing is what everyone does now. It would be great exposure for your books.”

Ugh. I hate it when he’s right. It was a good reminder that the easiest thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do. I emailed Carly back and told her that my husband gave me a kick in the butt and that, yes, I would now like to do the video. I was worried she’d be annoyed with me, but she thought it was funny. Apparently, I’m not the only one to receive kicks in the butt from my significant other.

My stress level steadily increased as the interview date drew closer. The time arrived two nights ago. I set up my screen, background, Bluetooth earbuds, and microphone. I reread the questions she had sent me a couple of weeks earlier. I gave my kids strict instructions to stay in a room on the other side of the house (with the dog) and not to come out unless it was an emergency. My kids proceeded to ask me many questions outlining hypothetical scenarios and whether or not they constituted an emergency (FYI, being hungry for marshmallows does NOT equal an emergency!)

At last, Carly and I connected via an app called Zoom. She made me feel at ease immediately. I was thankful to learn that if I messed up, I could clap my hands (her signal to edit something out) and redo my answer, which I did a few times throughout our discussion. I was nervous for the first five or ten minutes, but after a while it seemed more like we were just two friends talking about writing and publishing. The hour went by fast.

I have not seen the final product yet. I might look terrible or sound unsure about my answers, but I hope not. Overall, I’m glad I took a risk and stepped out of my comfort zone. it was a great experience and I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about writing and to promote my YA horse books, including the upcoming January 2020 release of the third book in the series. I will post a link to the vlog on this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account as soon as it is ready, which I’m told will be sometime in November.

A final suggestion to my fellow introverted writers who might be presented with the question, “Would you like to appear on my vlog?”

The answer is “YES!”

 

Are Independent Book Awards Worth It?

Several months ago I entered the second book in my YA mystery series, Barn Shadows, into two indie book award competitions. Each had an entry fee somewhere between the $50 and $100 range which seemed a somewhat extravagant price to pay considering how little indie authors are paid.

I debated for a few days, wondering if I should roll the dice…

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On the one hand, the entry fees could be a waste of money–funds I could have spent on promotions or a new pair of shoes. On the other hand, what if my book won? It’s always difficult to get people to leave reviews for the second book in a series. Maybe an award would shine a spotlight on my book. Then there’s my need for validation. Friends and family will often tell me my books are great, but I never really know if they’re just being nice. To have independent and unrelated judges choose my book would be a true testament to quality.

Because I’ve had success in the past (my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, was nominated for best First Novel in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards), I decided to make the investment.

Chanticleer InstagramLast week, I discovered Barn Shadows has been shortlisted in the Chanticleer Paranormal Book Awards! It was a thrilling boost to learn that my little book made it through the slush pile and onto the shortlist. Even if it doesn’t win first place (the winner will be announced on April 21st), the fact that it made it onto the shortlist of twelve books provided me with much-needed validation. Additionally, letting potential readers know that a book has been nominated gives an author something new to promote and might encourage readers to choose one book over another. With over 2,000,000 books published each year, every advantage counts.

I’m still waiting for the results from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Whether or not Barn Shadows makes the cut, entering these awards was worth it for me. These awards do more than just boost an author’s ego. They provide validation, encouragement, recognition, and differentiation in an industry that is so often full of negativity and rejection. I encourage other indie authors to enter their books in whatever writing competition is appropriate for them. What’s the worst that can happen? Your book doesn’t win? Who cares? No one has to know…unless you win!

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list I put together of few well-known indie book award organizations. (Hint:  Make sure you enter your book in the right category!) A quick Google search in your genre of choice will lead you to many more options. Good luck!

INDIE Foreword

Next Generation Indie Book Awards

National Indie Excellence Book Awards

Chanticleer Book Awards

Feathered Quill Book Awards

Independent Publisher Book Awards

Readers Favorite Book Awards

 

A New House and Other Updates

New homeI haven’t posted in a while due to my family’s move this summer. Nothing interrupts a writer’s flow quite like selling one house, buying another, and relocating a family of four (plus our dog) and all of our stuff. It was a huge undertaking. Our new house (originally built in 1931) remains a work-in-progress, but we are all unpacked and my home office is set up. We now live in Ann Arbor, MI, where my husband and I both went to school at the University of Michigan. After living in a small town for the last seven years, it has been amazing to return to a city with so much to offer, especially when it comes to the arts. Just yesterday, I participated in the Kerrytown Bookfest where I got to mingle with readers and fellow writers while selling and signing my books. Sitting next to me was none other than Jack Cheng, author of See You in the Cosmos. So cool! I got to chat with him about writing and publishing, and bought a signed copy of his book for me and my kids to read. Obviously, he was selling way more books than me, but seeing his success and the way readers flocked to his book inspired me to keep going.

 

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A few scenes from the Kerrytown Bookfest

Now that we’re all moved in and our kids are back in school, I’m finally getting back to writing. What’s next? The idea for my newest project has been percolating in my brain all summer:  an adult suspense/thriller novel involving a woman who lives in a tiny house, her dead husband, a missing hotel worker and lots of secrets. I’ve developed the characters and written a general outline to give me a roadmap to follow. Now all I need to do is write the darn thing! I was going to wait until November (NaNoWriMo), but I may not be able to wait until then. There will be many updates to come…

 

Speaking of updates, it’s time for me to check in with the results of my Summer Reading List. Here we go…I read 8 of the 12 books on my list (plus two that weren’t on the list):Summer Reading Images

The Girls by Emma Cline, Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty, All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman, Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman, Showdown by Brittney Joy, and The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster.

The two extras were:  The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.

Oddly, the last two that weren’t on my list were my favorites, but I also devoured Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I found all of the books I read to be enjoyable. There weren’t any major disappointments, but I didn’t love The Girls by Emma Cline as much as I thought I was going to. While it was beautifully written, the subject was too disturbing for me. As for the four books I didn’t get to yet, I’m still going to read those, too. I ran out of time! For more on what I’m reading, feel to friend or follow me on Goodreads. It’s always fun to see what others are reading.

Until next time, keep reading (and writing). I’ll be checking in a lot more often in the coming months!

 

Book Marketing: Exiting the Comfort-Zone!

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

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

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

Things I’ve Learned in the Two Weeks since Publication

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

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

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

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