Cover Wars Update

For the last five days I’ve been on an action-packed and computerless family vacation in

Cowboys 3.6.16
We ran into a few cowboys out in AZ

sunny Arizona. In between hiking, swimming, and helping my kids pan for gold in a wild west town, I monitored the voting on Cover Wars via my phone. As of last night, my family and I are back home, slightly jet-lagged, and a few days late reporting the results of Cover Wars. It was worth the wait because Trail of Secrets won Cover Wars and is now the BOOK OF THE WEEK on AuthorShout.com!

Cover Trail of Secrets
The winning cover!

 

Thank you to everyone who voted, and to Caroline Andrus of Fire and Ice for designing such an eye-catching cover.

In other exciting news, Trail of Secrets is now available as an audiobook on Audible. Check back soon for more about my experience turning my novel into an audiobook!

Trail of Secrets on COVER WARS!

I fell in love with the cover of my YA novel, Trail of Secrets, the moment I saw it. (Thank you Caroline Andrus!) So when I heard about Cover Wars on AuthorShout.com, I knew I had to enter the battle for the week’s best cover. Finally, MY WEEK has arrived and I really want to WIN!

Here’s how you can help:  Cover Trail of Secrets

  1.  Visit AuthorShout.com/Cover-Wars and select your favorite cover (Hint:  It’s Trail of Secrets!)
  2. Return ever day February 28th-March 5th to vote. You can vote once per day.

I’ll post an update on the final results after March 5th. The winner of Cover Wars receives a free week of advertising for his or her book.

Thanks for your support!

 

 

 

Five Things I Learned at #WOTRC16

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the annual Write on the Red Cedar writing

Business seminar.

conference in E. Lansing, MI. The keynote speaker was Bob Mayer, author of over sixty published novels. Many other talented writers and presenters were also in attendance.  Friday consisted of a four-hour workshop with Mayer, while Saturday I hopped around to various break-out sessions on subjects that interested me. I left the conference feeling inspired and motivated to achieve my writing goals. Not everyone lives near areas where writing conferences are readily available, so I thought I’d share a few of my top takeaways:

1. Every story needs an antagonist.
This might sound obvious, but as I listened to Mayer speak about the conflict that must be present in a novel between a protagonist and an antagonist, I realized the novel I’m currently writing is lacking a clear antagonist. (I made major changes to my draft as soon as I arrived home!)  When identifying your antagonist, ask yourself “What is the climactic scene the entire story is driving toward?” The goals of your protagonist and antagonist must directly conflict and prevent the other from achieving his or her goal. Removing the antagonist from your novel should cause the story to completely collapse. If it doesn’t (as mine didn’t) there is a problem.
2.  The big idea of your book should be easily summarized in twenty-five words or less.
Trust me, this is harder than it sounds. Mayer recommended condensing your original idea into one sentence before you begin writing the book. Referring to your focused sentence while writing helps you stay on track and eliminate trajectories not meaningful to your overall story or theme. Later, this focused sentence will likely help you write a blurb and form a tag-line for your book.
3. Agents and best-selling authors are regular people.
I attended a question and answer session with international best-selling author Lori Nelson Spielman. While I had tons of questions for her, I hesitated to ask them in front of a large group. I worried my question might be too specific or would somehow annoy her or others attending the presentation. When I finally got the nerve to approach her (after the session ended), I was surprised by how friendly, down-to-earth, and genuinely interested in me she was. She not only answered my questions, but encouraged me. I’m so glad I took the risk of approaching her, which is not easy for many of us introverted writers. Next time you have a similar opportunity, please take it!
4.  A character’s most positive characteristic, if pushed too far, becomes their most negative characteristic.
On some level I already knew this, but I’d never heard it spelled out so clearly before. For example, a character who is tolerant might also have little conviction. A character who is idealistic might also be naïve. When assigning positive traits to your characters, think about the correlating negative traits and how to work them into your story.
5.  Characters who look in the mirror are cliché.

Wait. What? Uh, oh. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a character look in the mirror in every story I’ve written so that I can describe her to the reader. My bad.

I hope something in my five takeaways was helpful. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at a writing conference?

Happy writing!

Writing and Marketing in the New Year!

2015-2016The new year brings a sense of renewal and hope–something most writers can always use! I kicked off my 2016 with several writing resolutions, including completing (and perfecting) my latest YA novel, Barn Shadows. I’m continuing my quest for an agent for my recently-completed thriller, Top Producer, and thinking of new and exciting ways to market Trail of Secrets. I plan to attend at least two writing conferences. Finally, I strive to read at least five books on writing in 2016.

I’m on track in the reading department. This month I read Stephen King’s highly-on writing stephen king tenth anniversaryacclaimed book, On Writing, and loved it! It was not what I was expecting, especially the first half which was more of a memoir and less of a “how-to” book. The second half covered the nuts and bolts of the writing process, as it applies to Stephen King. I found the whole thing engaging and difficult to put down. I don’t often read books more than once, but this is one that I may revisit in the coming year.

As for revising my work in 2016, I plan to make more use of a tool I discovered through my publisher called EditMinion.com. This fun website allows writers to paste one chapter at a time of their writing into its screen. The program identifies common mistakes, such as over-used words, clichés, adverbs, and so on.  The best part? It’s free! While the program may not replace the use of a human editor, it is a great way to get an extra set of (virtual) eyes on any work-in-progress.Minion_Coloring_Pages_03

Now for marketing in the coming year…I plan to win awards. Many awards. But if that doesn’t work out, I’m going to check out BookBub — a website which compiles free and deeply discounted books for its readers based on their interests. Authors may list their books when they have a sale or if they’re willing to give away their book for free for a limited time.  One word of warning, listing a book on BookBub takes some planning, as the website approves each book individually and coordinates posts with the book’s sale dates.

So that’s me. What writing tools and marketing ideas do you plan to use for 2016?

Be sure to check back in a couple weeks, when I’ll report back on the top five things I learn at the upcoming Write on the Red Cedar conference in Lansing, MI!

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo!

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

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

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

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

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

Book Marketing: Exiting the Comfort-Zone!

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

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

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

Things I’ve Learned in the Two Weeks since Publication

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

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

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

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