It’s Available!

A NIGHT ON MOON HILL is now available for sale at the Kindle Store! Here’s the link. What a wonderful early birthday present! It would be amazing if it became available on Amazon ON my birthday, which is tomorrow. Not likely, but amazing!

Remember, if you buy it, read it, and like it, I would LOVE for you to post a review there on its Kindle page…as well as on Goodreads. (Later, it would be great if you would copy your review to the Amazon page once it’s finally up there.)

If you REALLY want to help guide people to my book, hit the “Like” button near my name and then scroll halfway down the Kindle page to the part that reads: “Tags Customers Associate With This Product” and click on “Agree with these tags.” The more agreements I get, the more likely those tags will pull in readers interested in those things.

Thanks for all your support!

Originally posted 2012-09-08 17:36:14.

ANWA Writers Conference and Blogging

Present word count of WIP: 39,556

The one place it’s difficult to get any writing done is at (believe it or not) a writers conference. No matter. This has already been a success for me and it’s only been the first day! I sold all my books (of course, I only brought three since I was flying Allegiant and was trying to avoid any extra charges), had two successful pitches (Jane Dystel wants the full of Laps and Lisa Mangum wants me to send her the full of School of Guardians when it’s finished), and…most exciting…Linda Mulleneaux stopped by my book signing to tell me she had started reading “Laps” the other night and LOVED it! I’ve got an appointment tomorrow with her, so I think I may have some more news to share soon (hopefully). I also have a pitch appointment tomorrow with April Mumm for SOG. Wish me more luck!

Now on to Seth Godin’s next piece of Advice for Authors:

12. Blog mentions, on the other hand, matter a lot.

That’s certainly been attested to at this conference. An author’s online presence is very important to agents and publishers on everything from social media to blogs. If you can luck out and get a great review or even a mention from a blog that gets a lot of traffic, your name (and your work) becomes that much better known.

So, I’m on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, LinkedIn, and I have another blog along with this one on my website. The trick is learning to manage it all without cutting too much into your writing time.

I blog Mondays and Fridays, post to FB maybe 3-4 times a week, tweet a few times a week, and try to update on Goodreads once a week. I’m honestly not doing much with LinkedIn…yet.

How do you manage balancing online presence with your writing?

Originally posted 2012-02-24 21:09:12.

Sharing Some Advice for Writers

Present word count of WIP:  19,405

I’m a bit miffed that, after such a good start, my son’s sudden end-of-semester homework requirements took me off-track. After four days in a row of knocking off 1,000+ words a day, I was only able to write 265 words on Wednesday. Thursday and today were even worse. I’m hoping that, after dinner tonight, I can knock out 1,000+ words and update my word count. The bad news is, he’s got another big assignment due next week. I’ll work around it somehow.

In the meantime, I promised to share some advice for writers received in an email from Seth Godin at the Domino Project.

He sent it in two batches. The first was written by him six years ago and basically consists of these five ideas about the state of publishing: (My comments follow in blue)

1) “Book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business.”

His point was that authors and publishers, alike, don’t get much for all their efforts…they’re doing it for love more than money. But there is a certain cachet attached to having written a book or being in the publishing industry. He also noted that writers have an opportunity to “spread an idea and a brand far and wide.” So, if you want to write a book, you need to think long and hard about your true motivations.

2) “The timeframe for the launch of books has gone from silly to unrealistic.”

I agree that a world that once moved slowly now changes from day to day, so I can see his point that we have to consider carefully the “shelf life” of our ideas or stories. (He writes nonfiction, so this is more pertinent to him than to me.) Still, it’s a bad idea to try and write what’s currently popular because, if you’re lucky and it gets published three years later, its popularity will most certainly have waned. Write what you feel like writing regardless!

3) “There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher.”

He immediately adds that, of course, this isn’t true. Look at Harry Potter or Freakonomics. His point, though, is that out of 75,000 titles published six or seven years ago, only about a hundred were effectively promoted. This, of course, is not news to authors. They expect to have to do the lion’s share of their own marketing these days…most of it online. He also points out that blurbs don’t sell books in and of themselves. What is most effective is to have a platform already–with thousands or tens of thousands of people who care about what you have to say. That platform can be a popular blog, celebrity status, lots of employees, or a personal relationship with someone who has a huge platform and believes in you.

4) “Books cost money and require the user to read them for the idea to spread.”

His point here is that people hate to part with their money and less and less people, apparently, enjoy reading. So we have two obstacles to overcome. I, personally, am not convinced of the latter. Back in November the president of Goodreads did an interview in which he said they then had grown to 6,000,000 members. That said, I think the REAL challenge is finding a way to get your book to stick out among the hundreds of thousands now being published and self-published each year. Now, that’s hard!

5) “Publishing is like venture capital, not like printing.”

It’s true. Anyone can print a book today. That’s why so many books are being self-published. The big traditional publishers, however, are taking a risk when they sign an author to a contract. They’re investing in that writer. As he puts it, “They invest cash in an advance. They invest time in creating the book itself and selling it…and they invest more cash in printing books.” So, you have to decide: Do you want their advance and expertise (I do)…or do you want total control of your printing?

After sharing these five ideas, Mr. Godin gives this advice:

“Build an asset. Large numbers of influential people who read your blog or read your emails or watch your TV show or love your restaurant or or or…

“Then, put your idea into a format where it will spread fast. That could be an ebook (a free one) or a pamphlet (a cheap one–the Joy of Jello sold millions and millions of copies at a collar or less).

“Then, if your idea catches on, you can sell the souvenir edition. The book. The thing people keep on their shelf or lend out or get from the library. Books are wonderful (I own too many!) but they’re not necessarily the best vessel for spreading your idea.

“And the punchline, of course, is that if you do all these things, you won’t need a publisher. And that’s exactly when a publisher will want you! That’s the sort of author publishers do the best with.”

He’s right, of course, but that’s not to say that publishers only publish authors with large platforms. That’s simply not true. Why? Because they love a good story as much as the writer does, and if it’s good enough, they’ll publish it. Oh, you’ll still have to do the lion’s share of the marketing, but I think it will be a good bit easier if you’re traditionally published.

That was only his first batch of advice and it was six years old! His second batch was from five years ago and consists of 19 different points. I think I’ll post about each in turn every Friday over the next several months.

 

 

Originally posted 2012-01-13 17:06:45.

I’m Trying a Goodreads Giveaway

In celebration of the check for $1,000 I received in the mail from Writer’s Digest for my recent win, I decided to offer a few free copies of The Reckoning in one of Goodread’s Giveaways. If you haven’t yet read it and want to, but can’t afford a copy, it won’t hurt to click on the entry in the widget in my right sidebar (under Awards).

And just to reiterate how important a cover is, particularly if you’re thinking of self-publishing, here were the Judge’s notes on my book and some of the reasons it won First Place in the Mainstream/Literary Fiction category of the 18th Annual Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards:

(On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “poor” and 5 meaning “excellent”)

Plot: 4

Grammar: 5

Character development: 4

Production quality and cover design: 5

Judge’s commentary: Gorgeous cover – your artist is really gifted. Wow! What an opening. Your writing is direct and beautifully crafted. Your knowledge of the setting and cultures really shows in the writing.

I really did luck out with that cover in contacting the artist, Vian Sora, and obtaining her permission to use her painting entitled Nostalgia. As you can see, it pays for writers to get to know artists.

Originally posted 2011-01-22 17:30:16.

I’m no Sally Field, but…

I don’t know how many of you were even watching the Oscars back in 1984 when Sally Field, upon winning her second statuette, couldn’t help herself and blurted out “…you like me, right now you like me…”

It was a moment that either touched you or made you squirm, depending on your reading of 1) her sincerity or 2) her “uncoolness.” I mean, it’s not cool to draw attention to yourself, is it?

But that’s what we’re asked to do today as authors. Writers (with the exceptions of Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal) are usually shy, retiring types, content to hide behind the written word. (I know I am, anyway.) They want their writing to be discovered, not themselves. But these days we have to get out there and meet and greet people, introduce ourselves online, in bookstores, libraries, even at the local Costco or Walmart.

We can no longer hide behind our characters or make do with an interview here or there. We have to share our souls, as well as our faces, on our websites, blogs, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, our Amazon Author Page, you name it. It seems as if ten new online sites spring up every week, trying to convince you that if you don’t register with them, you’ll be left behind in cyberspace.

And after going through the initiation into Google Friend Connect, may I just say that now I fully understand the sentiment Ms. Field tried to convey years ago. Thank you to all those who joined my site.

I tried to look up Google Friend Connect etiquette, wondering if I was supposed to respond individually to each of you whose faces now share that little box with mine. I couldn’t find anything about it. (However, I did come across a goldmine of a post regarding the etiquette of socializing on Twitter…Heard of socialoomph.com? More about that tomorrow.)

So, if I’ve messed up somehow by not separately contacting each of you, please let me know (email would be a lot less humiliating than a comment below) and I will. But, for now, thank you all. Everybody wants to have friends, to be liked. Sally Field understood that. And I do, too.

Originally posted 2010-05-18 14:57:28.

The Thoughts of Barbara Kingsolver

Back on November 9th I had the pleasure of watching a live interview with my favorite literary novelist, Barbara Kingsolver, on Goodreads. She’s the best-selling, award-winning author of such books as THE BEAN TREES, THE LACUNA, and my personal favorite, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, and now has a new book out entitled FLIGHT BEHAVIOR.

I thought I’d share some of the highlights (for me, at least). The interview was conducted by Patrick Brown, Goodreads Director of Community, but invited viewers could pose questions of their own. (No, mine didn’t get featured, but then I didn’t expect them to be.)

One viewer asked about how she achieves the knack of getting a message across (as I recall, the questioner termed it as a kind of “progressive, eco-consciousness”) without it coming off like a lecture. Ms. Kingsolver replied, as follows:

The knack is very simple. Respect my reader and respect the complexity of my subject. A novel is far more subtle than marketing or advertising or activism. In fact, I think literature is one of the few places we go to be renewed or enriched without being told what to think. That’s core to me as a writer. I’m not going to tell you what to think. As it happens, because I was trained as a scientist and all my education is in science and not writing, I carry through the world a scientist’s eye and a scientist’s mind and an awareness of biological matters…and an awareness that I’m surrounded all the time by millions of others species. That I’m not the only one. That, to me, seems simply true. To others, it may seem like eco-consciousness or something.

I loved that one sentence I highlighted in bold. That’s how I feel. I dislike books that blare a certain philosophy or attitude, for I want to form my own conclusions. It all comes back to her first response to the question. Good literature respects the reader.

Some other highlights:

  • “It is my responsibility as a writer to make sure my book is as accessible as possible.”
  • “The Poisonwood Bible is a political allegory. This family stands for what the Congo was going through at the time.”
  • “I revise infinitely. I love working on a computer for that reason. A first draft is something that has to be hammered out to make sure I can get from the beginning to the end. After that, I become a trapeze artist…Revision is the thrilling part for me…The first sentence makes a promise the rest of the book will keep. The first paragraph enlarges that promise.”
  • “Sense of place only comes from having been there…If you haven’t been there, you don’t know what the rain smells like…So I always go to the place I’m writing about.”

When asked about the role of the novel in politics, she responded this way, repeating her earlier mantra:

“My job is to respect the reader. I’m not here to tell you what to think or what to do. Literature…can change the way people think or what they do, but it does it through empathy. A novel puts you straight inside another brain. That is, by its nature, a life-changing act. It can be a political act to create empathy for the stranger.”

(This meant a good deal to me personally, for that is something I’ve tried to do in my first two novels. With THE RECKONING, I wanted to create empathy for an Iraqi or a Kurd at a time when Americans certainly regarded both peoples as terrorists, at worst, or suspect, at best. And in A NIGHT ON MOON HILL, I am certainly trying to put the reader into the mind of a person on the Autism spectrum. Having grown up abroad, I know too well what it feels like to be the “stranger,” the “other” in a culture. Literature has the power to break down those barriers between groups of people.)

She was asked whether she ever has a particular kind of reader in mind when she writes. She answered in the negative:

“I write with nobody looking over my shoulder. (Other than the authors of the books on her shelf behind her.) I’m not writing for a particular reader.”

I believe, as more and more LDS authors dare to write that way, LDS fiction will rise in the estimation of an increasingly literate Mormon society.

Some final gems:

  • “I love solitude. I think you have to love your own company to be a writer.
  • “I’ve always done these two things at once–motherhood and writing…Being a mother anchors me to the future in a way that’s very important. I can’t give up on the future.”

And finally, she was asked, “What’s the first thing you do when you start writing a new book?”

“Clean out all the junk…and move my desk for a different view.”

(Now, that’s a work space I’d love to have a picture of!)

If you have a half-hour, I encourage you to watch the whole interview and then tell me your favorite part:

Watch live streaming video from goodreads at livestream.com

Originally posted 2012-11-16 12:49:46.