Sunday, April 13, 2014

You're In It For The Money

Oh yes, you are! And that's nothing to be ashamed of even if it sounds crass to admit your intentions aloud.

I've been blacklisted on at least one artsy site and bad-mouthed on others for blatantly saying "I like to make money from my writing." I blame my attitude on my early years as a journalist. In those days I was paid to put words on paper and I grew to like having an income. It felt good to have people reading my articles, even when my precious words were tossed in the recycle bin after a day. Now there are few newspapers and my degree languishes, but I still like the notion that my words are worth a few dollars.

Kudos to those who write simply for the sake of their art. Perhaps satisfaction comes from pieces published in literary magazines for limited readership. Me--I want lots of people reading my stories and books. I want those hours (years) I put into my work to be rewarded. This is a business for me and the IRS concurs.

Not that it's ALL about money. I have no problem contributing to Novel Spaces because I'm investing in a site I respect and hope readers will possibly invest in me. I give books away when I'm on panels to pepper the pot for sales. I've donated my novels to the local Senior Center and VA Hospital. I've even gifted to people who were too broke to spend $12 on one of my books.

Does expecting money for my work make me a hack? Possibly. I know what readers want and I strive to give it to them. They want an entertaining story, interesting characters, a few cringe-worthy moments (I write mysteries) and a satisfactory ending. But, to keep my standards high, I also give them craft, personal insights, soul-searching questions and a bit of astrology. Yes, it's worth much more than the few dollars I'm asking in return.    

What I'm against are those people who make money off of the one segment that can't afford the cash--new authors. When starting out, it's hard to resist the carnival barkers promising quick routes to the bestseller list. They come in the form of costly conferences, webinars, PR people, paid reviewers and businesses that impersonally shovel titles to the Internet. All of this can be done for free--and should be. The info is readily available in your computer if you know where to look. Since we're close to Easter, I'll liken the process to hunting for those colored eggs. The search will take exploring websites, following leads and a bit of time.

Time is money. I realize that and I also understand the World Wide Web can be a very confusing place. My solution was to start a Posse. Several years ago I decided to share my own searches with others. Authors just send me their email addys and they're in. They get emails from me pointing them to articles on marketing, platform building, inside business info, places looking for guest bloggers and yes, my blogs.

There's no charge because the effort is minimal on my part. It's my way of paying it forward. Consider it a gift from one author to another. I hope others do the same with their future network. And, who knows? Perhaps I'm make a fan or a friend who will buy one of my Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. Because, as the L'oreal ads say, I'm worth it!  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Be the Enabler

Newton's laws of motion are the sort of laws that must have seemed like common sense once he came up them. The first one states that "Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it." So if you are moving you stay moving unless something stops you and if you are stationary you stay that way unless something moves you.

In life we are often in a position to be the external force either stopping progress or advancing it. I like to think of myself as an enabler in the positive sense of the word, pushing people to move towards completing their goals. I enjoy contributing to other people's success, even if I remain behind the curtains. I guess I am naive because I am always perplexed when I run into the doorstops, and I must say, there are a surprisingly large number of them in the literary world. That's one of the reasons that I enjoy being a part of NovelSpaces where authors share ideas and support one another.

Perhaps the comfortable relationship in this community helped to lull me into a position where I relaxed and stumbled into one of the largest doorstops I have ever encountered. I shouldn't really talk about this, lawyers may be involved, but as I sat to write this blog, I couldn't bring myself to write about anything else. A woman introduced herself into my life and where I saw opportunities for collaboration and promotion of our common goal in promoting literacy, she saw opportunities for some sort of misdirected revenge and self-aggrandizement. Sigh.

Anyway, here is my point. We aren't competing for a tiny pool of book sales, the market will accommodate a wide range of quality books. So stop, every now and then, be that external force in another writer's life. It will do you a world of good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

There's a boulder in the road

The Pusillanimous says, “There is a boulder in the road, I have to turn back.”  The stubborn says, “There is a boulder in the road, I’ll just plow on through.”  And he pushes and pushes while the boulder does not budge.  The wise says, “There is a boulder in the road, hmmm.”  She scratches her head and examines the boulder.  She says to herself, “I can climb over it, I can go around it, or I can blast through it.”  She looks around for the tools she has at her disposal, examines each way to see if she has enough energy to accomplish the task, and whether it requires assistance from others around her.  Then she makes her decision.
(Sorry guys, I had to make the wise one female.)

I see many of these categories in the world of writing and publishing.  There are the faint-of-hearts who work tenaciously on a manuscript only to give up after a few rejections from traditional publishers.  Then there are those who submit the same manuscript over and over to every traditional publisher without making changes because their stories are just “so great”.  And even after hundreds of rejection letters or worst yet, their lifelong work falls into the black abyss of unanswered queries, they still would not change a dot on their manuscripts.

And then there are those who encounter of the obstacle of the rejection by large publishing houses and determine to find a way to get their work out.  So they make changes and expand their net to include small presses.  They look into vanity.  They look into independent publishing.  They examine each method and determine which method is the best to get their work out there, and then they move forward.

Which kind of writer are you?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Indefinite Timelines

Four years into my journey through independent publishing, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.  Among them: 1) selling books is really hard; 2) a diversified platform consisting of webpages, blogs, twitter, blogging, Facebook, and more blogging might help some; 3) it’s always a good idea to use sunscreen; and 4) seriously, selling books is really hard.

Having worked with small and smaller publishers, and having published my own books, I’m a huge fan of independent publishing.  But I won’t lie - if one of the biggies waves a sack of euros in my face, I’ll sell out fast.  Until that happens, however, I’m going to extol the virtues of going it alone.  

Here’s why: I’m the boss.  I can publish when I want to publish.  No more waiting - I can design covers or pay someone to do that.  I can do my own layouts on InDesign, and I can upload my projects to LightingSource or CreateSpace myself.  And as long as I’m willing to ignore my children, I can do this pretty quickly.

But the biggest advantage to going it alone is that it allows for an infinite timeline.  My books are never going to go out of print, and I’m never going to stop talking about them.  I published my first mystery novel Grave Passage five years ago.  And I’m still pushing it and still getting reviews.

Furthermore, I control the promos.  The promos generate reviews and the reviews generate sales.  Without question, the single most effective marketing strategy I have come across is the Kindle KDP select promotional option that allows you to give away your book free for five days every few months.  I’ve had a lot of success with this, so I’m going to give it another try today.

One year ago this month I published my archaeological mystery - The Mummies of Blogspace9.  It’s one of my favorite things that I’ve done.  So I’m giving away free copies today.  So if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, please consider downloading copies for the whole family.  Don’t delay; supplies are limited!  Click this BUTTON.  Go ahead, click it.  You can click on any letter.  Just click.  You can even click on this word.

“None of us knew what was at stake. And that’s the thing about archaeology - you never know what you’ll find when you start digging into an ancient pyramid. Maybe some burials, mummies even. But surely not a five hundred year-old secret worth killing for. 

Had I known at the onset that seven weeks later most of my friends would be dead, I would have left Peru in a heartbeat. But of course I didn’t know that. 

I didn’t know that a demonically-possessed Spanish Grand Inquisitor would haunt the crap out of us, or that a pair of undead conquistador knights would help us find the secret to putting down walking mummies. 

And surely, I wouldn’t have just sat around had I known that something was watching from inside that pyramid, some malevolent force that could animate the dead. 

But it’s all true, as you’ll come to realize.

My name is Leon Samples.  I am twenty-eight years old, and I am damned.” 

The Mummies of Blogspace9 is a taut, high-stakes thriller about a team of archaeologists who inadvertently dig up more than they bargained for. Demons of antiquity are not easily amused, nor are those who’ve sold their souls to protect them. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Special guest Melodie Campbell: Books and the Art of Theft

Melodie got her start writing comedy. In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference. She has over 200 publications including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and has won 9 awards for short fiction. Her fifth novel, a mob caper, is entitled The Goddaughter's Revenge (Orca Books). Melodie was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer, and both the 2012 and 2013 Arthur Ellis Awards. She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. Catch Melodie's humour column for The Sage, Canada's magazine of satire and opinion.

Puzzled by the title?  It’s simple.

In high school, I had to read Lord of the Flies, The Chrysalids, On the Beach, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a whack of Shakespeare.

Yuck.  Way to kill the love of reading.  All sorts of preaching and moral crap in the first four.  (Which, as you will see by the end of this post, doesn’t suit me well.)

Torture, it was, having to read those dreary books, at a time when I was craving excitement.  Already, I had a slight rep for recklessness. (It was the admittedly questionable incident of burying the French class attendance sheet in the woods on Grouse Mountain, but I digress…)

And then we got to pick a ‘classic’ to read.  Groan.  Some savvy librarian took pity on me, and put a book in my hand.



A writer was born that day.

This is what books could be like!  Swashbuckling adventure with swords and horses, and imminent danger to yourself and virtue, from which – sometimes – you could not escape (poor Rebecca.)

I was hooked, man.  And this book was written how long ago?  1820?

Occasionally, people will ask if a teacher had a special influence on me as a writer.  I say, sadly, no to that.

But a librarian did.  To this day, I won’t forget her, and that book, and what it caused me to do.

  1. Write the swashbuckling medieval time travel Land’s End series, starting with the Top 100 bestseller Rowena Through the Wall.  
  2. Steal a book.  Yes, this humble reader, unable to part with that beloved Ivanhoe, claimed to lose the book, and paid the fine.  Damn the guilt.  The book was mine.
  3. Write the Goddaughter series, which has nothing to do with swashbuckling medieval adventure, and everything to do with theft.  Which, of course, I had personally experienced due to a book called Ivanhoe.

The lust for something you just have to have.  The willingness to take all sorts of risks way out of proportion, to possess that one thing.

A book like my own Rowena and the Dark Lord made me a thief at the age of sixteen.  And the experience of being a thief enticed me to write The Goddaughter’s Revenge, over thirty years later.

My entire writing career (200 publications, 9 awards) is because of Sir Walter Scott and one sympathetic librarian.  Thanks to you both, wherever you are.


Melodie Campbell writes funny books. You can buy them at  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.  She lurks at
The one that started it all: Rowena Through the Wall  
Follow Melodie’s comic blog at 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Marketing Funnel

I've heard the term Marketing Funnel (or Purchase Funnel) used before. It's the basis for any CRM program. We all go through this process in our minds when making buying decisions. I think the concept is interesting, and if followed as closely as possible, it can be very helpful when it comes to book promotion.

The funnel basically shows the progression that a lead (reader) will take to becoming a customer (purchasing a book). Readers are 1) made aware of the book in some way, 2) they form an opinion about the book based on many things: the cover, the title, all of the visual aspects, they read the synopsis, reviews, etc., 3) they consider whether or not this book is right for them, 4) they make an overall decision as to whether or not this is something they prefer for the price, style, subject matter, etc., and 5) they purchase it, or not. This is part of the concept of awareness, interest, desire and action, and it is up to us as authors to first of all, make readers aware of our books - it starts from there.

We as authors are responsible for promotion, whether we are published by mainstream houses or not. Building a community of followers whom we build a rapport with is vital, especially with the great new options for reaching out beyond email - social media. Marketing circles work, but I believe you must also show the reader who you are, especially if you're in touch with them on a regular basis. Don't hit them with guerrilla marketing, but be personable and share aspects of your everyday life, as well as update them on your next release and events, and show them why they might be interested in your work.

Have you ever tried some form of the concepts of the Marketing Funnel? Did it prove to be beneficial for you? I will indeed learn more about it over the next week so that I can improve at making readers aware of my books - the goal is that word of mouth increases. Our love of writing is great, but we do want our books to be purchaed/read/enjoyed.

Write on!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Guest author Nerissa Golden: Honouring My Words

The beauty of being an author is that within the pages of your book you can become whoever you choose to be. In one book, you get to be the hero, the villain, the victim and the victor. It’s a place where you have permission to tell a lie for the purpose of creating tension and developing your story around how the characters deal with it.

In real life however, I’m a believer that truth always trumps lies.

Time is moving rapidly. Back in December when I agreed to do this guest post, I selected the end of March as it seemed far enough away. Surely by then I would have my act together and my writing mojo would be going at Mach 5.

Life happened and is happening. I’ve spent more time wishing I had the energy to write than writing. I’d somehow lost track of the simple promise to myself to have a book published by April. Still possible in the world of rushed eBooks but that is not what I’m after.

I thought having friends hold me accountable would help to keep me on track but it’s amazing the fabulous excuses you can find to explain away why your book draft hasn’t been looked at since late January. Yes, I have some great ones and all legit but none of them bring me any closer to completing a book. What it has also done is pushed me further from my friends, not because they are staying away but because of my own shame that I’ve been unable to keep my word.

My word. How do I write if I can’t honour my own word?

My not taking the time to write and share the ideas that have been on my heart for quite some time was keeping me away from my friends. I can see it and feel it.

Just as my own spirit craves the release of words on a page for me to feel free, alive and purposed, so I need to write to maintain my own integrity and to keep the promise I made to friends that I would deliver a new book. After all, I’ve filled their heads with ideas for characters, plots for a romantic story and thoughts for a self-help book but without movement on my part those discussions amount to time shooting the breeze. I don’t want it to be so.

This is my struggle. To keep promises to myself and to my friends that I will write. To not be filled with shame that I pull myself away from the relationships that matter. To write because when I do, I can feel a heavy burden lift regardless of what I’m writing about.

How do your relationships support your need to write?

P.S. I’ll be happy to send a free copy (e-version where applicable) of one of my books to the first person to request one in the comments below.

As the CEO of goldenmedia, Nerissa develops cutting edge communications strategies for her clients in the public, private and non-profit sectors. She was an Associate Producer for The Skin by HAMAFilms, managing its international publicity campaign, garnering it access to film festivals around the Caribbean and North America. She also works with emerging artists to develop a brand strategy which positions them to make an impact across multiple platforms simultaneously.