Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Release Day Double for @JeffeKennedy

It's our first Big Release Day on our new ship The SFF Seven!  ~swings the champagne~ Join us in celebrating not one but TWO books hitting the market today for our Sunday Captain, Jeffe Kennedy.

First up, a new fantasy romance series in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms:

PAGES OF THE MIND (THE UNCHARTED REALMS) 

An Orphan's Throne

Magic has broken free over the Twelve Kingdoms. The population is beset by shapeshifters and portents, landscapes that migrate, uncanny allies who are not quite human…and enemies eager to take advantage of the chaos.

Dafne Mailloux is no adventurer--she's a librarian. But the High Queen trusts Dafne's ability with languages, her way of winnowing the useful facts from a dusty scroll, and even more important, the subtlety and guile that three decades under the thumb of a tyrant taught her.

Dafne never thought to need those skills again. But she accepts her duty. Until her journey drops her into the arms of a barbarian king. He speaks no tongue she knows but that of power, yet he recognizes his captive as a valuable pawn. Dafne must submit to a wedding of alliance, becoming a prisoner-queen in a court she does not understand. If she is to save herself and her country, she will have to learn to read the heart of a wild stranger. And there are more secrets written there than even Dafne could suspect…

BUY IT NOW

Amazon   |  Kobo   |   BAM!   |   iTunes   |  IndieBound


Then, because she's shooting for the stars, Jeffe is releasing a second book--a short story that takes place in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms--in a fantasy romance double shot with author Grace Draven. Think of this novella as a bridging story between TALON OF THE HAWK and PAGES OF THE MIND.


FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM

The Crown of the Queen: a novella of the Twelve Kingdoms by Jeffe Kennedy

It's been a lifetime since librarian Dafne Mailloux saw the coronation of the tyrant who destroyed her family. She did her part to pull him off the High Throne. But his daughter, the would-be Queen, and her sisters must still tame their conquest. If her victory is to last, Dafne must forge peace with the subtle, ruthless methods of a diplomat--and the worst memories of her life...

The Undying King by Grace Draven

The stories are told in whispers, even after so long: of a man whose fair rule soured when he attained eternal youth. Imprisoned by a sorceress wife in a city out of time and place, he has passed into legend. Few believe in him, and fewer would set their hopes on his mercy. But Imogen has no choice. To break the curse that's isolated her since birth, she'll find the Undying King--and answer his secrets with her own...

BUY IT NOW on Amazon

Sunday, May 29, 2016

How to Write Through the Bad Times

Hi all!!

I'm back online after about ten days away and look what I returned to! The fantabulous Grace Draven shared the cover for her story in our duology FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM. Her story is THE UNDYING KING and, wow - I dunno about you guys, but I'd take him for my forever king anytime!

I like how her story cover works with mine, her hero and my heroine gazing out at the reader with an implicit call to adventure. Both individual covers will be included inside the digital versions, which should be very cool!

The duology technically releases on Tuesday, May 31, the same day as THE PAGES OF THE MIND. That said, I believe buy links will be going up very soon. In fact, it's up on Amazon now!

Our topic of the week is: Writers in the Storm - handling adversity, stress, and generally terrible shit while still producing.

There's a lot to say on this topic, but for me it comes down to this: writing is my job. It's my chosen profession for a lot of really good reasons, but none of them are because it would be easy.

I see two pieces to this question - one is the fundamental dilemma that every human being faces, which is how to go on with the business of living when our hearts are torn asunder. Because, the thing is, everyone has to handle adversity, stress and generally terrible shit while still putting food on the table and keeping the heat on. Some people don't manage to do this, which is why we have a homeless problem. Those are people who get so torn up that they can no longer handle the business of living - for whatever reason. Other people are wounded enough to require institutionalization, temporarily or permanently, in which case they have others to take care of things like protection from the elements and basic needs.

But, above that sometimes tenuously drawn line, we all have to find ways to weather the storms of life while still keeping ourselves and our loved ones alive.

The second piece - and the reason this comes up for artists in particular - is that our creative selves tend to be tied into our emotional lives. For all that I call writing a job, it IS really different than a more intellectual or physical job. I could do day job tasks of data crunching or editing government documents even while emotionally stressed. For me, physical labor is great for when I need to deal with the storms of life. But writing while my emotional life is shot to hell... well, it's harder.

That said, it can be done. Here's a few ways to do it.

1. Use that pain

Writers often joke that a part of us stands back during terrible events, taking notes and thinking, "I'm so going to use this." Use it as it happens. Even if it's as journaling or writing something that's not to deadline, it all goes into the big well. I have a file of fragments that I go back to from time to time, for exactly that sort of thing.

2. There's more to being an author than writing

We often complain that being a writer takes all kinds of hats, particularly in this era of self-publishing and author-originated promo. Some of those hats are the equivalent of manual labor or data crunching. Catch up those book sales numbers. Check out some review sites. Do a bit of wild daydreaming, write down those ideas and think about ways to get there. Sometimes planning positive action can be the best antidote to chaos.

3. Write anyway

Many writers cite that feeling of being in the zone as one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a writer - and most acknowledge that it doesn't always feel that way. Being a career writer means writing even when it doesn't feel good, particularly for novelists. Laying down words is the foundation upon which everything else rests. Write the words anyway - you can always fix them later, and FAR more easily than you can fill all those blank pages.

Anyone else have other advice on this?



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Blogging Fun

Life in the days before blogs!
I enjoy blogging. As someone else said this week, it's like a conversation and I get to talk about things that I find interesting or amusing. I don't do it to directly sell books, except of course for the straight promo posts that one does around a new release. As a reader before I was ever a published author, I enjoy getting glimpses of my favorite authors, or writing tips from their blog posts...I'm omnivorous as a reader and I like to think one of my own skills is curating content, so I'm never at a loss for topics. Well, rarely at a loss. Sometimes my fellow SFF7 here come up with a craft-related topic here that doesn't exactly ring MY bell. And I'm equally sure some of my suggested subjects don't excite them either so we're good.

I started blogging years ago, with a behind-the-fire-wall blog at the old day job. For three years I wrote a pretty much weekly post about process improvement, which of course I stretched to cover all kinds of interesting topics in business, science and technology. (The old day job was at NASA/JPL.) During that experience I learned about always keeping my eyes open for interesting content possibilities. I write really fast - novels, tweets and blog posts - so it's not a hard thing for me to do.

When Carina Press acquired my first novel Priestess of the Nile, and sent me their author guide on doing promo, having a blog was one of the (strong) suggestions. I duly created my author site and commenced the conversation.  My first post was comparing my jewelry box to King Tut's. Since then I've tried to post at least once a week, and usually two or even three times, depending on if I have fun things to talk about. I review old movies like "Attack of the Killer Shrews", take magazine quizzes, do a weekly excerpt hop, talk about favorite books, show family holiday ornaments, explain why certain things are in my books, recap TV shows on occasion....Andre Norton and the Titanic come up fairly often.

I do get quite serious every once in a while, as with my post after a near stroke, where I talked about what happened to me and what the symptoms of a stroke are. I also have guests on occasion, including a former Navy SEAL and an Army Ranger who are authors. I don't limit my topics, other than concentrating on what interests ME. And then I hope my readers will find the post interesting too, or amusing or informative. Or all three!

I also branched out over time and joined this group blog. I'm a member of Here Be Magic and I do guest posts for other groups like Kickass Chicks, Romance University, the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and more.

Every other Thursday I write about science fiction and fantasy romance for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog and that is the MOST fun. I get to interview some of my favorite authors about their books and ask fangirly questions. I just finished recapping Season 3 of "The 100" for them and I'm going to be recapping "Killjoys" and "Dark Matter" starting in July.

And on the opposite Thursdays, I write a post for Amazing Stories Magazine blog, again about science fiction romance.

Yes, I do write books in there somewhere. Just released book #12 this month, in fact. Book #13 will be out in mid-June.

One of the fun aspects of the blogging side of my life is the cool things I've gotten into as a result, like interviewing the "Killjoys" showrunner, Michelle Lovretta last year. Hoping for a repeat interview with her this year.

So yes, I love blogging (and tweeting) here, there and everywhere...

I have to stay very organized (which isn't necessarily my usual state of being, but I can be if required) and keep everything on my calendar, so I don't miss a deadline. There have been opportunities I've passed up, because I reach a limit and what would suffer is writing the books. I can't allow that to happen because as a fulltime author nowadays, the books are the most important thing.

But my Muse only has so many outright  creative hours in a day, so I prioritize using my best energy then for the books, and write the blog posts at other times.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Blogging Wallflower

Why (and where) do I blog?

Let me get this right out in the open: I have to force myself to blog. It does not come at all naturally to me. Hiding in a corner (or behind a photogenic feline) and remaining invisible is my natural, introverted state.

To this day, I have no rational explanation for why I blog except for the fact that blogging is the grain of sand in my oyster - I hope to make something out of it, whether it's a little bit more facility with short essay type writing, or merely as a means of keeping me from hiding. I envy Jeffe's ease with the medium. And I am frequently annoyed with how Uneasy I am with it. :)

That said, I have been here since the doors opened. I'd lost track of the time and had no clue that I'd been here for anything approaching five years. I imagined I didn't have much to say for a group blog. Yet here I am. Still typing. And still enjoying all of the different view points and experiences of this group. Now. Do I pin a bunch of marketing hopes on blogging? Nooooooooooooo. That way lies madness. Blog because it's fun. Blog because a topic interests you. When you hire a marketing person for a book, a blog tour will undoubtedly be a part of the package - those blog posts might be a little more market-targeted and slightly less pictures of cats. Or knowing me, maybe not. But it was Jeffe who suggested I treat blogging like a conversation. I really like thinking of it that way. Even though, socially awkward as I am, I'm not that great at conversation to begin with. :D

I wish I could tell you I had mastery of any of the social media, but I don't. I do a single 'You know you're an introvert' Tweet a day, and have for the past few months. I'm having fun seeing how long it takes me to run out of introvert problems. Facebook is probably where my geeky personality comes through the strongest. Mostly, I think the only way I can survive in social media at all is to keep Jeffe's advice in mind. I must consider it a conversation - a series of jokes and shared fun with my friends - even if the circle of friends are people I haven't actually ever met.

Maybe it makes me weird(er), but it's great fun for me to make friends in the comments sections of either blogs or FB. Making friends is hard when you're a wall flower. So I blog. To make sure I don't let myself become part of the backdrop.

Yesterday's Introvert: "You know you're an introvert when even the voices in your head tell one another to shut up." #introvertproblems

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Importance of Blogging

Collage 2Does one really need to blog to be a professional writer?  Well, of course not.  Does one need to maintain some kind of social media presence?  Again, of course not.
But at the same time-- it's not a terrible idea.
Now, I started my blog in 2009, but those early days involved posting in fits and spurts, that eventually dribbled down to nearly nothing, until February 2011, when I decided that the strongest course of action was to commit to a posting schedule I knew I could keep without burning myself out.  Thus: every Monday and Thursday.  It's a good bit of discipline for me, and I've now maintained it for over five years.
(Wow.  I just realized that.)
And, in general, I think it's fundamentally wise for authors to have some sort of platform to make announcements of what they're doing, what's coming out, where they'll be appearing, and so on.  Does it have to be updated with regular discipline? No.  Though it helps build readership if people can count on new content appearing regularly.  If you update once every few months, no one is going to be popping their head in to see "what's new".
Now, the other elements of social media?  I'm of the mindset that one uses them to point readership toward your main platform.  They can be handled in their own way, to each be uniquely interesting (in as much as you have the time and energy to do that*), but their primary function should be to aim toward the center of your online solar system.  Which, for me, is the blog.
That said, I might go on a bit of a blog-hiatus in July.  I haven't decided yet, but that month is going to be packed, and something is probably going to have to give.  Or, possibly, I'll re-run some blogs from the archive.  We'll see.
In the mean time, there's writing work to be done, and it isn't going to do itself.  Down to the Word Mines.
----
Also note: we've got about three weeks before the deadline to submit to the ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop.  A great workshop that is very worth your time and money.
---
*- I really cannot Twitter. It moves so fast and consumes way too much attention, I can't possibly be active on it AND write. I'm amazed by the people who manage to be on there constantly riffing off witty bon mots AND knock out books with regularity.  Much respect to them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why do I blog?


I've asked myself this question many times.


Good thing we have the highly organized KAK who keeps our calendar of topics working.


(This is very nearly a religious statement.)


(See above. Same applies.)


Because it's Trek. 

Yes. That's the only reason why.


Truth. Blogging is part of the job with a change of scenery and the potential for feedback. 



The real challenge.


Three Reasons Why I Blog, **now with sarcasm at no extra charge

3.) I’m an author, so of course I regularly put energy into activities that are often futile…like getting lost in research for days and emerging with three perfect bits I need and two hundred neat but useless bits that led me so very far astray….

2.) Writing about the craft of writing reinforces that particular aspect of the craft of writing that I am writing about. {Read that 3 times really fast…} It’s career homework for which there is no grade given and no credit towards a degree offered. But it’s practice and its interaction with fans, which helps a poor author feel relevant in a big, big world.

1.) It’s cheaper than a therapist, who’d also ask me to talk about various aspects of my life. And it’s out there on the internet {read that as: a not always supportive anonymous support group} so if I fuck up, the suggestions of how to fix it {and various unrelated areas of my life} will be plentiful.



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blogging: Daily, Weekly, Randomly, or Ever?

Blogging as an author. Must you do it? Should you do it? Can you do it?

Five years ago, when Allison Pang and Jeffe invited me to join this blog, I did so to be more appealing to agents and editors. ~gasp~ WUT? It's true. Five years ago, all the gatekeepers expected you to have a blog. A regularly updated blog. A blog with fresh, exciting, and engaging content.

I...can't.

I have a "personal" blog--still--that is not particularly active. I usually post there if I'm on a tear about a particular topic or want to share something that requires more than 140 characters to properly convey. I never kept journals not even as a kid, so the ritual of public journaling--which blogging is--never took root as a creative or therapeutic outlet. Sure, I have lots of ideas for how to make the blog entertaining, but I'd rather spend the time and effort writing my next book.

 I should sunset the personal blog.

Thankfully, most of the gatekeepers of fiction have come 'round to understanding the Opportunity Costs of blogging and no longer pretend it's a requirement. Probably because many of them were held to the same expectation. Experience is a wonderful teacher, right?

I continue to participate in this group blog because it gives me the best of being a blogger without the burden of it. It allows me to create and maintain a presence in the book-world of readers, reviewers, and fellow authors. I have six peers who also choose topics, own their dates, and introduce me to their readers. This blog is my publishing-centric outlet on the Web. It is different from my presence on Twitter and both are different from my engagement on Facebook.

If you are going to be a blogger, here are three tips based on my successes and epic failures:

Blog Regularly: Releasing content is like having enough fiber. You need to be regular in your posting schedule. You don't have to blog daily. It can be weekly. Only on days that start with "T," or days divisible by 3. Whatever it is, pick a schedule and stick with it, because it's all about creating reader expectations. As an author, you know all about the Contract of Expectations between author and reader.

Vary the Theme of Your Blog: Don't be too narrowly focused because you'll run out of topics. You should be in this for the long-haul. There are only so many times you can talk about Toddlers Without Pants. The point of an author-blog is to let readers know you better, to know the person behind the pages. Filtered and Edited. Never post in anger or righteous indignation. Remember, there is such a thing as TMI.

Rejoice in Guest Bloggers: Invite guests to post on your blog. Be a guest on someone else's blog. You'll welcome the change of pace. Plus, cross-promotion is wonderful for you and your readers. Yes, the blogger community is weary of being abused by parasitic salesmen and trolls. Be mindful in your solicitations of guest bloggers. Similarly, when you are approached to be a guest blogger, check for strings.  Otherwise, go forth and enjoy being a member of the blogger community.

 *Note: If you want to be a guest blogger on the SFF Seven, our contact form is at the bottom of the page.

An author should have a Web presence. There is no excuse to not have a Web page with a bio and a list of all your books--barest minimum. It'd be nice if you had a social media presence on whatever platform best suits you. However, if blogging regularly ain't your thing, don't do it. Don't even get in the game. There's no need to fake the funk.

Monday, May 23, 2016

To Blog, or not to Blog.


Honestly, my answer is simple: Yes.

Return on Investment? Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Mostly I blog when I have news of a new book or an appearance. I blog to let people know what's going on. I blog when I'm annoyed by someone, like Joe the Plumber after he got pissy over his gun rights with several families after a massacre.

I blogged a fair amount after my wife passed away, because I knew myself well enough to know that I would never in a million years actually say what I was going through to anyone. It's not the way I'm programmed. But I could write it out and so I did.  Probably saved myself a fortune in therapy bills, by the way.

I blog when it strikes my fancy or when it I think it will be useful.

Right now, however, time to get back to the novel. It's due in ten or so days.

Keep smiling,

Jim

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blogging - Is It Worth It?


Very excited to show the cover for my upcoming duology with Grace Draven, FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM. This contains my novella, THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN, and comes out the same day as THE PAGES OF THE MIND, May 31. The novella bridges the aftermath of THE TALON OF THE HAWK to the opening of THE PAGES OF THE MIND. Grace's story, THE UNDYING KING, is an awesome stand-alone.
This week's topic is "Why I Blog." I almost feel like it should be "Why I Blog Even Though Everyone and Their Cousin Sophia Says that Blogging Is Dead."
Because it seems like that's all I see and hear regarding blogging these days, and yet the seven of us here are doing it anyway. Five years now, for many of us!

Personally, I blog quite a bit - here, on other group blogs, and on my own site. Why do I do it?

It's easy for me.

That's the primary reason. I started out as a writer with short, personal essays and it's my fall back skill. I can write blog posts quickly, they seem to be reasonably engaging and a good venue for me to engage social-media-wise. I'm a big proponent of do the social media that works for you.

This works for me.

I'll be interested in everyone else's answers, too! (Which, I suppose, is another reason I do it - I enjoy the group interplay.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Experiences at Book Signings & Readings

RT 2014 New Orleans
My first book signing as at the RWA Nationals in Anaheim, in 2012. I was wide eyed and taking it all in. Our own wonderful Jeffe, who I met in person for the first time that year, gave me some really good tips, Carina Press took care of all of us authors - we had balloons! and special badge ribbons! - and I actually had a few fans of my books stop by the table. I even sold a few! One lady at the same table was a really famous author and had an assistant and a constant stream of readers who wanted to chat, have their picture taken with her, etc. It was a master class in graciousness as this author (whose name sadly escapes me) related to her fans. I was so impressed. The lady on the other side of me had like 125 books published by Harlequin and in between visits from her fans she explained a lot of the inner workings of HQN to me.

Later in the signing, when the crowd had thinned, I wandered around a bit and saw my favorite author in the world, Nalini Singh, sitting by herself at her signing table. Now, people, WHEN does that ever happen??? But alas, I was too shy to approach her.

Flash forward to this year and fortunately I'm a bit less wide eyed and shy and yes, I DID go talk to Nalini at the last two signings we were both at. She's a very sweet person and fun to talk with!

I had a terrific time at the RT convention in Las Vegas last month, signing books, meeting fans, meeting the outstanding cover model of my October '16 book, Vikkas Bhardwaj, who is a true gentleman. I sold more books than I ever have at a signing and I chatted up a storm with people passing by in the aisle as well as the authors around me. I used to work retail in housewares at the old May Company and I LOVE the whole process of talking to people, finding out what they like/enjoy/need/want. So when I'm not overwhelmed like I was at my first book signing, I do okay.

Lots of good tips given here all week by my fellow SFF7 authors. (We sound like super heroes with our new name, no??

I've done one reading, at Book'd in Burbank, which is a quarterly event created and run by Liz Donatelli, and that was fun. I consulted in advance with my audiobook narrator on which excerpt he thought I should do, and got some tips from him....it went well and several people told me they had no idea science fiction romance could be so much fun. (The book was Star Cruise: Marooned.)  Because this is a recurring event, it's very well attended, so perhaps 90-100 people in the audience. Not all of them were there for me, although they had to listen to me - the organizer usually has eight authors on the agenda each time. We weren't allowed to sell books at the event.

I've found that people don't touch the candy at signings. I've tried Hershey's kisses, mummy-shaped lollipops, and chocolate balls wrapped like miniature planets. I won't bother taking candy again. (I must admit I tend to eat it while I sit there.)

People like ink pens, genuine Egyptian papyrus bookmarks (because I usually have one SFR and one ancient Egyptian novel to sell at each signing) and the real bookmarks, with my series info on them.

I've also tried stickers (thumbs down) and small King Tut pins, which people did like for their badges but I was such a newb I didn't have anything on them to identify them with me and my books. Live and learn! I would do pins again, with some clever saying or a tag line from the books and my name and/or url on them.

I also had some fun little robot toys this year and those went like hot cakes, plus I used them in promo for the various events I was at during the convention, by tweeting photos of them in action.

Bottom line - just be yourself and be genuinely interested in the people around you, whether it's a crowd or one person, and HAVE FUN.





Friday, May 20, 2016

What to Do When They Aren't Lining Up for You

Most authors share the fear of setting up signings or readings and having no one show up. Common fear. Common occurrence. So many signings where I stood there with my books while endless lines of excited readers queued up - for someone else. Lots of someone elses. How do you make it bearable?

You engage as much as humanly possible (without getting creepy.) My suggestions, which I do use and which have yet to result in a restraining order, are these:

1. Goodies - stock an endless pile of individually wrapped candies prominently on your signing table. Be assertive and friendly. Wave anyone and everyone over with "Please help yourself to the goodies! They cannot go home with me!" People will dart in, grab a candy and most of 'em will dart back out like you mean to carve them up for supper. BUT a few will take one of your cards/bookmarks/promo thingie as they do. Fewer still, will actually ask what you write and pick up your book to read the back cover. This is doubly effective if someone else's signing line snakes past your table. Those folks in line are BORED.

2. Talk to the people wandering by, not to the authors next to you. Focus out. Into the aisles. Not to yell 'come look at my stuff!' You're goal is to ask these people who they're here to see. What do they like to read. Who are they buying. That sort of thing. Chances are really good they don't read what you write, but let's say I hook someone with a 'what do you read' question and the answer is 'historical'. I immediately ask if they've read authors x, y, or z - especially if those authors are at the signing and I can direct said readers straight to them. Naturally, my preference is to send readers to authors I know and/or read, too. Thing is if I manage to turn someone on to a new-to-them author, they usually take note of what I do and say 'oh hey, my boyfriends' cousin thrice removed reads SFR!' There goes another one of my promo bits.

3. Stand up. No looming. No towering. You're standing up, at your ease, talking to the readers who stop, if not at your table, at the table next to you, complimenting the jacket, the bag, the whoa where did you find those shoes - whatever it is. The point is to be interested and involved and to look like you're having fun even if you're dying a tiny bit inside because no one is buying your books. Or asking you to sign anything.

4. Take the pressure off. A book signing needn't be about selling books - make it about being accessible. Make it about  getting out of your imaginary worlds for two hours or so and looking at the rest of humanity with a compassionate eye. You can retreat to your ivory tower after. And will likely need to - but for the duration of the signing, you are engaged in character study. Not in a sales pitch.

Signings and readings are lovely stuff, but for me to survive them without wanting to drown myself in my tea, it has to be about doing something for readers - not for me. If I make these events about me, then it's about how many widgets sold. Ego gets tangled up with that. Self-valuation becomes contingent on how many books went out the door - and you know - there are just going to be days when no one is in a buying mood. We've all been there, eating 10 for a buck ramen until the next payday. So the final point is:

5. Make it fun. If that means a costume, go for it. Silly hats? Beautiful. Only you know what will make a signing/reading fun for you. Just don't get arrested.

PS: If you're interested in exploring a ton of SFR for FREE check out PORTALS - a collection of first chapters from an array of authors. All different styles and levels of heat. The first volume is available now. More on the way. Brought to you by the SFRBrigade.


PSt

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Readings and Signings

On some level, the problem of "having" to do a reading or a signing is a minor one for a writer.  If you even have the opportunity, in general things are going well for you.
That said, taking the opportunity is something you should do judiciously.  Especially in bookstores.
See, when you do a reading or signing event in a bookstore, they'll naturally order a large chunk of your books, in anticipation of having many on hand to sell.  So what happens if they order 60 books and you only get five people there?  You'll get a lot of returns.  Do that too much, and you get A TON of returns.
See, readings and signings aren't really good events to find new readers.  They are for your existing, dedicated fans.  If you're not even sure if you have a fans in some other city, you shouldn't make a point of traveling there just to do a bookstore signing.
There is a next-level thing where the publisher sends you on a book tour.  I'm not there yet.  Very few writers are.  I'm of the mindset to trust that they'll know when it ought to happen.  To try to make it happen on your own can cause more damage than not.  I met one writer who nearly scuttled his career by trying to do events in every bookstore up and down California. All he accomplished was give himself a ton of returns, making his name toxic.  He had to reboot his career under a pseudonym.
Now, if you're at a con, and they give you a reading or signing time, I say take it and make the most of it.  Even if you only get one person.  There it's not hurting you: you're already there, and there isn't the same risk-of-return.  Getting one new reader, if that's all you get, is worth your time.
Well, it's worth your time if you enjoy doing it.  Personally, I like it a lot, and I think I do it pretty well.  But that's me.  I know plenty of writers who would rather gnaw off their own foot, and only do readings out of a sense of obligation.
So, hey, if we're at the same event, come hear me read, ask me to sign something.  You'll have a good time.
Speaking of, another reminder: I'll be at ArmadilloCon in July, where I'm running the Writers' Workshop.   Registration for the workshop goes until June 15th, so there's still plenty of time to polish that short story or novel chapter and send it in.  Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions about it.
Now, back to the word mines.  See you all down there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

5 Tips for Signing Books

Jeffe & James talked about logistics and preparation. I'll take on the actual "ink on paper" suggestions.  Here are my Top 5 Tips for Signing Books:

1. Archival Ink Pens: Sure that roller-ball gel-pen is comfy to hold, but it smears. By the time you're done signing, your hand looks like a Pollock painting. Archival Ink Pens shouldn't smear, bleed-through, or run when encountering wet. Bring 4, one for your backup, one to share with the frazzled author signing next to you.  Oh, and go for dark but bold color--as in other than black.  Get a pack at a craft store -- Michaels sell a 4-pack for under $5.

2. Personalization: Ask To Whom You Are Signing the Book & How to Spell the Recipient's Name: It's not uncommon for folks to ask for a signature on a gift.  Always. Always. Always ask how to spell the name. I don't care if they say, "Tom" or "Sarah" or "Bob" never assume you know how to spell it. Even if it makes you feel like a feeb, ask. Don't crush a fan's enthusiasm just because you assumed you know.
Note: A variation on this is to bring a pad of post-its and have the reader write down the name. This is particularly helpful if you're signing in a crowded place where hearing the person 10-inches away from you is challenging.

3. Have 3-5 Short Go-To Messages & Rotate through Them: If you're lucky, you're going to be chatting while writing. If you're smart, you've practiced writing these signature messages over and over and over so they happen with muscle memory more than conscious effort. Most importantly, you don't trip up yourself with misspellings.

4. Personalization: Book-Themed Greeting or Closings:  Level-up your personalization by incorporating the theme of your book/series into your message. Writing about Spies? Give them a Special Spy Code Name. Writing about Clans, Tribes, or Houses? Assign the reader to one from your book or make up a new House Name just for them. For example: YA Author Jenn McGowan wrote a YA Historical Series MAIDS OF HONOR. Each book's title follows the pattern of "Maid of [Description]."  When she signs the book, she asks the reader what their passion is, then combines the title pattern with the reader's passion. I've a thing for shoes & sharp knives, so my personalized greeting became "Maid of Stilettos."

5. Personalization: The Reader-Requested Message: A Caution: When a reader requests a specific message, be aware of atypical humor, the double-entendre, and content that clashes with your professional persona. What might be funny to a reader could be offensive to you. What is an inside joke between friends, may be too easily misconstrued. You do have the right to "edit and revise" -- or patently refuse-- to write what they've requested. 98% of readers are awesome and will never put you in this potentially awkward situation.  Your name. Your signature. Your right to say no.

There  you have it, 5 Tips for Signing Books.

READERS: If you are the reader getting your book signed, be a fabulous fan and have your name and any special message legibly written on a scrap that is at least as wide as your palm.  Assume all authors have wretched eyesight. We'll thank you for it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tips for Book Signings and readings.

Oh, wow. I  just did both this week.

Saturday before  last I was at Jabberwocky Books (GREAT bookstore) in Newburyport, MA (The physical model for H.P. Lovecraft's Innsmouth) doing my first actual signing for THE SILENT ARMY.  I did a reading and I did a signing.

Then, this Thursday, I spent 95 minutes getting stuck in hideous traffic in an effort to take care of my reading at Boston's version of Noir At The Bar. despite the unholy traffic and the bloated prices for parking (Turns out there was a game at Fenway Park. That means financial muggings when it comes to parking. Thanks Baseball!) a good time was had and my story even managed a few chuckles.

Does that mean I have any tips for people?

Oh, sure, but not many.

First: Don't double book yourself. Before I did the signing at Jabberwocky, I also did Free Comic Book Day at Jetpack comics. Jabberwocky as I have already said is in Massachusetts. Jetpack is in Rochester, New Hampshire. Neither are that chose to my house. All told I spent around two and a half hours driving plus 7 hours being "On". It was a little tiring but I loved every minute of it.

Second: If you are going to read in public, choose carefully what you are going to read. Edit it for content and language if you're in a place where children are present or at least warn parents with an appropriate rating.

Third: Give it a TRIAL RUN. In the case of the Noir at the Bar, I was slated or a short ab\mount of time. We all were. Like, ten minutes. It's not long and you need the right story or scene to carry it off. You should also red through it because, honestly, especially in SFF, those words you make up? They sound perfect in your head, but your tongue needs to know how to say them, too. Other wise you risk tripping over said organ. Trial runs let you fix the amount of time you have and the way you say those nutso imaginary words.

Fourth: Know Your Way. Get a map, do a test drive, plan an extra 20 minutes for travel time to accommodate traffic issues, whatever it takes. Get there on time. Especially if this is a solo act. Otherwise, you're just plain being rude to the people who are waiting on you. Accidents happen and most will forgive you. (Not me. I beat on myself whenever I am late. YOU I forgive. Me? No excuses.)

Fifth: Ask your publisher. They might even be willing to send over a poster or larger version of your book cover to help the bookstore promote your appearance. Worst they can do is say no. In the event that they DO say no, you are free to call them doo doo heads, but how well that goes over depends entirely on your relationship with your publishers. This also gives them a chance to promote the events on THEIR web pages and social media sites.

Sixth: Come prepared. have the reading material to read. If you're like me, often times printing our what you will be reading makes life easier on the eyes.

Seventh: Don't Panic. Sometimes you get no crowd, sometimes you get a big crowd. Sometimes booking someone else to be at the signing with you is a good way to handle either variation of this theme. By sheer coincidence last year Christopher Golden my neighbor and friend, had a book release at the same time that I did. His novel DEAD RINGERS came out the exact same day as my novel CITY OF WONDERS. We did two signings together in different parts of Massachusetts and had a good time. I also had a Barnes and Noble ask me and several other authors to get together and have a conversation about books and also do a book signing. All three events were a blast. and I never once got stuck twiddling my thumbs. Mind you, that one cost me, because I can't leave a bookstore without buying something and all of the authors there had recommendations.

Eighth: PIMP IT. YOU know you're having a signing/reading/whatever. No one else does. Make sure they find out on Facebook, twitter, et al. Don't assume someone else will do it for you.

And of course, Ninth: In the event that nobody shows up in the first 20 minutes, figure out where you're going to eat, becasue if nothing else, you should at least get a good meal out of it.


Oh, look! Me, at my signing at Jabberwocky Books, with my cool poster that my publisher, Angry Robot, provided.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

When You're Reading to an Empty Room

photo by Bishop O'Connell on occasion of his first reading - empty chairs
Welcome!

Today's photo does double-work. This is the first post to the NEW and rebranded blog, formerly the Word Whores and now the SFF Seven!

For those who don't know, "SFF" stands for Science Fiction & Fantasy - a good umbrella term for this group.

As I write this post, it looks a little empty around here. That's what happens when you move out all the silk reclining chaises and red velvet curtains. The new furniture is on order. At least we kept the wet bar from the old Bordello.

Some things never change.

This week's topic is Tips for Book Signings and Readings. I immediately thought of my friend, Bishop O'Connell, who snapped the photo above at his first big con reading.

Bishop (yes, that's really his given name - good thing he didn't go into the clergy, huh?) is a fellow member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, motto: yes, we know there should be another "F"). He writes super cool fairy tale retellings and the first of his American Faerie Tale series came out in late 2014. He's still getting accustomed to being an author at cons and so forth. So when he attended a con and had his first "50 minutes with..." session, he came to the SFWA chat room to ask for advice.

This is something that SFF conventions do pretty typically, so far as I can tell. If you're willing to read, they set you up with an hour time slot (minus a ten-minute passing period), so all of your fans can hang with you exclusively. This is great if you actually HAVE fans. Who are also at the con. And who aren't going to "50 minutes with George R.R. Martin" instead.

The first time I got this on MY con schedule - and yes, opposite George - I freaked, too. I totally got where Bishop was coming from. Some of his major questions:

1) How do I fill the time?

There were four or five of us hanging in the chat room at the time, so he got varying answers. That's one of the great things about SFWA - you get people at all stages of their careers weighing in. At any rate, I suggested chatting with the audience first, finding out if they're mostly readers or aspiring writers and tailoring from there. An audience of mostly aspiring writers will always want to hear the "how I got published" story - and it's really helpful for them to hear, as every writer takes a different path. If the audience is mostly readers, they want to hear about the books. If you strike gold, they've already read some and will have questions. I like to do a blend of talking about my process, the books, answering questions and only read for ~20 minutes.

2) What to read and for how long?

I like to keep the reading part short, as I mentioned above. Some authors sit there and read for 50 minutes solid and I've seen rapt audiences for that. I find it dull myself, but that could be me. I suggested picking a scene that can be read in its entirety at that length, and that's either funny or action-packed. If I have established fans there, I ask them to pick the scene and it's interesting how often they agree on the choice. Then I'll use that scene for readings from that book in the future.

3) What if nobody shows up?

This is the eternal question. And, when I saw Bishop tweet the photo above, I winced for him. It's really hard when no one shows up. The only consolation is that IT'S HAPPENED TO EVERY ONE OF US. Quite a few fellow authors saw Bishop's tweet and chimed in with empathy of been there, done that, burned the t-shirt. If you can, you seed the room with plants - promise to buy your friends drinks if they'll come. Food can work to lure in the hungry con-goer.

In the end though, sometimes you're talking to an empty room. And that's okay, too. It means nothing, except that you'll have a great photo to share when you're Guest of Honor at a con someday. Maybe you'll walk across the hall to the newbie author slotted against you, show them the pic, and say hi.

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