Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Holidays, it is my annual blogging break!

And yes, they are all ours! Our highest and best achievement.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I'll see you all back here in 2013!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Got Questions? Get Answers! All About Marketing

Once the book is out, the hard part begins-- marketing!! Have you ever asked yourself these questions?

How can I generate interest in my book?
How can I find people to give me reviews?
 What can I do to better promote my novel?
  What will boost sales?
How can I build my online presence?
What is my author platform and how can I strengthen it?
Website or blog, or both?
Is it possible to balance writing and marketing?
How do I become a bestselling author?
Can I make money at this business?
What's the best way to build online relationships?
How can I use Twitter/Facebook/blogging/you name to sell books?

Want answers? Go here!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Utilizing the Book Blog Reviewer

Reviews are key to getting sales for your book, and a valuable resource is book blogs. On my sidebar is an extensive list, from the super busy who may not have time for you, to the ones just starting out who will be happy to get your request.

My Top Ten Tips on Getting Book Blog Reviews:

1. Start early researching reviewers. Don't wait until your launch. Look for reviewers in your genre. They will have an About Us page as well as Guidelines for Requesting Reviews page. Read it carefully to see if they'll be a good fit for you and your book.

2. Develop a relationship with the ones you pick. Follow their blogs and show up regularly. Comment on their posts. Thank them for their reviews. You yourself will need a blog to effectively implement this important step.

3. Pay attention to how they review a book. Some will copy and paste a Goodreads summary, and then give just a word or two about the book. Sorry, but this is not a review. You are looking for valid book reviewers, not just those willing to make an announcement about your new release. Watch for those who are intelligent, fair, and thorough in their reviews.

Helpful reviews will give highlights of the story, discuss themes, plot and characters, share how the story made them feel, talk about what they liked about it as well as what bothered them. "I don't like the cover," is not a review and is not helpful. You don't want a reviewer who gushes over everything, or one who is too critical-- you're looking for a nice balance

4. Check out the title of their blog. It should be something that will display well with a quote or blurb on your website or your book page on Amazon. Again, check out my sidebar and see how cool some of these blog names are. They legitimize the review, add interest to the blurb.

5. After you have chosen your favorite reviewers and visited their blog so they know who you are and it's finally time to email your review request to them, be sure to explain why you picked them.  Copy and paste requests are too easily ignored and refused. Make it personal.

6. Be patient but clear. Reviewers get a lot of requests and the good ones are busy. The good ones also read the book all the way through and take their time in writing a thoughtful response. Tell them your release date, give them a deadline if they ask, but let them know you'd still value their review regardless of when they get to it.

7. Don't get upset if it's not the 5 star review you had hoped for. Positive blurbs can be gleaned from just about any response. I once asked one of my English professors for a blurb. Her response after reading my ms of Uncut Diamonds, was critical and in the end said she couldn't recommend it. But she did say that she really loved the dialogue. Cool. We went with that because "I really love the dialogue..." makes a fine blurb.

8. Thank them privately, even if the review was less than you had hoped for. No need to add a thank you comment on your Amazon or Goodreads site. You want to be invisible and not seem like you're checking out all your reviews and commenting on them. That inhibits potential reviewers. But a private email showing appreciation is appropriate and should be sufficient.

9. Don't pay for anything. There was a time when paid review sites were popping up everywhere. After the negative press that led to Amazon removing reviews, I wouldn't think paying for reviews is even considered anymore. I never have done it or recommended it. Why should we pay? There are thousands upon thousands book review blogs out there, with more popping up every day. They are book-lovers happy to get an ARC in exchange for a review. Do NOT pay for reviews. It's completely unnecessary and even frowned on in the current climate.

10. Don't stop now. After the excitement of your launch and those first initial reviews you may think, okay time to write the next book. Which it is, of course. But still continue following book reviewers, add to your repertoire, keep building those valuable relationships. New blurbs and reviews will add to the saleability of your book, even if it's been out for awhile.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Your Work is Being Pirated

Lately there's been a lot of huffing and puffing around the writer blogs about Amazon, and its KDP Select program, and how Amazon is no longer supporting the little guys like they used to. There's been a general complaint about the exclusivity clause in KDP Select membership.

If you do any kind of research into marketing your book at all, you're going to run across this discussion. Amazon, Pro or Con? KDP Select, Pro or Con? Free books or cheap books, Pro or Con?

Well, how about this one-- stolen books, Pro or Con?

I never thought for a second that any of my work would be stolen, didn't figure I had the popularity factor to appeal to pirates. But when posting about my recent lower sales, a Twitter friend suggested that might be the case. It had happened to her and she'd seen lower sales as a result.

I checked it out and was shocked at the results. Do a search here of your books. Torrentz is the pirating site. It'll tell you how many times your work has been stolen. Lighting Candles in the Snow is my most popular novel. It's been stolen 4000 times.

Makes all that discussion about Amazon seem kind of silly, doesn't it? They do sell our books and pay us, after all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm not insecure today, although maybe I should be....

Scrolling through my Blogger dashboard I just realized it is Insecure Writer Wednesday! And I definitely have a post to whip out, better late than never, since there's a topic I've been (sort of) thinking about recently. 

 Book sales-- eeek!

It's been on my mind because for some strange reason all four of my books have plunged in their Amazon rankings to an abysmal level. Like 300,000 or some such. Normally my rankings are in the five figures, maybe the occasional dip over 100,000 but then they'll drop back down to a 5-figure ranking. This pleases me. It's something I can live with.

There are times the rankings have been very good-- like after a Kindle giveaway. I never really expect those to last, of course-- it's just a fun thing to watch when it happens, however briefly. But to see them this bad for this long is a shocker.

I'm not anxious or worried or concerned, just puzzled. After two years of fairly decent and steady sales, why would they plummet all of a sudden? And on all four of my books? At first I thought it might be post-election. Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds, my two Mormon family sagas, did fairly well this year, maybe due to Mitt Romney in the running for president. And it was after the election that sales really began to drop off. Coincidence?

But Farm Girl and Lighting Candles in the Snow aren't part of the Mormon family saga series, so why did they also drop to the bottom of the well? Hmmm, it's a real puzzle. Like I said, I'm not upset or anxious about it, because this is the kind of business we're in. What goes up must come down. Or something.

Meanwhile, I'm headed out to see what up with the rest of you today! And remember, the insecure writer of today is the confident writer of tomorrow. (And vice versa haha.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reaching Readers


Recently, Shauna over at the CeleryTree blog posted about writing to your audience. This post really impacted me as it's something I've been analyzing recently with my blog and website.

Shauna (a former TV news producer) writes:

"Write for the audience who will buy your books. Seems simple, right?  In media, it's called targeting your key demographic.  Find out who your audience is, and then write in a way that those people will find compelling. A few questions to get you thinking about your audience: 

"Do you know who is reading your blog?  And perusing your Facebook page?  And following you on Twitter?  Are you writing for your readers, or just writing for other authors?"   

As authors who blog, we know who our book's audience is, and guess what? It's the same people we should be thinking about as write our posts! Go here to read the full post on knowing your audience.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nathan Shepherd Will Return

I am honored to host Urban Fantasy author, Paul Anthony Shortt, on the final day of his blog tour. His debut novel Locked Within came out this month to rave reviews. He had a launch party at Hughes & Hughes near his home in Ireland that brings a lump to my throat whenever I read about it or see photos posted. You can go here to read the full story. 

Welcome, Paul!

My Photo
This is the final post of my Locked Within Blog Tour. As such, I felt it was appropriate to save it for the host who was responsible for providing the opportunity for me to get my book deal with WiDo.

In early 2011, Karen hosted a contest for people to submit samples of their manuscript. The winner would be able to choose either a full professional critique or a contract to have the book published. I knew what prize I wanted before I’d even sent the e-mail.

Karen was one of the first to follow my blog and my journey to publication. She has been my supporter for two and a half years now and I’m proud to call her my friend.

I’ve always been a series writer. I’ve never felt I could adequately tell a story in a single novel. Perhaps it’s an insecurity, or perhaps I just love the idea of keeping my readers guessing between books. In any case, as a reader I love the anticipation as I wait for the next installment in a series to be released. And as a writer i love closing on one book, knowing that the story will continue in the next.

Locked Within was always going to be the first of a series. I’ve been hard at work on the sequel and I’m looking forward to starting my edits. I think part of the reason I love a series so much more than a standalone comes from being a child.

When I was very young, and to this day, one of my favourite movies was The Last Unicorn. When the movie got to the end the first time I watched it, I was so sad. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to know if Lir and the Unicorn could be together. I wanted to know what happened to Schmendrick and Molly. I wanted more. So I put the tape back in the player (this is back in the days of VHS, folks), and I watched it again. I watched it so much I literally wore the tape out and it broke. I just couldn’t bear the thought that I had to let those characters go. They were mine, and this is something I firmly believe; the moment a reader opens your book, those characters aren’t yours anymore. In the mind of the reader, they belong to them. These characters were my friends. They were a part of who I was. A part of who I am today. I wanted their lives to continue.

So perhaps that’s why I can’t stand the idea of Nathan walking off into the final page of Locked Within without something to be walking towards. I want him to take up his sword again and fight the good fight. There’s still evil in his town, and he has a lot of work to do.

So, to everyone who has followed me on this tour, on my blog, on Facebook or or Twitter. To everyone who has bought Locked Within, or will buy it in the future. To everyone who has left a review or rating on Amazon or Goodreads. To everyone who stepped into the small world I’ve created and came out wanting more. To you all I say thank you. You’re the reason I’ve always wanted to do this. And you’re the reason I get to keep doing it. So keep your eyes on my blog. Because I promise you, this story isn’t over.

Nathan Shepherd will return.


Free right now on the Kindle! Go here to download. Last day is November 30.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been invited by Helena Halme, author of The Englishman (which I just started on the Kindle and LOVE) to take the Next Big Thing questionnaire, where authors talk about what they’re publishing next. Thank you, Helena! Questions and answers follow:
 
What is the title of your next book?
"The House of Diamonds Cookbook: Hearty Meals for the Frugal Family"

Where did the idea for the book come from?

From my life. My husband and I had ten children, eight of them boys, so talk about your big appetites! I had to learn how to cook well on a budget, and I wanted to share my ideas and recipes in a cookbook. Since all of my books deal a lot with food, (Lighting Candles in the Snow even has recipes at the end of each chapter), I felt like writing a cookbook would be a natural step. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published by WiDo in 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am currently testing all the recipes and linking them together in meal planning so that is taking me awhile.

Who or What inspired you to write the book?
I talked about the idea to my two daughters-in-law, both married just a short time, and they were really excited about it. That surprised me because it's not like they had large families to feed. I figured if newly married women like the idea, then it should be applicable to anyone with a desire to eat well on a budget.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The recipes will be for complete meals, with suggestions for what to have for main dish, salad, dessert, etc, and each element included. I'll also include tips on how to cook for a crowd without breaking the bank.
 
And that's it! I hope you enjoyed reading about My Next Big Thing. I will now pass the task of answering these same questions to another writer. Next week in the spotlight will be mystery author, Clarissa Draper!
 

I look forward to reading about Clarissa's next thrilling mystery!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is me, exhausted after cooking for a large family gathering
My husband and I are in Houston for Thanksgiving, visiting family. My dream for many years has been to go someplace else for Thanksgiving Day and not have to worry about the meal at all, and this year that dream is coming true!

I'll see you next week, and meanwhile, the lovely Marcy Hatch at Maine Words has interviewed me on her blog. Please stop by and say hello!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How It Feels to be the Editor

I can't decide which is more exciting-- seeing my own book for the first time or one that I edited. With my own it's like I'm the mom, with the other it's like I'm the grandmother.

I get all the joy and thrill but the writer is the one who has to do the marketing-- the never-ending promotional efforts that are necessary if the new release is to survive and thrive in the marketplace.

So in that case, being the editor is pretty dang exciting and, once the book is out, stress-free! I recently received my copy of Iced Romance by Whitney Boyd (WiDo Publishing, 2012), and it is just the prettiest thing ever.


 The cover's all shiny and smooth, the book is nice and solid, not a small book, and feels good in my hands. As editor, I've been through these pages many times but I still want to lie down under the covers and curl up with this jewel to begin Chapter One.

Want to know what it's about?

Kennedy Carter has the perfect life. It includes an engagement to an NHL celebrity all-star, a Vera Wang wedding dress, and more money than she could ever spend. But when Kennedy learns that her fiance Todd is cheating on her, she decides to leave the glamour and glitz behind.
She escapes to Orlando, Florida with a plan to rebuild her life while staying hidden from a country obsessed with celebrity scandals. The real world however, is tougher than she expected. Suddenly Kennedy has to deal with cockroaches, creepy alarm salesmen, and waiting tables… along with David, a gorgeous new love interest.

But what happens when the past refuses to stay hidden? When the truth of her background catches up to her, Kennedy must finally decide who she is, what she wants and where she really belongs.

Whitney Boyd is the first author at WiDo to get two books out in the same year. Wow, Whitney! Congratulations! Tanned, Toned and Totally Faking It came out in February of this year. And I was fortunate to be her editor for both!

Whitney blogs here on topics like fashion, lifestyle, the celebrity scene, romance and other stuff that she also likes to write novels about.

Wishing Whitney all the best with her new release!



Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Writer as Entertainer

A most effective method to get attention for your work (and sales for your published books) is to establish an online presence. The modern art form called by the unfortunate name of blog is well-suited for this purpose.

But, because it's so deceptively easy, writers need to be on guard!

A writer's blog should never be boring, because there's a good chance if the blog posts are dull, the book will be too. Or at least people will think so.

Scary thought, isn't it? A little too much pressure?

The writer blogs for a variety of reasons--to connect with others in the business, or reach the book's demographic, or to establish a platform and online presence. Or maybe just for fun.

Whatever reason, it's a career move for the writer whether he realizes it or not. A writer--a storyteller-- is an entertainer. So one who blogs had better be entertaining, interesting, thoughtful, wise, informative, or some combination of fascinating.

And please choose your words with care. Because people are watching. Or reading. You hope.

A writer can be many things online but never dull. Better to be absent than dull. Take plenty of time to think about your posts, to edit them as you would a published work before you click that much too easy publish button.

Your career may depend on it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Every Kick is a Boost


Our guest post today is by Barbara DeLeo, and I love her topic. Anyone who's been kicked by life needs to read this!

Colour photo 4 Barbara DeLeo’s first book, co-written with her best friend, was a story about beauty queens in space. She was eleven, and the sole, handwritten copy was lost years ago, much to everyone’s relief. It’s some small miracle that she kept the faith and is now living her dream of writing sparkling contemporary romance with unforgettable characters.

After completing degrees in Psychology and English then travelling the world, Barbara married her winemaker hero and had two sets of twins. She still loves telling stories about finding love in all the wrong places, with not a beauty queen or spaceship in sight.

Hi Karen and thanks so much for having me at Coming Down the Mountain today. You have some great posts for writers. I’m still such a baby author, though. My debut book Contract for Marriage has only been out a month, but my “overnight success” at getting published took seven looooong years.

 I’ve blogged lately about some of the reasons why I think it took me so long to get published. One of my posts at Romance University, in particular, garnered a lot of interest, but today I wanted to talk about something that I think HELPED me finally get published.

I don’t know how many of you have taken courses by Margie Lawson (if you haven’t, you should!) but at the beginning of her sessions, Margie asks people to pull a couple of quotes from a basket that she passes around. She says to choose the quotes which “speak to you”.

When I took one of Margie’s courses a couple of years ago the two quotes I pulled out were “Every kick’s a boost” and “Even if you stay on the same track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” After the course, I took those two quotes home, taped them above my computer and they had more resonance for me than I could have imagined.

EVERY KICK’S A BOOST  reminded me daily that as writer’s we need to build a thick skin. But it’s OUR thick skin. Being kicked might not be something we signed up for when we imagined ourselves typing bestsellers while our readers clamored at the door for more of our literary brilliance. But it happens and it can lead to wonderful things. If I hadn’t had the “kicks”: the rejections after several revisions from different editors, the “it’s not working” from valued CPs, the “when are you going to write a “real” book” from  certain friends, I wouldn’t have developed such a clear sense of the direction I wanted to go in, the direction that would make a story a Barbara DeLeo story and no one else’s.

EVEN IF YOU STAY ON THE SAME TRACK, YOU’LL GET RUN OVER IF YOU JUST SIT THERE made me realize that I was the person who was going to make this dream happen, no one else. I needed to keep informed about the industry, look for new opportunities, and take risks to get where I wanted to go.

I looked at each of those quotes every day and they gave me a sense of determination, that grit that so many multi-published authors seem to speak of. And maybe they helped just a little, in the realization of my dream.

I’d love to hear of any affirmations or words of wisdom that you’ve picked up on your journey. I have an e-copy of Contract for Marriage to give away to one commenter!

Buy from Barnes and Noble or Amazon or Kobo

You can find Barbara at:



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Vote for Nathan Shepherd

Today we in the United States elect our president. Have you voted yet?

It is also release day for my Irish friend, Paul Anthony Shortt, with his urban fantasy novel LOCKED WITHIN (WiDo Publishing). Is this cover not fabulously compelling??? And manly??? Awesome cover, awesome book, amazing and talented author!


The supernatural realm and the mundane world have existed side by side since the dawn of time. Predators walk the streets, hidden by our own ignorance. Once, the city of New York was protected, but that was another age.

Now a creature emerges from the city's past to kill again, with no one to hear the screams of its victims. The lost and the weak, crushed under the heels of the city's supernatural masters, have given up hope.

But one man finds himself drawn to these deaths. Plagued by dreams of past lives, his obsession may cost him friends, loved ones, even his life. To stop this monster, he must unlock the strength he once had. He must remember the warrior he was, to become the hero he was born to be.

His name is Nathan Shepherd, and he remembers.

To buy:

Pre-release special on WiDo website.

From Amazon, in print or ebook. (Also available at Amazon.UK and others)

Barnes and Noble

CeleryTree

The Book Depository (free shipping!) 

Wishing Paul the best of everything as he launches his debut novel!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Maybe not a smart move but I go with my heart

I finally made the big move with not a little anxiety. After utilizing Blogger for the past four years as my author blog, (where I have over 1000 followers and 4000 views a month), I'll now blog on my website, karenjonesgowen.com, (where I have 29 followers and about 100 views a month).

Probably not a smart move. But I have my reasons---

1. Scattered online presence. Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, website– all the places I connect with people take time, and I need to focus, be less scattered, write more books.

2. I want to write in more depth about my interests in family, food, relationships, how people deal with issues of time and money. I’ll post once a month and give it some thought. On Blogger, the trend is to post a lot, comment a lot and attract followers. I’m over that.

3. Most of my followers here are writers interested in issues related to book publishing. I’ll still post as an editor, thus keeping Karen the writer separate from Karen the editor. Again, less scattered, more focused. Plan on one or two posts a month. Not sure if this is enough to keep an audience but we'll see.

4. I’ve always wanted to write a book of essays on family life. Why not try them out first as blog posts on my website?

5. Following and commenting on Blogger blogs is getting increasingly difficult. 90% of the time when I click on my Reader it says I follow no blogs. Or they simply don't appear. Add to that other issues like captcha and Google + profiles instead of Blogger profiles, and it's just not worth it to me to fight the system with what limited time I have to connect with my online friends.

Catch me on Twitter @KarenGowen. Or stop by the website. I'd love to add your blog link to my sidebar so we can stay in touch. And I've re-opened From the Shadows to the Page, my quiet blog, where I'll post occasionally because it amuses me.

No, it may not be a smart move but I go with my heart and right now, this is where it’s leading me.  *fingers crossed* Wish me luck!

Have you ever made a big change that scared you?

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Dialogue Reveals Character


Today's post is by author Maria McKenzie!


Maria McKenzie is the author of the Amazon bestseller The Governor’s Sons. Her newest release is Escape: Book One of the Unchained Trilogy, a family saga. Maria’s books are available at Amazon.  
She is currently at work on Masquerade: Book II of The Unchained Trilogy.  Look for it in late 2012.  Maria lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two boys.  Before becoming a small business owner and author, Maria worked in Georgia and North Carolina as a librarian for several years.

She attended Wittenberg University and received a bachelor’s degree in English, and later graduated from Atlanta University with a master’s in Library Science.

Maria  reads historical romance, romantic suspense, thrillers, true crime and biographies.  As a foodie, she likes to cook and bake, as long as the recipes aren’t too time consuming, so she’ll have more time to write and more time to read!  Maria loves old movies, history, museums and antiquing. She’s also into fitness and enjoys running.  As long as she’s not listening to an audio book, she comes up with story ideas during her morning runs.

 Maria around the web:
Facebook        Twitter        Website 

My favorite part of fiction writing is dialogue. It serves many purposes, and much can be revealed about a character through his thoughts, actions and especially by what he says or doesn't say. Each word a character speaks (or that is spoken about him) clues the reader into his identity.

I love old movies and
Casablanca is one of my all time favorites! William Bayer, in his book The Great Movies, classifies it as one of the 60 greatest motion pictures of all time. Bayer says it is one of the few adventure films where the adventure takes place indoors. There are no fights or outdoor adventures. "There are, instead, adventures of verbal jousting, of dialogue and innuendo, and they are dominated, in fact ruled, by a supreme adventurer, Rick."

What makes us know Rick is an adventurer is his dialogue. Bayer outlines several snatches of it that reveal glimpses into Rick's character:

His Irony:
When asked by Major Strasser to explain why he came to Casablanca, Rick says, "I came to Casablanca for the waters."
Major Strasser: "What waters? We're in the desert."
Rick: "I was misinformed."

His Sex Life in Casablanca:
As seen with a girl in a brief exchange. She asks, "Where were you last night?"
Rick: "That's so long ago I don't remember."
Girl: "Will I see you tonight?"
Rick: "I never make plans so far in advance."

His Bitterness:
When he accuses Ilsa of having had other lovers, he says, "Were there others in between? Or aren't you the kind that kisses and tells?"

His Urbanity:
"What is your nationality?" Major Strasser asks.
"I'm a drunkard," says Rick.

His Mystique:
Captain Renault explains to Ilsa: "Rick is the kind of man that if I were a woman, I would be in love with Rick."

Besides revealing insight into your characters, dialogue moves your story along by providing important information. That's why the lines are there in the first place, and that's what keeps the reader reading!

If you haven't seen Casablanca, it’s worth renting!

What's some of the best dialogue you've seen or read lately?