Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Self Publishing Conference in NYC

The Self Publishing conference Oct. 27, 2012 was great. Learned a ton, and had some things confirmed that I've kinda known, but never put into words. I thought I'd include some of my notes from the conference, and believe me, any mistakes or misquotes are totally my fault. I was scribbling as fast as I could, and my handwriting isn't the best in the world.  However, I hope I got the golden nuggets down, and if not, please accept my apologies. It's always so wonderful when the people who know what they're doing share their knowledge. Many, many thanks to all conference participants and especially to Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy for getting the show going on a strong footing.
Here are my notes from the first session:

 Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy



1. Make sure your brand name is consistent. The covers need consistency and be sure to make your name bright and big and recognizable.

2.  Brands aren’t static –change them if needed

4. Lucy Kevin is her chick lit name and it sounds like the genre. Covers match the feel of the name.

5. Nonfiction books have subtitles under the titles. Why not fiction? Look at the market and see if there’s a hole, and fill it.

6. Series power – leave your last book open-ended so you can pick it up again if readers want you to. One book will help sell the whole series. Consider making it a freebie.

7. Frequency of publication: fast. 2-4 months turnaround.

8. Expand your market – POD

     a) audio books, but remember, people have to like the narrator. The series effect works the same here, so keep your narrator consistent if she’s a success with the first book.

9. She changed her Sullivan covers to make her name 1/3 of the page, 1/3 a design, and 1/3 the title and subtitle.  Her Sullivan series just sold for into the seven figure range to Mira.


Barbara Freethy:

1.      Sell direct or use an aggregater

2.      If you do it yourself, you can change your titles, pricing, etc more easily. 

3.      An aggregater pays you directly and you have the advantage of looking at all your sales in one place.

4.      Global distribution, foreign rights usually require an agent in that country, who works with your US publisher.

5.      You can have your works translated and upload them yourself. Elance has translators and proofers in that language.

6.      Get bloggers to look at your books. Use an author page on FB.Use social media, Twitter, in your author name.

7.       Check out the Kindle boards

8.      Send out a newsletter and collect email addies.

Long Term Publishing Goals

1.      Keep writing. Content is king.

2.      Think like a publisher – find people to help you, gather a team

3.      Covers – make them consistent for the brand you want

4.      Share the selling points of your books on your blog, twitter, etc.

5.      Hire professional proofers, artists, etc.

6.      Have more than one book

7.      Set realistic expectations because it’s a slow build.

8.      Write more, promise less

9.      Don’t worry about reviews. Don’t respond to them if they’re bad.


1.      For a new book,  $4.99 to $5.99 if it’s 75,000 words or more

2.      30,000 words - $2.99

Be sure to talk about your next upcoming book on social media well in advance, and put a first chapter in the back of the current book, inviting readers to buy it when it comes out on >>>>>date.

Use as many as 5 proof readers.  Set up a website for each of your different author names.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Keep the hands on the keyboard

I was reviewing some notes I took at a conference a few years back, and to my surprise, I had written them reasonably legibly and with some clarity. This is not often the case for my conference notes, where I’m often huddling with my hands under my legs because the AC is trying to out-blast Arctic winds.

These notes came from a talk by Dennis Palumbo, a well-known speaker and writer, and all-around great help to authors.  I thought I’d share some of the nuggets he provided, because they still resonate with me.

1.      Remember you are enough. (good one!)

2.      Write about the dog. i.e., work with what you’re given.

3.      Writing begets writing. Keep your butt in the chair and the hands on the keyboard.

All of these are so simple, but so true. Love even the story that isn’t working. Remember, the party is here and now. Everything thinks someone else is having all the fun. All successful writers still struggle, but they don’t give any weight to the struggle or meaning or weight.

And best of all, a good day is when you show up at the keyboard to write and you DO IT. As you write, you’re both writer and reader, and the dialogue is between you and what you’re writing.

A lonely business, n’est-ce pas? But Palumbo calls us warriors, a title I’ll happily don. We’re all pretty confident in our own abilities, or we wouldn’t be writers.  Fragile egos need not apply.

More later . . . .it’s all good.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A very good dog

A friend, Robin Williams, wrote recently about the passing of two of her old dogs. I was moved to tears. Her tale of these “satisfactory” dogs, as her dad would have called them, reminded me of the dog I married.

I figured it was about time I told the tale of Patience. Before my Beloved and I met, he opened his car door one day to a small black mutt who promptly jumped on the parcel shelf in the back seat of his Beemer and went to sleep. She’d been hanging around where he worked for a while, and he’d taken to feeding her.  One day, he decided to give her a chance, and if she took it, she was going home with him.  Her patience paid off.

This was not a dumb dog. She knew a good thing and she took full advantage of it. Though small, she was one tough cookie with an iron stomach. One day, she got into a five pound bag of chocolate chips. Ate the whole thing. My Beloved called the vet, who said that no matter what, don’t let her drink any water. By that time, she’d consumed about a gallon, and proceeded to toss her cookies down the stairs. Yep, she knew five pounds of chocolate didn’t mix with a 25 pound body.

When my Beloved and I married, Patience was well ensconced as queen of the house. She slept beside her rescuer at night, her head on the pillow next to his. One night, she woke up barking furiously, and my Beloved was surprised to see an apparition of a woman, dressed in black, rocking in the chair in the corner of his bedroom. Patience had taken her role of lady of the house seriously, and wasn’t about to let another woman, even a ghostly one, into her domain.

Then I showed up. Banished to a doggie bed on the floor, she showed her displeasure by chewing up all my bridal lingerie in the laundry basket. I guess she was afraid I would take her food along with her man, because she started hiding doggie food under the pillows in the bedroom, beneath the sofa cushions, and anywhere else she thought was safe from me. I fed her, I walked her, I bathed her (oh my stars, what a battle), I brushed her tangled fur. Nothing I did endeared me to her. I’d taken the love of her life from her, and she wasn’t about to forgive me.

Until I had children. Then she figured I was good for something. One day, very pregnant and tired, I ran home from work for a quick nap. Just twenty minutes, I thought. Four hours later, I awoke to find Patience cuddled up beside me, keeping watch.  Thus began our d├ętente. When the children arrived, she’d lie beside the crib at night, keeping baby watch. As they learned to toddle, she followed them around, ready to catch them before they landed too hard. She licked sticky fingers and faces, and generally became their second mama.  They tugged on her fur to get to their feet, and she never once gave even the smallest sign of annoyance.

One day, when my youngest was about three or four, I was raking leaves in the back yard. I thought the children were playing in the fenced yard beside me, but somehow, the youngest had made a break for it and ended up in the front yard without my knowledge. Suddenly, I heard furious barking, something Patience never did, from the front of the house. Running out there, I saw a man near my baby, a very threatening looking man. Patience stood her ground between the man and my child, clearly aware of danger and not about to let him near her precious one.  For a small dog (we called her cockapoo-terrier-schnauser), she looked pretty fierce. I ordered the man to leave, and he wasn’t about to, until Patience decided she’d had enough. He ran.

The vet figured she was about 20 years old when the time came to say good-bye. She’d grown deaf and blind, and life wasn’t much fun anymore. We all adored her, and she’s still the standard by which we judge all other dogs.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Decision Height

Just returned from Roanoke, Virginia, where we saw a Hollins playwright's amazing Decision Height. Written by Meredith Levy, it tells the story of six young women who are accepted into the women air force service pilots program in WW II. They underwent rigorous training to fly planes across the ocean ( some ferried bombers to England) or as target practice trailing silk streamers.  They took up the slack so more pilots could see combat, and often flew in the worst equipment available. The stories of the six women in the play encompass a wide range of enlistees, from the wife and mother who volunteers so she can help end the war sooner, to the rebel rule- breaker who loves to fly and loves her brother, who is serving on a dangerous mission. One is a musician, another a farm girl with a high school education who paid for her flying lessons by giving equestrian classes to rich kids.

Though these women took the same oath to serve as their male counterparts, they were never accorded military benefits ( or military acknowledgement of their sacrifice when they died in substandard planes since their families had to pay to have their coffins shipped home). Only in 1977 did they receive recognition for their service, and many received their medals seven years after that - by mail.

The set was astounding and effective in conveying the barracks and feel of the environment in Sweetwater, Texas. Lighting was perfect, the keyboard and flute a perfect sound track, and the actors nailed it. I wish everyone could see this production. Make the trip this weekend, if you can. Ernest Zulia, who directed, wins my award for best in class this year.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I've been on a writing roll. It's as if my ennui, where I have had to slug out the pages and pray for the best, disappeared into the mist. MURDER ON THE MATTAPONI was in the desk drawer because I was afraid to tackle its rewrites. Once I became brave enough to assess the mess ( how cheesy is that?), the book took back its life and shaped itself up. I was so pleased, I tackled another 100,000 word monster I'd been avoiding. Voila! The freedom to make wholesale cuts (and boy, howdy, did I) pared it down to a lean 79,000 worder and a better story. OUT OF NOWHERE lived! The Halloween stories I've written every year for about 20 came together as SCARY STORIES FOR HALLOWEEN with some judicious editing. Eight stories were too young for the collection, so I may edit a set next year for younger readers.

This puts the current new mystery front and center. Time to quit tinkering and start hammering. I always cut the first forty pages of every new book (I think it just takes me forty pages to warm up to the people), so I don't worry about those "lost" pages anymore, I just write 'em. The first forty are done, so it's time for THE CASTOFFS to rock and roll.

I may put on Aerosmith in the background.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Deja Vue moment, Talladega, and Pots and Pans

The three aren't linked in any way I can imagine, but they've stuck with me for days now. I've been slamming through rewrites (I have to do them all at once, so I don't lose the continuity of the book), watching the Talladega race, and shopping for pots and pans. Onward and upward . . . .

About Talladega: the PTB have to do something. The race is dangerous because no one really races until the last couple of laps. A very few Big Names (Earnhardt and KyBu) ran up front (well, KK did too for a while), but everyone else hung around the back, waiting for the front of the pack to wreck so they could drive through the carnage. The problem is, this time the massacre happened on the last lap, and 25 cars went to the junk heap. I thought Tony Stewart was dead. Denny Hamlin's back row strategy worked and he ended up 11th, a good rank for him at a restrictor plate race. But sheesh, people, this isn't racing. This is bumper cars with every expensive toys and men's lives. Enough.

So, as I was walking the dogs Saturday, a sudden breeze picked up, the leaves rustled, and I had the startling feeling I'd been there, done that, in a different place and time. The neighborhood was totally quiet, and the afternoon sun was other-worldly, but I don't think anything else unusual was happening. I just felt I was in a different place and time, one familiar on another level. Ever happened to you? Weird.

Now to pots and pans. My 30 yo Revere Ware has had more than its fair share of cooking disasters. I have been known to melt them on the stove, and that takes real talent. So I decided to buy a new set of cookware, made in the U.S. of A.  Easy, I thought, I'll order more Revere Ware. Whoops, it's made in China now. So I went shopping. I found cookware made in China, Taiwan, France, and Italy. Bed Bath and Beyond failed me. Macys failed me. Everywhere I looked online, I was outta luck.

I'd given up, until I ran into a Tramontina saute pan at TJ Maxx, of all places. It was stamped "Made in USA!" Eureka, I thought, and punched the brand up on my computer. Found it, and it's a Brazilian company that manufactures here and in Brazil. But there were no links to sellers. I was about to give up, when by chance, in hunting down Halloween decor at Tuesday Morning, I found Tramontina sauce pans. Dancing to the cash register, I felt as if I'd hit the lottery.

My question is, why is it so darned hard to buy a pot made in the United States of America?