Publishing and Promoting Your Book

At a writer’s conference, on Saturday, at the Ferguson Public Library in Stamford, Connecticut, my home town, several writers and I, on a panel, were asked to address the subject of getting your work published.

My own story started with a self-published book in 2006 and then my first traditionally published book in 2013 and then another in 2015.

After two hours of discussion the conclusion was that there is no easy way. But, writers have more options today, and the general message to writers in the audience of about sixty, was to never give up. If you want your book published, you can do it.

Self-published books, once called “vanity press” are now dubbed the more respectful label, “Indie Books.” Publishers Weekly who wouldn’t once give them a glance back about nine years ago, now have a book review section for Indie Books. Larger presses, who were impossible to reach without an agent, now have Ebook versions of books and are more welcoming to unknown writers. Libraries who wouldn’t invite an author who self-published, now are more accepting. Agents advised that once you do get a book traditionally published keep secret your self-published book, if you have one.

Times have changed since 2006 when I self-published my book Animal Instinct, it is no longer a stigma to self-publish it is a badge of self-confidence, and you should even tell your traditional publisher about it, agents now advise.

Once in print, joining Yahoo book clubs was the one solid suggestion as a way to promote. If you are with a large press or small press it is the author who will take the book to the public through every available promotional venue, digital or otherwise, unless he or she is a well-known brand.

What have you found to be the best form of promotion? Is social media working for you?

Do you advertise on Facebook?

The Cultural DNA of “To Kill A Mockingbird”

In the L.A. Times, Michael Schaub writes how “46 times ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ echoed throuTKAMgh pop culture,” which includes movies, TV, celebrity offspring, music, shopping, and more. Look for the Etsy links for TKAM-related items for sale, including this bookmark. The literary masterpiece by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim FederleAlso, check out Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by @TimFederle.

In another article, Michael Schaub writes that after an expert examined the manuscript in a safe deposit box used by Harper Lee, he determined that no third novel will be forthcoming.To read further on this issue, visit an article by Laura Stevens and Jennifer Maloney in The Wall Street Journal.Go Set A Watchman

Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman, is on Twitter @GSAWatchmanBook.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Broken Window’s Blog Tour Pays Off

Do you wonder what, if anything, is to be gained from blog tours when launching your new book?

Well, besides the exposure, from blogs such as Two Sassy Chicks to Fictional Rendezvous, Obsessed by Books, Eskimo Princess, to name just a few, the second week into its launch, Broken Window has visited seventy blogs and has three favorable book reviews posted on the blogs and also on Amazon.com, and goodreads. The tour generated a good number of tweets also and was so totally affordable that I couldn’t believe the fee.

There are no guarantees for favorable reviews, however, here is one of the reviews from Theresa Masker Reviews from agapareads.com, Theresa noted that she was limited by Amazon.com’s rating system,“5 stars… I would have given more if they would let me….”

Coming from a person who normally doesn’t read crime novels let me tell you I was impressed with Dorothy Hayes “Broken Window.”

The story is about every parents worst nightmare, a missing child. Three teens convinced their parents to let them ride the subway of NYC as one of the girls was going to be attending NYU in the fall. And she wanted to look around the campus. Against better judgement they finally got the ok. There was one problem with that… Three teens got on and only two got off at the destination. Their friend Kelly Singleton was missing.

Investigative reporter Carol Rossi a.k.a as Rossi sees her police husbands information about the girl. She is from their town. Rossi feels the need to help find Kelly. So she does what she does best, investigate. But can she help find Kelly before its too late? You will have to read the book to find out. You won’t be disappointed. I was on the edge of my seat. I was unable to put the book down and neither will you.

Checkout another review:
Red Pencil Beta: https://redpencilfictionbeta.wordpress.com/book-reviews/books-reviewed/broken-window-by-dorothy-hayes/

One more from Mich’s Book Reviews will be posted on Saturday.

I’ve heard sad stories, not all tours are as productive or reasonable, so if you do decide on a blog tour be sure to compare prices and services well.

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Do you have any blog tour stories to share?

For Your Reading (Watching, and Listening) Pleasure

Ten years ago this month, Joe DeMarco took over publication of Mysterical-e. In the editor’s column of the current issue, Joe outlines plans for the future of this always interesting, beautifully presented webzine. You’ll find a roster of new short stories (BSP alert: I’m pleased to have a story in this issue) as well as columns, interviews, and book reviews, including two of special interest to Women of Mystery: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran and Family Matters by members of the New York/Tri-State chapter of Sisters in Crime.

The third issue of Jack Hardway’s Crime Magazine is, as always, a splendid multimedia celebration of noir. This edition includes six new short stories, a guaranteed-to-be terrifying episode from the radio series Suspense!, The Big Caper, a full-length pulp novel by Lionel White, and D.O.A. (1950), starring Edmond O’Brien, which has an opening sequence I promise you won’t forget.

A big thanks to Joe and Dan for all they do. I hope you’ll check out the ‘zines and spread the word.

Do Reading Levels Matter?

stack of booksThe other day as I was reading through the latest issue of SinC Links, one story jumped out and got my attention. Written by Shane Snow and published online at Contently.com, it dealt with Reading Level Analysis.

The author asked the question of whether reading level analysis of your work would change the way you write. Putting a chapter of his own work through the Flesch-Kincaid readability formula, he found he was writing at the 8th grade level. But he wasn’t alone. He also put Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea through the program and was surprised to see that work was scored at a 4th grade level.

In the article you’ll find a chart in which he tested the reading level of a few dozen authors from best-selling fiction authors, to non-fiction writers, to those writing academic documents and used several programs to calculate ease of readability. For fiction, none of the authors wrote above a 9th grade level. For non-fiction and academic work the level was a little higher. While many people assume that a higher reading level means better writing, the lower score seems to indicate commercial success and how good people believe a writer to be.

I thought I’d take the test for myself and put the first chapter of my WIP, a Nick Donahue Adventure, into the Flesch-Kincaid program. The results are for that program as well as a few others.

Flesch Reading Ease score: 82.1 (text scale)
Flesch Reading Ease scored your text: easy to read.

Gunning Fog: 7.5 (text scale)
Gunning Fog scored your text: fairly easy to read.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 5.4
Grade level: Fifth Grade.

The Coleman-Liau Index: 6
Grade level: Sixth Grade

The SMOG Index: 5.4
Grade level: Fifth Grade

Automated Readability Index: 4.9
Grade level: 8-9 yrs. old (Fourth and Fifth graders)

Linsear Write Formula : 7
Grade level: Seventh Grade.

Readability Consensus
Based on 8 readability formulas, we have scored your text:
Grade Level: 6

Reading Level: easy to read.
Reader’s Age: 10-11 yrs. olds (Fifth and Sixth graders)

Here’s a breakdown of what all that means:

  1. The Flesch Reading Ease formula will output a number from 0 to 100 – a higher score indicates easier reading. An average document has a Flesch Reading Ease score between 6 – 70.
    As a rule of thumb, scores of 90-100 can be understood by an average 5th grader. 8th and 9th grade students can understand documents with a score of 60-70; and college graduates can understand documents with a score of 0-30.
  2. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level outputs a U.S. school grade level; this indicates the average student in that grade level can read the text. For example, a score of 7.4 indicates that the text is
    understood by an average student in 7th grade.
  3. The Fog Scale (Gunning FOG Formula) is similar to the Flesch scale in that it compares syllables and sentence lengths. A Fog score of 5 is readable, 10 is hard, 15 is difficult and 20 is very difficult. Based on its name, ‘Foggy’ words are words that contain 3 or more syllables.
  4. The SMOG Index outputs a U.S. school grade level; this indicates the average student in that grade level can read the text. For example, a score of 7.4 indicates that the text is understood by an average student in 7th grade.
  5. The Coleman-Liau Index relies on characters instead of syllables per word and sentence length. This formula will output a grade. For example, 10.6 means your text is appropriate for a 10-11th grade high school student.
  6. Automated Readability Index outputs a number which approximates the grade level needed to comprehend the text. For example, if the ARI outputs the number 3, it means students in 3rd grade (ages 8-9 yrs. old) should be able to comprehend the text.
  7. Linsear Write Formula is a readability formula for English text, originally developed
    for the United States Air Force to help them calculate the readability of their technical manuals. Linsear Write Formula is specifically designed to calculate the United States grade level of a text sample based on sentence length and the number words used that have three or more syllables.

Although I didn’t think I was writing for the pre-teen set, that’s where my work seems to fall.
And maybe it’s not such a bad thing. As the article goes on suggests, we shouldn’t discount simple  writing as long as we make it interesting.

How about you? Have any of you done this type of analysis?

Poetry and Short Stories: Descent From Art to Craft?

Classical-Art-Vegetable-CarvingIn an article for The Smart Set, Michael Lind compares writing poetry to making carrot carnations, the work of well-intentioned hobbyists. Yes, the courts of feudal lords and kings had professional bards, but not tons of them for each territory, and most of these positions evolved through rigorous apprenticeship in their form. The phenomenon of there being thousands and thousands of literary non-hobbyists, millions if we count teachers and librarians and publishers and booksellers and reveiwers as there surely are today, is very recent in human history, and the product of societies and civilizations with broad amounts of time and wealth to spare. To me, this article sounds like it could be the disappointment of a person in a moment of cultural change, when one’s most beloved style goes out-of-fashion. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but as a person whose interests put me permanently “out,” maybe I don’t comprehend enough what’s been lost. Lind writes:

With the exception of rap, which has a mass audience, poetry has moved from the category of a minor art to a craft. In the course of numerous readings of my own published verse, I gradually came to the conclusion that almost everyone in the audience at a poetry reading is a poet or aspiring poet. My guess is that a majority of people who read poetry also write poetry.

Poetry in the twenty-first century is like pottery, woodworking, or the making of carrot carnations. Sophisticated verse was never a major art, and having lost even a small non-practitioner audience, it has lost its status as a minor art. At hobbyist conventions, celebrated practitioners of a craft address an audience made up of other practitioners of the craft, who will then go home and work at the art themselves. Poetry has more residual cultural prestige than carrot carnation making and other hobbies, but that is only because most of the poet-hobbyists are professors with MFAs, while there are no professors of table-setting.

The short story, like poetry, already may have gone from being a minor art to being a craft. When I worked as an editor at Harper’s magazine in the 1990s, many acquaintances would comment on our essays and features, but I never heard anyone mention one of the short stories we published. The short story writers whom we published were almost exclusively MFAs who made a living by teaching short story and novel writing at liberal arts colleges. I may be mistaken, but I suspect that the same group that writes short stories today makes up the majority of those who read the short stories that are still published out of a sense of cultural responsibility in magazines like The New Yorker and Harper’s.

The literary novel, too, may be on its way to losing its minor art status and becoming a pure hobby of the creative writing professors who produce most of it in their spare time, while teaching writing courses. Some time ago, I was surprised when the editor of a highbrow magazine and of a major book review, respectively, both told me that their favorite contemporary author was Patrick O’Brien, author of “Master and Commander.” You hypocrites, I thought. You don’t even read the literary fiction that you publish or review. You read well-written genre fiction on your own time. Goodbye, Jonathan Franzen, and ahoy, matie!

Just a dog gone minute--who are you calling a fuddy duddy?

Who are you calling a fuddy duddy?

I wasn’t sure if he so speedily dismissed rap, an enormous category of work that appeals to younger wordsmiths, because he doesn’t like the form or because it doesn’t support his assertions of obsolescence. Yes, well. You can read it all and decide what you think. He’s right about one thing: I don’t read short stories in Harper’s generally. I mostly read the truly excellent work being done in loads of genre and genre-bending forums, especially online, and at all lengths, including micro-fiction that gets damn close to poetry itself. I also think someone from an earlier century might’ve said, “With the exception of Tennyson/Wordsworth/Frost/Angelou, which has a mass audience, poetry has moved from art to craft. You hypocrites. You don’t even write 15,000 line epics like the Iliad anymore.”

Contemporary, lightning-speed communication allows for increased whimsicalities of style. (And when they bring back the gauchos of the eighties, that’s the hill I will choose to die on.) But I don’t usually conflate trends of delivery method or shifts of activity from one forum to another for abandonment of the underlying form. IMO, the careful crafting of verse and story, whether in the packaging I’m most accustomed to or not, is right here and now powerfully conveying understanding, artistic endeavor, and human elevation.

What do you think of poetry, short stories, and/or elaborate vegetable garnishes? (I’m pretty sure the leading image is photoshopped, but it makes me happy anyway, go figure.)

The Graying of the Mystery Market

readingwomanAs mystery readers and writers, we are all concerned with the health and well-being of the mystery market. The more people there are reading mysteries, the more opportunity there will be to write them–that’s the obvious part–but it is also true that if more people read mysteries, there will be more mysteries published for those of us who are fans to choose from.

The latest research from Nielsen Market Research is alarming for those who read and write and generally love mysteries. Porter Anderson has an in-depth report over at Thought Catalog. What it comes down to is this:

aging

So what’s the problem? Where’s the next Nancy Drew who will suck young readers into the mystery genre? What can we do to show all those young readers that mystery’s the thing that will set their hearts on fire? (If you’ve got young relatives, I will mention here that there are now Nancy Drew graphic novels…just a thought.)

Anderson has some great ideas and I urge you to read the entirety of his post. But I don’t think there’s a single answer to the problem. We see it among writers as well–whereas in my romance groups, the writers are getting younger every day (so that I feel ancient), in my mystery groups we rarely seem to be adding young blood. When we get new members, or when hopeful authors come to conferences, they tend to be at least 40, if not considerably older. Where are the fresh-out-of-college kids who want to write mystery? They must be out there!

Anderson talks about Elizabeth Spann Craig and her use of Wattpad. This is what drew me to the article originally, I think, because I’ve been considering Wattpad as a platform for some of my work that is different from what I am currently writing for publication. Those of you who have followed me for a long time know I started off writing cozies. I’d like to have more readers, and those books are not making me any money, so I am considering putting one or more on Wattpad just to give myself some exposure to a different audience. I am not 100% sure I will do it…I am spread rather thin as it is…but it’s encouraging to know that someone else has tried it out already.

Do you have any ideas for bringing mystery to the (younger) masses?

Getting Your Blurbs

My new book, Broken Window, is coming out in a month or two, published by Mainly Murder Press, and I’ve got the ARC, Advanced Review Copy, and have sent it out for blurbs. In only a couple of weeks, and during the holiday season, several blurbs were emailed to me all ready alleviating the stress since I have a deadline.

When I know the publishing date, and see the book cover, I’ll set-up the local library book tour, and the virtual book tour where my new book and I will visit websites for mystery fans, and I’ll be offering some giveaways. Also there’s the local newspaper that I hope will be interested since the story takes place in a small town, Wilton, CT.

As always, I’m grateful for the venues, the dedicated librarians and all those behind the scenes who offer platforms for writers to introduce their brand new book to readers.

Have you learned any secrets to launching a new book?

 

 

 

New Webzine in Town

Jack Hardway’s Crime Magazine, a newly launched webzine, is well worth a visit for fans and writers of short crime fiction and of noir in various formats. The first issue features six short stories by names you’ll recognize, such as Stephen Rogers and Kaye George, and others you’ll be glad to discover, including a fine noir short by Hardway himself.

Jack Hardway is the alias of writer and editor Dan Persinger, who’s developed a multimedia webzine that makes good use of the rich resources of the Internet. The noir theme prevails, from the graphics and music to the following offerings, available with a click of the mouse: The Big Combo, a film noir gem from 1955 starring Richard Conte, Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace; “Sorry, Wrong Number,” the 1945 rebroadcast of the raBlackWingsHasMyAngeldio play starring Agnes Moorehead; and Elliott Chaze’s widely praised novel Black Wings Has My Angel, newly edited and with an introduction by Jack. Can’t wait to read it; in fact, it’s already on my Nook. On that subject, I know from using Project Gutenberg that Amazon puts obstacles in the way of downloading a freebie from another source, so if anyone knows how to circumvent them, please share.

Happy holidays all. It feels like Santa’s already been here.

Writers please note: Click here for submission requirements to Jack Hardway’s Crime Magazine.

Amazon– Verified Purchase

In doing an Amazon review for a fellow writer, I was encouraged to purchase the ebook copy of the book and then write a review so that the “verified purchase” label could be attached to my review.

Now, I’m not savvy enough regarding Amazon reviews to know the significance of this compared to a review without a verified purchase label. So I got the following from amazon.com.

If a review is not marked Amazon Verified Purchase, it doesn’t mean that the reviewer has no experience with the product – it just means we couldn’t verify that it had been purchased at Amazon. They may have purchased the item elsewhere or had some other interaction with it. If we could somehow validate their experience with the product, we certainly would. The Amazon Verified Review label offers one more way to help gauge the quality and relevance of a product review.

So as my fellow writer implied, the Amazon Verified Purchase review seems to hold more weight than one without that label.

I also understand that the number of Amazon reviews will dictate the logarithm that your book will be placed, which will dictate its exposure on the site. And an interesting fact I’ve recently read is that ebooks published by Amazon, which are numerous, average about 35 sales each, a minuscule number for sure if it’s correct.

Does anybody know more about the Amazon Verified Purchase label, logarithms and the sales of Amazon published ebooks?