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?

Banned Books Week

BBW-logoBanned Books Week runs September 27-October 3, 2015 this year.

Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.

Follow @BannedBooksWeek on Twitter, or “like” the Facebook page. The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association is also on Twitter @OIF.

Over at, enter the sweepstakes to win a selection of banned YA books.

Consider participating in the Virtual Read-Out, or check out these additional free events during the week.                                                  The Call of the Wild

Click here for a list of Banned Books That Shaped America, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (1884), The Call of the Wild, by Jack London (1903), and The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (1951).


Follow me on Twitter @katcop13


Organization for the Writer’s Mind (and Desk)

GetittogetherOne of my writing buddies organized the “Get It Together” blog hop, which is five, count ’em, five days of authors talking about how they organize their lives, their books, their writing spaces…everything. I think there are about 30 participating authors, and most of them have put things into the huge, massive giveaway of books, gift cards and organizational goodies that you can enter on any of the blog hop posts. My own post is today on my blog, so you can enter there if you like, and get a peek into the crazy world that is my planner obsession!

Back to Reality

I’ve recently gone back to work full-time, and, boy, has that been an adjustment. I’ve done freelance assignments and written fiction for six years, and I haven’t written a word of fiction since taking my job a month ago.

That is not good.

officeI enjoy writing fiction, but it has been years since I’ve come home from putting in eight hours and set down at the computer again. I write or edit most of the day now, and I find myself doing household chores, vegging in front of the TV, or reading. When I was working from home, I was reading an average of three books a week. Gone are the days…

I like to think I’m going through a period of adjustment…and I hope I get adjusted pretty quickly. My writing partner and I have published two books, and recently had Harlequin back out of our deal for a trilogy for their now-defunct e-book line. That has made it difficult to write too, just the sheer sadness of such a loss.Home

What do you do when you motivation has reached an all-time low? I like to put inspirational quotes on the refrigerator and my computer, so I’ll have visual reminders of what it is I want to do.

How about these?

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”  Mark Twain

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”  Phillip Roth

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”  Doris Lessing

These are good quotes, and I’m feeling more inclined to put fingers to keyboard. I mean, I wrote this, didn’t I? Now all I have to do is read the last chapter I wrote so I can catch up on my fiction.


Try Before You Buy (Services, That Is)

Echoes by Laura K. CurtisThere’s been a great deal of discussion in the authorly corners of the web that I frequent of late about how much it can cost to publish a book version how much it has to cost. Even in traditional publishing, you may choose to spend money on things like getting an editor or buying advertising or paying a publicist. But let’s start from the ground up:

  • Editing
    • developmental (story) editing
    • copy editing
    • proofreading
  • Covers
  • Formatting
    • ebook
    • print
  • Uploading to various sites
  • Marketing (this includes anything you pay for and distribute like ads, dropcards, freebies, etc.)
  • Publicity (if you hire a PR firm to get placement in newspapers, magazines, blogs, to advise you on career moves, etc. This includes blog tours.)

Frankly, the first item on this list is where the vast majority of your money should go. A couple of years ago, I wrote a long rant about paying too much for publicity. All that stuff is still valid, but I wanted to update my thoughts and add a few now that I’ve dealt with a great deal more of this myself.

So, yes. Editing. That’s the single most important thing. If you’re with a small press that doesn’t edit well enough, pay for it yourself. If you’re self-publishing, pay for it. But more than just the money aspect, you must RESEARCH editors. Seriously. Anyone can hang out a shingle as an editor. These are people you are hiring and your reputation will be tied to their abilities. Some questions to ask a prospective editor:

  • who have you worked for? (Have they worked at publishing houses? What are the names of some of their clients? Do they have references?)
  • what genres are of particular interest to you? (If an editor doesn’t read your genre, it doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are, they cannot help you make your work a better fit for its audience)
  • will you test edit a couple of pages of my manuscript so we can see whether we can work well together?

So now your work is edited. If you’re with a publishing house, they’ll provide a cover. If you’re self-pubbing, you’ll need to do something about that yourself. Again, research is key. You can buy some really nice pre-made covers for ebooks for $50. Or you can go all the way up to getting a custom photo shoot ($500+) and then paying a designer to incorporate it into a new cover. Here again, your reputation will be tied to this person’s work, so take some time and look around.

Toying with his Affections by Laura K. CurtisNow, if you’re self-pubbing, there are a number of services that will format your work for you. Be sure to ask them whether the price includes updating the formatted book every time you write another book. Because you’ll want to include links in the back of one book to your other books, and they’ll have to be updated at least once a year, if not more often. Some places/people will also upload to various sites to you. But if they do, find out if you’ll have to pay them when you want to change the price, etc. Both of these (formatting and uploading) are technical skills, not talent. You can learn to do them yourself, but they will take time. It’s entirely up to you how you balance the time/money seesaw!

And then, once the book is out (well, no, really long before the book is out, but you get the idea), you need to make some decisions about marketing and publicity. Remember what I said about editors? That goes for publicity folk, too. And the first question you need to ask is of yourself: What do you expect this person to do for you, exactly? And no, “make my book a bestseller” is not a suitable answer.

I have had immense frustrations with publicists, and I have had great experiences with publicists. In the case of a publisher-assigned publicist, you have no choice. But you should never pay for someone you can’t work with! As with an editor, a publicist should work in your field. And if you look at a prospective publicist’s client list (on their website) and don’t recognize any of the names, that might be a problem. Because if you read widely in a field (which you should be doing in the genre you’re writing in), and you’ve never heard of any of a publicist’s clients, how widely is she publicizing them?

I am a long-term thinker. I like everyone who works with me to be long-term thinkers, too. I have six-month, two-year, and five-year plans (they aren’t set in stone or anything, but they exist). Am I obsessive? Probably. When I spoke to a publicist in January and she said we should talk in February about my November release, I knew I had met a like mind. And that’s important. You need to click with your agent, your editor, your publicist if at all possible. These are people you have to feel comfortable talking to.

So take your time, do your research, and find the right person for each job on your list.

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.

Making the Best Seller List

thLike most writers I know, i’d love to see my name on the Best Seller list. We work hard to make our stories interesting and compelling. We find our voice and create plots with amazing characters (at least to us) who inhabit terrific settings. Stories we hope will rack up the sales and offer us fame and fortune so that one day, our names will be on The List.

In an interview with Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series,the BBC News Entertainment and Arts section listed the author’s Ten Tips for being a Best Selling Author. From starting a story and getting to the end to finding an agent, her advice can help with navigating the road to that elusive Best Seller list.

What about you? Any tips you’d like to share?

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, 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?

Tales from the Slush Pile


I had other plans for my post for today, but this turned up in my e-mailbox and I had to share it. Who among us has not had some manuscript rejections? Or lots of rejections? Or nothing but rejections? So it is always a comfort to read about the travails of (ultimately) very successful writers. King? Rowling? Joyce? LM Montgomery?

And it is also helpful for people just getting started in writing to realize it’s a long-term commitment. Actually finishing that first book is only the beginning. Certainly an accomplishment (you did it!) , but still only the beginning.

Read these 24 tales from the slush pile, and take comfort. Take heart. Take the time to rewrite.

(True confession is that I sort of agree with a quote from one rejection. Except that she is responding to the subject matter, and overlooking that little detail of the powerful writing)

24 Tales from the Slush Pile: Rejected Bestsellers
By Beth Carswell

Hint: a test run showed best way to see this is by right clicking on link, highlighting and then clicking Open Link. Copying and pasting into a search engine did not work.



Riding the Roller Coaster

At the end of 2013, my writing partner and I (we write as Neely Powell) were on a high of success. Our first book came out in November 2013, and we had signed a contract for a trilogy with a major romance publisher. The first book came out in March 2014 as part of a new digital venture. We were thrilled. We completed the second book and went through he editing process; it was scheduled for later in the year, and we began work on the third book.

Months passed with no word from our editor. Emails went unanswered or vague references were given for the delays. We began to worry and learned in November that the publishing line was being shut down. We are still waiting to get the rights back and finish the third book. At least if we offer it to someone else, we’ve got two complete and edited manuscripts.

roller coasterAnd so the roller coaster ride of writing continues.

I’ve been through this before. My first book was bought by the second publisher I offered it to, however, they ended up going out of business before it was published. I’m beginning to feel like Jinx, the character in the old Lil’ Abner comic strip who walked around with a cloud above  his head that was always dumping rain on him.

We’re not giving up. My partner and I are looking at agents, other markets, and self-publishing. At this point we have no idea what we’re going to do, but we’ve had contact with other writers in this publishing line that are going through the same thing. Misery loves company.

The one thing I know we won’t do is stop writing. Our first book is still available for sale, and we do promote it.

It’s up and down, but it’s what we’ve chosen. How are you feeling about your writing right now?