Monday, August 30, 2010

Interview with author Kevin Hopson

Today, my guest is MuseItUp author, Kevin Hopson.  Kevin's book, World of Ash is scheduled for release January, 2011.

Kevin, tell me a little about your book.

World of Ash revolves around two friends who have to hike through a volcanic ash cloud to reach their destination. The conditions prove to be difficult, and an unforeseen entity lurks deep within their trek.

What gave you the idea for this particular story?

The volcanic eruption in Iceland earlier this year spurred on the idea. It created the apocalyptic-type setting I was looking for.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I am a full-time writer now. I try to set aside a good chunk of time in the early-to-mid afternoon, as my mind tends to feel sharpest this time of the day. I will sometimes write at night, too, though most of my progress seems to be made earlier in the day.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in college. Though I ended up getting a degree in finance, I often received praise for my writing and enjoyed doing it. Even when I worked in finance, I distributed investment newsletters to my clients as a way of feeding my writing craving.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?

I hope they will see and experience the joy I have in telling a story.

Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?

I am most interested in science fiction, dark fiction, horror and the paranormal. For whatever reason, I have always had a fascination with these genres. I was an avid comic book reader growing up, and I still read them to some extent, so I am sure this rubbed off on me over the years. I love to be creative in my ideas and storytelling, and science is a great platform to work from. 

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?

The hardest part relates to me being a perfectionist. For example, it can take me an hour to write one page, or even a few paragraphs, of a story. It is not writer’s block that causes this, but rather my obsession with getting every word right. Also, sometimes I have so many ideas going through my head, it is difficult for me to get them down on paper. Whenever I find myself spending too much time on a certain part of a story, I will either take a break from writing, or I will speed write in an attempt to lay it all out there.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

Yes. In World of Ash, my protagonist’s incident in college was taken from my own personal experience. Like him, I was heartbroken over a girl and neglected my studies. However, I am happy to say that I eventually found my true love, and I graduated with honors when I got back on the college track. 

How much is your protagonist like you? How different?

He is a little like me in the sense that he loves science. We are both very ambitious, too. However, his personality is quite different from my own. He is very outgoing and more of a leader, whereas I tend to be more reserved.

What kind of research did you do for this type of story?

I did extensive research to make sure all of the gear, technology and science was as accurate as possible.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?

I have never written a sex scene or anything remotely close to it. I do incorporate violence into some of my stories, though. It does not bother me as long as it serves a purpose and is not strictly done for shock value. I have yet to write anything explicitly violent, but I guess it is always possible depending on the subject matter.

What about your book makes it special?

I think the unique setting and storyline. I have never come across a setting like this in any book or movie. Plus, there are so many different elements connecting the storyline. It seems new and fresh to me.

What is your marketing plan?

Well, I am doing everything I can to get the word out, whether it be through my blog site, Facebook page, book trailer, readers groups, promo flyers, press releases, interviews, reviews, etc. I am sure some other ideas will pop into my head as time goes on.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Blog site –
Facebook page –!/pages/World-of-Ash/128940093802107
Book trailer on YouTube –

15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?

Do your research. You don’t have to be an expert on the subject you are writing about, but make sure you have a good understanding of it.

Kevin, thank you for being my guest today and giving me a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interview with author Debra Dunlap

Today, my guest is MuseItUp author, Debra Dunlap.  Debra's fantasy novel, Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair will be published October, 2010 (

1. Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

I wrote my first novel at the age of 12 using a toy typewriter.  It’s probably fortunate that all 25 pages of it disappeared long ago! 

For many years, I told myself stories during the day when I was bored and as I lay in bed at night trying to sleep.  It didn’t occur to me until a few years ago that I could put the stories in a more permanent form. 

I’d had a story trickling through my mind for several years when I read an interview someone did with J.K. Rowling.  The interviewer asked her if she planned to introduce American characters in her books.  She said no, but that it would be fine with her if someone wanted to write such a story.  Later, my oldest son jokingly referred to my living room as the “Ice Queen’s Lair” because I kept my swamp cooler running constantly during the hot Wyoming summer.  Something clicked and voila!  Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair was born.

2. Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

I have a full-time job working in the legal system, so I write part-time.  Fortunately, I write quickly and don’t suffer from writer’s block (knock on wood!).  When I sit down to write, my fingers seem to type of their own accord and I actually see the book playing itself out, rather like watching a movie.

Because I work full-time, I get up at 5 a.m. to write before I go to work.  If you lived next door, you would see me dash out the door at the last minute every morning with hair dripping wet from the shower because I tend to spend a bit more time writing than I should!

3. What influences your writing?

I think life experiences and dreams influence my writing, rather than particular authors.  My children have always laughed at what they call my “crazy dreams.”  As a 12 year old, I dreamed about dashing under the feet of a giant dinosaur to save my younger brothers and sisters from certain death.  Hmm, I haven’t written a novel about dinosaurs, but I’m beginning to get an idea…

4. Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

Fallon O’Reilly and the Ice Queen’s Lair is my first published novel.  Last year, Apollo’s Lyre published the first flash story I wrote.  Several years ago, I co-authored research results entitled “Measurement of Curing Times and Switching Rates of  Polymerized Liquid Crystals.”  I’m sure nobody read that one except my physics professor!

5. Why did you choose to write a children's story?

I chose to write children’s literature for the same reason I enjoy reading children’s literature--it’s fun!  Of course, I read adult literature, too, but I like the fact that children’s books are generally optimistic.  In children’s books, bad people may exist and unpleasant things happen, but there’s always a thread of good somewhere.  I suppose I like that because it fits my view of the world and people in general. 

6. What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

Attending Lea Schizas’ online Muse Conference motivated me to actually begin writing.  At the Conference, I learned of NaNoWriMo and wrote my first 50,000 words in a month.  I took a new job and moved to a new house after NaNoWriMo, so the novel was pushed aside for nearly a year.  Once I managed to begin writing again, it didn’t take long to finish.  Editing a novel is much more time consuming for me than writing!

7. What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

I am new to the business, so do not have any experience with either, but it seems to me that with the advent of e-books & e-readers, self-publishing has become more acceptable.  However, I enjoy the advantages of having a publisher so that I can spend my time writing.  I appreciate having someone to handle the business side of writing.

8. Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

Yes, there is a small incident in the book based on a real life experience.  In one scene, Raven O’Reilly drops a cast-iron skillet on Fallon’s head.  When I was a teenager, my mother asked me to get something from a bottom cupboard.  She was busy cooking dinner and doing dishes as she cooked.  I knelt on the floor below her to reach the cupboard and she dropped a huge cast-iron skillet.  As luck would have it, it fell right on top of my head.  Other than feeling a bit woozy, I was fine and probably would’ve forgotten the incident, except that my poor mother was so panicked it stuck in my mind all these years!

9. What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

If an author needs an agent, it doesn’t matter what type of literature you write.  Children’s literature is as competitive as other genres.

10. Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

I am working on a website and plan to have it ready in a few weeks, but here are a few current links.

11. Please give us a brief synopsis of your current book and when and where it will be available.

Magic lives in the Americas, too…

Land of the Midnight Sun.  The Aurora Borealis.  Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.  Dog sleds.  Mount Denali.  60 degrees below zero.  Moose.  Grizzly bears.  Salmon.  Gold nuggets.  Blueberries.  Bunny boots and duct tape. 

To most people, the word “Alaska” evokes visions of a wild, mysterious land, but for Fallon O’Reilly, it means home.  Growing up in a village hidden deep in the wilderness, she eagerly anticipates her first sojourn at the Borealis Academy of Magical Arts.  Nothing dampens her enthusiasm-not the creepy bookseller, her sisters’ nagging or the world’s nastiest classmate. 

However, when village inhabitants disappear, someone murders a student’s pet and she suffers a near-fatal attack by a horrible, hairy creature, Fallon’s curiosity draws her into a dark mystery.  Can a twelve-year old witch, together with her wheelchair-bound cousin and newfound friend from Wyoming, uncover the identity of the evil behind the chilling events? 

From the wind-swept tundra to the frozen peaks of Mount Denali, Fallon’s struggle to protect the school and her fellow students encompasses a journey of far more breadth than she expected.

MuseItUpPublishing will release  Fallon O’Reilly & the Ice Queen’s Lair, Book One of Magic in the Americas, in October 2010 in e-book format and print format in 2011.

Debra, thank you for being my guest today and sharing your thoughts about your writing life.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review If Wishes Were Fishes and Interview with Author Nancy Sharpe



Author: NA Sharpe
Author web site:
Illustrator: Ginger Nielson
Illustrator web site:
Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
Reading Level:  Ages 4-8
ISBN-10: 0982588674
ISBN-13: 978-0982588673
Genre: Picture book
Format: Paperback
Release date: May 10, 2010
Price: $13.99

If Wishes Were Fishes is a delightfully illustrated and well crafted story written by Nancy A. Sharpe and illustrated by Ginger Nielson.

In this story for young readers, Ms. Sharpe addresses many sayings older people use which often leave children completely baffled.  Her main character, Jedediah Tobias Trumanowski, better known as JT, is six years old.  He gets to spend the weekend with his grandparents, but he almost finds himself “in the doghouse.”

On each page, Ms. Nielson brings the characters of JT and his grandparents to life with full color illustrations many certain to bring a smile to a child’s face. 

It starts when JT can’t say aluminum foil and Grandma tells him to “spit it out.”  Of course when he does spit out his food, Grandma isn’t too pleased.  As the story progresses, young JT learns “catching 40 winks” has nothing to do with winking.  When you “line your ducks up in a row,” you shouldn’t try to catch live ducks and make them stand in a line.  “Monkey business” has nothing to do with monkeys.  Of course, if someone says, “a penny for your thoughts,” don’t expect to get a penny when you tell them what you’re thinking! 

These expressions as well as others are explored in this fun book which will both educate and delight children and their parents.  Discussing the book with children offers parents an opportunity to talk about other odd phrases which children will encounter.  I am looking forward to sharing this fun story with my own granddaughter.


Nancy has agreed to discuss her work and her book, If Wishes Were Fishes.

Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.
I’ve always enjoyed writing; however, it is only over the past four years that I have begun submitting certain pieces for publication. I have been very fortunate in having short stories, articles, some non-fiction pamphlets and booklets, and, more recently a young adult fantasy and this current children’s picture book published.

Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?
I am a part time writer and I work full time in another industry. My writing is very important to me and I do make sure to allow myself time to write daily. I prefer writing early in the morning, however, I always have pen paper and my flash drive with me as my Muse is not always satisfied with scheduled writing times J

What influences your writing?
Imagination. I love the “what if.”

Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?
Actually, this is my second published book. The first was a young adult  encyclopedic “guidebook” to fantasy creatures called The Destineers Journal Of Fantasy Nations. This is, however, my first picture book.

Why did you choose to write a children's story?
I have always loved books and reading, but I have a special soft spot for children’s books and young adult books. I have written young adult fantasy and this is my first picture book. I was extremely blessed in this venture, with having the opportunity to work with the very talented illustrator Ginger Nielson.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
One day when I was in a food court at a mall I was sitting near (presumably) a grandfather and grandson. The grandfather must’ve been in a hurry because I overheard him tell the young boy to shake a leg. The boy came to a dead stop, cocked his head and I could just see the wheels turning as he tried to figure out what in the world his grandfather was talking about. It made me start thinking about phrases we use in everyday speech that we take for granted that mean something totally different than the literal meaning of the words and realizing how humorous the results could be.

What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?
I think it depends on what it is you are publishing and why you are publishing that particular project. There are pros and cons to both traditional and self-publishing.

What is your marketing strategy?
Most of my marketing has been targeted through the internet and social media. You have a broader scope. I am also working locally with book stores, schools, and libraries.

What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?
Again, I think it has a lot to do with the particular project. So far, I have not contacted agents, but may consider it for future projects.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
My writer’s site is  I also have a site for the destineers fantasy work at  and there is my personal favorite, the Cybrarie at  It is primarily geared towards the fantasy realm and the characters from the Destineers books, but there are also “classrooms” for fantasy classes and rooms for authors to talk about their new releases in children and young adult genres. I also have the  Realms of Thought blog about writing and fantasy and the Cybrarian’s Book Reviews blog. I am also on Twitter and Facebook and various writing sites

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?
Above all else, don’t give up. Continue to write and perfect your craft. Believe in yourself. Read everything you can get your hands on to stay in touch with current market trends. Join writing and critique groups, network, network, network.

Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it
will be available.
If Wishes Were Fishes is the story of JT Trumanowski, a six-year old with a BIG problem…his grandparents! How do you survive a whole weekend alone with them when you do exactly what they say and still end up in so much trouble?!

JT adores his grandparents and is thrilled to be invited to spend the weekend with them. He tries hard to follow their requests to a “T” with one disastrously humorous result after another. “Why can’t they just say what they mean?” he wonders. Talk about a failure to communicate! Join JT as he discovers people may mean what they say, they just don’t always say what they mean…clearly.

Purchasing links:

NA Sharpe  for autographed copies from the author

Ginger Nielson for autographed copies from the illustrator

Publisher, 4RV Publishing LLC


Barnes and Noble

Books a Million

Thank you so much for having me here today. I have really enjoyed visiting your blog.

Nancy, it's been my pleasure.  Thank you for sharing your writing life with me.

Let's meet the author:

N.A. Sharpe was born in Wilmington, Delaware and attended the University of Delaware studying Psychology and Elementary Education.  She is a single mom and currently lives in central Florida with her son and two dogs, Scooter (a Yorkie) and NaNu (a Morkie).

Throughout high school and college, she volunteered in the elementary school system, and, after receiving her degree, taught autistic and schizophrenic children in a private school in Pennsylvania for five years before moving on to an administrative career. 

She has always had a deep rooted love of storytelling and children's literature. This is her first picture book. She has one fantasy book published and is currently writing a Young Adult fantasy adventure series in collaboration with her son.

And here's the illustrator:

Ginger Nielson is a full time children’s book illustrator who lives at the top of a hill, near the edge of a forest in a semi-rural part of New Hampshire. There is a magic wand on her desk and a dragon in her basement. Everything else is perfectly normal. You can see examples of her work at


At the end of the tour Nancy is going to be giving away a prize pack that will include an If Wishes Were Fishes tote bag, a copy of the book (of course) a Wishing Fish necklace and some surprises. Everyone leaving comments will be entered into the drawing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Interview with author Heather Haven

Today, my guest is MuseItUp author, Heather Haven.  Heather's humorous mystery novel is scheduled for release January, 2011.  Heather has agreed to discuss her book and her writing.

1) Tell me a little about your book.
Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous novels about the Alvarez Family, a family of detectives, who live in Silicon Valley and run Discretionary Inquiries. While they normally deal with the theft of intellectual property, plus software and hardware piracy, they become involved in crimes of murder from time to time. The protagonist is Lee Alvarez, ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective. Lee is complimented by her Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila Alvarez, who believes what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to accessorize; her computer genius brother, Richard, from whom all things flow; her loving uncle, Tío, a retired master chef; and her energetic kitten, Rum Tum Tugger.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
I wanted to write a “today” mystery series, fun, light-hearted, but at the same time, exploring familial love-- the good, the bad and the annoying. I live in a place filled with color and potential intrigue and wanted to use all of that as a background. The Bay Area, and in particular Silicon Valley, is on the cutting edge of computer software and hardware creativity. And there are so many off-shoot companies of the internet, such as Ebay, making their home here. Imagine the intrigue, the glamour, the money being dealt with every day. It’s mind boggling. I live where the wild, wild west of the internet is a happening thing. Why not write about it?

3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I have the good fortune to be able to write full-time. I count my blessings every day.

4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Always. I never didn’t write, if that’s grammatically correct.

5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope you will have “fun, fun, fun ‘til your daddy takes your T-Bird away.” Should I give credit to the Beach Boys here? Consider it done. Also, I wanted to leave the reader with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Even though life can get tough, stick with it and, “with a little help from my friends” (The Beatles) everything comes out fine. And keep your sense of humor. You’re lost without it.

6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
My short stories are on many subjects and style but when I write a novel, I write mysteries. I’m not completely sure why but I can’t imagine spending all those hours, days, weeks, writing anything else. It’s a lonely, solitary life, this writing business, and you’re inside your head all the time. I want to enjoy it.

7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Writing is rewriting. That’s all there is to it. You’re going to rework a sentence, a paragraph, a page, endlessly. It’s rare that you get it right the first time or even the fifteenth. Then you hand what you hope is a finished product off to a writing group, writing class or editor and discover all the things you can improve. Back to the keyboard. Confession: while I write seemingly light and fluffy stuff, if you scratch the surface of the story, I want there to be something real and important there. I take the writing process very seriously and it takes a long time to get it right.

8) Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
Not really. I have a vivid imagination.

9) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
Lee is nothing like me at all! Yes, we are women and living in Silicon Valley but that’s about it. Actually, Lee is based on many of my mother’s characteristics. Lee’s a combo of a lot of women I know, though.

10) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
Searching the internet, asking questions of computer geeks, reading articles, etc. It has to be factual, for sure. Otherwise, it pulls the reader out of the story. You don’t want that.

12) What about your book makes it special?
More than ever, families come in all types and sizes. The day of a mother, father, 2.4 kids, and an English Sheepdog in the back of a Volvo station wagon is pretty much over. If that’s what you have, lucky you, but it’s pretty rare. Most of us come from families that are divorced, abandoned, one parent, two moms, two dads, adopted, surrogate, etc. Throw into the mix step kids or half-brothers and sisters, and you have quite a combo. What do they all have in common? LOVE. They love each other and that love binds them together and is as valid as any Volvo-driving family in the world. I salute the different and unique family.

13) What is your marketing plan?
Marketing plan? Marketing plan? Let’s see. Push, get out there, blog, twitter, anything to let people know this fun and unique book is being published by MuseItUp Publishing January 1, 2011. I just finished a book trailer of Murder is a Family Business last night. I hope to put it anywhere they’ll let me. Anybody got any ideas for promoting, let me know. Oprah? Anything?

14) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Visit my website at or MuseItUp Publishing at;

15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
Read authors whose work you like. Don’t be afraid to take the best of what they have to offer, whether it be plot, characterization, location, phrases, descriptions, whatever. I don’t mean plagiarism but try to emulate what makes the story sing for you. Everyone “borrows” and there’s no sin in it. We all learn from one another. Then, write, write, write. You can’t be a writer unless you write. Join a writing group. Take classes. Learn, grow, experiment, discover yourself and what you excel in, your strengths and weaknesses. And never let anyone tell you, you can’t write. Scoff at them. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They are projecting their own feelings of inadequacy upon you. Got it? Now, get out there and write. And revel in it. You belong to a wonderful club, the Writers of the World.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Interview with author Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Today, my guest is author, Kathryn Meyer Griffith.  Her book, A Time of Demons, was recently released through Damnation Books, LLC. 

1) Tell me a little about your book.

BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons ( is an end-of-days, apocalyptic, novel. I loved Stephen King’s THE STAND so much back in the day that when (it’s been six years ago now) I had this idea about a woman, one half of a singing brother and sister lounge singing duet, who also take care of an elderly aunt and uncle, who suddenly sees demons behind her human audiences’ faces, I knew I had to write it. She sees these awful creatures, demons and what seems to be apparitions, because it signals the coming apocalypse and she’s one of the humans who are to fight on the side of the angels before and after the Rapture comes. This is a brother and sister who love each other and love the safe life they have now; she doesn’t want things to change. When children, there was a terrible fire and the rest of their family died in it. They’re all they have.

I decided not to make it too religious…more like a layman’s view of the end days. I loved the Left Behind series, too, but it was way more preachy and I didn’t want to do it that way. Mine is more a horror story. Though the woman eventually discovers, and accepts, she’s one of many who will have powers to see and fight demons as the end days draw near. She must seek out others like herself and convince them to join the fight. I tried to make this a story of family and human love as well as a survival story in the face of overwhelming odds as the world spins to its end. I love these characters! There’s supposed to be a second book…soon as I find time to write it.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
I think I answered that fairly well above…I just wanted to write an apocalyptic saga that would have realistic characters a reader could care about. It’s also a piece of my life in some ways because when I was young my brother, Jim (JS Meyer), and I used to sing together – up until I was about nineteen, got married and pregnant with my son, James, that is. Then I branched off into illustrating and eventually writing. We actually sang together in places a lot like the ones in my book. The Johnny character is loosely based on my brother, too. Loosely. Ha, ha. Jim’s braver and more self-sufficient than Johnny and I’m not near as brave as Cassandra.

3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’ve been writing full time now the last ten years. Before that I worked as a graphic designer for over twenty-three years at a large brokerage firm in St. Louis and a series of small newspapers doing brochures, ads, etc. All in all I’ve been writing 39 years; published for 26 of them and have had 14 novels and seven short stories published. I usually write in the mornings Monday through Friday from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; sometimes, rarely, on the weekends, if I have a deadline. I’m fairly disciplined.

4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Funny story. It was my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Riceall, who first knew I was going to be a writer. I mean, I’d always loved to read, and loved books, but I was going to be an artist. It wasn’t until I had a class assignment to come up before my classmates and give an oral speech on what I’d done over the summer that I first considered it. Over that summer my crazy brother (same one as above) and I had found what we’d affectionately called “wild ponies” in someone else’s pasture, snuck in, and tried to ride them. I told the story about being thrown into thorn bushes and Jimmy into a creek and when I got done telling it, after the applause (which I really liked as I was a plain shy child) my teacher walked up to me and said: “Kathryn…you’re going to be a writer someday! You’re a born storyteller.” I was surprised but pleased, as it seemed to impress everyone. She was right, though. Years later, at 21, I did start writing in earnest.

5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope they like the story itself, the characters and feel something for them when they read it. I hope my story takes them away from their own lives and problems, makes them smile, frown, laugh or cry. I hope it makes them think and feel. That’s about the best a writer can hope for.

6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
I’ve written two murder mysteries, a few paranormal romances, suspense and (my first book published 26 years ago) an historical romance, time travel; horror and romantic horror.
But I love writing horror the most, but the traditional supernatural kind like werewolves, vampires and ghosts. I like to give a new spin on the old plots. Make the characters and situations new so that my readers will think: Wow, now that was a story!

7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Since I’ve been writing over 39 years it’s been different things at different times of my career. In the beginning it was actually finding time to write. I worked full time, had a husband and a son and a household to take care of. That finding time was real hard. To this day my son still dislikes my writing because of all the time it took away from him as a child. Mid career it was the rejections that were hard to take. I did real well for about ten years and then after seven books couldn’t seem to give one away…I went through a long slump and lost a lot of my confidence. Almost gave up. I worked through it and started getting published again in 2003. Now the hardest thing is putting all the time in I have to, to get two new books and seven of my old out-of-print books all rewritten and out again. A lot of work. At my age I sometimes think: I shouldn’t be spending this much time at the computer making up stories…I should be out enjoying life or being with my husband, family or grandkids. It’s a real balancing act because life is short and precious and you have to enjoy it. The actual act of writing is solitary. Very lonely at times. And I like people. Doing things.

8) Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
The singing. The brother, sister dynamic…the large family life (though my family, all but one brother who died young, is still all alive)…there is a lot of my life in all my books.

9) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
Like I said above, Cassandra is like me, but braver. She does a lot of things I could/would never be able to do. I think most of my (and any other writer as well) main characters have a big dash of me in them…or a big dash of someone I know/knew. We have to write what we know. It always seeps in.

10) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
Not much, really. Oh, I’ve had books I’ve had to research for. Ancient Egyptian research for my 1993 THE CALLING and 15th century research for my 1985 historical romance THE HEART OF THE ROSE that I set in England. But most of my horror novels are basically novels of emotion, feelings and characterizations. I make up most of it from my mind and memory. I guess you could say I research people themselves and what makes them tick for a lot of my work.

11) Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
They do and I usually keep things pretty tame. I don’t like extra gore, brutality, too much sex or cursing in most of my books. I have some, if the story needs it…but I prefer that the story, the characters themselves carry a book or a short story…not the shock value. If you can entertain a reader without all that stuff, then you’re a good writer. But that’s just my opinion.

12) What about your book makes it special?
I’ve kind of covered that…BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons isn’t just about the end times, angels and demons, the Rapture…it’s about a brother and sister who care for each other and love their family. It’s about friendships and surviving under terrible world conditions. It’s about the value of love when times are hard.

13) What is your marketing plan?
I’ve been publishing paperbacks, hardcovers and now e-books for a long time. My plan has changed over the years. Nowdays it’s a lot of marketing on the Internet. Reader and writer loops, chatrooms and blogtalks. My Space and Facebook. I have eleven social networks and a website. It’s handing business cards out to everyone I meet and going to talk, read and sit on panels at writer conventions when I can. It’s all that and more. There, too, you need a balance. I was once told by an established writer that if you spend too much time promoting you don’t have the time to write. That can be true. So I do what I can and still write. It’s also a balancing act.

14) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
http://  See all my new covers and self-made book trailers; some with my singer/songwriter brother Jim Meyer’s original songs!
http://  See all my new covers and self-made book trailers; some with my singer/songwriter brother Jim Meyer’s original songs!
       Oh, and I just did an hour blogtalk on July 17, 2010 on ONE WORLD ONE VOICE BLOGTALK …you can go to their website and pull it up and listen to it. I tell lots of stories of my writing life. Lots of stories, too.

15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
Yes…go to that same recorded blogtalk mentioned above from July 17, 2010 on ONE WORLD ONE VOICE BLOGTALK…and the last ten minutes I give lots of advice to new writers. Never giving up is very important. Learn your craft. Learn to accept rejections. Love the writing itself and not the fame and fortune which most of us writers never achieve. Hey, I’ve been writing a long time but I’m still not rich and famous. But it makes me happy. And maybe someday…

Kathryn, thank you for stopping by and chatting about your book and your work.  I enjoyed learning more about your writing. 



Now, here's a short synopsis of Kathryn's book:

Since Cassandra Graystone was a child and her family perished in a fire she knows and sees things other people don?t?when someone will die or that a demon lurks beneath a human skin. She sees phantoms. Yet she craves a simple life singing out with her musician brother, Johnny, and caring for her elderly aunt and uncle; to be with her friends, Sarah, a psychic, and Walter, a clown in a carnival circuit. But when Sarah sees apocalyptic events in her tarot cards and demons are everywhere, Cassandra fears she?s going insane or something terrifying is happening in the world.

Rayner, an ancient blood demon, lodges next door. He becomes obsessed with her. Never having felt pity or affection for a human before he believes he loves her, would die to protect her. The demon realm gathers for the final confrontation between us, Rayner warns. The apocalypse comes. You and your friends must prepare.

Cassandra flees that knowledge until an angelic being, Manasseh, appears. Your powers will grow. You must fight for humanity?s survival after the first wave is taken. Seek out others like you. Persuade them to join the battle. Only these can see and challenge the demons until the end when all eyes see them. She doesn?t want her life to change; doesn?t want to be a nomad who battles demons. Doesn?t want to be anyone?s protector. Until a tornado flattens Sarah?s house. Johnny?s apartment. There are monsters maiming and killing everywhere. Demons persecute her and those she loves, burn down her home and force her family and friends onto the road, as everywhere cataclysmic weather and signs of the end days make things hellish for humans. Cassandra and her friends can no longer deny their destinies.
They must fight?or see the remnants of humanity engulfed in flames.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review of Caves, Cannons and Crinolines


Title: Caves, Cannons and Crinolines
Author: Beverly Stowe McClure
Author web site:
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
ISBN: 1-60619-112-8
Genre: YA historical
Format: trade paperback
Release date: Sept. 15, 2009
Price: $16.95
Pages: 220
Chapter excerpt:

Caves, Cannons and Crinolines, is thought provoking young adult historical novel. Set in the days of the Civil War where families are torn apart, readers are given a very real picture of life in 1863. Ms. McClure has clearly done her research and skillfully brings her characters to life.

The main character, Elizabeth Stamford, or Lizzie as she is called by her family, is a girl on the brink of young adulthood. Everything she knows has been thrown into confusion and turmoil as the Yankees lay siege to her home in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Lizzie’s two older brothers have gone off to war, leaving Lizzie home with her younger brother, Nat, her mother, two slaves, and her father, who is a doctor.

With shelling occurring on an almost daily basis, the family is forced to move from their lovely home to a cave carved into the hillside behind their house. Food is scarce, tempers are high, and living conditions difficult. Lizzie is torn between her desire to please her family, and her convictions that even girls should fight in the war. How does a young girl deal with this conflict?

Lizzie has a lot of growing up to do, and in the midst of death and despair, love comes calling in a most unlikely young man. Is Lizzie up to the challenge? Will her family support her choice? Can love blossom despite the stench of blood and the pounding of cannon balls?

We all know the North fought the South because President Lincoln believed all men should be equal, despite the color of their skin. Ms. McClure lightly deals with this subject as Lizzie struggles to determine if her family’s slaves, Aunt Lois and Uncle Morris, are happy. Lizzie thinks of them as family, but do they feel the same way?

Ms. McClure answers these questions and more, but you’ll have to read Caves, Cannons and Crinolines to find out the answers. I know I enjoyed reading this novel and felt transported to another time and place each time I picked it up to read another chapter.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marketing for Kid's and Teen's Novels with Beverly Stowe McClure

Today, multi-published children's author, Beverly Stowe McClure is doing a guest post on her marketing techniques.  Ms. McClure's web site with information about her writing is located at and


By: Beverly Stowe McClure

So you’ve written your story or novel. Your favorite publisher has turned it into a lovely book. And now you want the world to know about it. You can’t sit back and wait for fans to come to you, unless of course you’re a celebrity, a politician, or royalty. Since I don’t fall into any of these categories, I have to find other ways of sharing my book with readers. After all, that’s the reason I wrote it. Many of my ideas you probably already know. Perhaps I’ll mention one or two that are new to you. I hope my ideas will help other.

I’ve learned  a lot since 2000 when my first young adult novel was published by Bookmice as an e-book. This publisher folded not too long after my book came out. Since then I have four more novels for teens and one for tweens searching for readers. Here are 10 ways I promote my work.

1. Web sites and Blogs: I have a Web site. At the moment it’s at Wordpress: When I have time, I’ll change it to my domain name and get rid of the Wordpress part, which everyone says is the thing to do. I also have a blog at blogspot:, and blogs for some of my characters:,, and I try to update these at least once a week. When important events are happening, like book signings, contests, and new information, I post more often.

2. Social Sites: Then there are the social sites, such as Face Book, Live Journal, My Space, Gather, JacketFlap, Library Thing, Shelfari, Good Reads,Twitter. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators I have access to their message boards and other information. On Verla Kay’s Blue Boards I can talk about my novels and signings. One caution though, I limit my time at these places, because writing is my top priority.

3. Newspapers, Radio, TV: I send press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, and  TV stations. No one has contacted me for an interview from these announcements yet, but remember, writers have to be persistent. You never know when you might attract the right person’s attention. The newspaper has mentioned a couple of my book signings, when they had the space. I keep telling myself that one day they’ll review my books. Still waiting on that.

4. Bookstores, Libraries, Museums, Historical Societies: If you live in a large city, you’re lucky in these areas. I’m limited to two bookstores: Hastings Books, Music, and Videos, that has been very nice and always lets me have signings (and usually a cup of cappuccino). Books-a-Million that only allows signings if they can order your book. Since my books are from small publishers, that lets me out with them. The nearest Barnes and Noble is over an hours drive away, but I hope to try them one day. We’ll see what happens.

For me, libraries have worked better. I have a signing in August with our local library and another one in September with the library in Wichita Falls. I’ll be sending press releases and ads and flyers for these, hopefully to generate a little publicity. I usually make a flyer with the book cover, a blurb, and information about the signing, place, date, time, and leave them with the store or library for patrons to take if they want one.

Since my latest book is a historical novel, I’ve sent letters to the Eastern National Parks that deal with the Civil War and have museums and bookstores. Perhaps they’ll carry my book. I’m waiting to hear from them. I also plan to check historical societies. So look at the subject matter of your book and find gift shops and organizations that are related to your book. Check on home schooling groups who might be in the market for what you’ve written.

5. Blog Talk Radio and Videos: I’ve participated in a couple of Blog Talk Radio Shows which have been fun and have another scheduled for September. On these shows you get to do your favorite thing: talk about your books and being an author. And Kim McDougall made a fantastic trailer for Rebel in Blue Jeans. I’d like one for each of my books, when I get around to it.

6. Virtual Tours: Most of you know about these and have done tours for your books. They are wonderful to get the word out about your releases. Thanks to Penny, who so sweetly agreed to be a part of my current tour for my latest young adult novel, Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, I’m telling you about my newest book and how I’m getting the word out about it.

7. Reviews:  Though I have mixed feelings about reviews, they’re necessary. A good review can make you feel like you’re an author. A bad review can make you wonder if you ought to change professions. Cheer up though. Remember, each review is that person’s opinion. Maybe it’s best not to even read them. Yeah, like I have any control over my curiosity.

8. Contests and Conferences: These come in all shapes, forms, and sizes. I love contests. They’re a cool way to win signed books and other good stuff. Enter your book in contests. It can’t be a winner if you don’t. I’ve entered Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines in a couple so far and have others in mind for later this year.

I’ve also been to a couple of area SCBWI Conferences. Meeting other writers, trading ideas, pitching your work to an editor equals fun and maybe a submission invite. I like the Online Conferences, such as Lea’s Muse Conference, even better. I’ve also signed up for a new one, the Writeoncon in August. It sounds good too.   

9.  Bookmarks, Pencils, Other Giveaways:  When I was a teacher, I loved free stuff. Still do, so anytime I hear the word “free” my ears perk up. When I have signings or contests I give away a lot of free stuff, mostly books, of course. I also have bookmarks (they’re fairly cheap to have made using your book information), pencils with the title of my book printed on them, and depending on the subject of the book other things children might enjoy. Even if they’re too young for my books, they bring their parents and older siblings to my table when they see the footballs, the stuffed animals, and other goodies that attract kids.

10. Perhaps the Most Important Thing is to Go to the Sites the Kids/Teens Visit: Some of my favorites are Flamingnet, Teens Read Too, and Teen Reads. Get your books on these sites with reviews, if possible, or ads. Teens are my target audience, so I have to go where they are.

It takes a lot of time to market your books. But it’s a part of the business. Best of luck to each of you, and if you have tips, please share in the comments. We’ll all in this together. Thanks so much for bearing with me in this loooooong post. Have a good one.

Beverly, thank you so much for sharing your marketing tips.  I'm jotting down some of these that I hadn't thought of and plan to use them when marketing my own books.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interview with author Stephanie Burkhart

Today, my guest is 4RV author, Stephanie Burkhart.  Stephanie's picture book, The Giving Meadow,  is now available.
PENNY: Please tell me how long you've been writing and why you decided to become a writer:

STEPH:  Well, if you count my Spiderman comics I wrote when I was 5, I've been writing since. Writing is in my blood. It's as essential to me as the air I breathe. I can't deny it – only let it out. Professionally, my first book, "Destination: Berlin" was a "sweet" military romantic suspense published in 2001. Since, I've self published and now I'm working with small press companies which I enjoy. Several of my short stories have been recognized as honorable mentions in the Writer's Digest Annual/Popular Fiction Contests.

PENNY: Are you a full time writer or a part time writer and how do you organize your writing time?

STEPH: I'm a part time writer. I juggle a lot of hats. I work full time as a 911 dispatcher for LAPD and I usually do the bulk of my writing on down time at work. On my off days, I also set aside an hour or two at home.

PENNY: What influences your writing?

STEPH: My experiences. For my children's writing, my children, Andrew, 8, and Joseph, 3, inspire me, along with the children I help to teach in my church's preschool. (I help teach the 3's) For my romances, I draw on my imagination and my travels through Europe.

PENNY: Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

STEPH: "The Giving Meadow" is my first children's book. My first book was "Destination: Berlin" in 2001. The majority of my published work is romance, but I've also been recognized for my horror, mainstream/literary, and thriller/suspense short stories.

PENNY: Why did you choose to write a children's story?

STEPH:  It choose me! –grin- I help to teach Sunday preschool at my church, Blessed Kateri Catholic Church. We call it Little Church. I teach the 3's. Every year we put on an Easter play. "The Giving Meadow" was our 2009 Easter play for the children.

PENNY: What was the process of creating this book from first idea to the final published book?

STEPH: I sat down with my fellow teachers, Shirley Chang and Maureen Dunahoo and we came up with the play. The transformation a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly is something little children can understand. "The Giving Meadow" also goes deeper and explores concepts as sharing and friendship as well. I showed Vivian (Gilbert Zabel, Publisher, 4RV Publishing) because I wanted her feedback and she offered me a contract. It was a pleasant, unexpected surprise. I signed the contract in May 2009 (I think!) Last summer I chose the illustrator and "The Giving Meadow" was published in June 2010.

PENNY: What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

STEPH:  There are pros and cons to each. I've enjoyed my self publishing experience, but I've really had to work hard at it. It's important to use an editor when self publishing. You have to research that along with cover artists, and marketing. It can take away time from writing. Simply, you have to put out a quality project when self publishing. You can't rush to publication and miss a step. Traditional publishers give that "guarantee" that this a quality project. Still, I've found I have to work to market the project.

PENNY: What is your marketing stragedy?

STEPH: Start local. With "The Giving Meadow" I hope to touch bases with local bookstores for a reading and book signing. I also hope to do something with the local library. I don't have the luxury of getting out there because I've got young children and limited babysitter options. I also hope to do Internet marketing with a blog tour and using such sites as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, and to network.

PENNY: What are your thoughts on children's writers needing an agent or not needing an agent?

STEPH: Agents are the gateway to traditional publishing. I think if you're a strong writer, and have done your research, you don't need an agent to make a sale.

PENNY: Where can people find out more about you and your writing?





PENNY: Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?

STEPH: Keep it easy.

Here's Stephanie's illustrator, Stephen Macquignon:

PENNY: Please give us a brief synopsis of your book and when and where it's available.

STEPH:   "The Giving Meadow" is about a caterpillar who hatches from an egg in the meadow and meets new friends along with the way. His friends learn the value of sharing and caring.

The story is now available.  Here are the buy links:




STEPH: Penny, thank you so much for having me today. It was a pleasure to visit your blog.

Stephanie, thank you for being my guest.  I've enjoyed getting to know you and more about your writing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review The Giving Meadow

The Giving Meadow
By: Stephanie Burkhart
Published by: 4RV Publishing LLC
Illustrated by Stephen Macquignon
ISBN-13 978-90-98 25886-97

This review is based on a review copy provided by Stephanie Burkhart in exchange for review, all reviews being my own opinion without guarantee or assumption of liking or disliking.

The Giving Meadow is a delightfully illustrated tale by first time children’s author, Stephanie Burkart.  It is a story of sharing even when those who share are in need themselves.

The story begins as caterpillar emerges into the world, hungry and curious.  He first meets frog who shares his fresh water.  Next, caterpillar meets ladybug.  She has grapes, but they’re for her family.  Poor caterpillar is hungry and ladybug decides to share.  Next caterpillar falls asleep by a log.  When he awakens, he’s bigger and hungrier.  The bee who built his hive in the log, shares what little honey he has left. Then caterpillar finds a snake in a tree.  The snake has an apple, and although the apple was his breakfast, he also shares with the hungry young caterpillar.  Soon, the caterpillar tires, spins a cocoon and disappears.  His friends worry and wait.  Suddenly, a butterfly emerges.  All of caterpillar’s new friends helped him gain the energy he needed to make the transformation.

With the aid of beautifully designed, full-color illustrations, Ms. Burkhart’s story will keep young children entertained as they follow caterpillar’s adventures.  While the story teaches the lesson of sharing, it doesn’t preach at children, but gently shows them the beauty of friendship and helping others in need.

I enjoyed this well-written tale and plan to share it with my own granddaughter.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How to Create an Online Media Kit by Dana Lynn Smith



Today, I'd like to share an excellent post by book marketing expert Dana Lynn Smith.  This originally appeared at

The Savvy Book Marketer | March, 2010

Book promotion tips and book marketing resources from Dana Lynn Smith

The address for this newsletter is now  

Book Publicity — How to Create an Online Media Kit In your author and book publicity efforts, it's critical to make it easy for journalists, talk show producers and other influencers to quickly find everything they need to know about you and your book. One of the best ways to do that is to create a page for the media on your website and blog.

Online author and book publicity pages are called by several names, including media room, media kit, press room or press kit, or they are simply labeled as Media or Press on the site's navigation menu. On some sites, the media page is accessed through a link from the About page of the site. Whatever you call your book publicity page, just make sure it's clearly marked and easy to find from any page on your site.

Remember, your media page isn't just for the media – it's a great place to showcase your credentials and biographic information for a variety of author and book publicity purposes. For example, you can link to your media page when introducing yourself to bloggers, potential clients and potential partners.

Here are some of the most important elements to include on your book publicity page:

•   About the Author – You might create two bios, a short one of about three sentences (imagine a radio announcer introducing you) and another bio about half a page long.

•   About the Book – Summary of your book, written in a news style without marketing hype.

•   Praise/Endorsements/Reviews – Feature any celebrity quotes prominently.

•   Awards – Book awards and awards received by the author.

•   Author Photos – High resolution version for print and low resolution for online use. Include a caption beneath your photo listing your credentials or author tagline. See this article for tips about creating your author photo.

•   Book Covers – High resolution for print and low resolution for online use.

•   Contact Information – Make this easy to find, include email address, phone number, and address if applicable. See these tips for protecting your email address online.

Other elements commonly found on author and book publicity pages include:

•   Complete Press Kit – One page or document containing all of your media information in one place.

•   In the Media – Provide links to previous media coverage that you've received. If you have appeared in any major print or broadcast media, include their logos prominently on your media page.

•   Audio and/or Video Clips – Short audio or video clips of you (preferably being interviewed) allow potential interviewers to hear or see you in action.

•   Interview Topics – A list of topics you can speak about.

•   Sample Q & A – Radio stations, in particular, will appreciate using questions you provide for an interview

•   Article Topics – A list of topics you can write about and/or suggested angles for feature stories about you. You might even provide pre-written stories or tips for the media to use.

•   Fact Sheet – One-page document with pertinent facts about your industry or book topic.

•   Press Releases – Links to online versions of press releases about you, your book or business.

•   Media References – Nice quotes from media who have interviewed you or worked with you.

•   Clients Include – If you're a consultant, you might want to post a list of important clients (with their permission) and a few testimonial quotes from clients.
Sandra Beckwith, a former award-winning publicist who now teaches authors how to generate media attention at, advises imagining what questions journalists would ask about you and your book and making sure they can find the answers to those questions in your media room. "You want to make sure you're providing the information they want in a format they're familiar with," she says. "That means you want to present that information in a factual way without hyperbole or exaggeration."

Many online book publicity pages contain downloadable documents in PDF format, but Sandra advises just putting the text of your media materials on a web page and letting people copy and paste from there. Even when it's convenient to copy or download your book publicity materials from your website, some people will still want you to email information to them or even send a printed media kit.

For inspiration, check out these book publicity pages for ideas to use in creating your own media page:

Tricia Goyer (fiction and nonfiction)

Laura Stack (nonfiction)

Al Lautenslager (nonfiction)

Dana Lynn Smith (nonfiction)

Melissa Williams (children's)

Mike Michalowicz (nonfiction)

Shaila Abdullah (fiction)

Rabbi Ed Weinsberg (nonfiction)

Your online author publicity page is a great promotional tool. If you don't already have a media page on your site, get started now – you can always add to it over time. If you do have a media page, now is a good time to review and enhance it.

Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of the Savvy Book Marketer Guides. For more tips, visit her book marketing blog and get a copy of the Top Book Marketing Tips ebook when you sign up for her free book marketing newsletter

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sharing a Tip from Barbara McNichol, creator of Word Trippers

Writing and Editing: Wear Two Different Hats by Barbara McNichol ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Just as you’d wear a straw-brimmed hat in the sunshine and a rain cap
in the pouring rain, remember the importance of wearing two different
hats when you’re writing versus editing your nonfiction book.
One hat represents the creative process; the other deals with the critical
process. Attempting to edit as you write can dampen your creativity, as I
learned when working with an author recently. Because she was on a fast
track to get her book printed, she had me editing the beginning chapters
while she was still writing the middle and final chapters. She interrupted
her writing flow to give me feedback on the chapters I’d sent back. It
affected her ability to move forward smoothly with her final chapters, plus
we had trouble keeping track of our progress. What frustration!
In retrospect, we needed to put on the brakes and say, “Each task—writing
and editing— demands a separate and specific focus.” Here are three reasons
  • When editing your own work, your mind can fill in, correct, or overlook
    errors. It’s easy to miss things that should be corrected—like missing
    words and inconsistencies.
  • When you put a week or two between completing a draft and reviewing
    it, you break the link between what you thought you wrote and what
    you actually wrote.
  • Once a first draft is finished, if you rush in to evaluate it too quickly,
    you haven’t allowed your brain to “hang out in the shade and cool.”
    That’s when you mentally step back and “see” gaps in information,
    research, and logic. Taking a “big picture” look also enables you to see
    what fits and what doesn’t.
What can you do to separate writing from editing even more?
  • When you reread your work, reformat it by changing the font, margins,
    line spacing, and other elements so it tricks the mind and looks like a
    new document.
  • Keep wearing your creativity hat and go through each chapter asking
    these important questions:

    Is it complete from a content point of view? What’s missing?
    Have I included all the facts and stories I want to meet my objectives
    for this chapter?
    3. Can I take out any content that doesn’t fit?
Once you have answered these satisfactorily, you’re ready for the critical
process to take over. While wearing your editing hat, leave behind your
content questions and look for the elements of good writing—style, grammar,
spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and so on. And when you’re ready for
feedback, call in an objective editor who can apply both the creative and
critical process to perfecting your manuscript. 

Barbara McNichol

Barbara McNichol writes and edits articles, nonfiction books, and book proposals for authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She's the creator of Word Trippers: The Ultimate Source for Choosing the Perfect Word when It Really Matters. (

She also produces Add Power to Your Pen, a valuable ezine for tips on improving writing. For more information, go to or her blog

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sharing a Tip from book marketing expert, Penny Sansevieri

Today, I'd like to share some wisdom from book marketing expert, Penny Sansevieri. 

Feature Article: Six Ways to Know if Your (Internet) Marketing is Paying Off
So you're out there marketing. You're doing all the right things (or so you think). You're following the book marketing advice of some leaders in the industry. You've got a checklist and you're methodically checking off your goals. But how do you know you're doing everything right? The fact is, most of us don't. Yet we forge ahead, keeping pace with our marketing plan, without ever knowing if it's paying off. We don't see it in sales. Does that mean it's not working? Not at all. You could be seeing the effects in other places but just aren't keeping track of it. 

I find that especially in social media you need to keep a close eye on what's working and what's not. If you've spent *any* kind of time online you know that you can be in front of your computer for what seems like 20 minutes and yet three hours have gone by. If the three hours of marketing is paying off, then it's fine to spend the time. But you need to know the difference. Here are a few things you can review to measure the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of your marketing.
1. Jumping in without a plan: Set clear, measureable goals because most marketing is invisible. Let's face it, you send an email and wonder half the time if the intended recipient got it or if it ended up in a spam filter, never to be seen again. That's the power behind goals. You need them and you need to run your campaign by them. So what are your goals? And no, you may not say sell books. Yes, that factors in - but there are a million small steps along the way before you even get to sales. Consider these goals and see if any of them fit your book, topic, and future:
a. Establish yourself as an expert or get known in your particular field. Hey, maybe you just want to be known as the go-to person for everything related to paranormal romance. That's great and it's a realistic, attainable goal.

b. Increase the visibility of your brand. OK, sort of the same as the bullet before this one but more geared to the non-fiction author.

c. Increase traffic and incoming links to your website. This is a great goal. Whether you are fiction or non-fiction, it's a great focus.

d. Do what makes sense for your book: If your followers aren't on Twitter then why have you spent the last month or so promoting yourself on there? Mind you, Twitter works for most of the books we manage, but there are a few that don't make sense. Twitter skews older than most people think so don't be surprised if your YA reader isn't on there. Before you launch head first into a campaign, make sure it fits your demographic.
2. Neglecting other marketing: I know it's easy to get all a-twitter about Twitter, but what else are you doing to promote yourself and your book? If you're good at events and speaking, are you still focused on that? Don't get too myopic on doing just one thing for your marketing. The truth is, you need to do a lot of different things, balanced out over a week or a month for your marketing to really make sense.
3. Set goals - be clear on what you hope to achieve in social media: What are your goals for Twitter? If it's just about gathering followers then you are missing a big piece of this social networking tool. For many marketing people it's all about the number, but numbers don't make as much sense unless they are driving interest to you and your book. If the numbers keep growing, along with traffic to your website, then you're on the right track. But if you're just growing numbers for the sake of being able to say that you have 10,000 followers then it makes no sense. That's like buying a fancy car you can't really afford. Eventually the debt of it will drag you down. It's the same with Twitter and Facebook and any other social media site. It's not about the numbers. It's about the activity.
4. Be clear on who you are trying to reach: Many of you say you're trying to reach readers, but is that really true? We all want to sell books, but who are you really going after? In all likelihood you will have a variety of different targets you are going after. Consider these: booksellers, speaking opportunities, interviews, bulk sale targets, reviewers, and readers to name a few.
5. Measure effectively: In order to know if stuff is working you'll need to measure effectively. As I pointed out earlier on in this article you may not want to do that by fans or followers - instead consider these ideas as ways to measure your success:
a. Retweets on Twitter: The best sign of success on Twitter is the amount of retweets. Are you getting them and if so, how often? If your tweets are good and your followers are active, you should see a few a week at least (depending on the amount of followers you have). If you're curious about the amount of Tweets that get RT'd - check out Twitter Analyzer ( is another great tool for determining how far tweets have traveled.

b. Site hits: Are the hits to your site increasing? Are you watching your analytics to be sure? If you're not, you should be. Watch your site stats closely and monitor the increase in traffic and where it's coming from.

c. Inbound links: How many new ones are you getting? Did you do a vanity search before you started this campaign? If not, do that now. Make sure you know how many new incoming links you're getting as a result of your efforts.

d. Sign-ups to your mailing list: Are they increasing? If you're doing the right stuff in your social media they should be increasing weekly.
6. Increasing the contacts in your industry: Remember that social media marketing is just like going to a networking meeting. You want to expand your reach and get to know others in your industry. If you're not increasing your reach and contact base, then you need to be. This is another great way to gauge how effective your marketing is.
We always want to make progress in our marketing but we're not always sure how to do it or if what we're doing is making a difference. Follow these steps and see if it doesn't help your marketing momentum. If it's paying off, you'll know sooner rather than later and you can keep doing the good stuff, and punt the bad.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.