Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Digging for Gold on Goodreads—Guest Post by Stina Lindenblatt

I'm relatively new to Goodreads, and I'm still getting my bearings there. I've thought of it as a way to see which books I'd like to read, but hadn't thought of the reviews as a way to improve twists in my own fiction.

Today Stina Lindenblatt, author of the NA novel Tell Me When, is here to share how authors can learn from Goodreads reviews. It's all yours, Stina!

Digging For Gold On Goodreads

When my debut novel went live and reviews started popping up on Goodreads, I refused to read them. I was terrified that everyone would hate the book. I eventually found the courage to peek at them and found a gold mine of information.

I’m not talking about great reviews saying that I’m the next J.K. Rowling (which there were none, though that would have been fantastic). The reviews I’m talking about are the ones that dissected the tropes I used in my story. These reviewers took the time to analyze what I did right with the tropes and explained why they loved my twist on them. Some reviewers had actually requested the book off NetGalley because they disliked the trope. This just meant they were super critical and were waiting to be surprised.

It dawned on me that reading the reviews for both my book and others in my genre can benefit my writing. When you study reviews like these, you learn what it is about certain tropes that irritates readers, what tropes they feel are overdone, and what books deal with them in a different way that make them fresh. When you apply this knowledge to your own stories, it helps you avoid the “I’ve read this same story a million times” reviews. This will also help you gain agent and editor attention. Like readers, these individuals are craving fresh stories. They’re craving your fresh story.

Have you used Goodreads to help you improve your stories?

Amber Scott should be enjoying life as a college freshman. She should be pursuing her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She should be working hard to make sense of her precalculus math class.

She shouldn’t be waking up her college roommate with screaming nightmares. She shouldn’t be flashing back, reliving the three weeks of hell she barely survived last year. And she definitely shouldn’t be spending time with sexy player Marcus Reid.

But engineering student Marcus is the only one keeping Amber from failing her math course, so she grudgingly lets him into her life. She never expects the king of hookups will share his painful past. Or that she’ll tell him her secrets in return, opening up and trusting him in a way she thought she’d never be able to again.

When their fragile future together is threatened by a stalker Amber thought was locked away for good, Marcus is determined to protect her—and Amber is determined to protect Marcus…even if that means pushing him away.

Thanks, Stina! I think I'll do a little mining over at Goodreads.
What about you all? Do you mine Goodreads reviews for fresh ideas? Any tips you can share?

Stina Lindenblatt writes New Adult contemporary romances and currently lives in Calgary with her husband and three kids. When she isn’t writing, lost in a romance novel, or checking out romantic photos, Stina loves to spend her free time behind the camera lens. She can be found on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In the Middle—the Small Publisher Debate

Friends, today a super star is visiting my blog! Seriously.

Super. Star.

The Alex J. Cavanaugh is here to chat about small publishers. Alex, creator of the massively popular Insecure Writer's Support Group, is one of the most supportive, nicest guys ever.

Curious about small publishers? Me too. Take it away, Alex!

In the Middle – the Small Publisher Debate

You ever notice how things can get lost in the middle? Think there can be no middle ground? After all, the two sides sound so appealing:

The self-published author – keeps all the profits and doesn’t have to share. Gets to make all the choices and has total control. Can write outside the genre box and is free from deadlines.

The author with an agent and a book deal – work is validated. There’s no book costs and gets a royalty advance. Bookstore placement and marketing. Big reviews and often better sales.

Both sound great, right? So, what’s in the middle?

Signing directly with a (small) publisher.

You’ve probably heard a lot of good and bad things about that route. Let me list a few points for you, some based on experience and some on the experiences of other authors.

The Cons:

  • Small publishers don’t have huge marketing budgets. Some don’t have any.
  • Your book sitting in a book store probably won’t happen. A lot are eBooks only.
  • They are more likely to experience financial troubles.
  • Often there’s no advance royalty. Overall royalties aren’t much.
  • Sometimes covers are simple or involve stock images.
The Pros:

  • Small publishers are more willing to take a chance on a new author or genre.
  • Acceptance gets your foot in the door and garners some respect.
  • You’re not a number – you’re a real person and sometimes family.
  • You have some input in the process, including cover design.
  • Often there is support past the initial release.
The middle was my choice. Overall I’ve been very fortunate with my publisher. They took a chance on a complete unknown and continued to support my books months after their release. They kept me in the loop and the covers they’ve produced have been stunning. And while there was no advance for the first two books, I did get one on the third book, and overall royalties have far exceeded my expectations.

Is it the right choice for you? Only you can answer that question. There will be pros and cons either way. Everything in life has pros and cons though. Which ones matter most to you?

Thank you Julie for the opportunity!

Alex, thank you! Not only for this great post, but for all you do for writers. You're a bright light in this community, and we're so thankful for you.

I've heard many authors speak about the family atmosphere with small publishers. Friends, do you have any experience with small publishers? Have you queried them? Published with them? Please share! Any questions for Alex? Ask away!

(No fair, Alex! A shadowy photo??)

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of Amazon bestsellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Connect Charitable Giving to a Book Release? #IndieLife

Welcome to the February installment of IndieLife! Wanna join the group? Just sign up here.

When thinking ahead to the launch of my YA novel, The Boy Who Loved Fire, I felt uncomfortable with the me, me, me approach. Heck, when I got married and had children I didn’t even like the unwrapping gifts portions of my bridal and baby showers because the attention was focused solely on me.

An idea struck. I’d attach all the proceeds from the first two day’s worth of sales to two amazing charities: Grossman Burn Center (via Firefighters Quest for Burn Survivors) and Carousel Ranch (equestrian therapy for disabled children). My son is a burn victim who had been helped tremendously by the Grossman Burn Center. Carousel Ranch helps disabled kids near my home. Both charities hold special places in my heart.

Once the decision was made, I no longer cringed at the thought of telling people about my book. I wanted to tell as many people as possible so these amazing organizations could benefit.

If you’re thinking about connecting your book release to charitable giving, here are some suggestions to consider:
  • Choose charities that connect to your book: When doing so, this can introduce readers to your book who may be going through similar issues. For instance, my main character falls in love with a burn victim. This burn victim had healed with the help of caring people at an equestrian therapy ranch. These story threads connect directly to the chosen charities.
  • Choose charities that deserve exposure: Make sure the charities are real, and that they do great work. Unfortunately, there are plenty of scammers out there. If readers are buying your book in order to help a charity, they should feel confident that their money and efforts won’t be wasted.
  • Have the print version ready to go: Not every reader is using an ereader. I didn’t want the charity to lose money simply because a giver only read print books. It was a lot of work to get the print book ready by release day, but at least I knew the charity wouldn’t lose donations because of lack of print.
  • Ask the charity to help spread the word about your book: Most charities have built-in networks. The goal is to sell as many books as possible on the designated day in order to bring the most benefit to the organization. If the author and the charity work together to spread the word, both sides win.
  • Charitable giving can expose new readers to your work: By choosing to be a giver with your book release, you may reap unexpected benefits. Perhaps new readers will give you a chance. This shouldn’t be the main reason why you choose to give. It’s merely a side benefit.
Attaching book releases to charitable giving makes the buyer feel good. Yes, they’re buying a story they’ll hopefully enjoy, but they’re also helping others. It’s a great way to turn away from the me, me, me approach and turn toward the give, give, give approach.

Have you considered connecting a book release to charitable giving? If you decided to do this, what charities would you consider? Are they connected to your book’s theme? Please share!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Conquering Divided Attention-itis #IWSG

Happy February, Insecure Writers! I hope your 2014 is off to a great start. If you aren't yet a part of this wonderful group, click here and sign up. This month I'm so proud to be one of the co-hosts, along with M.L. Swift, Sheena-kay Graham, and Jamie Ayers.

What am I insecure about this month? Divided attention.

My YA novel, The Boy Who Loved Fire, was recently released into the big wide world. It's been a crazy, exciting ride, and I'm still in the infancy stage of publishing and promotion.

As I look ahead to the rest of 2014, I have plans and projects stacked up in my brain. Enough work to keep me out of trouble for a while! But way more important than that, I have a family—a supportive hubby and three teen sons who deserve my attention.

As busy writers, how can we manage our divided attention? I boil it down like this:

  1. Family first—it sounds obvious, but sometimes we get lost in a zone and lose sight of what really matters. Spouses and kids should not feel like they're in line behind writing. If there's something I absolutely have to get done now, I let my family know I have work to do and I'll see a movie, have lunch, or watch the starry skies in an hour. They understand if they know I'm working now, but will turn my attention to them when promised.
  2. Prioritize the work—I have the attention span of a 10-year-old (SQUIRREL!), so it's important for me to focus on one task at a time. I usually work on the most pressing issues first. Then I take stock of what needs to be done and make a list of priorities. I sometimes plug tasks into my iCal, based on what needs to be done when. This keeps me organized and on point.
  3. Drop everything and … have fun—In order to write about life, we must live it. If something fun and unexpected comes up, I'll drop everything and go for it. The work can wait.

What's your opinion on managing divided attention? How do you juggle it all? If you have any tips, please share!