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May 11 marks a year since I’ve been writing on that blog. I’ve done a lot more reading than the reviews reflected there, but anyway, I thought I’d do something special to mark my upcoming anniversary.

I’m giving away some books I’ve read during the past year or so. I have a couple in there that I haven’t read in that time and I keep adding to the unread pile each time there’s a past-their-use-before-date (aka slightly shopworn) sale at the bookshop. Rather than letting them gather dust, I’m throwing them in too.

What do you need to do to win one of these books? Add yourself as a follower of The Readers’ Suite.

  • Ensure you comment on that post so I know you’re in the competition. Please let me know if you’re interested in any particular book.
  • Help me spread the word by tweeting this post for an additional entry. (Not a requirement)
  • Or you can grab the badge in the sidebar for your blog, which gives you another entry.  Just let me know if you do. (Again, not a requirement, simply a goodwill gesture.)

Without further ado, here are the prizes.

If you need help making up your mind as to which book you’d like, I’ve added a little information on each at The Readers’ Suite so hop on over there now.

Stay tuned for my next giveaway, which will run concurrently with this one as at May 1, 2011.  My second book Dissolution will be released on May 20, 2011. I’ll be giving away copies @ The Character Depot.

Good luck to all!

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If you’ve ever been bitten by a story idea, an idea that seems compelling and interesting but could never be grand enough for a novel, try condensing it into a bite-sized flash. Take that story idea, build it as you would, then burn and carve away anything unnecessary. The basic structure should remain. Choose words and sentences that say much more than what’s written. Every word must be essential. The fewer the words, the greater the impact.

The purpose of flash fiction is to deliver the basic elements of a story—main character, conflict and resolution—all with an economy of words and a punch at the end. This final punctuation can be a twist, a chord of irony, a humorous note. The story can appear to be one thing only to be illuminated in the finale as quite another.

This blink-of-an-eye exercise forces you to create a snap shot in time and build suspense and the element of surprise with harnessed language. If you can wield tension powerfully in a flash fic piece with 500 words or less, just think what you could do in long fiction.

Try it out, be creative, have fun and aim for a knockout. The bloodshed and thrashing of your work, though brutal, will produce a beautiful piece of art.

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My publisher sent out a letter not long ago. They were contacted by Hollywood a few months back asking them to provide romantic suspense novels to be used as props in their upcoming Bruce Willis movie, RED. The movie has a great cast, including Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich,  Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine. So The Wild Rose Press sent out their entire Crimson Rose line — what they had in stock, anyway. And since my novel is a Crimson Rose, and was most likely in stock, it is quite possible that Sleeping With Skeletons has been on the set of a Bruce Willis movie for the last few months.

In the movie, Bruce Willis’s girlfriend likes to read romantic suspense novels. And if you watch trailer #1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMCh4etBbkU, you’ll see Sarah reading one of our books in the scene where Bruce Willis calls her at work. Unfortunately, the title can’t be seen, so I have no way of knowing if it’s my book, but the odds are only 1 in 160 that it is.

It looks like a great movie. I intend to go see it when it comes out, which will be October 15th. If you go see it, I hope you’ll help me look for my title, Sleeping with Skeletons.

You can read more about this and see another one of the trailers at my publisher’s website. http://www.thewildrosepress.com

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The other day I watched a free webinar about How to Make Your Book a Bestseller. Though by the end of it they were just trying to sell me an expensive seminar, I was still able to take away some valuable information. The most important thing I learned was the need to have a book launch party. Now the theory behind this is to have a giant party celebrating your book in order to get the sales rolling. Hopefully, once the sales get going, they’ll continue to grow because you’ve written such a great book.

The strategies addressed in the webinar were for nonfiction books. Things are somewhat different when trying to publicize a fiction book. Even within the genre of fiction, I have a more difficult job because I write YA. It’s hard reaching a young audience online without feeling like a pedophile.

My book, Secrets of Eden, is being released with Solstice Publishing in the next few weeks. It is a small publisher and I have to do most of the marketing. Thus, I have started to plan my Virtual Book Launch Party. Each day I add to the list of things I want to do in order to create buzz for my book. This is what I have so far.

1. Freebies.

Everyone that buys my book within the first two days will receive as many awesome prizes as I can think of. So far I will be offering a free copy of my book AIN’T NO SUNSHINE which I will be publishing on Smashwords and Amazon in the next few days. I will also give away some free downloadable music from my musician friends. Anyone who buys the book in the first two days will automatically be entered into a drawing to win an autographed CD from a very well known singer whom I will name later (gotta keep some suspense) and a Kindle. Yes, a Kindle. I’m going all out. I’m using my couponing ways to get one really cheap. (In case you didn’t know, I’m a couponing fanatic. I talk about it sometimes on my blog Writer’s Lounge. Check it out.)

2. Blog tour

I plan on developing a list of thirty to forty blogs where I can provide a guest post and then slip in something about my launch party.

3. Email lists

I plan on sending an email to as many lists I can think of including newsletters from all the former schools where I was a student or teacher.

4. Former students

This is just an idea and I don’t know if I’ll do it or not, but I have hundreds of former students who still love me and chat with me on facebook. I was thinking of starting kind of a chain letter type thing entitled “Help Ms. Nelson Be a Bestseller” that they can forward to all their friends to advertise my launch. (Of course, it would probably have to be titled “Help Nelly Be a Bestseller” since they have given me the nickname Nelly. Not sure if I want to do that or not because I’d feel like I’m exploiting my students. Maybe if I only do it on facebook. I’d feel less like a stalker. Oh, I could start a page! And the ideas just keep flowing.

Well, that’s all I have right now. What do you think? Once I have a specific date, I’ll post all the details and then let you know how it turns out.

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Finishing a novel is a great feeling. I just finished my sixth novel.

Unfortunately, only the last two or three have been any good.

There’s a lot of editing to do once that first draft is out of the way, but the hardest part for most writers isn’t the writing or editing, it’s the search for an agent or a publisher.

Here is a small list of publishers that you can submit to if you don’t have an agent:

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com

http://www.lyricalpress.com/submissions 

http://www.ireadiwrite.com/for-Writers.html

http://solsticepublishing.com/contact_us.html

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=14298

http://www.eternalpress.biz/submissions.php

http://www.mckennapubgrp.com/submissionguidelines.php

http://www.bancroftpress.com/submission.html

http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/submissions.php

http://www.bascomhillpublishing.com/submissions.asp

A great place to find information on an agent or publisher is http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php. They can teach you which ones are good and which ones to avoid. 

The next two will help you find literary agents — who accepts queries and what genres they work with. Also, you can find some publishers at the second one below.

http://www.querytracker.net/literary_agents.php

http://www.authoradvance.com/

If you’re in need of help with your query letter, this site offers some great samples.

http://www.charlottedillon.com/QuerySamples.html

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of this. But don’t. It’s not as hard as it looks. Just do a little each day, and you’ll have a good idea where you want to submit and what they expect from you and you manuscript.

What are some of your favorite resources as a writer?

Happy submitting.

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Congratulations to our resident blogger Sybil Nelson for winning The Strongest Start Competition at TheNextBigWriter.com with her middle grade entry, Priscilla the Great. She also has a movie deal for it. Now all she needs a publisher to realize the awesomeness of Priscilla The Great.

To get a sense of Priss’s voice, check out her blog Prissy Fit and the way-cool Priscilla The Great website. You can also get Twin Shorts FREE, a short story collection about Priscilla’s devil twin brothers written by Priscilla via the masterful pen of  Sybil The Great Nelson.

~ CV

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Please welcome our guest blogger, K.L. Brady, author of The Bum Magnet. I asked her to share her story, since she has such a cool one.

K. L. Brady is a D.C. native but spent a number of her formative years in the Ohio Valley. She’s an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively. She works as an analyst for a major government contracting firm and is an active real estate agent with Exit Realty by day—and writes by night (often into the wee hours of the morning). She lives just outside of D.C. in Cheltenham, Maryland, with her son, William, and two pet Betta fish, Spongebob and Jerry, and lives to eat chocolate, shop, read, and write.

How My Publishing Deal Found Me…

Some say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I probably wouldn’t consider myself “lucky” any other way.

A few short months ago I was offered a two-book deal with Simon and Schuster on the first novel I ever wrote. Authors go years and years waiting for the fortuitous “break” to happen—sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. So, I’m often asked what was the secret ingredient? Karla, how you did get an editor to notice your novel? The easy answer is, “I dunno!”
The complex answer is I prepared like hell for opportunity, and when it came, I was ready.

For those who may not be aware, I self-published my debut novel, The Bum Magnet officially in October 2009, after fruitlessly trying to find literary representation. By February 2010, an executive editor at a publishing house had expressed interest in my book. A month later, I had an agent, and within another month I had a deal.

So, how did I prepare?

1. I wrote a pretty good book. It’s commercial which, in short, means the editors think it has the potential to sell a lot of copies. In all the letters I received back from editors, rejections or expressing interest, nearly every single one said they are looking for good commercial fiction and asked my agent to send it the moment he got his hands on it.

2. I also workshopped it and had it proofread and edited pretty well. Not perfectly mind you, but pretty well. I quite frankly could not afford to get the line edit from a former editor at a publishing house like I really wanted to do. So, I opted for the cheaper manuscript review in which she read the entire manuscript and gave me tips on plot, structure, pacing, etc. The suggestions she made were VERY minor, she was surprised that it required so little—but this was after it had been workshopped on TheNextBigWriter.com.
3. I designed the book so that it looked professional, that includes ensuring that it had a catchy book cover. Feedback has been about 70-30 in favor of the design. Can’t please everyone…but you can try to please as many as you can.


4. I designed and implemented a comprehensive marketing strategy.
The ebook versions on Kindle and Smashwords were as much a part of my marketing strategy as they were a part of my sales strategy. I sold them for 99 cents and got them into A LOT of hands. My Amazon rankings shot up high and remained there for a long time. My priority was getting my work out there, not profit.

I promoted my book like CRAZY. Every single day, I did at least 3 to 5 marketing activities. Posted it anywhere they would allow you to post a book. Promoted everywhere I could, including on the Amazon Discussion Boards which is where I think I had the most success. I also marketed heavily to book clubs.

5. Got it reviewed. I sent it out to book blogs, book clubs, and review sites and requested reviews. Among the most helpful were the book clubs and the Midwest Book Review, at least I believe that’s where I got some attention.

Along came Luck…

Fast forward to sometime in early February 2010. To this day, I don’t know how she found me, but the editor from Kensington sent me an email and said that she was interested in talking about my book. Needless to say, I was over the moon. We spoke the next day for about 45 minutes or so.

The details are foggy now. I just thought it was surreal to be talking to her. She has a number of African-American NY Times Bestsellers on her list (Carl Weber, Mary B. Morrison, Mary Monroe). I knew exactly who she was and I knew the publisher well. As a matter of fact, I had sent a partial in mid 2009 but never heard from her. (For those of you not aware, you can query Kensington editors directly. You don’t need an agent.)

So, she asked me about how I got into writing, how I went about publishing my book, what kind of marketing plan I’d put together, etc. In one of the funnier moments in the conversation, she asked me if I’d queried any agents or editors. I said, “Well, as a matter of fact I sent my partial to you.”

She got quiet and I heard her fish around her desk. She had my query sitting in an envelope right in her overhead. Ha! How’s that for coincidence? Of course, she was mortified. I told her not to feel bad. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. There was a reason that she didn’t read it back then. So, she suggested she’d be making me an offer. She asked me for a copy of my manuscript and to see my two works in progress. So, I sent them to her.

I was advised to get an agent and sent a note to the editor asking if she minded. She said no. As a matter of fact, she referred an agent to me.
At that point, I knew she was serious.

I queried a few agents, including the one she recommended for me. I went on Publisher’s lunch and found agents who worked with author in similar genres. I wanted someone with experience in selling African American (AA) fiction. Within a few days I had a few that were very interested. I ended up picking the agent who represented two female best-selling AA authors who write in different genres than mine. He had great credentials (a former editor for big houses) and he knew how to sell AA fiction. I couldn’t go wrong.

He asked me to make a few edits to the manuscript. Admittedly, I was reticent only because my book was already out there. But it came down to the fact that, even though I’d sold a couple thousand copies (ebook and paperback), I hadn’t sold enough to the point where changes to the manuscript would impact millions of readers.

So, I got over myself and my few measly sales and I made the changes he suggested. He sent it out wide—meaning submitted to all the major editors at the major publishing houses that he thought would be interested. He submitted it just as he would an unpublished manuscript but in the accompanying letter, we let them know that it had been self published, received great reviews, was building word of mouth, yadda yadda yadda.

So, two weeks go by and the rejections start rolling in. After about 4 or 5 I asked if I should get depressed and he said we had a long way to go. Finally, an editor from S&S said she liked it and was passing it around. The original editor who expressed interest from Kensington was still interested and waiting on her boss to return from vacation. Then another editor from Grand Central (Hachette) expressed interest. After all the offers and counteroffers, we finally accepted the one with Pocket.

That’s pretty much the story.

To answer some of the questions I received, no one ever asked about my sales numbers until after the offers were made. I did not query anyone after I published the book. I queried before I published but not after. So, I can’t really say whether trying to query an agent or publisher after you’ve self-published will work for you. I didn’t have to query.

How do I think she found me? Well, my book had been reviewed on several sites where her authors book were also reviewed. Mine was one of the few self-published books to get a 5-star rating, “favorite,” or “top read” status. My book also stayed in the Top 100 African American fiction list on Amazon. I went through the list at the time, and I was the only book on the list that didn’t have a publisher. I’d also been reaching out to book clubs and stuff like that. So, there are a lot of ways she could’ve found out.

I was also asked why if an author, such as myself, was doing well in distributing my book and getting good reviews, why would I relinquish control and sell my rights to a publisher?

Without a whole lot of work, there is no way I could reach the audience that S&S or another major publisher could reach. It was not about the advance for me. It was about the opportunity this deal offered to build my author brand and I plan to take advantage of every perk the brand and affiliation with a house comes with to market and sell more books. As a new/first-time novelist, I also wanted the chance to work with an editor so that I can improve my craft.

So, the long and short of this story is, I didn’t really find this deal, it found me. Your deal is waiting to find you too, and it all starts with writing a good book. When opportunity knocks, just make sure you’re ready!

Thanks, K.L, for sharing your story and what worked for you. Check out the synopsis and trailer for The Bum Magnet.

SYNOPSIS:

Real estate agent Charisse Tyson seems to have it all-a great job, a dream car, and a McMansion in high-and-mightyville. Everything in her life is just right…except the Mister. While lamenting the break-up with her most recent “the one” during a holiday meltdown, Charisse realizes she has a type when it comes to men—players, players, and more players. A magazine article motivates her to swear off men and examine the complex roots of her romantic fiascos.

Just five simple steps to turn her life to the stuff of legends, right? Life is never that easy…  Charisse commences her do-it-yourself therapy project and barely cracks open her emotional toolbox when she encounters the monkey wrenches: an irresistible new beau, two persistent ex-flames, and an FBI agent with life-altering secrets threatening to turn her world upside-down.  A tug of war ensues and Charisse is dead center, trying her best to distinguish the Don Juans from the Romeos. As her love life is propelled into unpredictable twists not even she could imagine, will a twenty-seven-year-old secret keep Charisse from finding the right “one”?  Laugh loud and often as Charisse discovers whether her choices in men reflect more than a penchant for good looks, great sex, and bad judgment.

TRAILER:

Thanks so much, K.L. Very informative post. I especially enjoyed the marketing aspect, which included things I hadn’t thought of.

Swing by K.L. Brady’s blog and website if you’d like to connect or learn more about her upcoming novels.

~ CV

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