Author Talk

I’ve never done a Facebook Live author talk. These are the things we writers do now. I’m a little nostalgic for a book festival or a conference or a signing. That will all be coming back, just not for this book. Not yet. Linda and I have done a lot of that kind of promotion together. A few highlights: We did a book fair, an author signing involving 20 authors in a huge store full of beautiful furniture and clothing and other things, and at least one conference (probably more than one) when we were both in the same writer’s group.

Then there was the reader’s festival in Alpena, a cute little town northern Michigan with indie bookshops and lots of readers. We took our husbands on that trip and stayed at a rustic lodge and had dinner in a great restaurant in the middle of the forest. We took a horse and carriage ride to view elk. It was a fun weekend. Plus we were helping our books.

We did a signing together at one bookstore, then we were on a panel discussing topics of interest to readers at a second bookstore/gift shop. There was a Q & A. I love a good Q & A, especially with a friend.

This Facebook Live event came about being Linda and I both have books out now and we were talking about how in the heck we were supposed to promote them. We came up with a few ideas. Linda was going to set up a Facebook Live Chat, which is how she found Jenifer from Pink Panther Magazine, who kindly offered to host us.

Turns out, long ago, Jenifer was a creative writing student of mine. And she’s now a successful author! It was great talking to her again. Our official talk is on Friday and if you’re my Facebook friend, I invited you. Even if we aren’t Facebook friends (I don’t have my author page on FB anymore, but that’s another blog post…) you can sign up to view the event at 4 pm this Friday. So, as weird as this time is for everyone, including writers, good things happen anyway.

Hope to “see” you Friday.

Solving a Marketing Mystery

Blue Lake Christmas Mystery is on sale this month! 99 cents on Kindle started yesterday, Nook and iPhone also 99 cents starting today. I don’t know about other writers, but I’ve never earned a penny from Nook or from iPhone. My publisher makes my books available on all the eBook sites; it’s a mystery why only Amazon sells.

I decided to do this book promotion on my own with no help from my usual tech smart people. I got excited about the idea that I could just do something low key and not make it a huge thing. Something easy. Not too stressful. The mystery is why I don’t approach marketing that way all the time.

Instead I get visions of my landing page wallpaper featuring falling snow as a backdrop to a great tagline and beautiful book cover. That swirling snow looks so pretty, but I’d need to hire someone to do that. And also, I would usually start thinking about trying to place a BookBub ad to get more sales. If you’ve never done BB ads, let me just say it is stressful and can also be expensive.

What I want more of this holiday season is less stress. I cannot stress this enough. 🙂 Also I love reading Christmas novels. I don’t think I’m the only one…so I figured why not be nice and lower my price? I can’t be the only reader who loves a 99 cent deal.

So here’s a fact lots of people don’t know. As you get older, you will like to get into the Christmas mood earlier. This year, for the first time, I read my first (of many, I am sure) Christmas novel before Halloween. I used to be one of those people who thought it was best to wait until after Thanksgiving to make a peep about Christmas. But that’s when I was younger. Now I’m older, time moves faster, so I need more of it to finish up all the Christmas and holiday themed books and films I’ve bought or recorded.

I don’t actually know if all older people feel the way I do about getting started on the holidays earlier, but I do know that retail outlets have no problem beginning marketing earlier (it seems) every year. So I figured I could do the same. Easy research.

The other bit of easy marketing research comes from personal experience. I am so busy in December. Too busy to read as much as I’d like. I tend to stack Christmas novels in a TBR pile, and rather than look for a new book, I just pick from my handy book stack. Or, I’ll watch a holiday movie I recorded in November.

So this is my no-stress, commonsense, low key marketing plan for my Christmas novel. One other happy little coincidence (well happy for me, not for Katie Hill and other victims of revenge porn) that I didn’t have to lift a finger for is that even though my novel was published two years ago, revenge porn is a current hot topic, so my first tagline practically wrote itself.

While writing Blue Lake Christmas Mystery, I thought about all the ways it could be awful if someone you trusted and loved posted a video or nude photos of you online. Might you be so upset you’d kill him? Indeed, is that the reason a perfectly nice fictional guy was murdered at a Christmas party in my book? Because he wasn’t, underneath it all, quite so nice?

Renewing Writing Practices

Reading and journaling these past weeks with Colleen Story’s game changing Writer Get Noticed, so many of my writing plans have come into sharper focus, including how best to adjust my writing practices. Specifically, I’m looking at changing writing routines when my husband retires at the end of the year.

When I finish Jane in St Pete in December, I have no plans for a next novel. Al’s retirement is not the only reason it feels right to take a break from writing novels. Since I’ve been publishing books, I’ve steadily released at least one a year. I noticed a slow down with Lily White in Detroit, my tenth novel.

At first I attributed my decreased output to the added research that comes with writing crime novels, but after studying Colleen’s writer’s self-help guide, I realized I’ve come to a natural stopping point, at least for now, at least as far as writing novels.

As I worked through the illuminating exercises Colleen lays out in a genius step process, I learned that while adjusting to a new life passage that involves fun, travel and moving out of my home state, I still want to keep some portable writing practices. Writing a novel takes a big chunk of time, a room of my own and steady commitment, day after day, month after month.

My life is not going to have those long stretches of time in a writing room, at least not for a year or maybe even longer. Although…I start every day with morning pages, and have done for many years. I won’t give up my journal and gel pen. And I don’t want to give up my fiction writing groups and friends, either.

Short stories helped me fill the gap after Lily White and gave me something to bring to my critique groups. Stories kept my craft skills sharp. And eventually, they led to Jane in St. Pete. Like many writers, I started writing fiction with short stories. I published a few of them, but mostly they were a way to begin to figure out my voice and how to write a narrative.

Things can get stale for me if I keep doing them over and over without hitting refresh, and that happened recently with morning pages. I’d write a half page and sit there with nothing to say. Julia Cameron, who introduced me to morning pages, recommends three pages every morning. That’s still what I shoot for. Answering the questions Colleen poses became a way for me to write not just three pages every morning, but four, five, even six pages. All while discovering what to do next.

I was on fire as I got deeper into the heart of what I really want out of my writing life now. More flexibility. Less sustained attention. Writing I can finish in a couple of hours or days. Long before I began the daily discipline needed for writing novels, I was a blogger. I also published book reviews, personal essays, poetry and short stories. All things I enjoyed and could do around my teaching job.

With the help of Colleen’s therapeutic method of writerly inquiry, I was able to figure out how to keep the writing I love close while figuring out how this new adventurous phase of married life will look in retirement. I have so many new goals. I’m looking forward to finishing Jane and going through the editing process with my publisher’s guidance. I can’t wait to gear up for the marketing aspect of a new release–Colleen also helped me clarify how to do publicity my way.

I’ve learned what does and does not work for me as a writer. I love morning pages, social media, my blog. I especially enjoy giving my website a fresh design, which will happen in 2020 along with that novel I’ve been working on for a while now. 🙂 I’ve still got a ways to go with the novel, but the revision is coming together even as I decide what to pack and what to leave behind on this next great adventure.

The Social Side of Writing

Michigan Sisters (and a Mr) in Crime Critique Group

I’m still reading and journaling with Colleen Story’s book Writer Get Noticed. It’s been so enlightening. Light bulb after light bulb. Today I worked on identifying my strengths as a person and as a writer. I don’t focus on my strengths very often. I take them for granted. Maybe because they’ve hardly changed since I was a child: creative, organized, introspective. I’m social, too, but I’m always looking for the balance between being social and being alone for essential-to-me writing and reading time.

One way I combine being social with my need for writing time is in critique groups. I have two groups I meet with regularly plus another writing group I love in Florida. I’m a member of Michigan Sisters in Crime. Saw those folks Saturday (In photo, I’m sitting next the Mr–yes we have men in our group!) and will see them again on September 28 at Elizabeth Buzzelli’s workshop. Elizabeth always gives good workshop. This will be no exception. It’s open to the public, so if you’re a Michigan writer, you should come! We can be social together 🙂

About six months ago I felt like I was getting a little too social online. I quit Facebook (I talked about that decision here.) This morning I was texting a friend and, not for the first time, thought about getting on Facebook again in a very limited way. I have a few non-writing loyal friends and yes, being off FB meant we were more reliant on text and phone calls. We set up RL lunch or dinner dates. All good. But I was amazed when, after a few texts we spoke on the phone and I found out how much had happened in Donna’s life since we saw each other last, just a few weeks ago.

I thought about my strengths, the ones Colleen made me remember, especially being social. And I dipped my toes very carefully back into Facebook. I know better how to deal with FB this time. I’ve been on Instagram all along so I’ll reconnect those two accounts, post exactly the same and basically keep my friend list very short, as I have done on Instagram.

I follow thousands of people on Twitter, but interaction there is very different and I manage it just fine. You can tweet me anytime @cynthiaharriso1. Twitter is my favorite way to interact online. I met Colleen there! And so many other writers who are important to me. I’m very comfortable with the “super soft sell” approach I take to book marketing on Twitter. I’m not on social media to sell books. It’s nice if it happens, but I wouldn’t do any of it if I didn’t enjoy it.

Which brings me back to why I’m trying Facebook again. I want to see if I can be there in a way I enjoy more. I’m not going to open a new business page on Facebook, as that really never worked all that well for me. I didn’t have a huge following or sell a significant number of books. It’s difficult to interact with readers, there, too.

You might have noticed that Colleen’s book has the words GET NOTICED in the title. I won’t lie, this made me nervous at first. I don’t really want to get noticed. I like laying low, holing up, doing my own thing. That’s why I’m a writer. I work alone. Well, until I send a new book to my publisher and my editor comes on board. But sure I want to sell more books. I thought it was a dilemma but Colleen has made me realize it’s more of a fine line. Finding the best way for me to be comfortably noticed as a writer.

As I get older, and look toward my husband’s retirement, I’m less interested in teaching, public speaking or giving workshops. I don’t enjoy book signings unless they’re group signing with other writers. Some of this marketing stuff is important to do when I release a new book. It’s gratifying to connect with readers in real life, so that’s why I do some limited public appearances. Colleen helped me clarify all that. Her book helps writers figure out ways to work with their natural inclinations and strengths to measure and build the platform that is right for them.

Book Marketing on Pinterest

When’s the last time you had fun marketing your books? My answer until maybe a month ago would have been never. Then, I decided to create a Pinterest board for every one of my books. Sure, my website lists all my books with links and descriptions, but Pinterest goes the extra imagination mile, helping me find photos that express who my characters are and what their setting is, even down to the rings on their fingers and the pillows on their fictional sofas. Since the advent of Kindle, I’ve missed the element of browsing book covers. Pinterest gives that back to me, and more.

Since I’ve succumbed to the deliciousness of pinning, all my books have come more alive to me. Making a perfect board for every book is still a work in progress, but as you see above, my first two rows of boards are all for my books. Lily White in Detroit is my latest novel, so it’s the first board. Obviously you want those novels front and center for marketing. And don’t forget the buy link! I’m working a bit here and there on Pinterest as I try to finish a novel before my husband retires in December. And I have a board for that, too. It’s the best one. Jane in St Pete has categories!

When I got off Facebook, it freed up so much time. Time to write Jane in St Pete (coming in 2020) and time to play. Pinterest is very fun to play with, and while I’m not sure it will be a great marketing tool for me, it’s more than just having fun. Working with visuals spark ideas for my books…and my life.