New Book Release Dates

I have release dates for my next two books. A Bad Hair Day Cookbook will debut on November 19, 2019, and Easter Hair Hunt will arrive on March 10, 2020.

New Release

First, a bit of news – I am excited to share that my blog is #29 in the Top 40 Florida Blogs from Feedspot. Isn’t that awesome? Go here to see the list: https://blog.feedspot.com/florida_blogs/

Back to the launch dates. Why so far away? Because launching a book takes more than polishing your manuscript to perfection. It means soliciting reviewers and giving them time to read the book. It means planning a book launch party, writing blog posts, scheduling a virtual book tour, creating memes, reserving ads, ordering print materials, and much more. A lot of work and time goes into marketing a new book. This is also the reason to allow some space between releases. After a book is launched, you still need to promote it on social media, continue your guest blogs and in-person speaking engagements, collect and post reviews. You might run a sale on a backlist title or offer a giveaway. So it’s wise to allow for some breathing space between book release dates.

A Bad Hair Day Cookbook will be ready for pre-order soon, and I’ll be sharing the awesome cover with you in an upcoming post. This would be a great gift for your holiday gift bags, and remember to order one for yourself as well.

Be sure to follow me at BookBub or Amazon to be notified when my pre-orders become available: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/nancy-j-cohen  and/or https://www.amazon.com/author/nancyjcohen

I will have a limited supply of digital review copies for the cookbook. Please notify me if you have any interest in being added to my list of potential reviewers. I ask for reviews to be posted on Amazon, plus BN, Apple, and/or Goodreads. Spotlights are also welcome on your blog site, in which case I’ll send you an info sheet alone. If you’ve reviewed my books before, you’ll get priority. Please add these release dates to your calendars.

Author Nancy J. Cohen announces the release dates for her next two books. #newrelease Click To Tweet

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Writing Contests for Published Authors

Is it worthwhile for published authors to enter writing contests? That depends upon your goal. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider before entering your book in a contest. These are paid competitions, where judges actually read your work, and not the ones at conferences where people vote on their favorite books or authors.

are writing contests worthwhile

Pros
Gain exposure for your work to new readers
Potential to call yourself an award-winning author
Placement as a semi-finalist or finalist will provide a sense of validation
A winner’s badge will add prestige to your credentials

Cons
The contest fees can be high
Entering contests may be time-consuming
Winning awards won’t help you sell books
Low scores, if feedback is provided, can be demoralizing

Prestigious awards are offered in every genre. In the mystery/thriller field, we have MWA’s Edgars® and the International Thriller Writers contest, the Thriller Awards Competition. These books are read by dedicated judges. Mystery conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic have contests, but your book has to be nominated and voted on by attendees.

States also have writing awards you can enter, and so do smaller regional or chapter conferences. For example, there’s the Florida Book Awards competition in my state.

How do you decide which contests to enter? Consider these factors:

Sponsoring Organization: Will readers or fellow authors recognize this award? Do you care?
Judges: Are they readers, booksellers, librarians, or other authors?
Prize: This is a prime consideration since you’ll be spending money to enter the contest. Is it worth the entry fee and effort merely to get a certificate if you win? What types of publicity come along with the award? Do the promises of cash and exposure to industry professionals ring true? Will you get a plaque, medallion, lapel pin, or trophy? Do you have to be present to accept your award, or will the sponsors mail it to you? A digital badge is useful, because you can add it to your book cover and website and use it in your promotional posts. Are printed award stickers available for your print books if you don’t want to redo your cover?
Cost in Entry Fee: These can range from $25 to over $100 to enter. See if there’s an early bird discount and try to get your book in before then.
Book Requirements: Does the contest require physical books, which will cost postage, or digital entries?
Competition: Are there multiple categories so your subgenre is represented, or is one general category applied? For example, can you enter for best cozy mystery or amateur sleuth novel rather than best mystery novel? You’ll have a better chance with narrower categories.
Categories: Some contests tempt you by offering additional categories with your submission for a reduced fee. Be careful of your spending as costs will add up. Is this to your benefit or more to the contest organizers who make money from each submission?
Past Experience: If you’ve entered a contest two or three years in a row and your books never place in the finals, or reach the finals but never win, it might be time to save money and move on. Perhaps their judges just don’t appreciate your subgenre or style.

Here’s a watchlist that will help you make an informed decision:
Watchdog Desk of the Alliance of Independent Authors
https://selfpublishingadvice.org/allis-self-publishing-service-directory/award-and-contest-ratings-reviews/

Keeping Track of Entries
How do you find these lesser known contests? Follow your author colleagues and see what contests they’re entering. Look on Facebook at your author friends sites for announcements of contest wins. Also check your local writing organization newsletter. Make a list for your book title of which contests might be appropriate to enter. Be sure to check for your work’s eligibility, entry deadlines, fees, judges and prizes.

When you enter, make a note of the contest name, the sponsor, the costs, the categories you’re entering, the date of submission, the format or number of copies sent, and the dates when finalists and winners will be announced.

In Conclusion
Making the semi-finals or finals of a contest where your book is evaluated against other works is an ego boost. It’s not easy to place against potentially hundreds of other authors, so consider it a well-earned reward if you do place in the top tier. Here are some of the badges I’ve earned and can proudly display on my website book pages.

CIBA 1st Place Winner

Semi-Finalist Kindle Book Awards Finalist 2018

If the award doesn’t come with a badge, hire a graphic designer to create one for you or make your own.

Be happy to accept your kudos where you can get them and post about your successes. We want to celebrate with you.

Are writing contests for published authors worthwhile? #bookmarketing #pubtip Click To Tweet

Authors, what do you think? Have you benefited from entering writing contests?

 

Self-Publishing Made Simple – Part 10

This is Part 10 in my Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series.

Self-Publishing

The Library Market

What format do libraries prefer?

Librarians responded to one author’s query stating they preferred trade paperback in large print over hardcover books, because hardcovers were heavier, more expensive, took up more space on the shelves, and were difficult to hold for older patrons. This may not be true across the board, but it’s something to keep in mind. You might want to conduct your own survey.

E-book Pricing Suggestions for Libraries
$.99 retail – $2.99 library
$3.99 retail – $7.99 library
$4.99 retail – $9.99 library

Library of Congress Control Number
Libraries use the Library of Congress number to organize their materials. This program allows them to catalog books before they’re published and to add the digital record to their computer search program.

If you have an imprint that buys ISBNs from Bowker, you can set up an account with the LOC. You cannot, as an individual, order a number for a book. You have to buy at least 10 ISBNs. Publishers must list a U.S. city as place of publication on the title or copyright page.

Apply online through the small press option at https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ about two to four weeks before you go to final formatting. You’ll need to assign your ISBN number first, because LOC will ask for the title and ISBN. They email you the LOC number and how you should put it on the copyright page.

Be aware that getting a Library of Congress Control Number does not guarantee the LOC will catalog your book. If they choose not to, when a librarian plugs your number into their system, they will pull up a blank entry.

Items that are NOT eligible include works under fifty pages unless it’s children’s literature, E-books, mass market paperbacks, books that have already been published, and more. Complete list is here: https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/about/scope.html

Getting Your Book Into Libraries

You can help make your print book available to librarians by offering a discount through IngramSpark and by listing your book in their new release catalog. You can also offer it through Baker & Taylor at Draft2Digital. Having an LOC number is an optional choice.

See if your county or city library system accepts books by local indie authors. Some have special programs just for this purpose. Offer to give talks and participate in panel discussions to get to know your librarians. For e-books, make sure your book is available through Overdrive. See Part 6 below.

How to Reach the Library Market for Indie Authors #indiepub #indieauthors Click To Tweet

Coming Next: Final Thoughts on Indie Publishing

Did you miss the earlier posts on my Self-Publishing Made Simple blog series? Go here to catch up:
Part 9 – How to Use IngramSpark, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4qn
Part 8 – Why Choose IngramSpark, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4qk
Part 7 – Print Book Distributors, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4qh
Part 6 – E-book Distributors, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4qf
Part 5 – Book Production for the Indie Author, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4q6
Part 4 – Buying and Assigning ISBNs, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4pO
Part 3 – Adding Front & Back Material, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4pz
Part 2 – Manuscript Preparation for the Indie Author, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4oX
Part 1 – Getting Started as an Indie Publisher, https://wp.me/paLXP7-4oQ

 

Too Many Great Posts, Not Enough Time

Do you get so caught up in reading blogs, webinars, and posts and/or listening to podcasts, that you get nothing else done? I have been catching up on reading newsletters from my professional writing organizations, trade journals to which I subscribe, plus blogs on marketing and other business aspects of writing. If only I could clear my Inbox, I tell myself, I’d turn my focus to the nine backlist titles that I still have to reissue.
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And yet the more of these articles that I read, the more that keep popping up in my email. Moreover, reading this advice makes me feel terribly guilty. Why am I not able to do all these things? The articles offer wonderful marketing strategies and tips, and yet I’d need to be either thirty years younger to have the energy or three clones to manage it all.
Meanwhile, I am accomplishing nothing else. Is it because I’ve lost my mojo? Or is it that I can’t move on to new material until I get these backlist titles done? Then again, maybe it’s burnout and time for a break. It used to be that I put my writing goals first in the morning before glancing at email or social media. What happened to this self-discipline?
So I’ve decided to skim these articles, file the information for later, and do only what I can for now. It’s more important to move on to the next project. This means I need to practice BICHOK more often – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Get off the couch, and go to work.
This goes for you, too, my fellow writers. Let’s pay less attention to the “should” demons (i.e. the things you should be doing) and more time to the work we can control. Your success is only as good as the next book. It’s not dependent on how many social media posts with cute memes you’ve posted.
GIVEAWAY
Enter Here Aug 9 – 23 to win a signed advance reading copy of TRIMMED TO DEATH, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
 

Preparing for a Book Launch

Once you or your publisher sets a date for your new release, you can start planning ahead for the big day. You’ll need to begin months earlier and get your pieces lined up ahead of time. Planning for a new release can be a full-time marketing job, so I’d advise you to set aside a few weeks to get everything done. Here’s a basic countdown schedule to act as a guideline.

Book Launch

4 to 6 months ahead

Prepare your story blurbs and tag lines.

Update the author biography on your website. Have a short and long one along with a separate speaker introduction.

Send out advance reading copies to reviewers and bloggers.

Announce the launch date in your newsletter and on your social media sites.

Schedule a virtual blog tour.

Reserve ad space in trade journals, e-magazines, and online reader sites.

Set up speaking engagements and signings.

Consider doing a Pinterest story board.

2 to 4 months ahead

Send out a press release about the new release and include signing dates.

Do a Cover Reveal once your book is available for pre-order.

Write a page full of tweets and Facebook posts about the new release.

Create your book trailer (optional) and add to social media sites.

Write guest blog articles and interviews for your virtual book tour.

Run contests or giveaways with your ARCs as prizes.

Order print promo materials and swag for conferences.

Consider if you want to put another book in your series on sale during the window of your book launch.

1 to 2 months ahead

Set a book launch party date, time and place. Here’s an example of the online site I share with author Maggie Toussaint: https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/. Other authors might invite their writer friends to participate. Note what appeals to you and use these elements in planning your own book party.

Write the party posts, determine the prizes, and schedule all posts ahead of time.

Create memes for your launch party and the new release.

Send out “Save the Date” notices. Treat the launch as an “event” and broadcast it on your social media sites and to your influential contacts.

Schedule a newsletter and blog to post on the launch date.

Update your website with reviews as they come in. If time permits, thank each reviewer.

Write a book club discussion guide (optional).

Post the first chapter on your website.

Put excerpts on your blog to entice readers to want more.

Do as much of this work in advance as you can. This is simplifying all the effort a book launch entails, but being prepared relieves some of the stress as your book birthday approaches.

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GIVEAWAY

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Book Marketing

SleuthFest 2018 was a great conference for mystery writers and fans. One of the first workshops I attended was given by book publicist Maryglenn McCombs. These are the points I took away from this workshop on marketing. Any mistakes are due to my misinterpretation.

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Reasons why readers buy books:

Placement (i.e. in library or on bookstore display or in airport store)
Physical Product
Online Exposure
Direct Email
Advertising
In-Person Appearance
Interest in Topic or Setting
Need for Entertainment
Author Endorsements
Hand Sales by a Bookseller
Reader Recommendations
Media such as blogs, radio, interviews, etc.

Public Relations is only one component in selling books. A publicist’s job is to create awareness of your book. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll get media coverage.

Why your book might not be selling:

You’re not meeting the above requirements
Not wide enough cast of promotional efforts
Trying to do too much at once
No advance planning
Product isn’t professional
Cover isn’t appealing
Too much “buy my book” social media
You’re offensive on social media (i.e. talking politics or using bad language)
Book is overpriced
Not targeting your audience
You get a great review and don’t share or promote it. But make sure you have permission first.
Your book doesn’t have any endorsements.
You aren’t doing signings and appearances. Look for non-traditional outlets.
Writing/editing needs improvement
Bad cover copy

What does not work:

Radio tours, with a few exceptions like Authors on the Air
Lengthy book tours
Purchased editorial ads
Purchased reviews
“Buy my book” social media tactics
Book trailers
Swag
Gimmicks such as dressing in costume for an appearance

These may work or not:

Street teams
Soliciting Amazon reviewers
Facebook ads

What works:

Major media coverage
Attending conferences
Print media
Launch parties
Steady media coverage over time
Personal contact with booksellers
Finding your superfans
BookBub ads/deals
Starred reviews
Winning awards
Big author endorsements
Making the “Best of” lists
Getting into Gift Guides
Writing a Great Book
Having a Professional Product

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Writing Goals for 2018

Do you set New Year’s Resolutions for your writing career? I divide mine into creative and business goals and also decide what I need to learn next. At the end of the year, I review my accomplishments and see what has to be carried over to the next term. Here are my objectives for 2018. Any additions or suggestions? What are your goals for the new year?

Goals

CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue revised ebook edition of Silver Serenade
Publish revised Author’s Edition of Died Blonde
Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition
Produce Body Wave Audiobook
Finish and Launch Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries

If there’s time left, start on these projects:
Plot Bad Hair Day mystery novella
Revise
Keeper of the Rings
Revise
Dead Roots
Continue backlist title reissues and audiobooks

BUSINESS GOALS

Prepare PowerPoint lectures and handouts for upcoming events
Enter Hair Brained in writing contests
Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media

LEARNING GOALS

Learn how to do Facebook Ads
Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors

GIVEAWAY

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Thank You for Following

I want to offer a big Thank You to my blog followers for sticking with me through the years. You have my special gratitude if you’ve left comments, liked a post, tweeted one or shared it on Facebook. I’m especially touched when you come up to me at a conference and mention that you appreciate my blog. I send these messages out into cyberspace without knowing if anyone reads them. So it’s most gratifying to get any kind of feedback.

ThankYou3

As a gift to you in return, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a $15 Fandango gift card, so you can see one of the latest movies. All you have to do is comment below and your name will be entered. The drawing will take place in two days.

In your comment, let me know, if you wish, what you like about this blog, what you dislike, or what kinds of articles you’d like to see more of in the future.

Meanwhile, have a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!

All the best always,

Nancy

15 Steps to Writing the Smart Synopsis

Do you dread writing a synopsis? If so, get used to it, because this tool is essential to your career as a writer. Not only is a synopsis necessary for a book proposal, but the sales force at your publishing house may use it to design your cover or to plan marketing materials for your book.

Smart Synopsis

A synopsis is a complete narrative of your story told in present tense. A synopsis should include essential plot points plus your character’s emotional reactions. It can act as a writing guideline while not being so rigid that your story can’t change. When you finish the actual writing portion, you can return to the original synopsis and revise it to suit the finished storyline. So how should you proceed?

1. Consider adding a tag line (i.e. one liner story blurb) on your first page before the story begins.

2. Open with a hook.

3. Use action verbs. Your story should be engaging as you convey it to the reader.

4. Make sure the story flows in a logical manner from scene to scene. In a mystery, present the crime, the suspects, and their secrets. Then show how the sleuth uncovers their hidden agendas and unravels the clues.

5. Avoid backstory. Stick to present tense and keep moving the story forward. Enter background events in small doses via dialogue or interspersed with action, and only if it applies to the current situation. Less is better. And don’t reveal too much up front. It’s best to keep the reader guessing.

6. Leave out minor characters, physical descriptions unless applicable to the storyline, and subplots unless critical to the resolution of the main plot.

7. Avoid snippets of conversation, point-to-point description of your character’s every move, jumping from one place to another without any explanation, gratuitous sex, or threats on a character’s life unless they evolve from the story.

8. Include your character’s emotional reactions.

9. Stay in the protagonist’s viewpoint as you would in the story. Use transitions if you switch viewpoints. Be careful of too much head hopping in a synopsis.

10. Show your character’s internal struggle as well as her external conflict. What’s inhibiting her from making a commitment to the hero? What is causing her to doubt her abilities?

11. Include the emotional turning points. For any genre, tell us what’s at stake for the heroes. What will happen if they fail?

12. In a romance, make sure you cover the goals and motivation of your hero/heroine, how they first meet, their romantic conflict, what leads up to the first kiss, complications that keep them apart, what they admire in each other, the black moment, and the resolution. What makes these two people right for each other that no one else can provide?

13. If it’s the first book in a series, you might begin with a short profile of your main character(s). For a mystery, offer a few paragraphs about the sleuth. For a romance, write a paragraph each about your hero and heroine. What do they hope to accomplish? What is keeping them from reaching this goal? Why is it important to them?

14. Explain the ending. In a mystery, this means you tell whodunit and why. In a romance, it’ll be the resolution of the romantic conflict.

15. What lesson will your protagonist learn in this story? How will she grow and change?

MYSTERY EXAMPLE FROM FACIALS CAN BE FATAL (Bad Hair Day #13)

Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial.

Screams emanating from next door draw salon owner Marla Vail’s attention. She rushes into the adjacent day spa to see a crowd gathered in front of a treatment room. It appears Rosana Hernandez, an aesthetician, was doing a facial on her first morning client. She’d put on the woman’s chemical mask and left the room for ten minutes. Upon her return, Valerie Weston was dead.

Since the receptionist had enough presence of mind to call 911, Marla enters the treatment room to see if CPR will help. It’s too late. The woman has no pulse, and her skin is clammy. The greenish cream mask clings to her face.

The police arrive, along with Marla’s husband, Detective Dalton Vail. He takes charge of the scene and questions Rosana. The tearful beautician claims Val had been a long-time customer, and the only known problem she had was a latex allergy. Rosana was careful not to use latex gloves in her presence.

Marla, owner of the spa plus the salon, is upset about the negative publicity this incident will generate. She has applied to become an educator for Luxor Products, whom she’d worked for once at a beauty trade show. But there’s another person being considered for the job. A smear on Marla’s reputation would be detrimental. But she’s also concerned about Rosana and proving the aesthetician wasn’t at fault.

Marla has an additional problem during this December season, which should be full of happy holiday plans. One of her clients is suing her. The woman claims Marla left on her hair dye too long, and it burned her scalp. Marla contacts her insurance agent.

Doubts roil in her stomach, and they increase when lab tests confirm liquid latex had been added to Val’s face mask cream. Val died from anaphylactic shock. Rosana denies her involvement, and Marla believes her. So who else had access to the room, and why would someone target Val?

ROMANCE EXAMPLE FROM WARRIOR LORD (Drift Lords #3)

A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.

Erika has had one drink too many at the blackjack table in Las Vegas when a bearded man wearing a cape and sword drops into the seat next to her. While his strange garb doesn’t arouse her curiosity, his comment on her wristwatch does. A gift from her parents when she turned sixteen, the watch runs with no visible mechanism and no battery, and it has a peculiar symbol engraved on its face. Her nape prickles at the man’s interest but an announcement over the loudspeaker distracts her.

The casino is holding a contest for engaged couples to win fifty thousand dollars. The lucky winners will have a televised wedding and receive a new car, a stay in the honeymoon suite, and the cash.

Erika mutters how she could sure use those funds, and the mysterious stranger overhears. He leans toward her and makes a scandalous suggestion. Why not pretend they’re engaged and enter the contest? He needs a room in the Viking-themed resort, but the hotel is full.

Giddy from the free drinks offered by the staff, Erika accepts his proposition. She doesn’t think they’ll win, but hey, the competition will be fun and all contestants get bonus credits on their club cards.

When they actually win the contest, she goes through the rushed wedding ceremony in a mental fog. Magnor kisses her and something sparks between them. However, she balks when he suggests they stay together in the honeymoon suite. She already has a room at the resort. However, his rationale is valid. If the resort people discover their deception, she and Magnor might lose their prizes.

Soon she’s alone in a room with the tall stranger. She’s drawn to his brooding good looks and muscled form but is puzzled when he becomes taciturn at her attempts to draw him out.

Someone knocks on the door. It’s the official from the televised marriage. He wants Erika’s address so he can mail out the official marriage certificate. With a jolt of clarity, Erika realizes the ceremony was valid.

Quelling her panic, she considers that having an unexpected husband might suit her needs.

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I hope these examples make you curious to read on. How long should your synopsis be? Mine average around fifteen pages. Sometimes a publisher will ask for a one or two page synopsis which means you’ll have to encapsulate your story into a shorter form. Stay tuned for my next post on The One Page Synopsis.

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