Crossing the Finish Line

A new writer has in mind one goal: getting published. Often, they don’t think beyond that goal post. But once they get The Call, everything changes. I think it’s Fear of Success that keeps some folks from submitting because they don’t want to face what comes next. They will have to get a publicity photo, reserve a domain name, set up a website and blog. They’ll want to think about joining social networks and decide what to do to launch their debut book.

As a newly published author, you’ll also have to determine a reasonable date for your next deadline if book number two isn’t done yet.  Figure out how many pages per day you can write.  How much time do you need to complete the word count? Allow for vacations, sick days, unexpected crises, and additional work on book one. Thought you were finished with that project? Think again. Figure in two weeks for revisions and copy edits and another week for page proofs. Add an extra week if you want to do a final read through. That’s an added month tacked onto your deadline for the next book.  Working on book one will interrupt your train of thought, and you’ll have extra deadlines to meet.

These days authors are often asked to submit marketing plans, art sheets, blurbs, endorsements, and back cover copy. Since when have we been trained in advertising and marketing? Writers not only have to take workshops on writing, but we must learn the principles of promotion. It’s probably hardest to write what the book is about in two paragraphs or less. For the blurb, you have to distill the story essence into a one-liner like a movie teaser. These things also take up your time.

Do you want to schedule a blog tour? You have to research which would be the best sites, garner invitations, announce the dates on your social networks, and write the blogs or interviews. More time gone out the window. Feeling frantic yet? Oh, and don’t forget printed materials. Once you have your book cover JPEG, you can design bookmarks, brochures, and/or postcards. Having a contest to add readers to your mailing list? Make up the rules, determine the prizes, post announcements, and keep track of entries.

Amidst this flurry of activity, you must stick to your daily writing schedule in order to complete book number two on time. This may necessitate retreating into your writer’s cave for days on end, only emerging to eat and perform other necessary tasks such as paying attention to your loved ones, dealing with household emergencies, and doing the laundry. Did anyone say this job would be easy? And yet it’s what we love to do. Despite the siren call of the Web, it’s still about writing the story, telling the tale that’s in your heart, and spending time with your characters.

Just make sure to allow yourself enough time with reasonable deadlines.

Florida Library Association

I was happy to participate in a panel discussion at the Florida Library Association Convention in Orlando recently. The evening before, local MWA members met for dinner at Hot Olives in Winter Park. Located on New England Avenue, this trendy restaurant sat us outside on their shady patio amid bamboo, lit torches, and tropical trees. I tried their famous chopped olive appetizer and ordered pecan crusted salmon while chatting with fellow MWAers. We all had a great time in a relaxed atmosphere.

Grace Kone & Nancy Cohen
Ann Meier & Sharon Potts
Neil Plakcy, James Born, Julie Compton
Neil Plakcy & Bob Morris
Dean Murphy, Joan Bond, Gerry Wolfson-Grande, Frances Palmingiano
Linda Hengerer & Olive Pollak














Early the following morning, six of us appeared at an MWA sponsored breakfast at the FLA convention. Over 150 librarians ate the sit-down meal while we introduced ourselves and answered questions from the guests. James Born, Neil Plakcy, Julie Compton, Deborah Sharp, Sharon Potts, and Moi then spoke on a panel about Florida mysteries and why we like living and writing about this vast state. We all agreed Florida has such a diverse population, ecology, and climate, not to mention kooky characters, that it’s the perfect setting for our stories.

Julie Compton, Neil Plakcy, Nancy Cohen, Sharon Potts, James Born, Deborah Sharp
Sharon Potts & Nancy Cohen with Librarian Judy Buckland


Lake County Festival of Reading

The Lake County Library System holds a week-long reading festival each year. It must be the best attended library event in the state.  Friday night, March 19, found my husband and I along with 20 other authors at a delightful Author’s Reception in Leesburg Library. Leesburg doesn’t seem like a big town, but the library is a two-story modern building with a café. While waiters circulated with canapes, we met library patrons, readers, staff members, and fellow writers. We had the opportunity to schmooze and hand out promo materials. It was a great event for mingling and getting to know everyone. I knew many faces: Agent and author Lucienne Diver from the Knight Agency, Authors Cynthia Thomason, Julie Compton, Dara Edmonson, Catherine Kean, Michelle Young, Dolores Wilson, Elizabeth Sinclair, Elaine Viets, Mark Schweizer, and more.
Nancy Cohen & Lucienne Diver
Nancy Cohen & Lucienne Diver


Nancy Cohen
Nancy at Reception


Cynthia Thomason, Elizabeth Sinclair, Delores Wilson
Cynthia Thomason, Elizabeth Sinclair, Delores Wilson
Dara Edmonson & Nancy Cohen
Dara Edmonson & Nancy Cohen
Elaine Viets
Mystery Author Elaine Viets
Julie Compton & Dara Edmonson
Julie Compton & Dara Edmonson















We crashed later that evening at the Holiday Inn Express in Tavares located on the tranquil Dead River. A quaint seafood restaurant, Fin’s, is nearby. It was about fifteen minutes away on 441 which was good, because my workshop started in the morning at nine o’clock back in Leesburg.

I spoke on How to Get Published: The Business of Writing. My talk covered the basics on manuscript preparation, query letters, synopsis, how to get an agent, the value of networking, contests and critique groups, self-editing, and more. We had about forty people in the audience, and they asked good questions. I enjoyed speaking to such an enthusiastic crowd.

Nancy presents workshop
Nancy presents workshop

For a lunch break, my husband and I cruised 441 and settled on the Red Lobster. Then we headed back to the library for my afternoon session, a panel entitled “Murder, Love, and Laughter” with mystery authors Elaine Viets, Mark Schweizer, Elizabeth Sinclair, Delores Wilson, and Nancy J. Cohen.

Nancy, Mark, Elizabeth, Elaine, Delores
Nancy enjoys speaking to group

Kudos to Judy Buckland, Lake Co. Library System’s Program Coordinator, for a terrific turnout and a great event.  Thanks, also, to Raintree Books for selling our work.






And now for the plug: Support your local libraries! Take out books and DVDs, join Friends of the Libraries, attend their events. I can’t tell you how many readers have written to me to say they first discovered my mysteries on the library shelves. Libraries are more like media centers these days with videos, computers, even digital downloads. Take advantage of this public service and visit your local library. Hugs to all librarians!

SleuthFest 2010

SLEUTHFEST is one of the best mystery writer conferences around. I had a great time schmoozing with old friends and meeting new people. On Friday, I participated in a panel called “The Power of Publicity”. Rod Pennington narrated, and I had the pleasure of listening to my fellow panelists discuss their tips for promotion: Sandra Balzo, James Grippando, Charles Todd, Pearl Wolf, and Dirk Wyle. Sandra suggested targeting bookmarks and other printed material to booksellers, librarians, and book clubs. I gave the pointers that were in my last blog regarding free Internet promotion since many of us authors wish we had bestsellers like James or Charles. Pearl offered her pearls of wisdom, and Dirk chimed in advising us on niche promotion like he does with his science background.

Attendees had a choice of four tracks of workshops: Craft for the Beginning Writer, Career development for Advanced Novel Writing, Hollywood tips and tricks on the Stage and Screenwriting track, and Forensics. I skipped the bomb squad visit because I’d heard a similar topic at one of our regular meetings. I also avoided the CSI stuff since my books deal more with relationships than crime scenes. Instead, I stuck to the career track options.

EDITORS ROUNDTABLE with editors from G.P. Putnam, Poisoned Pen Press, and Berkley The Berkley editor said their cozy program is very successful and some titles have even become bestsellers. Thrillers work well for them also, and they do true crime and historical mysteries. The Poisoned Pen Press editor prefers stories with no graphic sex or violence. They’d like to see strong historicals and classic mysteries with detection, not so much thrillers. They are open to new, unpublished authors. This editor in particular is tired of bed & breakfast settings and quilting cozies. She’d like to see a medieval historical mystery. Email submissions are accepted and an agent isn’t necessary. Putnam wants work that is fresh and polished with something extra. They’re interested in building a career, not just one book.

NEGOTIATING A KILLER CONTRACT with an editor and two agents discussed deal points, boiler plate contracts, and e-rights, a hot and touchy topic. They said e-books are appealing to younger and older readers and are cutting into large print sales.

HOOKS, LINES, AND STINKERS  found agents and editors dissecting what makes a good query letter. One of them said she appreciates thank you notes even for rejections where she’s taken the time to comment on a work.

Lunch followed with guest speaker Stephen J. Cannell from Hollywood, who gave an inspirational talk about his rise to fame. Auctioneer and author Cynthia Thomason conducted our annual author auction where bidders could win critiques from our chapter’s experienced scribes.

Finally, I attended Randy Rawls’s BOOK BROADS, a humorous look at the writing life presented by authors Kris Montee (aka P.J. Parrish), Deborah Sharp, and Christine Kling, and bookseller Joanne Sinchuk.

The cocktail party followed with food and drink for all, and then it was home and back to reality. What I enjoyed most was chatting with everyone and seeing people I hadn’t greeted in a while. Making friends is the best part of any conference, although the four tracks of workshops offered something for everyone. Kudos to the conference organizers and volunteers!

Cynthia Thomason and Nancy J. Cohen
Cynthia Thomason and Nancy J. Cohen
Nancy, Kathy, Karen
Nancy J. Cohen, Kathy Pickering, Karen Kendall
Sandra Balzo & Rhonda Pollero
Sandra Balzo & Rhonda Pollero
Christine Jackson & Sharon Potts
Christine Jackson & Sharon Potts
Traci Hall, Pearl Wolf, Linda Conrad, Nancy J. Cohen
Vicki Landis, Kathleen Pickering, Karen Kendall
Vicki Landis, Kathleen Pickering, Karen Kendall
Johnny Ray & Olive Pollak
Johnny Ray & Olive Pollak
Sharon Potts & Christine Kling
Sharon Potts & Christine Kling
Joanne Sinchuk & Randy Rawls
Joanne Sinchuk & Randy Rawls

Planning a Promo Campaign

How soon should you begin publicizing your new release? As soon as you sign the contract. But what if you only have a short lead time? In four months, my new book will launch. Am I prepared to announce it to the world? Not totally. There’s a lot of work to do first.

In this digital age, most of my promotion will be online. But with the choices of what to do being so overwhelming, how can you choose which are the best? Don’t be like me: I take a look at what other authors are doing and hit the panic button. Where will I find the time to do all that? Then I remember the advice from workshops I’ve attended: focus on a few targets and spend your energy there.

Where should you start? Consider breaking down your campaign into manageable parts and tackle one at a time. Decide on a countdown. What’s the most important item to start working on now? Get a calendar and mark out your dates. Here are some items for your list:

BLOG TOUR: Besides keeping up with your own blog, look for popular bloggers with a focus on your genre, inquire about a guest blog opening the month of your release date, and fix a schedule for a visit. Your host may want you to offer a giveaway, so decide upon the book or item you’re donating. An ebook download or bookstore gift card are alternates to a signed print book and will save you postage. Once your tour schedule is arranged, publicize it on all your sites.

BONUS FEATURES: Add bonus features on your website related to your story so readers who like the world you’ve created can read more about the characters, immerse themselves in the world building details, consult a glossary, or get a taste of sequels to come.

BOOK TRAILER: Have you uploaded your trailer to all the possible sites?

CONTESTS: Plan contests leading up to your release date and celebrating the book’s debut. What prize will you offer? Consider a bonus item for people who leave blog comments or for your newsletter subscribers. Publicize on sites beyond your own.

INTERVIEW: Interview yourself about the new book and offer it as a guest blog, post it on your website as a bonus feature, or consider recording it as a podcast.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: If you already have friends on Facebook, should you start a fan page? Are you taking advantage of all these sites have to offer? On Goodreads, for example, you can now offer giveaways. Spend a day at a time on each site to make the most of them. Some examples: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and more. Or pick one day a week and that’s your day to put aside writing and spend it on promotion.

READER FORUMS: Visit discussion groups in your genre and begin participating several months ahead of your release date. Avoid blatant self-promotion unless it’s a group just for that purpose. Look on the social networks for these discussion groups as a way to get started. Your publisher may also have a listserve for this purpose.

VIRTUAL BOOKSIGNINGS: Okay, I’m not quite sure what this is but I’ve read about it. I believe you sign up with a bookstore online, like an indie, and show up for a virtual event. This concept requires more research on my part.

It’s a lot easier to write this list than to do it. As with any overwhelming project, it will be more attainable if you break it down into manageable tasks. This means focusing on one item at a time.