Writing Goals for 2019

Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks.
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So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one.
CREATIVE GOALS
Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries)
Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book
BUSINESS GOALS
Enter latest releases in writing contests
Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media
Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions
Bundle books into box sets
Consider wider distribution for audiobooks
LEARNING GOALS
Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise
Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control
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Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next.
What is the main item you want to get done this year?
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Year-End Goal Review

Each year, it’s important to set personal as well as business goals. And accordingly, at the end of the year, we should review how much we’ve accomplished and what needs to carry over for next time. I hold myself accountable to you, so let’s see where we stand on the writing aspect. As for the personal angle, I survived our daughter’s wedding. That is a herculean task in itself.
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CREATIVE GOALS
Reissue ebook Author’s Edition Silver Serenade – January 9, 2018
Reissue print Author’s Edition Died Blonde – February 6, 2018
Produce Body Wave Audiobook – May 11, 2018
Promote Large Print Edition of Hair Brained – Aug. 8, 2018
Finish and Launch Trimmed to Death – Sept. 25, 2018
Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition – Nov. 12, 2018
Write Epilogue to Hair Brained – Launched as short story Hairball Hijinks – June 12, 2018
Revise Keeper of the Rings – Reissued July 13, 2018
Revise Dead Roots (Revisions Done; Needs read-through)
Continue backlist title reissues (Revisions Done on Perish by Pedicure and Killer Knots)
Plot Easter Hair Hunt novella (In Progress)
BUSINESS GOALS
Prepare PowerPoint lectures and handouts for upcoming events (DONE)
Enter Hair Brained in writing contests (DONE – Also entered latest titles into contests)
Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media
LEARNING GOALS
Learn how to do Facebook Ads (NOT DONE)
Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors (NOT DONE)
As you see, I did great in the creative arena but didn’t reach my learning goals. In January, I’ll formulate new goals for 2019. How about you? What were your major accomplishments this year?
 

Tips for Query Letters

Do you want to send an agent a query letter but have no idea what it should include? Or perhaps you’ve sent out several queries and you keep getting rejections. What could you be doing wrong? Here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the path to success.

Query Letters

Check the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. This will tell you what genres the person represents and if they prefer email or snail mail submissions. The guidelines will also state if you should include any sample chapters.

Make sure the agent does not require an exclusive submission. If so, you’d lose months while waiting for a response. See if the agent mentions their expected response time.

Write a one-page snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, a catchy story blurb, and your writing credits. If possible, include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This means using keywords such as “paranormal” or “dystopian” or “domestic suspense” or saying your story is “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.” If you can compare your style to similar published authors, do so without bragging about how your book is as wonderful as Ms. Bestselling Author.

Be careful not to sound as though your writing is all over the board in terms of genres. Be clear about your focus. For example, don’t give the genre as a suspense novel and then mention that it takes place on another planet and your next book will be a vampire story. You’ll want to build your author brand by focusing on one genre as you grow your readership.

Do not describe your life history or any personal details unless they relate directly to your book. Do include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.

You can also mention why readers might want to read your book. What is the value in it for them? Again, don’t brag and say it’s the most exciting book they’ll ever read, or it’s a fast-paced thrill ride. This is for readers to determine. But if it helps them appreciate family values or learn about how you can rise above past mistakes, this could be useful to include as a theme.

Basic Structure

First Paragraph – State your book’s title, genre and word count. Here you can put if you’re a published author seeking representation or a new author seeking an agent for your first book.

Second Paragraph – This is your catchy book blurb. Write it like a log line for a TV show or like the back cover copy of your book. You’ll want to engage the reader’s interest. 

Third Paragraph – Here offer your biography as it applies to your writing, including works you’ve published, memberships in professional writing organizations, writing workshops you’ve attended, critique group participation. Mention any expertise or work credentials that apply to your book. You can also make marketing suggestions or mention your proposed target audience. Mention if your story is book one of a series.

Last Remarks – Thank the agent for their consideration and offer to send the completed manuscript upon request. Do mention if this is a multiple submission.

Signature Line – Here is where you can add your social media links. Doubtless the agent, if interested, will look you up to see if you have an online platform.

If you hear nothing back from the agent for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if she’s received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the message.

If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Also respect that while the agent might offer suggestions for improvements, this is not an invitation to resubmit your work unless the agent says so in her response.

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After Your Book Launch

What should you be doing in the days following your new book release? Promotion doesn’t end when your book launch is over. You’ve tossed the ball into the court. Now you need to keep it rolling. Let’s say you have sent advance reading copies to reviewers and are participating in a blog tour or doing guest posts along the way.
Book Launch
What else can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Start a file for Amazon reviews and copy down each review as it’s posted, along with the date and reviewer. Do the same for Goodreads. Repeat for bloggers and other review sites. If you start getting tons of reviews, skip this step and go to item two.
  • Check these names against your personal reviewer list and mark each one as done. Then you’ll know which reviewers followed through so you can approach them with your next release.
  • Send a thank you email to the reviewers on your personal list who have posted.
  • Send a reminder to the reviewers who have not yet posted.
  • You should have already written a page of tweets and posts for your new book. For each reviewer, note their Twitter and Facebook handles. Now pull relevant quotes from these reviews and add them to your Tweet page. Remember to tag the reviewer.
  • Also write a tweet or post for each stop on your blog tour. Tag your hosts and add a link to their site.
  • Set your Twitter posts to rotate automatically at a site like SocialJukebox.com or schedule them ahead of time at Hootsuite. Space out your Facebook posts between your own pages and your groups.
  • Add quotes from reviews to your website.
  • Check your Amazon book’s page. If you don’t see reviews posted by your reviewers, you can add them as quotes via Amazon Author Central.
  • If you are doing a blog tour, return daily to each site and respond to comments. Leave your own comment thanking the host for having you there.
  • Get the specific URL for each post about your book and update it on your Appearances page. Shorten the link for tweets.
  • If you’re running a contest, don’t forget to mention this to your followers.
  • Remember to promote your friends’ books and retweet their posts so it’s not all about you.
  • If you’re doing concurrent sales on your other books, you’ll need to advertise these as well.
  • Gauge the effectiveness of the newsletter you sent out the day of your book release. Update your mailing list by removing bounces and unsubscribes.
  • If you boosted your Facebook post, was it effective? How many engagements and clicks did you get?
  • Keep meticulous records so that when you have another release, you can contact the reviewers who posted about your book and drop the people who got an advance copy but never responded. Then you can seek new readers to fill in the gaps.

I’m sure you can think of many more activities you’re doing in the couple of weeks following your book release. It’s a busy time when the pace seems relentless, but it will ease off. You’ll have to keep the promotional ball rolling, but at least it’ll be more of a steady pace than a race. What would you add to this list?

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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.
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Cover Reveal – Writing the Cozy Mystery 2nd Edition

Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition by Nancy J. Cohen

 
WRITING THE COZY MYSTERY Expanded Edition eBook
 
Do you want to write a cozy mystery but don’t have a clue where to start? Or are you in the middle of a story and stuck on the plot? Perhaps you’re already writing a series, and you need tips on keeping your material fresh. Writing the Cozy Mystery will help you develop your characters, establish the setting, plot the story, add suspense, plant clues and sustain your series. This Second Edition contains more examples; additional writing exercises; expanded sections; and seven new chapters including The Muddle in the Middle, Romance and Murder, Special Considerations for Cozy Writers, Keeping a Series Fresh, Writing the Smart Synopsis, Mystery Movies, and Marketing Tips. You’ll find everything you need to know in an easy-to-read, clear manner to write your own mystery and maintain a long-running series. Recommended for cozy writers, mystery fans, and creative writing classes.
“If you are thinking about writing a cozy mystery, read this book first! Nancy lays out all the necessary steps in an interesting and informative way that is easy to follow. This book was an invaluable tool when I wrote my first cozy. Highly recommended.” Catherine Bruns, USA Today Bestselling Author
“Nancy J. Cohen offers clear examples, practical writing exercises, and friendly advice designed to help the beginning cozy author start—and finish!—a saleable book. Even seasoned cozy writers can find helpful hints for building better characters and story.” Diane A.S. Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon, NY Times Bestselling Author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries
“If you want to write a cozy mystery—or really, any kind of mystery—this is the book for you! Everything you need to know in one handy volume.” Victoria Thompson, Bestselling Author of the Gaslight Mystery Series
Digital Edition: ISBN 978-0-9985317-2-4, $3.99, Nov. 12, 2018, Orange Grove Press
Print Edition: ISBN 978-0-9985317-3-1, $9.99, Nov. 12, 2018, Orange Grove Press
Cover Design and Graphic Illustrations by
Boulevard Photografica
Print Pages: 130 pages. Word Count: 28,000 words
Nonfiction – Reference – Writing Guide
First edition has over 180 reviews with a 4.5 average rating!

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Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2MHOZRH
Amazon Kindlehttps://amzn.to/2Pbmwoh
iBooks:
https://apple.co/2JVdQ6E
BN Nook: http://bit.ly/2yImTCz
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2tFjsqC
Universal Link: http://books2read.com/cozymystery
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40642868-writing-the-cozy-mystery
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Enter Here to win one of two signed advance reading copies of Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
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Key West 2018

We drove down to Key West on the Thursday before the Mystery Fest Key West conference began. Once you hit the Keys beyond Miami and Homestead, you pass interesting little towns on each island along with scenic ocean vistas on either side of the highway. On Ramrod Key, we stopped for lunch at Boondocks. Their creamy New England clam chowder was one of the best. I liked the crabmeat salad and cole slaw that accompanied the soup. A half portion of salad was more than enough.

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After arriving in Key West, we checked in at the Doubletree Grand Key Resort and then took the hotel shuttle into town. Here we meandered around until our friends Alyssa Maxwell and her husband joined us for dinner. We dined at Conch Republic Seafood Company. Richard and I shared stuffed mushrooms and grilled mahi mahi. We were as stuffed as the mushrooms when we’d finished.

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Friday morning, we were free, so we visited the East Martello Museum, a Civil War era fort. Exhibits tell about how the fort was used during the war as well as a bit of Key West lore including ghost stories and the creepy Robert the Doll tale. Doll houses, a treasure chest, and a cannon were among the relics displayed. Then we went outside toward the tower where a spiral staircase takes you to the top. Here are some scenic views.

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Hungry from our exertions, we drove into town and lunched at Pinchers Crab Shack on Duval Street. Then it was back to the hotel for the start of the conference.

 What’s your favorite place in Key West?

See all my Key West Photos Here

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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Where Do You Write?

“Where do you write?” is a common question for writers during book talks. Readers might imagine us toiling away on an old typewriter in some attic with a tiny window. Or perhaps they see us working on a sleek laptop while enjoying the breeze from a seaside veranda. We could be creating our masterpiece in solitude while viewing a lake and sipping tea on a screened patio as crickets drone in the nearby woods. Or maybe we pound away on our keyboards while drinking coffee at the local Starbucks. Don’t you see folks there working on their laptops and wonder if they are aspiring writers?

My work environment is more mundane. I work at home. I have a dedicated home office. I am surrounded by things I love, such as books and memorabilia and gifts I’ve bought myself to commemorate my published works.

I love my corner desk so much that I don’t ever want to leave this house. As I sit here now, straight ahead is my Dell computer monitor. I use an ergonomic keyboard by Adesso that has saved my wrists. On shelves above, I have writer-related gifts from my kids and others, and a collection of trolls to represent the Trolleks who are the bad guys in my Drift Lords series.

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Looking to my left, down below are lots of drawers. One extension to my desk serves as a printer stand. Above this are my latest plotting notebooks, some books on writing, and proofs for my latest works in print. On the very top are a collection of novelty pens and a train locomotive from a fan painted with the cover from Murder by Manicure. Most treasured behind a glass door are my Flamingo Award from MWA Florida Chapter and a Lifetime Service Award from Florida Romance Writers. Behind these awards is a signed photograph from Star Trek star Jonathan Frakes.

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To my right are how-to writing books in the crime fiction field, copies of all my books in various print formats, a jeweled calculator, a world clock, and a pencil holder from Area 51. Flashlights, emergency radios, and portable lanterns stand at the ready on every surface in case we have a power blackout during hurricane season.

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Bored yet? We’re not done! I have a separate mahogany desk for correspondence, and this is where I pay bills and do the household accounts. Above this is a bulletin board and various medals and framed certificates for accolades I have earned.

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The closet in this former bedroom had been converted into bookshelves before we moved in and was one reason why we loved the house. The shelves are totally full. Besides my reference books on all subjects and more books on writing, I have a paperweight collection, an onyx chess set, a sword I bought in Spain, and other tchotchkes.

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The room is completed by three more sets of plastic drawers from office supply stores, mailing supplies, two tall bookcases, and more reference materials.

I spend all day in this room. It’s my home within a home. Can I work elsewhere? I’ll dabble at marketing and revisions when away from home, but I can only create in this environment with silence for company. No background music or coffee house chatter for me. I need quiet.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my work space. Now for those stacks of papers that need filing…. Until next time!

 

Body Wave Audiobook

Are you an #audiobook fan? I’m excited to announce the release of Body Wave Audiobook, #4 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries! Join my Book Launch Party on Thursday, May 17 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT for Fun & Giveaways at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty

BODY WAVE AUDIOBOOK

Narrated by Mary Ann Jacobs. Published May 11, 2018 by Orange Grove Press

Stylist Marla Shore goes undercover in a hair-brained scheme to catch a killer in her latest South Florida adventure. In a story braided with unexpected twists and curls, she takes on a role as nurse’s aide for wealthy Miriam Pearl. While Marla snoops into the elderly matriarch’s affairs, her boyfriend, Detective Dalton Vail, is afraid that the only affair she’ll snag is with her ex-spouse, Stan. Juggling work at her salon, crime solving, and two amorously inclined males, Marla fights a race against time to save Stan before the dashing detective nails him for murder.

Listen to a Sample: https://soundcloud.com/mysterygal/body-wave

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Excerpt from Body Wave

Marla tried to fathom the dynamics of their conversation. Florence seemed to be attacking Kimberly’s values while Stella was defending them. Why was the elderly aunt coming down so hard on the dead girl? Did it have anything to do with Florence having been in love with Kim’s father?

She wheeled Miriam away to a discrete distance, on a slight rise where the driveway curved toward a tree-lined avenue leading to the obscured entrance beyond the woods. It was far enough that she wouldn’t appear to be eavesdropping yet could still hear their faint voices.

“Morons,” Miriam muttered. “The poor thing is gone. Why won’t they let her rest in peace?”

Marla didn’t respond, too intent on listening. Her hands placed lightly on the wheelchair handlebars, she inclined her head.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get those albums if Stanley won’t cooperate,” Stella said, wringing her hands. “I should have gone myself. Maybe he’d have listened to me.”

“You tried at the funeral, and he ignored you,” her sister sneered. “Can you blame him, when you came right out and accused him of murdering his wife?”

“He knew what Kim was planning. You, of all people, should understand how it would cause him to react the way he did.”

“By killing her?” Florence said in an incredulous tone.

“Who else could have done it? You?”

“Don’t be absurd.”

“You always resented my daughter. I know how jealous you were that she wasn’t your child.”

“Stop screaming. I hate it when you get hysterical.”

“Did you do it?”

“Hell, no.” Florence shook her elegant head. “If you want to know, Kimberly was messing in things she didn’t understand. She should have minded her own business.” Leaning forward, she spoke in such a low tone that Marla couldn’t catch what she was saying.

Damn, she needed to be closer. Frustrated, Marla took a few steps forward. Suddenly, she heard a shriek. Whipping around, she let a cry erupt from her lips at the sight that greeted her.

Miriam’s wheelchair coasted down the hill at an increasingly perilous speed.

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“Ms. Cohen’s plot has more twists than a French braid, and Marla is a shear delight.” Joanne Fluke, author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries

“In Nancy J. Cohen’s fourth bubbly Bad Hair Day mystery, Florida hairdresser Marla Shore agrees to help her snake of an ex‑husband, Stan Kaufman, who’s been arrested for the murder of his third wife, Kimberly, find the real killer.” Publishers Weekly

“In Body Wave, Marla faces more shades of guilt and malice than she has colors of nail polish in her salon ‑‑ and exposes herself to a hidden killer who may decide that eliminating Marla is a permanent solution for getting away with murder.” Barnes & Noble Ransom Notes

“You will find it all within the pages of Body Wave: a touch of romance, laugh out loud moments, hilarious characters, and a puzzling mystery.” Romance Readers Connection

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This title is also available in ebook and trade paperback formats. Body Wave was originally published by Kensington. This audiobook and related versions are the revised Author’s Edition. For more details, visit https://nancyjcohen.com/body-wave/

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