Setting Goals for 2020

For writers, it’s important to set concrete career goals. These should be as specific as possible and ideally attainable. It helps to divide these objectives into creative and business aspects. As a professional author, you need to pay attention to both. So let’s see where I stand at the beginning of this new year.

Setting Goals for 2020

 

CREATIVE GOALS

1. Publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

This book is written but needs a final proofread before going into production. My cover artist is polishing the cover. The next step will be formatting, another inspection for conversion errors, and then upload for pre-orders. Sending out the book to reviewers, doing a cover reveal, planning the launch party and preparing for a blog tour are all part of the marketing for a new book release. The date is slated for March 10, so I have to get these tasks done.

2. Reissue mystery backlist titles and update earlier covers.

For purposes of author branding, my cover artist is tweaking my earlier covers to make them all consistent in terms of font, text placement, imagery, etc. One early cover has a total makeover and another one has a partial. The other tweaks are relatively minor. Adding to this task might be my four Five Star titles but they’re not on the horizon yet.

3. Revise and reissue romance backlist titles.

I still have six romance titles that need to be made available online. These early books require editing since my writing has vastly improved over time. I need about two months per book for this process as it requires one round of line editing and two rounds of read-throughs for polishing.

4. Do another audiobook.

I’d eventually like to put Writing the Cozy Mystery into audio. Or I could do the next Bad Hair Day mystery instead. It might depend on number 3 below.

BUSINESS GOALS

1. Bundle books into box sets.

Once my backlist titles are all updated, I can begin packaging them into box sets.

2. Participate in sales and giveaways.

Again, once my entire backlist is online, I’ll have more leeway to offer pricing incentives.

3. Experiment with going wide for audiobooks.

My audiobooks are currently available only on Audible, iTunes and Amazon. I’d like to see how they would do if more readily available to libraries and other resources.

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After Easter Hair Hunt, my next priority is getting all my backlist titles available online. Then it will be time for something new. But these books have been preying on my mind for some time now, so I have to get them done. It will be immensely satisfying to have all 27 books (8 romances, 16 mysteries, 1 novella, and 2 nonfiction titles) the best they can be and available to readers everywhere. At that point, I will face what to do next. What do you think it should be?

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Writing Goals Revisited 2019

Each year, I set goals for my career as a published author. In December, I’ll examine these writing goals and take stock of what I’ve accomplished. January is the time to set new goals for the year. It’s important to perform these tasks so you have a path to follow. I divide my writing objectives into two sets – Creative and Business. We have to work on both of these in our careers as professional authors. So let’s see what I’ve gotten done. I hold myself accountable to you, my readers.

 

CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue remaining backlist titles – PARTIALLY DONE

The following Author’s Editions were released this year. Each one takes a couple of months to complete with manuscript preparation, proofreading, formatting and cover design.

Died Blonde – March 5, 2019
Dead Roots – March 26, 2019
Perish by Pedicure – April 23, 2019
Killer Knots – May 21, 2019

Write and publish A Bad Hair Day Cookbook – DONE; released on Nov. 19, 2019

Any new book release requires a lot of work, from launch parties to blog tours to social media to reviews. A couple of weeks at least should be reserved for the prep work. The blog tour carries on for a couple of weeks past the release date and involves guest posts, interviews, articles and excerpts. These have to be written as part of the launch sequence. Reviews have to be recorded, reviewers thanked, and quotes added to online sites. Once all this is done, social media posts need to continue even as you turn your attention to the next book.

Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries – IN PROGRESS

I wrote the book, revised it, did the edits, and sent it to beta readers. My cover artist almost has the cover done. This release is slated for March 10, 2020. Meanwhile, I’ve written the posts for a virtual book tour. Final proofreading and formatting come next before the book will be ready for pre-orders.

Publicize Large Print edition of Trimmed to Death from Wheeler Publishing – DONE; released on August 7, 2019


BUSINESS GOALS

Enter latest releases in writing contests – DONE

Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media – DONE

Update website – DONE

This year, we converted my site to Managed WordPress, updated the theme, switched over my blog to my website, and added Office 365 email. These are things that hopefully don’t have to be done too often!

Bundle books into box sets – NOT DONE

This has turned into a bigger project as I have my cover designer updating all of my earlier mystery covers to be compatible with the later ones. At a glance, the covers need to have the same overall appearance in terms of font, text placement, color palette and series logo. Plus, there was an unexpected development with Five Star announcing they’ll be returning rights at the end of this year. That means we’ll have four more books to do. So this project has to be carried over to next year.

As you see, some things got done and others are incomplete. These will be added to my goals for 2020. And that’s the subject for another post in the new year. How did you do with your goals in 2019?

 

Benefits of Writers Conferences

Now is the time to consider which writing conferences you’ll be attending next year. You want to pay the registration fee before the early bird discount evaporates. With so many conferences out there, how do you choose which ones to attend?

It depends upon your goals. Here are some opportunities offered at writers’ conferences. Which ones apply to you?

  • Further your skills by attending craft workshops
  • Get updates on industry news and business issues
  • Learn the latest marketing tips
  • Increase your knowledge of social media
  • Pitch your work to editors/agents
  • Learn about alternate paths to publishing
  • Discover innovative marketing techniques
  • Meet fans
  • Meet other authors
  • Meet librarians
  • Meet influencers in the writing community
  • Get feedback on your work if manuscript critiques are offered
  • Enter a writing contest sponsored by the conference organizers
  • Get a new headshot if a photographer will be on-site taking appointments
  • Participate in an audio or video segment if available
  • Present a workshop or participate on a panel

You don’t want to be stuck in classrooms all day. Most of the benefit at a conference comes from the people you meet. Editors and agents aside, meeting other authors should be one of your prime goals. You can learn so much from each other. Industry personnel, such as bloggers, booksellers and reviewers can be another target to approach. And if it’s a fan conference, by all means target your readers. Chat up everyone you meet in line waiting for meals, sitting next to you in a classroom or at the lunch table. This is not the time to be shy. Choose a table for breakfast or lunch with strangers so you can meet new people. Be gracious, professional, and interested in others. And don’t forget to exchange business cards. Always ask permission before adding anyone to your mailing list.

Some conferences have a hospitality room where you can hang out, drink coffee, and meet other attendees. Frequent this place and come prepared with bookmarks, postcards and swag. Present a friendly face and start a conversation, not so much about your books but perhaps about the conference city, your favorite subgenre, or what you’ve learned so far.

Don’t know what to say? How about, “Is this your first time at XYZ Conference?” Or, “What do you write?” Here’s another: “What sessions have you attended? Did you learn anything new?” And if you’re talking to fans, “What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?” And remember, writers are readers, too.

So get out there and schmooze. You’ll make new friends, meet readers, and gain lifelong fans. You’ll get the scoop on the publishing biz and learn new techniques to promote your work. Be eager to learn. Be open to new relationships. Be yourself and relax, and you’ll have a great time.

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My favorite mystery writers conference is SleuthFest. Register now at http://sleuthfest.com/

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10 Tips for a Successful Critique Group

New writers are always seeking feedback for their novels. Who can they get to read their book and give an honest criticism? They could hire a freelance editor who works with authors or enter a contest that offers judges’ comments. Or they can join a critique circle. It takes hard work and dedication to have a successful critique group for writers.

Critique Groups for Writers

I met my critique partners through Florida Romance Writers. We’ve been meeting for years. We are friends as well as critique partners, and often we’ll celebrate life’s milestone events together.

The six of us meet every other week and rotate houses. While eating a sumptuous brunch, we discuss publishing news, share personal issues, and encourage each other to keep pushing forward. I could not have achieved my current status without my writing friends. In addition, I have to thank them for being taste testers for many of the recipes in A Bad Hair Day Cookbook due out in November.

After exchanging news, we get down to work. We read each other’s manuscripts silently for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, passing the pages around the table, until we’ve read everybody. Then we share our comments aloud, focusing on one person at a time. We discuss character development, emotional reactions, dialogue, plotting problems, consistency, and pacing. We may catch typos, point out clichés, and suggest ways to restructure for more impact.

How can you get started with a critique group? Here are ten tips on what to do:

1. Join a professional writers group and put a notice in their newsletter that you’re looking for critique partners in your geographical area.
2. Limit your group to six members or less.
3. Seek people with compatible personalities and similar, or more advanced, writing levels.
4. Determine what you will be looking for in your critiques. You’ll be examining content, not line editing. Consider holding a separate meeting on occasion for brainstorming plot ideas.
5. Decide on a procedure for your group that is agreeable to everyone. Some groups read aloud. Others, like mine, pass pages around the table and read silently. Still others may email chapters ahead of time. It’s up to you how you want to run your show.
6. Offer constructive criticism. If you see the need for change, make suggestions for improvements in a positive manner. Give praise where it’s due. We all like to hear what works as well as what doesn’t work in our stories.
7. Be sociable. Relax, chat about the industry, and enjoy refreshments. This personal time will draw you closer together and enable you to accept advice more readily.
8. Support each other on social media by retweeting and posting whenever a member has an announcement about their success. Learn from each other’s experiences. Recommend your published critique partners whenever a publicity opportunity arises.
9. Be committed. Try to schedule doctor appointments and other engagements on days other than critique group. Arrive on time and take your turn at hosting on a regular rotation basis. Critique will soon become the highlight of your week.
10. Even if you haven’t written anything new, show up at the meeting. Your other partners need your feedback on their work. Making critique a priority means you are serious about being a professional writer.

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If you’re lucky enough to join a great critique group, it’s like discovering gold. Treasure your partnerships and make a commitment to attend each meeting. You’ll find the incentive to produce increases as your biweekly meeting approaches. Many thanks to my partners in writing—Alyssa Maxwell, Zelda Benjamin, Karen Kendall, Ellen Marsden, and Tara L. Ames. And to our former members who’ve moved away, Cynthia Thomason and Sharon Hartley.

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The Book is Done – Long Live the Book

I have finished the first draft of EASTER HAIR HUNT, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries!

Easter Hair Hunt

Yay, the work is done! Or is it? Yes, the creative part is over, the agony and anticipation of facing a blank page every day and wondering if the words will come. It’s a great relief to type THE END, knowing you’ve reached your word count and have completed the story. But your labor is far from finished.

The first thing I suggest doing next is to revise the synopsis. Inevitably the story has gone in a new direction since you wrote the first version. Now you’ll need to bring this tool up to date. Patch in the new information and polish it so the story reads seamlessly from start to finish.

Why is this important? You may need a synopsis as a sales tool. Your publisher may require one. You might need a synopsis, short or long, to enter your book in a writing contest. Or your marketing department may need it for their purposes.

At the same time, you can start working on your story blurb. If you’re with a small publisher, they may ask you to come up with the cover copy. If you are an indie author, you’ll have to create the book descriptions on your own. Even if you hire one of the services available for this purpose, they most likely will require a synopsis as well. If you’ve gotten a head-start on the blurb, these folks can use it as a jumping off point. You’ll want a one-liner tag line, a few sentences for a log line, then a short one-paragraph description and a longer one of two to three paragraphs. Remember to maintain the tone of your story in the blurb.

Several rounds of editing and revisions will follow. I need some distance from a story before I can begin line editing, so I may work on something else until I’m ready. If you’re writing a series, this is a good time to do research or jot notes for the next story. Or work on a marketing plan for your book. Then it’s time for line edits, read-throughs for consistency and to catch repetitions, editorial revisions, and beta readers. A final polish will always find more to fix. So there’s a lot more work before your baby is ready to face the world.

In the meantime, celebrate your achievement. You’ve finished a book. Savor the satisfaction and give your creative mind a break. Enjoy your well-earned glass of champagne, specialty coffee, or raspberry lemonade. You deserve a treat. Indulge yourself and relax with some fun activities. When you’re ready to return to the story, your muse will let you know.

Writers, what do you do after finishing the first draft of your novel?

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Self-Publishing Made Simple – Part 1

Self-Publishing Made Simple – Getting Started

Have you been wanting to indie publish your work, but you don’t know where to begin? Or does the prospective task seem so daunting that it paralyzes you into inaction? Is this even something you can do for yourself, or will you need a “village” to help you along the path to publication?

Self Publishing Made Simple

Let’s think a moment about the difference between a self-published and an independently published author. Anyone can self-publish his work. But an indie author is more likely to be a professional career writer who understands what makes a polished book and what the marketing requirements are to go along with it. He’s not a one-book wonder but is looking to make a profit. With this goal in mind, he treats his career as a small business. But whichever term you use, these same steps apply. I will use them interchangeably in this multi-post series.

We’ll discuss setting up your own imprint, buying and assigning ISBNs, preparing your manuscript, creating front and back material, and options for ebook and print formats.

Getting Started as an Indie Publisher

First let’s look at why you’d like to indie publish your novel. Do you want to become a hybrid author by reissuing your backlist titles or by publishing new works in between your traditionally-contracted books? Perhaps you have a novel that doesn’t fit genre guidelines or a personal project you would prefer to self-publish. Or maybe you have an idea for a nonfiction book that lends itself to indie publishing.

Why should you self-publish your work?

PROs:

  • You have a backlist and the rights reverted
  • You want to publish work in between your traditionally-published novels
  • You have a book that doesn’t fit into a particular genre category
  • You have a nonfiction project that you want to publish on your own
  • You want to direct the publishing process, in terms of:
  • Quality control
  • Pricing and discounts
  • Input on cover and interior design
  • Higher royalties
  • Rights ownership
  • Publication schedule

CONs:

  • Learning curve
  • Time-consuming tasks
  • Production costs
  • Back cover copy, book descriptions, metatags are your responsibility
  • Author/Series Branding is essential
  • Loss of prestige
  • Difficulty getting reviews
  • Limited booksigning and speaker opportunities
  • Tougher standards to join professional writers organizations
  • Bookstores and Libraries may not stock your work
  • Pressure to Produce

Coming Next – Manuscript Preparation 

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What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of independent publishing?

Avoiding Word Repetitions

When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story.
Word Repetitions
Here are a couple of examples:
Perish by Pedicure
The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?”
Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.”
So she arrived on…?”
“Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.”
“How was her demeanor on this occasion?”
“Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead.
“Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?”
“Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.
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In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.
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Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress)
“This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.”
Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance.
Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.
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A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.
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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.
goals2
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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Top 20 Gifts for Writers

What should you buy for the writer on your gift list? You can be imaginative or be simple. Whatever you give will be appreciated. I’ve come across some fun ideas below to share with you if you’re in a quandary about what to get the writer in your life. Put these in your holiday gift bags and make someone happy.
Gifts
Gift cards are always an option, but which ones in particular may appeal to an author? Let’s take a look and start going down the list.
1. A gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or your local independent bookstore.
2. A gift card to Starbucks if they like coffee or tea.
3. A gift card to a favorite restaurant so your writer can save time in meal preparation.
4. A gift certificate to a day spa to reward a long day spent at the keyboard.
5. Office Supplies are always useful, such as sticky notes, highlighters, paper clips, notepads, mailing envelopes. You name it, we can use it. Here are some ideas to jumpstart the imagination:

 
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6. Journals are handy for notes at conferences or for scribbling down our ideas for plot or characters. Go old-fashioned or modern with these choices:
 
91Rra9Ny1vL._SL1500_ rocketbook
7. Desktop or wall clocks help tell us when we need to get out of the chair and take a break.
 
clock
8. USB flash drive to store important files, or a portable charging device like this Mophie that’s handy in a power blackout. Or how about a pen/flash drive combo?
 
mophieFlash Pen
9. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and other food items are always welcome. Find out what your writer pal favors for snacks and beverages and make sure there’s a handy supply available.
 
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10. Body lotions, hand cream, and scented soaps are always helpful to induce relaxation.
11. Stylish pens are a well-appreciated gift as are pens for booksignings. We can never have enough.
 
Pen  crystal pens
12. A decorative case for a pen collection may come in handy.
 
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13. Mugs come with cute remarks for writers.
 
mug  mug2
14. Decorative coasters are needed to protect our desk from mugs holding our favorite beverage.
 
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15. Jewelry can make a statement about who we are to the reading public.
 
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16. Inspirational Gifts such as this Storymatic activity box and Writer’s Toolbox.
 
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17. Tee shirts, pillows, or other clothing items for writers.
 
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18. Movies. Look for films about writers or favorite genre films/TV shows.
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Lastly, these intangible gifts might be appreciated more than any material goods.
19. Write a review of their latest book and post it online.
20. Give the gift of Time. Take over some chores so your writer can have more time to write.
What else would you add to this list?
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