Saturday, Sept. 26, at 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, “Plotting Made Perfect” with Nancy J. Cohen via Zoom for the All Write: Jump Start Your Novel virtual event sponsored by The Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (FMWA), in collaboration with Nova Southeastern University. Free to the public. Register Here – Space is Limited.
Have an idea for a story but don’t know where to go from there? Or are you stuck in the middle of your manuscript? Award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen will discuss the elements of plotting and how to develop your idea into a novel. This workshop will cover character development, plotting techniques, story structure, writing tools, and secrets of the synopsis.
Saturday, Oct. 17 at 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, “Why You Need an Audiobook and How to Make One” with Nancy J. Cohen, Florida Writers Virtual Conference. Register Here to attend virtual conference for only $57.
A BAD HAIR DAY COOKBOOK won a Gold Medal in the FAPA President’s Book Awards and is a Finalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards. Get your copy with 160+ quick & easy recipes, plus excerpts and anecdotes from the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. https://amzn.to/2N9fanK
Save $6 off regular pricesuntil Sept. 8th for THE LIGHT-YEARS SERIES – tales of galactic adventure, new technologies and love among the stars. Note – These stories will be available on Kindle Unlimited. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08G8N73QW
If you want to get them individually:
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Pre-Order SALE $2.99 Cultural specialist Mara Hendricks and Commander Deke Sage meet on a mission to rescue a kidnapped child in a voyage that takes them across the galaxy and into each other’s arms. STARLIGHT CHILD https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08G8NKKGL
Saturday, Sept. 26, at 1 p.m., “Plotting Made Perfect” with Nancy J. Cohen via Zoom for the All Write: Jump Start Your Novel virtual event sponsored by The Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (FMWA), in collaboration with Nova Southeastern University. Details TBA.
Aside from managing all the above, I am working diligently to finish proofing through The Drift Lords Series, which will be coming next. These are reissues and were previously published by The Wild Rose Press. I am happy to make all of my prior titles available for you.
Enter Here June 23 – 29 to win up to 25+ Cozy Mystery eBooks and bonus paperbacks in this multi-author giveaway. My book, Shear Murder, is included!
Please join me at one of these upcoming online events. It would be great to see some friendly faces in the virtual crowd.
Monday, June 29, 4:00 pm – Chat with author Nancy J. Cohen
Nancy J. Cohen will discuss her cozy mysteries set in Florida with a touch of humor and a hint of romance via Zoom. Sponsored by National Council of Jewish Women Palm Beach as part of their “What’s in the Author’s Bag?” program. **Pre-registration and fee required. https://ncjwpalmbeach.org/whats-in-the-authors-bag/
Wednesday, July 8 at 3 p.m. Self-Publishing Made Simple with Nancy J. Cohen, a writing workshop sponsored by South Florida Book Festival Do you have a novel that doesn’t fit genre guidelines or a personal project you want to self-publish? Or perhaps you want to reissue backlist titles or become a hybrid author? In this workshop, award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen will discuss setting up your own imprint, buying and assigning ISBNs, preparing your manuscript, ebook and print distributors and marketing tips. Register here: https://broward.webex.com/broward/k2/j.php?MTID=t2837d4c885a368ab35e39866caaa2420
For more information about #SOFLOBOOKFEST go to www.sfloridabookfestival.com/2020
Wednesday, July 15 at 3 p.m.Blogging, Posting, & Tweeting Your Way to Success with Nancy J. Cohen, a writing workshop sponsored by South Florida Book Festival Blogging is a proven route to building followers. You can start even before you’re published by sharing your writing journey. Or perhaps you already have a blog but want to increase your subscriber list. How can you attract more followers? In this workshop, we’ll discuss how to get started blogging as well as useful techniques for Facebook and Twitter. Register here: https://broward.webex.com/broward/k2/j.php?MTID=t652b81d9202dca80961d83990b69b036
For more information about #SOFLOBOOKFEST go to www.sfloridabookfestival.com/2020
SleuthFest 2020 is on the horizon March 26-29, and I’m already gathering materials for what I’ll need to bring. Writers’ conferences require advance preparation, especially if you’ll be speaking on a panel or giving a writing workshop. You’ve already determined your goals in participating, some of which may be referenced here: https://nancyjcohen.com/benefits-of-writers-conferences/
Aside from determining your objectives—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to bring. (Note – This is an update to a previous post.)
Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.
If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material, prepare a PowerPoint presentation if desired, and make copies of handouts. Sometimes the conference coordinators will offer to make the copies for you. Bring your laptop or thumb drive with these files and another flash drive for backup.
If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.
Order business cards unless you have them already in stock. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.
Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the promo tables. That’s assuming your conference has space available for this purpose. If not, you can hand them out at your workshop or as you meet people one-on-one.
Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.
Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price. Bring cash for raffle tickets, drinks at the bar, gratuities and other incidentals.
Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.
Bring a copy of your receipts showing your registration and any other special paid events.
If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.
Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to circulate at your workshop and to put out at signings.
Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.
Bring a highlighter so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.
Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.
Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching accessories.
Determine which gadgets to bring along—iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?
Pack a notebook to take notes if not using an electronic device for this purpose. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge. If you intend to paraphrase a large portion, ask permission of the presenter at the end of their session. Or send an email afterward stating your request.
Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.
If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.
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 other authors
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.
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.
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.
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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After lunch on Saturday at Sleuthfest mystery writers conference, I attended a workshop given by Jane R. Wood on Marketing Your Books to Schools. This was a lot more complicated than I would have guessed. Your books must be appropriate for schools, have educational value, and be compatible with the core curriculum. They should reinforce what the teachers are teaching in their classrooms. Also, you should be able to enhance its value with additional educational resources. These might include vocabulary words, discussion questions, student activities such as puzzles and games. Suggest books the students might read that will reinforce their curriculum.
As an author, you should be prepared to discuss revising, editing, sentence structure, the writing process. You should be comfortable speaking to kids and willing to work with the school on payment options. Offer a discount on book sales and make up a purchase order form. Ask if you are allowed to sell books directly to students. If so, print copies of a promotional flyer that they can take home.
To approach a school, contact the media specialist if you don’t know anyone there. Check out the school website for contact info. Send a short email providing information about your school visits and direct them to your website. Offer a complimentary review book. If you are accepted, ask about school expectations for your visit, the length of each presentation, and all the logistics involved.
As I left the room In awe of the preparatory work needed to propose a school visit, I meandered toward the editor/agent appointments. Since I wasn’t needed as an usher, I went upstairs to rest until the evening cocktail party. At Sleuthfest, we always include enough food for dinner, and tonight’s pasta station and passed hot appetizers were no exception. The raffle basket drawing was held at the conclusion.
Sunday Morning, March 17, 2019
I participated on a panel on Independent Publishing this morning along with David Wind and Tara L. Ames. We discussed the importance of a professional product before seguing into book marketing. As David said, about forty percent of a writer’s time is spent on writing, while the remainder is spent on marketing. This critical element applies whether you are traditionally published or indie published. We had lots of material but ran out of time.
Brunch included a talk by esteemed author Les Standiford in the ballroom before the conference ended.
Saturday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers conference, I spoke on a panel about Ending Your Book with Susan Sussman, Cheryl Hollon and myself, moderated by Lynnette Austin. We discussed if we are plotters or pantsers, how we approach the end of our books, how to make it satisfying for the reader, tying up loose ends, what turns us off as readers, and how to ramp up the action in the middle. Also, how do you avoid predictability while remaining true to reader’s expectations? We got some great questions from the audience.
Next, I attended a workshop on Writing Mystery Short Stories with author faculty Elaine Viets. “Think small and think twisted,” was her advice. Avoid having too many characters, lengthy descriptions, background information, and subplots. More than four characters are too many. Your story needs a twist or a surprise at the beginning or at the end. Story length should be 3000 – 7000 words.
What editors are not looking for are spouses who killed each other, a main character who wakes up from a dream, cruise ship murders, and oleander poisoning.
The story should have a singularity of purpose and a type of movement or trajectory. This is likely to be how the characters respond and grow. Put in roadblocks that could derail the story. Lay the groundwork for the plot twist. Its purpose is to reveal character.
Lunch followed with keynote speaker T. Jefferson Parker. FMWA President, Diane A.S. Stuckart, received the coveted Flamingo Award for her service to the chapter.
On Friday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers conference, the editors’ roundtable was held. Guest editors included Anna Michels (Sourcebooks), Chantelle Aimee Osman (Polis Books), Stacey Donovan (Hallmark Publishing), and special guest Neil Nyren. Conference co-chair, Michael L. Joy, moderated. Here is the gist of what I learned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.
Sourcebooks has acquired Poisoned Pen Press and its entire backlist. Anna is acquiring for this line. She’s looking for mysteries, thrillers, and suspense. Their books run 75k to 110k words.
Hallmark’s core audience likes print books. These would be sweet and wholesome stories, same as their movies. Mysteries should be a regular series and not a Christmas setting. Character arcs and motivation are important elements in their stories. Their books run 75k to 90k words.
Polis Books is looking for new and unique voices for their Agora imprint.
All of these editors (except Neil) take unagented manuscripts, but they recommend you have one to negotiate a good contract in the author’s favor. Check their websites for submission requirements. Hallmark has open calls for submissions on certain dates.
“You’re buying the writer. You’re not buying the book.” As soon as they buy your book, they’ll want you to be working on the next one.
I cut out of this workshop to see what my friends were saying about being orphaned by their publisher. Diane A.S. Stuckart moderated this panel with Marty Ambrose, Debra H. Goldstein, Alyssa Maxwell, and Dr. Lenore E. Walker. After you pick yourself off the floor from hearing the publisher dropped your series, you recover and reinvent yourself. This could end up being the best thing for your career.
Next I gave my workshop on “How-To Become a Hybrid Author.” I discussed the reasons for going indie, the pros and cons, and the exact steps to take from manuscript preparation to production to marketing. Look for further blogs on this topic here.
Lunch was a sobering talk by E.J. Wagner on the Evolution of Forensic Sciences. It was fascinating to hear how bodies used to be sold to medical schools in merry old England. Table decorations were lovely, and I was happy again to sit with good friends.
I missed the afternoon sessions since I had an hour and a half of volunteer duty as usher for an editor during the pitch appointments. Since I was barely able to walk after my mishap yesterday, I went to rest my foot afterward until the Volunteer Appreciation Party. Free snacks and drinks flowed as we all complimented each other on another great conference.
Dinner followed in the ballroom with the author auction, where famous authors auctioned off an hour phone conversation, or a chapter critique, or a character name.