Advice on covers

Congratulations on your contract! Now what? Besides the editing process, there are tons of other things that need to be taken care of. One of those is helping your cover artist bring your story to life. In order to do that…you have to be VERY clear. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of rules and regulations about what images can be used, so check with your publisher about the stock images they work with.

 

DSCN0344

Grand Canyon

If your characters have a particular hair color, hair length, eye color…it’s fine to list it, but try to find pictures to show the artist what you are thinking of. Don’t forget to mention facial hair or lack thereof. IF you are lucky enough to work with models specifically for your cover, you can ask for a particular pose, but otherwise you are going to have to work with what is available in the stock photos. You may be able to look through your publisher’s catalog and choose some of the covers that have the style you are looking for.

 

Background. The same applies—if you can find images that evoke the atmosphere you are looking for, that will help the cover artist narrow things down. What is the weather like? Colors that should be prevalent? Urban setting? Day or night? Don’t just say you want a house…is it a small house? Single story? Open door? Open windows? Good condition? In a neighborhood? What color is it? Again, find some examples.  All three of the pictures included in this post were taken at the Grand Canyon…but I am sure that you agree that they convey different aspects of this fascinating place!

Key items. There is usually a limit to the number of things that can be added to the cover without overcrowding or making everything look awkward. If you are trying to have a particular item present, e.g. a weapon/item of clothing/icon of some sort, be specific. Supply pictures of what you are thinking of, make sure you specify color and size.

DSCN0506

Remember, if you have a series, you need to help figure out what you want to tie the covers together. Is there a symbol, a color, a style that would epitomize the series?

 

If you are working with an experienced cover artist, he or she will have definite ideas of what tends to appeal to readers. A picture that looks perfectly fine in a larger format may be indistinguishable in a thumbnail portrait, so make sure you pay attention to any suggestions or caveats.

 

Remember that the models in stock photos can NOT be moved around, i.e. the positions are not changeable, you have to work with what is present.

If there is a particular font that you like, you can submit a sample, but be advised that simple is better, because it needs to be legible even if it is in a thumbnail image.

Ok, now that you have submitted all of those details…don’t be surprised if the cover looks nothing like any of them! Please remember to be diplomatic in your requests for corrections or revisions and, if all else fails, learn from this one and know what to be more specific about requesting for the next one!

 

DSCN0548

How can reviews help you as authors?

Reviews can be a necessary evil for authors.  They’re great for getting the news out about your story but they can have their drawbacks. On the one hand, you want to know what people are thinking about your story, but on the other hand (especially if your ego is very fragile) it can be painful to hear that someone didn’t like your precious manuscript.

Admittedly, we live in a very unfiltered society, and some people don’t mind being deliberately rude or unkind, but I still think that there is something to be garnered from most reviews.  It is easy to ignore one or two that have a negative comment, especially since it seems that some folks don’t hesitate to ask friends or hire people to try to post negative reviews to sabotage an author (something that makes me glad that I believe in karma, lol) but…what if there is a slew of complaints about the same issue?

There is a difference between being confident in your work and happy with what you have produced because you feel you have worked at polishing it and being deliberately blind to its faults.  Don’t fall into a decline and refuse to ever touch a keyboard again…take a deep breath and look at the comments objectively. Is your heroine whiny?  Is the hero deliberately obtuse and unwilling to budge on anything?  Do you have 150 uses of the same word? We can’t improve unless we know that we need to, i.e. we are best at learning when we are receptive to instruction.

 

DSCN2518
Ok, enough preaching.  Why write a review?  Who can write a review?  Why should an author write a review and what are the drawbacks to doing so?
 

Reviews are to help other people find out something about a particular item.  Unfortunately, many of us are only prompted to write a review when we have a complaint about something, so merchants (and authors) are really appreciative of those who write a positive review.

Anybody CAN write a review, but relatively few people do so, for many reasons.  Sometimes it is as simple as being unable to log into a site, or forgetting to come back and do so once the title goes live or once one has finished reading the book.  Other times it is the sensitivity that others will judge you…your spelling, grammar, syntax, etc….or your choice of product (e.g. genres that are edgy, products that don’t fit the image you are trying to project, etc.).

I was astounded the first time someone gave me a negative vote on a review.  After all, it was MY OPINION!  I wanted so badly to contact that person and ask what the issue was.  Then I started seeing that there was a group of folks who regularly picked on one of the top reviewers of that particular site…as far as I can tell, it was just because they figured it was impossible for that many items to have been truly evaluated.

Sometimes there are folks who just think it is their mission in life to vote down other people’s comments, and other times it is somebody who just doesn’t agree with what has been said. Now, I have learned to just shrug and not worry about it, but I am a little wary…which is why I don’t post reviews for a work I have edited, because I don’t want to trigger the trolls—who have nothing to do but spread negativity.

As an author, you have to be just as careful—if you receive a negative review, you can thank the reviewer for his/her opinion but you should be very careful to not start a flaming war by reacting harshly and defensively.  If there is truly a misunderstanding, by all means calmly and logically explain things, but be careful not to get sucked into a heated discussion or going back and forth with a commenter.

DSCN2508

If you are willing to write reviews, make sure you remember that your words will be out there forever.  If you have arranged to exchange reviews with a colleague…follow through.  If you expect someone else to take his or her time to read your book and write a review, you should do that for him or her as well. If the story turns out to be not to your taste or you think it is very poorly written, I think the best thing to do is to contact the other person privately and diplomatically explain that you aren’t comfortable writing a review.

I am always uncomfortable when this happens and I treat it differently if I have been approached privately as opposed to having committed to review it for a review site. If the story has been submitted to a site for review, I feel that it is my responsibility to write my opinion, although those reviews take me far longer to write, as I try to be diplomatic while explaining why the story didn’t resonate with me. If the story is given directly to me by the author, I explain that I don’t feel that I can give a glowing review. I am always willing to explain why, but very few authors want to hear what I didn’t like.

When writing a review please try to remember that you are writing an opinion on why the story did or did not work for you….you are NOT retelling the story. If you recount everything that went on, what is the point of someone else reading it? Think of how annoyed you are when someone tells you how the movie is going to end before you watch it, or how the suspense is gone when someone tells you who won the prize while you are watching the contest!

The site I primarily write for likes the reviewer to recap the story. If you do that, do not tell spoilers but give enough to whet the reader’s appetite for the story. Does that sound familiar? Like practice for writing the blurb for your book, perhaps?

Then, there’s the review itself. Did you like the writing? What about it appealed to you? Did you enjoy the characters? Were they folks you could picture? Would you recognize them on the street or are they just a nebulous picture in your mind? Did they have particular habits/pets/styles of dress or any other identifying characteristics? Did the action flow smoothly? Did you have to stop and take a break or were you enthralled enough that you lost sleep or burned dinner (oops, did I say that?) or missed an appointment? Did the conclusion seem logical?

Analyze why you did or did not like the story…and then…apply that to your own writing. If you were reviewing your own story, would you have trouble distilling the elements into a logical progression? Would your characters be memorable? Would you be racing to find out what happened or would it be easy to take a break at points throughout the book?

It might be useful to read and analyze a story that isn’t in your genre. I bet you’ll find elements that can be applied to your own story and you will find styles that can be adapted to enhance your delivery.

 

DSCN0269

So…I bet you think you can’t write a review for a story because you have no spare time. Yet, I frequently hear authors complaining that they can’t get reviews. Consider that a reviewer probably has to spend anywhere from 1-4 (or more) hours reading a book, then it probably takes 30 minutes or longer to write a review.

Think of the sheer number of books being released every day…and you will realize that reviewers are buried. I keep hoping that a system can be established where a fund can be started so the reviewer can get a small stipend for writing a carefully prepared review. There are sites that are offering a point system for quality reviews. Some blog tours offer a prize that can be won by the small group of people who are hosting and writing reviews.

If each of you reaches out to one or two colleagues and offers to exchange a review and possibly a spotlight on a personal blog or on Facebook, that can get the ball rolling. There are also several Yahoo loops that have postings for guest spots sometimes.

Now, I think Amazon is a pill about letting authors post reviews of other authors’ works, but there are other venues, and I think that as long as you are posting a genuine review, there shouldn’t be an issue, because you were all avid readers long before you became authors.

Those of you who have newsletters or blogs or Facebook followers can also set up a system to choose a certain number of folks and offer ARCs (advance review copies) to a limited number in exchange for a fair and honest review. Ask the readers to contact you if they have issues with the story so that you can discuss it, but DON’T try to tell them what to post. If you are contacting a blogger or other review site, please take the time to read the submission requirements and send a personalized letter…not a generic review request.  Remember that you are asking somebody to commit a block of precious time to read and review your work.  Remembering to go back and thank the reviewer also will often set you apart, and if they really liked your book, it would be advisable to make note of that person to contact for future reviews.

You have to decide for yourself whether you want the same folks writing reviews for every title or whether you want to cycle through a list, because you want your true fans to buy a title occasionally, right?

Please remember to inform your reader/reviewer that the title is provided ONLY to them, they are not to share or distribute it…and you might want to keep an eye on Goodreads or a similar site to see if you are getting reviews before the release date, and whether you are familiar with the person posting the review.

I hope this gives you a perspective on how reviews can be helpful for you in several ways and prompts you to help out a fellow author occasionally!

Blog Tour Information

When trying to publicize your work, one avenue to try is a blog tour. You may take the extremely frugal route and try to do it yourself (make sure you have a LOT of time and patience) or you may wish to use an established company and avoid reinventing the wheel. Make sure that you look around the blogosphere and check out different companies, talk to your colleagues and find out what they have been most happy and most disappointed with, and find out whether they believe it has been a good return on investment.

Ideally, a group of colleagues will host each other and help cross-promote, but if you go that route, make sure that you can depend on those you choose to work with and that you provide reciprocity. You also may want to keep in mind that if you are only working with those you have in your own clique, you may be limiting your audience. You also want to check out some of the blogs who are willing to host you. Do they seem to have a lot of traffic? Do they feature more than one title a day? What kind of giveaways seem to attract the most attention? Make sure you review your budget and decide what you can afford, and if you are offering a cute tie-in to your title, how much is it going to cost to ship, will it arrive intact, and are you willing to offer an alternative if the prizewinner is not in your country?

Having made that decision…how you’re participating in a blog tour and what, if any, kind of giveaway you are offering, make sure you are prepared well in advance. Are you prepared to do interviews or guest posts? Do you have several excerpts you can use? Do you have all of the information you need to disseminate? Even though I am a procrastinator, it’s really important to me to have the information well in advance, and, if a review is needed, most of us need at LEAST 4 weeks, if not more, to have time to work the story into our piles and get it read and written up. So, if you are always frantically juggling, make sure you get everything together well in advance of the time you are going to need to provide it. (Maybe work on it while you are waiting for your editor to do the next edit!)

Make sure that you drum up an audience. Promote in the forums you belong to (on the appropriate days, if there are rules for that sort of thing), post on your social media, participate in chats and mention it, etc. Please do the hosts the courtesy of going by and at least saying hello or thanking them. Leaving a comment or responding to the visitors is always appreciated (although you may have to figure out how many ways you can respond to… “I liked the excerpt/cover/blurb” because that is often the default comment folks use to cover the requirements for entering the giveaway.)

Blog tour elements

Blurb: Most of you have a blurb that has been vetted by the committee, but if you are publishing independently, please remember that the idea is NOT to tell the entire story, but to pique a reader’s interest. Include key words…lost love, lovers to friends, wounded hero/heroine, etc. that you think will attract a reader’s notice.

Buy links (written out or live link). I am only SEMI-computer-literate. For some reason, links don’t always transfer live for me when I copy and paste, so it really helps to have the web address written out in the info I am given. I like my blog neat, so I like to just have the link itself, but I often have to manually put it in, so it is essential to have the entire address.

Banner? If you are using a banner, make sure that it isn’t too large or too busy. If you are using a fancy one that cycles around between different titles, make sure it works!

Author picture or picture related to book. I am camera-shy, so I don’t want my picture out in the ether. If that is you, make sure you have a nice substitute graphic that can either represent your brand or a link to the book.

Social media links. I am one of those folks who barely keeps up with the mailbox and, hopefully, my blog. I don’t use the rest of the rapidly exploding social media, and, I find it frustrating when the author I am hosting has more than three or four links for me to make sure are live. I understand that you want your readers to be able to find you, but perhaps you can include one or two AND a link to your social media page that has the rest of the listings. When you have a laundry list of links, that takes away from the focus on the book you are promoting.

Other titles? Some of you are really prolific (congrats), but again, I don’t want to make live links to a myriad of titles. Part of that is my own pickiness, I am an Amazon affiliate, so I MIGHT get a small stipend (one of these years) if someone clicks through and buys anything, so I try to make the book titles link to Amazon BUT the other issue is that I highlight and italicize titles so they will stand out, and it is time-consuming. If the title being promoted is part of a series, by all means, mention one or two titles…but please don’t list all 200 of the books you have written!

Excerpts? Various tour companies have different techniques. One of the companies I like to work with assigns a particular excerpt to a group of hosts, thereby making sure that there are a variety of excerpts. I think it is great when at least 3 different excerpts are provided, and make sure you mention if they are PG or R or X-rated, so that the blogger can put the appropriate warnings up.

Guest posts. I usually request guest posts. I am always crunched for time and have tendonitis issues, so having to deal with an interview and highlighting and boldfacing the questions and answers is just too cumbersome for me. Other people prefer interviews. Usually those are pre-written and you can include a link or two in them. One of my favorite types of interviews to read is between the characters and the author or the blog host. If you are comfortable with it, you can give a great introduction to your characters by having them interviewed.

Some folks love recipes. You can tie them into your story, provide pictures, give anecdotes on how you stumbled upon this particular recipe or give hints on how to serve it.

Playlists seem to be popular also. Lists of the music that either connects to the characters or that you listened to while writing the story.

Anecdotes about the story. Readers are always curious how you came up with the story/characters/setting. You can include a picture or two that you used (if you own the picture), talk about where you did research, places you visited.

Some of you are great with YouTube or Pinterest pages, so you can include links to that as well.

Decide how much personal info you are willing to share and how. Euphemisms for family members? Broad statements about where you live? Unfortunately, there are fairly odd people in the world, so make sure you protect your privacy as much as you can.

Giveaway. Some authors are talented and offer something handmade, or something that reminds them of something in the book, a copy of the book (decide whether you want to offer an e-copy or a print copy and don’t forget about price and postage when you budget that in), or a gift certificate to different places. When figuring out what you want to use in the rafflecopter or whatever method you use, please remember that not everyone uses all of the social media. Increase traffic to your website (but make sure it is current and error-free), get subscribers to your newsletter, blog or Facebook/Pinterest or other social media.  One of the companies I work with offers an incentive giveaway to the tour hosts, which doesn’t compensate for the time and effort that go into posting, but does offer a nice surprise sometimes!

Complaints:

Timeliness is important (especially if trying to get reviews)—life gets in the way for ALL of us, if you aren’t going to be able to meet your deadlines, have the courtesy to inform the blog hosts (or tour company) so that bloggers are not scrambling at the last minute to either post your material or fill the day with something else. I like my review copies at LEAST 1 month in advance, my blog materials at least a week or two early, because I tend to procrastinate and end up posting a week’s worth of blog posts at a time.

Use relatively clean copy (irksome if formatting issues/typos, etc.). Sometimes the formatting doesn’t translate, so the apostrophes, dashes, and quotation marks don’t come through, so make sure you check to see what format you should save your copy in. Personally, I tend to ignore posts that have a lot of machine code in them (especially in the forums) so you may be turning off potential readers.

Again, don’t have too many links, and make sure links work! (I like clean pages, want live links but they don’t always translate live, so should have it both as a live link and written out (with a note to delete one form or the other) but don’t overwhelm the poor anal retentive person such as myself who goes through trying to tidy things up and ends up having to work through 15 different links! If all else fails, put a link to your social media page that has your Twitter, FB, Goodreads, Tsu, Pinterest, website, etc. links)

Long excerpts…if you really can’t find a short eye-catching excerpt, post a link to a space on your own site that has a longer excerpt.

Authors’ experiences with tour hosts (don’t name names) can be good or bad, and that works in both directions! Talk privately with your colleagues, ask how the experience went.

I tend not to sign up for tours with companies that have not been timely. If I have to poke the hosts in order to get my material, I don’t have time to do that, and I tend not to host for them any longer.

Don’t criticize the blog tour or host in public. I had an author go into some rant about how useless blog tours are and how irresponsible the hosts are…and cite my blog. When I pointed out that he was being really insulting and that he wasn’t scheduled to be on my blog until a future date, he had to retract some of his statements, but he left me with a REALLY bad taste in my mouth, especially since he fails to realize that I do this in my (snort) spare time and I DON’T OWE ANYTHING to the author. If you have an issue, try to contact the person directly, don’t get into a flaming war, and remember that you have no idea how folks can be interconnected, so things can get really sticky sometimes.

Which brings me back to reviews. You and/or your tour company should make sure that the host is reminded that the story given for review is for the use of that reviewer ONLY. It is not to be shared, posted or otherwise used for anything other than the review. Also, diplomatic language should be used to remind the reviewer that you have no problem if they did not like the story, but if they have a negative review, you politely request that they not post it as part of the tour, but to feel free to post it after the tour is over. There is no point in your paying for a tour to bad-mouth your hard work!

Input from a couple of blog tour companies: I reached out and asked a couple of the tour companies I interact with for their input and received the following comments (with a little paraphrasing).

The author should take the initiative in opening dialogues on the tour posts … ask the commenters a question to get the ball rolling. The author should be the one that drives the interaction.

Read ALL the instructions the tour company sends you BEFORE you ask a question.. there’s a good chance you’ve already been given the answer. (Made with the assumption that other companies send comprehensive instructions like we do — if they don’t they should, and maybe an author should keep that in mind when booking a tour).

Conversely, if you can’t find the answer to your question in the instructions, never be afraid to email with questions and make sure what’s expected of you is clear.

Things that make us a little crazy is getting completed posts a day or two prior to the stop.  Not stopping by the tour stops to say thank you.  They should always be polite, even when something makes them unhappy — I’m assuming that all tour companies want their authors to be satisfied, so we’ll do everything we can to make it so, but being yelled at for things just makes everyone cranky.  

OH … and do everything with the tour company (at least when it comes to us — other companies may be different). I hate when authors contact a host directly for something. First of all, that’s what they’re paying us for and secondly, it’s hard for us to make sure everything is coordinated properly when that’s going on.  Ditto hosts contacting the author directly.  The tour company is the intermediary for a reason.

and…

Major Pet Peeve, response time to emails! When authors contact you for a tour and you set dates, etc, then never hear back, not good!  Be on top of things, if I email for info needed, etc, work to make sure I have the info and the correct info at that.

I have had numerous indie authors who don’t even send the buy links on release day (say if we are waiting to get out to hosts for a blast, etc), I have had to chase down the links myself to get out to the hosts.  Which I don’t mind, but you would think the author would want the links to purchase to be a top priority.

Definitely time is an issue always.  I prefer to book two months out and sometimes you will get a request from an author for a tour and her book is releasing next week.  That is just unfair to the coordinator and hosts.  I can work magic when needed but with a full schedule, I usually have to turn a lot of people away or recommend another company that might have an earlier opening.  

I thought those were great points, and I admit that I salute the tour companies for their patience as they deal with computer-challenged procrastinators such as myself and interact with authors and try to keep everyone happy.

My other blog is http://thereadingaddict-elf.blogspot.com/ and you are welcome to come by and see what you think. I tend to work primarily with two tour companies but I have been a host for about 15 of them over the years, so I have seen a lot of variation.   Please leave a message in the comments if you would like to ask any questions or have suggestions that would help others.

“Avoid redundancy”, she says. One way to tighten up your manuscript

One of my missions as an editor is to remove dialogue tags whenever possible.  Stop and think about it…if you’re using quotation marks to indicate dialogue, you’re indicating that a person is talking.  So…why do you feel the need to add: he said, they answered, she replied?  As long as it is easy to tell which character is speaking, a dialogue tag is unnecessary, and you can trim countless wasted words from your story.  The action can show who is talking, and a new line of dialogue indicates a different character is speaking.

e.g.  “I can’t do that,” she whispered

should be:  “I can’t do that.”  He could barely hear her.

e.g.  “The dog is getting away,” he exclaimed, grabbing a leash and running through the gate.

should be:  “The dog is getting away!”  He grabbed a leash and ran through the gate in hot pursuit.

Other examples that can clarify when to use dialogue tags can be found at these links:

http://fallingleaflets.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/action-tags-versus-dialogue-tags.html

http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/dialogue-tags/

http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/12/04/another-take-on-dialogue-tags/

Requesting a Review

Ok, so you’ve sweated over writing your story, gone through the torture of edits, navigated the tricky shoals of formatting and finally have a published story.  Now to let the world know that it exists and find folks who will sing your masterpiece’s praises.  Simple, right?  Definitely NOT!
Consider that a reviewer commits at least 1-2 hours, often more like 3-4, to read and review a particular story.  Combine this with the explosion of published and self-published titles and it is no wonder that so many great titles are lacking thoughtful reviews.  A reviewer who takes the time to give a thoughtful evaluation (more than…”I liked it” or “this story was awful”) is quickly overwhelmed by requests and sadly, the joy of having a new tale to read does not necessarily compensate for the need to actually get recompensed for one’s time.

Start by reaching out to folks who have written to you praising your work.  Politely ask whether they would be willing to write a review for you AND possibly even cross-post it to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, the publisher’s site, etc.  You might also want to ask if you can quote it elsewhere in the event that you really like some of the things they say.  Some reviewers have their own blogs and are hospitable for authors to come by and visit, others charge to host or advertise.  Don’t forget to mention (particularly if you are participating in a blog tour that features reviews) that you have no issues with the reviewer writing a less than glowing review but would appreciate the opportunity to be notified if the reviewer considers the story to be less than ‘good’.  Diplomatic requests to simply feature the title itself and post the less than complimentary review later should be considered if you are participating in a tour that is directing readers to that reviewer’s site.

In exchange, don’t forget to go by and visit those blogs that are featuring your work.  Leave a comment (or several throughout the day if possible). Vote ‘this review was helpful’ on Amazon, ‘like’ it on Goodreads or Barnes and Noble’s site and ask some of your friends or family to also vote.  That’s an easy way to thank someone for their time and hard work.

Cross-posting can be pretty frustrating…logging into sites, dealing with the eccentricities of each one, fighting off (or at least learning to ignore) the trolls that sometimes appear, so be grateful when a reviewer is willing to cross-post a review.  Don’t forget to ask if they can put it on the publisher’s website as well (if applicable).  A thank-you note is always appreciated…and it is even more thrilling if the review is quoted somewhere…in your newsletter, on your blog…or…in/on your book itself.  Reviewers are thrilled to see their words being shared (you’re an author, you know how good it feels when someone likes what you have written!) and once you have found someone who obviously likes your work, try to keep the lines of communication open so that you can ask that person about subsequent titles.  Please remember that this is a time commitment and try to give a reviewer a copy of the title well in advance of when you want the review posted and then send a polite reminder a week or two in advance of the preferred date.

Remember not to get into arguments with those who write critical or hurtful reviews, better to take the high road and either thank them for their opinion or ignore it completely but by all means, make sure you thank those who are willing to write a review with constructive criticism as well as those who are positive and supportive.  Above all, remember that every person has a different opinion so don’t obsess over what is being written.  If there is something to learn, go ahead and do so, but if somebody is being malicious, ignore it, remember that there are plenty of nutty folks in the world!

And please, if you are an author who is exchanging reviews with a colleague, don’t forget to return the favor by writing a nicely considered review as well.

 

The Care and Feeding of Street Teams

Street Teams:

Ok, what is a street team?  Literally, it is a team that takes word to the streets…a publicity technique that has been used very effectively in other venues such as the music industry.  E.g.  http://concertpromousa.com/STREET_TEAM_MARKETING.pdf
(be forewarned, it is an advertisement for this particular product but it does have some information on the concept).

Authors are learning how to utilize this tool but should be aware that, just like any other of those dreaded publicity techniques, it takes time, but the investment may be well worth your efforts!

Typing ‘street team’ into a search engine will cause many different articles to appear, such as:

http://writingnovelsthatsell.com/book-marketing-for-savvy-networkers-create-street-teams/2013/12/

http://www.mipa.org/march-news/133-using-street-teams-to-launch-your-books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17563100-street-team-smarts

and I invite you to peruse some of these.  I am actually a participant on probably 10 or more street teams myself and offer observations from my own experiences.

What does a street team do?

All kinds of things, whether putting your book on their ‘shelves’ at Goodreads or starting a discussion thread there or on Amazon, writing a review, having a Facebook or Twitter conversation about your book(s), passing out trading cards or bookmarks or other swag to their local libraries, booksellers or other gatherings, posting comments on your blog tours, asking Amazon to price-match (especially useful when they are being stubborn about offering titles for lower prices), hosting ‘book parties’, the list can be long and creative.  I ask that you be careful about what you ask your team to do as I am not a fan of blitzing (and thankfully am not subjected to a lot of it since I don’t use FB or Twitter or most of the other social media) but that technique can become quite irritating although some authors are quite successful at utilizing it.  Please use caution when asking your team members to vote down low reviews because you do NOT want them to get into flame wars on your behalf and sometimes team members get a little too  enthusiastic in their quest to support/protect you.  Please also realize that your requests reflect on you as a person, so asking people to join a particular forum JUST to garner votes for your title is not only frowned upon but actually forbidden in some venues and may reflect badly upon your integrity.

How do you find a street team?

First decide how large a team you can handle.  Are you a hands-on person or not?  Will it drive you nuts to have e-mails flooding your box asking you how you want to handle things?  Do you want to set up an e-mail account just for the street team members?  You may wish to choose one of your team members to be your liaison to everyone else.  Decide how you want to handle communication to everyone.  Some teams have private Facebook sites, some use yahoo loops, some use a password-protected area on their website or blog, some communicate just through e-mails.  Just remember that if you only use one venue, you may be excluding some of your most ardent fans.  Most of you who are just beginning would probably be advised to have 10 members or fewer to work out the kinks.  You can post a message on your blog or Facebook page and ask for members, if you are in a chat you can mention it or if you do signings or go to some of the conferences where you interact with readers, you can pass out a little card with your website or contact e-mail.  Please use caution because there may be some who join only for the ‘freebies’ so you have to decide what is the most comfortable way for you to decide who is appropriate for you.

What’s in it for the street team members?

First, you should decide what you can afford in terms of time and expense.  It does you no good to plow all of your hard-earned profit back into a street team and have nothing to show for it.  Be creative, often the most thrilling reward for these fans of yours is having access to you…to hear what you are writing about or other aspects of your life, to be involved in naming a character in your book or helping with a title or choosing a path for your hero or heroine to follow.  Some authors send out autographed or handmade items, or ARCs or sneak peeks that are only given to a chosen few, others pass out t-shirts that loudly promote their most recent title (and offer prizes for pictures that show the t-shirt is being worn in public).  Naturally, you have to use care because unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks everywhere but it has been my experience that some long-lasting friendships and mutually beneficial relationships can arise and the synergy is uplifting.  Some authors find beta-readers who are willing to help catch errors and critique or folks who will write reviews just for the privilege of receiving an early copy.  Other authors offer prizes…e.g. all those who send a link to a review or a blogpost/Tweet/FB posting about your title get an entry into a contest for some particular prize.

The possibilities are endless…and those readers who are your fans and join your street team can offer wonderful inspiration and enthusiasm when they are able to share in your life.  You may need to consider an extra special gift or some kind of reward to those who go above and beyond for you, especially if they become a virtual assistant for you.  Just remember, the goal is to get your title out there in front of people and encourage them to become life-long fans so make sure you present yourself in the best possible light by always being respectful of others, having a nicely edited product (ha, my bias is showing) and displaying honesty and integrity.

Apostrophes and how to use them correctly

For some reason, there seems to be a prevailing desire to use apostrophes to indicate a plural form of words.  There are very few times this is accurate, the most significant one being making letters of the alphabet plural.  Of course, this is logical since there is a large difference between a’s and as or i’s and is, lol.

Generally, an ‘s indicates possessive, as in “the dog’s ball” (which, of course leads to the conundrum of how to make “dogs” possessive, i.e. the two dogs’ ball).

Apostrophes are also used for contractions, to represent missing letters, as in can’t (where the ‘ indicates the missing “no” in can not/cannot) or isn’t (‘ indicating the missing space and “o”).

 

(Then there is the whole single quote vs double quote issue but that’s an entirely different subject!)

 

The dreaded head-hopping

A frequent problem is the tendency to change points of view (POVs) within a  scene.  Ideally, there should be one point of view per chapter. If that is not possible, then there should be a significant amount of action told from one character’s viewpoint before the reader is switched to another character’s perspective.  If we know what one character is feeling/experiencing/seeing then we can only surmise the other characters’ points of view from their actions or their dialogue.  This is where the ability to ‘show not tell’ becomes particularly important to allow the action to flow smoothly.

e.g.  Character A comes home and is exhausted and suffering from a headache, Character B is anxiously awaiting the arrival of A because they are supposed to be going out to dinner.

A knew that there was no way he was going to be able to tolerate a noisy restaurant tonight and dreaded the coming confrontation.  B saw A walk through the door and thought, “here we go again, another excuse for why we can’t go out”.  (2 different viewpoints)

vs.

A dragged through the door, squinting and rubbing his temples.  He immediately walked to the radio and turned it off.

“Hey, why did you do that?”  B just knew that her plans for a fun evening were going to be ruined again.

***********************

There are many sites that elucidate this principle far better than I could ever do so, here are a few places to start:

http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/09/10/head-hopping-gives-readers-whiplash/
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/headhop.shtml

http://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/guest-blogger-jodie-renner-pov-102-how-to-avoid-head-hopping/

http://awesomeindies.net/2012/09/30/head-hopping-was-is-it-and-whats-wrong-with-it/

Common errors

There are certain phrases that are commonly misspelled or misused.  A brief list includes:

Your (possessive) vs. You’re (contraction of you are)

To (direction or part of infinitive verb) vs. Too (also)

Complement (something that adds to or completes) vs. Compliment (admiring comment)

Mantel (on a fireplace) vs. Mantle (cloak)

Aureole (halo) vs. Areola (area on nipple)  (NB:  plural of areola is areolae or areolas)

Timber (wood) vs. Timbre (quality of sound–as in voice)

Fiance (male) vs. Fiancee (female)

Blond (male or female) vs. Blonde (female only)

Tenant (occupant) vs Tenet (doctrine)

Adrenalin (brand name) vs Adrenaline (hormone)

Carpal tunnel (not carpel) is a condition of the wrist that causes entrapment of the median nerve

Author services

I primarily perform editing services but can also assist with blurbs, advice for obtaining reviews and some resource recommendations.  I warn you that I am very honest in my opinions (although I do try to be diplomatic) and I have a sometimes odd sense of humor but I am very efficient, self-motivated and discreet (and have been entrusted with countless manuscripts over the past several years).

I pride myself on keeping my commitments and turning my work in on time but I ask that you remember that this is a collaboration so that we both have to work together.  My goal is to present your work in the best light possible and deliver a polished and enjoyable product.

 

Please click the tabs at the top of the page for more information