Best and Worst Things About Being a Writer, and Ten Things I Wish Every Aspiring Writer Knew by @Laire_McKinney @XpressoTours @BHCPressBooks #Tuesdaybookblog #bookblitz #newrelease #fantasy #destinyfulfilled #womensfiction #romance #faeries #druids #writingadvice

Destiny Fulfilled
Laire McKinney
Publication date: August 7th 2018
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Only love can save them…

Wren O’Hara is waiting for the day she succumbs to mental illness like her mother. When she is attacked by a psychotic client at work, and saved by what must be an angel, she fears the time for insanity has come.

Little does she know, her savior is an immortal warrior druid named Riagan Tenman, and that he will challenge everything she ever thought she knew about reality.

Now Wren must decide if the fantasy unfolding before her is true, or if she has finally lost her mind.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Guest Post by Laire McKinney:

Best and Worst Things About Being a Writer, and Ten Things I Wish Every Aspiring Writer Knew

The best things about being a writer are seeing my name in print, fulfilling a childhood fantasy, and letting my mind run wild, knowing it will only make a story better.

The worst things about being a writer are the slow pace of publishing, the uncertainty of any outcome, and the at-times debilitating self-doubt.

Ten Things I Wish Every Aspiring Writer Knew:

1. Your first attempt at a novel will not likely be the one. (There are always exceptions, but I know several authors who did not snag the publishing contract until book #2…or #3…or #4…). As for me, I was offered a contract on the second full-length novel I wrote, but that was already two years into the writing experience. One year was spent writing the novel that will never been seen. The second year was writing the one that got published. It is not a quick-turnaround business so reevaluate if that’s what you seek.

2. Community matters. I am as introverted and socially-awkward as they come, but I do venture out to writers’ groups and conferences, and am active on online forums. Having a peer group is essential to survival. I use them to bounce off plot ideas, to beta read, to cheer me on when I’ve been given good news, to cheer me up when I’ve been given bad news.

3. And there is a lot of bad news, so thicken that skin. Rejections. Rejections. Rejections. Then if you do land the contract and sail your way (via tumultuous seas) to the published novel, then there are the reviews—hopefully good, sometimes bad, occasionally downright mean. Then, if you’re one of the few, you’ll sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, and this can vary month to month. Sometimes you might very well find yourself at the bottom and that sucks but it’s reality.

4. Do not be competitive with your peers. My writer friends have been some of the most supportive and encouraging and non-competitive people I could hope to know. A perfect example: I was at a workshop and the speaker wanted those in attendance to create a story together. Her disclaimer: do not worry that someone will steal the idea you’ve thrown out. Even if they started with that idea, their story will be vastly different from yours. Not to say there isn’t plagiarism and piracy, but among the writers you choose to call friends, be supportive and encouraging. You’ll appreciate that when it’s reflected back to you.

5. Be fearless. There is something to be said for writing for the masses. Agents and publishers know what’s trending, what has sold in the past, what is expected to sale in the future. But there is always the break-out novel that’s just different. In a cookie-cutter world, be a free-styling carver and you’ll land on your mark. (I hope that last statement makes sense!)

6. Enjoy the writing. I know from personal experience if I get bogged down in the business of writing (which you must learn), then I lose the creativity. It’s a balance. You can’t have one without the other, and if you no longer find you enjoy it, take a step back and write something for your pleasure only. There is a chance it might very well be your best yet.

7. You will have to spend money marketing, even if you have a publishing contract with a big agency. You need a website, social media, head shot, etc. It helps to join one or more organizations. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America (an excellent place to begin), as well as Women’s Fiction Writers. If you write YA, there is Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

8. If you want to write a genre but are embarrassed or afraid of how it’ll impact your day job or your image, use a pen name. It’s all good, but it’s best to decide that before you get published. If you want to write erotica, it’ll be hard to turn around and write YA under the same name. Not impossible, but tricky.

9. Understand there will be times when the words do not flow, the mind will not concentrate, and the writing timeline falls by the wayside. This happens to me all the time. I have three children, a dog, a hubs, a job, and sometimes it’s just not happening. What do I do? I don’t stress about it. It could be a day, a week, sometimes a month. That recharging period will help you come back renewed.

10. Writers are often introverts. I know I am, and I love to live in my head, to watch tv alone. I love to be in my house when it’s as quiet as an early morning in snowy December. But living your life is essential to good writing. We need experiences to draw from, ideas that simmer and stew and eventually become plot…we need to live life so we can retreat and create.

If you’ve already stepped onto the writerly path, what suggestions would you give to a new writer?

Many thanks for hosting me today. Cheers, Laire.

 

Author Bio:

Laire McKinney is the author of contemporary and fantasy women’s fiction. She believes in a hard-earned happily-ever-after, with nothing more satisfying than passionate kisses and sexy love scenes, endearing characters and complex conflict. When not writing, she can be found traipsing among the wildflowers, reading under a willow tree, or gazing at the moon while pondering the meaning of it all. She lives in Virginia with her family and beloved rescue pup, Lila da Bean.

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Why Author Events Fail

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As authors, it is a constant struggle to get our name out. If you think about it, authors often get caught up in numbers and sales. However, it’s not all about us. We exist because we love what we do, and that includes loving our readers. Without our readers, we would not exist. We couldn’t afford editing, cover design, swag, advertising, events, etc.  But, how do we get our names out without wasting our time and money?

One of the solutions to this, is attending author events. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everybody. Below are reasons why author events nationwide fail.

  • Too Many Authors– This can be a double-edged sword.
    • Good:
      • The event has an established reputation
      • Word of mouth has been previously successful
      • Location is good to shop at
      • A better chance of a wide range of genres being represented
    • Bad:
      • Permits readers to be more choosy
      • Overwhelms your reader
      • Readers will skip authors, leaving someone to feel left out
  • Advertising– This is like getting butts into the seats at the theatre. If you don’t properly advertise beyond your circle of friends, and trust that you’ll be successful simply through word of mouth, people aren’t going to show up.
  • The Host– Do your research. If your host is a self-published author, this should be a red flag.  What makes them an expert in running this type of event? How do you know their event will be successful?
  • First-Year Events– AVOID! Allow that event to properly establish itself first before committing. Make that event prove to you it is worth your time and money.
  • Location– Do people know where to find your venue? Are there signs clearly posted outside?
  • Sponsors– Are the sponsors listed on the event actually sponsoring it or are being name dropped. What are they doing to advertise the event?
  • Not Knowing Your Competition– What other type of events are going on that may help or hinder your traffic flow?
  • Weather– While these types of events are scheduled months in advance, it is good to have a back-up venue if you are going to be outside.
  • Cost– I can say before I became an author, I was completely oblivious that authors have to buy their own table, so they are already starting their day in the red. However, venues also cost money, so, what is the right price to charge both author and reader attendees?
  • Parking– Is there enough parking to handle your traffic? You don’t want your customers leaving before they get there due to frustration of being unable to find a place to park
  • Being Unfamiliar with Your Target Audience– Where do they tend to go? Comic shops? Bookstores? Coffee shops?
    • I’ve learned my target audience (Doctor Who fans) go to Comic Con, and not typically to these types of events.
    • However, if you’re a romance author, for example, you will do well at an author event.
  • Allowing Pre-Orders– Readers will buy books ahead of time, go to the event solely to pick up their pre-orders, and leave without bothering to check out the other authors.
  • Not Knowing Your Authors– THIS, ladies and gentlemen is the #1 reason these author events fail.
    • “Why should I buy this author’s book when I don’t know who he/she is.”
    • Next time you catch yourself doing this, remember that those popular authors you doknow: Rachel Caine, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, etc, were once unknowns, too.

Are you an author reading this post? See something I have not covered? Have you attended an event that went superbly well? What made it spectacular? On the other side of the coin, have you attended an event that went horribly wrong? What went wrong?

I want to hear your voice! Comment below.

Venues Where You Can Sell Your Book

sample1I’m often asked about how one goes about getting their name out there. Truth is, there’s no one who can sell your book better than you. You are the brand!

If you’re not already, you should be thinking about the upcoming holidays! I know, fall has just started. Let’s not rush it, right? Halloween hasn’t even happened yet!

However, this is the time of the year when children are back at school, and parents/grandparents are already starting to prepare their birthday/Christmas lists as they get back into their daily routines.

So, where are the best places to help readers get your books into their hands? Below you will find some of my suggestions.

Note: Like any other form of marketing, you will find what works for one author may not work for you. It’s all about learning, exploring and discovering what areas work best for you and your book. You may be surprised to discover where you can be successful in selling your book!

Author Events/Conventions:

These can honestly be a hit or miss, especially if you are a first time published author.

My advice: look for author events that have been around for several years. Do your research. Find out how many attendees were there, what type of books they bought, what kind of advertising is going on, are there any guest speakers, and most importantly, who is hosting the event? Remember: not every opportunity is a good one.

For example: I made the mistake this year of attending an author event this summer, which had been recommended to me as the “place to go” for a YA author by a local bookstore, that just happened to be run by a self-published author. Within the first few minutes of the event starting, I sensed something wasn’t quite right.

One author stated he was selling his book, which he knew was full of errors, and frankly, didn’t care. This not only made me question the event’s reputation, but it soon became obvious, I wasn’t part of “that” crowd when readers deliberately skipped my table like I was wearing an invisibility cloak, and proceeded to move onto everyone else’s table in my row due to them being already familiar with those authors because they were “friends” with the host.

Needless to say, I won’t be attending that event again.

Book Festivals:

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My first author event took place this year at the Ann Arbor Book Festival in Ann Arbor, MI in June. Above I’m pictured with 7 other authors representing BHC Press.

We had a great turnout despite the event itself failing to properly advertise. It was especially unfortunate that majority of the local businesses had no idea this event was even going on.

Comic Con:

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Even though I personally have not attempted to sell my book at comic con yet, many authors I know have, and have done really well. The reason I have not tried selling my book at comic con is because the ones I normally attend as a spectator are huge and expensive. For example, back in 2014, a table at Wizard World Chicago cost over $400. I have never sold that many books at an event before, so I know I would just end up taking a loss with just one book.

However, the key is not to think big like Wizard World Chicago, San Diego Comic Con, or Fan Expo Canada. Instead, think of local venues that are smaller, that have specific kind of guests. If you’re a horror writer, for example, you may target a comic con that has Norman Reedus as an invited guest,  because known for bringing in a crowd.

Comic con is also spectacular for panels. That’s how I got to meet Genese Davis, Rachel Caine, and James Morrison.

Barnes & Noble:

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Photo courtesy of Barnes & Noble: Rochester Hills

This is every author’s dream if you live in America: getting your work recognized by Barnes & Noble. And despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to have sold millions of books to get into their stores!

Most recently I had the awesome opportunity to participate in the B-Festival: Teen Festival through the Barnes & Noble Rochester store located in Rochester Hills, MI. The entire day was filled with activities on publishing, writing, young adult, and teen books.

And the best part of the day – the author’s panel!

Library Book Fairs:

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This summer I had the opportunity to participate in my first library book fair at the Warren Civic Center. The facility was beautiful, and the hosts were delightful. I joined 15 other authors where we got to meet new readers and all got the opportunity to talk about our books. There was also a really cool group photo taken, but due to I suspect…more email issues, I don’t have a copy of it.

Art Fairs:

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Okay, I’ll be honest with this one. When I first thought of art fairs, I didn’t associate them with places to buy books. Instead I thought of them as solely places to buy art. However, I soon discovered that could not be any further from the truth! I mean when you think about it, books are a form of art too, no? They are just a different kind of art.

This summer I attended two art fairs – Fenton’s Art Walk and Swartz Creek’s Art In The Park. The result: both times I either doubled or tripled the amount of sales I made from any of the other venues mentioned above, which convinces me these are the venues that work best for me.

So, what was different about these venues versus the ones listed above?

Both of these events felt more inviting than any of the events I’ve attended thus far. Everyone was encouraging each other due to the large variety of items for sales. And Swartz Creek’s event was also a fantastic place to network! I’ve got so many invites to different events that I am literally overwhelmed!

Hidden Inspiration

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.”
~ Willy Wonka – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

One of the most frequent questions I am asked as an author is what inspired me to write The Rite of Wands. I have always found that question interesting because when you think about it, inspiration is different for everyone. It may be a memory, a character from a book, song lyrics, a political speech, a TV series, or even an actor’s performance. Pure imagination is in all of us—we only need to discover it, and sometimes storytelling helps.

template-4-12172901503297868-large.pngInspiration can come to us in any shape or form; you never know what or who may inspire you. That was the case for me in 2014 when I got the opportunity to attend Wizard World Chicago and meet English actor Matt Smith, who is known for playing the Eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who, and most recently Prince Philip on Netflix’s The Crown. I had originally gone there because I really wanted to meet a Doctor, and honestly felt it was going to be one in a lifetime, never thought it would be possible to meet him again being in America. If only I had known then that I was about to discover the main piece of inspiration in order to finish my book!

A few months later, I was sitting at my desk in my writing office, trying to compose something, but nothing would come to me. I was staring at a blank page for what seemed like eternity. I was close to tears. Not because I was sad, but because I was so frustrated with myself! I thought I had what was called a dead book, and my dream of becoming an author was coming to an end. I wasn’t a writer like I thought. In that moment of desperation, I literally shouted at my computer, “WHO are you? Show yourself!” And then inspiration hit.

I envisioned out of a dark alley in Glendalow, Matt Smith, dressed in medieval warlock attire, carrying an ebony wooden wand in his hand that contained a bloodstone crystal at the shaft. There was also a scar on his face from some type of chemical accident.

I felt like I was having my own “regeneration.” I was being fed all the information I had been missing all at once. I could now hear the character, see the character, and I got a huge grasp on this character’s dominant personality, especially after the first thing I could hear this character say to me was, “My name is Mierta, and that is NOT how it happened.”

In that moment, I gained my confidence back, realizing my dream of becoming a writer could still happen. If you’re a struggling writer, don’t give up! Keep at it. Find what inspires you. You never know what or who that may be!

How To Gain Exposure Through Book Awards

Bewitched Book With Magic Glows In The DarknessOne of the ways you can help your book get more exposure is through book award contests. These contests help get your materials out to people who may have never known about you or your book, and can ultimately lead to a frenzy of media exposure.

 

It gives your book a new sense of creditability. For example, it may perk a reader’s interest, who otherwise would have skipped over your book due to you being an unknown, enough to give your book a try.

This can lead to more sales and even bestseller status. And, if you end up one of the winners, it can also lead towards finding agents, publishers, movie/television offers, as well as help convince book sellers to carry your book in their store(s).

What To Watch Out For:

Before applying, make sure to do your research. While it may seem like entering multiple contests is a great idea, you want to make sure these are:

  1. Not one where everyone automatically earns a badge/prize because they entered.
  2. Has a high cost to enter.
  3. Is reputable and real.

For example, my first book award contest, which shall be nameless, was a contest where the winner was supposed to be announced at a conference.

To this day, I still don’t know who won. There were no badges, no announcements of runner ups, nor any congratulations mentioned on any of this site’s social media platforms. It was as if this contest never existed. (Maybe it really didn’t).

What Are Some Good Contests To Enter:

According to Scott Lorenz, President of the PR and marketing firm, Westwind Communications, some of the top book awards contests in 2017 for indie authors include:

  • The National Book Critics Circle Awards
  • Indies Choice Book Awards
  • The National Indie Excellence Book Awards
  • IndieFab Awards

Reviews: What Not To Do

One of the most challenging parts of being an independent author is getting reviews. If you’re an indie author, you are already familiar with that uncomfortable feeling of having to practically beg people in order to get them.

“Reviews are marketing tools that are necessary if your books are to sell and extend their shelf life beyond a few weeks.” – Sally Cronin, author.

We are born into the publishing world as an unknown. Readers who are not familiar with our work may decide to skip over our book simply because we’re not part of the Traditional 5. This is where reviews and other people’s helping spread the word about our books becomes essential. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool for an indie author. Without it, our chances of becoming successful quickly dwindles.

The quote above comes from John Winston’s, author of IA: Initiate, five-star review of my book The Rite of Wands. Continue reading to discover tips for both authors and readers on the process of asking for and receiving reviews.


Readers:

  1. Be consistent – If you’re going to leave a review for an author make sure to be consistent. Do not leave feedback/rating on one site and then leave a completely different review/rating on another. This not only comes across as confusing, it sends the message to the author that you are uncomfortable to tell them what you really thought of their work.
  2. Leave feedback for the author – If you use Goodreads, you are already familiar with their star system. You can leave a rating for an author’s book simply by rating their book between 1 and 5 stars, without having to leave actual feedback. Do not do this. You will find readers often look at these “ratings” as fake due to the reviewer not bothering to tell the author what they liked or disliked about the book. Also, an author cannot work on improving their craft if you do not inform them what you did or did not like.
  3. If you’re going to review, do it! – I cannot tell you how many times I have seen someone offer to read and review someone’s work and then the other party never does. This is something I have had to learn the hard way, falling into the category myself as a reader more than once this year. My best advice, do not underestimate how much time you will have to spend on reading and do not over commit. If you offer to review, make sure you actually do!

Authors:

  1. Bullying – This is something I have personally have encountered on more than one occasion. Before my book even came out, I was bullied on Goodreads by an author who expected everyone give her nothing less than a 4-star review on her book(s), whether they deserved it or not. If you did not comply, she would make sure to create a dozen of fake accounts to knock your author rating down, and then proceed to follow you all over social media. As an author, it is our responsibility to be aware that not everyone is going to like our book. That comes with the territory. Not a single best-selling author has ever had all five stars on their book(s). Authors, when asking for reviews, do not bully your readers to give you 5 stars. If you cannot deal with criticism or receiving a bad review, this field is not for you!
  2. Swapping – Do not offer a fellow author a review in exchange for reviewing your book. This is against Amazon’s rules, and is only bound to get that review deleted as well as other genuine reviews caught up in the process!
  3. Gifting – This strategy has been quite common with giveaways. It is one of the ways authors can guarantee they will receive a future verified review from the winning recipient by paying for an ebook. Unfortunately, that strategy is no longer effective on Amazon due to Amazon now viewing gifting as another way of paying for a review.
  4. Launch Groups – One of the most effective ways of gaining reviews is setting up a Launch Group. These groups contain readers who are given ARC versions of the book in exchange for an honest review at book release time.

 

What Not To Do At An Author Event

Summertime for an independent author symbolizes more than just getting outside to enjoy the warm weather after a long, cold, winter, or getting the opportunity to write outdoors. It represents the beginning of one of the most significant times of the year: travel season. Comic cons, writing workshops, panels and other exciting opportunities which help to get out yourself out there to network and sell your book! After all, there’s no one out there who can sell your book better than you. You are the brand!

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(From the 2017 Ann Arbor Book Festival from left to right – Mackenzie Flohr, Richard DuMont, J.S. Bailey)

I have emphasized before how being an indie author has its own unique challenges. You must work extra hard to get your book out there, and even convince some people why they should pick up your book when they do not even know who you are. Author signings are one of the best opportunities for this. You will get to meet readers excited to learn about you and your book. There’s nothing like getting to see the look on someone’s face after purchasing your book and seeing you personalize their copy for them!

I find at each author event I attend, I learn something new. And I’m equally surprised by how many things authors continue to do that they shouldn’t. If you’re an author, discover if you may be guilty of doing any of these things, and readers, think about how many times you may have seen an author do this.

What Not To Do:

  1. Presentation – The presentation of your author table is important. You want something that helps bring readers over to your table. Don’t just stack your books on the table! It not only looks sloppy, but readers are not going to want to waste their time picking through your mess. Is that message you want to pass onto your readers? If you only have one title, the most you will want to put on the table is a max of six books. Then, include other things such as your business cards, bookmarks, brochures, etc.
  2. Avoid being pushy – You will find just like any other sales environment, some people are just there to look. They may not even want to acknowledge your presence. Respect their boundaries. Don’t alienate your customer by making them feel uncomfortable! Not everyone is there to buy your book. Instead, encourage them to take your business cards. You may be surprised how many sales you get after the event simply because you permitted someone the opportunity to take their time looking over your materials.
  3. Network – There are going to be down times. Use that opportunity to network with other attending authors! Don’t sit behind your table playing or texting on your cell phone.
  4. Engage – Remember that most of the attendees will have no knowledge of who you are or what you write about. Don’t sit behind your author table! Stand. Smile. Say, hello. Find ways to engage in conversation. New readers will feel encouraged to speak with you when they know you are approachable. Ask them about what they like to read, favorite authors, etc. Leave them with a good, lasting impression! For example, after my latest book signing on Saturday, I actually read on facebook one of new readers say about me, “I really enjoyed talking to her…fun!”