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6 posts categorized "Guest Post"

07/30/2010

Guest Blogging Today!

I'm guest blogging today over at Motherhoot. Drop in for a family story so hot it sizzles.

After that, stop by Writers Who Kill and catch the first installment of my author interview. They were both great fun.

06/08/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Dorothy Francis

EdenPalmsMurderfront  Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Dorothy Francis. Dorothy is a teacher and a musician from Iowa by way of Kansas and California. She's the author of 74 children and adult books and has no plans to stop writing any time soon. Visit Dorothy on her website dorothyfrancis.com and join Kdblog as Dorothy's shares with us her first steps into the world of publishing. Thanks Dorothy for being a Tuesday Friend.


MY FIRST STEPS IN THE PUBLISHING WORLD

One September many years ago school was starting WITHOUT ME.  I was no longer a student.  Or a teacher.  I was about to become a stay-at-home mom.  Only such women weren’t called that in those days.  Housewife was the word.  My husband had recently been discharged from the army and we were lucky that he had a teaching job. So far he had no paycheck.  This fateful day I’m writing about, he was at school and I went to the only place I could afford—the public library.

 I picked up a magazine from a reading table. “The Writer.” I’d never seen this magazine before and I glanced at the articles telling would-be writers how to write.  I’d never considered writing until I read an article concerning Richard Armor.  I recognized that name because my parents for years had subscribed to “The Saturday Evening Post,” “The Wall Street Journal,” The American Magazine.”  I’d grown up reading humorous quatrains by Richard Armor.

 And today in the public library, I learned that people GOT PAID for writing this kind of light verse.  Hmm, I thought.  I can do that.  I won’t say I memorized that article, but I read it very carefully and I copied down the market listings that the article mentioned. That night after supper I started writing.

  “What are you doing?”  My husband asked.

  “Writing a poem,” I replied.

  He sighed. “As soon as I get a paycheck, we’ll buy a TV.”

  “Really?” 

 TVs were in their early stages of availability, and although I was impressed with his promise, I continued writing my quatrain.

 We did own a typewriter, so I typed my quatrain double spaced.  That was one of the rules I gleaned from “The Writer.”  Write on only one side of the page didn’t apply to my situation.

 So I mailed the quatrain in to “The American Legion Magazine.”  In a short time (really, that’s true—a short time), I received an acceptance letter and a check for $10.  I thought that was the way the writing world worked.  You sent something in and soon you received a check.  No getting half of the $10 upon signing a contract.  No waiting until publication to get the other half of the $10.

 I hurried to the bank and cashed that check before someone changed their mind. My husband’s comment was “hmmmm.  Better write them another one.”

 And so I did.  But although I never received another $10 for just 4 lines, I did receive $5 for 4 lines from “The Wall Street Journal.”  When I told my dad, he said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he believed me until I clipped one of my WSJ quatrains out and showed it to him.  He said, “Hmmm.”  Don’t think he’d ever bothered to read the “Pepper and Salt” column.

 Lack of family interest didn’t dissuade me. I continued writing, gave up quatrains as I took tenuous steps into children’s short stories for Sunday school papers, and then took a major step into book publishing.  But that’s another story.

 Please let me add that the writing world had changed since I began back in the 1950s.  So far, I’ve never received total payment for anything upon signing the contract.  And now my author’s handbook tells me to promote my own books.  The author of that handbook had never met my mother who said, “Dorothy, you never need to brag.  It’s unbecoming.  It’s an embarrassment.  If you’ve done something wonderful, people will notice without your telling them.”  I hope Mother never learns that I PAID for a website to call attention to the wonders of my writing.

But that, too, is another story.

06/04/2010

Visit me at The Stiletto Gang

Susan McBride is interviewing me today at The Stiletto Gang. Come on over and see if I spill any secrets.

05/05/2010

Welcome Blog Guest, Rob Walker

After much delay, some confusion, an email snafu, and a small blog glitch, KdBlog is finally ready to introduce very special blog guest, Rob Walker. Rob, thanks for your patience and welcome to KdBlog.

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                       E-Books and On Becoming an Indie Author/Publisher

                                             – Your Ticket to Success in Authorship

 

 

E-books and the electronic readers like the kindle are suddenly legion at schools, at writers conferences, even at ironically enough bookstores. I will never forget at a book signing when a lady pushing a baby carriage by stopped long enough to reach into the carriage to pull out her kindle to proudly flash before me to ask my wife, Miranda and I, “Are your books on Kindle?” We were ready for her, both of us replying, “Yes indeed.”

3 Million kindle e-readers have been sold since December of this year, perhaps more; this is the number I keep seeing in articles in The New Yorker and Newsweek. ,; the future is upon us and traditional publishing has reason to be concerned even if they don’t know it.  More and more authors are taking control of their content and making decisions that impact the content—what they create.

Traditionally, the working arrangement between publisher and writer has always been one of you turn over your creation and the publisher “takes all the risks” as if you are taking no risks in spending months if not years on a manuscript. However, since you are taking “no risks” like those faced by the publisher—business risks—the notion is you are now passive cargo and worth about 8 to 10 percent of each “unit” sold. Now all decision making is out of your hands, and you are supposed to go write another book in the event the first one sells well. Meanwhile, the publisher’s team—all of whom have pensions and paychecks—make the important decisions of pricing, placing, marketing, packaging, title, down to the font and colors on the cover.

In other words, all decisions made by committee, all of whom are making more money on books being pushed than the author. Think totem pole and the author is at the bottom, and wasn’t a camel a horse designed by committee? My point is when the book fails, the guy at the bottom of the totem pole is the one blamed as his/her numbers of unit sales is too low. So the business model for the author is pretty bleak, and has been since Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press; ninety nine percent of all novelists in the world cannot live on what they earn as writers. Could you live on eight percent of what you sell without health benefits or pension?

That said, let’s turn now to the business model for the author who is now an Independent Author/Publisher—and for starters, the Kindle contract is not an 8-10% cut but a 70/30 split with the 70 going to the author! Aside from this, the author makes all the decisions to package and price the book, no title fights, no arguments over hardcover vs. trade vs. mass market as none of these designations apply in e-books. The added attraction to doing e-books is control and a sense of freedom.

Publishers are as interested in change as glaciers, and for good reason—as they “take all the risks” and they take the lion’s share of the profits.  This is no more evident than now with the sudden growth of e-readers and e-readership as the big houses like Random House and Penguin and others are warring with Amazon.com over price-setting. They have always controlled the prices, and now suddenly millions of avid readers, rabid readers if you will (as kindle readers can go through forty books in a week) want their books at less than ten dollars—as Bezos, the head of Amazon promised them—“You buy a kindle, no kindle book on Amazon for more than 9.99.”

Fact is, Bezos wants the world to have access to any book you or I want “at the moment” or as close to NOW as Whispernet can make it happen. This is why Bezos named his device “Kindle” to “kindle the passion in readers and non-readers alike.”

By using the A-B-C directions at www.dtp.amazon.com, I now have some 43 novels for sale online via Kindle Book Store on Amazon.com. The e-books for out of print titles may require getting a company like www.blueleaf.com to convert an actual book to a scan to doc, and once you have a doc file it must be converted to HTML—which can be the most difficult part of the steps involved. If you already have a doc file of the book in question, you won’t have to send off a book to be scanned. I used Blue Leaf because their prices are three times cheaper than anyone else doing book scanning.

The most trouble involved in the process is converting the file to html and then in reviewing it, correcting the errors that will inevitably come up in the process of conversion—sometimes quite time consuming; however, once done and placed up on your kindle dashboard, the rest is smooth sailing. The results in terms of sales are astonishing.  In the old business model with traditional publishing wisdom has it that your price the book at the top end—as high as the market will bear. However, in the e-book model, the readers expect and demand low end pricing, very low end pricing. They are savvy readers who know that putting a book onto Kindle is a snap compared to printing on paper, paying for paper, warehousing paper, overhead for paper, paying PR people, paying marketing director and his staff, etc.  Since all of this “goes away” in e-book world, the readers expect far cheaper books in the manner Bezos envisioned – and why not?

It is for this reason that I listed most of my forty plus books on Kindle as 1.99 and 2.99. These books at this low end rate are selling like a river flowing, while my three titles placed up by Harper Collins—priced at exactly the same price as the paper books at 6.99—are sitting there like three stones (no sale) while my novels like Children of Salem at 2.99 are my bestselling titles. I earned 400 dollars last month on books priced at the lowest end of the scale, while my hardcover novel in the same month earned zip.  In one year, I earned a mere 141 dollars on my traditionally published hardcover DEAD ON, while in one month, I earned 400 dollars on my lowly 1.99 and 2.99 specials.  What does this kind of economic comparison say about the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things?

The really disheartening thing that drop’s an author’s hopes and heart like a stone are a thing called “Returns” – and a writer does not earn out his advance and royalties until “returns” are “returned” from the booksellers. This is an old and out of date business element in book publishing and bookselling.  It is the only business wherein the product can be returned for full or close to full price if the buyer cannot sell the product. Until all “returns” are in, the author is kept in the dark about sales numbers, and even if he or she can get the sales numbers, there is always the warning that this is “before” returns. After returns then you can “believe” your royalty statement. That and AFTER everyone else—like the distributor of said units—gets their cut. Then the agent takes his or her cut. Pretty soon what trickles down as leftover change makes its way to the author.

In e-books, a disappointed reader returns a book, not the bookseller; Amazon.com will never “return” a book to you, the author/publisher. Essentially, there are no returns—perhaps eleven in a year, maybe twelve, but it is all done electronically as in credit to the account.  Now  then, once the traditional publisher is DONE with a book or a series and declares they will buy no more titles in a series or they will discontinue selling a title, what happens to the book or series? They go out of print; they become Ops which can only be found in used book stores or via Amazon cooperative used book stores. Out of prints pretty much means the book is dead and it was believed, up till now, dead forever—except in used book stores or on “remainder” tables.

In the world of e-books, guess what. There is no out of prints until which time the author decides to deep six or kill a book (once again the author decides). No author I know wants a beloved title to be out of print. No one wants his or her book to be “Remaindered” either. This is when a book is overstocked in a warehouse when THEY decide to sell it off at ten or five cents on the dollar to rid it from the warehouse, so it winds up at Costco or Wal-Mart with a big discount slapped on it while Costco pays ten cents a book and charges the reader five or seven bucks, and the author gets zero on such sales. In e-book world, there is no such animal as a “Remainder” e-book. Next to no returns, no “stripped” covers, and no remainders, and no warehousing, and no need of a lot of the flotsam of traditional “dead tree” publishing.

We need a Beetles song for e-book publishing; something along the lines of Imagine…Imagine a world without rancor between author and publisher as he is the same person! The sense of control and freedom comes with “If the book fails, I have only myself to blame.” Whereas in traditional publishing, “If the book fails, we have no one to blame but the author (as we put up the advance funds, the costs of printing, costs of salaries to committees, cost of distribution, cost of mailings, costs of returns, and eating the remainders—so it must be that the reading public just does not like this author, so in the end it must be his fault we did not sell enough units, and 50,000 units is not enough!).

So how can you get started in becoming an Indie Author/Publisher? Take a close look at www.smashwords.com and give it a shot; put up an article like my RN wife, Miranda Phillips Walker did on Kicking the Migraine Monkey off Your Back. She placed it up on Smashwords and then onto Kindle. The process for each is similar, and working with a short document is a good way to get a feel for the protocol of becoming your own publisher. It may at first be frustrating, but go at it a second time, and try to do it when you are not tired. Go to www.dtp.amazon.com as this is where the real action is and most readers! Finally, if you are having too many problems and the confusions and frustrations are too many, go to your son, daughter, nephew, niece or neighborhood computer geek for a spot of help. There are also folks online popping up daily who will help you for a price.

As for cover art, this too can become a problem if you are not proficient with images and placing lettering over images. I am not, so I get my son onto this project, and he is a genius with creating cover art (see any one of my titles for example: Killer Instinct, Disembodied, Children of Salem). Stephen’s found at www.srwalkerdesigns.com but there are many others online who do this for a price as well.  In the event you want a POD paper book option as well as an e-book, you might want to work with www.wordclay.com for a print on demand paperback version, and there I found creating a cover using their template relatively easy once I got the hang of it. If you approach all of it as “practice run” with the expectation it may take you at least two runs at this, you will not become so overly upset with yourself as to quit on it before you are successful.

Oh my…I just earned $100 more in the last twenty-four hours from my ebooks! Well enough of that! This about covers it. If you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Robert W. Walker


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Award-winning author and graduate of Northwestern University ROBERT W. WALKER created his highly acclaimed INSTINCT and EDGE SERIES between 1982 and 2005.  Rob has since written his award-winning historical series featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom with CITY FOR RANSOM (2006), SHADOWS IN THE WHITE CITY (2007), and CITY OF THE ABSENT (2008). This history-mystery hybrid straddles the Chicago World’s Fair circa 1893, and has had enthusiastic reviews from Chicago historians and the Chicago Tribune, which likened “the witticism to Mark Twain, the social consciousness to Dickens, and the ghoulish atmosphere to Poe!”   Rob’s most recent book is DEAD ON, a PI’s tale of revenge as a reason to live—set in modern day Atlanta. An unsold but completed novel entitled CUBA BLUE features a female detective in Havana who investigates a multiple murder of three doctors from America and Canada (co-authored with Lyn Pokabla).  The current work in progress is CURSE of the TITANIC, another theory of why Captain Edward Smith sank the Titanic as I put a plague-spreading monster on board (two concurrent stories of present day and historical suspense and horror). Rob’s completed, next historical suspense is CHILDREN of SALEM, while an historical romance and suspense novel, it pulls no punches in exposing the evil and the many sad truths of any theocracy— this one surrounding the court and people who allowed neighbor to hang neighbor in the Salem Witchcraft episode in grim 1692 New England, which one professional editor remarked on:  Only Robert Walker could make this work—romance amid the infamous witch trials. For more on Rob and his published works, see www.robertwalkerbooks.com , www.HarperCollins.com , www.acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com , www.makeminemystery.blogspot.com , www.dirtydeeds-advice.blogspot.com

02/02/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Helen Dunn Frame

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Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Helen Frame. Helen's a businesswoman with lots of experience in professional correspondence and today, she's going to share what it takes to write a successful business letter. If you are a writer in the 'search for an agent' stage, a successful writer corresponding with booksellers or editors, or just someone who wants to keep your family up to date on what's happening in your life, this is excellent information. Thanks for being a Tuesday Friend for KdBlog, Helen.



CREATING LETTERS THAT GARNER RESULTS     

 by Helen Dunn Frame

Years ago a friend whose second language was English often asked me to write letters for her. Whether it was to her insurance company, some religious leader, or the Governor of Texas, she always received a reply, usually a personal one.  In her eyes I was an expert.

 Long before I met this friend and personal computers replaced typewriters, I composed letters to my family to keep them up-to-date about my life.  In essence they were blogs before the term was created.  I used to send one relative the original and the others carbon copies, rotating who won the more legible ones.  Now I plan to start a personal blog about my adventure living in Costa Rica.  The goal: establish myself as an expert before completing Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida.  Targeted readers are Baby Boomers who might find my “glimpses of life in Costa Rica” a helpful source for planning for retirement or at least for purchasing a vacation home.

 Writing a blog to get a following has become an important marketing tool.  Creating effective letters still helps to sell a manuscript or finished product, whether it is a query to a publisher, an appeal for a book signing, or a request for a review. 

 It still amazes me how many marketing letters or notices from organizations, often from a top executive, begin: “I would like to tell you . . .?”  Do you really care what the egotist wants you to know?  Frankly most of these letters end up in the trash unread.

 Bottom line, it can’t be emphasized enough that you keep the word “I” to a minimum.  Think in terms of the reader whose “I” is the most important one.  Not yours. Especially avoid starting a paragraph with an “I”.  Proofread the letter to make sure the number of times you use an “I” is minimal and absolutely necessary.

 For example, instead of opening the letter as mentioned above, hook the reader.  You may find that asking a question proves a fantastic beginning. “How do you get a book signing in June?”  Follow it with the answer, “You have a wedding in your book.”  This means, of course, that you thought ahead to logically include events in your book that enable you to market it more easily.  The wedding in my mystery Greek Ghosts was an integral part of the story, not contrived, and enabled me to have a book signing in June, the third event at the same store.

 Keep your letter to one page.  Write short sentences and paragraphs that keep the reader wanting to read the next one.  Use simple rather than complex words because not all members of your audience have college degrees.  Even educated people appreciate easily read and understood pieces. Finally, have an odd number of paragraphs.  For some reason, that incites the recipient to respond.   Don’t ask me why, but an even number psychologically suggests closure with no reply necessary.

 Just as you do in your manuscript, think action verbs and eliminate passive phrases like “There is . . .”   Use different words rather than repeat the same one, especially within one paragraph.  The title of your creation is different. After carefully devising it so it captures attention, repeat it where logically possible to promote recall.

 Also, check for certain words like “is” or “be” and other words you use a lot. Substitute action words wherever possible unless no other one makes sense.  Don’t create a convoluted sentence.  Finally, if you have a widow, a one word line, at the end of a paragraph, eliminate it.

 Set your letter aside for a couple of days after it feels finished.  Later read it like an editor.  You’re libel to exclaim, “Did I write that?”  Your response might indicate it was well done, or not.  Remember, even one typo can turn your reader off. Ask someone else to check it because another person is apt to catch errors. While computer programs have spelling and grammar check tools, keep in mind, you have to know grammar and how to spell to be sure you should change something.

 Finally, many good letters fail because the writer didn’t ask the reader to buy.  What results do you want?  Most likely a positive response like my friend received. Ask for it!



Helen Dunn Frame is an accomplished businesswoman whose professional writing skills and love of travel culminated in the fascinating mystery GREEK GHOSTS in which threads of her experiences have been woven.

In Costa Rica, where she has spent most of her time since 2005, she has had a number of writing projects including creating a second book in the mystery series, and an anecdotal book to help baby boomers research retiring in the country. In 2008, Helen was Editor of Coldwell Banker Costa Rica's Vista Magazine that utilized her writing, public relations, and real estate experiences.

Living abroad and traveling extensively in 50 countries, as well as having a Master's Degree in Sociology from New York University, has given Helen a deep appreciation for the value of diverse cultures. A graduate of the Journalism School at Syracuse University, she has been published in major newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany.

Email Helen at: helen@helendunnframe.com

Website: www.helendunnframe.com

01/26/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Susan McBride

41TRRD-Ip2L._SS500_  This week's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Susan McBride. I met Susan a hundred and two years ago (maybe not quite that long, but it's been a while) when I went to my very first writer's conference. I was nervous, actually terrified. I listened to her and the Deadly Diva's give a talk and managed to get up enough nerve to speak with them afterward. Susan was sweet, funny, and helpful to a newbie who didn't know enough to even know what questions to ask. I love her to death, I love her books, and I can't wait to meet up with her at another conference because wherever Susan is there's bound to be laughter.

Welcome to Tuesdays with Friends, Susan. Your book, The Cougar Club, comes out tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by KdBlog so we can help you celebrate. 

KdBloggers, Susan's giving away, that's right as in FREE, a copy of The Cougar Club to a lucky commenter so be sure and drop her a line. You might be a winner.

Joining The Cougar Club

 by Susan McBride


If you're reading this, it means The Cougar Club, my debut in women's fiction, has hit the shelves.  No doubt, my mother and mom-in-law have already invaded their local bookstores, buying armloads and telling their respective cashiers, "This book is amazing!  You must push it on customers!"  I've written mysteries and young adult novels, all of them dear to me.  But there's something very special about Cougar, and maybe it has to do with the fact that I'm an official member of the Club...albeit, an accidental one.


You see, I never prowled the city at night, wearing a tight mini-skirt and spray-tanned cleavage, hunting younger men (well, that's what I used to think a Cougar was--a contemporary and kind of frightening Mrs. Robinson with Botoxed forehead and a martini permanently attached to her hand).  Honestly, I was lucky whenever I found time to date at all, what with trying to kick-start my writing career and working part-time as a medical transcriptionist.  In fact, when I hit 40 and was still single, my mother started fretting that I'd end up a Crazy Cat Lady, cleaning litter boxes in my bath-robe and never leaving the house except to fetch the packages from QVC the UPS man left on my porch.


So it's my mom who inadvertently turned me into a Cougar, after submitting my name toSt. Louis Magazine and begging them to select me as a "Top Single" in 2005.  I can see her letter now:  "Please, help my workaholic daughter find a man.  She's not bad looking, has good teeth, and isn't any nuttier than anyone else in our family."  (Just kidding, Mom!)  When St. Louis Magazine ended up picking me and putting me in the November 2005 "Top Singles" issue, I knew my life was in for a bit of a change.  All of a sudden, I was going to parties sponsored by the magazine, letting myself be put on the auction block for charity, and turning into a veritable social butterfly.


I met a lot of very nice people in the process, but Ed stood apart from the rest.  I almost didn't go out with him at first.  I lost his business card, for one (though he cleverly emailed me through the magazine) and then someone freaked me out by telling me he was in his 20s (he does have a baby face). I had turned 41 a few weeks before the issue came out, and 30 was my bottom-line for guys.  I didn't want to have to explain what Smurfs were or how life existed before texting (or have to burp my date after dinner!).


Turns out, Ed was a mere nine years younger, which was fine with me.  I told myself, "Heck, have fun with him!  Enjoy yourself!  You don't have to marry him or anything!"  After he took me to my first-ever hockey game and purchased me at that charity auction, I realized I loved being around him.  He was smart and funny, and he knew a lot about so many things. He seemed quiet around others but he always had plenty to say to me.  I don't know quite what I expected about seeing a younger man, maybe that I couldn't keep up, that he'd be allergic to my having a few wrinkles, that his family wouldn't like me.  All fears were dispelled the more we got to know one another, and the more I understood, "This guy is great!  We're good together!  To hell with the age thing!"


Within about three months, I knew he was "the one."  We bought a house together eight months after we met, and Ed stood by me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer that Christmas (which was when we got engaged!).  We'll be celebrating our second wedding anniversary on February 24, and I can't imagine my life without him. I'm 45 now, and Ed's 36.  Yes, he still has a baby face and frequently gets carded when we're out to dinner.  Does it bother me?  Let's just say, I'll be very happy when he starts to go gray!  But he keeps me young, he makes me feel good about myself, and he supports me in whatever I do (plus, he's darned cute!).  I believe that all things happen for a reason.  If I hadn't married a younger guy, I wouldn't have been asked to write The Cougar Club, and that was the most fun I've ever had writing a book. 


So when people call me a Cougar, I just smile and think, "They should be so lucky."  ;-)


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 Susan McBride is the author of The Cougar Club, hailed as "a fun fantasy" by Publishers Weekly and a Midwest Connection Pick for February by the Midwest Booksellers Association.  She has also written five Debutante Dropout Mysteries, including the award-winning Blue Blood and Too Pretty to Die, as well as several novels in her Debsyoung adult series.  For more scoop, visit her web site at susanmcbride.com