April Book Lessons

This month, my reading was a bit more targeted for a purpose so my lessons are a bit different. My clients are growing and expanding into new areas so I specifically read more adult romance, including some M/M. My lessons are more for me about what is out on the market, where the gaps are, what's working and what is missing the mark.

I've also noticed that my reading lately has been very dystopian heavy (I really do love it). This means I've been missing out on other genres and really narrowing down what I experience as a reader. So next month I'm hoping to expand a bit. I'd love to find some great fantasy (urban or otherwise) and maybe even a PNR. It's been a while, so your suggestions are welcome.

Even though I don't have a books specific lesson this month, I wanted to share this video with you guys. This podcast is a treasure trove of info for authors, but this particular episode tackled the idea of reading with purpose to improve as an author. These guys put into words exactly what I'm trying to do here. If you have some time, I really suggest checking this out.

A Thunderous Experiment

When I asked about new topics to cover here on the blog, one of the great suggestions was Thunderclap. If you've never heard of Thunderclap, that's okay. It's still pretty new in the grand scheme of promotional tools.

Here's the rundown. You create a campaign that has a very short message you would like to get to as many people as possible. Then you recruit others to support that campaign by signing up with one of their social media accounts. If you reach the target number of supporters (minimum is 100), on a day you specify, Thunderclap will use those accounts to send out your short message.

You can get an account for free and the basic campaign is also free, making this an attractive option for authors without a lot of dough to spend.

I did a campaign last October, but I didn't really pay attention to how it worked. I was so consumed with hitting my 100 people goal that I pretty much forgot about checking to see if the whole thing was effective or not (hand slap, bad marketer, bad).

So while I can give you a rundown of how the system works, I don't feel qualified to tell you if it works. Time for an experiment.

Just this week, I got the final cover for Rite of Rejection. I was just going to share it here, but now I'm going to use it as part of a new Thunderclap to see just how effective this all is. I've got traceable links in place to see if any of this is effective. Now I need you.

The more people that sign up for the Thunderclap, the more data I'll have to see if this is something we should all be doing or if you should focus your time somewhere else. Do me a favor and support the campaign. It launches on May 6th. Then, I'll be back with the numbers to see if this made any difference.

Agency Lessons: polished pitching

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
Conference season is upon us. For those of you in the query trenches, this means it's pitching time. Since I was recently at RT, I thought I'd share some tips from the pitches I took and witnessed. Yes, we do watch other people's pitches.

1. Don't memorize
Okay, so you should absolutely know what you are going to say before you arrive at an agent/editor table. If it helps you to write out your pitch and memorize it so you know you will have a fall-back, then do that. But for the love of all things holy, please do not sit down and rattle off three paragraphs of your memorized query letter.

First, you are wasting your opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about your book. I can read your query letter when you email it to me. Second, when you spit out a memorized pitch, no matter how pro you are, your voice takes on this really not good tone that eliminates all the passion I know you have for your story. Just don't do it.

2. Know your story
If I ask you what makes your main character unique, you need to know this. If I ask what your character wants more than anything and what's standing in his way, you should have the answer. If I say, this sounds a lot like XYZ, how is your story different, you better have a good idea.

We don't expect authors to have all the answers to the universe, but you need to know your story inside and out. A pitch session is you selling us on your book. If you can't tell me what makes your book special, I'm going to assume it's not.

3. Leave your cards at home
I know when you are just starting out, it can be tempting to go run and order a bunch of business cards. And if that makes you happy, go ahead and do it. But know that I don't need one when you pitch me. I promise, I will remember your story idea, but I'm not going to remember your name. So that card you gave me, by the end of the conference, I don't know where it came from. Which means I'll probably pitch it.

However, if you already have some books published, postcards or other types of media that have your books are awesome. If you aren't pitching as a debut, then it never hurts to pitch as a pro.
This is a really nice glossy print that I got from an author pitching me her newest project. This absolutely came home with me and is sitting on my desk so I remember to keep an eye out for her manuscript. If you don't have something like this, please don't go spend a bunch of money to have them made just for pitching. However, if you already have them, do bring them to your pitch sessions.

I get that pitching can be ridiculously nerve-wracking and for some, it's a full on panic inducing event. Hopefully, these tips can help. If you guys are interested, I can do another post next week to break down how to best utilize your pitch minutes. Let me know if you want to see that in the comments.

I oughta be in pictures

Life is still crazy in the Negovetich house. I have not yet fully recovered from RT. Translated, this means I'm still digging out from my email inbox. And with a book release coming up in less than two months (cue screaming) it's unlikely to slow down.

Which is precisely why it's a horrible idea to add more tasks to my to do list. Alas, I love horrible ideas.

At RT last week more than one person mentioned that they love my vlogs. You know, the ones I haven't done in over a year. That I stopped doing because I couldn't find thirty minutes of uninterrupted quiet time in my day. Yeah, those.

But it did get me thinking. I loved making those videos. I loved that it felt like I was thiiiiiis much closer to you.

So, I'm jumping back on the wagon. I did some brainstorming while waiting in line for the post office and other mindless tasks. I've got four videos already mapped out. That makes this a thing. A real thing.

No idea on when the first video will make it out, but keep your eyes peeled and I'll be sure to post it here.

And while we are on the subject on content, I want to get an idea of what you guys would like to see next. I just finished up with the Reasons Your Book Isn't Selling series, and the inbox for Agency Lessons is remarkably low (hint: now is a great time to ask your questions for a quick turn-around). So what do you want to see next? There's a lot of content already on the blog in the archives. Are you interested in a periodic refresh of an older post? Do you have ideas for a new marketing series? Is there anything that you've been struggling with that you're curious to know more about?

While this blog is absolutely an outlet for me, it's also meant to be a resource for all of you. So if you have ideas, you can 1. drop them into the comment box, 2. shoot me a quick email, or 3. add them in this anonymous form. Let me know what you want so I can keep the relevant content coming.

SWAG with swagger

You guys! How in the world is it already April 20th? I swear this whole month is one big blur. I've been knee deep in taxes, attending RT, and getting everything ready for the release of Rite of Redemption. It's been crazy.

But I'm back from RT and thought I'd share some observations...on SWAG.

So, this was my first RT and I was thus unprepared for the SWAG. It was absolutely everywhere. I kid you not, there were three full length novels just in my welcome bag. While I was mostly tied up in editor meetings, I did take some take to walk the author signing to get a feel for what's out there. Here's what I saw.

1. Paper swag is dead
Now, let me say that I still think having bookmarks or other easy to handle paper items are good things for authors to have. I keep a handful in my purse for when I meet new people. Whenever I get asked "What do you write?" I pull one out. It makes it easy to keep the conversation moving and puts my book in front of them without being a shmuck about it.

However, at a conference like this, almost none of the paper swag made it into my suitcase. I just don't need that many bookmarks, postcards, etc. It felt unbelievably wasteful to me and I'm sure I'm not alone there.

2. QR codes are now a thing
I've been a fan of QR codes for a while now, since we used them a lot at my last marketing job. However, authors have been a little slow to pick them up. That was not the case at this year's RT. I saw lots of codes leading to author websites, twitter accounts, etc. Also, several of the bookmarks and other paper swag had QR codes for a free download. The QR code added instant value to an item previously destined for the trashcan. So, if you're thinking about having some paper swag printed up, consider adding a code.

3. Magnets flopped
There weren't a lot of magnets in the swag bags, but the ones that were included missed the mark for me. Look, I get that as authors we LOVE our covers. We (wrongly) assume that everyone else must love them, too. I don't want a magnet of a book cover for a book I haven't read. That isn't going on my refrigerator. Also, the flat magnets aren't all that useful since most of them only have enough juice to hold up one paper at a time. So magnets went in the trash. I didn't see any button style magnets, but I think these would be a bigger hit. They cost more, but are much less likely to end up in the waste basket.

4. Buttons are still a hit
Say what you will about buttons, but they are still a major hit at conventions and conferences. Attendees love popping these on to their name badge lanyards, turning their necks into walking billboards. However, not all buttons are created equal. The teeny-tiny buttons aren't fooling anyone. I know they are a lot cheaper, but they're so small that any wording is going to get lost in the size. Also, the same rule applies about covers on magnets. No one wants a button of your book cover. Instead, the biggest hits were buttons with catchy phrases or cute sayings. If they tie into your books, fantastic. But it's okay if they don't so long as you add your website in there somewhere. My favorite button phrase of the conference: That's What She Read. I picked this one up from J. Leigh Bailey and proudly showed it to everyone.

5. Useful over relevant
Some book subjects lend themselves well to certain types of SWAG. And those of us without a natural tie in weep into our flexible rubber bracelets. But here's what I saw. A useful swag item is much more likely to make it home than one that ties into a book, but just takes up space. Example, at J. Leigh Bailey's booth (she had awesome swag), she got some color changing straws printed up with her name and website. My kids tested them out and they change from blue to purple and back again. These straws have nothing to do with her romance novels, but they will be hanging around my house until they fall apart. Other useful swag I saw included chapstick, nail files, hand sanitizer spray, and pens (a writer can never have too many pens). This is the type of item that gets tucked into a purse or pocket and used all the time, creating multiple impressions on your potential readers.

For those of you who only have eBooks, I saw some super great ideas. Several authors of eBook only books had little pamphlets printed out with the first chapter of their book. Megan Erickson had the first chapter of two different books printed back to back so each cover was included. This provided a way for readers to find these books and get a physical item signed. Just make sure you include a QR code or link so that you can direct hooked readers to where they can get the rest of the book.

Since it's conference season, I'd love to hear what great swag items you're seeing this year!

Get off the playground

Today, I have a story to tell you. Back in the day I was my class's student council VP. I faithfully served from 8th grade to 11th grade. But I lost the election for my senior year. Which seems weird, right? Except, I know why I lost. A rumor.

There was a rumor going round the week before elections that I was telling everyone what a bad job the president was doing. This was a false rumor, but it didn't matter. The damage was done. I lost.

So why am I telling you this?

I've seen several authors, bloggers, and others in the industry get ticked lately about rumors. I've had people ask me what they should do about rumors going around about them. How should they respond? What can they do to stop it?

So here is my advice...

Get off the playground. The publishing industry is not high school, and no one has time for any of this nonsense. Situations like this need to be dealt with like mature adults, and we have to put our feelings aside so we don't end up on an author's behaving badly list. Here is my three step solution for dealing with rumors and bullies.

1. Deal directly with those involved
I don't mean you should approach the rumor mongers. That can only spell disaster. But if rumors about you involve another individual, then the two of you should have a conversation. Way back in high school, the president and I had a nice chat where she flat out asked if I had said the things being spread about. I said no, and we talked about how stupid rumors are. While it didn't stop the rumor from being spread, it did make sure that our relationship wouldn't be a casualty. So speak directly and privately with any individual directly indicated in the rumor.

2. Turn the rest of it off
Seriously. Do Not Engage! If someone is constantly tweeting at you or tagging you in posts, block them. Do not respond. Do not defend. Do not explain. The rumor mongers and instigators of the world are like gremlins, all sweet and innocent on the surface. But engaging them is akin to feeding them after midnight and pouring water on them. They will multiply and turn nasty. I know it's tempting. I realize it can seem physically painful to not defend yourself, but you have to resist, or risk dragging the whole thing out even longer.

3. Calm your tribe
Almost as bad as when the author goes on the offense, is when their tribe circles round and pulls out their claws. I've seen situation where the defending party becomes just as petty and vindictive as the original attacker. It's not pretty and no one walks away the winner. Obviously, you can't control all the people who know and love you, but asking those people to join you in ignoring the haters is the high road you need to be on.

At the end of the day, most of this probably won't matter. Maybe it hurts your stats for a bit, but people have pretty short memories for drama. While there have been cases of a bully refusing to let an author be, most of the time, this sort of thing blows over before you know it.

As authors and people, we cannot control the actions of others. We can't stop rumors and we can't prevent people from saying what they want about us, even if it's not true. What we can control is our own response. We can control how we let other people impact us. We can control how much power we give to someone else's words.

So don't throw sand and take turns on the swings, and we'll all get along just fine.

Agency Lessons: Rule following isn't just for queries

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

So, now that I've got an official release date for Rite of Redemption, I've fired up the old marketing machine again. For me, this means I've spent a lot of time this weekend staring at submission guidelines for bloggers.

I couldn't help but notice that on so many of these blogs, the lovely blogger will list very specific information they need along with very clear directions with how to contact them. It couldn't be more obvious what they are looking for. And yet, a scroll down the page to the comments section reveals multiple authors all trying to pitch their newest book for review. Right there. Where they were told not to do that.

Which got me thinking about the submission process for querying authors. Honestly, the two processes are very similar.

Just like each blogger wants most of the same information, most agents are looking for the same thing (Query, synopsis, pages). Some bloggers will want more information (preferred reviewer or contest preferences) or less (just put the synopsis in the contact form). Just like some agents want more information (your platform info or marketing plan) and some want less (just a query, thanks).

And the similarities don't end at the query stage. Agents have to follow the guidelines when we pitch to editors (Yes, there are rules). And when you go to market your work, you'll have to follow the rules for bloggers, professional reviewers, library submissions, conferences, book store signings, etc.

The list of places with rules is endless. And each place has a different set of rules. Honestly, it can be daunting. It would be lovely if I could have one review request email and send it to everyone. But I can't. Some bloggers have never heard of me, so they need an introduction. Other bloggers have become friends and a formal letter would be weird. Some blogs operate differently than most, so they just need different information.

I could send a form email. I won't get many responses that way. Just like you could send the exact same query to every agent. Chances are, you won't get many responses either.

So, all of this to say, I get it. Doing all that research and sending individual queries out to each agent with each one being just slightly different from the one before it can be maddening.  Do it anyway, and do it knowing that you've only just begun your rule following adventure. But maybe go ahead and slide in a smile face, you rebel, you.

A Publishing Announcement

Sooooo.....Remember how I published Rite of Rejection way back in December 2014?


I did that. And it was only supposed to be one book. A stand-alone. Because that's how I wrote it.

But then all you lovely readers said, "No dice. You're gonna need to write more of this story."

So I did. But it took me an eternity. Mostly because I had no idea what to put in a sequel. Because that was never part of the plan. I spent a lot of time over the next year staring at a blank page, eating fruit loops and crying. Convinced that every sentence I wrote was pure garbage and you would all curse the day you asked for a sequel.

Eventually, a year after the first book came out, I released Rite of Revelation.

I was convinced this would be my undoing and you would all unmask me as the obvious fraud I am. You didn't. Instead you told me you loved it. Said it was fantastic. Starting asking when the next book would come out.

Have I mentioned how much I love you guys?

Anyway. This time I actually knew what I wanted to put into a third book. It was one of the stipulations for writing book two. Know how the story ends before you commit to writing more. So this one went faster. Much faster actually.

Which is why I'm excited to officially announce that Rite of Redemption will be coming June 6th!!!!!

No cover yet, though I'll be getting one soon and hope to be ready to share it with you by early next month. Feedback from Beta readers is trickling in and they seem to like it. Fingers crossed. Editors are all lined up and I've even started up the marketing machine. So this is really happening.

Thank you all for being so awesome over the past year or so. I'll be sure to keep you posted as the day gets closer.