Monday, March 20, 2017

Failing at Life 2017

Yup. It's that time of year again. I feel like I'm failing at everything.
Point 1: My classroom is a mess. My students have spring fever and Spring Break taunts from weeks away.

Point 2: I haven't made any headway on my current manuscript. (Quite frankly, I haven't even had the head space to attempt it. #ShameSpiral)

Point 3: Marketing? Yeah, let's not talk about marketing. I just wish my book were capable of selling themselves. (Every author dreams of self-marketing books, don't they?)

I don't know about you, but The Writer Suckfest is at least a yearly event for me. And no matter whether you have a full-time career or a full-time family (or both) you'll feel like you're failing at that too. Should we give up and consume copious amounts of chocolate while binge-watching an entire season of mediocre television?

I say NO. No way. Let's be proactive! (If that doesn't work, we can always resort to chocolate later, right?)

Five Tips for Surviving Failing at Life

Runaway Don't worry. It's not an act of cowardice. A change of pace and/or location helps you see things as less fatal than before. It may be as simple as disappearing into a really great book or movie but it also might require a beach-side cottage and the calming shush of the ocean.
This weekend I ran way to Comic Con. As weird as it sounds, there's nothing like hobnobbing with a hoard of geeks, dweeds, and super cool nerds to make you feel human again.

Regroup A chat with a friend, writing it out, or just talking to yourself until life makes sense again helps straighten things out. Think of soldiers in battle. Sometimes they have to retreat, assess the threat, and determine the best plan of attack. I don't know about your brain, but mine works in a similar fashion. That's why we have support groups, people!

Recognize Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Freaking Albert Einstein . . . As irritating as that quote is, there is something to be said for recognizing what's failed you in the past and what has resulted in success and correcting accordingly.

For instance, when I mentioned marketing earlier I really wanted to confess something. I haven't been using my past marketing experience to inform today's decisions. How dumb is that? Time to fix it and sell some more books!

Reconnect The longer I walk this planet, the more I see the importance of forging connections. We connect with ourselves, we connect with others, and we connect with the universe (whether you call it God or destiny or fate). We also connect with our own characters and stories. Whenever I'm floating aimlessly or bumbling about, usually it's because one or more lines of connection are down. Reassess, my dears, find the downed lines and pop them back in place. (BTW genuinely connecting with readers, followers, fellow writers, and reviewers is my number one marketing tip!)

Recommit Once a game plan has been developed, we need to recommit ourselves to it. Make it achievable and then jump right in! Does that mean we go down in flames if it doesn't work out? Nope. We live and learn and move on.

Here's my game plan:
1) writing two more guest posts
2) running promotions on my books
3) preparing for this summer's author events 
4) continuing to work on my current project
5) not freaking out about the pitfalls of March

After my weekend runaway, I can recognize that my students are coming along nicely and only require a little help. No group of kindergartners advanced to first graders without a certain amount of drama. In a similar manner, no first draft was ever completed without a certain amount of hair loss and swearing.

That's my plan and I'm sticking to it! (But I'm keeping the chocolate on hand, just in case!)

So my dears, what's gone horribly wrong in your life lately? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it? Leave me a comment! You're not alone, my dears. I'm here to support and inspire.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Midnight Sisters Shops Local!

I know you've heard it. Print books are dying out.

It's not encouraging to those of us who want to sell books to hear that buyers aren't buying. Or if they are buying, they're buying eBooks for under $1.
My crazy family. I can't take them anywhere...
Well, my dears, here's the truth. My author events in bookstores have always been successful. I don't make enough to move out of my two-bedroom condo or quit my day job, but I do make enough to keep writing. 

And occasionally pay for a pedicure. Or a green polka dot dress.
When your book launch is at a retro dress shop...
I've had a blast promoting my books in local shops this year. Friends, family, and perfect strangers strolled in and snatched up copies of my newest release, Midnight Sisters. And many of them snagged Becoming Beauty as well.
Crazy friends. Oh how I love them.
How does that happen if print books are a dying breed? Here's what I've seen:
  • Local shops run by individuals who understand local culture and stock their shelves accordingly will be successful.
  • Authors who carefully plan public events, put in the leg work (i.e. traditional and online promotion), and genuinely connect with potential readers will also be successful.
Trust me, simply showing up with a smile and 900 copies of your newest novel will not be enough. There needs to be a solid plan in place. Chat with shop owners and librarians, build good rapport, borrow tips and techniques from other writers, and get busy promoting on your end.

And yes, please take your smile and pile of books. You're going to need those.

Like any author, I've had several nominally successful author events too. Instead of becoming discouraged, I choose to learn from those experiences.
  • Did I fail to promoted the event sufficiently? 
  • Did I fail to include effective strategies that have worked before?
  • Is my sales pitch (i.e. book blurb) enough to hook potential readers?
  • Did I make some valuable connections that I can use later on?
  • Did I leave a good impression with my host?
As a second-time author, I've been much better at playing to my strengths this time around. For me, that includes playing to the local crowd and being warm, friendly, and visible. Let me tell you, it's exhausting, but so much fun!

That's what we do, isn't it? Take the awesome, learn from the not-so-awesome, and keep on improving. So writerly and non-writerly friends, go forth and conquer!

Then come back and tell me how it went.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Reviews: Give 'em to me!

My background is in academic writing rather than creative writing, so I have a different perspective on constructive criticism than the run-of-the-mill author.

Basically, I get really excited when people review my books. And I don't despise three-star reviews.

Let me say that again: I don't despise three star reviews.

Why not?

Having a variety of reviews legitimizes books and authors. Even those one- and two-star reviews that make writers wonder if readers actually finished the book. In fact, books with all five star reviews make my eye twitch. I think, Really? There was nothing wrong with it? There wasn't a time when you wished the author had gone in a different direction? Or a character you fell in love with who didn't get enough screen time?

Success in the literary world is a numbers game. Reaching new readers is the name of the game. And when you share your book with the world, you have to be prepared for honesty, even from your friends and family. For instance, at my launch party for Becoming Beauty, my dad sat down with me and outlined some of the issues with my first novel. The novel I was at that moment launching. I think I blinked at him. A lot. But I listened and made notes for my subsequent novels.

That's what we do.

The second we decide we know everything about our craft, we may as well retire. Because apparently we have nothing new to offer the literary world. Keep learning from your mistakes, my friends, and move forward. Swallow that ego and open your ears.

So, how do you get reviews?

Well, it helps when you have a publishing house behind you. Cedar Fort sent my books to libraries and librarians and reviewers. Using their database, I made personal contact with Becoming Beauty's blog tour participants. They're the ones who started the ball rolling. I've done the same with Midnight Sisters. A blog tour is a lot of work, especially if you'd like something more than cookie cutter posts, but it's well worth it to reach new readers and reviewers.

And feel free to beg. Writers can't be afraid to ask for reviews. They just need to be ready for a few iffy reviews. Learn from each book you publish and grow with each project.

So here it comes! Are you ready? If you've read my books, hop on Amazon or Goodreads and leave me a review. Good. Bad. Meh. I'll take them all! Just give your honest impressions and click the submit button! It's like sharing your favorite brand of Girl Scout Cookies, people will take your opinion into consideration.

Peanut butter & chocolate. Mmmmm...
By the way, the correct answer is Tagalongs, my friends. Yes, Tagalongs.

If you're a writer (or in any other review-driven field) wondering how to deal with negative reviews, I'm there for you too! We all have a few stinkers in the bunch. We grin and bear it and remember that exposure is always good.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ladybug's Garden {Book Review}

The fact that I teach kindergarten and have done so for the past decade means everyone assumes I write children's books. 

It does make sense. I'm sort of an expert. But it takes a certain something to write an appealing children's book and I am far too obsessed with big words to attempt it.

However, I still follow a number of children's authors and illustrators on Twitter because I fully appreciate what they do. So, when I was invited to participate in Ladybug's Garden Blog Tour, I came right on board! Ladybug's Garden is a sweet story that touches on the importance of attending to the needs of others. Since we've been discussing community helpers in my classroom lately, I introduced Ladybug's Garden to my kindergartners.

Kindergartners' Response to Ladybug's Garden:
Out of the fifteen children, twelve enjoyed the story and three were unsure if they liked it. (BTW all three were boys. All the girls present liked Ladybug's Garden.) After reading the book, we discussed what they liked or did not like about the story and how they felt about the illustrations.

Me: What did you like about the story?
Boy: Well, ladybug helped bee and snail. It made me feel happy.
Boy: They made it up the hill. That made me happy.
Girl: She made everyone help. I like that they made her a party.

Me: What did you not like about the story?
Boy: The snail was going slow. He couldn't deliver so much.

Me: What did you think about the illustrations?
Girl: I liked all of them.

Overall, it was a very positive response from the Schofields' intended audience. Ladybug's Garden is especially appealing to girls. They appreciated both the story, the illustration, and the fact that it was written and illustrated by younger authors. I believe that when I add it to our classroom library, students will choose to reread it. 

My Response:
Initially, I didn't fall in love with Ladybug's Garden. but when I shared it with children, I enjoyed the rhythmic flow and bright illustrations much more. I think this would be a wonderful story to share with the youngsters in your life. As an adult, I would probably rate it as 3.5 stars.

Ladybug's Garden Coverart
About the Book:
When Ladybug receives an invitation to a picnic, she prepares a basket of treats to share and sets off into the garden. On her way, Ladybug notices several bugs in need. She happily stops to help them, but worries she won’t make it in time. When Ladybug finally reaches the picnic, she discovers a sweet surprise! Watch the trailer for Ladybug's Garden for more details!

Annabella & Sofia Schofield
About the Authors:
Anabella and Sofia Schofield are sixteen-year-old twin sisters and best friends. When asked in preschool what they wanted to be when they grew up, both responded, “A ladybug!” Their goals have changed, but they’re happy to be writing about a ladybug now! Ladybug’s Garden began as a project the authors wrote and illustrated at age thirteen. In their spare time, Anabella and Sofia enjoy reading, writing, watching movies, photography, music, and art.

Ladybug's Garden is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

See what everyone is saying about Ladybug's Garden! 

Ladybug’s Garden Blog Tour Schedule:
February 8: Mom Read It
February 9: Beach Bound Books
February 10: Book Review Mama
February 11: I Heart Reading {Pre-launch Party}
February 12: TheReader’s Salon
Books Direct {Review & Giveaway}
Pop’s Blog {Author Interview}
February 13: Little Fox Reads {Author Interview}
February 14: Life with A
February 16: Cranial Hiccups
February 17: Sarah Boucher
February 18: The Resistance

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Launched: Take Two

Book Launches are the whipped chocolate ganache atop a carefully assembled cake.

Because seriously, what kind of nutjob skips the frosting?

Becoming Beauty's Book Launch was a blast! Even though I self-published Midnight Sisters, I still wanted to give it the coming out it deserved. So on Saturday, January 21, 2017 Endless Indulgence Retro Wear hosted Midnight Sisters' Book Launch Party.

And it was a party!

It all began with a good set up. Here are the basics I make sure are present at my events:
  • An appropriate venue.
  • Invitations and events set up via social media that are easy to share and promote. No matter how good the venue is (and mine was awesome) it won't matter if no one knows about it.
  • Giveaways or other special incentives for your guests. (I've done giveaways, coloring contests and guessing games, depending on my audience.)

My philosophy is to keep things as professional and fun as possible. Put on your fancy shoes, your best author grin, and get to work! 

And custom cupcakes never hurt! Thanks again to Nicole's Cupcake Corner for helping us fend off low blood sugar! And thanks to everyone who participated, visited, nabbed a cupcake, entered the giveaway, bought a book, and kept me giggling all afternoon.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Indie (Hybrid) Writerville

When my plans for world domination failed, I decided to take the self-publishing path for Midnight Sisters.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
I'm grateful every day that Cedar Fort took a chance on me and Becoming Beauty. Traditional publishing taught me about editing, storytelling, and character arcs. I also learned that traditionally published authors have no time to sit back and eat bon-bons. Nope. Cedar Fort managed book distribution and formatting while I set up my blog tour, book launch, arranged for signings, and scheduled author visits to schools and libraries.

Fast forward two years. As a Indie Author, I had complete control over everything including the things I had no idea how to do. Luckily, I had an amazing team behind me who was willing to pick up the slack.

Editing: My fabulous editor friend Margaret Zerkle got to the root of all my book issues. Meg asked the hard questions and didn't care if it made me cry or throw things. (I didn't actually cry or throw things. But I appreciate that honesty.) It made my story clearer and my characters more interesting.

Cover Art: My official graphic designer, Cindy, created everything from my coverart to bookmarks and other promotional materials for Midnight Sisters' Blog Tour and Launch Party. The experience of shooting the cover with Cindy convinced me that this indie author thing was definitely for me. Collaborating with someone to bring your vision to life is intoxicating.

Formatting: Hybrid author Jo Ann Schneider and her hubby Jon came to my rescue on book formatting. I am less than computer saavy, people. But with my crash course on formatting, I'm much more comfortable with the process. (But yes, Jo, sometimes I still need you to hold my hand!)

Marketing: For Midnight Sister's release, I contacted everyone I knew in the writing world and politely asked for their help. Because Becoming Beauty's Blog Tour went so well, many people came on board immediately and several more continued to ask me to guest post, send them a copy of Midnight Sisters to review, sell my book in their bookshops, and host author events at their venue. These are the amazing people who share you with their readers and fans. Why go to all the effort of setting up blog tours, book launches, and giveaways? The reality is that running blog tours, giveaways, and other promotional events makes your book more visible to a wider audience and grows your following on social media. And in case you haven't been paying attention, that's what really sells your books. 

At this point you may be wondering how to build a team of awesome individuals like mine. Here's how:

Be kind.
Be respectful.
Work your butt off.

People sense when you've put forth your best effort. They respond when you come through for them. Connect with them. Be available. And when they ask for your help, say yes! Just ask Ms. Etiquette, it works.

The Indie Author life isn't a cake walk, but with a whole lot of work, you can pull it off. But what do I know? I'm still learning! But yes, I will share what I learn along the way.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Blog Touring: Midnight Sisters

That's right! It's time for another blog tour! Connecting with readers, writers, and bloggers and getting their first impressions during Becoming Beauty's Blog Tour was a blast! And seriously, who doesn't love a good giveaway? And bargains!

For Midnight Sisters' Blog Tour I decided to shake things up a bit. For instance, the giveaway is bigger and better this time, featuring a chance to win Amazon gift cards or a signed copies of Midnight Sisters. And for the duration of the tour, January 9 - 20, Becoming Beauty in eBook will be on sale for 99 cents!

That's just the beginning. Each blog tour day will reveal something new about the mischievous cast of Midnight Sisters. It promises to be fun! Check back in over the next couple of weeks to take advantage of all the cool things that are going on!

Jan 9: R.K. Grow (Jonas Selkirk feature)
Jan 10: Blooming with Books (Ariela Spencer feature)
Jan 11: Eclectic Alli (Passionate Geek feature)
Jan 11: Mel's Shelves (Brisella Spencer feature)
Jan 12: Adrienne Quintana (Canela “Cinnamon” Spencer feature)
Jan 12: A Backwards Story (Daniela Spencer feature) 
Jan 13: Bookworm Lisa (Estella/Frizella Spencer feature)
Jan 13: Perfect Beginnings (Estella/Frizella Spencer feature)
Jan 14: Cindy C. Bennett (Gisella, Hayla, Isella Spencer feature)
Jan 15: Inkings and Notions (Gisella, Hayla, Isella Spencer feature)
Jan 16: Wishful Endings (Janela Spencer feature)
Jan 16: Corinne's Garden (Krisela Spencer feature)
Jan 17: Katie's Clean Book Collection (Larela Spencer feature)
Jan 18: Literary Timeout (Braden feature)
Jan 19: A Backwards Story (Book Review)
Jan 20: Let It Be & Celebrate (Special author feature)

Amazing things are happening over the next few weeks. Midnight Sisters' Launch Party is scheduled at the end of the blog tour. Naturally, you're all invited! And giveaways, freebies, and author events will continue through February. 

Thanks for dropping by, awesome readers! Feel free to enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway