Friday, November 22, 2019

Publicity and Promotion

Many people in the public eye believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Publicity, positive or negative, promotes a career because it puts that person in the limelight. Of course, writers would like to be recognized for the quality of their work. Bad reviews hurt a writer’s sales and recognition as a serious author. Nevertheless, being ignored by reviewers is not something that authors appreciate either. Readers aren’t going to buy books they’ve never heard of. No reviews? No publicity? No sales.

So how do authors go about reaching readers, building a following among those who buy books? After all, it’s not just the small independent publishers who do little to promote their authors. These days even the major publishers do not put much effort and money into book promotion either. Writers have to think proactive.

How should writers go about reaching and building a readership? I’m going to offer a few suggestions that won’t break your bank account.

l. Use the internet:

a. Create a website. Every professional writer should have one.

b. Do social media networking such as blogging. Create your own blog and also guest blog on other sites. Interview other authors. Offer to do interviews on other sites, not those only for writers. Reach out to a more general, larger audience.  Create a presence on such popular internet sites as: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Bookbub, Booktown, etc.

d. Join internet writer groups of authors with common interests. Be an active reader and comment often in group and on their blogs. Not everyone can be an “influencer” but it helps to connect.

e. Be willing to read and review the work of other writers.

f. Ask other authors in your genre to read and review your books as well. You want as many reviews as possible on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Kobo, etc.

g. Send out advance review copies to internet reviewers who read in your genre. Reviews are important and we can’t always get them from the major review publications.

h. Possibly offer ARCs as giveaways both on your site, other sites. Is giving away free books a good method of increasing overall sales and getting publicity for an author’s brand? It appears to do so for ebooks. Many writers are offering free ebooks on Amazon. Usually this creates awareness of an author who has numerous books to offer. I don’t have the statistics on how well this is working out. If you do, please comment.

2. Bookstore signings and events are great. However, unless you are a famous author, these opportunities have diminished. My advice is to see if there are any independent bookstores locally that you can contact. Be prepared to advertise your “event”/signing on your own.

3. Library Events. Offer to do a program at your local library. You can have a book signing and selling afterward if the library approves.

4. Don’t forget to advertise every program you do. Contact the local newspapers and offer a “news release.”

5. Your college probably has a graduate publication, magazine or newsletter. The publication of your book is certainly a newsworthy item.

6. Consider selling books at various unexpected places. Book fairs sponsored by local libraries are great and so are craft shows, however, you might think of a more creative venue. Try to think outside the box. For example, suppose your novel is about a baker. Is there a local bakery that might display and sell your books on consignment?  Is your novel set in a beauty parlor? Would a beauty shop owner allow your books selling space for a cut of the profits?

7. Attending conferences. Many writers swear by them. It’s a great place for networking and connecting. You can meet editors, agents and other authors. At the very least, you can interact and get interesting feedback and share ideas. Since our work is solitary, this is a good way to know you are not alone.

8. Some writers publish their own newsletters which advertise the release of their new books as they come out.

9. You might also keep friends and relatives in the loop through e-mail announcements.

10. Send out announcements to acquisition librarians, especially if your book has had good reviews which you can quote. This can be done inexpensively via e-mail.

11. Podcasts are popular as are Youtube videos. If you have a talent for creating either one, it might benefit sales.

Have I left out anything that I should be mentioning? As a writer, what promotion and or publicity ideas have worked well for you and might work well for other authors?
Readers, what determines the books you select? I would love to share ideas in this forum.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Creating the Right Book Cover

Every publisher and every author wants a book cover that will draw reviewers and readers. “A cover only has seconds to make an impact,” says Becky Rodriguez-Smith, Design Services Manager at BookBaby. “Our purpose is to create visuals that will grab a potential reader’s attention so that they click on the book to read more about it. To that end, the bolder the better.”

As readers, do you initially judge a book by its cover? It stands to reason that writers want to create an appealing cover that draws the eye. Cover art can make or break a book especially if the author isn’t well-known. What kind of front cover will grab the reader’s attention? What kind of cover art should a book display?  A lot depends on the genre of the book itself. The cover should be appropriate to the type of book. A basic question to ask: is the book going to be sold on the shelf of a bookstore or is it going to be available only online? Is the novel going to be a hardcover, trade, paperback, e-book or audio—possibly all of these?

With hardcover fiction books, as with all others, the cover needs to fit the genre, be attractive, while the title should be easy to read and intriguing. Cover art needs to play fair with readers so that they don’t feel cheated when they select a book.
Paperbacks need simplicity in covers. The artwork should also support the title and the genre. E-book covers shouldn’t be too fussy or busy either. The old saying “less is more” works best for a book cover that’s displayed online. A short title with a large, easily readable font and bright contrasting colors shows up well on the computer screen. Publishers want to avoid covers that are complicated and hard to read. Plain, simple graphics are preferable.

What are the qualities of a good cover?

We are able to read the title and author and all subheadings with ease.

The image that doesn't interfere with the written information.

The book cover is memorable: simple yet vivid and pleasing to the eye.

The theme is expressed by the image and in keeping with the genre of the book.

The bottom line for good book covers is that they make you want to read what's inside.

Here is the cover for my latest novel, an historical romance set during the American Revolution, which just received an excellent review from the Historical Novel Society:

The hero and heroine appear as if they are about to kiss, which fits this novel. The background setting evokes the Pine Barrens of NJ where much of the novel takes place.

Book Links: 






What are your feelings regarding cover art? What draws or attracts you to a novel? What do you dislike or prefer not to see?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Interview with Anthology Editor Kelly A. Harmon

Kelly A. Harmon is the editor of Pole to Pole Publishing which is putting out several anthologies. The current one is a perfect Halloween read. So this is my holiday treat to fellow authors and readers.

Question: What is the title and genre of your anthology?  Why were they selected?

Answer: Re-Haunt: Chilling Stories of Ghosts and Other Haunts. The book contains dark, creepy stories of “ghosts and other haunts—”  While all of the stories are “dark,” and a few are tense enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck, I wouldn’t categorize the anthology completely as “horror,” because there are a few lighter stories in the bunch as well.

Question:   What inspired this book? How did it come about?

Answer: Who doesn’t love a good ghost story?  Pole to Pole Publishing (link:  publishes dark stories of all kinds.  After doing some brain-storming, my co-editor Vonnie Winslow Crist and I went with “ghosts and hauntings” because we liked those the best. Among the top considered were military stories, mysteries, outer space and dark stories about “wine and spirits.” Some of those are on the publishing agenda for 2020 and 2021.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  We are finishing up our “Not Far from Roswell” anthology, which is a collection of alien and cow stories, all related to Roswell, New Mexico.  That should be available before the end of November. 

And, we’re ramping up to open submissions for a tribute volume to Jules Verne, tentatively titled Twenty Thousand Leagues Remembered. Steven R. Southard (link: and I will be editing that.  It’s scheduled to be published in June 2020, on the sesquicentennial of Jules Verne’s work.

Question:   What made you start working as an editor?

Answer:  I initially started as a newspaper editor. Some years into it, I was asked by a friend to edit the grammar and punctuation for some fiction. That little bit of experience got my foot in the door. Because of my love of science fiction, fantasy and horror, transitioning to fiction editing when I stopped reporting was a natural fit.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing?

Answer: Figure out your “why.”  In other words, sit down and decide the number-one reason you’re writing. Once you know what why you’re writing, you can take the steps necessary to reach your goal. Every writer needs to hone his craft, but the career path of a writer who yearns for critical acclaim (a Pulitzer, the Booker Prize, a Bram Stoker Award, a Pushcart) will look different than the writer who wants (and deserves!) to be paid for his writing. Sometimes, those paths will intersect—especially if you plan for it. And that’s the heart of my advice:  determine your goal, and then plan how you’ll get there. Say “no” to any writing “opportunity” that doesn’t align with your goal. (It will only slow you down.)

And also, write: put words on paper, type them into word processors or dictate. Scribble on napkins.  Finish what you start.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your anthology?

Answer:  Re-Haunt is currently available in paperback and ebook on Amazon, free for Kindle Unlimited.

Comments or questions for Kelly are welcome here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Halloween Treat: Why Do Ghost Stories Persist?

An essay by Parul Sehgal was previously published in THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review. The topic was appropriate for Halloween: Why the ghost story persists.

Sehgal observed: “Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition.” I myself have found much more of a demand for stories with a supernatural edge than those set in the verisimilitude of reality. Maybe people are looking for psychological escapes from the real world more than ever.

Many of the classics of literature such as Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw” or Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” provide us with eerie ghost stories. Today’s ghost stories vary. They may be written in the classic mold or entirely unique. They may reflect our modern society or hearken back to the past. Sehgal observed: “ghost stories are never just reflections. They are social critiques…” 

In my novel DARK MOON RISING, there are two ghosts, women from two different centuries who haunt the family home of the men who wronged them. These ghosts seek justice via revenge.

Sehgal commented that ghost stories are often drenched in sex and violence. But obviously that is not the only thing that makes them appealing to readers. I think that one strong appeal of ghost stories is the suggestion that there is life after death.

What is your opinion? Also, are there any ghost stories that particularly have appeal to you or you found memorable?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Interview with Author/Editor Sandra Murphy

Sandra Murphy lives in St Louis, the land of the blues, brews, and shoes. Her short stories appear in her collection, From Hay to Eternity, and in anthologies such as The Eyes of Texas, The Extraordinary Book of Amateur Sleuths and Private Eyes, The Book of Historical Mystery Stories, The Killer Wore Cranberry #4, and others. On occasion, she is privileged to co-write on with Michael Bracken, who has more ideas than his keyboard can handle.

Question: What is the title and genre of your anthology?  Why did you select them?

Answer: The title is A Murder of Crows, twenty-one cozy stories each featuring the collective name of a group of animals and a crime. I looked for a mix of established and new writers, a variety of animals, settings, and time periods. One is in the 30s, one in the 40s, two set in England, the rest current time and in the US. Among the animals are tarantulas, koalas, dodos, goldfish, bees, goats, penguins, alpaca, bears, and of course, crows. The rule was no animal could be maimed or killed and that included what people ate and wore.

Question:   What inspired this book? How did it come about?

Answer: Kaye George, who writes multiple series of cozies, made a casual remark on Facebook. She saw a large number of birds in her yard, realized they were crows, and said, “How cool is this? I’m a mystery writer and I have a murder of crows in my yard.” I suggested it would be a good theme for an anthology but she didn’t have time so I got to be editor for it.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I have a lot of half-finished projects that need attention. One is a mystery set in an animal sanctuary. Untreed Reads has said we may be able to publish it next year. It’s in need of editing!

In the meantime, the next anthology is underway. It’s tentatively titled, Rebellion, Revolution and Rock ‘n Roll—The Sixties in Music. There will be about twenty crime stories inspired by or that revolve around 60s music. It’s a lot of fun hearing how writers chose their songs.

Question:   What made you start working as an editor?

Answer: I was volunteered to edit a newsletter for a group I belonged to. When that ended, a position came open for a similar job. I get a lot of editing experience with my writers group, Writers Under the Arch. We meet weekly and critique/edit each other’s work. Editing others makes my own writing better.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing?

Answer: Read good books, read better books, and read terrible books. You need to read the overwritten, too much dialogue, too many plot twists, too many characters books so you recognize good writing when you see it. Don’t copy anyone else’s style. Find your own. Practice. Write scenes, write description, write characters, before trying to put them all in one place. Eavesdrop to hear how dialogue sounds. Read oddities in news streams to spark ideas. Don’t try to sound like a writer. It makes you come across as pompous.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your anthology?

Answer:  It’s available now in e-book or paperback on Amazon at

Note: This anthology is published by Dark House Books.

Comments for Sandra welcome here!

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Real History of Halloween

Ever wonder what the real deal is concerning this holiday? The paranormal aura and mystique surrounding Halloween connects to a series of beliefs, traditions and superstitions. What is the actual origin of Halloween?  It appears to date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.  By Celts we refer to the people who lived approximately 2,000 years ago in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrating their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer harvest and the beginning of dark, cold winter, a time of year often associated with human death.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, believing that ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.  The Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
During these celebrations, Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they put out earlier that evening. This symbolic lighting was done from the sacred bonfire to serve as a protection during the coming winter.
By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered a majority of Celtic territory. During the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
By the 800’s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. The pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in 1000 A.D., the church designated November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.
Tales of the supernatural and paranormal are ever popular during the Halloween season. Black Opal Books published WITCH WISH, my YA novel with a supernatural twist:

This follows THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, available in all e-books as well as print.

Also available, DARK MOON RISING, Gothic romantic suspense from Luminosity for adult reading, available in all e-book formats and print as well.

Are there any books or stories that you consider good Halloween reading choices? 
If so, please share with us.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Tips on Choosing Titles: What’s in a Name?

According to Gertrude Stein a rose is a rose is a rose. Then again, some roses might be more perfectly formed than others. I believe a well-chosen title helps sell a writer’s work. The first impression a book or story creates depends on several factors, one of them being the title. The title will set a certain tone or expectation. Whether an author writes literary work, genre fiction, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, etc., the title should fit the work. If it’s not appropriate, the reader may rightfully feel cheated and misled.

I have a few suggestions for fellow writers that I believe might prove useful:

First suggestion is to do some initial research. For instance, visit Amazon and Google. Check out titles for the kind of work you’re writing to get a sense of what is appropriate.

Second suggestion, go to World Cataloging and type in your title under the keyword heading. See what pops up. If your title is used by many authors many times, you might want to try for something different. Ecclesiastes states that there is nothing new under the sun; however, you can do some variations that are unique. Also, keep in mind that titles are not copyrighted unless there’s a trade mark involved. You can, in fact, have the same title as another author, although if possible, it’s best to distinguish it in some way.

Next suggestion: consider if the chosen title can properly characterizes a theme of your book, story, poem, article via your word choice. Maybe it represents a reoccurring symbol in your book.

Another suggestion: keep your title short if possible. Modern titles are generally brief unless you’re writing an academic dissertation. Otherwise, a few words will suffice.

Last suggestion: Try for a clever use of words which will make your title in some way memorable, interesting, intriguing, and/or provoke curiosity. A whimsical bit of rhyming hopefully also makes a title stand out.

December 1st is the publication date of my new historical romance SINFUL SEDUCTION which has a pre-publication sale. I began with the title THE DEMON LOVER. An editor who read the novel did not like that title for the novel and suggested I rethink it. Although I didn’t contract with her publishing house, I did take the advice to heart and rethink the title. In many ways, my new title fits the novel much better. Kate Miles, my editor at Luminosity, greatly liked both the book and the title which is encouraging.

Take a few moments if you will and look at the novel. See if you think the title suits the book. Your input much appreciated.

Book Links: 






Are there any titles that stand out for you? If so, which ones? Why? Comments welcome!