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Day #2, Session 3: Seven Secrets of Successful Self-Published Authors–Keith Ogorek, Sr. VP of Global Marketing with Author Solutions. (Full disclosure: Author Solutions is the parent company of iUniverse, Inc., which has been my publishing choice for both of my novels. They helped me create beautiful products, by the way–and my second novel, Separation of Faith, is winning accolades for both the editorial quality and the production quality/cover design. Although I had a lot of input on the book’s appearance both inside and out, the iUniverse staff deserves most of the credit for those elements. And I learned a huge amount from them during the process, which will be of enormous help if I move forward with my own e-book.)

  1. Know the Target Audience. Picture the target audience–gender, age, interests, and where they go for information.
  2. Believe in Your Work. The main goal of publishing a book is to impact people in some manner through your writing. Know your strengths, and promote them.
  3. Set Deadlines for Yourself. Deadlines are important from the time the first inspiration for your book arrives in your head. One of the most important is the date you want to hold the first copy of your book in your hands. Then work backwards to set interim deadlines, coordinating with your publisher (traditional or promoted self-publishing) or with any organization helping you to make sure you understand all of the steps involved with the publishing process. Then set promotional deadlines after the book is released, marketing wherever possible at birthday or holiday parties, speaking engagements, etc. (For both of my novels, I set up a table any place I could get permission–restaurants, libraries, local fairs/festivals. You won’t believe how easy it is to find people willing to give you a little space to sell your work. But you have to be “out there” asking for the permission!)
  4. Create Timelines to Meet Your Deadline(s). Work with someone who’s familiar with the publishing process as you establish milestones. Understand all of the steps involved. Completing the manuscript is first and foremost, if you’re writing a novel. Lots of new writers tend to forget that the book should be finished before you begin any of the next steps. (Nonfiction can vary with respect to whether or not the manuscript needs to be finished first. Some agents/editors focus on the writing while others focus on the book idea and proposal. Obviously, if you’re going the DIY route, the manuscript needs to be finished before you start worrying about anything else.) Once the book is finished, then proceed with editiing, submission (whether you’re pursuing a traditional path or one of self-publishing), design (interior and front/back cover), revisions, printing. Understand the list of tasks within each of these steps and make sure every task is plotted on your timeline.
  5. Understand Your Goals & Options. There are basically three options for getting your work into print: a) traditional publishing, b) DIY self-publishing, and c) supported self-publishing. (iUniverse, Inc. is an example of a supported self-publishing organization.) Key differences: a) who own the content, b) investment of time & money, and c) speed to market. (Traditional publishing can take as long as three or more years to get your book into the hands of readers–and that’s after you’ve secured an agent! Once the agent finds an interested editor who then successfully sells your book up the food chain in his/her publishing house, time to market can still be as much as two or more years.) Which option is for you? That depends on your talents, level of commitment, and patience. Also, keep in mind that self-publishing a book to get started and begin putting your work in readers’ hands does not eliminate the traditional publishing option down the road, especially if you’re able to demonstrate success with your marketing. More and more agents are looking at self-published books to validate an author’s work. Social media helps develop a following/establish your position as an expert. Understanding your target audience is key. A blog should be your social media centerpiece. To enhance your blog, interview other bloggers for posts, or bring others into your blog as guest bloggers. Facebook and Twitter are critical as well. Use all social media to provide real-time updates on events and news related to you and your book(s). Use tags effectively.
  6. Put together a Marketing Plan before Publication. Include a video about the book. (Video book trailers have become common and important. YouTube has plenty of examples with a simple “video book trailer” serach. Another interesting idea (especially if you’re doing any form of self-publishing that affords you control over the book’s cover) is to use your blog/Web site to sponsor a contest where your followers vote on book cover ideas. Offer three options. Otherwise, your marketing plan should begin promoting your book before you actually have a book to sell. If possible, give readers the opportunity to pre-order. Once the book is released, schedule yourself into every venue that will give you time and space. Send press releases to all local media. Remember that readers will not buy your book if they don’t know the book is there. (Cheri’s Note: Here are a couple of links that might be useful. Free & Low Cost Book Marketing Links: http://www.thewriterssite.com/direct_pages/marketing.html.  Book Marketing with Free Giveaways: http://www.bookbuzzr.com/blog/book-marketing/how-to-market-your-book-with-free-giveaways/. BookDaily free promotion: http://www.bookdaily.com/lndpg/lndpgv1. Even if you’ve already been promoting a book for awhile, these links might give you a fresh shot of inspiration [if you haven’t found them yourself].)
  7. Plan a Book Launch Event to Celebrate the Publication. This can be a great motivational occasion (something I can attest to, from my own experience). To save money, combine your book launch party with things like family reunions, speaking engagements, church events, etc. (Cheri’s Note: Whether you hold the party at a reunion or as a separate occasion in a hotel meeting room, just have a book launch party somewhere! I’ve known self-published writers who opted not to have any sort of launch event, and most of them struggled to get the book off the ground. You need to build a “buzz” about your book, and nothing does that better than your being there in person with a crowd of folks to celebrate the launch of the work you’ve labored for years to create!)
  8. Before Deciding on a Self-Published Option, Ask Yourself These Questions: 1) Is there a book out there just like mine? 2) Is there an audience for a book like mine? 3) Can I sell this book on my own? 4) How will I garner publicity for my book? 5) Can I create professional packaging on my own? 6) What good does it do to die with a manuscript in my drawer? 7) How many people would you say you have to impact with yor writing before you would say that publishing was worth the effort?

For more information on this subject and presentation, and on the presenter’s input from the conference, go to: www.indiebookwriters.com.

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Note: All of my notes from the Saturday and Sunday sessions are forthcoming. Here’s what I’ve been able to put together so far. Also, since you’ll only be seeing summaries of the sessions I attended, the WDC staff said that there will be some sort of summary on all of the sessions posted on the conference site at http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/home/?&. I just checked, and they don’t have anything posted yet, so mine will have to do for the moment. 🙂 And I will get them up for you as quickly as I can.

Saturday, January 21–Session #1: E-Book Publishing 101–Jane Friedman, Media Professor and former editor of Writer’s Digest Magazine (This session was of huge interest to me because, even though there was a bit of agent interest in my nonfiction book during the Pitch Slam, I’m still leaning heavily toward the e-pub option for at least that next book. Not only am I excited about the potential of that option, but I really want to learn firsthand what’s involved and how it all works.)

E-pub vs Print on Demand (POD)–author has full control of pricing, cover, etc. with E-pub. Author control varies and can be very limited with POD.

What about author rights with e-pub?

  • Copyright is secure
  • Author has full rights re: publishing & distribution except for new Apple rules (covered below).
  • Authors are not killing future chances with traditional publishers if they go e-pub. Might have been true in the past, but no longer.
  • All rights are the writer’s to sell.
  • Caution re: possible exception(s)–Authors previously published with traditional publisher need to check their contracts for rights on existing titles.

Major e-book retailers, devices & formats

  • Kindle (mobi format)–50-70% of the market
  • B&N Nook (epub)–20-30%
  • Apple iPad & iPhone (epub & the newly announced iBookAuuthor, which is only readable on Apple devices–more later)–less than 20%

These three are the main devices and formats. The others on the market are:

  • Sony (epub)
  • Kobo (epub)
  • Desktop/Laptop (PDFs)

Writers going the e-pub route are working with distribution channels and retailers rather than with publishers. Distrib/Retailer options:

Single Channel (Fomatted to work on only one device) versus  Multiple Channels (Push books out to all single channels)

  • Kindle                                                                                           BookBaby (This one looks really interesting, by the way.)
  • B&N                                                                                               Smashwords
  • iTunes                                                                                            PublishGreen
  • iBooksAuthor*
  • GoogleBookStore
  • Scribd

*The new iBooksAuthor will only work on Apple devices. More in a minute.

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Most distribution services and retailers will accept Word documents.

  • Smashwords: takes MS Word. Free to publish. Author keeps 85% of the net. No Kindle distribution, however. Would need to publish on Kindle separately.)
  • BookBaby: Free conversion from Word, HTML, RTP, Apple Pages, plain text. $99 to publish plus $19 annual fee to sustain. Author keeps 100% of the net.) Also offers print service option plus add-on services for ISBN and cover design.
  • PublishGreen: Converts from MS Word, PDF, InDesign. $399-$999 for “full service” package. Author keeps 90-100% of the net.

When is it better to prep your own e-book files? When you:

  • have text-driven work.
  • are not scared by HTML, CSS, and/or MS style sheets. (Guess this answers the question for me. 🙂 )
  • plan on offering PDF versions of your book.

Formatting & Conversion Definitions 

Conversion is an automated process and = exporting files from one format to another without any editing or styling.

Formatting is a manual process and = editing & styling to “look good” on e-reading devices. Process also corrects things that got messed up during the conversion process.

If you’re comfortable doing these things yourself, here are recommended programs: SIGIL for Formatting and CALIBRE for Conversion. (I am definitely not going to be worrying about this. I’m looking at BookBaby. They had an exhibition table at the conference, and once I get through the last of my treatments, I’ll be following up with them for more detail.)

DIY (Do It Yourself) Formatting Tools:

    • Scrivener–$45
    • PressBooks–free. WordPress based, exports e-pub files.

iBooksAuthor. Newly announced by Apple. Limited to iOS devices for both reading as well as sales (iBook format). Free but limited to Apple products and can only sell through Apple bookstores. Beautiful program, easy, drag-and-drop. But exclusive to Apple products and distribution. Industry had hoped that iBooksAuthor would also create e-pub format. Didn’t turn out that way. If you’ve already created a book for sale/distribution elsewhere and then decide to use iBookAuthor for your e-book, you can continue to sell that book everywhere. But if you use iBooksAuthor for your first effort to publish a given book, your Apple agreement will state that you cannot sell that book through any other channel that iBookstore.

  • VookMaker–forthcoming. Not an Apple product but will be similar to iBooksAuthor in terms of being user friendly with drag-and-drop, etc. But this one is expected to support multiple sales channels.

Again, if you opt to do your e-book with a company like BookBaby, you don’t have to worry about any of these Conversion and Formatting tools and programs. 

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Three biggest factors affecting e-book readership base: (These all seem so obvious that I’m wondering if I missed something.)

  • Price
  • Cover
  • Readership Base

Kindle currently represents 60-70% of all ebooks.

An author’s Amazon Page may very likely be the first and only page a reader looks at. Reference: www.DigitalBookWorld.com — see article by Carolyn McKray on optimizing an author’s presence through their Amazon Page.

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“Sweet-Spot” Pricing for Novels:

  • 99 cents drives volume and Amazon rank, for which Amazon pays 30% royalty.
  • Amazon pays 70% royalty on books prices from $2.99-$9.99.
  • Authors who are getting the hang of things will switch off their pricing between 99 cents and $2.99.
  • The lesser known the author, the less you should charge.
  • If you have a series, consider starting with a loss leader (99 cents to start).

For nonfiction, study what your competition is charging. Go to the Kindle store and drill down to your category to start your analysis.

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Cover: First and most important impression. Needs to look good in thumbnail.

ISBNs:

  • Not mandatory for Kindle.
  • Required for distribution through iBookstore.
  • If you’re going the full DIY e-pub route: ISBN.org to buy ISBNs–$125 (cheaper per unit the more you buy).

Online marketing is critical for e-pubs. Draft a marketing plan and include an in-depth online and social media presence.

Some resources to further pursue research on the e-pub option for your book(s):

Here’s a link for a copy of this entire presentation: http://bit.ly/2012wdc

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Well, there you have it–one of the reasons I’m taking so long to get this stuff out to you. But since this particular topic is of such intense interest to me, I’m hoping that some of you will feel the same way, and I want to make sure I’m sharing as much detail as I captured. And because this one is so extensive, I’m going to publish this post separately, finishing up the other Day #2 sessions in another post. (They’re all shorter, by the way.)

P.S. I entered Separation of Faith again today in the latest Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition, which began accepting entries today. Last year the book made the first cut. We’ll see what happens this time around. If you’re interested, this is really a fun contest, and it’s free! Check out the details at: http://www.amazon.com/Breakthrough-Novel-Award-Books/b?ie=UTF8&node=332264011.

Hope your week is off to a good start! See you again soon.

 

 

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In a Nutshell, Three Elements to Launch 2012’s Writing Year:

1. The third annual Writer’s Digest Conference begins tomorrow (January 20) at the Sheraton in Manhattan, and I am extremely excited, as usual! Those of you who are familiar with this blog understand my affinity for this particular conference and the impact that the first conference in September 2009 had upon my publishing decisions relative to my second novel (Separation of Faith). That first conference also marked the motivating moment for the launch of this blog, among other social media outreach activities.

Throughout the multiplying years in which I’ve been pursuing this literary dream, I have no idea how many sizes and shapes of conferences I’ve attended. A bunch, for certain! And a number of those were actually produced every year by Writer’s Digest in conjunction with Book Expo America (BEA), the publishing industry’s annual convention event. But Writer’s Digest broke away from BEA in 2009 and began holding their own conference. And that’s when everything changed for me. You can read about the reason’s for the metamorphosis in this blog’s Launch posting (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/).

Since then, the WD conference has become the best one out there, in my opinion. For writers in search of the truth about the publishing world and practical information/tools that help us navigate through that world, this conference is “the” place to be. If you’d like to explore the conference agenda and sessions, here’s a quick link: http://www.writersdigestconference.com/ehome/27962/52254/?&. And for those of you with a sustained interest, I’ll be blogging throughout the three days, giving you the inside scoop from the sessions I attend and from other attendees and presenters with whom I have the opportunity to chat.

Regarding the Pitch Slam session on Saturday afternoon, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be pitching. Part of that decision will depend on how I’m feeling (see point #3 below). If I do pitch, I’ll be focusing on my nonfiction project, which isn’t finished (nonfiction books don’t need to be finished before pitching, but I’d prefer that mine were). Still, if I’m feeling empowered by Saturday afternoon, I might run the project by a few of those agents just for the practice. At this writing, I’m fairly certain that I want to move forward with that project on my own, publishing an e-book first followed by print options. I’ll know more about that direction once the conference is over, since I’m attending several sessions on how writers can navigate the wild and ever-changing publishing world on their own. Stay tuned for my blog posts on the subject as the conference unfolds. If you happen to be at the conference yourself, please let me know so we can connect somewhere!

The opening address will begin at 4:00 p.m. EST. You’ll be on my mind! 🙂

2. New Year’s Inspiration can be found almost everywhere we look as writers. People in my life are constantly telling me about someone they know who’s in some sort of jam that could be tweaked and woven into a novel’s plot or subplot. And I recently sat at the pharmacy for 90 minutes where I observed no less than a half dozen interpersonal scenarios that could be spun into fun stories. If we’re alert, there will never be a shortage of material. But as 2012 gets underway and we are all still focusing on our resolutions, I’d like to share a few links I’ve been collecting that I hope will offer you a nudge, an idea, or a little inspiration, if you’re in search of such things.

Please let me know if you find anything helpful in these lists. Since creating consistency in my writing routine is one of my 2012 resolutions, I have the “Reboot” list posted on the wall close by.

3. Where Am I in the Treatment Part of My Life? Currently, I’m in the middle of Round #5 (of 6). The effects became noticeably cumulative, beginning with Round #4, so I’ve been struggling a bit, especially through the holidays. But the good news is that #6 will happen on January 30, followed by the standard three weeks of not-so-hot, which will then be followed by … nothing else! Yay! When this process began with Round #1 on October 13, today’s point on the calendar looked like a millennium away. And yet, here we are, about a month away from being completely finished with the process. And I’m going to the Writer’s Digest Conference, which I wasn’t sure I could make even a few days ago. Lots of blessings to start the New Year!

Two more photos are attached, both of which were taken a week before Christmas. These images seem to be a good way to mark the progress of this journey within a journey.

All the best to each of you as the New Year becomes fully launched. Wishing for each of you that your dreams come true in 2012! Talk to you soon from the conference!

Holiday Thoughts & New Year’s Wishes

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Lessons from the Trumpet Vine, by Jeri L. Glatter, is a beautiful inspirational book that has now been launched. I was privileged to be the editor on this project, and I’m sharing vicariously in the release of this exceptional effort!

Take a look at the amazing video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-LsQhJ6NA0; and check out all of the other information about the book and author at www.LessonsFromTheTrumpetVine.com.

All the best,

Cheri

P.S. I’m doing great, by the way, following huge surgery last Saturday. Hope to go get my nails done tomorrow. 🙂 Will visit a guru oncologist at Sloan-Kettering on the 26th, to whom I’ve been thankfully assigned. Meanwhile, I’m edging back into my writing and blogging. Need to get three new books out of my head by next spring! Stay tuned!

 

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Readers Favorite 2011 Award Winners Are In …

And Separation of Faith received a Bronze “medal” in the “Fiction–Realistic” category. Yay! So, the beat goes on … and everything I said about contests in my previous post today still stands.

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… with More to Come!

One of the questions I’m asked by authors who are getting ready to bring out their first books is whether or not I think that contests are worth the time, effort, and entry fees. And my answer is–especially for the increasing numbers of authors who’ve opted for a non-traditional publishing path–yes! Enter every contest you can get your hands on!

That resounding encouragement is not just because my second novel, Separation of Faith, has proven (unbelievably) to be a story with “contest legs.” Contests are not just about placing or winning. (And so far, Separation of Faith has not grabbed a first prize but has come so-o-o-o close! A full list of the contests and the specific placements is at the end of this post.) For all of us, yet particularly for those of us carrying the entire promotional load required to get our work into the hands of readers, contests can provide a much-needed assist. Each contest–even the list comprising all of the “festivals”–has a separate and independent panel of judges, and no matter how your book ends up doing overall, you’ll receive at least one piece of valuable input per experience. Of course, that input might not be something you want to hear, but sometimes the toughest feedback can turn out to be the most important in the scope of your entire writing/publishing Journey.

A case proving that particular point involves my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon. Just like every other aspiring author out there, I was absolutely convinced that Cinnamon was what the publishing community had been missing. This novel was going to change the world! Well … that was seven+ years ago, and although the world has changed, Cinnamon is certainly not the reason. Contests, however, were instrumental in helping me understand a lot of things about my debut novel, not the least of which is the key role professional editing needs to play in your process if you’ve decided to follow a non-traditional publishing path. Unfortunately, as I was working on the final iterations of Cinnamon, I still believed that all of the edits I’d performed on the book myself (especially since I was an official freelance editor, which surely gave me all the tools I needed) would be more than sufficient. Plus, the book had been put through several proofing rounds performed by educators in my circle of family and friends. What more could I have possibly done? Well … a lot! And I could not have been more wrong about thinking I could manage that critical element on my own! That fact first began creeping into my world through feedback from contest judges.

The Truth About Cinnamon never placed once in any contest. And, after awhile, I stopped entering the book because I recognized that the results were never going to change unless I pulled the book out of circulation, made a ton of major changes, and then handed the book over to a serious, professional editor. Eventually, that’s exactly what I did do, but not until I’d finished writing Separation of Faith, which was subjected to intense (and seemingly endless, at the time) rounds of professional editing from the get-go. Many of the major lessons learned through The Truth About Cinnamon originated in feedback from contest judges. Those lessons included favorable input on characterization, descriptive elements, and the basic storyline. “Needs improvement” comments almost universally centered around point-of-view inconsistencies, unnecessary background information, and confusion in the timeline. But the single most cited reason for Cinnamon’s lack of success in every contest was the poor editing.

That lesson was so indelibly (and painfully) etched on my writing psyche that Separation of Faith–my second novel and the beneficiary of lots of heartbreaking input from novel #1–has actually been cited for editorial excellence! And the whole subject and scope of editing was covered extensively in this blog as I was documenting the editing phases of Separation of Faith in real-time. If you search this blog for “editing,” you’ll find a whole bunch of stuff that might be of value to you, because the time to concentrate on editing, of course, is before you publish you book–:-)–not afterward, as I originally did with Cinnamon.

When readers order copies of The Truth About Cinnamon now, though, they receive a re-edited Second Edition that has addressed the issues raised by readers as well as contest and other feedback while also cutting 20,000 words. That re-editing effort took nearly a year (as I squeezed that work into the rest of my life). Aspiring authors often get themselves into the same situation because they’re so excited about “finishing” their first book that they become impatient. If they’re pursuing a traditional publishing path, they begin sending the manuscript prematurely to agents and editors and end up with piles of rejections. If they’ve decided to take an alternative publishing path, they do as I did and publish too soon. Note to aspiring authors: If you’ve finished writing your first novel, that book is still an early draft until you and the book have been through at least two rounds (and probably more) of professional editing. If you’re sending in a manuscript–or if you’re publishing a manuscript–that hasn’t been professionally edited, you’re submitting/publishing a premature draft that will inevitably disappoint you. And that was the most important lesson gleaned from contest input.

Even after pulling Cinnamon and basically rewriting the book, the editorial quality of the new version still doesn’t equal that of Separation of Faith. But at least the new Cinnamon is miles better than the original–and I’m even considering submitting the novel to a few contests again, just out of curiosity. 🙂

Meanwhile, Separation of Faith is on a contest role–and although the story and characters have obviously made some contribution to these placements, another primary reason for the novel’s success is the excellence in editing. A few competitions haven’t announced the winners yet, and I have a list in front of me of another dozen contests to enter (all named below). Here’s what’s happened so far:

  1. Amazon’s 2011 Breakthrough Novel Award: Made Round 1 Cut. Feedback from Round 2 was interesting and included reports from two judges. One evaluation was glowing and would have moved the novel into Round 3. The second evaluation was the exact opposite and didn’t even sound like the same book had been read by the two judges. So, keep in mind that there’s a great deal of subjectivity in contest judging–just like there’s subjectivity in readers themselves. That’s why I’m entering as many contests as possible. The more feedback you can get, the more you’ll see the consistencies (the positives and negatives) come through in the feedback.
  2. 2011 Paris Book Festival: Runner-Up to Grand Prize Winner.
  3. 2010 DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Book Festival (one of the most prestigious and most important for self-publishers): Runner-Up to Grand Prize Winner.
  4. 2011 San Francisco Book Festival: Honorable Mention (2nd from top) in General Fiction.
  5. 2011 Beach Book Festival: Honorable Mention (top of list) in Fiction.
  6. 2011 New York Book Festival: Honorable Mention (top of list) in Fiction.
  7. 2011 Hollywood Book Festival: Honorable Mention (4th from top) in Fiction

Still waiting for results:

  1. 2011 Reader’s Favorite
  2. Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards–winners to be announced October 14, 2011
  3. USA Best Books 2011–finalists and winners to be announced in October 2011

Contests still to enter:

  1. Los Angeles Book Festival
  2. Benjamin Franklin Awards
  3. IPPYs (Independent Publisher Book Awards)
  4. Los Angeles Book Festival
  5. Foreward Magazine Book of the Year
  6. London Book Festival
  7. New England Book Festival
  8. 2012 Indie Excellence Awards
  9. Green Book Festival
  10. Hudson Valley Festival of Books

And I’m sure there are others. You can’t enter too many, in my opinion. Remember, also, that placing is fun, but what you end up learning about your writing and the story you’ve entered is the most important part of the process in the long run.

Good luck to you if you’re also on the contest path! Please let me know how you’re doing!

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But Especially Square-d!

On Tuesday, August 23, at 3:55 a.m., a message came into my email with the headline, “Your Square Card Reader has shipped … and should arrive on your doorstep in the next 2 to 5 days.” There wasn’t an exclamation point at the end of that message, but there was definitely one in my heart! So exciting!

Some of you who are on technology’s leading edge are already “getting” this. Others, however, might be asking, “What’s a Square?” Well … I didn’t know that answer either until a few weeks ago. Actually, I did know, but I didn’t realize that I did. And, if you’ve ever purchased a product or service while shopping in an Apple store, you know the answer too.

As an almost embarrassingly latecomer to Apple products, I was frankly bowled over by the technology in the Apple store in Atlanta last December when I was surprised by the gift of my iPad for Christmas. Aside from all of the “toys” lined up on tables on either side of the store, affording potential customers the opportunity to play and get themselves irrevocably hooked, I was particularly impressed by the “tools” available to each of the salespeople (none of whom appeared to be much older than eleven, but all of whom might just as well have been Steve Jobs himself in terms of their product knowledge and skill). Each of those salespeople carried in their hands a device that looked just like an iPhone. But when the time came to purchase the iPad, our particular salesfellow used his “iPhone” to complete the transaction–scanned the credit card, completed the payment, and sent the receipt to a printer. Never once did the guy’s fingers touch a cash register, primarily because there wasn’t a cash register anywhere in that store.

Well, the technology in those salepeople’s iPhones has now become available to regular people in the real world (outside of Apple stores), in the form of the “Square.” A couple of months ago, one of my editing clients, who has become a great friend as well, called me to make sure I knew about the Square (and I shudder to think how long I might have taken to discover this amazing development on my own). Basically, the Square is an app available on the iPad and iPhone. And when you order the app, the little Square is automatically sent to you. Writers like you and me, who have supplies of books we’re trying to sell at every conceivable opportunity (I always have a box of books and flyers in the car–and I even carry flyers and bookmarks in my purse), have heretofore been stopped short of the sale when the only option for the potential reader/customer/fan is to use a credit card. First of all, signing up to use credit cards for any sort of business has traditionally been comparable to getting approved for a top security clearance. And even when successful, there was a large and/or complicated machine required to process transactions.

Now I’m here to tell you that signing up for the Square is not only too easy to believe, but the process and the actual Square are free! Yes … free! There will, of course, be the standard processing fee (about 2%) for a credit card transaction (a deductible business expense, by the way, because remember that your book(s) create a business, whether or not we, as writers, want to think about/accept that fact). But securing the technology and getting set up will cost you absolutely nothing! Furthermore, when I do slide someone’s card through that little slot, their purchase amount will immediately be deposited into my bank account, less the fee (only thirty cents on the soft cover, as currently priced).

So, my Square actually arrived on Saturday and, as you can see, the thing is so small and totally portable that the miracle device literally fits in my wallet. (Photos attached to this post will undoubtedly usher in further awe-inspiring moments for you!) Although the iPad was my first Apple product, I’m now so jazzed about the technology that when my next wireless phone upgrade option arrives (shortly), I’m going to switch from the Blackberry to the iPhone. Until then, I’ll make sure to have my iPad with me everywhere I go. And I absolutely cannot wait until I make my first “Square” credit card sale of Separation of Faith and/or The Truth About Cinnamon. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long–and you’ll be the first to know!

The Rest of the Week … Quake, Hurricane, Surgery … (“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”)

As I said … the message about the Square was in my email when I logged on for work Tuesday morning in my home office on the top (18th) floor of the building I moved back into last May. At a little after 1:00 that afternoon, as I was plugging away (having moved my laptop from my desk to the dining room table for a change of scene), the earth moved–and not because of any powerful, extraordinary words zipping from my Technicolor brain through my fingers into my Word document. No. The earth was moving because the earth was moving! Keeping in mind that I lived in California for almost twenty years, there was a part of my memory bank that recognized the shaking of furniture, lamps, etc., and the rattling of dishes in my china cabinet, as an earthquake. However, the disconnect came from the fact that I was sitting at my dining room table in New Jersey!

Since I always keep a cable news channel turned on as background noise, I immediately heard the announcement that there’d been a quake in the Washington, D.C. area. But holy cow! I was feeling that same quake in New Jersey? Next, an anchor who lives on Manhattan’s upper west side called in and said he felt it too. Then I got really excited because I’ve been working hard to cultivate Twitter (a social media element that I hadn’t been using effectively until the John Locke phenomenon–http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/47669-john-locke-hits-1-million-on-the-kindle.html), so I immediately went to Twitter and Facebook and posted “Did anyone else just feel the earthquake in New Jersey?” Well … an editing client of mine in Ohio immediately responded by saying that he felt the shaking in Cleveland! You have to be kidding, I thought! And then the rest of the story about that quake quickly became history.

Of course, that was on Tuesday. Four days later, on Saturday, Hurricane Irene began arriving in New Jersey. (The last edges of wind gusts finally wrapped up last night–36 hours later.) Up here on the 18th floor, the howling of the wind was extremely loud for the entire ten hours of the core part of the storm. And since my office is sort of like a green house in design (a couple of office photos are attached), the rain against all of the windows felt like being in a car wash. But we were all very blessed on my block and in the neighborhood where my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live in their new house. We had no damage, and we didn’t even lose power. (There were several power dips and surges yesterday–Sunday–afternoon, when the wind was actually stronger at times than on Saturday night.) A lot of people in this area of New Jersey are really suffering from wind damage and flooding, and they all remain in my prayers.

Finally, confirmation came through that I’ll be having another surgery (my 7th in 15 months) right after Labor Day. Most of the pathology is in, with a CT scan happening this Thursday to primarily check for lymph node involvement. Once all of the details are together, I’ll share more of what I know, since that’s what I promised you I’d do in my last post.

Meanwhile, we’re starting a brand new week today, and there isn’t a cloud in the breathtakingly gorgeous blue sky! Hope all of you have a fabulous, productive, and happy few days head as well, as we approach a well-deserved long holiday weekend!

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… With a New Perspective on the Concept of Strength

Since I launched this blog on November 4, 2009, my routine (until recently) has been producing a new post approximately once a week. Sometimes the posts have only been separated by a few days–and I think the most time elapsed between any of the posts, in a worst-case scenario, was two or three weeks. Now, however, we’re sitting at almost two months since my last post, and I feel as if I owe an explanation to those of you who regularly follow my blog.

Of all the elements stitched together to create my own version of a social media process/network, this blog has been (and remains) my favorite–the little niche of the cyberworld that I somehow managed to create (unknowingly, at the start) to house the soul of my writing and the diagram of my dreams. And because the posts are published rather than held secret and close to the chest, I’ve tried from the beginning to strike a chord of familiarity, kinship, and the sharing of information with other writers on their own journey. Happily, that connection does, in fact, appear to have developed, as I’d hoped, although I’ve probably lost some of you lately. But I’d obviously like to increase the scope of readers reached (a goal shared in common, I’m sure, with just about every other blogger on the planet). Perhaps that will be easier once this post is finished and there’s an understanding between you and me of what’s been going on.

There’s a clearly defined mission here in this blog–not just for me but for anyone who simply stops by, or who follows me with a fervor, or who falls somewhere in between. My objective has been to create a place where everyone who’s on some sort of writing/publishing journey–no matter how fresh or seasoned the journey, no matter what level of complexity might be inherent in the writing projects–will find at least one item of immediate value (and hopefully a couple points of interest) embedded within each post.

In order to accomplish this plan, my blog posts needed to be published with a predictable, dependable regularity. And I believe that most bloggers would agree with me when I say that, of all the areas we might neglect from time to time, the regularity/dependability/predictability of blog posts is the last one we want to ignore. So, I’ve really been beating myself up over the distance between the ever-moving “today” and my last published post. There have been many posts drafted but not completed, and even more constructed fully in my head but never transferred to the computer during this long stretch of silence. Of course, none of you could possibly have known that.

One reason for this frustrating development is that I’ve been very careful about muddying up this blog’s clear mission through the inclusion of personal stuff. That pattern was broken a couple of times–once when the “hurricane without a name” hit our part of New Jersey in March 2010, sending me and my family (and thousands of others as well) out of our homes and into a hotel for several days. Pictures on those blog posts justify (for me, anyway) the momentary diversion from my publishing journey intricasies to a focus on basic shelter and food. Another brief detour from this blog’s mission involved intermittent references to my breast cancer (diagnosed on April 1, 2010) and the subsequent treatment. Prior to diving into the creation of my third novel, I’m in the process of writing a book inspired by the breast cancer experience. The book is intended for a target audience of women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer, along with their family members and friends. My hope has been to have that book available to help those women and the people close to them by the end of this month (August 2011).

But that date is slipping, which brings me to (a) the reason for my extended posting absence, to (b) the heart of this post, and ultimately to (c) my re-evaluation of what we, as writers, might view as “strength” from time to time. Here’s the situation: For some reason that the good folks at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhatta can’t yet figure out, I have now been diagnosed with three types of cancer in the last eighteen months. None of the three cancers is a byproduct of any of the others, and they’ve tested me for the potential immunodeficiency things that might be making me vulnerable to a situation like this. Those tests have all been negative. I’ve had six surgeries in fifteen months, the most recent two of those occurring since June 30. And there will be another major surgery required in September. The latest pathology isn’t back yet, but my surgeon suspects that this one is also being discovered very early, as the others have been. And, if his suspicions are correct, any subsequent treatment should be fairly easy to manage and work into my life. So, assuming the pathology (due early next week) ends up being what we anticipate, I’m actually very blessed. In the past many months, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people who are in a lot worse shape than I am.

Needless to say, the whole story is sort of long (perhaps the understatement of the decade) and will be addressed as an addendum in the new book I’m writing rather than as a blog post. But there are a couple of relevant points I do want to make here as I wrap this up. The first point is on the subject of strength. Until recently, I’ve been feeling immensely “un-strong,” concerned beyond words about readers of this blog and the fact that I was letting them down–concerned about the beautiful fans of my two novels who will be waiting for some time yet for the next story from me that will hopefully transport them again into the worlds I create filled with mystery, messed up families, illicit love, suspense, survival, and surprise plot twists.

The truth has been, though, that I haven’t really known what to write in the past few months, especially in this blog. I have lots of updates to share about the two novels I’m trying to market, along with a collection of writing tips I’ve been gathering as I craft my nonfiction project and my next novel. And yet none of those words would come together for me in a blog post, despite the many hours I spent thinking about them. Furthermore, because I’d been so adamant (to myself) about not bringing elements of my personal life into this blog, I didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to explain why I haven’t been writing to you. Consequently, what you’ve been receiving from me is nothing–and that hasn’t been making me feel very strong at all. Quite the contrary!

Over the last couple of weeks, however, I’ve started to acquire a different perspective on the concept of strength. Now I’m beginning to believe that, as writers, we’re stronger sometimes if we don’t say anything. Instead of “don’t just stand there, do something,” turn that around to say, “don’t just do something, stand there.” Perhaps simply publishing a post with a bunch of words because we’re “supposed” to publish a post with regularity isn’t nearly as strong as waiting a considered amount of time until the words we’re going to write are the best we can make them, designed, above all, to be of help to someone else. Sometimes we’re stronger if we fight back a little against the the guilt of not adhering to the crazy schedules we often set for ourselves. Perhaps strength sometimes means pulling inward for a little while rather than spreading ourselves all over the blogosphere like shapeless, directionless amoebas. And I’m convinced, in retrospect, that any blog post I might have written during the last six or seven weeks would have, indeed, come across as shapeless, absent of any direction, and of absolutely no value to anyone else. My prayer is that the post I’m writing at the moment is turning out to be at least a cut above that bleak description. 🙂

The second and final point I want to make as I wrap this up is that I am going to be just fine! I’m in great hands, in a great place–and the good people at Sloan-Kettering are not only going to figure this out, but I believe we’re all going to learn things from my situation that will eventually benefit others down the road. And now that I’ve explained things to you, I’ll be more comfortable about updating you regarding my health progress as well as my publishing progress–because I now understand that, from here on out, at least, the two elements have become, and will remain, inexorably entwined. (They’ve undoubtedly been that way all along. But I must have been thinking subconsciously that keeping them segregated would enable them to operate independently. If one wasn’t working, the other one still would. That might, in fact, be possible, with plenty of practice. I’ll let you know.)

A couple of additional blog posts will follow in close succession to this one, so I can update you on my promotional activities/accomplishments/status and share a few of the tips and ideas I’ve been collecting for you as I’ve been working on my new projects. After that, we should be rolling again on some sort of posting schedule that will remain undefined but certainly frequent enough to be of value.

I’m very happy to be back with you again, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you, if you feel like responding.

Hope you’re all having a fabulous summer and that your own writing Journeys are perfectly on track!

All the best to each of you. –Cheri

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No … This Isn’t About Me

Not yet, anyway. 🙂 The author’s name is John Locke (www.DonovanCreed.com). He’s a 60-something baby boomer with big dreams, sort of like me. But there’s a major difference. As of June 21, he has self-published seven novels (Donovan Creed, the detective, is a recurring character), plus two unusual western novels (by his own definition), and now a how-to book titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! (http://www.amazon.com/Sold-Million-eBooks-Months-ebook/dp/B0056BMK6K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1309223049&sr=1-1). And those five months were all in 2011! Here’s the link to this week’s news about his historic accomplishment: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/47669-john-locke-hits-1-million-on-the-kindle.html

If you’re a struggling writer out there who’s just happened upon this blog, or if you’ve been following this Journey since the blog launched on November 4, 2009, there won’t be any surprise in this news: I purchased Locke’s How I Sold … book for my Kindle within moments of reading two days ago about the man’s success.

Locke does not present himself as a great novelist–a refreshingly realistic perspective, especially since I’ve recently read a couple of best-selling novels, which were published through one of the big six mainstream traditional houses and which I could not believe ever saw the printed light of day. Locke does believe he’s a good writer, though, who’s become a better novelist over time as he’s crafted seven Donovan Creed stories for a relatively small, carefully defined, “niche” audience (the “niche” being a key element of the “system” he presents in How I Sold …). And, even though I don’t think I fit into Locke’s description of that niche, my curiosity was definitely piqued. So, a few minutes ago, I ordered two of his Creed novels–his earliest and his most recent, in order to experience his writing growth. 🙂 After all, the books are only 99 cents on Kindle (another key part of his “system”).

But the most important aspect of discovering Mr. Locke (for me, at least, and I suspect for a whole bunch of you as well) is that, until a few short months ago, he was in virtually the same position that I (and many of you) are in now–where we’re only selling a handful of books, despite back- (and bank-) breaking promotional efforts. He was languishing along with us in the ever-growing quicksand field of self-published authors, taking solace only in his unflagging determination and the encouraging legitimacy conveyed by his readers.

One significant difference between where he was and where I am was that his body of work is much larger than mine, due, as I learned at the end of his How I Sold … book, to his goal of completing a new novel every eight weeks. In one of the messages I wrote to him after finishing his book, I suggested that, whatever method(s) he uses to create a novel every eight weeks might be a great subject for his next how-to book! I already know that I’m taking way too long per book, but I’ve been working with the goal of producing a book each year. The idea of cranking out six per year never even flickered through my head. In fact, I’d be happy with a novel every six months. Would I buy a book by Locke that explained how he creates a new novel every eight weeks? Especially since that book would undoubtedly be priced somewhere between 99 cents and $5? Well … let me think.

At any rate, in less than six months, John Locke went from selling dribbles of his books on Amazon and other sources to being the first self-published author (and only the fifth or sixth author of any kind) to break through the 1 million book level on Kindle. And this wasn’t just by happenstance. He created a plan–a “system”–which he follows faithfully. And then, when his system actually worked consistently, he took a little time (a few weeks, apparently) to write a book that captures that system for the rest of us, in case we’d like to give the concept a try.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do! I’ll use Locke’s system for the nonfiction work in progress, hopefully due out on eBook by early fall, and then again for my next novel (which I’ve decided will definitely be a sequel to Separation of Faith–http://tinyurl.com/3tljkpc).

“Isn’t that going to be sort of risky?” you might ask.

Au contraire! “What do I have to lose?” is the question circling around me. What would any of us risk losing, compared to where we are now?

Imagine this: thousands of self-published authors–even tens of thousands, perhaps–suddenly experiencing wild success through eBook sales! Sure would be hard to marginalize that statistic or question the validity of authorship when paired with such soaring numbers of happy readers!

I’ll definitely keep you posted on what happens–and please let me know if you give Locke’s ideas a try yourself! From the beginning, I’ve been saying that there’s enough room in this dream for all of us!

Suddenly, the lyrics from an old boomer song by Buffalo Springfiled have begun rolling through my head: “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” That song spoke to a whole generation in the 1960s and early 70s about huge and very serious changes taking place in the country. Although clearly on a lighter, much smaller, and far less dangerous scale, I do believe there’s a revolution underway in the publishing world today. And I would like to be on the leading edge. How about you? 🙂

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Hi! Lately I’ve been giving myself permission to cut back on my posts (to cut back on lots of stuff, actually) because the recovery from my most recent surgery was far more extensive than we’d anticipated. Things are beginning to normalize now, however. My energy has returned to near normal–and I have a fabulous pair of new glasses! 🙂 They are rimless, nearly disappear on my face, and give me huge relief from the neck and shoulder hunching I’d been experiencing. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been needing to lift my head in order to see the computer through the correct section of my previous pair of progressive lenses.

All is well now, and I’m already noticing a major difference. (If you’re at your computer for hours on end as well, and if your neck and shoulders are always stiff/sore, the source of the problem might be your glasses/eyes/vision. Just a thought/suggestion for you to consider …)

My next (and hope-to-God last) surgery won’t be until August 2, and I’m told that the recovery from that one won’t be anything like this last one. So, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed regarding that proclamation.

Meanwhile …

Good thing I’m getting back to my old self because the pace of this Journey is about to quicken several fold. As I believe I mentioned in a previous post, Separation of Faith is starting to get picked up by book clubs, which is absolutely one of the most delightful elements of this entire writing/publishing/promotion thing! The first big book club event will be taking place in Atlanta on April 19.

Since I used to live in Atlanta and still have family/friends there, I’ll be taking the train down there from New Jersey on April 13. I always take the train instead of flying when I visit there because there’s still something so “Agatha Christie” for me about traveling by train as a writer. I’ll have a sleeper room, which is really a hoot, and the inspiration typically begins to flow the moment we pull out of the Newark, New Jersey station.

Several chapters of both novels were originally “core dumped” out of my head while riding Amtrak–and the draft of the third novel’s Chapter One came out during my trip to Atlanta last December. The focus this time, however, will be on the nonfiction work that will address my breast cancer story. (Last Friday, April 1, marked one year since I received the call with the news. For those of you who’ve been kind enough to continue following this blog, you may find the quick passage of that year as amazing as I do!)

This new book will not be intended as a memoir but rather as a comfort and guide to women who are just receiving the news about the onset of their own breast cancer journeys. (One in eight women in the U.S.–12% of us–will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.) And believe it or not, plenty of humor is infused throughout each phase of the last year for me, since there really is a funny side to everything we go through–even our traumas–if we remain open to the possibility and if we’re listening. But right at the beginning, there’s a lot of fear and worry about all sorts of unknowns. My new book will hopefully make that early part of the life-changing event a little bit easier to handle.

My goal for completing this book (which will be relatively short compared to even my second novel) will be my birthday (October 14). And this time I’m going to try publishing the work exclusively as an ebook–to start with, at least. Everything I’m reading (and sharing through this blog) regarding ebook publishing has me completely intrigued, and I want to learn firsthand about the whole process.

Even though both Separation of Faith and The Truth about Cinnamon are available via all ebook formats, I didn’t actually put them there. The publisher (iUniverse) did. So, there are lots of elements I want to experience on my own, not the least of which is the pricing and the potential return on investment to the author. Once I dive in, you will, of course, become part of the fun, right along with me, as we learn together.

While I’m working on that new venture (which will move up to the top priority on my task list as soon as I finish my taxes and those of my 90-year-old dad–yet another form of torture), my massive Separation of Faith promotional efforts to date will begin to bear some of the most fun fruit!

The first morsel will be the Atlanta book club! This group meets monthly like clockwork–at one of their homes, with some sort of food and beverage included. But they’ve never before had the author of their featured book in attendance, and I’ve been hearing from several of them about how excited they are. So I’m thoroughly enjoying the anticipation and the thrill of being a mini-celebrity, even if only for a few relative minutes. In preparation for the meeting, I’m shipping to Atlanta a box of stuff I assembled during the research, writing, and editing stages of Separation of Faith, which I thought might add another level to the book club experience.

Needless to say, lots of pictures and video will be taken on April 19, which I will share with you through a blog post upon my return. I will also check in here while traveling, confessing to you whether or not I’m being as productive with the new book as I’m promising myself I’ll be. 🙂

After returning to New Jersey from Atlanta …  

My writing will be woven into the move I’m making. About a year and a half ago, my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter (who’s now three and a half), moved into a big house together, leasing with an option to buy. Well … we’re definitely not going to buy this place, so we’re all moving in May. They are going to buy their own house, and I’ll be moving back into the same high rise building where I was before–only this time I’ll be on the top floor, with a view of Manhattan extending into the room that will become my new office. (I’m already inspired just thinking about going into that space to write!) Needless to say, we’re very excited, but we sort of wish we could be like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, able to click our heels together and already be in June, with the move behind us.

The move out here in November 2009 turned out to be very providential, placing all of us under the same roof during the unforeseen breast cancer year. Every time we turn around we’re reminded that there is such a thing as “destiny” and that things do happen for a reason.

As soon as the move is over …

The next major Separation of Faith fruit will be plucked from the promotional tree in June. The novel is largely set in Kettle Falls, Washington–and if you’ll search this blog site using the term “Miss America,” you’ll come across several posts that touch upon an associated story that is both exciting as well as unbelievable (for me, at least). The continuation of that story picks up again on June 1.

That’s the day I’ll fly to Spokane, Washington. My oldest and dearest friend in the world (Elaine) will fly from her home in northern California to meet me in Spokane. We’ll rent a car and then make the 90-mile drive to Kettle Falls. That weekend a three-day event will unfold called Town & Country Days, which has been taking place in Kettle Falls on the first weekend in June for about seventy-five years and draws attendance from the entire Spokane area. But this time the festival will be featuring a book–a novel–called Separation of Faith! 🙂

As far as anyone out there can determine, there has never been a book featured before at the Town & Country Days. In fact, no one can remember a novel being written that centered around the town at all. Separation of Faith will have a dedicated booth, and the book and I have also been invited to be a part of the entertainment on that Saturday afternoon. I’m being given a 30-minute slot on stage, where I’ll talk about how I chose Kettle Falls, how and when I visited the town for my research, the Miss America connection, and so forth.

Everyone in Kettle Falls tells me how excited they are about this entire situation–but they could never imagine how excited I am to be there with them all! And you can be sure that the pictures and videos of that grand occasion will be shared with all of you!

The Contests

Separation of Faith has been entered in about fifteen separate competitions. As mentioned in an earlier post, the novel made the first cut in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition but did not make the quarter finals. However, the book did place as runner up to the grand prize winner in the 2011 DIY Book Festival in Los Angeles! And we still have more than a dozen contests yet to conclude!

If you’ve already published a book and are wondering whether or not to start entering contests, my answer would be yes! Even if the book doesn’t win but does place or make a cut, that gives you something to write about and promote. Even more importantly, every positive thing that happens, no matter how small, provides you and your work with increased validation. So, enter every competition you can afford to enter (and you can find a great list of legitimate, prestigious contests–compiled by Writer’s Digest–at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B004I0IE1K/ref=dp_image_z_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books). Just like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. And the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll learn at least one new important thing that you didn’t know before with every contest you enter!

Whatever Happened to the Agents? 

All three of the agents who requested more information about Separation of Faith at the January Writer’s Digest Conference ended up telling me that the novel was great but wasn’t what they were looking for. Moving on

Promotional Lessons (Thus Far …)

  1. We, the authors, need to prime the pump every day, in order for events/sales to start happening and to keep happening.
  2. Some stuff works/sticks, and some stuff doesn’t/slips right off the wall. But even if more is slipping off than sticking, we can’t stop or give up–ever!
  3. The payoffs–even the small ones–bring unspeakable pleasure, and return immeasurable value, to every single minute of this insane endeavor we, as writers, call our passion.

Hoping that 2011 is moving forward in the best of ways for all you, I’ll sign off here, promising to regain my former diligence and regularity with respect to these posts. Take care!

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