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Sunday, January 22–Panel Members:

  • Phil Sexton–Moderator of Panel; Publisher, Writer’s Digest
  • Karen Cooper–Publisher, Adams Media
  • Michelle Howry–Senior Editor, Touchstone (an impring of Simon & Schuster)
  • Donya Dickerson–Senior Editor, McGraw Hill

A. What is the most common mistake writers make in nonfiction proposals?

  • Too much emphasis on the manuscript.
  • Not enough evidence of need. Why does this book need to be in the marketplace?
  • Not enough emphasis on the author platform.
  • Not enough competitive analysis. Need to do research: a) Where will this book go on the shelf in Barnes & Noble? b) How does this book contrast with competitive titles? c) What does this book provide that no other book does? Check publicity volume of competition and occupied shelf space in bookstores. Also check Book of the Month Club offerings and other visible signs of a book’s sales/popularity.
  • Writer is not realistic about competition for books by a “new author.” In proposal/query, presents him/herself as “the next ___________ (fill in the blank with a famous author’s name).” This approach brands the writer as inexperienced and unrealistic. Instead, the writer should answer: a) Here’s how my book fits into the market, and b) Here’s how my book differs …”

The approximate length of a nonfiction book proposal should be thirty pages, not including any sample chapters.

Include suggestions about where book could be sold outside of the trade (ex., Walmart, Costco …) Research should include publishers and where they sell.

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B. How important is the author’s writing in nonfiction?

  • Depends on the imprint, the book idea, and how hungry the editor is for an acquisition.
  • Authors should not have someone else write the proposal. Both the manuscript and the proposal need to have the same style. Editors can tell if they’ve been written by different people.
  • Editors/publishers vary regarding how important the writing is. If the concept is great, the quality of writing is not as important. Writing can always be beefed up through input from agents, editorial staff, or even ghost writers contracted through publishers.
  • The author’s platform plays a role in how important the writing is. The more the author already has in place to help sell the book, the less important the actual writing becomes.
  • Editors differ with respect to the weight applied to a) good writing, b) promotion, and c) platform.

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C. How has the view of self-publishing changed?

  • All three editors said they would enthusiastically look at proposals that included self-published books.
  • Writers should keep in mind that, if an author is doing well with self-published book saes, then there is a strong case to be made for not going with a traditional publisher.
  • However, publishers can offer access to additional distribution channels, unique book promotions, etc.

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D. What is the most compelling proposal you ever received, and why?

  • Wreck This Journal. Original proposal was a mock-up that was intended to be torn apart (as is the final product). Sometimes editors have to do a hard-sell job with odd ideas like this one, when channels like Barnes & Noble and Amazon have decided to passed on a project.
  • The Starbuck’s Experience. Author had gained full access to Starbuck’s operations. (The publisher was instrumental in changing the title from the original.)
  • The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. Author had secured permission from J.K. Rowling to use the Harry Potter name.
  • Retail Hell. The proposal came in as a self-help book. The publisher reworked it into a memoir.

Editors and publishers want authors who are cooperative and willing to listen, who respond positively to input, and who want to work in a partnership to produce the best quality book possible.

–Cheri’s Note: I’m now studying up on how to write a nonfiction book proposal. I will keep you posted on what I’m learning and how the process unfolds once I actually begin writing the document.–

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(Cheri’s Note: Not only is Barry Eisler a successful author  of an impressive stream of thrillers (traditionally published), but he also made publishing history in Maarch 2011 by turning down a $500,000 two-book deal with St.Martin’s Press in order, instead, to published his next novel electronically. That next novel, Detachment, was released in the fall of 2011, and you can read all about the story at:  http://www.npr.org/2011/10/07/141116856/barry-eislers-detachment-from-legacy-publishing. Hearing him speak at the conference was a huge treat!)

Day #2, Keynote Address: The New World of Publishing, and What It Means for You–Barry Eisler (www.barryeisler.com— Eisler directed us to his Web site’s section “For Writers” and then to a sub-section “Resources for Indie Writers.” I checked this out, and the information is both useful, easy to reference, and comprehensive. Anyone considering launching out in the DIY direction would benefit greatly by visiting this site. Thanks, Barry!)

Despite all of the changes taking place daily in the publishing industry, one thing has not changed. Readers still love to read and are willing to spend some amount of money to get their hands on good books.

Writers are their own CEOs. And being your own boss carries with it the responsibility of writing the best book possible (and the best edited).

Even when they’ve written the best book possible, writers need to understand the realities of the publishing world in 2012.

  • Even with a great book, making any measurable amount of money with the endeavor is not a good bet.
  • 93% of all published books (and this includes cookbooks, self-help, history, politics–everything) sell less than 1000 copies over the life of the book!
  • The average book only sells 83 copies over the life of the book.

The most important thing to Eisler is getting his books into the hands of readers as expeditiously as possible. (Traditional publishing can add years to this process, especially if the writer is new/unknown.) So, what has changed in the publishing world due to the onset (or onslaught) of digital publishing?

  • Paper books require a distribution partner, and that role has traditionally been filled by traditional publishers, which is one reason why publishers’ contracts with authors typically specify an 85% take of the book sales for the publisher.
  • Digital books, however, do not require a distribution partner. Consequently, Indie writers are now on a level plaing field with huge publishers.
  • Amazon was the first company to offer authors a direct-to-consumer marketing plan.
  • Writers now have choices regarding how they get their work into the hands of readers.
  • This, according to Eisler, makes authors the number one players in the new world of publishing.

(Eisler’s remarks were relatively brief. You can find a ton of extremely useful information “For Writers” on his Web site: www.barryeisler.com. )

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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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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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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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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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Sort of like a wedding or Thanksgiving, this huge event in my life, which I’ve been looking forward to with great anticipation and preparing for since last fall, is coming to an end today. And when something extraordinary flies by so fast, we try to hang on to the remaining moments. So, I’m taking a little time before I finish packing in my hotel room to savor the experience. More pictures, along with clips of the video from my presentation on the entertainment program yesterday, will be uploaded once I get to San Francisco with Elaine. (I’m going home with her to celebrate her birthday, and our flight leaves Spokane at 5:13 this evening. So my next post with those visuals will most likely be tomorrow morning–Monday).

Meanwhile … what an amazing four days this has been! We arrived at the festival grounds to set up about 8:30 Friday morning and didn’t leave until 8:00 that evening. By the time we stopped at T.J.’s Tavern & Grill (up the street from the festival in Kettle Falls) for a bite to eat and then drove the five miles to our hotel in Colville, we were falling over in a heap around 10:30. The weather was a bit chilly and windy most of that day, but finally warmed up into the low 60s. Thankfully, there was no rain, and the skies were mostly clear, except for some of those astonishing clouds that came floating over us in the afternoon. And yesterday was absolutely perfect, in the low 70s with a brilliant blue sky and just a slight breeze.

Saturday (yesterday) was the main day of the festival. There was a parade, along with incredible stage performances by the local Irish dancers troupe, and great bands playing all sorts of music. There was also “auto smashing,” where people were taking sledge hammers to an old car, along with an extensive list of other activities. And then, of course, there was some author lady from New Jersey, who spoke about her novel Separation of Faith, which is set primarily in Kettle Falls. 🙂 Of course, there were plenty of food vendors offering surprisingly delicious items from pasta dishes to corn dogs and sinfully gigantic elephant ears (pizza-size fried dough covered with sugar and cinnamon). Elaine and I finally gave in yesterday and shared an elephant ear, and I’ve now ingested enough cholesterol and triglycerides to last through the month! As for the craft vendors … just let me say that a huge dent has now been made in my Christmas shopping.

Now, what about book sales? Well, we sold approximately 60 books (50+ of Separation of Faith and 7 of the newly released 2nd edition of The Truth about Cinnamon), along with a number of T-shirts. This isn’t quite the sales level I was hoping to hit, but I think the outcome is still worth celebrating. We’re leaving a supply of Separation of Faith for the Kettle Falls Visitor’s Center and for a lovely independent bookseller shop in Colville called Coffee & Books. So, for anyone who missed the festival or who hears about the novel set in this community, there will be several options available to secure a copy!

Although the primary reason for coming to Town & Country Days in Kettle Falls was to sell Separation of Faith, the distinct highlight of the trip was meeting so many awesome people! Both Elaine and I were blown away by the warmth and hospitality shown to us and by the programs and plans being advanced in this small but highly progressive community! We have made some very special new friends! And, now that a sequel to Separation of Faith seems to be clearly in the offing, my connection to Kettle Falls will be ongoing–and another trip here definitely resides in my future.

In closing this post, I want to mention one of the memories from yesterday. The day was getting late, and Elaine and I were beginning to break down our booth, when a young lady named Nichole came up to us with a couple of her friends. She was very lovely, and I’m guessing she was still in high school. (Sorry for the mis-guess, Nichole, if you’re older and in college. 🙂 ) She told us that she loved to read, and she really wanted a copy of Separation of Faith after hearing so much about the novel all day, but she didn’t have any extra money and was torn about spending what she did have on the book. But she ended up buying a soft cover version, with what was obviously a very precious $15 to her. And I was deeply moved by her decision. Not only will Separation of Faith be in the hands of someone representing a young, vibrant demographic, but the fact that my book was elevated to such a priority for her was extremely touching. Nichole has my card, and I’m hoping she’ll check out my blog and discover how much I appreciate her popping in at the end of the festival.

Everyone else who made the effort to find us and who then took a  book (or books) home with them is equally as appreciated. Their faces and names are forever imprinted in my mind and heart, and I do hope they stay in touch with me. Without such wonderful people who were willing to take a chance on my novel, I would sort of be doing this job by myself for unknown reasons. So I want each person who visited us to know how very grateful I am for their support and trust. And I’ll be watching for their names to show up in my email or on this blog.

Meanwhile, I guess I’d better get busy with my packing. We’ll be saying goodbye to this beautiful valley community in a couple of hours, but I’ll be taking the memories of every moment and every face home with me.

Will post again tomorrow with pictures. Hope you’re having a terrific weekend!

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About nine o’clock west coast time tonight, Elaine and I returned to our hotel from an absolutely amazing day. We secured the perfect booth for Separation of Faith at the festival, right by the stage and in a high traffic area on the way to the crafters. We then ran a bunch of errands–had copies made of flyers, endorsement quotes, etc., went shopping for items to decorate the booth (tablecloths, flowers), visited an independent bookseller in downtown Colville, and experienced at least three of those life-extending fall-down-on-your-face laughing bouts. We also took a lot of pictures, a sampling of which is attached at the end of this post. There wasn’t much to photograph at the festival site yet, but by tomorrow morning at 8:30 when we arrive, there should be a lot more to capture.

After picking up all the copying, we went back up to Kettle Falls (about a five-mile drive from our hotel in Colville) to visit an antique store we’d been passing repeatedly. Next door to the antique store was a market where I found several copies of a local newspaper featuring an article about me and the novel based on a phone interview last month.

We then returned to the hotel, with the intention of walking next door to a great little eatery for a takeout salad that we planned to eat in our rooms with a little bit of wine and closing conversation for the day. But a message was waiting for me at the hotel from the woman in charge of Saturday’s program. She said she needed a headshot of me and asked if we could come up to meet her at T.J.’s Tavern & Grill in Kettle Falls within the hour. (I called my daughter immediately because she’d dabbled with some modeling in her teens, and I knew she’d get a kick out of my needing to report for a headshot! 🙂 )

Upon entering T.J.’s Tavern & Grill, we were met by about ten women who were preparing t-shirts for a festival fun-run tomorrow afternoon associated with the Kettle Falls Grouch. (See the attached pictures of the Kettle Falls sign.
The Grouch is an elected position, decided during the festival.) Several of the women had already read Separation of Faith, and several others said they are planning to get a copy of the novel from me tomorrow at our booth. We thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with each of the women, learning many fascinating things about Kettle Falls, not the least of which involves the incredibly impressive programs in the Kettle Falls elementary school, details that I will incorporate into my posts as we move through this adventure.

T.J. (the owner of the establishment) and his wife Betty were also filled with seemingly endless morsels of information about the town and about the convent as well. We hope to see them again tomorrow night at T.J.’s, after our duties at the festival booth are over for the day.

As we drove around this afternoon, I was struck (as I was when first here in 2004) by the uncluttered and unspoiled beauty of this valley. The clouds changed their formation frequently as rain came and went through the hours, and I commented several times to Elaine that those clouds somehow seem closer to the ground here. A few pictures are included at the end of this post to show you what I mean.

Now I need to turn in, though. I’m all ready for bed and quite tired. But I suspect that I’ll wake up early again in the morning, ready for Day 2 of the adventure and the first day of the festival. Wish I could bottle this feeling so I could take a sip during discouraging writing days that might be ahead. Actually, I guess this blog is one way of doing just that!

Hope you all have a good night. I’ll return sometime tomorrow with a fresh report.

P.S. Also included in photos are a few shots of my new office on my apartment’s enclosed terrace. Pictures were taken the night before I left on this trip, so the light wasn’t great. I’ll take more when I get home.

 

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Writing from Colville/Kettle Falls, Washington

Yesterday, this long-awaited adventure (and most important promotional element of my fledgling/old-person writing career to-date) was officially launched!

My dear friend Elaine (friends since my 41-year-old daughter was a toddler of two) flew up from San Francisco to meet me in Spokane. By the time I arrived from New Jersey, around 1:00 p.m. via a delayed connection in Denver, Elaine already had the rental car and picked me up outside baggage claim just like we lived here.

Having her here with me for this experience is so exciting and so perfect. She has not only been one of my biggest fans since I reinvented myself from a corporate person and let the writer out of the box, but she’s also been one of my most important critics. None of us can learn, grow, and become the great writers we all dream of being if we don’t have people reading our work who are willing to tell us the truth. Several significant sections of Separation of Faith were extensively reworked due to Elaine’s input.

At any rate, we then made the drive to the Colville/Kettle Falls, Washingon area, which is the primary setting in Separation of Faith and is located about 90 miles north of Spokane. For those of you who’ve read the novel, I’m presently writing this post from my room in the Colville lodge where Isaiah stayed. And, after checking in yesterday afternoon, Elaine and I drove by the property that was the former convent. We also passed through the neighborhood where Tess and Ava lived, and we had dinner at Barney’s.

So, why are we here in the first place? Well, for the past 75 years or so, a three-day festival called Town & Country Days has been held in Kettle Falls during the first weekend in June, drawing attendance from the entire Spokane area. After Separation of Faith received the endorsement of Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992, who grew up in Kettle Falls, the goal of somehow being a part of that festival was added to my promotional to-dos. Now, following much effort, press releases, phone calls, emails, interviews, etc., the novel has become a featured highlight of this year’s event.

The wonderful people of this magnificently beautiful part of our country are really excited that someone made their little town a key setting in a novel. As for me, I spent three days here doing research in the fall of 2004, and I’m so excited about coming back that I could just pop! I’ll be blogging once or twice a day as we move through the setup of the booth and then into the event, which opens at noon tomorrow. Pictures will be included, beginning with tonight’s post.

If you’re a writer out there who’s plugging away at your own version of the Dream/Journey, let me assure you that there are lots of different paths available to all of us now. And there are many ways to feel validated and legitimate. The most important goal should be to get your work into the hands of readers. Once that happens, if the readers love what you’ve written, what greater validation can there be? If we’re not writing to give readers several hours of unforgettable reading pleasure, then what is our motivation?

Most of us will never become wealthy or hugely famous from our writing. But I’m here to tell you that, if you focus on completing a well-written book with quality editing–and if you’re willing to work hard on the promotional aspects of this business–the possibility of having your own version of a Kettle Falls adventure is an attainable goal for every single writer out there! (And when the bank teller in Colville got all excited yesterday about who I was, I have to tell you that I did feel like a celebrity. Success on this journey can be measured and attained in so many different ways! And right now I’m having a blast, thoroughly enjoying this moment that I worked so hard to create!)

I’m really looking forward to sharing each step of this adventure with you over the next four days! See you again tonight!

Separation of Faith Is A Proud Bridesmaid Again!

Notification arrived yesterday–and sitting right on top of the honorable mentions for the Beach Book Festival competition is Separation of Faith (http://www.beachbookfestival.com/)! This makes the fifth contest placement in the past few months, and I’m enormously honored! I’d be less than honest, however, if I didn’t add that I’m still hoping the novel will win first place in at least one competition! Still, this accumulating record feels pretty good!

Move Completed … At Last 

The nightmare move that just seemed to never end finally concluded the day before I left on this trip! I took pictures of my new office that night, and I’ll post a few tonight along with the festival adventure shots we’ll be taking today.

Hope you all have a wonderful day ahead! Talk to you later! 

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Good News Is Especially Fun When You’re Exhausted!

Hi! This will be the quickest of posts since this moment finds me literally buried in the chaos of the move. But my genius computer fellow just finished reassembling the technical elements of my office about an hour ago, in the new (and amazingly wonderful) space where I will now be blessed to write each day.

So, after he left, I stopped unpacking for a few minutes to check email–and there I found a message announcing that the winners of the Paris Book Festival had been announced. And guess what? Separation of Faith has placed as runner-up to the winner … again!

I am pleased beyond measure about this string (we’re now at #4) of contest successes! There are five or six contests still outstanding (I think that’s the right number–need to double check), and now there’s even more anticipation than before!

Although I am immensely grateful that Separation of Faith is being so well-received in the book contest world, I remain ever hopeful that when I scan the eventual results of the remaining competitions, there will be that one glorious moment in time when the title Separation of Faith will be at the very top!

Well … no one is going to do my dreaming for me! 🙂

And … if you have a book (or almost have a book) that you’re working hard to promote (or plan on promoting), be sure to check out the whole contest avenue. The 2011 Writer’s Market (http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Market-Deluxe-Robert-Brewer/dp/1582979499/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1305661286&sr=1-2) has an entire section devoted to contests, and pursuing those competitions just might help open some doors that you might not have known were there. (The 2012 Writer’s Market will be out in September. The Deluxe Editions of both the 2011 and 2012 WM come with a searchable DVD of the entire reference.)

Also, please keep in mind one of the key messages delivered many times throughout this blog (through posts as well as reader/writer comments): Quality editing is as important to the success of your book, if not more so, than the quality of your writing and the creativity of your plot. A poorly edited manuscript (or one with no editing at all, other than your own) will cause readers, agents, editors, and yes judges, to bypass a project that is otherwise terrific. And this is true no matter which path to publishing you decide to follow. I’ve seen some very poorly edited books coming out of mainstream houses lately, which never (or hardly ever) used to happen, so remain vigilant if you’re going that direction. If you’re exploring the alternate routes, be sure to have your book professionally edited. Skipping that step will make this steep climb even steeper.

Regarding the move, the furniture will be in my new place this Thursday (day after tomorrow), so I’ll be waking up here on Friday morning! I’ll check back in through another post at that time, and then there will be photos loaded shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, please have a beautiful and productive week on whatever path you’re taking to your own Dream!

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