Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
Nowadays, with social media, you aren't as dependent on the publisher or the publisher's or editor’s idea of author status and who gets promoted. You can do your own promotion. You can announce the sale on Facebook and Twitter and Google+, and put a link to where the story appears on your website once the issue or the work is released. Some small press publishers furnish promotion material for their anthologies, like bookmarks, that authors can take with them to conventions for freebie tables or to hand out at signings.
Promotion by bookmark is good if you are traditionally published (where you only have a small window of time in which to promote) and even more so if your publisher is a small press, because with a small press you can continue to promote the anthology for years. Or until the publisher stops furnishing promo material for the anthology.
This is what I've done in the past to promote my short stories published in anthologies. I've also listed the story or anthology in the bios I've been asked to provide for conventions as an author participating on panels. But now I'm moving into new territory. One of my publishers, Amber Quill Press, is now publishing short stories on its website and then releasing the stories on Amazon Kindle. I've got one short story, “The Oracle of Cilens”, available through this program and another (“Search and Rescue”) will be released in August. So I started wondering how one goes about promoting individual short stories.
Searching on the web turned up only the suggestion to blog about your short story, both on your own blog and well as guest posts on other blogs. And of course mentioning the short story on your website. One author I know has had postcards on freebie tables at conventions advertising his free short story, and I liked that idea, but I wasn't sure if that was done for short stories for sale. So I asked some of the writing organizations I belong to, such as Broad Universe on Facebook, figuring I wasn't the first to wonder about this. Kelly Harmon kindly responded with an image of the rack card she uses to promote her six short stories at conventions.
Three questions: How do you learn about short stories? What promotions have you seen? What do you use to promote your short stories?
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Monday, July 14, 2014
My contract was canceled, effective immediately, and my rights were returned to me.
No book. Just like that. It happens. Things like this always seem to happen to ME, though. I mean, I thought back over my career, and I'm like a walking cliche of every publishing nightmare that can happen. I've had editors who left in the middle of a book. I've had series canceled mid-series because the publisher decided to no longer publish that kind of book (though I was able to find a new publisher for the rest of the books, which was good). I've had my troubles with agents. And now I've had a book orphaned by the publisher closing. And you know what?
I'm okay. I mean, I was upset at first. Really, really upset. Mostly because I had spent some money in order to promote the book last Spring. But that's okay-- I had fun doing it, and it wasn't that much. I had also booked a trip to the MidWest to sign ARCs at a convention, two weeks after the publisher closed. Which ended up being really fun, and a nice vacation for my family too. We made the best of it. I had a ball at that convention, promoted other books, and hopefully made some new fans in a new place. And I got some new ideas for video blogs. I had begun to plan the launch party, but fortunately hadn't solidified those yet.
It could have ended up much worse, in the end. I have a completely edited manuscript that is just waiting for a new publisher. While I was promoting it pre-publication, the book got some following on Goodreads. When the publisher made the announcement, there was an outpouring of support for the authors and their books. When a new publisher comes along, I'll make sure those people know that the book is still alive.
It is what it is, as they say.
Meanwhile, I also had an extremely awesome time at the annual NJ SCBWI conference. I gave two workshops on query letters, which I hope were helpful. I met some new friends, hung out with old ones. I sat in on an excellent workshop by children's author Katie Davis (who is the BOMB) about how to EXPLODE my writing career with video. I already love using video, but it was a great workshop on how I could be using it in different ways, with some cool new resources for me to try. I came home and started playing around with Movie Maker, and I'm going to spend some of my summer playing with these new toys. I even made a new book trailer for A Curse of Ash and Iron to use when we re-sell the book.
And my agent already has it out on submission again, so no worries.
I am making movies and video blogging a lot more. I'm also working on a Welcome video for my website. I even have my own YouTube channel: Christine Norris's YouTube Channel, which I've had for awhile but was only using it as a space to put videos before they went on my blog. Now I need to make a video to get subscribers. I'm having a blast, and working on more books, and in general...Moving On!
Publishing is a weird business, and sometimes you've just got to go with the flow.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Have you ever had a character you really like in a story that just didn't seem to go anywhere? Ditch the story. Keep the character.
I had a character like that show up in my Ali story. I'd written another story that I liked, but knew it needed a lot of work, and maybe a plot in order to really be something I could get other people to read. But I really liked my main character, Hannah Franklin. The story was that Hannah had grown up on TV along with her brothers and sisters in a family drama, the Flanagans. Her mother played the mother, her father was their base of reality. The show ended when half of her family was killed in a plane crash, effectively ending the show. The thing is that Hannah so identified with being Hannah Flanagan that sometimes it was hard to simply live her life as Hannah Franklin. That was the backstory. The story itself had her going to college and dealing with these things. Like I said, it needed a plot.
Then I was doing a major re-write of my Ali story, changing some of the characters out and freshening it up and realized that Hannah, minus the dead family, could be one of Ali's dormmates at boarding school. The thing is, that a child starting out on TV playing a very small child on a show is most likely to be played by twins. So, Hannah got split into two people, Heather and Lily. They grew up splitting the role of Hannah Flanagan. Heather still wants to be on TV, Lily is done with it. These two characters have added a great dimension to my Ali stories and I'm so glad they didn't just wither away in an unusable story.
What characters from a story stored in a drawer can you bring new life to?
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Friday, June 20, 2014
If you ask authors at a panel how they make sure a world or a character is believable, the answer is usually “beta readers”. You’ll see ‘thank you’s to beta readers in acknowledgements or afterwords in books.
How do you find a beta reader?
This was one of the questions asked of me at an author question and answer panel at a recent convention. I had to stop and think about this from a new author point of view since some things have changed since I first started trying to find someone willing to read my stories and give me helpful criticism. And some things haven’t changed.
As a young writer starting off at age 14, my first beta reader was my mother. Not precisely the best choice, as she didn't read science fiction, but I didn't feel confident enough to ask my father, who was the other science fiction reader in my family. But after getting feedback of “it was so sad when she left home” when the story was supposed to be on how happy the character was to leave Earth, I moved on to other beta readers. My English teachers approved of the symbolism in my first book (which surprised me since I hadn't put any in), and that was the last time I asked them. I did find a few friends in high school that read fantasy and science fiction and who could be counted on to give good feedback. Nowadays I have friends I've met at conventions, fellow writers, and people who have read and enjoyed my work (and like getting an early look) who I can ask to beta read.
The person asking the question didn't have any local friends who read the genre he was writing. I've got one friend in my town that I can ask to beta read, but the other friends I can ask, depending on their schedules, are all at a distance. Which is not much of a problem in the days of email. The questioner, however, didn't have any writing friends or friends who read in his genre either local or online that he could ask.
So the next question to him was, was he a member of a writing group or organization? I'm a member of both Broad Universe and EPIC, and I've seen the occasional call out in the email and Facebook groups for those writing organizations for a beta reader on a particular genre or topic. There's usually someone willing to give feedback in return for critical comments on their own stories. He decided to check with some of the fan group tables at the convention.
I've even seen the call out on an author's Facebook page for an occasional beta reader or proof reader.
Of course, what do you do once you've found a potential beta reader? If all you get back is “It was good”, then you need to ask detailed questions (and maybe find another beta reader). Jodie Renner had some excellent suggestions recently in “15 Questions for Your Beta Readers”. (She also has some suggestions for finding YA beta readers.) I tend to ask more vague questions like "Did what the character do make sense?"
Take some time to absorb the comments you get back. Sometimes you can see right away how to revise the story and sometimes you’re not actually ready to accept what you hear.
It also helps to have more than one beta reader. If both readers comment on the same thing, then it definitely needs fixing. You might also have a beta reader who just focuses on the technical details or language rather than the overall story.
How have you found your beta readers? Are you a beta reader for another author?