Sunday, January 26, 2014

Marketing Tools: The Pros and Cons of Blogging

By: Stephanie Burkhart

Authors have several tools stuffed into their marketing tool bag: Facebook, Twitter, Triberr, Word of Mouth,  Conferences, Yahoo Groups, and Blogging.

There are two popular blogging "hosts" today: Blogger and WordPress. When I signed up for Blogger in 2009, it was very user friendly. Nowadays, five years later, it's not as user friendly as it used to be, but one can manage. I've also had experiences with WordPress and while I don't find WordPress user friendly, I do find it offers a host of options that generally appeal to readers.

The purpose of a blog (for an author) is to give readers a chance to get to know and interact with you. Even on the Internet, "word of mouth" by one reader may attract many readers to your blog to see what you have to offer.

Using Pictures in your Blog Post
I highly encourage this. A picture says a thousand words. Just like a cover, a picture can draw a reader to your post.  Unless there's a distinct photo theme, try to limit the amount of pictures you use.  I generally try to use a picture that sets the 'theme' of the post. I might also share an author picture as well.

Blog Titles
A catchy blog title always draws a reader interest. Consider it a hook. It should sum up the theme or topic of your post.

Don't do promo of your book(s) every day. Constant promo turns off readers. And don't post every day. It's a drain on you and your creativity. Give your topics a day or two to breathe before tackling a new idea.

Do share a little bit about you. You don't have to get overly personal, but sharing likes and dislikes of every day things draws interest. Try to be quirky. Humor also draws attention.

Vary your topics and intermix writing topics with your interests. Some ideas include:

Writing ideas: characters, setting, research, inspiration behind the novel
Book reviews of books you've read. Share your favorite authors with readers.
Promo: sharing an excerpt/blurb of your book. Host a contest.
Interview fellow authors
Host a blog tour
Talk about holidays and what they meant to you.
Share a movie review
Sports – gush about your favorite team.
Talk about music that interests you. Share some of your favorite quirky "You Tube" videos.
Talk about your favorite TV Shows.
Share something locally about or near the place you live
Share your travel adventures

Do try to blog 2-4 times a week. Even if you can only blog one day a week, I would encourage it. An active blogs keeps readers coming back for more.

Try not to get long winded. Keep your blog between 200-500 words. End your post with a question to encourage readers to answer you. With blogging, I've learned slow and steady usually wins the readers over.

QUESTION: Do you have tips to share about blogging? What do you do or don't do? What format (Blogger or WordPress) do you use?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD, Cub/Boy Scout mom and a taxi driver for her boys. She adores chocolate, loves coffee and enjoys taking long walks on her days off. She writes romance, mainstream fiction, and children's books. Her works with 4RV Publishing include "The Giving Meadow" and "First Flag of New Hampshire." 







Friday, January 24, 2014

Joe Papp, Shakespeare in the Park, and me

Statue of William Shakespeare on "Literar...
Statue of William Shakespeare on "Literary Walk" in Central Park, Manhattan, NYC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. My father, an attorney, was good friends with Sammy Silverman, the attorney who won Joe Papp the right to put on free Shakespeare in Central Park.Along with  family, my aunt and uncle, Sammy and his wife Claire faithfully attended every play from the time Joe started putting on the plays until the time I left New York to move to the Boston area in 1978. Watching these performances had a huge impact on my ear and cemented a love of theater that I hold dear to this day.

Thanks to Joe Papp,  summer visitors to New York City enjoy free Shakespeare in Central Park. Visitors line up at the Delacorte Theater for free tickets for the night's performance. Then they wander over to the Great Lawn for a picnic supper before the show. They climb up the bleachers of  Delacort Theater. Once in their seats, they gaze at the medieval-looking Belvedere Weather Tower and Turtle Pond behind the open-air stage. All this thanks to producer and director Joe Papp. How did Joe Papp, a man with only a high school education and no formal acting training, do so much?

It was 1959  and Joe Papp  wanted to present free Shakespeare  as he had the three summers before. But New York City parks commissioner Robert Moses refused to issue the permit. He was angry. Moses claimed Joe had damaged the grass in front of Turtle Pond and he wanted Joe to pay. Joe was a nobody and Moses was the king of urban planning.  How could Joe succeed? Joe hesitated, but when Moses asked Joe to charge $1.00 to $2.00, Joe dug in his heels and refused.

Then Joe got lucky. His attorney, Samuel Silverman,  once worked as corporate counsel to the city. Sammy knew the laws inside out, and he told Joe he could sue Moses. Moses had allowed other groups to use the park. Joe should be allowed to use it, too. Moses wasn't being fair, and that was  against the law.

But summer was fast approaching. Sammy brought suit against Moses on May 18, and on June 2nd, the court found for Moses. Was was Joe to do? Again, Joe hesitated, but Sammy stood firm, and in the end, Joe agreed to let Sammy appeal the ruling. This time, Joe won. Moses agreed to issue the permit -- as long as Joe came up with $20,000 to prepare the site.

Joe didn't have $20,000 What to do?

That was when Joe had one of those AHA moments In a bold move, he asked Moses for the $20,000. Moses asked the New York City Board of Estimate. On June 25th the board agreed.  Joe was on his way. Moses' money was used to build Joe a theater.

Joe Papp did much more than present free Shakespeare in Central Park. He have a start to many famous actors including Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Al Pacino. He established a theater downtown, put on plays that moved to Broadway and beyond, plays such as A Chorus Line and Hair.

Joe's vision, optimism, and persistence transformed American theater.  If you go to New York this summer, you can still stand on line for a chance at a free ticket to Shakespeare in the Park.  All because Joe Papp had a dream and made it come true.
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Writing Fiction for Children - 4 Simple Tips

 By Karen Cioffi

Writing fiction for children has a number of rules and tricks, the very basics of which are creating believable characters and adding conflict. But, there are many other elements that go into creating an effective and engaging story. Below are four simple tips to help you navigate the children’s writing waters.

1. Show the way to success

While description and a bit of telling have their place, today’s publishers want you to show the story. The technique for ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ is to use your character’s five senses, along with dialogue.

The days of, “See Dick and Jane walk down the lane,” are far gone.
Showing allows the reader to connect with the protagonist. The reader is able to feel the protagonist’s pain, joy, fear, or excitement. This creates a connection and prompts the reader to continue reading.
If you’re stuck, and can’t seem to be able to ‘show’ a particular scene, try acting it out. You can also draw on your own experiences, TV, or the movies. Study scenes that convey the ‘showing’ you need to depict.

2. Create synergy

Joining the story together in a seamless fashion is probably the trickiest part of writing fiction. The characters, conflict, plot, theme, setting and other details all need to blend together to create something grander than their individual parts; like the ingredients of a cake. This is called synergy.

It doesn’t matter if your story is plot driven or character driven, all the elements need to weave together smoothly to create the desired affect you are going for: humor, mystery, action, fantasy, or other.

If you have an action packed plot driven story, but it lacks believable and sympathetic characters, you’re story will be lacking. The same holds true if you have a believable and sympathetic character, but the story lacks movement, it will usually also fall short.

All this must be done in an engaging manner, along with easy to understand content. 

3. Keep it lean
According to multi-published children’s writer Margot Finke, today’s children’s publishing world is looking for tight writing. Choose your words for their ability to convey strong and distinct actions, create imagery, and move the story forward.

The publishing costs for picture books over 32 pages is beyond what most publishers are willing to spend, so word counts should be well under 1000, and be sure to make each word count. Keep in mind that the illustrations will add another layer to the story and fill in the blanks.

When writing fiction for young children, the younger the children, the leaner the writing. This means if you’re writing for toddlers or preschoolers, you should limit your word count to a range of 100 to 250 words.

4. Be part of a critique group
This is a must for all writers, but especially for children’s writers. There are so many additional tricks of the trade that you need to be aware of when writing for children, you’ll need the extra sets of eyes.

Your critique partners will no doubt be able to see what you missed. This is because you are too close to your own work. They will also be helpful in providing suggestions and guidance. Just be sure your critique group has experienced, as well as new writers.

Belonging to a ‘writing fiction for children’ critique group will also help you hone your craft.

Use these four tips to help create a synergized story.

What strategies do you use to take your story up a notch?

Need help getting your author-writer platform optimized? If the answer is YES then check out Create and Build Your Author Online Platform, the  6 week e-class through WOW! Women on Writing.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Your BIG idea

by Suzanne Cordatos

Move over, Katniss. Step aside, Harry Potter. I’ve got an idea for the next great series complete with beloved characters and breath-holding action sure to spawn a trilogy of movies and scads of marketing paraphernalia—or do I? Is my idea BIG enough?

Many writers make New Years' resolutions to write more, so an efficient use of one's time would be to analyze an idea thoughtfully before committing months (and years) to writing it out in the first place. Here’s how to tell if an idea is series-worthy:

Passion for the Project
First and foremost, how passionate are you? A series of books takes a steady commitment of time and energy. At a conference, a series writer once expressed the fond desire to put her cast of characters on an island and blow it up; she was tired of writing the same characters, over and over!

Cast of Characters
Are your characters multi-dimensional? Is Villain purely bad—or have you given Villain a believable back story to explore the genesis of their evil actions? Is Hero reluctant at first? Have you given Hero the space and means in which to grow into the role? Have you populated your cast with interesting characters to interact with Hero and Villain in a variety of settings/plots?

Is your idea conducive to world-building? Where do your characters live and work? What do they eat? What do they do for fun? What animals/creatures exist in this world? Both fantasy and realistic stories require world-building for a believable backdrop that gives elbow room for Hero and Villain to explore.

Brainstorm story ideas quickly. Make a list. Include silly, random ideas:
  •   Hero and Villain butt heads on a mountaintop, skiing Bond-style in a chase that has a steamy, wet end in a ski lodge Jacuzzi.
  • Villain sneaks behind Hero onto a rocket headed for the international space station which must be diverted from an impending disaster before oxygen runs out. 
  • Hero discovers his love interest is related to Villain in an unexpected way, complicating what Hero thought would make an easy demise for Villain.
  • Villain finds and destroys the object Hero seeks.

Does your list stop cold? Could you go on and on? With a small list—or with a story focused more on a relationship between a limited cast—perhaps the idea is best served by a short story or novella. If your story ideas seem boundless at the brainstorm stage, perhaps you have the kernel of a good series.

How do you determine what form a new idea should take? Novel? Short story? Article? Series? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Keep Your Writing Goals Front and Center

By Karen Cioffi

As a writer, you have to move forward to keep up with the onslaught of books and authors in the book publishing arena. And, you especially need to be sure you're keeping in alignment with your writing goals. This means every now and then you need to stop to evaluate what your core goals are and if you’re actually heading in that direction.

Every marketer will tell you that the beginning of each year you need to create a list of core or major goals. It's important to make your goals realistic and obtainable, and not to burden yourself with too many goals.

Three is a good number of writing goals, not too few, not too many. Then under each goal you can list a few tasks that will you will do on a daily or weekly basis to help you reach your objectives.

In addition to creating and typing your goals down in a document, they need to be printed and kept visible. It's important to put them somewhere you'll be sure to notice on a daily basis. You might put your list on your computer, inside your laptop case, on top of your daily planner, on the inside of a kitchen cabinet you open everyday.

You get the idea, your writing goals need to be visible each and every day. Not just visible though, they need to be read each and every day.

Why is it important to keep your writing goals front and center?

Here's another question to help answer that question: Did you ever hear the expression, ‘Out of sight, out of mind?’

That's your answer.

On January 1st of 'any year,' you may tell yourself, and maybe even write it down, that you will:

1. Write a minimum of five pages of your new book each week
2. Effectively market your published books
3. Submit articles to three paying magazines on a monthly basis

Okay, that's great. But, suppose it's now July and you haven't even written 10 pages of your new book, and you haven't gone past the very basics of promoting your published books.

What happened to your writing goals?

Easy. You didn’t keep your goals list front and center, so you got sidetracked.

While you may have had the best of intentions on January 1st, without keeping those writing goals visible, it’s difficult to stay on course.

Maybe you decided to add the writing of unrelated ebooks to your workload. Maybe you decided to do book reviews and started a critique group of your own. Maybe you devoted too much time to social networking and your online groups.

These additions may not necessarily be a bad thing, but before you continue on, ask yourself three questions:

1. Are these additions to your workload moving you in the direction of your major writing goals?
2. Are they actually keeping you from attaining your goals?
3. Are they providing some kind of income?

If your answers to these questions are NO, YES, NO, then you need to step back, redirect your steps, and get back on track. If you keep your writing goals front and center, you’ll be amazed at how you automatically work toward achieving them.

For more on writing and marketing, join Karen Cioffi and The Writing World for free weekly tips and guidance, plus updates on free instructional webinars. Get access today and you’ll receive “How to Create an Optimized Website – 3 Essential Author Website Elements and 9 Must-Have Pages:”

Friday, January 3, 2014

How Important is the Cover?

McClure's new cover art
This week, a wonderful friend and fellow 4RV Publishing author, Beverly Stowe McClure revealed the cover art for her new middle grade book soon to be released. The picture tells me the story is about a young girl, basketball, and maybe a problem with ego. Aidana WillowRaven produced the cover for Star of the Team. I love it. I'm intrigued. It's a winner in my mind.

This big cover reveal got me to thinking.
How important is the illustration on your book cover?

Many faithful readers follow writers they love, but what about buying from a new author? Polls suggest that the first thing to catch our eye about a book is the cover. If the cover looks interesting, we pick up the book, read the back cover, and if still interested, read the first paragraph or two.

4RV Publishing released my debut YA novel a year and a half ago. Long before it did, I learned the importance of team work. Authors create stories. Editors read, correct, strengthen, and clarify the author's words. Then comes the illustrator. 4RV asked Aidana WillowRaven to create a cover for my book, Victoria and the Ghost. WillowRaven asked me questions about the main character's personal appearance. She asked about the setting and wanted to know important symbols in the story.

The Cover of my book

My fifteen-year-old main character wore shorts and flip-flops with her light brown hair loose and always blowing into her face. The ghost brought strange happenings to the setting of Clara Cemetery, in North Texas. (A real place.) One main happening involves a disappearing hopscotch drawing.

Ms. WillowRaven came up with Victoria praying over a hopscotch with trees and a church in the background. The picture tells the reader something is strange about this place.

A book's illustrator is listed on the copyright page of the book, but how often do they get recognition for their work? Yet, their creation helps authors sell books.

My advice to new and old authors is work well with your illustrator. Give her enough detail to see what you see. If you disagree with the arrangement or something in the drawing, speak up and explain. Work as a team to come up with a winning cover. It's important.

Let me leave you with two other book covers, one a new adult A Shadow in the Past,  by Melanie Robertson King, and Prairie Dog Cowboy, a YA book by Vivian Zabel.


Think about what you see in these covers. What do you expect? What do you like about these 4 covers? What do you dislike? Think of your own work. Do the covers represent the story?

I would love your feedback. Lastly, we need to recognize our illustrators for work well done. Thank you, Aidana WillowRaven. Thanks to all the team at 4RV Publishing.