A Writer’s Schedule

*Written by Shelly Arkon*

When I tell others I’m a writer, I sometimes get responses like “Oh, you mean you’re unemployed” or “You play on the computer all day.”  If they only knew how hectic my life really is.

I’m one of those writers who has a job. A forty hour week full of hair cuttery with flexible hours. Of course those hours are only advantageous to the employer. I work when they determine. My hours are never the same and are apt to change daily without notice.

I also have a husband who doesn’t cook for himself. Nor does he do the kitchen clean-up, or the majority of the housework. For the most part, he’s pretty helpless and requires other kinds of attention. Yeah. I have to do that, too.

And then, there are the dogs, Sir Poops-A-Lot and Hair Ball. If SPAL doesn’t make it outside to do his business, he uses the tile in the masterbath. This means walking him ALOT. If HB doesn’t get to play fetch, he chews holes in the carpet and barks way too much for my nerves to bare. Plus, they can’t feed themselves or pour themselves something to drink.  Guess who caters to them.

Oh, and can’t forget my daughters. I’ve got five. The oldest being twenty-six and the youngest being sixteen. The full moon hovers over our house daily. Rain or shine. Night or day. It doesn’t matter. There’s always some crisis happening in one of their lives.

And, I’ve got grandbabies to visit, too.

Not to mention, I attend a critique group. There’s always someone’s manuscript in need of reading and editing.

And of course, there are my WIPs, blog writing, reading other blogs, novel reading,  and book reviews to write. Gee, am I leaving anything out?

OMG. I do believe I wore myself out just by writing about the little increments of my life.  The heart palpitations are coming on. Anxiety has arrived. The room is spinning around me. My hands went clammy.

You see, I’m one of those peeps who needs a written schedule to follow. If I don’t, I get overwhelmed and make myself nuts. That’s when I end up on the couch flipping through channels ignoring my writing committments.

When I write things down and allot certain time limits to each task, my head cools down. My day goes much easier and I get to keep every strand of hair on my head.

So are you a scheduler or total chaotic maniac?

*Shelly was unable to access the WMD blog, so she went through my wordpress path*

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fanfiction writing award nomination

It’s been awhile since I had time to write fanfiction, but I’ve received an award nomination for a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic I wrote earlier. “She Would be Thirteen” is a Xander-centric story, set about a year after the end of the TV series, and you can find it here:

http://good–evil.livejournal.com/176650.html

Is fanfiction “real” writing? Well, it’s not profitable: It’s technically illegal, although many movie/TV/book creators condone or even support it. Like self-published fiction, some of it is awful and some of it is among the best writing I’ve ever seen. For me, it was a fun exercise, and a chance to tell a good story without worrying about the pressure of getting it published.

Thanks so much to whoever nominated me in the “That Old Gang Of Mine” category, over at the Wicked Awards! On their LiveJournal site you can read lots of other excellent stories, in various fandoms, that were also nominated:

http://wicked-awards.livejournal.com/21528.html

How To Get Into Barnes and Noble

There has been a lot of buzz going around about eBooks and the fall of the brick and mortar stores. While it is true that eBook sales have been skyrocketing, the store fronts are not dead yet. Even with the fall of Borders, Barnes and Noble, as well as other booksellers, are still going strong. But how do Indie authors or small press authors get titles on the shelves of these stores? It’s certainly not automatic, I don’t care what that marketing “professional” told you. Unless your publisher (or if you are self published, you) has a deal going, you’re going to have to earn that spot. That’s the big mystery. How do you do it? I’ll show you how I did it with my book, 7 Scorpions: Rebellion.

First, I wanted to call your attention to a fellow author and blogger, Elizabeth Kolodziej. She is actually the one I first learned this from before trying it on my own via her blog entry from last year that you can check out here. This will give you an additional perspective on how to be successful in doing this.

Alright, now to the nitty gritty. Barnes and Noble has a specific set of instructions via their small press division. Here is what you will need to submit in the overall package:

  1. A copy of the book (not a manuscript or printout, the actual printed book).
  2. Marketing/Promotional Materials (they don’t require this but it’s helpful so if you have pens, magnets, t-shirts, etc, send samples).
  3. Marketing Plan
  4. Trade Reviews
  5. Unique statement (basically, what makes your book unique and worthwhile to put on shelves)

Also keep in mind that your book must be “returnable”. If they can’t sell something, they don’t want it hanging around.

Copy of the Book

As mentioned, you need to send a copy of your book. This should be obvious. They want to see what’s actually going on the shelf. You can be sure that they will scrutinize the cover as well as the contents. They know what sells in their stores. If yours fits the bill, they’ll be interested. We all know people judge a book by its cover, so make sure it is good. Also, this is where they will see if you actually had an editor. Indie publishing is unfortunately plagued with works that are not edited.

Marketing/Promotional Materials

At the time I submitted, I had custom magnets and bookmarks so I sent in an example of each. Remember, they want to know what YOU are doing to promote your book. Don’t bother to ask them, they aren’t going to do anything to promote it short of putting it in their warehouse. The promotion is your responsibility.

Marketing Plan

I did this in bullet list format. They don’t seem to care to have some overly complicated and fluffy 10 page thing. They just want to know what you’ve done and what you are planning to do. I separated it with what was already done and what is planned. Keep in mind that this is from months ago, and my promotional plans have changed since then but this is what worked.

Click here for my marketing plan in PDF format.

Trade Reviews

This is another important one. Trade reviews are not just a few customers who went and posted a few sentences on Amazon or Goodreads. They are looking for “tear sheet” reviews from review sites, newspapers, magazines, and other such publications. Hell, if you have the recording of a TV interview, send it on DVD! I am linking to the ones I submitted below. Notice that a couple of them did indeed have some critiques. That’s fine. They are all 4 and 5 star reviews. You can believe they’ll be visiting Amazon and Goodreads to see what is posted there too.

Reader Views (I actually won an award from them)
Feathered Quill Book Reviews
Apex Reviews
Midwest Book Review
Bestsellersworld (this one is a press release that I printed and included)

Unique Statement

This is a statement of why your book is unique amongst others of its kind and why it will stand out in the veritable ocean of literature. To be honest, I hate the one I wrote for my own book, I like Liz’s much better but I must have done something right in their eyes.

You can check it out here.

Press Releases

I added a few press releases into the bunch too. One of them was the review for Midwest Book Review, which I linked to above. The next I thought was good because it was when my book made top seller on Amazon (it actually ended up getting better than 35 but that is what it was when the press release came out). You can check it out here. If you have other, creative press releases, you should definitely include that.

Putting it Together

Obviously, you’ll want to organize this beast. I printed everything on white resume paper so it was of high quality. I also placed the printouts in a professional report cover. Come to find out, the bigger publishers use loose pages in a glossy folder. You should probably do what they do, just in case your submission is reviewed by someone who is picky. If you want to jazz up your portfolio, one of our group members, Collin Beishir is an excellent designer and knows how the big publishers design these things. Feel free to contact him.

Now, this is all from my 2nd (that’s right, I didn’t get in the first time around) attempt. My cover letter, which I put at the top of the bundle is here. Next, I actually put the cover sheet I use in my press kit, which is here.

After assembling everything, I put it into a nice new box. That’s right, a clean one that did not have “Amazon” or “fragile” or anything else printed on it. Remember, presentation is key, including the box itself. I sent it priority mail for 2 reasons: 1) because I wanted them to see that I took this seriously and media mail is not an indicator of that and 2) I am still working on that whole patience thing.

A month later, I got a letter saying they were ordering 200 copies of my book to stock in the warehouse. At this point, they have changed the status of my book from print on demand to being warehoused, so the individual stores can now carry it. That’s the story.

Shameless promotion time. I mentioned earlier that I originally learned about this process from friend and fellow author Elizabeth Kolodziej. Definitely check out her books, Vampyre Kisses and Werewolf Descent.

Amazon Bestseller Campaigns

A special note about “Amazon Bestseller Campaigns”. You may have seen services like this (if you haven’t you may end up getting emails about them as you join various sites and end up on lists). If you are unfamiliar with them, the basic premise is that the consultants claim they can help you get your book ranked as a bestseller on Amazon. Of course, we all want to be bestsellers. Here is a basic summary of how they typically work (different services may vary):

  1. Either an opt-in list is created or existing ones are used.
  2. Hype is built up and some type of advertising email is sent out to these individuals offering some type of special deal with a window of an hour or two to purchase the book at that period of time.
  3. The opt in list is flooded with this and people are directed to your book’s Amazon page where they purchase it.
  4. After a few hundred people buy it in a short time, the ranking moves up to a top rank, possibly number 1.

Do these work? Yes and no. There are numerous ways to make your Amazon listing more attractive (reviews being a big one), but the way to increase your sales rank is to actually sell. Here is what you need to keep in mind before you sign up for these services (which can cost $1500 or more):

  1. Amazon calculates sales rankings EVERY HOUR. That means, even if you sell 500 books in an hour, unless you can sustain that kind of sales power (which is not easy if you have not built your popularity in a “natural” way), your rankings will start falling rapidly in less than a day.
  2. At any given hour, the number of sales you need to reach bestseller (especially number 1) changes and there is no way to know what that number is.
  3. Rapid falling rankings are a big indicator that you used a technique like this. Most people won’t notice but some savvy people will.
  4. Your reputation is your single greatest asset as an author. Don’t risk it over a temporary boost of artificial fame.
  5. The service tends to be expensive and you may not necessarily sell enough copies to gain royalties that will actually cover the cost.
  6. If the opt in list is not directed at your target market, you could see a whole lot of returns which would be a nightmare and cost you even more money (not to mention garnering a whole lot of negative reviews).

Are there any benefits to this? Of course there are.

  1. Upping your sales rankings will help your book get paired up with larger selling books.
  2. Your book has an increased likelihood of making it onto the recommendation emails that Amazon computer generates and sends out.
  3. If you are marketing savvy, the temporary boost may help you get a large number of sales over the long term.

Of course, you could assemble something like this yourself. If you do the legwork you will save the fee. It is not a sustainable technique, there are only so many “sales flyers” you can send via email before you end up in the Spam folder. The last statistic I saw is that less than 1% of spam emails sent translate into a sale. Of course, 1,000,000 spam emails becomes 10,000 sales with that math and that is exactly what spammers depend on. Again, this is not long term sustainable.

Basically, to sum it up, going the road of a campaign like this is risky business. There is no “magic bullet” for true bestseller status. It takes actual work and dedication to your writing.

Storm Chaser Shorts to be released in May, 2012

I’m officially announcing what many of you already know: In May, 2012, Whiskey Creek Press will release Storm Chaser Shorts, a collection of short stories featuring the characters from Storm Chaser. The 14,000 word work features 10 stories, and will be available as an e-book only — so save space on your e-readers/phones/computers/whatever the heck else someone comes up with between now and then!Here’s the blurb that sealed the deal for me:

Just like the weather, a person’s story changes all the time. Sometime it’s a romance, sometimes a comedy, and when things go badly it can be a fine line between action-adventure and tragedy.

Storm Chaser Shorts follows two converging stories. One involves the family and friends of Indiana State Trooper Chance Hamlin, who struggles to defend his hometown of Hurricane and his family from all manner of threats – whether they want him to or not. The other follows disaster photographer Allie Craine and those pulled into the wake of her passing, as she’s tailed by the shadowy and disaster prone Luther Magee.

Seven stories are set before, and three after, the events of Storm Chaser. Like the weather – and life – the tales are diverse, ranging from humor and adventure to what may be downright mystical.

After all, life with a Storm Chaser is as diverse as the weather.

Storm Chaser is still available through amazon.com, amazon.com.uk, fictionwise.com, whiskeycreekpress.com, and markrhunter.com., and in print on my website, at the Albion New Era and Churubusco News newspaper offices, and at The Bookmark in Fort Wayne.  Here’s a new review I just stumbled across:
http://longandshortreviews.blogspot.com/2011/08/storm-chaser-by-mark-r-hunter.html

And I found the video Emily made for the book here:
http://wn.com/Chaser_(novel)

Yes, I Googled myself. Don’t mock me!  As of today, Storm Chaser is still listed as #5 on the Whiskey Creek Press top 10 list.

Book Review Chasing the Wind

Book Review:
Chasing the Wind, written by Norma Beishir and Collin Beishir, cover by Collin Beishir
Fiction

Chasing the Wind is an action thriller novel, set in modern times.
At first, I didn’t know what was happening. I had to keep reading to understand where the story was going. As the book progressed, I tried to answer my questions ahead of the plot. I would not have guessed the outcome correctly.
The story starts in the U.S. where young children from different places had just been kidnapped. There is a mystery surrounding the abductions. Although the children are the same age, that is the only thing they have in common. None of the families knew each other.
The plot then takes us to England where we meet Lynne who is a single woman, a main character. Lynne meets Connor, another main character. Lynne is an archeologist working in the Mideast. Her funding has run out. Connor comes to the rescue by providing the money needed. There is one catch. She must take Connor to the site where he will monitor the digs.
Lynne is skeptical because of Connor’s quick offer. She has reason to be, since Connor does have a hidden past. However, she makes the deal and they head off together to Israel.
The book is easy to read; hard to put down. As the action unfolds, more questions kept coming to mind. Just when one was answered, another popped up. One answer led to another question. One question led to another answer, and so the puzzle continued.
What do the missing children have to do with Lynne and/or Connor? What is Connor’s secret he’s reluctant to discuss with Lynne? Why is Connor at the excavation site? Does he develop true feelings for Lynne or is this also a ruse?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. I loved the intrigue, the banter between Lynne and Connor, and the emotions the writers bring out so adeptly. I would recommend this book to anyone. I anxiously await the sequel.
Chasing the Wind is available at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. E-book form is $2.99 and paperback is $15.00.