Category Archives: Business

New Help for Writers

There’s nothing like attending a writers conference to make it clear that there’s WAY too much bad advice given to newbie writers.

Newbie writers, like newbies of all kinds, need nurturing, support and lots of encouragement. But what they need more than anything is solid, reliable information. Saying, “Atta boy! You can do it!” and pointing them in the wrong direction is the quickest way to destroy a budding talent. They use the precious time they have for writing, marketing and promotion and spend it (and often thousands of dollars as well) on plans that too often don’t take them anywhere near their goal: to publish, get known as authors and SELL BOOKS. But since they’re being given this advice by (supposedly) experienced authors and publishers, off they rush to try to fulfill all these plans, in the process exhausting themselves, alienating all their friends and often as not ending up with a product they hate.

And how can you blame them? This is all new to them. They’re told: “You need an agent, you need a great website, you need a great book cover, you need testimonials from famous people for your book, you need a presence on social media. You need to blog every week, you need to be tweeting constantly… you need… you need… you need… ” An hour or so of that and the shaky writer is questioning whether any of this is worth it–just to put out a simple book!

This past weekend, I was invited to speak at Book ‘Em North Carolina, a relatively new event that’s become a staple in Lumberton, NC and attracts large and lively crowds of aspiring authors, who are hungry for information on the nuts and bolts of writing, both the craft and the business. They come specifically to listen to successful authors and learn from them.

And how helpful is it?

Well, at last year’s event, the keynote speaker, a phenomenally successful and very talented author was speaking on “Hitting the Bestseller Lists”. Trouble was, she hadn’t picked the topic, and though the place was packed to hear her, her advice wasn’t useful for new writers. When she admitted that she actually didn’t know the secret of hitting the bestseller lists because ‘my publisher took care of promotion for me’, it was all over. She had become famous in the ’90s, when publishing was far different than it is today, and authors were essentially just expected to embark on physical book tours set up by their publishers, and somehow good things would happen. They certainly did for her–and she deserves it–but none of that is part of the paradigm for new writers confronting the writing business now.

At this year’s event, I did a solo talk and a panel talk, both on promotion. The panel talk was very general in nature (I think most writers attending could have heard much more detailed information), but what appalled me was when one of my fellow panel members mentioned that as a matter of course, she always sent out advance reading copies of her books BY SNAIL MAIL. This meant printing, binding, mailing and PAYING FOR a large number of her own books in order to reach reviewers and other people in a position to spotlight the books.

I haven’t sent out a hard-copy ARC for ten years, and I don’t plan to ever again. When someone wants a reading copy, I either refer him to my URL at Smashwords (and give him a coupon code for a free copy of any eBook version) or send a .pdf from my own email account, which is always ready with my bio, book blurb, book cover .jpeg and buy links, in a draft email saved in my Drafts folder. I said that when it was my turn on that question, and hope the woman who had discussed the hard-copy ARC’s wasn’t offended. But if someone else on the panel hadn’t mentioned sending them out electronically, would all those people have assumed that hard-copy ARC’s were the way to go? And (heaven forbid) would they all have done it?

For that reason–and because I find myself around writers all the time, most of whom have tons of questions about writing–I have decided to make myself available on a regular basis to work one on one with writers, to offer feedback and suggestions on all aspects of writing, publishing and promotion. I want them to get information that will help them NOW, not send them running in circles. I’m also offering personal feedback on their writing: what works, what doesn’t and HOW TO FIX IT (I’ve spent many years as a story analyst and am especially experienced with issues involving structure, plot and characterization).

I’ve added a page called Coaching for Writers to my website; if you have a question about your project or a project you’re thinking of writing, I hope you’ll check it out. I want to suggest ways you can build your writing business better, quicker and more effectively. I’d like to take you from A to Z without your getting stuck at 3 and 7.

So if you’re stuck in a creative rut where you need to brainstorm or just want to figure out how best to promote your novel–I’d love to hear from you. Email me directly at or use the form on my site.

After years of watching writers run around like rats in a maze, I’d like to see the writing business reduced to simple straight lines, and reduce the frustration of new writers to something a lot more manageable than what I’ve seen. Writing’s hard enough, and the writing business is humbling enough. It’s time for simple, effective answers.

Best of luck on YOUR writing journey!

A Muse on Marketing: Free Amazon Tools to Promote Your Book

I love Amazon. Seriously. Though I’ve heard grumbling for years about Amazon sweeping other booksellers into oblivion, it seems clear to me that Amazon might just be a writer’s best friend—the website that attracts and informs millions, offers writers opportunity to publish their work through a variety of companies, and has a ton of tools to help invisible writers become visible.

I talk about this last point often, and I’m always surprised that more writers aren’t aware of it. Do you realize you can promote yourself on Amazon FOR FREE (which Amazon not only approves of, but provides tools for)?

How about:

1)  Your Customer Name. I’m not suggesting that if your name is John Smith you start calling yourself Carmen Miranda. BUT… if you’re a writer, why just say John Smith? My customer name on Amazon is not ‘Susan Sloate’. It’s ‘Susan Sloate, Author, Forward to Camelot and Stealing Fire’. Why? Because EVERY SINGLE PLACE where my name appears on Amazon, it’s a free advertisement for me and my book.

How do you use it?

WRITE REVIEWS. Book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews—whatever products you like and want to voice an opinion about. You don’t even need to buy it on Amazon!! If you got a good book at a yard sale for 50 cents, you can still write an honest review about its merits, and your name shows up on the review. Pick items you like, so your review is positive. If you write a snarling review, it might make you feel better, but will potential readers reading your review want to check out your book, given your attitude? Doubtful. And try if possible to pick stuff that’s ALREADY GETTING A LOT OF TRAFFIC and is in the same genre as your book (better yet is if it’s also the same subject matter as your book). Recent bestsellers are good, or books by authors who are already popular. You’re getting YOUR NAME AND TITLE on THEIR PAGE—for nothing! Isn’t that worth a few minutes of your time? I think it is. Besides, I like boosting other writers. It’s fun. Remember to write a review long enough to get some attention. Two sentences won’t impress other customers. A thoughtfully-written paragraph will.

I’ll admit I disregarded my own advice this summer, when yet another Kennedy assassination novel came to my attention. It was truly so awful–so historically wrong and so ridiculous–that I really had to comment on it. (What really angered me, though, was that the silly book was #7 under Political Assassinations!!! Can you imagine?)

So I did write a review–not  a nasty one, but pointing out several errors (including the fact that the book described Oswald physically and GOT THAT WRONG. How is that possible? Had he never bothered to look at a simple photo?) It was respectful but clearly negative. So what’s the benefit here?

THE POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS ARE READING ABOUT ANOTHER JFK ASSASSINATION BOOK BY READING MY REVIEW. I’m going straight to my target audience, and by mentioning my book (which I did, you betcha) and yet being polite in my review, I don’t think I alienated anyone. You never know who might click through to find the book and sample it. Worth a try, anyway.

Next great free Amazon tool?

2)  Listmania. Hard to believe more writers don’t take advantage of this one. Listmania allows you to create a list of items that have something in common—in the case of books, often books with the same subject or in the same genre. The list shows up on the page of EVERY ITEM that’s listed.

Example:  For the original 2003 edition of our time-travel thriller, FORWARD TO CAMELOT, I created a Listmania list titled “Best Time-Travel Novels Ever”. I listed THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, at that time a New York Times bestseller and #2 on Amazon, along with Jack Finney’s famous TIME & AGAIN and a few others. I also listed FORWARD TO CAMELOT. You as the list creator can make a comment on each item you list. Under CAMELOT, I wrote, “Best time-travel book ever”. Hey, it was an honest opinion. That list appeared on ALL the pages of ALL the items I’d mentioned—and customers look at them. You can also put the same item on more than one list. So I also listed CAMELOT with “Best JFK Assassination Books Ever”. You can create multiple lists using the same book, to take advantage of the buzz around OTHER books—why not? It’s a free and very simple way to leverage the power of others’ popularity to help yourself. Try it and see.

3)  Author Central. Amazon WANTS you to have an author’s page where you can post your published books (and Amazon will have all of them!), your photo, your blog URL (and if you don’t have a blog, shame on you!), your bio, and many other items of interest. Keep it up to date. Give people a chance to find you. That page has its own simple URL you can promote on Facebook, Google +, etc. Here’s mine:

Amazon has created a host of wonderful tools (these are just a few) to help you get noticed—if you take the time to learn them and use them. Amazon is by far the world’s biggest bookseller, so why not devote some effort to using it well? I guarantee you’ll sell more books on Amazon than anywhere else online. See it as a friend.

When my new novel, STEALING FIRE, went live on Amazon, it went live ONLY in the Kindle edition, and it was not available anywhere else on the web. After I mentioned it on my Facebook page (and I don’t have that many friends), the book went to #2 in its category and was listed as a ‘Hot New Release’. Without doing ANY of my planned promotion, I had an Amazon bestseller WITHIN 12 HOURS.

That’s the power of Amazon. Take advantage!

Debunking the Mystery – Guest Blog by Kevin Finn

Kevin Finn

Kevin Finn

Today’s post is a guest blog from one of my favorite writers–in fact, my writing partner, Kevin Finn. Kevin co-authored FORWARD TO CAMELOT and its latest edition, FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition, with me. He is the author of more than a dozen screenplays and produces content for Princeton Community Television, including promotional trailers and independent film projects like the 2012 documentary SETTING THE STAGE: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. He lives in East Windsor, New Jersey.

Here’s Kevin:

Everyone loves a good mystery, right?

Cool, we’re going to have fun together today.  I’m going to solve a great mystery of our time.

The mystery of the Exalted Writer.

Ahh..the writer.  He or she of the noble word, those that live locked in ivory towers as prisoner to their craft, benevolent caregiver to the imagination.

Salinger, the recluse, embodied this, and it worked for him.  Created his myth, the aura of the raconteur, He Who Shall Not be Seen.

We’ve all seen the picture of Shakespeare, regal cock to the head, mischievous grin aside, collar tightly starched.  The picture of of poise and eloquence.

By all accounts, Shakespeare was an attention whore, the Snooki of his time.  Braggart, drunkard, possibly a fraud.

Shakespeare would’ve loved the 21st Century.  He’d have made himself an instant celebrity and instead of waiting for time to tell his legend, he’d have created a name for himself instantly,  Like Kathie Lee and Hoda.  Nancy Grace. The Kardash…

You get the idea.

Writers no longer live in ivory towers, we live among the people.  And that is the way it should be, for we are no more than common people touched with the gift of good vocabulary.

What once served as ‘mystique’ for Salinger and Shakespeare is now called ‘branding’ by the marketing and publicity hounds who help us hawk our wares.

Every writer has a brand, like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, and the brand is supposedly their ‘name‘.  I prefer to think of it as a ‘theme’.

So what is my theme? Well, if I had to sum up the theme of my writing in a singular title, it would be ‘Guys, Dolls and Curveballs.’  No one is as evocative as Damon Runyon, and that’s what I write about; Guys, hard-nosed manly men on the outside, like Sinatra or Gene Kelly (yeah, Gene Kelly. A dancer, but a tough guy.  You wanna make sumthin’ of it?). Soft on the inside.  Dolls, beautiful and sensitive women who’s strength lies in their intelligence, always percolating just below the surface.  Which makes them all the more alluring.

And baseball.

There’s the old adage ‘write what you know.’  I write what I like. 

What I like is meeting people.  People are characters, which is why writers need to abandon conventional notions, get out of the ivory tower and meet as many people as they can. Ask any author who their favorite character is and they will undoubtedly answer, ‘well, my favorite character is actually based on someone I knew.’ Today’s social media innovations give writers opportunities and advantages never dreamed of.  We must embrace them, learn them, love them, if readers are to embrace our work and our passion.  Everyone knows what George R.R. Martin, Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts look like.  While Shakespeare trends, Salinger would’ve wallowed, a footnote in the caverns of paperless publishing.

Like the written word begun in calligraphy, writing has changed with the times. So, too, have writers.  Writing is hard work, an eight-to-eighteen hour job before lunch, six days a week and any writer who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves as much as Rapunzel waiting for rescue.  Or Salinger waiting for a photo op.

So what do you like in your writing? And your writers?  If you could sum up your writing (or favorite writers) in one thematic title, what would it be?  And why?

I’ve shared with you.  Please share with me.

Tell Me Again Why I Can’t Just Write?

The first full week of promotion on STEALING FIRE (official promotion efforts on FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition begin in late October), and I’m already exhausted. “Don’t stress,” I’m being told. “This is supposed to be fun.”


Last Thursday I finally faced my most daunting giant–revamping my author website. The Super Book Blast for STEALING FIRE began the next morning. I couldn’t have interested readers coming to a site that hadn’t really been overhauled since 2004.  But GoDaddy’s new Website Builder was not particularly intuitive. However, having been a GoDaddy customer since 2003, I also know they have among the best customer-service people in the world. So I sat on the phone for about three hours, with 3 different GoDaddy Tech Support guys (all wonderful), and by golly, when I finally went to bed that night (understanding Web Builder MUCH better by then), not only was the site completely written and re-designed, it had been published and re-directed to my original domain, where anyone could find me.  (Yes, please, check out my updated website!) It’s much simpler, but contains all the important information about me, my books and my upcoming events.

And hey, updating it should be a lot simpler. (I found out this morning that wasn’t necessarily true–turns out some revisions I made on the site now don’t show up in the behind-the-scenes Website Builder, though they DO show up on the published site.  Another call to GoDaddy in my future, I guess.)

Friday was the Super Book Blast for STEALING FIRE (through Goddess Fish Promotions). This involved visiting 34 sites (and a separate blog on the Book ‘Em NC blogspot, which brought it up to 35), which I did 3 times on Friday and again on Saturday, to check for comments from readers and respond to them. I got the hang of that pretty quick, so while it took 2 hours the first time I checked them all, I was able to do later checks in 40 minutes or so. I answered all comments and at the end of the Blast Day awarded a gift to one person who commented. Since I got to pick the person, I chose the person who had followed the Blast so assiduously that she left a comment on something like 20 different sites! How can you not reward enterprise like that?

Monday began my first virtual book tour (hereafter referred to as VBT) with Goddess Fish Promotions – 22 stops in 30 days (weekdays only), at pre-arranged sites. So I was checking the site of my first stop, Christine Young Romance Writer, before 7 am to make sure all was well and leaving my first comment. Sunday night, I had tweeted this, along with posting it on LinkedIn and on both my Facebook personal page and my Facebook Author page.

I spent the better part of that day driving to Myrtle Beach to meet with media people about upcoming appearances on radio and TV shows.  (This is about a two-hour drive from Mount Pleasant.) When I came home I re-checked Christine’s site for comments, answered email and worked on promotional stuff I needed to send out, along with interview questions and other material for upcoming blog sites where I was appearing.  I also queried other bloggers with big followings, hoping to get a book review or interview spot with them.

Tuesday I did some follow-ups for the Myrtle Beach meeting, followed my 2nd book tour stop–Teena in Toronto — wrote some new promo material and finished the electronic press kit for CAMELOT. I also looked at a novel-in-progress (with longing), wanting to dive into work on that, but feeling I needed to devote most of my time for awhile to getting promotional efforts up and running. (The good news here is that I try to mention FORWARD TO CAMELOT in every promo I do for STEALING FIRE. And my promo efforts for FORWARD TO CAMELOT will of course also include mentions of STEALING FIRE.) When I unchained myself from the computer for a short break, I spent that time running to the post office to mail out the gift I awarded in the Super Book Blast plus other promo-related packages.

Wednesday I had two tour stops. Reviewer Julie Whiteley, who’d given STEALING FIRE a fantastic review, hosted me (her first author interview!!) on her blog, Clue Review. (Thank you, Julie!) And my Goddess Fish tour stop that day was Farm Girl Books, who also did a great job.  Each night I’ve been tweeting my next day’s stop, plus posting that information on both Facebook pages and LinkedIn.

I also continued the Myrtle Beach followups, plus more inquiries to other bloggers, plus inquiries to other media outlets. My writing partner on CAMELOT, Kevin, phoned at 11:30 pm because ‘it’s not okay to call other people at this time of night, but you’re a writer, so I knew you’d be up’. Uh-huh. We talked for an hour about book promotion for CAMELOT.

I’m beginning to side with those writers who say they’d love a writing career, as long as it’s just writing. The other stuff–this stuff–is what they dread.

I so totally get that.

But to be fair, I should also say that what I really dread is the admin work. I LOVE going on radio and TV. I love speaking in front of live audiences. Interviews are so much more fun than sitting at the computer for endless hours, looking up email addresses, radio stations and TV outlets and begging people to have you on. That is not fun. Even writing, with those moments where you’re so lost in the forest you have no idea which way is up, is more fun than this. (Though also to be fair, I would say that the most flying moments I’ve ever experienced in my career are those moments when I’m in the middle of writing, totally lost in what I’m doing, with complete clarity of thought and totally focused on the road ahead. NOTHING is better than that.)

So part of living the writer’s life–at the time of a new release–involves all this promo work. I did try to hire a PA, but the woman I hired had to drop out, for personal reasons. I know having her, or someone like her, working with me would have made a big difference. I still don’t despair totally of finding someone to help me, but right now, there’s no one on the radar. I’d love to turn over all this stuff to someone else, and you know what? At some point, I will.

At that point, the writing life will go back to being a lot of fun. Because I love the writing and I love the appearances afterward. I just don’t like all the organization in between. And I’ve just decided–while writing this post to you–that I’m not gonna do it anymore, as soon as someone else can take it over. The lesson here, I think, is to do only what YOU as a writer really have to do–bring your unique point of view and sense of life to your writing, and show up to have your picture taken and talk to readers, so they get to know you. No one else can do that, but on the other hand, why would you want them to? That’s the fun part.

Remember that scene in JULIA (assuming you remember the 1977 film) where Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman gets so fed up with her writing that she throws her manual typewriter out the window? I remember that scene with great fondness.

And right about now, I feel like doing the same thing.

Obviously, I need to get back to writing, folks.

See you on the other side of more promotion–and please, do visit my website for upcoming stops on my book tour–really would love to see you there!










The lazy days of my summer turned into a frenzy in the last month. Getting two books into production, distribution and then into the marketplace, with all the promotion that’s necessary to support them, is CRAZY. (Note to self: Never do two back to back again!)

I live ten minutes from a beautiful beach, but didn’t hit the sand once this summer. (But true to freakish form, though it was rainy, wet and cool all summer, as soon as school started, it got sunny and hot–so I guess I still have some time!)

This year, though, it wasn’t about enjoying the summer. It was about getting the books done.

STEALING FIRE was finished in late June, went live on Amazon in early July (#2 in its first 12 hours – yeah!!). The paperback was out two or three weeks later, though the official publication date was August 31st (to give reviewers lead time).

MEANWHILE… virtually as soon as I finished work on STEALING FIRE, we went to work on CAMELOT (official publication date is October 31st). What I thought would be a quick edit turned into a full-fledged revision, but I hope readers will love the result. We were able to correct a couple of minor historical errors no one else was likely to notice (but they’ve bugged me for ten years; I’m happy to have them changed!) In the process, though, we really came down hard on the extra fat in the book, cutting everything we felt could go. The result is 100 pages SHORTER than the original–yes–a full 25,000 words less. And you know what? I love the new version even better than the old one.

There’s a famous story that when George Kaufman, the playwright, died, the eulogy over him was said by his partner, Moss Hart. (Their most famous play together was THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER.) According to the story, when Hart got up to speak the eulogy for Kaufman, he pulled out a set of notes, and the first thing he said when he faced the audience was, “I can just hear George saying, ‘It needs cutting’.”

Well, that’s me. Kevin Finn (my writing partner) swears I say everything twice. I hate to admit it, but when I saw his take on the novel, I understood what he meant. It’s a great object lesson. And while I didn’t love cutting some of what we finally threw away, the truth is, we only lost one full scene from the original manuscript–and the novel has much better pacing because of it.

But bleeding as we slashed words and sentences (and, sob, paragraphs) STILL wasn’t the end. Clicking the ‘Send’ button to return the corrected galley to our publisher wasn’t the end. Approving the cover art (which we wrangled about all summer) wasn’t the end. Even writing the blurb for the back cover wasn’t the end.

It’s not enough to write the first draft, send it out for comments, address those comments in an edit, check for historical accuracy, polish it, get it accepted for publication, get it through production and then get it into the marketplace. Sigh.

Oh, no. THEN… you have to sell it.

So literally without pausing for celebration (or sleep) after turning in all the final work on CAMELOT, I went back to the material I needed to prepare for my upcoming book tour(s). There are two for STEALING FIRE–the first starting with a Super Book Blast this Friday–and continuing through the end of October. There are two for CAMELOT–starting at the beginning of November and continuing through January.

That’s a lot of material to prepare.

I finished the last of it (I think) for the first STEALING FIRE tour (through September) on Monday night. At 11 pm.

But don’t get excited–because I have yet to revamp my website, write a press release for CAMELOT and turn in the material necessary just to START the process on the CAMELOT tours.

This is the writer’s life. And I’ve been truly experiencing it–really experiencing it–for the very first time.

I’ve had books published before, but the amount of work required from me has never been as all-encompassing on any of them as now. And while I really believe in a pro-active approach where the writer is involved in all phases of publishing, it does have its moments where you feel like you’re drowning.

And then, if you’re like me, you get nasty and defensive. Charles Dickens never had to tweet; why do I? Did anyone ever ask Shakespeare for his website address? And who refused to buy John Steinbeck’s books because he didn’t have a blog? Yeah. Take THAT, Jane Austen.

As someone pointed out to me this morning, living a dream also means living the part that isn’t so exciting. And for me, knowing that’s part of it makes living the dream, somehow, a lot more real. I like that. I think I’d be suspicious, even optimist that I am, if every moment of my working day was unmitigated sunshine.

A writer’s life, above all, has to be real. Sometimes that’s the only way you know you’re living the dream.


FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition on Amazon:

And if you’re willing to read and review CAMELOT on Amazon, B&, Goodreads and wherever else you’d like to post about it, email me for the URL and coupon code for a free copy from Smashwords (expires September 30th):

Enjoy the writing life!

The OTHER Side of the Writing Life

Hello again, and welcome back to the writing life. And I want you to know that while no, I haven’t written a blog post here for awhile, and no, I also have to admit I haven’t done any further work on an upcoming novel, I HAVE BEEN WRITING EVERY DAY. Isn’t that what Billy Crystal said in THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN (anyone remember that movie?) “Writers write every day.”

I have been, Billy, I swear I have been.

What have I been writing?

Well, a variety of things, and they’re all related to the production or promotion of my two latest novels, STEALING FIRE and FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION. STEALING FIRE is now available on Amazon and Smashwords ( and will be published officially on August 31st. CAMELOT will be published on October 31st.

So in no particular order, here’s what I’ve been writing (steadily) for the last 2 months:

1) EDITS. When I finished with the final minute editing details of STEALING FIRE (and there were hundreds, which involved going through the entire manuscript at least 3 times, line by line), I went on to more edits on FORWARD TO CAMELOT, which Kevin Finn and I wrote and published 10 years ago. CAMELOT is about a third longer than STEALING FIRE, and going through it word by word was quite a chore. Ask Kevin. He went through it too, and now our publisher is going through it for formatting and typesetting. What made me happiest about editing CAMELOT, apart from cutting the word count down by 4,000 words, is that I also got to correct some historical errors I’d had to live with in the novel for 10 years, and which made me wince every time I saw them. Bonus: in the process, I found one error I hadn’t even realized was there, and fixed that one, too. (Fortunately, NO ONE has caught or seen these errors, but knowing they were there always bothered me.) Now I don’t have to live with them anymore. Yeah!

2) ESSAYS. Since CAMELOT is being re-published, I thought it would be fun to write a short Afterward to give readers an idea of our experience as authors with CAMELOT and its previous readers. This is entirely new, and included our chagrin at learning, after the book had been out for four or five years, the truth about the MacGuffin on which our plot turned–the Bible owned by JFK that was used to swear in Lyndon Johnson as president on November 22, 1963 and which disappeared immediately afterward, according to William Manchester, author of DEATH OF A PRESIDENT. Turns out it had NEVER BEEN MISSING. It wasn’t where we had expected it to be–and we did conscientiously go looking for it–but would never have guessed it to be where it is now. (Don’t worry; we tell you in the Afterward where it is.)

3) PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL. Since CAMELOT was originally published, the world of publishing–and publishing promotion–has turned upside down, and what was unheard of in 2003 has become commonplace in 2013. Facebook didn’t exist in 2003, nor did Twitter, or LinkedIn or Google +. Now, you can’t have a writing career without them. Having an online presence is more important, and varied, than ever, and it’s not just about having your own website: Amazon’s Author Central is a fabulous place to consolidate all the pieces of your promotional arsenal in one place, on a website that gets more daily hits than probably any other on the planet (you can find me there at, if you’re interested). In addition, the VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR has become the weapon of choice for a lot of authors, allowing us global reach via tour companies who link our books up with blogs which get lots of traffic and are aimed squarely at our target audience. You want to talk about saving shoe leather? Whew!

I’m booked for four virtual book tours, back to back, which will run from September and October (for STEALING FIRE) to November – January (for CAMELOT). What that means for me is, the tour operators send me requests for material from each blog that will host me for a day, and that material varies: some blogs want a short blog post, others send interview questions they want answered, which will be posted, along with my book cover, author photo, book blurb and bio, on their site the day I ‘visit’ them on the tour. Each interview or blog post must be original and tailored to the individual blog, and alas, brevity is not my long suit. I’ve found that my answers to 8 or 10 interview questions run typically around 2,000 words. I hope it’s entertaining for the blog site visitors, but it takes time.

I don’t mind it. Mostly, it’s fun, and I think I’m helping the books by trying to be engaging and entertaining (and in the case of writers’ blogs, helpful with writing advice). Fortunately, the writing I’m doing now will be done, for the most part, by late August or early September, and all I’ll have to do during the tour is stop by each site several times during the day to respond to comments from readers. I’m told it’s a fabulous way of starting buzz about the books, and I’m looking forward to the whole experience. I’ll post my tour schedule for STEALING FIRE once it’s finalized, and hope you’ll drop by and see me at least once!

4) UPDATES. Having an online presence means keeping it updated regularly, and in my case, that hasn’t happened for awhile (as I haven’t published a new book for awhile). SO…update Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon Author Central, and completely revamp my website. Some are finished; some are in process. All will be completed by the end of August. But writing and posting new material for all those sites, plus joining new sites and posting original content there, takes time that I think will eventually pay dividends: readers need to know who you are NOW. And I haven’t ‘gotten current’ with my online presence in some time. It’s a little like spring cleaning, and it’s just as good for you.

This is part of the writing life too, even if I’m not currently adding new pages to my next project.  Maybe next year, when I’m smart enough to be publishing only one book at a time (!), I’ll be able to turn in a manuscript to my publisher and immediately turn to the next work in progress. This year it just hasn’t happened, but it doesn’t worry me. This has been a seminal year in my career, and it needed more preparation than any other year. My plan for the month of August is to complete production on CAMELOT and finish the promotional plans for both books, update my website (in the process now) and turn in the rest of the requested material for my tours. In September, while promoting STEALING FIRE, I’ll go back to work on the next book. (I spent part of this week looking over the manuscript and chapter notes, to begin preparing myself.) Not sure what month next year that book will be published, but I should have a finished draft by the end of the year and spend the early months of 2014 rewriting and polishing.

Meanwhile, though, give me some credit: I HAVE been writing every day. I’ve  also been living other parts of the writer’s life: photo shoot with photographer Vicki Faith for my new author photo (which is posted here, on Twitter and on my Amazon Author Central page); hiring a PA to assist with promotion (I’ll keep you posted); reviewing book covers for THREE books (the third, REALIZING YOU with Ron Doades, will be out this fall); writing bio material and book blurbs. And you know what? On some level, it’s all fun. Either way, it’s part of the life; I might as well enjoy it.

Maybe the biggest thrill so far came last week, when I received the proof copy of STEALING FIRE in the mail on Monday, and a copy of REALIZING YOU on Friday. They’re beautiful, and they look just as I hoped they would. Holding those in your hands makes you realize that there IS a reason for all the crazy stuff you’re doing and the hours after midnight when you’re still on email, and the thousand times you re-read the same lines looking for errors and cutting for clarity.

And that’s the reason, I’m sure, that while eBooks continue to gain in popularity (I love ’em too), we’ll never entirely cut out physical book publishing. Being able to hold that achievement in your hands is a miracle, something you just can’t experience with an eBook, and speaking for this writer, anyway, I’m not willing to give that up.

Hope YOUR writing life is going well–

Talk again real soon.

Let The Word Go Forth — starting right now!

“Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike,” President Kennedy said (pretty famously) in his 1961 inaugural address.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to capture the essence of President Kennedy and some other pretty famous people we associate with him, in my novel FORWARD TO CAMELOT (co-authored with Kevin Finn). So I thought that calling my blog ‘Let The Word Go Forth’ and devoting it to ruminations on the writer’s life would be the right way for me to venture into the blogosphere.

I’m kicking off this blog, then, with those immortal words, in hopes that they might lead to some immortal words of my own—whether in my blog or (fingers crossed) in my books or in other writing that I do. But I also hope that reading this blog regularly will help you, my fellow writer, to greater success in your own writing endeavors. I don’t pretend to know everything—or in some cases ANYTHING—about the million-and-one things we writers are supposed to know about living the writer’s life. What I do know is that it seems vastly more complicated than it used to be.

It used to be that writers only had to know their craft inside and out, and cultivate an individual voice, and adhere to deadlines that insure their projects are finished, and edit their work to fit the guidelines of correct spelling/grammar/usage, story consistency and character voice. And after we’d done all that, we also got to check our finished, typeset work — every single word — again for final errors and supervise the creation of the cover and write the cover copy, dedication, acknowledgements, and in the case of non-fiction writers, the bibliography and footnotes (whew!). We usually also had to produce media kits, with at the very least, a brilliant-sounding bio (some of my very best fiction is in my bio). Then we could (hah!) relax.

Now, though, it seems we are also expected to be at least conversant with promoting books via social media—Facebook and Twitter are the barest minimum—along with such staples as Amazon site promotion and a presence on sites like Goodreads and Pinterest, if you want to really show off. This does not even include the hours needed to drum up interest on virtual or local book tours (I prefer the virtual kind), local or national radio and TV shows and book reviews from ‘established’ reviewers.

I wasn’t thinking about all this stuff when I decided to be a writer. Well, in all fairness, most of it didn’t actually exist when I decided to be a writer. (I am now admitting in print for the very first time that I went off to college in the ’70’s with an Olympia manual typewriter — and felt good about it.)

But all these new outlets exist now, and not using them means possibly imperiling your career and your readership.

What’s a mother to do?

Grin, bear it and work your butt off, I think. And how to do all these things swiftly and painlessly and still have a life and write your next opus will be the subject of upcoming blogs as together we survey the writer’s life and decide how best to navigate those often-muddy waters. We’ll talk about the writer’s craft, the writing business, realistic vs. unrealistic expectations, and the spiritual side of a writing career, because all good writing–and living–has that element as well.

2013 will be, I hope, a monumental year for me, with the publication of three books: REALIZING YOU (with Ronald Doades), in the summer of 2013, STEALING FIRE (from my new publisher, Drake Valley Press) in September, and the 50th Anniversary Edition of FORWARD TO CAMELOT (also from Drake Valley Press) in November. Part of my blog will be an ongoing account of what I’m doing and how well it works out. I’ll be embarking on my first virtual book tour (looking forward to it!) and my first virtual review tour. Will certainly keep you posted!

Join me for tips, quips and maybe even a few tears as we work toward household-nameship together. (Didn’t think I could invent a word in the middle of my first blog, didja?)

Thanks for being on the journey with me – it’s so much more fun when you’re not alone.