Thursday, December 28, 2017

Getting a Book to Readers through its Content

It sounds like a basic premise -- you reach a reader by letting them know what's inside a book. Another way to say this would be to focus on the subject matters the book addresses rather than emphasizing the plot or characters. Huh?

I pay attention to anything Joanna Penn says. She is a successful author and maintains a plethora of resources about publishing. Most are geared to self-publishing, but those who work with traditional publishers can learn a lot from her.

In a podcast on Content Marketing with Joanna Penn, she discusses how focusing on a subject matter can tell readers about fiction as well as nonfiction. As a nonfiction writer and editor for years, I understand how important it is to put work 'out there' in many formats, to many different audiences -- conference papers, professional articles, short newspaper pieces.

Penn talks about content marketing as attraction marketing. Write a (possibly free) short story, create a Pinterest board, or write an article about something that appears in your fiction. Those ideas struck home with me. I wrote a book set in the Roman Baths in Bath, England (Secrets of the Gap), and have visited the site and read hundreds of pages about it. Why not do an article on the baths? I'm not an expert on their history, but sometimes an informal article appeals to tourists.

Among her many ideas in the podcast, Penn suggests that authors publish largely on sites they own --- their blog, webpage, You Tube channel, etc. That is good advice, but sometimes you can draw people to your own pages by posting on someone else's, such as doing a guest blog post or an article for a trade magazine.

The bottom line is there are close to five million books for Kindle, and readers won't be drawn to yours solely through "buy my book" ads or posts. Without consciously using it as a marketing strategy, I've done some Pinterest boards on subject near to my (writing) heart. One has beach photos that inspired my books, another has nature photos. My settings usually start with images I've seen.

Get creative. I plan to do more articles or photos that relate to my books rather than talk about the books. Feel free to post links to some of yours in the comments section.
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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Holiday Books Make Fun Reads

In the age of television and movies, many have a favorite holiday film, often a Christmas film. Some of us are 'mature' enough that the film is It's a Wonderful Life (Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart), a black and white icon. You could add Miracle on 34th Street, Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf, and Home Alone. And dozens more.

Many children were read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore). You could add Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mommy (Selino Alko). Two older books that jump into my head are A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) and The Gift of the Magi (O.Henry). Both of these have an  element of discovery, if not mystery. When I looked for the author of Night Before Christmas (sorry, Mr. Moore, didn't know your name), I found a beautiful list of thirty popular Christmas stories.

In my cozy mystery genre, holiday books abound, especially for Halloween and Christmas. Mary Higgins Clark has a mystery every Christmas, and Canadian Vicki Delaney writes the Year Round Christmas Mysteries. I'm very fond of Meg Muldoon's Christmas River series. Not all of them are set in December, but the spirit is there. If you want a book for almost any holiday, follow Kathi Daley.

I've had Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and Fourth of July in my books. Other than Holidays in Ocean Alley, the festivities are not usually the center of action. I did a Christmas short story this year, on the spur of the moment. (Mildred Mistletoe Fixes Christmas) I had so much fun with it that I'll do more.

To write a really good holiday book an author starts months before the date. I'll have to ask author friend Karen Nortman if she wore a Santa hat as she wrote A Campy Christmas (part of the Frannie Shoemaker campground mystery series).

You can find holiday stories in any genre -- mysteries, literary fiction, romance, even science fiction. If you are tired of fighting traffic, pick up a good book and settle in for a treat.
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Monday, December 11, 2017

People and Pets in Books

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that while pets sometimes have roles in my books, they don't think for themselves the way pets do in some books.

Then I got to thinking about it. I'm not about to have a gerbil solve a mystery, but in my own life I ascribe feelings to my cats. They can communicate with me. I have been trained to know that when they look at a doorknob I am to open it. When Phoebe puts a paw on the bag of food I'm to feed her.
Stella and Phoebe

My true affinity is for black cats. Stella often sits within a foot of me when I write and (I hate to admit this) when I roll over in bed she may be at my head. She waits until I'm asleep to select her spot.

To experiment with writing from a cat's perspective, I created Mildred Mistletoe. Born under the family Christmas tree, she is very protective of high school twins Fergie and Freddie. And she needs to get some things fixed before Christmas.

I found it challenging to have a character who could not speak. Suddenly a flood of pet memories jumped into my head. My sister's cat swatting my dad as he walked by if the food bowl was empty (or perhaps just on principle), my former black cat Magic jumping into a bag of fireplace soot just to see what was in there, a neighbor's cat (Chowder) jumping on my kitchen counter to drink from the sink. All of these animals communicated very well.

Mildred Mistletoe finds ways to point things out to her humans, and they have no idea they are being led around by the tail, so to speak. I don't think I'll create crime-solving characters in my mysteries, but Mildred will appear in some additional short stories. She came into my head fully formed, so it's not likely she will leave.
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