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Showing posts from January, 2015

Do Contest Wins Boost Sales?

Doubletake, the mystery I wrote with Margaret Sutton, has just won the 2015 Best Mystery award from the Texas Association of Authors .

Using Click to Tweet

Nowadays, it's all about shortcuts. Short attention spans. Being able to do things in a click. Yet we also want ourselves visible everywhere. So, how do we make it easy for people to find us, and help spread the word that we're out there? I discovered a site that expands on the typical "tweet" button we're used to seeing on blogs. It's called " Click to Tweet " and it allows you to customize a tweet, include links, and make it easy for your readers to share information. It took some trial and error on my part, so I thought I'd share what I figured out. It's the customization feature that attracted me. The typical tweet buttons that come with sharing packages tweet the title of the blog. But what if you want more? A long blog title uses up characters, and a short one might not convey enough to tempt readers to give you that magic click. What if you want to pull something else from your post? That's where Click to Tweet might help.

When to Seek Professional Help (with Marketing)

Writing is a solitary profession. With the exception of a few remarkable people who work in writing teams, few people can conceive of an idea, draft it, and then edit and revise to create a finished project. This much is obvious. But what about when that initial stage is over and your book is out there in the world? For those of us who are self-published especially, once you click “publish,” approaching a writing career as a solitary endeavor might not be the best plan of action. Only one person can bring a book into the world, but sometimes it takes a little help to get it to soar. This is where publicists and author assistants come in mighty handy. You hear about a lot of the big names having assistants, but the truth is, even someone who is just starting out or who is building an indie career can use the professional help of someone whose job it is to build up the work you’ve already done. Working with a publicist has been one of the best professional decisions I’ve ever made.


You'd have to be living underground not to have heard of the successful erotic book, Fifty Shades of Grey, now   turned into a movie. You'd also have to be living in a cave not to have recognized countless spinoffs, which for the purposes of this blog, I'll call Fifty Shades of Whatever . There's a saying that success breeds success, and apparently many are quick to jump on the bandwagon and piggyback on others' successes. Some do it with similar titles. Others, with books in a similar genre. When that happens, what was once unique becomes one of many. Actually, doing so is nothing new. What author didn't receive advice to compare their manuscript with a better known author's, when submitting to an agent or editor? Even in the library, I often see flyers saying, "If you like so and so, try so and so's books. You might like them." In a way, it's a good thing to identify your book through comparison, and perhaps gain fans of like taste

Social Media and Marketing: Does it Work?

We all hear how we HAVE to be on Twitter constantly, update our Facebook status often, post to Pinterest, etc., etc., etc. But do these social media sites sell books for us? Marketing Maven Kristin Lamb has written several good posts about this subject. She writes the following in her blog: Marketing, Social Media & Book Signings--Why NONE of These Directly Impact Book Sales "In The Digital Age, we seem to find a lot of extremes. Either articles or blogs ranting how social media doesn’t sell books, it’s too hard, there are too many rules, whiiiiiiinnnnne. These folks might write books, maybe even great books, but I suppose they think readers will find them using telepathy.  Or, there are those who worship the Oracle of Automation and the Lord of Algorithms. Instead of writing MORE BOOKS, they tweet, FB, Instagram, buy flare, do blog tours, futz with the website, the cover, the algorithms…and then can later be witnessed crying in a corner with a pan of brow

Stepping Up Your Game

When a potential buyer thumbs through our novel in a “real” bookstore or peruses a sample of our e-book online, what does she see? What makes our printed pages (or e-book) stand out from all the others? A great cover garners instant attention. Name recognition helps. However, many of us aren’t well known; we haven’t developed a fan base. We need an equalizer. Equalizer? How about graphics? Most hard-copy books are printed with black ink on a cream or white background. Line art can be very effective, and a grayscale graphic can be surprisingly detailed in printed books. E-books, on the other hand, can be full color. Are you captivated by a gorgeous sunset? A turbulent sea? Ducklings paddling after their mother in a pond? An elderly couple holding hands? As the cliché says, a picture is worth a thousand words. Just as a stunning cover may inspire us to pick up a book, well-placed graphics in the interior may incite us to buy the book.   Look at two scenes below — with and with

First Steps: Situation or Story?

I've heard a lot of great ideas for stories from people over the years. The problem? They describe a situation, not a story. Writer: "This girl is in this really unhappy relationship. I mean the guy is an obvious psycho, but she just can't leave him." Me: "So it's a woman in peril story. She has to escape the psycho boyfriend?" Writer: "No. It isn't that kind of story." Me: "So what kind of story is it?" Writer: "It's about abusive relationships." Me: "So what does your character do about it? What makes her realize the danger? How does she get away?" Writer: "She can't leave. That's the point. Women get trapped in these things and they can't get out. There's no one that really helps them." Me: "True. So what happens in this story?" Writer: "This woman lives with his horrible guy. And he does (fill in list of awful things)." Me: "And sh

When Characters Cross Ethical Lines

Up until my once monthly blog for The Blood Red Pencil, I had resisted blogging. I never thought I had anything to say that others hadn’t said better. I was wrong. Every writer has her own experiences to impart, her own twists on writing, whether it be genre-crossing, plot variations, or unusual characterizations. Mine is a little of all three, but mostly the latter, and because I’m self-published, no one can tell me I can’t write a character the way I want to. Readers can, of course, choose not read my books, but I hope they do. It’s easy to write good, moral characters that readers root for to overcome adversity or to find his or her love or to get the bad guy. But what about those characters pushed into circumstances that make them do illegal or unethical acts? Even murder. Some crime fiction writers tread that line, and I love when they do. Crime is dirty and messy. Writers of the genre know that, and they expect a little line crossing. I do, but how much will a reader acc

Go From What You Know

Hello again, dearies! The ugly sweaters and paper party hats are packed away, and we’re all back at our desks and ready to buckle down and do some fine writing. I must admit, I’m not entirely focused on my own task; there’s a chocolate apricot cheesecake in the oven, and it’s not at all easy to ignore such a thing. With a new year comes a host of new resolutions, most of them related to fresh starts and big changes. I am generally underwhelmed by the process, and tend to adhere to old habits. I still enjoy far too much coffee, I have a favorite shawl for chilly nights, and (my apologies) I simply adore that pair of well-worn jeans in the dresser. Writing can be much the same, and that’s where style comes from. A standard, be it personal or professional. There are basic rules which one must follow, such as never divide a single-syllable word , or never wear a floral shirt with plaid pants . Once we’ve got the foundation set in place, we can go from what we know to wha

Coming Off the Sidelines

In September of 2011, I wrote a post for the Blood RedPencil about my 20-year haiku practice and how it fueled me, nurtured me, inspired me, and helped me realize that I am indeed an artist. Last year I wrote a series of blog posts for the excellent and helpful website Assisted Self Publishing  about my trek through the wilds of self-publishing with the result of this 20-year haiku practice. The following is an excerpt from one of those posts:   Twenty years ago I did not know that a haiku practice would change my life, but it did. At the time I worked for the marketing department of a large technology company, and tried to pacify my lifelong dreams of being a “real” writer by writing “on the side.” One evening while on a business trip and staying in a nondescript hotel, I was reading a book about writing I had brought from home. I have since forgotten the author and title of this book; the only thing I remember was that the author suggested would-be writers might try to write

Interview with Benny Hung The IF List CEO and Co-Founder

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Benny Hung, co-founder of my latest favorite creative writing tool - The IF List . Read more to find out how you can use it in your writing life. ~ Dani Greer/Chief Red Pencil So, Benny, tell me first what "The IF List" means. The IF List stands for The Imagine Film List. The “IF” also refers to a hypothetical “what if” movie proposal and dream cast. My co-founder Noel Spangler had brilliantly come up with the name after we spent months brainstorming different possibilities. Why did you decide to create this site? And how long has it been around? Ever since co-founders Noel Spangler, Ian Spangler, and I first met over twenty years ago, we've been passionate about all kinds of stories. We’re huge movie fanatics, and have often discussed our original movie ideas and actor dream casts. So we've held the core concept of IF List close to heart for a long time. The idea for a website first

Don't Make Resolutions. Set Goals

Every year at this time, people resolve all kinds of things. I notice this at the exercise classes I attend. The first week in January, the rooms are packed. By March, things are pretty much back to the way they were the previous October. Most of these people have probably (I haven't surveyed them, so I can't be positive) decided they want to "lose weight" or "get in shape" and figure a workout at the gym, or a yoga class, or whatever they've chosen, is the way to go. Some may drop out because they're not a good fit for the exercise routine, which is certainly acceptable. The others probably drop out because they're not seeing the results they expected. But what were those expected results? Resolutions are lofty dreams. "I will make the NYT Best-Seller List." Or "I will make enough money writing to quit my day job." Or even, "I will finish three books this year." What people need to do is set goals. Around my h

Time Out For Some Fun

We're starting a new year and looking for new opportunities for fun. Between the Yoga links from Dani, and the humor from Elspeth , as well as my humble offerings, we are doing our part here at The Blood-Red Pencil to help you stay healthy and relieve stress. When I read the following from humor writer, Slim Randles, I couldn't help but think of those few writers who have a penchant for using such big words we have to read with the book in one hand and a dictionary in the other. I really don't think that is the way to win over readers. Just saying... “I can’t stand winter,” said Herb Collins, who had dropped in at the Mule Barn’s philosophy counter for a quick cup. “There’s nothing to do.” "Get out and enjoy it,” suggested Doc. “Go skiing. Go ice fishing. Build a snowman. Do something. Then you’ll feel better.”  “I don’t think your advice will take,” said Dud. “Herb seems to be intransigent on this one.” We all looked at Dud. “You see, he said he couldn’t s

Something Old, Something New

I have a new Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Superfluous Women , coming out in June. And in March, the first of the series, Death at Wentwater Court (originally published in 1994), will be reissued in trade paperback. Something old and something new. I was surprised and pleased that Minotaur sent me the page proofs of Death at Wentwater Court to be checked—for the n th time. Before publication, each ms has already been edited by me before I send it off; read by my Minotaur editor, whose purpose is to make suggestions for improvements, but who also marks typos that jump out at him; by a copy-editor; by me again, reading the copy-edited ms; and finally I get the page proofs, aka first pass pages or what we used to call galleys. In spite of computerization, new typos are sometimes introduced by whoever passes for a typesetter these days. Most of the errors that turned up in the new proofs of Wentwater Court were the result of the changed format, in particular hyphenization. I don’

Breaking Up Is Easy (and Good) to Do: Line Breaking Can Positively Affect How Readers Read

Years ago, a dear friend read my MFA thesis, a novel titled, The Greyhound Chronicles . He told me how much he enjoyed seeing my use of line breaks throughout the story and how the breaks affected his read. My response? “Uh, thank you.” You see, I wasn’t consciously doing it as I wrote. I had no idea I was doing it. After my friend’s comment, I reread the book and saw the breaks and realized it was something I just did while writing, something I learned in studying fiction and poetry and the importance of the word and white space and how readers may be affected by not only what  we write, but also how  we write it. Lines breaks are not just for poetry. We writers of short stories, novels, novellas, articles, essays – we, too, can use line breaks to great effect. For this post, I’m going to use two examples, both from great reads you’ll find on the site  SNAPS 1000 Words , a site that publishes weekly stories of 1000 words that are inspired by photography. Let’s look

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Let’s face it: a resolution often involves little more than changing a habit—typically a bad one—to somehow improve one’s life. We are, however, creatures of habit, so most resolutions are forgotten within days or weeks of making them. It seems that many of us “old dogs” aren’t into learning new tricks. by John Hernandez on Morguefile It’s January 2015, and resolutions are all the rage. With that in mind, does it make sense to take another look at developing new habits and setting new goals? On the other hand, it didn’t work last year or the year before or the one before that. Change is hard—and intimidating. But the benefits can far outweigh the difficulties—a lesson I managed to put off learning until very recently.   For many years, simplification of my life, though sorely needed, has fallen victim to the Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome: tomorrow's another day. (Procrastination is one of those bad habits.) Now health issues dictate that need has been upgraded to requireme