What’s Happening, RMFW?

JAN
21
1st Quarter Board Meeting: Join the board members for the first quarter board meeting and meet the new Vice President, Sheri Merz-Duff. Contact president@rmfw.org with questions.
JAN
21
Denver
Your Most Productive Writing Year: In this workshop we will cover setting big picture career goals, breaking them into actionable steps, and how to make progress on them on a day-to-day basis. Contact denverprograms@rmfw.org with questions.
MAR
1
Anthology Submissions Begins: The stories in the next anthology will feature masks of every kind. Explore what happens when we—or our friends, enemies, or lovers—conceal ourselves behind carefully constructed identities. Contact anthology@rmfw.org with questions.

Bringing a “Mostly Dead” Book Back to Life in Audio … by Richard Rieman

As Billy Crystal’s character said in Princess Bride, “mostly dead is slightly alive.” You can breathe new life into your older books by giving them a voice.

There is revolutionary growth in audiobooks. The Audio Publishers Association (APA) reports audiobook sales are up over 38% in 2016, and Audible listening is up 35%, The cost to produce an audiobook has fallen to less than $3,000 – sometimes much less. If you use Amazon’s ACX.com, you have an option to share royalties with a narrator/producer without any other upfront costs.

In some cases, such as “The Martian,” audiobook versions are registering three or four times the sales number of the original work. They are, in effect, replacing the text version as the primary version of the book.

Why a book released years ago should be relaunched as an audiobook:

  • Treat your audiobook launch as a completely new way to reach your audience
    This is your new baby being born. Announce it with the same enthusiasm as any proud book launch parent.
  • Audiobook listeners are a new audience for your book
    The explosive growth in listening on smartphones and in “connected cars” is steadily increasing the number of audiobook buyers, especially over subscription services from Audible and iTunes.
  • More money from existing content
    Your manuscript will only need a few minor changes (refer to “listening” instead of “reading”) to create a new royalty payment income stream.
  • There are fewer books in audio in each genre
    In each genre – especially Young Adult, Romance/Erotica, and Mystery/Suspense, there are far fewer audiobook titles, making it easier for fans to find your book.
  • New reviews call attention to all versions of your book
    You can get reviews of your audiobook through services such as AudiobookBoom.com and reviews by genre, such as AudiobookReviewer.com.
  • New promotional opportunities
    You can create YouTube video trailers using audio excerpts from your book
  • Amazon’s Whispersync feature can help you sell Kindle ebook versions
    Kindle and audiobook buyers often buy both versions at a discount so they can pick up where they left off in each version.
  • Hearing the words you wrote brought back to life can re-energize you to write again
    Whether you voice your own book or find a great narrator, you can find yourself motivated to bring life to your next book.

Audiobooks are a wonderful form of storytelling. You have an opportunity to take the words off the pages and give them a new voice, and a new life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com brings both living and mostly dead books to life. Richard is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation, Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

#Procrastinate is the strangest verb … by Rainey Hall

procrastinate

1. transitive verb
to put off intentionally and habitually

2. intransitive verb
to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done

Origin and Etymology of procrastinate

Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, from pro- forward + crastinus of tomorrow, from cras tomorrow

In addition to the above Merriam Webster on-line definition, I suggest to be FEARful of, or UNcertain of how to do something may produce procrastination.

If you need excuses for procrastinating the day of your writing, please use the appropriately numbered item(s) below:

#1 How can I get anything done with such soft, cuddly, cute...well, just watch a few of those puppies and kittens on Facebook and YouTube! Note: That link takes you to 16 minutes of funny cat videos. You'll love it.

#2 Hello? Playoffs? Are you ready for some football?

#3 Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

#4 Good ideas escape me.

#5 I WILL write today. Seriously. I think. Maybe. Then again…

#6 Each time I attempt to write, my ears get cold. Conspiracy? Maybe.

#7 You think you can’t find the time to write?

Amateur author: Dinner took over thirteen hours to make last night!
Amateur therapist: Tell me what you did.
Amateur author: Looked for recipes on Pinterest-3 hours
Confirmed ingredients and directions on other websites-2.5 hours
Made a quick run to Sprouts to pick up missing ingredients-2.25 hours
Rush hour traffic-30 minutes
Quick conversation with neighbor-1 hour
Mixed ingredients while talking on phone-32 minutes
Baked-165 minutes
Burnt dinner somewhere between 65 and 165 minutes
Got takeout-1.5 hours

#8 Weather! (Leaves are changing colors/Snowflakes are falling/Flowers are blooming and insects are buzzing…)

Calving Season

Seriously, I met a fellow author at a poetry gathering who told the group, “During lambing, my husband had to rush to town for emergency supplies. (The trip would take him over an hour.) He asked me, ‘Will that give you enough time to write?’”

#9 My finger hurts.

Take any combination of the above and don’t call me in the morning.

#10 Was carried away with research.

Please see Jefferson County Sheriff’s report #CR17-2333957

#11 Not. My. Fault.

Warning: The following photo, taken April 30, 2016 may be too graphic for children’s authors

Friends don’t let friends procrastinate

#12 What if I spend time and effort on plotting, writing, and then editing but somebody else produces a better book than me?

Oh bother! See what I mean?

Of course, there will always be a plethora of authors—but not necessarily in your genre and with your style and never with the same extraordinary voice.

#13 Insert your own reason(s) here!

 

May your procrastination be fenced in, and your imagination have room to roam.

For serious procrastinators—or maybe your new favorite character—check out the below links:

The Organization Against Chronic Procrastination

Crazy for Procrastinating? Maybe | Psychology Today

Remember: Nobody is just like you—thank goodness—or nothing would get done.

*A special “Thank you!” to Randy at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 14347 West Colfax Avenue Golden, CO 80401

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing for Children … by Rachel Craft

When writers first venture into the realm of middle grade and young adult fiction, they often bring with them some bad habits and unhelpful misconceptions. Leave your baggage at the door, and follow these guidelines to start off on the right foot.

DO capture the MG/YA voice

Children don’t think the way adults do. They have a different worldview and different emotional responses to stimuli. Your MG or YA character’s voice will be unique to his personality, but the attitude, humor, and phrasing should sound true to his age. Always put yourself in your character’s shoes, and consider how you, your friends, or your children would have behaved at that age.

DON’T agonize over vocabulary

Writing for middle graders doesn’t limit you to three-syllable words. Children are curious and perceptive readers; if they don’t recognize a word, they’ll either figure it out from context or Google it. Don’t be afraid to challenge them a little. Similarly, don’t exhaust yourself trying to keep up with whatever slang is #trending at the moment. At best, slang is a poor excuse for voice—and at worst, it will date your book before it even hits the shelves.

DO write about what matters to your age group

Your story conflict and character arc should resonate with your readers. For instance, most MG stories have to do with coming of age because that’s what real middle graders are struggling with. YA stories, on the other hand, often deal with discovering oneself and one’s place in the world. Children and teens also tend to place more emphasis on how they fit into their social group and how others see them than adults. For instance, going dateless to prom may not seem like a big deal to you, but it might feel like the end of the world to a teenager. Make sure the things that matter to your character will also matter to your readers.

DON’T lower the stakes

Some writers worry that if they put their protagonist in too much peril, their young readers will be frightened. But middle graders don’t want their stories sugar-coated. Life-or-death scenarios—for the protagonist, a side character, or the entire world—are welcome, as long as you avoid graphic violence, sex, and profanity. YA readers want high stakes too, and they can handle more mature themes and intense situations. Almost nothing is off the table in YA, including sex, drugs, language, and abuse.

DO let the kids steal the show

There’s a reason many MG and YA characters are orphaned, away at summer camp, or shipped off to boarding school: it gets the adults out of the way. While adults can appear in your story as side characters, it’s important to make sure your young heroine is driving the plot and making the story-critical decisions. She should not spend most of the book watching adults make decisions or following adults’ instructions. In fact, it often works well to use adults as obstacles, getting in the child’s way by imposing curfew or chores.

DON’T teach them a lesson

Children don’t read because they want to be preached to by adults—they get enough of that at home. They can smell a moral from a mile away, and as soon as they do, they’ll close your book forever. So don’t write with a moral in mind. Most stories will have some kind of lesson in the end, but let it grow organically, and don’t be afraid to make it a little vague or oblique. Children are perceptive; they don’t need to be hit over the head with your message. Let them discover as they read, rather than spelling things out for them.

DO read widely in your genre

Reread the books that fascinated you when you were a child, and think about what made you love them. Also read plenty of current releases to see what today’s kids are reading. And if you can, spend time with children in your age group to learn how they think, speak, and interact. This will make you a better MG or YA writer, and your readers will notice.

Writing for children can be both fun and challenging. If you normally write for adults, switching gears to MG or YA can be a good exercise for your writing muscles—and you may find yourself a convert of a new genre. Happy writing!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rachel writes speculative fiction for all ages. Her short fiction has appeared in Cricket magazine and the RMFW anthology Found, and she’s working on a middle grade novel. She lives in Boulder, where she works as an engineer and runs a local critique group.

Give Your Characters a Sense of #Humor … by Rainey Hall

Just like a well-delivered one-liner, writers must have great timing and dynamics when their characters produce a sentence—or word—meant to be funny.

timing

noun
the ability to select the precise moment for doing something for optimum effect

Don’t forget—to show your character’s sense of humor—readers need to know the character’s usual personality, and/or the situation, that to most people, is serious.

In the following excerpts from my attempt at historical fiction, readers can see and feel the seriousness of the situation: (Please note, the passive voice is supposed to be passive.)

Today is the 23rd of October, 1861. My daughter and I are standing inside our home waiting for the preacher and his missus to arrive in their carriage to take us to the cemetery. Through the window, I study clouds surrounding the mountains, both which are practically a step away. The clouds seem as sorcerers brewing a storm, the first of the season. Several yellow and orange leaves cling to branches of aspen trees as if begging nature to stay the arctic frost, and let them live if for only one day more.

Then readers learn more about our protagonist and what is normal for her:

“She’s going to San Francisco,” I tell the elderly woman. (on the train) “Will you help her? Please?” I have never begged for anything, but as I kneel between my daughter and the woman, I clasp my hands together, searching the old woman’s eyes. The feeling, the situation is so very odd.

The set up:

Some moments later, I realize I am sitting on the ground. If more of my tears were to fall, they would practically create their own puddle.

The joke and in this case, the lesson:

A miner and his wife, new to the area…help me to my feet…Then he steps backward into a fairly fresh pile of horse manure. His wife holds her handkerchief over her nose. And then she giggles, almost unperceptively. Trying to hide his laughter, the miner snorts, steps out of the pile, and then wipes his boots in the dirt. He and his wife are now laughing quite loudly because, instead of cleaning his boots, the dry dirt only sticks to them, making an even bigger mess.

…I cannot help but chuckle. …But then laughter leaves my mouth before I can stop it. Perhaps I should be ashamed, but the moment reminds me what is the best medicine.

Okay, maybe you’re not busting a gut over this, but when the miner steps into manure and creates a bigger mess, all three characters laugh—allowing readers to laugh—thus lending a respite from grief.

dynamics

noun plural but singular or plural in construction
a pattern or process of change, growth, or activity; variation and contrast in force or intensity

The protagonist in my debut, *The Frozen Moose, a short story is a mess; such a mess she has planned her suicide.

The below scene shows her mindset, as well as a bit of her normal thought process:

My plan of self-elimination was simple. Winter was in full swing— International Skeptics Day, January, 13. The valley near the riverbed was coldest. I would simply freeze myself. Unsophisticated but effective….

…Then the phone rang.

Now we get a glimpse of our protagonist’s normal world and the set up:

The caller’s monotone worked well either as a sleeping aid or entertainment, dependent upon the subject matter. Halley, my social worker friend, “Hey, my dear…. “I’ve got a foster child. She’s been in eight homes in the last six years. I need you to care for her.”

The one-liner:

...“Pretend I’m Catholic, and it’s Lent.”

funny

adjective
affording light mirth and laughter; seeking or intended to amuse; differing from the ordinary in a suspicious, perplexing, quaint, or eccentric way

tundracomics.com

Check these sites for additional advice on writing funny:

Humor Writing for People Who Aren't Funny by Jeff Goins at The Write Practice.
The Secret of Writing Funny by Ghulam at Write to Done.
Comedy Writing: How to Be Funny -- an interview of humor writers by Scott Simon on npr.org

Give the gift of humor to your characters, but remember one man’s humor is another man’s white elephant gift.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

What is Story Bundling and How Does It Work? … by Jamie Ferguson

2016_Jamie FergusonWhat is a story bundle?

A story bundle is an electronic collection of stories that is available through a bundling website, usually for a limited period of time.

The bundle may be sold as a complete set of stories, or there may be one price for a subset of the titles and another for the whole shebang. There are other permutations as well, like an extra book might be thrown in if the customer chooses to pay a higher price. The customer often has the option to choose to donate a percentage of the purchase price to charity.

The main story bundling websites right now are BundleRabbit, StoryBundle, and Humble Bundle. There are a few differences between the sites – for example, BundleRabbit provides the option for a bundle to be made available on outside sales channels after the initial run on the bundle website.

How does it work?

The curator sets the theme of the bundle, decides how many titles will be included, and what lengths are allowed (novels or short stories only?). Depending on the requirements of the bundling website, the curator may also provide artwork.

Each participating author formats their own ebook files, and provides their own cover and product description. These files are then ‘bundled’ into a package and sold together.

A bundle is more like a boxed set than an anthology. Even if it’s a bundle of short stories, it’s the responsibility of the author to make sure their stories are edited and their files professionally packaged.

The bundling site will do some promotion, but the curator should do additional marketing, as well as encourage the authors to help out.

Curator

The curator chooses which authors to invite, and should consider how well each author’s work will fit the theme of the bundle. Suppose you know an author who is a fantastic horror writer - that person might not be a good fit if you’re putting together a romance bundle.

Some things to keep in mind when selecting authors:

  • The quality – and consistency – of an author’s writing.
  • Each author will need to provide a professional-looking cover as well as formatted ebook files, so make sure the people you’re inviting know how to do that, or else have resources they can rely on.
  • Will you include previously published stories, brand new stories, or a combination?
  • You can request that an author provide a specific title or send a general invitation. If you do the latter, you’re opening the door to whatever story the author provides (as long as it meets the parameters you’ve set).
  • Are you inviting authors who will actively help to promote the bundle? If not, are you inviting someone because their writing is so good it will be worthwhile, or because they have a name/following that will help draw in readers?

Plan out the promotion you’re going to do. Will you make a dedicated Facebook page for the bundle? Post profiles about the authors and their stories? Tweet when the bundle is part of a special sale? Make special marketing images to post?

You can – and probably will – do some of this on the fly, but thinking this through ahead of time definitely helps.

One of my most important suggestions is that you make a point to communicate well with the authors. If you’re planning to put the bundle on sale, let them know ahead of time. If the bundle was mentioned in an article, let them know. They’ll appreciate the consideration, and the more they know about what to expect, the more they’ll be able to assist with promotion.

Authors

Participating in a bundle seems easy. You get an invitation, you package up and submit your files, then shazam! You’ve been bundled!

But… What if the curator changes the price, bundle duration, etc. without telling you? What if the other authors provide ebooks riddled with typos, or covers that look completely unprofessional?

Make sure you’re comfortable with the curator. You want to work with someone who is professional, good at communication, and who you trust to manage and present the bundle in a way that makes you happy.

Why bundle?

How well a bundle performs sales-wise depends on how established the bundling website is, which authors are participating, and how well the marketing is done. If you’re primarily interested in sales, consider these factors when deciding whether or not to participate in a bundle.

Keep in mind that visibility is a big advantage of being in a bundle. If twenty authors participate in a bundle, that means your story will be seen by fans of the other nineteen authors.

And on top of all that, it can be really fun to be a part of a collection where you and the other authors are collaborating to help promote your stories together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2016_ferguson_bewitcheryJamie Ferguson focuses on getting into the minds and hearts of her characters, whether she’s writing about a man who discovers the barista he's in love with is a naiad, a mail-order bride in the American West, or a ghost who haunts the house she was killed in – even though that house no longer exists.

She’s curated two bundles through BundleRabbit: The Fantasy in the City Bundle and The Witches’ Brew Bundle. Her third, The Haunted Bundle, will launch in February. She has stories in two other bundles: The Out of This World Bundle, and the soon-to-be-released The Very Merry Christmas Bundle.

Her second novel, Entangled by Midsummer, is a contemporary fantasy about a man and a woman together by both enchantment and betrayal. It will be released this fall. Bewitchery, released in September 2016, is available as an ebook.

You can learn more about Jamie and her writing at her website. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Nominations are now open for two Executive Board positions, Vice President and Treasurer.

rmfw-logoWhen asked to write a paragraph or two about the value of volunteering with RMFW and the VP and Treasurer positions in particular, a multitude of thoughts scampered about. To sort them out, we thought it would be interesting to see what some experts say about volunteers.

In a 2014 Psychology Today article on 5 Reasons You Should Volunteer, Dawn C. Carr MGS, Ph.D. referenced Mark Granovetter, a John's Hopkins Sociologist, and his study on the important role of "weak ties."

"Weak ties are those relationships that are outside of one’s close-knit social network. These relationships are important because they provide access to new information and opportunities. Volunteering in your current career industry—or an area you’d like to transition into—is an especially effective way to leverage social connections for career gain."

Weak ties grow strong in RMFW. (The Force is strong in this one!)

For example, attending RMFW events provides an intense dose of fun, support, opportunities to learn, and (drum roll) weak ties. Volunteering leverages those connections. Plus, on top of those very tangible prospects, everyone knows how satisfying it is to help others. Kind of like a big ol' bear hug that leaves your soul glowing.

With that in mind, we want to remind you that nominations are now open for two Executive Board positions, Vice President and Treasurer. But wait, there's more! Besides the warm glow, there are benefits to both positions. Conference is comped, you become acquainted with lots and lots of members, help select award winners (Jasmine, Gold Nuggets, etc.), and most importantly, you help guide our exceptional organization.

Neither position is particularly time consuming.

The VP backs up the President, may run a few meetings, is involved in all operating decisions, and along with PAL and IPAL reps, coordinates the WOTY and IWOTY nomination and selection process. And gee, that includes coordinating the BookBar and Tattered Cover events. Who wants to get acquainted with our local book sellers? Go on, raise your hand.

Another fun aspect of the VP position is reading the sample chapters of all of our WOTY and IWOTY nominees, and because of that the spring months do require more hours than later in the year, but overall we estimate an average of six to eight hours a month.

Treasurer is, of course, a vital job, and requires some knowledge not every member may have, but if you've worked in accounting or management, understand budgeting and can read a financial statement, you're in! RMFW's bookkeeper handles much of the day-to-day work, and the Treasurer oversees all of our numbers, raps our knuckles once in a while, writes checks and manages expenditures, files a few reports and coordinates the year-end tax filing, and keeps the credits away from the debits. Just like the VP, Treasurer is involved in all operating decisions, and we also estimate six to eight hours per month, with a heavier workload late in the year during the budgeting process. Knowledge of QuickBooks online is a bonus but not absolutely necessary.

Volunteering on the Executive Committee is rewarding beyond what we can measure. The relationships and networking have created their own magic, giving us knowledge of the craft and industry we’d never have gained isolated in our own places.

So, we hope you'll sit back for a moment and consider nominating yourself or a friend for VP or Treasurer. To do that, by October 25, 2016 please send nominations to all three members of the Election Committee:

Vicki Rubin, vickirubin@earthlink.net
Christine Jorgensen, ctjorgensn@comcast.net
Susan Smith, susan@mackaywood.com

Best regards,

Janet Fogg, Vice-President
Shannon Baker, Treasurer
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Volunteers, How Does RMFW Love Thee? … by Angela La Voie

2016_angela-lavoie2As RMFW volunteer coordinator, I keep trying to count the ways.

To the Breadth and Height

More than one hundred volunteers contributed to the success of Colorado Gold this September. Thank you!

What on earth takes a hundred volunteers?

Some of the most visible roles at conference include working at the registration and information desk, serving as conference chair, and monitoring workshops. Have you ever thought about all of the other volunteers you see, such as those who check in attendees for pitch appointments, round-table critiques, mentor sessions, and pitch-coaching? Don’t forget the people who welcome first-time conference-goers and transport VIPs from the airport to the hotel and back. There are volunteers who organize the author readings and the author signings, as well as those who help set up the bookstore. Throughout the conference, there are people who run errands and arrange supplies. There’s our photographer, too. Table hosts facilitate conversation at the Friday-night dinner. Other volunteers coordinate and present the awards and raffle prizes.

To Everyday’s Most Quiet Need

For all of the volunteers you see at the conference, there are several more you don’t. Our technology team keeps the Web site updated with information and enables online registration. Volunteers provide items for the gift bags and stuff them. There are volunteers who process and assemble all of the items you receive in your registration packet. And long before conference starts, volunteers recruit keynote speakers, agents, and editors. Volunteers arrange travel for the special guests. There are those who review workshop proposals, those who arrange the conference schedule and set up all of the various appointments, as well as those who manage each of these disparate activities. Planning for next year’s conference began before this year’s event took place.

And Beyond

While the work of our volunteers might be most visible and most concentrated in our largest event of the year, volunteers make each of our events come to life and provide for every task, large and small.

There are plenty of ways to get involved. Here are just a few:

• Write a blog post.
• Write a newsletter article.
• Lead a program in Denver or on the Western Slope.
• Help manage the Web site.
• Set up and manage a critique group.
• Help with social media.
• Volunteer for the History Project.

Which volunteer job is right for you? Think of the skills in which you have expertise. Maybe you’d like to volunteer in one of those skill areas. Is there a skill in which you wish you had more knowledge? For example, have you wanted to host a podcast, but want to learn more about podcasting and are willing to put in the time and effort? Offer to help our Podcast Chair. Do you feel shy on social media but ready to overcome that anxiety? Help our Publicity Chair.

Time is also a factor in volunteering. Do you prefer to focus your efforts in a defined timeframe or like to spread out your efforts over time? Have you volunteered in the past, but are looking to contribute in a new way? Do you feel ready to take on a bigger role in the organization? If you’d like to brainstorm ideas, send me an email at: volunteer@rmfw.org.

Some of the benefits of volunteering include making new friends, giving back, and learning new skills. Health studies have shown that volunteering can improve weight loss, memory, cholesterol, stamina, and even memory. When you volunteer with RMFW, you are helping writers live their dreams of sharing their stories and seeing their work in print. You. You are doing that. How amazing that is!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Angela La Voie serves RMFW as newsletter editor and volunteer coordinator. Her articles have appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times, Daily News of Los Angeles, The Dallas Morning News, Detroit Free Press, on MS-NBC.com, through The New York Times News Service, and elsewhere. She holds a BA (Phi Beta Kappa) in English and communication from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles.

You can learn more about Angela at her website and on Facebook and Twitter. And please check out the RMFW Blog Spotlight featuring Angela that was published August 1st, 2016.

Author Newsletters or Aliens Ate My Lunch … by Stephanie Reisner

2016_Stephanie Reisner
I subscribe to quite a few author newsletters. Not just because I’m an author, but as a reader I like to keep up with my favorites, too.

As a reader, I want a newsletter to do one of three things:

  1. Inform me of what’s coming or what has just been released. The truth is I only want an author’s newsletter when something new is releasing, pre-releasing, or something big is happening. This may only be once every month to once every quarter.
  2. Let me know about sales or freebies. Sure, this could go along with #1, but sometimes sales are happening on older books and I’ll want to share that information with my friends if I already enjoyed the book.
  3. Let me know about important events or dates. This would include book signings, appearances, or online events that I might be interested in.

Anything beyond this, meh. I mean, if I wanted to know every time my favorite author posted a new blog, I’d subscribe to their blog separately. Some writers are boring bloggers (myself included at times). So keep your blog subscription separate from your newsletter subscription. Check out FeedBurner or Networked Blogs to help you install subscribe buttons for your blog. I subscribe to newsletters to actually get NEWS (about books).

2016_Reisner_AliensHere are some tips to make your newsletter better:

  • Don’t spam readers weekly if you’re not releasing new books weekly. If you do that, we readers will eventually start treating your newsletters as SPAM.
  • Don’t start a newsletter and forget it. Try to send out something regularly (once every month or every quarter), even if it is just a SALE or FREEBIE announcement. You want readers to remember you’re there without annoying them. This will also (hopefully) motivate you to release on a more regular schedule, especially if you’re indie. If you can’t release quarterly, consider writing short stories or novellas between books to keep readers interested.
  • Put new releases first. Sales and freebies second and important dates or events third. Because that’s how I, as a reader like to see it. I imagine I’m not alone in this.
  • Include links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble where I can actually buy your latest book or get the latest deal! Don’t send me to your blog, which will then send me to your book. You might lose me at your blog. I want a direct connection to buy. If you want to include your blog/web link in the newsletter, just throw it in at the bottom.
  • I prefer short descriptions as opposed to an entire chapter excerpt within the body of a newsletter. Just link the excerpt and if it looks intriguing, I’ll go to your blog or website to read the excerpt.
  • Don’t include full articles in your newsletter. Give me a heading, at most a paragraph description, and then a link to where I can read more. Click-bait me, baby!
  • Concentrate on no more than three books per newsletter. I might feel overwhelmed. The point being I want to be able to open the email, get the highlights while I’m having my morning coffee, and click what interests me. If your links are lost behind paragraphs of rambling commentary, I might get bored and move on to the next thing in my inbox.
  • Use eye catching taglines and descriptions. Not: “My new book is coming out!” Why not: “Aliens are stealing your lunch on September 1! Pre-Order **Aliens Ate My Lunch** today and save .99 cents! Well damn it – I’m ordering Aliens Ate My Lunch right now if I see that header. And if I’m not ordering, I’m definitely reading the brief description. If that brief description is just as intriguing, I’ll likely buy.
  • Include book covers. I like to see pretty book covers.
  • Don’t bombard me with the same book month after month. I get it, you only have one book currently available, but there are ways to rectify this. Did I mention short stories and/or novellas between book releases? In the case of one book bombardment, give me updates on your next book first (maybe a cover reveal?), then list appearances, and THEN remind me about your existing book with the cover, title, brief description, and buy links.
  • Of course if you are an awesome blogger, go ahead and click-bait me to your blog at the very end. I may not click it all the time, but if you’re entertaining enough, I might.

As a reader, what do YOU like to see in an author newsletter?

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2016_Reisner_Ascending2016_Reisner_SavingColorado native Stephanie Connolly-Reisner grew up with a love for reading and writing. She started penning her first stories in grade-school and never stopped. Now much older, she’s a prolific writer who lives along the front range of the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and a couple of very pampered house cats. You can find her and her four author personas at www.the-quadrant.com. She can also be found at Facebook. Stephanie writes under four pseudonyms: S.J. Reisner, Audrey Brice, Anne O'Connell, and S. Connolly.

Pitch Like a BOSS by Angie Hodapp

Originally published in Nelson Literary Agency’s monthly newsletter

Pitching your book to an agent or editor is daunting. How are you supposed to cram the essence of your entire novel into a pithy couple of sentences? (Hint: You’re not.) Here’s a formula for a concise pitch that will set you on the right track. Ladies and Gentlemen, James Scott Bell‘s “three-sentence pitch”:

First Sentence: Your lead character’s name, vocation, and initial situation. Will Connelly is an associate at a prestigious San Francisco law firm, handling high-level merger negotiations between computer companies.

Second Sentence: “When” + the main plot problem. When Will celebrates a recent merger by picking up a Russian woman at a club, he finds himself at the mercy of a ring of small-time Russian mobsters with designs on the top-secret NSA computer chip Will’s client is developing.

Third Sentence: “Now” + the stakes. Now, with the Russian mob, the SEC, and the Department of Justice all after him, Will has to find a way to save his professional life and his own skin before the wrong people get the technology that can be used for mass destruction.

Boom. Three sentences. The first introduces the protagonist in his ordinary world. The second presents the inciting incident. The third is what your character stands to lose if the antagonistic forces prevail. Here’s another example:

Dorothy Gale is a farm girl who dreams of getting out of Kansas to a land far, far away, where she and her dog will be safe from the likes of town busybody Miss Gulch. When a twister hits the farm, Dorothy is transported to a land of strange creatures and at least one wicked witch who wants to kill her. Now, with the help of three unlikely friends, Dorothy must find a way to destroy the wicked witch so the great wizard will send her back home.

Give it a try, but keep each sentence brief. Having taught this formula at pitch workshops, I know how tempted writers are to pack those three sentences full of backstory, secondary characters, and world-building. Resist that urge!

Now, can you boil your three-sentence pitch down further to create an even more concise pitch? Conversely, can you expand it to craft an evocative query letter? Whichever way you go, start here: with three sentences.

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Above, we looked at a quick three-sentence formula that will help you start to craft your pitch. Did you try it? Yes? Awesome!

Did you thwart the temptation to squeeze in a bunch of backstory, secondary characters, and world-building? No? Alas. Go back to those three sentences and whittle, hone, refine, and polish. Until you do, your pitch probably isn’t ready.

Go ahead. Do it now. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Excellent. Then let’s get you ready for your pitch appointment:

Ditch the idea that your pitch is supposed to be a complete summary of your novel. It’s not. Your pitch is a conversation starter. Pitch appointments at writing conferences tend to run about ten minutes. Deliver your pitch, then let the agent you’re pitching to ask you questions about your novel. About you. About your writing in general. Relax and have a chat.

Focus on character and plot. Ten-minute pitch appointments fly by, and many are wasted by the author who spends…way…too…much…time…explaining (1) his protagonist’s backstory, (2) his world-building elements, or (3) all the cool historical facts he discovered when researching his novel. Seriously. I once listened to a pitch during which the author never actually told me a single thing about her plot. Even when I asked questions about the story itself, her replies remained focused on backstory and setting. The agent wants to know if the story you put down between page 1 and page 350 is something they can sell. That’s what’s on the table, so focus on that.

Be prepared to respond to feedback and questions. Things I’ve said (gently, I hope!) to writers during pitch appointments include: (1) You’re pitching this as YA, but it’s coming across as a middle grade. What makes it YA? (2) How will your novel stand out among current bestsellers in your genre, or how will it appeal to readers of those bestsellers? (3) What are the last three books you’ve read in your genre? (4) What is your novel’s inciting incident, and how far into the manuscript does it occur? (5) In the story you just described, it concerns me that your protagonist isn’t actually the one who solves the plot problem. (6) The conflict you describe is very internal to your character. What is the story’s external conflict, and how does it get resolved and/or relate to the internal conflict? (7) Has your manuscript been critiqued by a critique group or beta readers?

Bring a copy of your query letter. If the agent stops you in the first minute of your pitch appointment with something like “I don’t represent that genre” (or anything else that feels like a shutdown/letdown), then politely ask if she wouldn’t mind giving you her quick impression of your query letter. After all, it’s your ten minutes. You paid for the appointment. And her input on your query letter just might help you land a different agent—one that’s right for you, your genre, and your project.

Understand that a disappointing pitch has zero bearing on your future as a writer. There will be other conferences, other pitch appointments, other opportunities. Keep pitching. Keep sending out query letters. The more doors you knock on, the more likely one (or more) will open.

And above all, keep writing.

 

AngieHodappAngie Hodapp has worked in language-arts education, publishing, professional writing, and editing for the better part of the last two decades. After completing her master’s thesis, a work of creative nonfiction, and leaving academia, she gave herself permission to write what she really wanted to write: speculative fiction and romance. Angie is currently the contracts and royalties manager at Nelson Literary Agency in Denver. She and her husband live in a renovated 1930s carriage house near the heart of the city and love collecting stamps in their passports.