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Archive for April, 2013

When I made the decision to become a writer, I will admit I had a very sunny image in my mind…

[wavy-dream lines have just obscured your vision]

There I am, sitting in my cozy (and clean!) house, poised daintily at my desk with my fingers flying over the keyboard of my laptop. I have a steaming cup of coffee on my left, a completed manuscript at my right, and quiet children at their own little desks busily working on their homeschooling. The ideas are just pouring onto the screen. The agent is calling again asking when the next manuscript will be ready. I have a book signing that evening and dinner is bubbling in the crock pot.

[Snapped awake by the jarring reality called…wait for it…Marketing!]

Oh, the dreams of fools. My house is clean-ish right now because I’ve not been writing. The coffee cup is on my left, but it’s cold and every time I take a sip I cringe.

My new coffee cup featuring illustrations from my 'soon to be released' children's book: Frog's Winter Walk

My new coffee cup featuring illustrations from my ‘soon to be released’ children’s book: Frog’s Winter Walk

There is a book – complete, printed and published – on my right and for that I’m celebrating! But that is also the beast I’m facing. Can you believe that people aren’t just lining up to read my latest release?

I know, humble pie served on a sparkling platter.

Not only must I write and manage my own household, I must now educate myself on the fine craft of using an ever-changing Internet to advertise my book.

If you are finding yourself in the same boat, here is a sampling of what I’ve learned:

1. Goodreads. They have a great forum for authors. I signed up as an author and now have an author page on Goodreads. I’ve also enrolled Unforgettable Roads for the Goodreads Giveaway. Once the giveaway is approved, I have to put the HTML code on my website. I don’t know how to do that, but I will learn. The Giveaway starts Thursday and my website host is down. Oh, happy technical difficulties!

2. Seeking Reviews. I made a list of people I’ve met via LinkedIn, Facebook, and past jobs and volunteer positions I’ve held. I sent each a paperback copy of the book with a kind request to read and review it. I hope that half of these people have time to read and review it. Perhaps I will gain some speaking engagements from it as well. I’ve discovered that people really do want to help the authors they know, but feel intimidated by ‘writing’ a review for a writer. It takes gentle assurance to ask for 1-2 sentences. Many feel that they should write a full book report.

If you are also an author and feel inclined to purchase Unforgettable Roads and leave a review, I will certainly do the same for your published work!

3. Media Pitch. This has been the most time consuming for me. The idea sounds simple – send a press release to local newspapers. Why it’s not simple: 1) I have to write the press release; 2) I have to find the names and contact information for the reporters who manage book reviews; 3) the newspaper websites are geared to sharing news, not their reporters; 4) no two newspaper websites are alike.

I finally do have five newspaper to pitch a press release to, but it has taken me four days to put this list together. (If you know more about how to streamline this process, I’m all ears!)

4. Press Kit. On my website I added a page for reporters to go to for my bio and pictures of me and my book. For this, I used high-resolution pictures and a fun, snappy biography.

5. Local Bookstores. This is next on my to-do list – visiting local stores with copies of my books. Despite my search of how to approach bookstores, I’ve found nothing definitive. Here’s my plan: I will check websites first to learn as much as possible before I make that first call. I am planning on calling each bookstore first and asking who I should speak to and scheduling a time for me to come in and meet them. With sell sheets in hand and copies of Unforgettable Roads that I will take with me to bookstores, I will speak to the person at each store who does the purchasing and leave a copy with them. My clothing will be professional, my attitude as confident as I can manage, my kids at home 🙂

With current trends of self-publishing and the smaller publishing houses with great eyes for talent and small budgets, learning to Market your own books is a necessity. I’m learning as I go and sharing what I learn so others can find ideas and encouragement. Below are a few links that I’ve found extremely helpful.

Ideas for Twitter from Author Media.

Making Your Book Launch Stand Out

How to Publicize and Promote Your Book

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As we become parents, as we retire, as we enter a new phase of life, the idea of writing a book enters the minds of many. We can wander the shelves of a bookstore and see no shortage of words put to paper, snazzy covers, rave reviews…and we think “I can do that.” We buy a new notebook from that bookstore – a really nice one with a leather cover and lined paper (or if you are like me, graph paper) and a new pen. After purchasing a tall coffee, a hopeful writer will sit down, open the pristine notebook, and press the pen to the paper.

writing pics 009

What is written first? Do authors begin with a title? Am I going to write fiction or non-fiction? Do I know enough about a topic to write non-fiction? Maybe I should write stories, that way I won’t have to do any research. Will my story be a romance or fantasy or a memoir? How do I decide on the name of my main character? Where should my story take place?

This is the first obstacle – getting started. Don’t give up your aspirations to be a writer yet! That’s like a runner with shiny new shoes and a couch-to-5K plan in hand looking at the marathon route. Sometimes the route to the finish line is so daunting, your new shoes never see a mile. In writing terms, that route scares you and your notebook becomes a glorified shopping list instead of the first draft of your novel?

Here are a few truths (based on my own experience):

1. Where to Begin? Sometimes authors do begin with a title. Sometimes it’s a simple mental picture of a few characters interacting. A novel could be born from an idea, a concept, a feeling, or a comment. Gateways is the evolution of a dream I had when I was nine. Unforgettable Roads started with a short story about a grandfather who decorated refrigerator boxes into time machines. Truth is, you just never know where a story will pop into your mind.

Perhaps this will encourage you: you don’t have to start at the beginning. The first words of the novel are not always the first words written. If you have a clear idea for a scene, write it. It doesn’t matter if it’s at the beginning of the novel or the climax scene. Put it on paper. You can always move it around later.

2. Fiction or Non-fiction. If you want to write non-fiction, it will take research, even if you are an expert in your field. If you want to write fiction, it will take research. I spent two weeks reading about trains and hobos and how train stations work. I needed to make sure that there was actually train tracks in the direction and cities where my characters went. Even with fantasy, it’s smart to research clothing, weaponry, speech patterns from other regions. The library and Netflix for documentaries have become my greatest resources.

3. The Genre Question. Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, Science fiction, pulp fiction, urban fantasy, mainstream fiction, Christian fiction…they all mean something. Find their definitions. Don’t be ashamed if you don’t know what punk fiction or flash fiction is. I had to look it up too!

Remember that people usually don’t read only one genre. Here’s a challenge: During your reading time, venture into new genres. And I don’t mean to set down your historical fiction novel and pick up a non-fiction book about history. Go way out there! Try steam punk or science fiction. Be brave! After all, you’ve committed to writing a book. What can be scarier than that? People probably already think your crazy 🙂

4. Study the art of storytelling. Read picture books. Read young adult and middle grade novels. Check out a few mysteries and some historical fiction. Read the book just for the sake of reading a good book. When you reach ‘The End’, make a few notes about what you liked about the story. Go back through and note the changes in the characters, the descriptions of scenes, the writing style used to amp up the tension. Study other writing.

There are three books that stand out for me…maybe because I’ve recently read them for a second (or sixth) time. These take the art of storytelling and break it down into manageable pieces – think back to the new runner and the marathon. Using these resources would be like running a mile a day.

1. The Story Template by Amy Deardon

2. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

3. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass – I bought the ‘workbook’ version and have gone back to it with every novel.

I am not receiving any kickback by mentioning these books – they are just good resources if you are just starting out or stalled in your writing. If you decide to use these, read them in the order they are listed. Amy and Larry’s books will help you organize your story and write a first draft. Donald’s book will help you polish your manuscript and prepare if for submissions.

5. Time. Know that writing takes time, both in terms of scheduling time to write and that very few writers are over-night successes. And if you do find success in being published, that is just the end of one race and the beginning of another. Be patient with yourself, set aside the quiet time needed to write (and if you are a parent, this ‘quiet time’ I speak of doesn’t exist anywhere except with the help of naps and ear plugs), and make a little progress each day. It will all add up. I promise!

So what are you waiting for? Go! Write!

Jessica

See what I’ve been writing:
Gateways
Unforgettable Roads

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It has finally happened! After twelve years of studying writing, reading every book I could and writing, revising, and re-writing…I have finally been published.

Unforgettable Roads is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon, and on several different e-readers. It will be available in Nook soon. A huge shout of thanks to Martin Sisters Publishing for their excellent support and professionalism during the editing and cover design process. I’m so thrilled to be added to their list of authors!

Unforgettable Roads Front Cover

To celebrate, I’ve been dancing around the house, my family cheered this event with plastic cups of sparkling water, and my husband made us beautiful steak dinner last night.

I invite you to read Unforgettable Roads, to join the characters as they journey out west and back in time through a grandfather’s journals.

back cover pic

I also invite you to participate in the Unforgettable Roads Blog Hop 2013. The deadline for entries is May 1st. Click on the image below for details.
blog hop badge 2013

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Top 20 foods for diabetics

A great list to take with you on every shopping trip.

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Added 4/26/13: The response to this blog hop has been, well, extremely under-whelming. I’m reposting in hopes that you’ve been taking this time to write and edit. Why a Blog Hop? Because it helps us all find new readers, to share our writing, to discover new writers. Join in and have fun! I hope to hear from you all soon!

Original Post:
blog hop badge 2013

In anticipation of the release of my new book, Unforgettable Roads, coming soon from Martin Sisters Publishing, I’m hosting a photo/essay contest & Blog Hop. This is not to be confused with an essay told through photographs, but one photograph paired with one essay.

The theme? You guessed it. ROADS.

dirt road

Pretty roads, sunlit roads, dirt roads, city streets, cozy neighborhood roads, lanes, boulevards…anything goes. The essay can take any format: poetry, fictional, memoir, steam-punk or urban fiction…whatever your heart desires, where ever the picture takes you. (Keep it decent though, folks. No erotica or extreme violence.)

Email me two things: 1) a picture of a road (one you took with your camera – let’s not infringe on copyright laws here…or anywhere!), and 2) the link to your blog/website with your essay. The winning entry will recieve a copy of Unforgettable Roads and Gateways. My email: JessicaSchaubWrites@gmail dot com

Photo and essays will be judged by bloggers – so this is where you come in. I will post all the entries. Followers (mine and yours) can vote for their favorite. All entries should be to me by May 1st, 2013. The Contest will match the release date of Unforgettable Roads – that date will be announced soon.

Why this is a good idea:
– As you tour the roads, taking in the breathtaking scenery and reading about the journey of others, you’ll discover new writers, new ideas, and new connections.
– Any networking Indie Authors can do to help each other is valuable.
– Traffic to your blog will increase.
– Free books. What’s to lose?

There is no obligation to purchase anything. Of course, I hope you do 🙂 I will include a link to preview and/or purchase Unforgettable Roads in paperback, Kindle, Nook, or any eReader.

FAQ’s:

What’s in it for me?
If you are a writer, public speaker, photographer or anyone looking to build a platform (a base of readers and followers), this is a great event to help you with that. In terms of writing, the publishing world is transforming from one dominated by a few big publishing houses to a beehive of Independent and Small Publishing houses. The need to ‘get your name out there’ falls on your shoulders. Participating in Blog Hops is an effective (and fun!) way to do that. I will share this will all my followers and on all my social networking plugs. You and every other participant can – and should – do the same. Your writing will reach hundreds of new readers. If they like what the read, they might follow your blog.

Is there an age limit for participants?
Nope. I only ask that the person who takes the picture also writes the essay. It is necessary that all entrants have a blog or a website on which to post their essay and photo. That page will be the link you send to me to connect to the Blog Hop.

What is a Blog Hop?
A Blog Hop is just like it sounds – readers can ‘hop’ from blog to blog, reading posts related to a similar topic. It’s a great tools to share book releases, discuss current events, or compare writing styles and voices.

You said no extreme violence. What if the road I’ve been on recenlty was overseas in the war?
By all means, share your story! Our veterans are a great treasure to this country. I look forward to reading your essay and seeing where you’ve been. Just keep in mind that I have many young followers/readers of this blog.

Is there a word count limit?
The recommended amount for a blog post is between 300 – 700 words. Nothing too long or too short. Going along with the statement, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words” let’s keep it under 1,000. If you want to really crank this up to improve your writing, after you finish your first draft, try to trim the word count by half.

Why would I do that?
Every word in excellent writing packs a punch. Knock your readers out with a highly concentrated essay.

What is Unforgettable Roads about?

back cover pic

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Raise your hand if you can’t believe March is over! I started March with my typical list of goals…which didn’t last long.
100_2841

I didn’t read as much as I hoped I would, but I did finish another manuscript. I worked on final updates and edits for Unforgettable Roads, had a little input on the cover, and now am anxiously awaiting the release. I don’t have a specific date yet, but I will be hosting a Blog Hop to celebrate – I’ll keep you posted!

As I edited and wrote and researched, I compiled a list of websites and blog that I found interesting and useful:

1. Once again Joanna Penn rocks another blog: on the importance of keywords in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), making your blog, book, website readily found by those looking for you (who don’t know they are looking for you).

2. Fellow WordPress blogger, Suddenly Jaime, wrote a great piece on finding your writer’s voice

3. As March was a huge month for Catholics, welcoming in a new Pope, I found 5 short story recommendations that all Catholics, Christians, and educated people should read. This would be the part of my reading to-do list that I failed miserbly in completing. They are now on my April to-do list…We’ll see how I do in reading these come May 🙂

4. This next link has nothing to do with writing – well, not directly. Because my son sleeps in the afternoon, that’s the time I use for writing. But that’s also the time I should be preparing dinner. This blog has saved me more than once last month with cleverly prepared crock pot meals.

5. Kimberly Shursen has taken a bold step to help Indie writers, such as myself, by hosting a series of interviews with authors. Her library lists all the books that have been and will be featured. If you click on “More”, you’ll see the list of authors she has already interviewed. My book, Gateways, will be featured in the near-ish future. I whole-heartedly thank Kimberly for her dedication to her project!

6. I also downloaded the 30-day trial of Scrivener – a word processing program designed for novelists, screen play writers, and students working on advanced research papers, thesis statements, and discertations. I love it! While I highly recommend watching the tutorial videos, it is easy to navigate once you have the basics down. I looked into this as a means to more easily prepare manuscripts for self-publication onto ebooks. I was delighted to see that I can organize manuscripts with index cards (excellent for my visual-learning style), and move entire chapters by moving those index cards on the screen. With the 30-non-consecutive-day trial, you can’t go wrong.

Also, if you are interested in purchasing a copy of Gateways, I have a few at home that I’m selling for $10.00 + S&H. Email if you are interested: jessicaschb@yahoo.com

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