Posted in Books, Monday blogs

My Author Talk at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library

On Thursday night, June 22, I presented an author talk at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library on Long Island. The program, sponsored by their Friends of the Library group, was part of their summer reading events. It was my eighth library appearance, and I will be speaking again at my home library, Hicksville, on August 18.

After being introduced by Jeannine Sharkey, a librarian at Plainview, I further introduced myself and spoke about how I started writing, my books including my Cobble Cove mystery series that include A Stone’s Throw, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and my latest, Written in Stone, published April 2017 by Solstice Publishing.

The Lawrence C. Lobaugh, Jr. Memorial Award for Journalism Award I received for my writing on the Post Pioneer.

I explained that since I was a young girl, I’d always loved reading, writing, telling stories, and cats. My love of books brought me to the field of librarianship in which I’ve worked for 25 years. My love of cats started me writing articles for pet magazines such as Cat Fancy after I graduated from the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island where I majored in English and Library and Information Science and also wrote for the student newspaper, The Pioneer, for which I received a journalism award for my feature writing.

I shared the history of my first published story and novel. My first published story was a mystery in the Cat Crimes Through Time anthology called Stitches in Time and was a time travel tale that involved Betsy Ross’s cat. In 2008, I self-published Cloudy Rainbow, my first novel, that was a romance with some paranormal elements and a cat named after my beloved Floppy who passed away that year at 15.

After Cloudy Rainbow, I told the audience that I stopped writing for a time while my daughter was young and I focused on my full-time library position. In 2015, after a patron who’d read my book persuaded me to write another, I took advantage of my library’s new Gale Courses online database to take several publishing courses and ease my way back into writing. Two months later, writing in the early morning before work, I had completed the first draft of what was to become the first Cobble Cove mystery, A Stone’s Throw. I sold that book to a small publisher, Limitless Publishing, and it was published in November 2015.

Not initially intending A Stone’s Throw to become a series or a cozy mystery, I decided to continue the story of a librarian, Alicia and a newspaper reporter, John McKinney, in the small, fictional upstate town of Cobble Cove, New York with a second book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. I changed publishers at this time to Solstice Publishing who now have published the three books in the series and also several of my short stories in anthologies of various genres including fantasy, science fiction, horror, and romance.

In February 2017, I related that I also published a romantic comedy novella, When Jack Trumps Ace, and my story, Saving Snow White, appears in the latest anthology from Solstice, That Summer Day, that was published just a few days before my talk on June 21.

I pointed out that all my books and stories include at least one cat and sometimes a dog. The Cobble Cove mysteries feature a Siamese library cat, Sneaky, and Fido, a golden retriever.  The audience found it amusing when I explained that Sneaky has his own blog where he “scoops the shelves of cat litterature” and where he has interviewed a variety of other cat characters. His blog can be found at https://sneakylibrarycat.wordpress.com. I also created a Facebook group called Cobble Cove Character Chat that is hosted by a different character from the series each month and where group members can enter a monthly contest for prizes that range from Amazon gift certificates to copies of books.

Although I had some technical difficulties with my Powerpoint slideshow, I was able to display some of my book covers and the newspaper articles that were written upon their releases. I also read some excerpts from my mysteries and the blurbs of my stories. In addition, I played the book trailers, short clips, to each of the Cobble Cove novels.

I ended my talk with information about my future publishing plans. I am currently querying agents for my psychological thriller, Sea Scope, and have completed a standalone mystery, Reason to Die, that I hope to edit and submit for publication in a few months. I may also start the fourth Cobble Cove mystery soon.

When I asked for audience questions, one guest wanted to know why I like cats so much. I explained that I like other animals but am especially fond of cats because they have unique natures, are quite intelligent, and can intuitively sense when you are sad and need comforting. I am far from alone in this interest for felines, as they are often characters in books, art, and online videos that go viral.

The evening wrapped up with a raffle for an autographed copy of Written in Stone. The winner posed for a photo with me.

Posted in Monday blogs

The Best Day Trips Can be Booked with a Library Card

Jericho and Hicksville Library staff and patrons that went on the “Long Island by Land and Sea tour” conducted by Carole Lucca (Photo by Vladimir Reyes)

I recently took a library trip called “Long Island by Land and Sea.” While the itinerary included locations within a two hour’s drive, I and my fellow travelers visited a variety of places including the Peconic River Herb Farm and the Raphael Winery. The final stop was a lighthouse tour aboard the Peconic Star Express out of Greenport. There was also time for a bit of shopping and lunch in between.

Our tour guide on the trip was Carole Lucca of All Around Long Island Tours. I was not surprised at how informative and friendly she was because I had gone on a previous library tour that she led to the Hamptons. Some of the interesting tidbits she shared included the fact that Suffolk County has ten townships while Nassau County only has three along with two cities – Glen Cove and Long Beach. We traveled through both Brookhaven Township and Riverhead Township during the trip.  She also pointed out that Martha Clara Vineyards was owned by the Entenmann’s of the famous bakery.

The gift shop at the Peconic River Herb Farm includes a variety of gardening and souvenir merchandise
My friend and library co-worker Teresa and I in front of the Peconic River.

We arrived at the Peconic River Herb Farm in the late morning. The sun was shining, and it was the perfect temperature for a relaxing stroll around this lovely garden center. After picking up a few souvenirs in the quaint gift shop, many of us meandered down to the river where we took photos by the water.

Seating that overlooks the Raphael Winery’s vineyard.
Our group sampled four wines with cheese and bread.

A short drive away was the Raphael Winery where we were treated to tastings of four wines on their comfortable patio overlooking the grape vines. Along with our drinks, we were served bread and samples of cheese. While we partook of the refreshments, the winery’s owner, Julie Petrocelli Vergari, filled us in on the history of the winery and winemaking. She explained that Raphael was family-owned and spoke about the process of turning grapes into wine and the fact that Long Island wines have a lower alcohol level than California wines because of the lesser number of sunny days during the year. Afterward, guests were invited to shop at Raphael’s gift shop or purchase their own bottle of wine at a tour discount.

Me standing by the Peconic Star Express before our lighthouse tour.

Following our pleasant time at the winery, we headed to Greenport where we were to board the Peconic Star Express for our lighthouse tour. Before boarding the ship, we took a break for lunch. A few people including myself chose to eat at Claudio’s a well-known restaurant in town not far from the dock and then walk through the village for some shopping.

The first lighthouse we viewed was the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, more commonly known as “Bug Lighthouse.” (photos by Vladimir Reyes)

The day had turned overcast when we met by the dock to start our lighthouse tour and; although it was cold on the water, passengers had an option to stay inside and just go out on deck or aboveboard for photos when we passed the lighthouses. The first lighthouse we saw was the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, commonly known as Bug Light. According to our Captain, this offshore lighthouse can be toured by appointment and is automated so does not have a keeper. Our next stop was the Orient Point Lighthouse which is also unmanned and is currently for sale for around $250,000. The captain told us we were in a dangerous body of water because of the rocks in the area.

The Fire Island Lighthouse

When we arrived at the Fire Island Lighthouse near Plum Island, our captain informed us that it played a role in the first battle of the Revolutionary War. This lighthouse includes an oil house next to it and New York City rocks around it.

One of the seals swimming in the water near Race Rock Lighthouse (photo by Vladimir Reyes)

We continued on to Great Gull Island which we learned serves as a nesting area for terns. Race Rock Lighthouse, by Fishers Island,  attracts seals. We were even able to view a few as they poked their heads out of the water near the rocks. Race Rock Light is an active lighthouse noted for its foghorn that sounds 24/7. It is also automated and, like the Orient Point Lighthouse, is also up for sale. The last lighthouse we viewed was Little Gull Lighthouse. We then made our way back to Greenport where photographer  Vladimir Reyes took shots of our group. After dropping off passengers from the Jericho Library, we headed back to the parking area that serves as the drop-off for the Hicksville passengers. It was a long day but a very enjoyable one, and everyone was already talking about signing up for the next trip.

The library group after disembarking from the lighthouse tour. (Photo by Vladimir Reyes)

 

Posted in Conference, Monday blogs

A Librarian and Author’s Day at BookExpo America

It started on a clear Friday morning, the 2nd day of June, as I boarded an early train to Penn Station along with my friend and fellow Long Island author, Lisa Diaz Meyer, and her son and husband who were also on their way to BookExpo in New York City. Lisa was exhibiting her three wonderful dark-fiction collections while I was representing my library. Although, as a librarian and author I’d been to other local library and book-related conferences, this was my first time at BEA.

Lisa Diaz Meyer, my friend and fellow Long Island author, at her booth at BookExpo

Walking through the glass doors of the Javitz Center, I noticed the huge signs of publishers and booksellers such as Simon & Schuster, Ingram, Publisher’s Weekly, etc. People in business attire were walking around with coffee cups and conference schedules, their registration badges hanging around their necks identifying them as librarians, authors, editors, and others involved in the book world. Spanning four floors and including conference rooms, stages, and exhibitor booths, most of the action took place on the main level. That’s where Lisa set up her table with the other Indie authors. She had been exhibiting since Wednesday and planned to remain for BookCon which took over on the weekend.

Meeting Michael Connelly, a fellow member of International Thriller Writers, was the highlight of my day.

When I received my badge for the day, I was interested to see that it advertised Michael Connelly. As a librarian, I was familiar with the appeal of his books to thriller lovers. One of my patrons who once received books at home when she was homebound was a particular fan of his, and I always had a hard time keeping up with her request for his titles. When I learned he would be appearing at a booth that afternoon to sign copies of The Late Show, his latest release, I thought of Mrs. Nelson and knew she would love to receive her own autographed copy of this book. I made a point to attend the signing and, although the line was long, I managed to get the book, meet Michael in person, and even have a photo taken with him. It was the highlight of my day.

During BookExpo, I also attended the library programs that previewed upcoming summer and fall titles. At many of these, I was able to receive advanced reader copies of these popular forthcoming books. Since I order the fiction and mystery titles for my public library, I found these sessions very informative and knew they would help me select the most anticipated novels for my community. In addition, since we are starting an adult summer reading program this year, some of the ARC’s and exhibitor giveaways can be used as door prizes for our closing event.

Besides the signing with Michael Connelly, there were two other pleasantly unexpected events that happened to me at BookExpo. The first was discovering the Librarian’s Lounge, an oasis hidden away in the far corner of the main floor. Sponsored by Publishers Weekly and open only to librarians, this wonderful area featured food and refreshments throughout the day along with authors and book signings. In the morning, there were bagels and spreads with coffee; and, later in the day, a sweet treat of ice cream and cookies for tired librarians in need of a pick-me-up from the long day of walking around the conference center. During this afternoon break, several authors were also present to sign copies of their books.

The second nice surprise was the number of cat items for sale. At a conference for book people, I actually should’ve expected this. I picked up a black cat tote and a shirt as souvenirs and nabbed a free copy of a Grumpy Cat book.

At the close of the conference day, toting twice as many bags as I’d entered with, my friends and I headed to Penn Station for the train back to Long Island. Unfortunately, it was rush hour, no taxis were available, and the conference shuttle was nowhere in sight. We ended up walking, and I was glad I’d taken the advice of my co-workers and director and brought along a rolling suitcase and comfortable shoes. The day was still pleasant, one of the best of the season so far, so the trek to the station was an enjoyable end to a great day.

 

 

Posted in Monday blogs, Solstice Publishing

Teaching the Ins (and Outs) of Indie Publishing

I’m designing a course on Indie Publishing that I hope to teach as an adult education class at my local high school. I spoke to the continuing education program director recently, and she was enthusiastic about adding this type of class to their offerings. This won’t be my first time teaching a course, but my first one teaching a class on this subject. As a librarian, I’ve given small group instruction on various topics involving databases and computers. But now that I’ve had over two years of experience in the Indie Publishing field, I thought I would share that information with my community.

The class will be geared toward publishing with an Indie publisher, although I will briefly cover Indie self-publishing and publishing with a large publisher. The reason I chose to focus on publishing with an Indie Publisher is that I have had experience publishing my own books with two Indie publishers, but I also self-published my first with a self-publishing company. I have not yet published with a large publisher, but I am currently querying agents with one of my manuscripts in the hope of doing so one day.

Below is the blurb for the class and an outline of what I’m proposing. The outline will be developed further as I research and organize the class this summer. If you’re an author, editor, or publisher with knowledge of the Indie field, I welcome your feedback on this post. The class will be scheduled in Fall 2017 as a one and a half hour evening session. If it is well received, I may expand on it or teach multiple sessions next spring. I will have access to an Internet computer on which I plan to show websites and possibly create a photoshop presentation.  I will also distribute handouts.

How to Publish Your Book with an Indie Publisher

Have you written a book but had no luck finding a publisher? Is your manuscript turning “yellow” as you try to figure out what to do with it? Are you considering starting a writing project but afraid of being rejected before you even begin? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you will benefit from taking this course.

Note: This class will only cover fiction writing. Most Indie Publishers are not interested in non-fiction.

Course Outline

  1. What is an Indie Publisher and how do you locate one?
  2. How to submit and query an Indie Publisher
  3. The role of Social Media in Indie Publishing
  4. Signing a Contract with an Indie Publisher
  5. Promoting Your Published Book with an Indie Publisher
  6. Beyond Indie Publishing – A look at Self-publishing and the Big 5 Publishers
  7. Q&A
Posted in Monday blogs, Writing

Writing in the Age of Digital Books

Authors have always been challenged by change. Through words, they’ve sought to describe it, defy it, and even design it. The writers of today face a new challenge – gaining the attention of multi-taskers, screen skimmers, and eBook readers most of who are looking for instant fulfillment. If they don’t receive it in the first paragraph, they’re likely to put down their tablet, switch to another window, or close the book. However, there are still people who read traditional print and enjoy savoring a novel or work of literature. How do authors today satisfy both audiences?

As a librarian, as well as an author, I’m keenly aware of the shift in content from print to digital. When I started working at my public library twenty-five years ago, reference questions were answered by consulting thick books, indexes, and manuals. Today, those are replaced by online databases and search engines such as Google. The information profession has changed to meet the needs of those who want their queries met quickly. The writing profession has also had to adapt to this fast-paced quest for knowledge and entertainment.

The way that librarians and information professionals have dealt with this issue has been to offer materials in several formats including eBooks, audiobooks, large type print, and traditional print. Circulation has shown that each of these formats has significant borrowing numbers and that patrons often check out books in more than one. For instance, if a print copy is not available, many patrons will take out the large type or audio edition. In some cases, patrons prefer to borrow a book in two formats such as print and audio to help them get the most out of the material. As a reader myself, I have borrowed eBooks when a print copy was out and then switched back to the print version when it was available. Not every book, however, is published in a variety of formats. Small publishers generally only offer paperback and eBook releases. Some books today are also only published digitally.

Writers face the same challenges as librarians in meeting the changing demands of readers. Both need to address the needs of the public they serve. Authors should evaluate their marketing strategies, whether they promote their works themselves or along with their publisher. Their focus should be as diversified as possible. Even those whose books are only printed in one or two formats should promote their writing to audiences who might enjoy reading material in various ways.

To attract time-strapped readers, authors don’t necessarily have to shorten their writing, but it’s vital that they edit for conciseness without losing important content. Editors and agents usually make publishing decisions based on the first few pages or initial chapter of a manuscript. That’s because readers, crushed for time, need to be hooked by a story’s start or they will abandon the book.

Another technique that traditional, as well as Indie and self-published authors, can use to draw readers is to keep their chapters short and fast-paced. Many popular authors such as James Patterson know this trick.

When the middle of a book tends to drag, adding sub-plots can boost interest. They should enhance but not detract from the main story. Whether an author writes romances, mysteries, general fiction, or another genre, twists are also always appealing to readers. To execute them effectively, a writer should be sure to drop hints or red herrings to foreshadow the later revelations.

Another way that authors can gain the attention of today’s easily distracted reader is to develop relatable, multi-dimensional characters. There’s a current trend toward multiracial, LGBT, disabled and other diverse protagonists. That doesn’t mean a writer can’t feature a white heterosexual man or woman as the main character, but the fellow or lady should have some hobbies or idiosyncrasies. Maybe he’s an FBI agent and an ornithologist who spots a criminal while he’s bird watching or she’s a doctor with a black belt in martial arts who falls in love with her karate instructor. In my recent novella, one of my main characters is a CPA and a jewel thief who also likes cats.

Another factor to consider when trying to hold a reader’s attention is research. Most authors realize its importance even in fiction books. In our information-driven society, research poses no problem for writers. However, as a librarian, I’m aware of the dangers of websites that post unverified data. Writers should be wary, too, because the current plethora of sources allows readers to quickly catch false facts. Research also needs to be incorporated into the text without the use of lengthy or technical jargon. Readers desire to have their curiosities appeased but don’t want to be drowned in unnecessary details. A quick but accurate fix is what they demand. Tell them why specific plants flourish in a certain soil but don’t provide step by step instructions on how to plant the rest of the garden. Explain why a particular poison was used for the murder but don’t classify all the others.

What else can draw easily-bored readers to a book? While it’s true that books aren’t judged by their covers, having an appealing one can help but far from guarantee that it will be chosen from among all those on the shelf, website, or catalog. Having experience in reader’s advisory by selecting books for my library’s homebound patrons and editing and reviewing our monthly staff picks, I’ve found what I believe is a magnet that can attract readers to a certain title regardless of whether they are twenty something or eighty years or older, whether they rush through a book or read every word. I call that magnet, “emotional realism.” A book may be edited excellently. It can contain beautiful prose. Its characters can be unique; its storyline compelling; but if it can’t touch the reader, make them laugh or cry, feel surprise or fear, then that book can’t compete for a reader’s time with television or the movies.

How does a fiction author create emotional realism in their writing? They need to write about a situation that they’ve experienced and fictionalize it. There are many ways to do this. In between writing my novels, I started working on a collection of short stories from different periods in my life. As I composed them, I made subtle changes to the characters, setting, or plot, but I kept the basic experiences intact. I wrote the scenes as fresh and with as much feeling as I had lived them and embellished them to make them even more interesting and impassioned. My memories provided the realism that I hoped would ring true for readers and my imagination took those feelings and strengthened them.

Emotional realism is a strong weapon in the war against apathetic readers. If you write a love story, is it yours or someone else’s? If you can’t visualize the emotions your character is feeling, then neither will the reader. What if you read a love story? Does it help you recall your own romances or are you drawn into the embraces created by the author?

While escapism is often a goal of today’s readers (as are video games, television shows, and other such activities), the best escapism is often into one’s soul. That’s not to say that books can’t take you away to a sun-drenched beach, a 1920’s flapper dance, or even another planet. However, while settings can transport you in space and time, emotional realism provides the most rewarding escape. Once you’ve drawn in readers, emotional realism is what keeps them turning the page, swiping the screen, or listening to the audio. They need to feel involved, part of the action and experiences you’ve created for them. Stun them with incredible revelations. Break their hearts with tender, unrequited love. Keep them guessing and feeling until the end of the story and then make them sorry it’s over.

After writing a book that will appeal to readers on the different levels I mentioned, the final step is to promote it. This may be the most difficult task an author faces. There are so many advertising opportunities that a writer can practically go broke purchasing them. Those promotions that are low-cost or free still require a great deal of time to research, implement, and maintain. Which ones are worth the time, effort, and expense? The key, of course, is to know your book and the best audience for it. If your book would interest eBook readers, marketing it online might be best. You could check out Facebook and Twitter ads. Look for blogs where you could guest post or be interviewed about your book. There are also companies that host blog tours and Facebook groups where readers and writers can interact. I created my own group where the characters in my cozy mysteries take turns hosting each month and answering questions from my readers. Giveaways are also popular and can be part of a contest or for subscribing to your newsletter or blog. These don’t need to be costly. If your book is sold primarily on Amazon, a reader would appreciate an Amazon gift certificate—or you can give away an eBook copy of your own book. Most publishers will give authors a free PDF and/or Mobi (Kindle) file of their works, while print copies usually are only available for a discount.

If, on the other hand, your audience prefers traditional books, your best bet for promoting your writing could be through author appearances at Barnes and Noble stores, local author talks at libraries and community centers, small bookstores, and other venues that welcome speakers. There are groups that also host book signings, and authors can also sell their books and/or speak about them at writer’s conferences.

When creating marketing plans for your books, keep in mind that your focus interest group may overlap between reading platforms as was mentioned earlier. Many eBook enthusiasts also read print books. Audio listeners sometimes also use eReaders or read regular or large type books. The best promotional approach is through trial and error. Keep track of your sales and see what ad or appearance favorably impacts it. You can check your royalty statements and/or online sales through Amazon and sites such as Novel Rank. Timing is also important. Many authors offer holiday promotions for readers who might purchase books as gifts for their friends and family. Just remember that the market will be crowded with these offers at this time. You might try a campaign during the middle of the winter when people are staying indoors and looking for something to read. The summer can also be a good time for paperback beach reads and those who are traveling by car listening to audiobooks. Don’t rule out the spring and fall either. Avid readers seek books all year long.

Facing the changing world of the written word can seem overwhelming to fiction authors, but taking these ten steps can help:

  1. Start off with a bang. Make sure your first paragraph, page, and chapter are compelling.
  2. Write fast-paced chapters. Keep them concise and end with a mini cliffhanger to maintain reader interest.
  3. Add sub-plots and twists for more depth.
  4. Create multi-dimensional characters who jump off the page and into a reader’s heart or nightmares.
  5. Research details accurately.
  6. Touch your readers with scenes packed with emotional realism based on true but fictionally-enhanced experiences.
  7. Set your story in an interesting locale and/or time period.
  8. Determine your audience and design a flexible marketing plan.
  9. Check out online and in-person promotional opportunities.
  10. Evaluate your success by your sales figures.

It’s a brave new world for authors as well as information professionals, but remember that the variety of platforms for books today means more chances to showcase your work in different formats to a wider audience.

Posted in Books, Monday blogs

Why Most Indie Books Don’t Get Shelf Space in Libraries

A fellow author suggested I write this post to let other Indie authors and those who publish with small presses understand how books are selected for purchase by libraries. The reason I’m qualified to write this is that I’m a librarian at a public library and am in charge of ordering the fiction titles for our collection.

As part of my job, I select books from reviews written in publishing journals. Our library uses Booklist. Other popular professional journals include Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. The books reviewed in these journals tend to be from the traditional Big 5 publishers. However, Booklist and Library Journal have both started adding sections devoted to self-published books. Kirkus offers an Indie Review service for a fee. Library Journal offers a database for local authors, Self-e by Biblioboard, that includes free downloads of self-published eBooks. Our library had previewed this database but did not feel it would be useful to our community at this time because we already use Overdrive, a popular library database for free eBooks.

How are print books selected for libraries? At our library, we divide ordering among the reference librarians. Books are primarily chosen through library journals as mentioned above and by patron request. We also order high-demand titles from the New York Times Bestseller List. Orders are placed through Baker & Taylor’s online ordering system. We receive a library discount for the books ordered. Unfortunately, most Indie books are not listed on B & T. For those we can’t obtain through them, we use Amazon.com. Some libraries use Ingram. Ordering budgets are set up for different types of books and materials – fiction, non-fiction, Audio, Video, Periodicals, etc. Depending on a library’s size, these budgets can be small or large. Our library serves a community of 40,000 people. However, not all our residents are library card holders, and we also welcome residents from neighboring libraries.

Even if a library stays within its budget, another factor needed to consider when ordering books is how much room is available on their shelves. Librarians are constantly weeding out damaged, old, or low circulating books to make room for new and bestselling titles. For this reason, they have to be selective. That doesn’t mean libraries don’t order any self-published or small press books. I often have local authors send me or bring in literature about their books. Some offer to donate the book if we place it on our shelves. The problem is that these books, if added to the collection, are rarely borrowed unless they are put on display or reviewed in our staff picks newsletter that is distributed in the library and also posted online. The reason is obvious. Without a name like Patterson, Grisham, Clark, Roberts, etc., a new author doesn’t yet have a following. These authors started out in the discard pile when they began and now some of their books are being reprinted to a larger audience.

So what should an Indie author or one who publishes with an Indie Press do to get their book in libraries? This is a question that I, as a librarian and author, have asked myself. While I’ve managed to have my books purchased by my library (of course, I’m the one in charge of ordering fiction), I haven’t had as much luck with other libraries. A few of the libraries in my county have purchased my books after I’ve made calls to fellow librarians, advertised in my library association’s newsletter, participated in an interview by my local paper, and done some author talks for nearby libraries. Since I haven’t had much success, I can imagine how difficult it would be for those authors who aren’t librarians.

But is having a library buy your book an important goal? Although some of the patrons at my library and also staff members who have heard me talk have purchased autographed copies of my books, most of them just borrow my books. That doesn’t do anything for my sales rating or my royalty checks. If I could get libraries across the country to buy my book, that would be another matter. There are 9,041 public libraries in the United States according to statistics from the American Library Association. This figure was last updated in 2014, so there may be more or less at this time. I wouldn’t mind 9,000 sales. But since many libraries are part of larger systems as my library is, there would be no need for each library to buy a copy when they could interloan or share it among their system libraries. That’s if there’s even a demand for it beyond the library that purchased it.

I figure that the reason libraries don’t purchase many Indie books is the same reason they purchase very few textbooks. According to a Bowker report, 700,000 Indie books were published in 2015. With these figures growing annually, it would be impossible for libraries (and bookstores, too) to keep up with the demand and find room on their shelves for these titles. However, if your book is of local interest, if it’s appeared in your local paper, or been reviewed anywhere (Amazon usually doesn’t count), or if you are a regular patron at your home library, you could give it a shot. It never hurts to try, and you never know, your book might be chosen for your library’s book talk group or staff picks newsletter. At the very least, it might end up shelved between some popular authors or in the local author section if your library has one.

 

Posted in Contest, Monday blogs

Are Writing Contests Worth Entering?

If you’re an author, even an unpublished one, you may have submitted your work to a writing contest. There are many different kinds of competitions with various fees, prizes, and awards. How can you choose ones that you have a good chance of winning and that will further your career as a writer? There’s no easy answer to this question. It’s a matter of what you are willing to spend, what type of writing you do, and what you hope to achieve by winning. Like submitting your work to a publisher or agent, winning a writing contest usually involves the right mix of talent and luck.

Why do authors enter writing contests? Are they worth the time and expense? Shouldn’t published authors concentrate their efforts on writing and submitting to publishers and publications instead? There are many benefits to entering contests even if you don’t win. Some provide feedback and constructive criticism to entrants. Others consider non-winning entries for future publication. Learning how to follow contest rules and gear your writing toward a specific topic or audience is also a good experience for an author.

What type of contests are there, and how do you find them? There are many types of writing competitions. Some are sponsored by popular writing magazines. Writer’s Digest offers a large number of contests including those for short stories, popular fiction, self-published books, non-fiction, and poetry. The Writer Magazine hosts a monthly contest on a specific writing theme. Both these magazines also include lists of other competitions in their print and online versions. For their own contests, they charge a small entry fee and offer publication in an issue as a prize. Writer’s Digest also awards prize money to the top winners of their annual competition along with a feature article on the author and a free ticket and travel expenses to attend their annual writing conference in New York City. The deadline for this year’s contest is May 5. While magazine contests are highly competitive, the promotion and recognition winners receive make entering worthwhile for new as well as established authors. I have submitted to both these contests and have not yet won (my current submission, an Essay for the June issue of The Writer, is still under review ). Another good source of listings for contests, grants, and awards is Poets & Writers a magazine that you can subscribe to online and receive as a print subscription.

The highly coveted Muse Medallion Prize in the Cat Writer’s Association Contest (photo courtesy of the Cat Writer’s Association website)

Organizations also host writing contests. These are usually announced in their membership newsletter and/or on their website. Costs vary depending on the prizes offered. While competition is still tough, entries are restricted to members. A group I belong to, the Cat Writer’s Association, sponsors a contest each year of non-fiction and fiction writing as well as media related to cats. The entries are judged by professional members and are limited to those published the previous year. Last year, I won the special Glamour Puss award from the Hartz Corporation for my article, Brush Your Cat For Bonding, Beauty, and Better Health in Catster Magazine. I received a monetary award along with a beautiful engraved glass plaque that I treasure. This year, I’d hoped to win the MUSE medallion, the highest award the association awards to the finest writing. Although my three entries did not score high enough to be eligible for this coveted prize, it has motivated me to strive to improve my work to one day meet this goal.

For those who are self-published or write for small publishers, there are many Indie Awards up for grabs. I recently came across a list of the best ones according to the Non-Fiction Author’s Association. Here is their list with links to the contests:

Ben Franklin Book Awards
Recognizing independently published books.
http://ibpabenjaminfranklinawards.com/

Global Ebook Awards
The first awards program exclusively for ebooks, founded by self-publishing godfather Dan Poynter.
http://globalebookawards.com/

Foreword Book of the Year
Hosted by Foreword magazine, this is an indie-friendly awards program.
https://www.forewordreviews.com/services/book-awards/botya/

Nautilus Book Awards
Recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living, and positive social change. http://www.nautilusbookawards.com/

National Indie Excellence Book Awards
Many categories to choose from and honoring independently published titles.
http://www.indieexcellence.com/

The Eric Hoffer Awards
Recognizing excellence in independently produced books.
http://www.hofferaward.com/

Winning “badges” from the Reader’s Favorites contest.

Other popular online writing contests include the Kindle Book Awards and those sponsored by Reader’s Favorites and Authorsdb. This past year, I won 2nd place in the P&E Reader’s poll for my mystery, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and 4th place in the Fantasy Short Story category for my story, The Path to Rainbow Bridge.

Social media writing contests also abound. I’ve participated in Twitter’s Pit2pub hosted by author Kristin D. Van Risseghem. By participating in this event, I found my first and current publisher. The first 250 pages of my unpublished novel, Sea Scope, was among the 50 entries also recently selected in a lottery for Miss Snarks’ First Victim contest where a secret literary agent will critique all entries after fellow contestants comment on them. During Other Twitter writing competitions include PitMad and Pitch Wars. Information and dates for each contest can be found on various blogs, the most popular one written by Brenda Drake.

Publishers also hold their own contests for their authors. My publisher, Solstice Publishing, is currently hosting a cover contest. My mystery, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, is one of the entries. Voting takes place here, and those who vote are eligible to win prizes donated by authors.

If you know of any other writing contests I haven’t included in this post, please list it below. I wish you luck on your winning entries.