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The perils and joys of book marketing

I love marketing my Beyond mystery books. I learn so much from all that I do and meet so many interesting people – other mystery writers, readers, librarians and booksellers. But lately I’ve been experiencing an ongoing problem – so is my publisher – so are the Indigo chain booksellers who try to order in Beyond Faith, the latest in my Beyond mystery series.

I have touched on this in a previous post, but since then the problem has again arisen or as I suspect, never was fixed. What happens is when the managers from the Indigo book chain stores tried to order in Beyond Faith they get an error message and the order cannot be processed. No problem ordering in copies of Beyond Blood, the previous novel in the series.

Twice my publisher Blue Denim Press has had to email the distributor (ingram Sparks) and twice the distributor has rebroadcast the book info to Indigo and all done electronically. The first one didn’t work as one store manager found out and let me know politely in an email. I got right back to her by phone and then contacted my publisher. He wasn’t too happy about the situation and I don’t blame him.

But it isn’t just my Beyond Faith book. Several other authors who have different publishers (and perhaps different distributors?? I don’t know about that) have run into the same problem. One of their books can be ordered in by Indigo but not the most recent one.

And before you start blaming Indigo, the weirdest thing is the other author, Michael Robert Dyet, whose book Hunting Muskie was published by Blue Denim Press at the same time as Beyond Faith has had no problems with Indigo ordering in books to their bricks and mortars stores. Another strange thing – Beyond Faith can be ordered in to the bricks and mortars independent bookstores.

Which makes me wonder if it isn’t the distributor but maybe a computer glitch somewhere along the line.

Or maybe gremlins doing some random targetting.

In this overly digital world anything weird is possible.

Meantime I’ve been back and forth with the indigo chain  – three bookstores where a possible book signing or other appearance is possible. A presentation  with other Crime Writers of Canada published authors is already booked – and that’s where i found out there are other others in the same limbo boat.

At least the Indigo owned bookstores give me (and other authors) the option of selling Beyond Faith on consignment for these events (and possibly leaving copies left over to be placed in the stores’ bookshelves for a bit). And Beyond Faith is still available at Indigo online in paperback and e-copy as you can see with the link from the book cover at the top of this post.

Here’s the flyer for that Crime Writers of Canada event April 18. If you are in the Toronto area, please come to it. it’s free and wlll be different. I’ll give more details about it in my next post.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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Unexpected snafus when marketing your book

Click on book for more info

I love promoting my Beyond books – in person (alone or with other authors) or on social media. Sure, it is a lot of work but it can get very creative. However, one thing, actually many things have come up, under one category to slow or stop the process – snafus from outside sources, particularly connected to computers and other digital stuff.

Here’s what I’ve been dealing with to promote Beyond Faith. Warning: some of it might sound a bit odd and at least unexpected and unwelcome.

My Beyond books are available online in both paperback and e-copy in many outlets world-wide. But to get them in bookstores the bookstore has to order them in at either my request or someone who walks into a bricks and mortars bookstore and wants a copy. If I have already persuaded the bookstore to order in a copy, then the customer can buy it. Otherwise it can be ordered in.

That’s the way it is supposed to work and has with Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood. My publisher’s distributor sends electronically all the info to all these bookstore.

Not for the Indigo Chapters Coles chain. And this was not the chain’s fault. Imagine my surprise when I went into a Coles bookstore and the manager was so enthusiastic to order in Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood and have me do a book signing, but when she went to order them in (while I was there) no problem with BB, but she couldn’t do so with BF. She advised me to contact my publisher and when it was fixed she would order them in and set up a book signing.

I emailed my publisher right away and he got on it right away, even ccing me with his email to the distributor. A customer service guy from the latter emailed me and said it was being forwarded to their tech dept. to fix. Yes, it was a computer glitch from the distributor. Since then, my publisher let me know it has been fixed so I emailed the bookstore manager and just hope this message hasn’t screwed up her still wanting to order in my books and have me do a book signing.

And the bookseller company isn’t completely guilt-free as there is another problem – the book cover for Beyond Faith shows fine on their website for ordering in for the e-copy but for the print copy (which presumably can now be ordered in) shows no book cover  – just a standard book graphic with the message that the book cover graphic isn’t available. I contacted the bookstore online customer service and got an email that I had to contact the new author section and gave me an email. Somebody from there emailed me and said they could fix it if i emailed them a jpeg of the book cover – and proceeded to give me the size and dimensions and dpi required and the file name to use. i had to find the larger book cover graphic on my computer . Even with my organized file system it wasn’t that easy to find and then I had to rename file and find it again. And yes I used my computer’s Search function.

It doesn’t help that I have limited sight in my left eye.  Which explains any typos I may have not caught and corrected after reading the preview of my posts.

But I sent the book cover graphic and got a reply that the jpeg is okay but it will take a few days for them to get fixed.

At least all the replies to me from the bookseller customer service, etc. came quickly

Like I said I like doing book promo – the legwork – in person and the finger work online including social media. But trying to remedy others mistakes? Especially technical ones?

Nah!

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Don’t forget the libraries and librarians

Crime Writers of Canada authors at the OLA convention

We authors sometimes either forget or minimize one big resource. We are too busy doing research online, selling our books through Amazon and the like, connecting through Twitter and Facebook. This resource has been around a long time before anything online. I’m talking about the public library.

And if you think libraries are all about print books in the actual library, think again. With a library card (free), you can borrow e-books online, put  books on hold online, renew books online and yes, do research  online through your library’s connection with data bases. Some libraries even have online access to big city newspapers. And yes, you can still physically visit your libraries. I do and when I’m there I see teenagers and others using either the library’s computers or working away on their laptops. Yes libraries are connected to the Internet and it is less messy than sitting in a cafe with a laptop and risk spilling your coffee on the keyboard. It is also quieter.

There are also art exhibits, programs and presentations on business to health and wellness, to gardening to learning computer and online functions to writers’ groups to talks by book authors and workshops and courses- all for free.

And of course there are those books. I go to my library to pick up books (some found and put on hold online, some just from browsing in the library). And I run the East End Writers’ Group, a writing critique and guess where we meet – the library – my local big branch S. Walter Stewart in Toronto. EEWG does this in partnership with the library branch and it was one of the librarians there who asked us to meet there.

Don’t forget these librarians. They are very helpful when you are stuck with what book to get and for any other research (despite all your online work in those areas). And they are instrumental in the writing workshops and courses I teach at library branches. Although free to participants, I do get paid for teaching them

Some of us published authors from Crime Writers of Canada didn’t forget the importance of librarians last Friday. During the annual Ontario Library Association conference, CWC again had 23 of its recently book-published authors (or a book coming out in a few months) authors taking our turn in front of the mic doing  our own two-minute pitch for our books. These pitches were as diversified as the authors. My favourite was one by Dr. (as in medical) Melissa Yi who put a plastic garbage bag over  her head for a few seconds to illustrate how the bodies of some murdered Indigenous peoples are left by their killers. i channelled my main Beyond Faith book character, Dana Bowman. And the pitches weren’t  limited to books published by trade publishers. Libraries now carry self-published books as well. In the photo of us at the top, “Dana” is to the right of the CWC poster and Melissa is at the right end of this row.

My Beyond books aren’t self-published (Blue Denim Press is my publisher), but I’m happy to say that the first two,  Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood are in some of the Toronto Public library branches. And the librarian, Janet Nanos, who got EEWG into the S. Walter Stewart library branch informed me that she had put in for four copies of Beyond Faith for the TPL – just when the OLA conference was starting – just before I did my pitch.

The first two Beyond books are also n libraries in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario,  York Region (just north of Toronto) and in Prince Edward County in Eastern Ontario.

Those are the ones I know of.

It doesn’t stop there.

As authors with books in libraries, you can receive annual royalties for your books being there and number of times being borrowed. Another organization takes care of this (in Canada it is The Public Lending Rights Program administered by the Canada Council). You just have to enter your books on their form, updating it when you publish another book. This Canadian program is open for this listing-registration from mid February to May each year..

So, I have many reasons to be grateful for the public libraries and the librarians. I’ve been a big fan and library user since I was 12 years and my grade 7 teacher led all her class on a walk to visit the then new S. Walter Stewart Library branch.

It isn’t coincidence that my main library branch is the same library – since I moved back to Toronto almost 20 years ago.

Don’t forget your library and the librarians – the writer’s and reader’s best friend. The library is where readers, writers and librarians can connect.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

 

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Keeping track of fiction queries and submissions

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery.

We writers spend a lot of time writing – short stories, novels, novellas. We hone our story; we revise; we get feedback; we get it edited by a professional editor – all or some of those.

Then we send it out to a magazine to a publisher with a cover email or letter.

And then we hope, forget about it and move on to the next story.

Not quite. Something is missing. We need to put on our administrator hat and keep track of where we are sending our stories. If we don’t, we can easily forget when and maybe even where. This was brought up at the meeting of my East End Writers’ Group meeting last evening. We were talking about marketing and our newest member, a guy in his thirties talked about using spreadsheets to keep track where he sent out his writing. That reminded me of how I used to do it – not just for short stories but when I freelanced as a journalist, article ideas I pitched. Except I used tables in Word. Excel and I don’t get along too well.

There are several good reasons for doing this type of what we used to call “paperwork.” One biggie is called follow-up. If you don’t keep records of where you send what, it will suddenly dawn on you that you haven’t heard back from… and now where did I send it….(maybe the latter) about so-and-so story. So you decide to follow-up. Presuming you do remember where you sent it, you probably won’t remember when. Writing a follow-up email (or letter – there are still a few print magazines that don’t accept electronic submissions) saying something like “I’m following up on my “so-and-so” short story which I sent you sometime a few months ago…”

Sound svery professional doesn’t it? We writers have to be professional, not just in our actual writing, but in our dealings with publications and their editors. Keeping track of our stories and queries is one way to be professional. You may not want to get into Excel spreadsheets or even Word tables, and there is probably a software program for this function, but just doing a list in Word can be sufficient. Just the title of the short story, where sent (publication, editor’s name and contact info), the outcome (which could include if you have to do a followup, or the publication’s yes or no).

It also wouldn’t hurt to do what I do – I list other possibilities for sending the story, in case the first one says “no.” And as I find more info, I add it to the list.

So take some time to do this. Set it up and as soon as you send/email in a story or query, record the details.

Meantime, I’m doing something totally non-administrative early this evening. Doing a public reading from Beyond Faith, my latest Beyond mystery novel.

If you are in the Greater Toronto, Ontario, Canada area you might like to drop in to the Urban Folk Art Salon. It’s not just me, but also my colleague Michael Robert Dyet whose book Hunting Muskie Blue Denim Press launched the same time as my Beyond Faith. Plus four other performers/presenters including two folksingers  Brian Gladstone and Glen Hornblast  It’s at a public library and is free. Check it out on my Beyond Faith page – scroll down – it’s there – at least until after the event is over.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Keeping the suspense in your novel’s plot

As an editor I have read and edited a variety  of fiction manuscripts. The creativity of many of the  writers and the wide range of story lines is very interesting. But one thing (among others) I sometimes find is the lack of sufficient suspense. The story drags; the story, well, it flat lines. Here are a few tips on creating suspense in your novels.

1. Leave your reader hanging – at the end of the chapter is a good place because it not only raises the reader’s interest, it gets him or her reading the next chapter. Here is an example from my mystery novel Beyond Faith.

“From what Sister Olsen had told me about her brothers, I had some idea what might be bothering Eli. Too bad neither Eli Foster nor I had all the facts.”

2. Ask a question. You know the old saying “questions are the signs of intelligence.” Questions also make the reader want to continue to get some answers. These are questions in the narrative, the character’s inner thoughts, not in dialogue. Obviously in dialogue, another character will usually answer the question although they might lie.

Again from Beyond Faith, “Who were they? And why did one seem familiar?” (all Beyond Faith excerpts, copyright 2017, Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press.)

3. Don’t tell all at once. Keep some information from the reader. I do a lot of this in Beyond Faith. The idea is you build up your plot with tidbits even if the character knows more than she is letting on. This is just the opposite from the example in point one above.

4. Use foreshadowing.This is often in conjunction with another technique. Again, see the example in point one above. Another example of foreshadowing is when the character is heading for an encounter they don’t relish. Perhaps with someone they don’t like and know is a nasty person. Build up the tension by getting inside the character’s head. How does the character feel? Scared? Are they sweating? Do they try to avoid meeting this character or delay the meeting by driving the long way to the meeting place. If it is in a restaurant, do they drink a lot, drop the cutlery, knock over a glass of water?

5. Or as a twist, the person is overly confident about meeting someone – a piece of cake, the character thinks. Then, wham, when they get to the meeting place, something happens – a car runs her down; someone takes a shot at her. She finds the person there all right at the meeting place – lying dead on the ground. You can tell I write mystery novels.

6. One suspense-building technique that I use is to have two main characters both heading for the same place at the same time – maybe one knows the other is there; maybe not. But one or both of them know that there is danger at the other end. Each one is racing to get there and perhaps save the other. You flip back and forth between the characters in separate scenes or short chapters. Show the reader what each character is thinking and what is happening to them. And don’t make it easy. In Beyond Faith I have PI Dana Bowman following Eli Foster in their respective cars; then I flip over to her fraternal twin, Pi Bast Overture who is not following anyone, but he has found out vital information about another character and figures out what this character is going to do so he is off to stop it. And no, I don’t tell all to the reader. And I’m not telling you any more here.

There are many more ways to create suspense. The twisted plot is one. And you can get ideas by reading published novels, the ones that do build suspense. Yes some crappy novels get published and I am not referring to self-published here.

And keep writing and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.

And join a writing critique group for feedback.

And when you have rewritten a lot, hire an editor.

Then you can do some more rewriting.

I just started reading Hunting Muskie, a collection of literary short stories by Michael Robert Dyet (Blue Denim Press, fall 2017 – yes, same publisher as me). The first story “Slipstream”, has many plot threads popping up – all connected to a theme. And it keeps you reading. It also breaks the idea that some people have (mea culpa sometimes here) – that all literary stories don’t contain suspense.This one sure does have suspense.

Happy reading and happy writing.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Beyond Faith – some thoughts on holding the book

As you can see from the picture I finally have a print copy of Beyond Faith in my hands. Actually several copies which the editor at my publisher’s Blue Denim Press just brought here  – some copies for Bouchercon and some for other author events where the publisher or a bookseller isn’t present. It was getting tiring, especially to my bad eyes, to deal with e-copies only. And again as you can see, it shows on my face. That tired look isn’t just from not enough sleep, it is partly because I’ve been getting out invitations to my book launch – again online. My face may be in permanent squint mode.

But to finally hold a copy does fill me with joy and a sense of accomplishment  (despite the clutter behind me in my office). It was a long road of  many revisions, two switches in book launch dates, but it is worth it. One friend said I was really proving myself as an artist. And (this is me, talking), I do get a lot of fun out of it as I can commit murder –  all between the books covers, of course. Another friend I used to work with many many years ago – we connected through Linked In –  is coming to the book launch – we haven’t seen each other in years and years and…

I guess what I’m trying to say to anyone who is writing a book – fiction or non-fiction, a short story, poetry, a play, whatever. The going may be very uphill, not only with the writing, but with getting it published or presented. Don’t give up. Think of yourself holding that book (a real print book – e-books won’t do it) or performing in a play, or… you supply the outcome.

Keep the long-range goal and wish in mind.

And keep on writing.

I plan to follow my own advice – once the book launch is over .

Here is the book cover up close without my sorry face in the way.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford.

 

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Beyond Faith is here – some author thoughts on writing, rewriting and publishing

Beyond Faith has arrived at Blue Denim Press – my publisher. Soon I will get some print copies in my hands; soon it will be available on both the main Amazon site and the Canadian Amazon site. Check these current links for when. The book launch is still scheduled for October 22 at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar; I’m headed for Bouchercon the big mystery writers conference Oct. 11 to Oct. 15, and etc.

Whew! I need to take a deep breath and think. Think about how an author gets to this stage – at least this author – and how it feels.

This is my third Beyond book but still the elation, wonder and gratitude is there – just like  with the first book, and the second book. Although supposedly I am an old-hand at all this (and that is a myth – you always learn from each book’s writing, each book’s marketing – the whole she-bang). Among other things, with Beyond Faith, I learned a lot about revisions and working with the editor at my publisher’s. Some of you may know that I am also an editor, albeit a freelance one. Sometimes experience on both sides of the fence can be a help; sometimes not. The main thing is to remember which side of the fence you are on at that time. Sure past editing experience may help you with rewriting, but you are not the editor. Having said that, the book editor and the book author must not work at cross-purposes. You have to work together to create the best book possible. I like to think that’s how Shane and I brought Beyond Faith to publication.

The little voice in my head is whispering, “I should hope so – after eight revisions requested by Shane since the first submission. And that’s not counting all the revisions pre-submission and when I made all the changes, additions and deletions with each revision. It doesn’t come with the first try. Revision 1, Revision 2 and so on required several rewrites, only to go back the next day to make more changes to that revision.

In between all this and even during, my mind was whirling around with ideas of what and how. Sometimes I had to go out to my garden and pull weeds; sometime go for a walk, sometimes sleep on it. I don’t think I dreamed up any ideas, but sometimes when I woke up, an idea was there in my mind.

Shane would make suggestions for what needed changing and even say something had to go because it didn’t work. One example is in a scene I  had with David, Dana Bowman’s seven-year-old son, who was out walking the dog, Buddy, with his babysitter. The sitter goes into the drugstore and David and Buddy have a confrontation with a couple of the other characters. Shane pointed out that a seven-year-old, particularly David, wouldn’t talk like that. So, I had to do some rewriting to keep the plot intact but make David, well David. Usually I can do this, but something was definitely off. I was also told to put in more menace to have something frighten David then. And I did.

So while waiting for the publisher to deliver the actual print book author copies, I feel a sense of accomplishment, relief but also some trepidation. Because Beyond Faith now has to sell. And while I love doing book promo, there are never enough hours in the day to do all that I think is needed for that. And I am still learning how to do many of those things.

And do you know what is high on my list of impediments to doing book promo? Same as gets in my way of writing.

Screw-ups and other problems in other areas of my life – especially those caused by what I call “outside” – others screwing up, bad weather and the like. Things like unexpected house repairs, health issues, other people wanting me to do things for them now, late and delayed public transportation, bureaucratic and bank errors – all things that steal from my time.

And yes, they all make fodder for future stories. Some of them are at the basis of some of the happenings in Beyond Faith – all fictionalized, changed to be more menacing than in real life. Sorry, folks, not telling which happenings or even which characters fit that category. I will say that I do have an axe since 2014, but it’s used for chopping the ice that sometimes forms on sidewalks in the winter, not for chopping up people.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

author of the Beyond mystery series

Sharon holding up the previous 2 Beyond books at WOTS

 

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