Monthly Archives: January 2010

Snacks for Every Writing Project: “Sweet Success” Balls!

The trials and tribulations of going from visionary to writer to author are daunting at best but along the way, there are oh-so-many reasons to celebrate. Small successes lead to big ones and taking a moment to recognize and shout out a success, even just to yourself and the computer monitor, is very important.

You must celebrate the successes that mark your journey!

  • Realizing that you have developed a unique approach for a unique story
  • Creating a wonderful plot outline
  • Finishing your first draft
  • The ah-hah moment that comes during the critique
  • Starting your rewrite with enthusiasm and promise
  • Getting half way through the hated rewrite
  • Finishing your WIP
  • Writing the perfect query letter
  • Getting your first request for more
  • Signing with an agent
  • Signing with the perfect publisher
  • Getting your book deal
  • Selling your first international rights
  • Realizing that you’ve just developed a unique approach for a story
  • And so it goes …

There are a thousand reasons to celebrate this blessed life of a writer! And I suggest you enjoy them with a tiny sweet taste of “Sweet Success” balls! Quick and easy to make, no baking and they last as long as you can keep from scarfing them all down. Don’t miss the variations on this recipe. Oh, and don’t get drunk. It may hinder the road to your next success, LOL.

“Sweet Success” Balls (Amaretto Version)

1# Vanilla Wafers ( most boxes hold 12 oz. so you may need 2 boxes)

1 C Fine Chopped Walnuts

3 tsp Cocoa

½ C Lt Corn Syrup

¼ C Amaretto

1 C Powdered Sugar

Using a food processor, fine chop the Vanilla Wafers and pour into large bowl. Fine chop the walnuts, then add to the same bowl with the Cocoa, Corn Syrup and Amaretto. Mix by hand until completely blended and tight enough to roll into a 1” ball (if not wet enough, add a little corn syrup and/or amaretto at a time until nice balls will form. Roll each ball in powder sugar and place them into a container that seals tightly.

The “Sweet Success” balls are delicious right away but oh-so-much better if left to sit, sealed in the container for a day or two.


“Sweet Success” Rum Balls – substitute dark, Spiced Rum for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Orange Balls – substitute Grand Marnier for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Mint Balls – substitute Crème de Mint for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Hazelnut Balls – substitute Frangelico for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Mexican Balls – substitute Kahlua for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Peanut Butter Balls – substitute Peanut Butter for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Raspberry Balls – substitute Raspberry Jam for amaretto

Enjoy! Next week: Comfort food snacks to survive the rejections.

Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 6

PART SIX: Planning an Effective Pre-launch

I once met an author whose book was coming onto the market in three short weeks, and she’d been incorrectly told not to promote it until it was out and available.


Okay, now I feel better and so should you. You see, there’s a certain madness that overcomes authors when they get close to seeing their book in the flesh. It makes them forget all the good sense that got them to that point in the first place. I call it The Dreaded Almost Famous Syndrome. It causes all kinds of crazy things to mix and mash in your head until it’s a pulverized tomato soup, you know the kind I mean, right out of the can and tasting like nothing … not even tomatoes.

But never fear, there is a cure for The Dreaded Almost Famous Syndrome and it’s far simpler than you think.


Here goes.


Told ya it was simple. Common sense. See, as the circus rings tighten around you and everything in the big top is bright and shiny and distracting, there’s a very simple way to extract yourself from those terrible “squirrel” moments and stay on track. Just use your head. All the experts in the world and all your friends and all those strangers who come out of the woodwork to give you advice (some out of caring, most for money) are going to start sounding like an off-key brass band tuning up. If you use your head and categorize all the ideas that are being lobbed your way, you will see things clearly. You are smart. And you are definitely smart enough to instinctively know when a piece of advice seems wrong.

That author I mentioned in the beginning? Well after we chatted a bit, she said the words I knew were coming. “Oh my God, I thought that might be wrong! It didn’t seem to make sense, I just didn’t know what else to do but follow the plan and wait until after the book came out. Now what do I do?”

I told her not to panic, and I suggested that from that day forward to always remember: No matter the advice, if it doesn’t smell like apple pie and it doesn’t look like apple pie … it probably isn’t apple pie. In other words, she needed to trust her instincts and promote her book.

A successful pre-launch campaign for any book hinges tightly to your platform. Who are you talking to and where are you visible? How many audiences have you created? If it’s your mom and that nice kid at the Home Depot, you don’t have a platform. If you’ve built your platform carefully and developed a visibility, your audience – all those followers who never miss your blog, chime in on twitter, support you at the critique groups and asked to be on your mailing list – has been there through it all. They’ve watched your initial struggles with writing or rewriting or editing your book. They’ve stood and cheered when you got an agent or found a publisher perfect for your book. They’ve listened to you talk about the book cover and shouted rousing congratulations when you finally showed them how it looks. They pop in at your book website often to see what’s new and get the skinny on your progress. And if you’ve done this well, that group of followers has grown and grown.


Now, time for the countdown. Three months before your book comes out (two weeks before if e-published) you begin your hype. Using every venue you’ve cultivated with your social and professional networking, you announce when the book will be available. You begin promoting pre-sales of the book. You send out your first of six well crafted press releases, making sure to target local papers and publications, radio and television stations. Go the distance by sending that same press release to your friends, family and associates. Arrange a book Launch Party with a local independent bookstore or library and begin compiling an invitation list. Be sure to include other authors, friends, family members, business associates and local media (newspaper, television and radio) on that list.


Two months before the launch, you strike again, but make sure your message is bigger, denser and more powerful. Now you take any early copies of the book and seek reviews. You begin booking yourself to speak and have events at libraries, coffee shops, bookstores and book clubs. Another press release, this time attaching your photo, the book cover and announcing the venues where the book will be available and where it is already available for preorder.


Books in hands from the publisher? Get them out and visible. Carry them to the local independent bookstores and libraries and show them off. Arrange for book events. Keep your ears perked for major book events you may want to participate in.


Get your Launch Part invitations out. Send out another press release about the Launch Party. Respond immediately to RSVPs. Hopefully you’ve already begun speaking at groups and libraries and by this point, have most likely been interviewed for a few radio shows or online shows. You’ve been invited to guest blog and have hyped the coming launch on your book website, your own blog, twitter, facebook and every email groups you belong too.


Now you can hear harmonizing circus music, but don’t let it distract you. You’re very close, be sure to keep the momentum up. Continue to contact and schedule speaking engagements, even if it’s at a local high school writing class. You need to be as visible as your book. Continue to let everyone know where they can preorder a “signed” copy of your book, and keep telling everyone the launch date.


Send a press release announcing everything important, that the book launches that day, where it can be purchased, where you have been interviewed and the great reviews you’ve gotten. Get over to your blog (there’s time before the party, honest) and give your followers your heartfelt thanks for taking the journey with you. Get to your book website and splash that banner that the book is now available! Keep your site media room up to date and loaded with activity so everyone knows where they can see you or hear you speak.

Now, go to your party, have a glass or three of champagne, enjoy the crowd and pat yourself on the back for making the day what it should be. Doing an effective pre-launch you’ve accomplished several things.

  • You’ve pre-sold books
  • You’ve become visible and created a demand for your book
  • You’ve made yourself media available and created a buyer following
  • You’ve eliminated the stress of worrying about failure because you’ve done your part to assure success.

Now, of course, every book and every pre-launch will be different. Some topics may easily lend themselves to exciting, highly visible exposure. Others may take a bit more push. The level of push is all on your shoulders though. It’s you’re choice. You’re the author and it’s your baby. Up to you.

(Want to know more about press campaigns? I’m considering a series on it, so let me know)

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time

Lesson one, The Rhyme and Reason

Lesson two, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lesson three, Developing Your Unique Hooks

Lesson four, Getting Attention

Lesson five, Knowing Your Market

Snacks for Every Writing Project: “Rewriting” Balls

I’ve just gone through a serious rewrite, a rewrite that taught me more about writing than any brand-new-original project or how-to book ever has. It started with a mentor (wait, let me adjust that, I started with AN AMAZING MENTOR), several honest, outspoken readers and a crapload of determination. It ended in a four month struggle to open my eyes. It seemed hopeless and more than once I thought about just giving up on the book. Then suddenly, like pixie dust had sprinkled from the heavens onto my thick head … it all clicked … leading me into a frenzied re-rewrite that has truly helped this writer turn the corner. My novel now has powerful plot and character development, several twists, and a writer who actually feels completely great about it.

And if you’re a writer, you know exactly what I mean by that. We’ve all felt good about a piece of writing, we’ve even felt real good about it, but how often can you honestly say you felt completely great about it? Completely great doesn’t mean I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’ll be discovered, fought over by several agents and catapulted into the upper echelon of successful authors. I mean, sure, it could happen, but when I say I feel completely great about this final rewrite, I mean that my personal best has jumped the wire, and that wire was set higher then ever before. I succeeded and know that this book, or the next (which by the way, I’ve already excitedly begun), or the one after that has a much higher chance of success.

The next steps? “Cold in California” will be entered into the 2010 ABNA competition next Monday, and I will be querying the novel and series over the next few weeks. Scary stuff but you know what? I really do feel completely great about it.

YAY FOR ME! I had the balls to face my writing, plotting and character development demons and during it all, I did what all writers do when they write. I ate to keep up my strength.

This blog is about snacks for every writing project, so today’s recipe is savory, to reflect the aromatic experience facing the rewrite dragons in your closet. Time to bring the tropics to your desk!

Caribbean Langostino Balls

1 lb. Cooked, Cleaned Langostinos (at the grocery store, frozen case or seafood counter)

½ C Red Peppers, small diced

1 T Scallions, thin sliced

¼ C Mayonnaise

½ tsp Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (more if you like spicy/sweet)

S&P to taste

2 Eggs, whisked with 1 T water

1 C Breadcrumbs, dry, unseasoned

Preeheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop langostinos and combine with diced red peppers, sliced scallions, mayo and Jerk seasoning. Mixture should be tight enough to form into small (1”) balls. If not, add a little dried unseasoned breadcrumbs to tighten – if mixture is not wet enough, add a little mayo. Roll balls in breadcrumbs, then egg mixture and then breadcrumbs again until well coated. Set balls on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

Langostino balls can be refrigerated and reheated for munching later. Yummy hot or cold.

Pirate Trunk Dipping Sauce

½ C Apricot Preserves

1 T Dark Rum

¼ tsp Dry Mustard

Mix and heat


Substitute lump crab meat for langostinos.

Substitute ¼ t dried mustard, ¼ t Old Bay seasoning and a dash of cayenne pepper for Jerk Seasoning.

For even more spicy Caribbean Langostino Balls, add another ½ t jerk seasoning to the breadcrumbs for coating.

A variation on the dipping sauce is to mix equal parts Raspberry Jam with Dijon Mustard.

Enjoy! Next week: Sweet balls, for that sweet feeling of success after reaching your writing goals. After all, it’s common knowledge that it takes a lot of balls to do the job well.

Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 5

PART FIVE: Knowing Your Market

Who are you writing for? What do they look like? Where do they live? Where do they buy the books they read? In an independent book store? At the big chains? Wal-Mart? Amazon? How do they like to get their stories? Hard backs? Paperbacks? E-books? Audio books?

Let’s go further. Where do they learn about the books they like to read? Is your prospective reader viewing book videos? Does s/he read the New York Times Best Sellers list to find what they want? Do they frequent the library? Belong to reading groups? Only purchase books recommended by friends?

What genres do they prefer and are you writing for them … or for you?

Big, confusing questions, but all important and serious as a heart attack. If you don’t know your reader as intimately as you know yourself, you just may be talking to yourself and no one else.

Yes, a literary agent may sign you because they adore your style or idea and feel strongly that they can sell it, but never forget who they’re selling your manuscript to … publishers who follow the proven formulas for sales. Yes, you may have friends and fans who love your online work and follow your platform to the ends of the earth, but are they really the ones who will cough up the cash and buy your book? Say you’ve chosen the self-publishing route and bypassed a lot of the traditional publisher choices regarding your book’s printing or distribution … you still MUST KNOW YOUR MARKET.

Let’s simplify this a little. Say you are a chocolate lover. Where do you go for your chocolate? As a chocolate lover myself, I’ll happily explore this sweet path right along with you. I might start at the local convenience store where they display the popular candy bars. I’m a real fan of Snickers. For something a little different, I’ll go to the grocery store and check out the boxes of chocolate chip cookies, or the package brownie mix. Okay, maybe I’m not in the do-it-yourself or prepackaged mood and I want something a little higher quality. Look for me at the local bakery where they’ve got chocolate slathered éclairs and freshly made moon pies. All right, maybe I’m looking for something more classy and ready to step it up even higher. Godiva Chocolates. YESSSS.

Now, what I’ve just demonstrated for you is that a prospective buyer can be reached at a number of different places, wanting a number of different qualities but still desiring the same satisfaction for their sweet tooth. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the person loves chocolate.

Translated, chocolate represents your genre. The various venues represent your prospective buyer’s reading requirements, and the quality levels represent the buyer’s moods and level of loyalty to you as the author. This is called market branding and only you can control, expand, or define it for your specific product.

If you write romance you can write several specific subgenres of romance from historic romance to paranormal romance to chicklit romance and still … marketed correctly, you can span a wide range of readership and create loyalty. You can carefully direct your target markets the way the big houses do, starting with hardback to reach those who keep books on their shelves to re-read – then to paperback or soft backs for those who prefer to spend less, read on the plane, train or during vacations – schedule an e-publishing exposure to reach a whole new audience who prefers to screen read, then generate loyalty through aggressive social media and start all over again with the next book.

It’s all fun and games when you play the format game … but there are no games if you don’t know your reader, because every detail about that reader represents your market and all the colors of it.

Where to start? At the end of course. Take a bottle of water (and a Snickers Bar) and go on a nice full day of exploring in say … Barnes and Noble. Stroll the aisles and take notes. Yes, take notes. How many books of a specific category do they have on the shelves? How many people beeline directly to those particular shelves and how many patrons meander around until something catches their eye? Yes, we all like to think we’re writing something that’s so unique it’s never been done before but if it’s not on those shelves, it’s not going to have a current market. If you spend your research time in small independent bookstores or online, it will tell you the same thing. This is the market that exists … now where does your book fit into it?

Naturally you could research sales numbers for specific genres online, but I highly recommend you do it live and in person. There’s a strong impact gained from watching the prospective buyer in the wild, doing its hunting and gathering thing and making choices based on the touch and feel (and the dust cover blurb) of the chosen book.

Knowing your market is about knowing THE market. Understanding it and facing the fact that changing it may take some doing. To build a new market for something unique and unusual, it takes a whole different strategy. For our purposes, it’s most important to find that very clear vision of exactly who will read your book … and talking right to that reader.

Next week we’ll talk about speaking to that reader. For now, it’s more important to identify and know your market. Have fun defining your audience, and watch out for the sugar high.

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time

Lesson one, The Rhyme and Reason

Lesson two, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lesson three, Developing Your Unique Hooks

Lesson four, Getting Attention

Snacks for Every Writing Project: Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut …

Over the past few days, as I chatted in my favorite distraction place on earth, Twitter, I noticed a trend among January writers, editors and authors. This may be something that happens all year round, but after the Holidays it seems a little more prevalent. After all, snacks have been readily available, from Christmas cookies to candy and cheese balls with crackers, so having a bowl of munchies on your desk as you work is a natural. In fact, even without the festive goodies, I’m thinking it’s probably a really good idea to keep nutrition close at hand during long writing projects. One must keep up ones strength, right? Serving our “hunter and gatherer” nature, I’ve seen people tweet about potato chips and cold pizza, cheese cake and tim tams … and the desperate need to run out and get some if the cupboard is bare of such delicacies. They chatter about the aroma of dinner cooking in the crock pot and the excitement of grilling steaks outside in the snow. There’s no escaping it and I’m certainly one of the biggest culprits.

No, this isn’t a blog about gaining weight (I say as I look over my shoulder at my widening behind). This is a blog about staying sharp and alert while coping with that major rewrite, edit, new novel plotting, or non-fic computer research ahead. Euell Gibbons was right about one thing, it’s natural and important for humans to snack regularly, but what Euell Gibbons used to eat, I hardly recognize as food.

Writing is a creative process, so I propose we feed our bodies and minds with creative food … snacks that are easy to prepare ahead of time and perfect for refueling the mental and physical machine … refreshments that won’t make the keyboard sticky or require assembly attention. Simple, yummy, energy designed tidbits to keep your momentum high and reach your deadlines!

So, I’ve decided to do a Thursday blog to address this issue of “Writer’s Munchie Mania” and share a few of my culinary skills along the way. I promise the recipes will take little time to prepare and be ubber satisfying too. Here goes!

I thought we’d start with Caramel Coffee Nuts, as most of us are still suffering the Holiday Saber Sweet Tooth. What else does a writer need? Caramel because it’s luscious, coffee because it’s vital, and nuts because … well, just because. I see these nuts as a delicious way to remind us to put a little sweetness and humor into those antagonists, keep the bad guy interesting and then, of course, be creative. At the end of every recipe will be suggestions on how to pump it up and make it a little different.

Caramel Coffee Walnuts

1 C Brown Sugar

½ C White Sugar

½ C Sour Cream

1 T Instant Coffee

Combine and cook all above ingredients to 260 degrees or until a drop of mixture, dripped into a glass of cold water, creates a soft ball.

Remove mixture from heat and add 1 tsp. Vanilla

Fold 2 ½ C Whole Walnuts into hot mixture then distribute individual coated nuts on wax paper. Let dry for 24 hours. Store in sealed container. Caramel Coffee Walnuts will last as long as your willpower to avoid them lasts and not a minute longer.


For Spicy version, add ½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes before cooking mixture

For Apple Pie version, add ¼ tsp. Cinnamon before cooking mixture

For Tea version, substitute Powdered Chai Mix for the instant coffee

For texture variations, use mixed nuts or your favorite nuts. Note: cashews create a unique flavor profile and pecans add even more sweetness.


Next week: balls, a yummy variety of finger food for facing the dreaded rewriting projects. After all, it’s common knowledge that it takes a lot of balls to do the job well.

In the meantime, if you have a great recipe or favorite snack that gets you through a long day at the keyboard, please share. We’re all starving to hear about it!

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 4

PART FOUR: Tricks to Perk the Prospective Buyers … Getting Attention!

Attention! Attention! We just love attention, but only the best kind. It’s a scary proposition, putting a few hundred pages of your soul out there for the world to see. But even more daunting than that, is the prospect that maybe no one will look. Shiver!

Fear not, that’s what we’re here to talk about today. Last lesson, we discussed your unique hooks and what makes you so special. This lesson goes a bit deeper and hopefully seriously gets the point across that without a platform, you will drown.

There are a million tricks out there to perk a prospective buyer. You’ve seen it all, from “wall-to-wall carpeting bait and switch” to “test drive and get tickets to the All-Star Game”. Just like car dealers and carpet companies, you are in business. Your product is your book. There are classic and bizarre ways to attract attention, but whatever you do, it must point favorably to the bottom line … sales.

Getting attention for your book can require nothing more than a kick-ass cover, or it may require something special to tip the scales. Let’s explore deeper.

  • FICTION – Suppose you’ve written a novel about an amnesiac woman whose life is saved by a werewolf on a self destructive mission to end his own life.  You know you’ve got a great twist and wonderful story but you also know that there are hundreds of supernatural romances on the shelves and you must find a way to draw attention to yours. Solutions abound, sublime to absolutely stupid but because you’re aware of the importance of “attention”, you examine them all. For example, your book cover can be fur. You may include a CD collection representing the music your supernatural hero used to help the heroine recover and hold her memory. Their songs. You may even develop a folded map to be inserted in the book that shows the route your main characters trekked during the adventure.
  • NON-FICTION – Now, let’s imagine you’ve written a non-fiction how-to book about the care and maintenance of a person’s social media image. Of course you’ve done all the homework, researched deep and hard and already know that your subject is something people want and need to know. You’ve even presented it in a creative and entertaining way. Now what? To the drawing board. Should there be a downloadable program available to assist with the information? Maybe an attached workbook that helps the reader implement your advice?
  • FICTION & NON-FICTION – Strange solutions after the reality of your book’s availability can get crazy too. Honestly, what book really needs imprinted mugs or tee-shirts to boost visibility? The book is already on the shelves … real or virtual … and frankly ladies and gentlemen, it’s too late.

Enter: The Platform. The reason we build an author’s platform is to give us a solid ground to stand on so we can hold our book(s) high over our heads and listen to the roaring cheers. The best way to fail, is to be down in the crowd shouting about your book while the rest of the world is looking up at another author’s platform! So, building your platform before the book is launched … while the book is being written … and as you conceptualize your success IS VITAL.

Here are a few free or very inexpensive ways to get your platform in line so that you and your book get the attention you need to assure sales.

  1. Be aware of your audience even as you begin imagining your book. Get down and dirty, do the research and clearly understand your prospective reader. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client with an already published book and yet totally unaware of who her readers are. This is especially prevalent among self-published authors. If you aren’t sure of your reader’s demographic, you’re treading water and may just go down for the count. Know clearly if you’re primary audience is young adult, children or a coming of age piece of adult literature. Urban Fantasy is not Paranormal Romance, and Erotica is not Mainstream Romance. If you don’t know exactly what you’re selling, how can you know who to sell to? Only you can determine this and only you can tweak it to reach the audience you really want.
  2. The computer age is marvelous! USE IT. Just as many authors are queasy about standing in front of people and speaking about their book, some are afraid to have a voice on the internet. Simple advice … get over it. You have tools, free and at your command right in front of your eyes.
  3. First, your website. If you don’t have one, get one. Build it yourself or pay someone to do it but you really should have a website. What’s on your website? Your book, of course. But I’m not talking about simply having a site, I’m talking about having a living, breathing site that attracts attention and is always changing. For example, aside from your main page which shows the cover or your book (or what you’d like to see as the cover of your book), you should also have a page that talks about how you developed the book. A page that explains the reason for your book. If it’s a fiction, you might want to have a page that features your characters, some of their background or even a few words from them. Have fun with this and UPDATE OFTEN. Make sure everyone you know gets an email every time you update. Constantly expand your email list. If you’re writing a non-fiction, join clubs and organizations that focus on your subject. Get people talking about your book and your website and …
  4. Imbed a blog. Yes, a blog. This should be updated at least weekly, preferably more than once a week and your blog should chart your course from concept to finish. Again, make sure everyone you know is informed when there’s an update. Keep your installments interesting and related to the process of writing your book or of being a writer. Make friends and when someone comments … be sure to respond … every time.
  5. Social Media. Don’t be scared. If you’re not already Twittering, FaceBooking, Linkedin or otherwise visible, I strongly suggest you do it. An Author’s Platform is built with followers, not hope (and as we all know, hope is a terrible strategy). The more friends and relationships you create, the stronger your following.
  6. Writing Groups, Reading Groups, Libraries and Organizations, OH MY! Become a joiner. Where ever there are readers and writers there is support, camaraderie and book buyers. Be careful though, don’t become that used-car salesman you hear about all the time. Be subtle, be honest, and above all, be supportive too. Make sure a few of the groups you join are targeted toward your buyer. Sit back and do some serious listening. There could well be a few successful authors in the group, or brought in to speak to the group, who have some great gems of wisdom for you. Let your mind percolate. When people talk of their ideas, imagine them working or failing and then focus on your own. Check out books on creativity. One of my favorites is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. There are a thousand ways to start thinking boldly and way, way outside the box. The Artist’s Way also has facilitators who do live workshops all over the country. Check it out and strap in for the creative ride of your life. Imagine knowing your target and finding the most amazing way to reach them. Sounds like sales to me.

In conclusion, Getting Attention is by far one of the most critical and important planks in your Author’s Platform. It’s a plank you must develop early and well to assure success whether you’re planning on traditional publishing, self-publishing, independent publishing or e-publishing. Whether you’re writing fiction or non fiction.

Stand up and shout NOW and get some well deserved attention!

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time

Lesson one, The Rhyme and Reason

Lesson two, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lesson three, Developing Your Unique Hooks