Monday, August 31, 2015

Newsletter Anyone?

I’m not sure how many of you with fan pages on Facebook have noticed that your ‘reach’ has probably seen a slow decline. For a while now, I’ve realized that only a few people are being ‘reached’ when I post to my pages. 

If you read this article about the changes to Facebook, you’ll understand why. I have gotten over my annoyance that I have to pay to ‘boost’ a post to people who I believe would like to hear from me now and then. That’s why they liked my page, right?

Well, the times are a-changing have changed and a lot of the things posted to Facebook just languish on the page.

What this wake-up call urged me to do is take a look at my mailing list. I do know that mailing lists are valuable to writers—so much so that I have two of them. The thing is, I haven’t been very good with sending out newsletters. I'm trying to do better though by shooting for once per month.

I’ve added the sign-up links for my newsletter to my websites and in the back matter of my books. I've also added links on my Facebook page that can be accessed via a dropdown menu. I’m not sure how much use Facebook fan pages will be in the short run if people are not willing to pay to ‘boost’ whatever they post.

So, if you're a writer who hasn't yet thought seriously about adding a newsletter to your repertoire, here are some ideas to get you moving.

1.    Provide value to your readers by giving them useful information or some other item to encourage new subscribers - maybe an ebook or an offer for swag.
2.    Use your newsletter as a way of rewarding your readers with exclusive material or news about what you have coming next.
3.    Run contests and giveaways. Gift cards are always popular, so you can always find innovative ways to give away a card or two to your subscribers.
4.    Encourage feedback from your readers by asking for their comments on a subject of your choice or by including a poll.
5.    In today's fast-moving world, newsletters don't need to be dense with text, or take up several pages. Keep things simple by including 3-4 articles consistently.

If you haven't started yours yet, what are you waiting for? It's simple to do and there are free email marketing service providers like Active Campaign, Benchmark Email  and Mailchimp. Are there other good options not listed here that you can share? How are you building your list? 

Monday, August 24, 2015


The focus of the IWSG is support and encouragement. 
To a large extent, this is dependent on the kindness of strangers.  
As writers, we assist one another in this virtual world, and special human connections are forged, which transform the writing experience, sometimes above and beyond our expectations.
This post celebrates the special gift of kindness that writers share.
                     *                    *                    *

Hello everyone.  
First of all, thanks to Michelle Wallace for asking me to write this piece. I believe that every time we write something about ourselves, we also learn something new about ourselves.

Let me identify myself as a writer of fiction, and a  'Hybrid' writer. That is, I started out being published traditionally by New York publishers. Since then I have also been published by Amazon's print house,Thomas & Mercer, and have also digitally self-published one novel and a three-volume collection of short stories on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Program. 

Being a hybrid author does not mean I'm brilliant, or incredibly talented. Passion for your subject, perseverance and just plain luck (or timing) has more to do with being published than raw talent. I am half Native Hawaiian, so have written a lot about the Pacific. Publishers have found my books intriguing because not many writers cover the Pacific. So that is an example of LUCK on my part.

I am also PASSIONATE about my subject, and write five-six days a week and I think that 'blind drive' is another reason I was published.  
YOU HAVE TO FEEL LIKE YOU WILL DIE if you don't write.. 
If you are just in it for the money, I would suggest changing careers. Most writers are poor, we do it for love. But sometimes beautiful books come out of love, and they become bestsellers. Suddenly you're rich! And that is every writer's dream. To write something you are proud of, and watch it become a success is what I have always told my students, "WRITE WITH PASSION!"  If your writing is lukewarm it means you're not in love with your subject matter. Find another subject.

Now for Joe Konrath, and those three magic words.  You should know that Konrath writes a blog THE NEWBIE'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING, that has a following of over 10,000 readers. He started out traditionally published, hated the way New York publishers treated him, and learned how to digitally self-publish his own novels. Then he started his blog site to share his knowledge with other writers. You see, from the start he was a generous man.

In 2011, I had a book contract with a New York publisher for my next novel. The advance was so small I wondered how I would survive until the book was sold and published, which in traditional publishing usually takes 18 months! How would I eat? How would I pay rent? I began to feel hopeless, even suicidal. 

Then a friend took me by the hand and said, "You're not going to die. Read Joe Konrath's blog. He is going to save your life." 

Well, I went back and read every blog Joe had ever posted, dating back to five years previous. I then decided to publish a collection of short stories that no publisher in New York had wanted. I followed his step-by-step instructions on how to self-publish a book digitally. With the help of an artist, I learned about designing the cover, how to find a formatter, and how to price accordingly.  

It took a month or two to complete formatting and designing the collection of short stories, HOUSE OF SKIN. The day it was finally published on KDP as an ebook, I saw the beautiful cover for sale on Amazon and screamed. I think I cried all day. I had given birth to my first book. When I was sane, I wrote Joe Konrath a letter of thanks. I told him I had been near suicide with hopelessness, and that he had saved my life. I sent him a link with the cover of HOUSE OF SKIN, and thought I would never hear from him. He's wildly popular and busy (and now a millionaire with the sale of his self-pubbed books.)

Joe not only responded to my letter, he reproduced the letter word for word on his blogsite, uploaded HOUSE OF SKIN with its beautiful cover, and then told his readers my story. THEN Joe told his readers, "let's see if we can help this writer sell her book. Come on guys, pitch in! Remember all the help other people gave you. Now it's time for each of you to pay it forward!" I had never  heard that phrase before, it means to help someone and hopefully they in turn will help the next guy. (A movie was made of this with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt called PAY IT FORWARD.)

Well, long story short, with Joe's thousands of readers, within a few hours, my book HOUSE OF SKIN had jumped in sales ranking on Amazon from something like 700,000 to number 8. That's right, number 8. Number 1 in sales ranking is the biggest seller in the world at the moment, usually a Stephen King book. Well, that day I broke a record on Amazon, for the fastest rising book in sales ranking for all time. In a few hours the book had multiplied in sales over 4,000 times. Of course within a few days, it slid down again, but I had found an audience! And it stayed under the 100,000 sales rank for over a year. (Today it bounces up and down as all books do.) There are now millions of books on Amazon, so I feel any book under 100,000 in sales rankings is doing fine.

What lingered most with me was Joe's extreme generosity, and his emphasis on those three magic words, which he still uses today.  
"Help your mates. We're all in this together, let's become an army by joining forces as self-publishers in the digital world." Through Joe's blog site I have met self-pubbing authors who have become dear friends. We help each other with cover designs, with editing, with just lending a sympathetic ear. We barter our work and save money by avoiding big corporate professionals. We are the Pay it Forward Ranks. We're pioneers in this brave new digital world, where rules and algorithms keep changing. It's scary but the one constant is...our FRIENDSHIPS.. 

This whole new coterie of peers has become my universe. It's changed my career, and my way of thinking. I no longer feel alone as I did with traditional New York publishers. And I have become more generous with other writers. Digital self-pubbers are much more generous, much more human because we're all pioneers in this brave new world. And our world is based on those magic words. 

A postscript to this article. When my NY publisher Penguin, discovered I had self-published on Amazon, they tore up my book contract and fired me. That is how threatened they are by Amazon. 
It made the front page of the New York Times, showing how terrified New York publishers were and still are of Amazon, and how threatened they are by self-published authors who no longer need

"establishment New York publishers."  OK, I lost my prestigious NY publisher, but I gained a whole new world of brave, innovative and caring friends. I have never looked back. And this is the life I wish for you. One filled with passion, hard work, and peers who are struggling alongside you, living the mantra of Paying it Forward.  

God bless you and Happy Writing!  

Kiana Davenport is descended from a full-blooded Native Hawaiian mother, and a Caucasian father from Talladega, Alabama. Her father, Braxton Bragg Davenport, was a sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor, when he fell in love with her mother, Emma Kealoha Awaawa Kanoho Houghtailing. 

On her mother's side, Kiana traces her ancestry back to the first Polynesian settlers to the Hawaiian Islands who arrived almost two thousand years ago from Tahiti and the Tuamotu's. On her father's side, she traces her ancestry to John Davenport, the puritan clergyman who co-founded the American colony of New Haven, Connecticut in 1638. 

Kiana is the author of the internationally best-selling novels, Shark Dialogues, Song Of The Exile, and House Of Many Gods. She is also the author of the collections, House Of Skin Prize-Winning Stories, and Cannibal Nights, Pacific Stories Volume II. Both have been Kindle bestsellers. She has just published her third collection, Opium Dreams, Pacific Stories, Volume III.

A graduate of the University of Hawaii, Kiana has been a Bunting Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University, and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her short stories have won numerous O. Henry Awards, Pushcart Prizes, and the Best American Short Story Award, 2000. Her novels and short stories have been translated into twenty-one languages. She lives in New York City and Hawaii.

Monday, August 17, 2015

8 Steps to Visiting Your Novel's Setting Without Leaving Home

Sometimes there's a story in our hearts that won't die, a story that takes place thousands of miles from home, a place we might never have been, and likely will ever be. My current WIP is set in Vancouver BC, the city London, and the Cotswolds in United Kingdom. I've never been to the Cotswolds, but that won't stop me from writing about it.

First thing I'll do:

1.  Open up a search window.
3.  Choose a link.  (I like GOOGLE MAPS)


5.  See PHOTOS and STREET VIEW in the frames above? The PHOTOS will help with a sense of the place, but for a closer look, I'll click STREET VIEW. 

6.  Now I have the option of either using the arrows to do a virtual drive down this street in front of me, or I can use one of the other photos that best depicts the setting I need for my story. And that would be a pub with public parking and lots of beautiful shrubs, flowers... like the one below:

7.  I can also go back to the origin map, click on the DIRECTIONS icon:

8.  Type London, UK below Cotswolds. And it shows me 1 of 2 routes back into London. 

If I wanted to take a virtual trip, I'd start at the beginning, go back to STREET VIEW and drive the route virtually. But that requires more instructions and is best left for another post.  The point is, yes, do write about what you know, but don't let a little thing like "I've never been there!" stop you from writing vivid descriptions.                 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Heidi Hormel: How to for a Press Release

 Heidi Hormel is a former innkeeper and radio talk show host. She has always been a writer. She spent years as a small-town newspaper reporter and as a PR flunky before settling happily into penning romances with a wink and a wiggle

Fill-in-the-blank press release

Press release are so last millennium. Wrong. Press releases should have a prominent place in your promo arsenal with an easy-to-share page of information. (I do mean one page -- about 250 words.)

So I promised fill in the blank, right? Well, there may be a little more to it than that but not much. Here is the general structure that can be used in a newsletter, on Facebook, for reviewers, etc.

TITLE: The title should clearly convey why you’re sending/sharing the release.

Example: Debut Author Releases First Book, ‘Love Re-ignited’

FIRST PARAGRAPH: The traditional who, what, where, and when will give the info readers need to know.

Example: Debut romance author Heidi Hormel releases “Love Re-Ignited”* on May 14, a book that has been noted as “gripping and heart-wrenching” by reviewers.

SECOND PARAGRAPH: Here’s a good place to add how to get your book, any discounts, etc. Or for a signing, explain the location and whether an RSVP is needed.

Example: Hormel’s book is available through Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and ABC Publisher in both print and electronic formats. A special release price will be available through May 31. For more information, visit her website: HeidiHormel.dragon.

THIRD/STORY PARAGRAPH: A short paragraph about the plot of the book. Depending on your own personal backstory, this paragraph and the FOURTH/AUTHOR paragraph could be swapped (Remember the inverted pyramid? The most important info goes first).

Example: In “Love Re-Ignited,” fire-breathing dragons take human form once a millennium to find a mate. For two dragons who have fought for hundreds of years and are now mated, there problems have just begun. They must solve the riddle of the Sphinx to save their race and the Earth.**

FOURTH/AUTHOR PARAGRAPH: This is the brief bio space, which may be of special interest to hometown media or others based on your background.

Example: Hormel has been named an author to watch by the RT Book Reviews and is a former astronaut who became a writer after three successful missions to the space station.

FIFTH PARAGRAPH: This final paragraph is always a re-iteration of contact info and serves as a call to action—make sure that readers are clear on what you want them to do.

Example: To purchase “Love Re-Ignited” or to find out more about Heidi Hormel, visit HeidiHormel.dragon; her Facebook page (Heidi Hormel); or her Twitter profile (@Heidi Hormel).

Easy, right? This is truly the most basic of releases, but it provides a wealth of uses because you’ve broken your material into easily read/digested bites. Take the material here and use with abandon.

Heidi Hormel’s debut contemporary Western, THE SURGEON AND THE COWGIRL, releases on June 1 from Harlequin American with a connected second book, THE CONVENIENT COWBOY, released Aug. 4. Visit her at; on FB, Heidi Hormel, Author; or on Twitter @HeidiHormel.

*Try to follow AP Style if possible that means book titles in quote marks, for example.
**I write contemporary romance… really … not one dragon fire-breathing or otherwise.

***Hashtags or -30- are the traditional means of indicating a press release is finished. This is just the way it is, but I’m sure End of Release would work, too.

Have you prepared a press release? Did Heidi make it seem really simple? Do you see the many venues you could use this prepared release for your book?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group - Big Event Coming!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Our awesome co-hosts today are Nancy Gideon, Bob R Milne, Doreen McGettigan, Chrys Fey, Bish Denham, and Pat Garcia!

The admins here have been working on a major project that will be a great opportunity for our members! This promises to be even more awesome than The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond book we put together last fall. (Which is free to download!)  If it turns out really epic, we may make it a yearly event.

Check back on September 2 for the big announcement.

Don’t forget that the Insecure Writer’s Support Group has its own t-shirt! Designed by the very talented Jeremy Hawkins, it’s available at the NeatOShop.

We also have a IWSG group on Facebook, so check it out and join today.

And if you missed it, Lynda had an excellent piece on Monday, Why Watching Movies Shouldn’t Replace Reading

Any struggles or triumphs you’d like to share with us today? Want to guess what we have planned for next month?