Monday, February 28, 2011

Thoughts of Nature and Place

By Renea Winchester

Outside, a Cardinal declares the day shall be "pretty, pretty, pretty," a refreshing change from the dreary "wet," accurate prediction of precipitation we've endured this winter. A Carolina Wren joins his song, drowning the forecast with tweets and clicks. She sings her gravely song with head held high, as she awakens daffodils from their slumber, giving me hope that finally, I've made it through another winter.

Nature plays an important role in not only establishing a sense of place, as was the case with my book, In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, but providing the physical escape needed in order to create. I refer to myself as a "sensory-author," one who must feel (sometimes literally) that which she is writing about. Concerned that my memory would fail, I wrote portions of In The Garden With Billy on fast-food napkins. Scribbling frantically beneath the corn stalks while praying for a cooling breeze, I wrote clipped phrased I'd use later. Once I returned home, I'd unfold the napkin, brush aside the dirt wedged in the creases, and relive the day while working on my laptop.

Recently, I was awarded the Denny Plattner Award for my non-fiction essay. Remembering is a come-with-me story about the tradition of "Decoration Day;" a practice my family has maintained for over seventy-five years.

From Remembering:

The road narrows and turns to grass. I inhale deeply and fight back tears. I am home. Several generations of family members have loaded into the back of pickup trucks then parted a sea of tourists to visit a place we hold sacred. While others flock to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to play, we travel to a place few will ever see. We travel in part out of duty and respect. We travel to honor our heritage, and remember.

In this excerpt, I carry you into a secret place my people once called home. Without personally experiencing the moment, my feeble imagination can not envision anything as accurate as what I share. While I do not categorize myself as a "Nature Writer," everything I've written that has won awards has reflected my love of nature. Leaving me to ponder for a moment, Where am I finding this soul-feeding nutrient in the heart of Atlanta?

Often, I retreat into the woods behind my home. Carrying a blanket, water bottle, and a notebook (yes, I still put pen-to-paper), I escape to the trickle of a creek which is actually the overflow from a neighboring pond. Sitting beneath an enormous river birch, I imagine the whispering water is actually the deafening rush of the Oconaluftee River, or Indian Creek Falls. I must write quickly, because my mind is rarely fooled by this trickery.

Inevitably, this attempt at solace triggers my neighbor's need to cut his lawn. The whining Briggs and Stratton grates against my process like nails on chalk. It is, without fail, a promise that the moment I begin to write, he decides it's time to cut the grass (on a Sunday, no less). Shaking away this impediment, I try another route. Lacing my shoes tight, I grab the hand-held recorder, determined to walk myself into a creative moment. For me, walking has proven to be a highly effective means to generate ideas. Unfortunately, soon after I begin rambling off a list of ideas, the ear-piercing cry of an ambulance shatters the moment.

Desperate, I must escape into a place where I can not be found. Vanishing into a pathless place where busyness is not invited, I listen for the voices of those who have walked the land before me. I sit still, aware of everything and nothing. I must taste the sweetness of the moss, hug the calloused fragility of bark, and try not to cry as my face presses into the creases of the hemlock tree, all while knowing this species may vanish during my time on earth.

Overhead hemlocks are loosing their battle with the Wooly Adelgid. The once strong trees stand weak and anorexic. Only a few green branches remain. Surrounded in death, they bravely fight to survive the microscopic beetle’s attack. I notice the smell of the forest has changed. Something is missing. The honey fragrance of mountain laurel and honeysuckle travel on the breeze, but the heady smell of hemlock is less pungent. Tears fall as I wonder if the species will survive another season, or will their skeletons be all that welcomes me home next year.

Lacking the imagination of those much greater than I, my best offering to readers is an invitation into my world; one filled with yarn-spinning true-life characters, pristine places few will ever see, and the belief that everyone, every single one of us has a story that matters to someone. While I create this on paper, it is impossible for me to share it with you unless I first experience it through the eyes of Mother Nature.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author whose book In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes was recently nominated for the SIBA award. She lives in Atlanta, but escapes to the Smoky Mountains at every possible opportunity.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Viewed Through Nature

By Peggy Webb

This month, Kathy has asked the Southern authors to discuss the role nature plays in our writing process and/or our books. Boy, is this a ready made topic for me! Since I first began writing (I’ve been a published author for twenty-six years), I’ve always made certain that my desk is positioned so I can see out the window. Not across the room. Right beside the window, so that I feel sunlight and stormy skies alike.
The sweep of lawn and sky, the parade of birds that flock to swing on the trailing vines of my Lady Banks rose, the ever-changing bloom in my flower beds, the dragon suspended from my front porch ceiling, the unicorn reclining underneath my tea olive, the dance of chimes in the wind – all are sources of inspiration. In the little Mississipppi cottage where I currently live, my monitor backs up to double windows. Even while I’m immersed in creating a story and am not consciously cataloging the goings-on just beyond the blinking cursor, I feel – and on some level see the magnificence and mystery of nature pouring through my window. What I write and what I see are magically woven together so that the wonder of God’s creation finds its way onto the pages of my books.
“I lost myself quite in the upper air and clouds, seeming to pass an imaginary line which separates a hill, mere earth heaped up, from a mountain, into a subterranean grandeur and sublimity.” Henry David Thoreau, Journal.
That’s the way nature, even that merely seen through my window, makes me feel. “Lost in subterranean grandeur and sublimity.” Even when I’m not writing, I turn to nature - for the simple pleasure of sitting on the porch swing, for the satisfaction of plunging my hands into the earth and making things grow, for meditation and peace.
Do you like to walk barefoot in new Spring grass? Are you a swimmer? A hiker? A biker? A gardener? Does nature inspire you or make you think of chiggers and mosquitoes and snakes? Tell me your stories.

Peggy Webb has lost count of the number of books she has written, but she thinks it’s around seventy, and that’s just counting those published. Currently she writes the Southern Cousins Mystery series. Her own umpteen Southern cousins all send disclaimers that they are NOT the model for Lovie. (Lovie’s had more lovers than Elvis has fleas. That’s the dog in Peggy’s series, not the real King.) She invites you to visit her and enter her Spring contest at You can also follow her on Facebook.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Three Rules of Publicity

By Andy Straka

Here are a few tokens of advice to new authors regarding publicity—for what they're worth.

There are three rules for publicizing your book. Unfortunately (with apologies to W. Somerset Maughan) no one knows what they are.

What do I mean by this? I mean that there are many reasons why a particular book may catch fire in the public’s imagination. There are many more reasons why it may not. Most of these reasons have little or nothing to do with the caliber of the book and little or nothing to do with publicity—at least publicity as we tend to think about it in the traditional business sense.

I have begun to wonder why so many of us—publishers included—have become so convinced that promotion leading to traditional publicity is the only reliable path to making a book successful. Has the track record of such efforts born this theory out? For many books and authors, the answer is obviously yes. But for many others the results are disappointing, or at best, mixed.

I’m not talking about building a big mailing list, working with a publicist, facebooking, twittering, blogging, etc. or traveling to lots of bookstores and conventions and the like—all of which have been eloquently discussed here of late and all of which may be beneficial if you can muster up the time and the budget to undertake them.

I’m talking instead about building long-term relationships (more on this in a moment) and attempting to look at your book—and maybe even yourself—with new eyes. I’m talking about discovering and developing your own particular brand.

Look at the example of our esteemed blog goddess Kathy Patrick. Here is a writer who is building herself, her store, book club, and her own book into a national presence. She has cultivated her own unique style that sets her apart as a colorful personality that many people want to hear from and get to know better.

But there is only one Kathy Patrick. What works for her won’t necessarily work for the rest of us. (I’ve tried donning one of those fancy hats while out hawking, but it just doesn’t work.) Maybe we each need to spend more time digging deeper into our own books and personalities to discover what it is about them that makes them truly unique and worthy of the public’s attention.

For the majority of us the effort of developing our own brand is still a work in progress. The type of book you write today may not be the same type of book you write tomorrow. It certainly won’t be the same book—at least one would hope not. Having spent more than a decade in sales and marketing prior to becoming a writer, I used to think I was pretty good at publicizing my books. But now I know better. My piddling marketing efforts are nothing but a drop in the bucket compared to the power of genuine imagination and brand building.

There is another sometimes overlooked way to truly publicize your book and yourself as an author. Some might even argue it is the most important ingredient in successful publicity. Unfortunately, it often only comes over time. That ingredient is the cultivation and development of quality personal relationships.

Relationships are the secret to many author's success. Relationships with everyone from readers to librarians to bookstore employees and to your UPS man. From your local newspaper columnist to editors and heads of publishing marketing departments. Some of us are naturally better at building and maintaining relationships than others. But we can all benefit from keeping this goal in mind.

A word of warning in this regard. Sometimes too much self-promotion can hurt relationships. No one wants to be around a constant self-promoter. Your relationship with someone is far more important than the particular book you may be pitching at the moment.

I implied at the beginning there were no rules, right? I do, however, want to close with a few hard-earned tips.

1) Keep writing
2) In your efforts at self-promotion, never, ever begin to think too much of yourself.
3) Always be gracious, kind, and courteous. Always be thankful for what you have.
4) Never fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Wherever you are on the totem poll of publishing success, there will always be plenty of people above and below you.
5) Above all, try your best to cultivate friendships and other positive relationships. Genuine promotion of you by others is always far more powerful than self-promotion—you never know what blessings may rebound.
6) Try your best to keep up with technology and social networking without cutting into your writing time.
7) Remember tip #1.

That’s it. That’s about all I know so far. I hope these ideas are of some help to you on your own journey to success.

A transplanted Southerner, Andy Straka is a native of upstate New York and a graduate of Williams College where, as co-captain of the basketball team, he "double-majored" in English and the crossover dribble.

A licensed falconer and co-founder of the popular Crime Wave at the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, he is the author of five novels. Four belong to the Frank Pavlicek mystery series featuring a former NYPD detective turned Virginia private investigator and falconer: A Witness Above (Anthony, Agatha, and Shamus Award finalist), A Killing Sky (Anthony Award Finalist), Cold Quarry (Shamus Award Winner,), and the most recent Kitty Hitter. A standalone novel, Record Of Wrongs, was also hailed by Mystery Scene magazine as "a first-rate thriller."

Andy lives with his family in Virginia. Current projects include a soon-to-be released Young Adult version of A Witness Above incorporating a falconry primer for teens published by Cedar Creek Press and a recently completed sixth novel. Andy is also at work on his Masters Degree in Creative Writing.

Discover more about Andy and his writing at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hawking the Goods


By Susan Reinhardt

So you’ve written a book and your wondering, “Why isn’t my publicist getting me more interviews and radio shows?”

With my first book, “Not Tonight Honey, Wait ‘Til I’m a Size 6,” the atmosphere in New York was different. We weren’t in a recession. Positions, such a publicists, weren’t cut from the house’s budgets.

Plus, my topic was unusual and the media loves nothing more than something that’s different, that they’ve never heard before.

The more you can cull from the book that’s outlandish or never-before-told, the better the press release and the more newspapers and radio shows – even TV – will bite.

With my second book, “Don’t Sleep with a Bubba,” the recession was just beginning. My publicist had left the house I was with, and only a couple of people hawking for authors remained.

So “Bubba,” floated in the atmosphere of “Poor me. Nobody knows I’m even out here.” It got even worse with “Dishing with a Kitchen Virgin,” when my publicist did not get me ONE interview. Not even with a Podunk station in North Dakota.

Here’s the difference publicity makes. “Not Tonight” went into 7 printings. “Bubba” and “Dishing” are orphans trapped in Amazon with nobody to adopt them.

Those who do their own publishing with print-on-demand companies have an even harder time. But not by much these days. A lot of reporters (and I’m a columnist) won’t touch a book that is self-published. I think that’s snooty. If the book is good, the hook is exceptional, I’ll usually bite and do a piece.

One thing I’ve noticed is those with big budgets who can hire Super Duper PR firms like Steve Harrison and Annie Jennings and the like, may be out 10 grand, but they will probably get some attention if the book is good enough.

Some also hire local public relations companies, but these can be kind of iffy.

Now, if you’re like me and semi-poor, there are free sites that give great information.

I receive the Steve Harrison newsletters and free phone seminars. I also subscribed to and the Reporter Connection. These are just two of the countless blogs and sites devoted FREE to helping you get that book out of the warehouses and into people’s homes.

Susan Reinhardt can be reached at or

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Book publicity is like a seven course meal...

“...You start slowly, testing the waters, then move onto the next course. You proceed in a steady, measured manner, enjoying every course while building confidence, momentum, and sales.”

I like that quote. It suggests that it’s okay to have a learning curve in book promotion. So many new writers I encounter are fearful that they must become instant social marketing experts, have 3,000 virtual friends and be prolific bloggers with lots to say. This fear starts to eat their joy of the whole book publishing experience. Alas, it should be like a seven course meal that is savored and enjoyed.

When my novel, Janeology, came out in 2008, I was on a steep learning curve. I tried many things I’d observed from others until I figured out what worked best for me. Not every type of promotion fit my personality, mostly because I am shy by nature. Just standing behind a book signing table at Barnes & Noble gave me monumental anxiety. It takes a certain finesse to stand under fluorescence and smile as patrons 1/ try to avoid your gaze,  2/ ask you where the bathroom is, or, 3/ ask you “is this another x87% book about Jane Austen?

The same was true for speaking engagements. Though I’m a former speechwriter, I suck at public speaking. There I said it. (Is there a support group for this, I wonder?)

It came to me that just as it took me a while to find my writing voice, it would take me a while to find my book marketing voice. I tested the waters. Tried many things. And what worked for me was a slow, steady world of blogging. Initially, I started a blog because my publisher told me to do so. Three years later, I do it because I enjoy it. 

So what do I blog about?
  • Books I love
  • The writer’s life
  • Book giveaways (both mine and other authors)
  • Guest posts by other authors (could this be you?)
  • Open threads: writers of all stripes are invited to post the first sentence of a work in progress
  • What I find inspirational in life
  • Vintage photographs from my family albums
  • How my children make me more precise writer
  • How I’m progressing on new works
  • And I found this old post – 8 Tips for the Debut Author, which includes the basic path I followed. 
It took a little time to find this rhythm. I learned from other bloggers. I caught on to the weekly memes that are out there. A meme is a weekly blog-chain that hundreds of other blogs are attached to. For example, there’s a Wordless Wednesday meme where folks from all over the world post photos. This was easy for me to join. I began featuring vintage photos from my own family albums because this correlated directly to the genealogy theme of my novel. There's a Booking Through Thursday meme that asks a variety of book related questions like "Who is your favorite literary couple?" or "What's the worst book you've ever read and why?" 

I like the interaction with other blogs. They are a serious community of bibliophiles. The majority of my readers are, well, readers. And these readers host an annual event called Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. My humble blog is only three years old, but has twice been short-listed alongside authors Beth Kephart, John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman as “Favorite Author Blog” by the book blogging community. My slow, steady progress has been very rewarding. In fact, I credit my blog as the reason people continue to discover my book, three years after its release. This is particularly satisfying in the wake of my publisher going out of business. And when I have a new book to announce, I'll have a wonderful platform in which to make a big hoopla.

I’m not the only one who thinks blogging is a valuable marketing tool  A recent issue of The Book Deal      elaborated on how the growing community of book bloggers has a real impact on a book’s visibility. Within that article:

“We think book bloggers are the absolute best way to get your book to exactly the right people who are interested in your topic, whatever it is,” says Samantha Rubenstein, a publicist at John Wiley & Sons. “Reaching out to specific book bloggers is a large and important part of a book’s publicity and increasing by leaps and bounds every six months.”
It does take time to blog and build up a readership. But here's another good point to remember: it's very simple to let one blog post do a lot of walkin’ all over the Internet. I set up instant feeds on other sites so that one post travels to FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, Goodreads and CafeMom. One post. Five locations. 

So what do you think? Are you a blogging fan? And do leave a comment and link to your blog so I can visit you there. Meanwhile, you can find me here.


Karen Harrington authored and published There's A Dog In The Doorway, a children's book created expressly for the "MyStuff Bags" foundation. "My Stuff" bags go to children in need who must leave their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Her debut novel, JANEOLOGY, asks the question: what would you do if the spouse you THOUGHT you knew committed an incomprehensible act? Read more about this novel at Karen's website: She also blogs daily at

Monday, February 21, 2011

Judging a Book By its Cover Info: Does a Title Sell the Book?

by Augusta Scattergood

This go-around’s topic is Advice to New Authors About How to Market a Book.

I’ll be reading these posts very carefully. That new author looking for advice would be me.

When my book comes out in one year, I’ll have memorized fellow middle-grade novelist Kerry Madden’s helpful post on the topic. (Thanks, Kerry, and I already have my bag of props ready!) And I’ll scour the internet, pick my writer friends’ brains, listen to my publisher’s publicity people—anything that helps my book get into the hand of young readers.

In the meantime, I’m working hard to make it the best written book I could possibly imagine. Many edits. Much research. But there’s one more thing I think I can do, very early on, to make my book stand out among the hundreds of debut novels hitting the shelves next year.

Although I suspect I’ll have minimal control over my book’s cover, I do have some say about the title. Right now. Since my editor didn’t love my working title—and true confessions, neither did I— we’re working on something new.

Sadly, I Stink at Titles.

I know a lot of tricks for choosing them, but I need much inspiration and lots of help from my friends. 

In fact, I’ve compiled a list of Ways to Choose Titles. The problem is, especially with kids or Young Adult books, these suggestions can become dated very fast.

But here are a few timeless, or perhaps timely, ideas for mulling over your book’s moniker. My abbreviated list:

1.     Ask a question
2.     Create a mood
3.     Combine opposites
4.     Pay attention to the sounds
5.     Tease your audience
6.     Put Google to work for you (Google movie quotes, top ten book lists, Best sellers, etc. Then play around with combinations.)

As I mull over my upcoming middle-grade novel's title, I’m thinking:

Does a preposition in the title help? Moon Over Manifest just won the Newbery Award. Can’t argue with that. 
How about using a character’s name? A dog’s name? As tricky as this title is, nobody ever forgets Because of Winn-Dixie.

I spent most of my library career at schools filled with excited readers. They traded favorite titles like the coolest silly bandz. Sometimes the exact words of a title eluded them, but if a student loved a book, she talked about it to her friends, spreading the word. And if the title was a zinger, they never forgot it, or the book. Nobody ever stumbled over Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade or Judy Blume’s Blubber. Kids loved asking for The Candymakers and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And why not? Great, appealing, kid-like titles.

Then again, one of my favorite recent books was When You Reach Me. And I cannot for the life of me be sure that’s the exact title. It just does not stick in my brain the way How to Steal a Dog does. And I’ve read When You Reach Me at least three times.

Consider poor Stieg Larsson. Ha. Not poor in the least. But also not so great at title-picking. As reported in a just-translated memoir by Kurdo Baksi, Stieg Larsson, My Friend, his working titles were the feeble The Witch Who Dreamt of a Can of Petrol and Matches and The Exploding Castle in the Air...

Ugh. Give me Girl With The Dragon Tattoo over those dogs of titles anytime.

And speaking of Dog Titles- Here’s a website that offers a different take on choosing titles.

I suspect book jacket art has more sway with purchasers, as do personal recommendations, love of the author, general chatter about a book-- not to mention glowing reviews. At least that’s my feeling about how kids (their parents and their librarians) choose books.

And, still,  I’m wondering, how much does a title influence a book’s sales? Do you gravitate toward a book because of the cover and particularly the title? What are your worst titles ever?  Your best?

Because I sure would like to nail this title thing. And I sure do stink at finding a great one.


Augusta Scattergood’s first middle grade novel, 
historical fiction set in 1964 Mississippi, 
will be published by Scholastic in Spring, 2012. 
It is, as yet, untitled.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tweeting the Quack

by Zachary Steele

This is a duck.  His name is Ducky Thomas.  He is a duck named Thomas.
He's stuffed full of cute, loves adventures, and is quite convinced that the world is the most fantastic thing a duck could ever hope for.  He also loves the cat who loves him most.

This is a video about a bookstore.  It has nothing to do with ducks--not yet anyway I guess I must admit--but does indeed have a lot to do with the point.

They both have something in common.  They have nothing directly to do with the books I write, but have everything to do with me as a writer.  They are independent of what is published, but a vital cog in the publicity of who I am.  And they aren't the end or the beginning.  They are the journey.

There.  I've waxed poetic.  Now I can get on with the point.

We all know about Twitter.  If you have the time and patience, you can gather a following, make a name for yourself, your opinions, and your work.  The same can be said for Facebook, albeit in a more centralized, and long-term kind of way.  You're going to make your friends, have your followers, talk about anything from The Simpsons and their obvious lack of relevance to Obama and his quest for health care.  You'll be "liked", have the "@" symbol thrown your way, tagged, or even re-posted/re-tweeted.  People will laugh with you, at you, talk about why your opinion is pointless and not at all as potent as what they have to say, and send messages to one another about whatever it is you posted last.  Above all, they will know you as a writer, and understand you as a person in ways readers never could before, and they will look forward to what you have to post next.

But they are merely one step toward lifting you, as a writer, into the conversations of the world. 

We live in a digital age.  One in which communication is almost entirely of the written word.  We view Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Plancast, Tumbler, and so on as pure facets of publicity, meant to broaden our audience and stamp a nice, fancy, little brand upon our heads.  All of which is most certainly true.  But it's not the mere existence of our digital selves on these sites that makes full embrace of what they offer us.  It's what we write.  It's how we use them.  It's taking the blank slate and filling it with content that both evolves who we are as writers, and demonstrates fully what we can do with the words we are blessed with.  True, starting a blog and writing about anything--anything at all--is exactly the right approach.  But it isn't the endpoint. 

When I first started blogging, I didn't intend on writing about the adventures of a stuffed duck, and I had no plans to begin at first a blog, and then a series of videos about life in a bookstore.  But the more I worked through my personal blog, the more I came to see each entry as a script of my life--pages of the mind fluttering from the inner sanctum of thought to the public forum offered to me.  Each entry was another showcase of what I could offer.  In a very real sense, each time I posted a blog, I was adding to my resume.  Obviously, it is every writer's great hope that each book that is published will further enhance the aura and legacy of who they are (read in: you will become instantly uber-famous, and own two castles in a decade).  But it doesn't have to end there any more.  In fact, the sheer number of books that are being published by extension of the popularity of a blog speak volumes to the time in which we live.  Used to be that you had to find a press to print your article, or a series of collected works in which to be included in order to broaden the scope of your work.  Now you have the internet, and whatever time you offer it.  Work it all in unison and not only do people start to pay attention--no matter how small your collective--but they start to anticipate what's to come.  Then that audience can grow as people share what you have to offer--which is far less work than what you will put into creating it, given that the sharing aspect of it is usually accommodated by the gratifying click of a button.

It's so very cliche, but the truth is, you never know who is watching, who is reading, who will share what you have to say, who is paying attention to as you scream from every corner of the internet you can crawl from, "HEY! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!"  So, go.  Do.  Find your inner duck.  And make every word count.  Your future readers will take note.

Zachary Steele is usually a lot funnier than this, but, oh well, what are you going to do, right?  He is the author of Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO, and the forthcoming Flutter: An Epic of Mass Distraction, and has been featured on NPR and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Publisher's Weekly, and Shelf Awareness. He can be found boring the world with his thoughts on his blog,The Further Promotion of ME, as well as the bookstore-life blog, There Are No Words, and the newly minted Adventures of Ducky Thomas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Lady Gaga, Eduardo Cruz, and My New Novel" by Niles Reddick

Lady Gaga arrived in an egg at the Grammy’s, and another headline I read speculated whether Eduardo Cruz got a tattoo of Eva Longoria or not.  Interestingly, we don’t often see much about books, or authors, at all in the media. It may be that the writing craft has evolved out of what is interesting to the mainstream public, and sadly, I think that may be partially true. I also think it may be partially true that people lead such busy lives, watching headlines is much “easier” than reading a book

I have no clue who Lady Gaga is or why she would arrive in an egg, except as a publicity stunt.  I also have no idea who Eduardo Cruz is, or even Eva Longoria, and I can’t imagine people would care what sort of tattoo Eduardo has, but these sorts of nonsensical headlines seem all the rage.

As a writer who has been published by two small presses, I have to admit that most of the publicity or marketing has been up to me, and many writers, including me, aren't “schooled” in this area.  If I get a tattoo, which I probably wouldn’t do for fear of disease, no one would care, and if I arrived somewhere in an egg, I would probably get locked up (and maybe should be). 

But I do wonder what it would take for the media to begin paying attention to writers and their books.  I would have written to media outlets by now, if I thought it would’ve made a difference. The issues I’ve written to them about before never even got a courtesy reply---you know, the “Thank you, customer, you are so important to us, we’ve sent this to sub-department 18 in India, and we’ll be in touch should we need more information” type response.

The deviant I aspire to be wants to create fictional headlines related to parts of my books to disperse to the media outlets: “Writer Niles Reddick confesses his aunt collected road kill,” “Writer Niles Reddick tells all about church split and minister’s affair,” “Writer Niles Reddick admits he called wife’s family, told them they won a shopping spree at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, hid behind the greeting card section to watch them load buggies only to be turned away by manager and later arrested for a brouhaha because they hadn’t won,” and so on.  I’m not sure these headlines would even cause a ruckus.
What I have done is what most of us do, awkwardly and quietly attempt to promote our books: through our college alumni magazines, reviews, blogs, facebook, local media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, and television, through conferences, festivals, or other speaking engagements.  All of these have some impact, and while I haven’t given up my day job to write full time, I have to find comfort in the occasional email from an old friend or co-worker or comment from my mother: “I saw ‘so and so’ at the funeral home. You remember her, don’t you? She was the sister to your first grade teacher you met one time at K-Mart when we bought those goldfish that didn’t live a week. She saw the article about your new book in the paper and just knew you would always amount to something.”  But did she buy the book, I wonder. I also take comfort that I don’t have to get into an egg or get a tattoo. Come to think of it, though, I still have a few complimentary copies of my latest book around the house. Maybe I'll send Lady Gaga and Eduardo a copy. Maybe Lady Gaga can read the book while spending hours in her egg or Eduardo will be reading it while he gets another tattoo, and the paparazzi will blast my new book cover in the headlines. Hell, I'd love to hit the cover of The National Enquirer

 Niles Reddick is author of a short story collection, Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, which was a best seller and finalist for an Eppie Award.  His novel, Lead Me Home, has been nominated for an IPPY award, and he has been nominated as a Georgia Author of the Year award for first novel. Niles lives in Tifton, GA with his wife Michelle, children Audrey and Nicholas, and their two Brittany Spaniels---Jack (Johannes, named for Niles’ GGG grandfather) and Anna (Appollonia, named for Niles’ GGG aunt). He works for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. His website is:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pull Up Your Big Girl Panties

I must confess I have struggled with this book promotion idea since I understood there would be a reason to put forth the effort. Most novelists—me being at the top of the list—are solidary creatures. We have to be since we spend so much time with our characters in our fictional world. Yet, when it is all said and done (boy that’s a cliché), we have to stand in front of (hopefully) a room full of people and answer questions about how we created our story

Just the thought of speaking sends me to the mirror to check for new wrinkles. Have I gained too much weight? What will I wear? Will anyone guess I have grown children? That I wrote my first book with my premature baby granddaughter on my shoulder? I mean really can I do this? I can’t imagine what about my writing process would interest anyone. But only a few years ago I was hanging on every word that came from writers I aspired to be like.

So, Ghost On Black Mountain will hit the major bookstores on or around September 13th of this year. I’m fortunate enough to have received a book deal from Simon & Schuster. This in itself is amazing, considering our struggling economy. I will be assigned my publicist in March. Then the fun begins!

Now is the time to make my presence on Facebook and Twitter known. My shoulders are tightening and my forehead is forming another wrinkle to go with the three already carved there. I have a little over six hundred friends and two hundred fans on Facebook, and I tweet directly from my Facebook fan page. But I struggle with the silliness of writing two lines about my current project or worse about something my eleven-year-old did.

Begin to blog. About what? It doesn’t matter just blog. Blog post: Hello out there. Anyone reading this stuff?

Gather blurbs for novel from accomplished authors. This has been the best experience yet. I have found most writers to be gracious and accessible. Their encouragement has boosted my confidence.

Build a website. Done. Mine comes with one of those nasty tickers, showing how many folks have visited. (Hanging my head in shame)

I have agreed to do my first reading and signing at the Swan Coach House Gallery here in Atlanta. I’m a jeans and sweatshirt kind of gal. This event will be black tie only. In October I will do a signing in Brunswick, Ga. The last part of Ghost On Black Mountain is set in Darien a small coastal town north of there. My reward for three hours of small talk and signing my name is spending the weekend watching the shrimp boats putt-putting by while I walk on the beach. Now that’s my kind of life.

The future of this book looms in front of me. I can’t think about it today. I’ll think about it tomorrow. Yet, I know I’ve put all I have inside of me into this novel. It is worth the reader’s time. I believe in the power of storytelling.

A dear friend told me recently when I was whining about how I would have to step out of my well-constructed box, “Ann, pull up your big girl panties and quit your bellyaching. You haven’t worked this hard to let fear get in your way!”

Ready or not Facebook, blog, Twitter, readings, and book signings Ann Hite is on the job. She can do anything she puts her mind to do. And so can you.

Ghost On Black Mountain
Gallery Books (imprint of Simon & Schuster)
available September 13, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

shhh, pass it on...private thoughts on publicity

By Nicole Seitz

God bless her heart, there's a cute little entertainment reporter who started talking after the Grammy awards last night and right in the middle started speaking gibberish, as if she was having a stroke or speaking in tongues, or one of those pig-latiny languages we used to make up as children.

You can Google it if you need to, but I feel for this woman. She's young. She's got a lot on her mind. She's got a big job, a very public job, and she's trying her hardest to get her words out there just right, and then all of a sudden there's a misfire. My prayers are with her tonight. Part of me knows how she feels. Part of me thinks we're all just one brain misfire from getting our words to come tumbling down around us in a jumbled mess....much like the main character in my latest book, The Inheritance of Beauty. Except Magnolia is almost 90 years old and wheelchair bound and trapped somewhere behind her eyes with thoughts of the past as clear as day and "I love you" on her lips but never making it to her sweet husband's ear.

I love being a writer and getting to be a voice for those who have no voice. It's rewarding--yes, rewarding is a good word--when you care about someone, even a character, and want to help them communicate their messages. Communication is important. It's part of being human. If you have something important to say, you must say it yourself as often and as loudly as you can. If you can.

This is the truth of being an author in this decade.

So speaking of getting the word out... What can I say? There is good publicity and then there is...well, you remember that game you used to play as a kid where you would say into the ear of the person to your right a sentence, and then that person would relay it to the next and then the next until the whole circle of folks had been whispered to, and the last one beside you on the left would stand up proudly and declare what it was you said...only it's NOTHING like what you said in the first place, and everyone just dies laughing?

"I have a new book out called The Inheritance of Beauty."
"I have a new lookout, call the caravans of beauty."
"Why haven't you put out all the caravans of booty?"
"Wipe your shoe poo out, all the bear ants are puny."
"Wipe your shampoo out, all the parents are moody."

Huh? Wipe your shampoo out? The parents are moody? Is that what I said?

YES, the parents ARE moody! Why? They're writing and trying to sell books!

Listen, if you're an author, sometimes you have reason to be moody. Getting the right people to read and talk about your book is not easy! Face it, you've worked so hard not only to write and sell the book but then then to work for a year with your publisher trying to get it out the door and into stores. And then when it's time, you want to take a deep breath and let other people take the reins and relay the message: "There is a NEW book out by an AMAZING author, and it's a GREAT book, and you should read it and tell EVERYONE you know!"

But sometimes, that doesn't happen, does it? Sometimes, you have to pick those reins back up. Sometimes you feel like that initial whisper into the wind got distorted or watered down along the way and if you don't get back out there and tell everyone again, "Hey, I worked really hard to write a great new book! Tell a friend!"-- that your words are lost out there like gibberish falling down around feet, like whispers morphing and changing shape in the wind.

As authors, we depend on our publishers and publicists and marketing people to get the word out, but being an author means you have a message...YOUR words. And sometimes, when all the hoo-hah has died down and the big events are over and publicists (God bless them!) have moved on to a newer book, there's still little old you, holding your microphone, trying to get your story out to another person who might need to or like to hear your message. And you just pray the words come out last. time.

I have a new book out called The Inheritance of Beauty.
I have a new book out called The Inheritance of Beauty.

I have a new book out called The Inheritance of Beauty.
Won't you read it?

shhh. Pass it on...

Nicole Seitz with Shellie Rushing Tomlinson at the Pulpwood
Queens Girlfriend weekend in Texas last month.
Nicole Seitz is a South Carolina Lowcountry native, mother, wife, art teacher, illustrator and novelist. She is pleased to have just released her fifth novel, The Inheritance of Beauty, if you haven't heard. The book is getting very nice reviews from readers, and Nicole is happy about that. She also feels blessed to have amazing publicists, publishers, readers and a biased but lovely mother who tells people all about her books. Just yesterday she was on the radio show of one of A Good Blog is Hard to Find's best and brightest talents, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson. They had a very nice chat on her porch, and you can listen to it here. You can also visit Nicole's website at and find her on Facebook and Twitter @nicoleseitz, if you're so inclined. Happy reading, friends. Spread the word.

Monday, February 14, 2011

RESPECTING THE STORY (or the oil and water of this business)

Dear Friends, Fellow authors, and A Good Blog is Hard to Find Faithful Readers,

Here we are gathered in this room hanging out on the edge of the net and touching one another with our words. And that's exactly what I want to talk about. This month we are speaking about publicity, what to do to give that book a push, to find its readers, to connect with the world but I realized that Patty Callahan Henry just waxed eloquent on the joys of getting out and getting to know your public. Last summer I drummed up a few mistakes I'd made along the way. You can find that post here. 
Me waxing on about the mistakes and learning curves of the publishing business - or what I know now that I wish I knew then:

And a few days ago Shellie told it the way it was about the rubber meeting the road here: 
Shellie Rushing Tomlinson wrote about taking it on, the real world and the art of publicity

And our gracious, talented friend Kerry basically taught a class on giving back with a photo montage from the road that speaks volumes here:
Kerry Madden talks about giving back while getting it right:

Then I literally spent time reviewing a year of blog posts on A Good Blog is Hard to Find. Amazing. Incredible. Honors and Kudos one and all. And again a special nod to Karin Gillespie for beginning this blog and for Kathy Patrick for the undertaking of it's continuance. How I wish I had been able to tap into this incredible resource so many, many years ago. I think this blog should be required reading for young people, old people and all those in between who struggle and strive to write a story, touch a heart, and get their work published and read in this wild and every-changing business. I think this resource so valuable that I'm going to settle in this week with coffee, notebook and pen in hand and honestly take notes from the authors that have had such incredible, down-to-earth, been there and done it raw advice. This is the kind of advice we PAY for at writing conferences and to PR firms. Seriously. 

That being said - I have nothing to add to this subject that hasn't been captured. Not a clue, not a key. 

BUT -  - - I do have a little something on my mind. 

As the days wear long, with The Miracle of Mercy Land only debuting a few months ago, with Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit rising to the surface April 5th, 2011 - I have been in a constant state of editing, or promoting for months. (Yes, never mind that I do that little Radio show thing on the side - but people, I do so love author talks, festival news, a GOOD review, and a few great tunes to set the mood. - I'm kinda, well, addicted in the most wonderful way to a little Clearstory every week.) And what I want to say is - looks like those days of authors hanging in Paris with other writers and then moodily walking those smokey streets back to hang over the typewriter and stir up stories like the end of the world was pressing in and all humanity hung in the balance - are over~ 

These days - it's promote, promote, promote. Are you on Twitter? Facebook? How often do you post? Who do you know? What have you done to sell books TODAY? Traveling? Cruising? Talking?

All good and great and needed things in today's screaming society of plugged in professionalism - yet . . . I've got this story  waiting to be told. A big one. It's southern, dark, demanding, dreamy and full of the fight for redemption and the places we have to find in ourselves to forgive and find our way back to the truth. 
BUT - without those dedicated hours where I respectively step back from the PUBLICITY demands of the upcoming book, road tour, social media, Publisher emails, the bing of my smart phone, the call, the demand, the scream of the BUSINESS of this Writing life - there will be no writing life left worthy of all those efforts on my part, my publisher, or my publicist.

I've been looking at the serious output of creative madness of some of our counterparts from the days of old. Men and women with long lives, and histories of making love to the page with a touch of madness. God bless them everyone. Because we need them. We need those words that don't bear the rhythm of us simultaneously trying to answer sixteen emails and forty live chats while bidding on a leather bag from Italy while we write the next line. We need the words from a generation that respected the work of the writer, the REAL work of THE WRITER. The Words they weave into THE Story. 

And we need each other. We need the stories that usher us out of the silence of our souls. We need the incredible clarity that those stories bring to our cluttered lives. The words that so beautifully illuminate our existence and help us laugh at ourselves and love one another again.

. I thank you for every writer that gives a leg up to another writer, blogs on their work, facebooks

But I also ask you, beg you, implore you - step away from the blessed promotional work we all shoulder, burden, and carry - even celebrate - to write. To simply,  strongly, passionately - write. Step away from the noise. Carve out precious HOURS not moments to write uninterrupted. Find a corner, a coffee shop, a library or a graveyard but make a covenant with yourself NOT to answer the bells and whistles that scream for your attention. Dive in and gloriously lose yourself in the characters, place, setting, and creation that awaits.  I assure you, the world will be waiting for you, for me, for all of us, still clamoring and demanding when we return. 

IN the greediest moment of your life, grab that story asking to be told, and don't let go of it 'till it's told. In the most complete,  most powerful way possible.

RIVER JORDAN is the author of four novels, and a collection of essays.  Her first published non-fiction work inspired by a New Year’s Resolution – Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit will be published by Penguin/BerkleyApril 5, 2011. Ms. Jordan teaches and speaks on ‘The Power of Story’  and produces and hosts the radio program, Clearstory, on WRFN, 107.1 FM, Nashville. Jordan and her husband live in Nashville, TN. You may visit the author at or visit 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Joshilyn Jackson: Publicity v/s Bad Animals

So, we are talking this month about publicity, and in the last week, I have heard I should register and blog and interact on places like Good Reads and Library Thing and Amazon for the sake of this very P word. I am told writers must “Be a presence” there. I hear this both from folks in my industry and from reader mail.

Really? A novelist being a presence on a site where REVIEWS of their own books happen seems weird and counter-intuitive. Like pouring olive oil and aged balsamic onto a perfectly good strawberry shortcake. I will admit that these things----books, reviews---can both be fun and nourishing, but who wants them in the same dish? The very thought makes me a little queasy.

It’s the first thing we are told---it is not professional to respond to reviews. Period. PERIOD. Not even the good ones. You don’t cozy up and snuggle with the reviewer who gives you the rave; they may not love your next book with such vim, and it is their JOB to say so. Certainly we also must not respond to bad ones. The book has to stand up for itself; if the reviewer is wrong, plenty of readers and other reviewers and your own strong beating heart will know it.

There is no way for the writer to emerge from a response to a review with ANY grace. You look either smug or hypersensitive. And perhaps you are both. You are, after all, a writer, and so we must presume you own a herd of mental illnesses.

Your head is filled with many, many bad animals that chew and scrabble at your innards and make the story come out. AND THAT’S OKAY. That’s GREAT. Without the bad animals, there is no story....what’s not okay is letting those bad animals romp publicly around while you try to explain all the ways in which you own them.

No, when reviews are posted, for good or ill, and the writer LONGS to respond...I say you chain those beasts up and point their savage yearnings directly at that damnable blinking cursor, you let them fill the screen with the next story----the next story is an act of proactive beastery. You can’t waste bad animal on reactive review responses.

But I don’t see how a writer can reasonably keep these beasts in check on a site where people talk and speculate so openly about the book---and you, because story is an extension of self. The book is the story that rises up unstoppable in the space between one’s deepest ugly hurt places and one's most secret beautiful hopes and pleasures. So the only way to win, Matthew Broderick, is NOT TO PLAY.

Forget the writer, though. The site is not for them, after all. Think about the READER. Do you WANT the writer there, Oh Gentle Reader? Would Gentle Reader (and Not So Gentle Reader) feel as free to speak his/her mind if the author is watching? If no, then something is lost, and if yes, God help us all. To expand:

On every review site, you find a healthy population of Angry Reader Whose Own Manuscript Has Not Sold Who Solaces Itself By Explaining Why Every Current Book Is A Product Of The New York Publishing Machine And PS Also A Sub Par Abomination. The road to publication is long and hateful, there are black pits of discouraging ruin along the way, and some individual paths lead only to more no, more ruin, more heartbreak. It’s hard. Good Reads is a better place than a bell tower to shoot those angry, hurt, and ultimately misdirected bullets as metaphors instead, of, you know...bullets.

And then there is always a sprinkle of Something To Prove Reader Who Needs To Show The Internet It is Smarter Than The Room By Writing Hilarious Scathing Criticism. If the author becomes human, then the blithe vivisection of a text becomes the blithe vivisection of a person...Perhaps reality TV is giving us a taste for this, but it doesn’t mean writers should participate by showing up to publicly paw through their own guts.

And those Reader-Types are the fringe. The majority of the population is made up of Sincere Reader Who Wants To Honestly Discuss A Book Fully, Both The Good And The Bad, Perhapd To Evangelize For Beloved Books And Vent About Angry-Making Books.

Does he/she want the author hovering about, looking stabbed if they venture to say, “But the character of the sea monkey didn’t work for me...” or preening like an unendurable preen-monster if they say, “The sea monkey was so REAL...”

So.Why would readers want us there? Do you? If you write, are you there? How? Is there an upside I am missing? Is this publicity or masochism, and is there a difference? And WTH does this have to do with Happy Valentine’s Day, other than the fact that thinking about publicity has made me desperately want to go face down in a heart shaped box of Godiva Chocolates?

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels: gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, and Backseat Saints. Her short fiction and essays have been published in literary magazines and anthologies such as FC2’s no victims anthology, Calyx, TriQuarterly, and most recently in Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs they Quit. Jackson is currently at work on her next novel, a multi-voiced new Southern Gothic tale about sexuality, identity, and redemption set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. You can visit her on the web at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Marketing, Smarketing

For me, marketing falls somewhere between “I don’t know I just work here” and “I wish I knew now what I didn’t know then”. (Cue the music.) Necessary background, condensed out of sympathy for those who may have heard the weary story before: After a lifetime (two years, more or less) of filing rejection slips alphabetically, I created my own platform (online community called All Things Southern) and went about publishing my own books in my hard-headed version of build it and they will come. One website, three self-published books, seven years, a gazillion tiny speaking engagements, and one weekly video and radio show later, I signed with a wonderful agent who eventually sold my fourth book to Penguin Group USA/Berkley. Trust me; that was the abbreviated version.

Having been a self-published author, I was down with the hard facts. The only way my work was going to get promoted was if I did the promoting. The hats were all mine, from stock girl to publicist. If I didn’t contact a store in person, there was zero chance they’d ever carry my books. Granted, the chances were slim that they would carry my work even after I started stalking ‘em but the odds would increase, albeit marginally.

When Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On came out in May 2008, I was ready to set my book promoting self aside, concentrate on my writing, run All Things Southern and live happily ever after in My Publisher Will Handle That Land. Reality can be so pie-in-the-face rude. The new hard facts looked a lot like the old ones. I may have leapt the big hurdle but if I wanted to stay in the race, I still needed to pick ‘em up and put ‘em down.

The sequel to that book, Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy, is scheduled for release May 3rd. In a perfect world, I would hire an outside publicist with the energy level of Kathy Patrick, the Pulpwood Queen, and the marketing skills of whoever is behind Justin How-Did-This-Happen Beiber, but alas my resources are limited. Instead, I will try to live by my own Marketing Commandments:

-I will help Penguin’s in-house publicist help me by remembering that I’m only one of many authors she is working with and any media contacts or leads I can gather or pass on to her will help maximize her time, and thus my book’s exposure.

- I will send out Sue Ellen’s postcards to AT LEAST the bookstores that hosted signings for my last book and as many more as I possibly can.

- I will maintain a current database of the stores that welcome me for a signing and try to be more prompt about following up with thank you notes.

- I will interact with the public as much as possible at book events. Everyone has a story and every event is an opportunity to capture new ones.

- I will have material, (book marks, business cards, etc.) to hand out at book signings so potential book buyers can feel comfortable walking away to consider the purchase instead of being put on the spot.

- I will call radio stations and ask if they are interested in doing giveaways of my book and I’ll consider it a good investment for the trade-off in airtime.

- I will attend as many book festivals as physically possible to connect with readers and writers.

- I will continue to make every effort to see that my weekly newsletter is entertaining and informative, keeping in mind that this is my way of giving back to the ATS community.

- I will not use social media selfishly. Communication, by definition, is a two way street. My readers are people, not numbers, and they deserve to be treated as such.

- I will support my fellow authors. (Towards, that end: Dear author friends, please contact me if you would like to guest on my blog at All Things Southern.)

- I will do readings at area libraries. Their patrons may not buy books, but they are readers. As writers we have a shared responsibility to promote reading.

And number twelve of my Happy Dozen:

- I will enjoy my life while I’m promoting my work, knowing that I am living what I first dreamed many years ago as a little girl perched in the top of my reading/writing mimosa tree. I am a writer and I will be grateful for that privilege.


Shellie Rushing Tomlinson lives in Lake Providence, Louisiana with her husband, Phil. She's owner and publisher of All Things Southern and the host of a daily radio show and weekly video segment by the same name. A list of the twenty-eight radio stations that carry Shellie's daily southern features can be found at All Things Southern. You can listen to Shellie's All Things Southern LIVE Talk Show each Monday evening from 5-6 PM CST on TALK540 out of Monroe, LA. The show streams LIVE and podcasts are available so everyone can join Shellie's southern celebration!