Book Launch Party Re-cap

IMG_1774As you probably know from previous posts, I threw my first book launch party for Secret Hunger over the weekend, and I’m happy to say I think it went very well!

I mentioned that I had two main fears going into the event. Either nobody showed up or too many people showed up and I planned poorly for the hor d’oeuvres. Thankfully, neither of those situations occurred. In fact, I planned for about thirty-five people to come by and that’s what happened – almost exactly!

Big thanks to Sean at Crave Bistro and Sara – the bartender extraordinaire. I thought it would be fun to hold the event in a venue other than a bookstore or library, and they really came through for me. The restaurant is beautiful, there was plenty of room to set up chairs, and it was large enough to encourage guests to get up and move around afterwards.

HUGE thanks to Lynne Favreau, my good friend and co-founder of the Wrinoshores writing group. She has not only helped me every step of the way for this party, but has been there since the first meeting of my very first NaNoWriMo.

I honestly don’t know what I would do without this fantastic woman. I had been to a recent book launch party the week before and loved the interview format that Edith Maxwell had done for her book, Farmed and Dangerous. So, one week before the party, I asked – well, kind of dumped the idea – into Lynne’s lap. She was gracious and agreed to step into the role of interviewer…and then came up with a set of really great questions!

There are a few things that I would do differently for next time. I read four excerpts and would probably cut it down to three, somewhat smaller ones. I got some valuable feedback that suggested I read a little slower next time (I was a bit nervous, especially for that first one.)

Also, I sent out a few press releases and submitted to local calendar events, but I don’t think it was enough. Next time, I’ll start my promoting earlier and try to create a bit more buzz. Even though the event wasn’t being held at a bookstore or library, I should have reached out to my local bookstores and seen if they could help spread the word for me.

At any rate, the most important thing is that I think people had a good time! Here’s some photos and a short video of a couple of questions from the interview. Lynne had just asked me if I would do anything differently while publishing my second book.

Book Launch Party and New England Author Expo

BookLaunchI know it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written a post and I wanted to take a moment to talk about a few events that are coming up.

First off, I’m holding a book launch party for Secret Hunger this weekend, Saturday June 13th from 12 – 3 PM. It’s going to be held at Crave Bistro in Amesbury, MA and is free and open to the public.

If you are reading this post and anywhere in the area, feel free to stop by! There will be hors d’oeurves, cocktails, door raffle prizes – including a $50 dinner gift certificate – and, of course signed books available for sale.

This is my first book launch party and I’m happy and nervous in equal measure. I keep thinking up worst case scenarios. What if no one comes? What if way too many people come and I haven’t planned enough food? What on earth am I going to say? Should I read excerpts from my book? Oh geez, what passages should I read?

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. I’m also planning on writing a future post about how I planned my book launch party, different elements I was aiming for,  photos from the event, as well as any tips and tricks I learned along the way for next time.

2015 New England Authors Expo

I’m also excited to announce that I will be attending the 2015 New England Author Expo at the Danversport Yacht Club on Wednesday, July 29th. This event highlights authors, illustrators, and publishers from the New England region. It’s free to the public from 4 – 9 PM and the location is absolutely beautiful.

I’m really looking forward to this! It will be the first event I’ll be participating in as an author. It should be a great chance to network with fellow writers, as well as a way to connect with new readers.

Before signing up, I had an opportunity to talk with the founder and coordinator of the event, Christopher Obert. Not only did I find him warm and supportive, but he took the time to answer all my questions and allay some of my new author fears.

He also gave me a little bit of history of the author expo.  It all started very organically and is truly a “grassroots” affair. That’s not to imply it’s insubstantial, however. Their first book event was in 2006, and they’ve been hosting something annually ever since! They began using the name “Author Expo” back in 2012. Last year they actually sold out space with over a hundred authors represented!

ASHI’m also going to be doing an interview with science fiction author Aaron Hubble this Wednesday. I met Aaron while participating in a Facebook online book fair called “Spring” into Reading a couple of weeks ago. Through our conversations, we discovered that we had both published our debut novels on the same day. As we were comparing notes, he told me that he wanted to start a series of interviews featuring new authors and talking about various lessons they’d learned. It sounded like a great opportunity to review this past year and share perspectives with someone else who had been going through a similar process. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s posted. In the meantime, if you are a fan of science fiction like me, you should go check out his new book, Ash: Farpointe Initiative Book One.

Lastly, I’ve also been planning a series of blog posts focusing on some of the lessons I’ve learned this past year as I’ve fumbled my way through my first book. My plan is to have them all written, and publish them once a week starting sometime mid-July. Some of the topics I plan on discussing are plotting vs. pantsing, how to craft a query e-mail to book bloggers, and what I would do differently for my second book. The series will be called BookBound: Lessons Learned While Writing My First Novel.

My plan going into this stage was to focus on promotion and marketing for the first month after my book was published, and then turning back to writing and focusing on my second book. I’ve read a lot of advice that cautions new authors not to spend so much time promoting that they lose sight of the fact that they’re an writer first and foremost. Now that it’s July, I’ve taken those words to heart and am once again spending hours at my local cafe plotting out Liz Harper’s story. Hopefully, the process will be a little smoother this next go-around. Or, barring that, hopefully I’ll find a whole bunch of new mistakes to make!

 

Secret Hunger Proof Copy!

I will probably write an actual post sometime later this week. But, for now – check it out! Okay, I’ll admit, I got a little shiver when I opened the box and saw the physical copy of my book for the first time. Hopefully, no matter how many books I end up writing, I’ll always get those goosebumps.

Secret Hunger’s First Week

AmazonScreenshotWow. Can you believe it’s already been a week since I published Secret Hunger?

This first week out of the gate I concentrated on uploading my print files to CreateSpace, reserved a place for my book launch party on June 13th, and wrote a few dozen book bloggers asking if they would consider reviewing my book.

I also participated in a Facebook online book fair and met a number of avid book lovers, as well as talented authors.

Incidentally, Hugh Howey just recently wrote a blog post in response to a fan asking him what the best way to support a favorite author was. If you’re a reader, it’s definitely worth taking a look.

Hugh helps illuminate the various factors that affect self-published authors. (Well, technically all authors, but I think the effects are most keenly felt by self-published authors.)

He says, “If you really want to support your favorite authors, my advice is simple: Read their books. Spread word-of-mouth. Write reviews. Email them and express your delight.”

I’ve been a voracious reader all my life but never fully understood just how much reviews meant to authors, and how leaving one impacts visibility for potential readers.

Now, having just published my own debut novel a week ago, I can absolutely attest to this. Reviews, word of mouth, and feedback are GOLD to an author.

I can’t say I’ve had a huge influx of sales, but so far they have maintained a steady drip. In total, I’ve sold 23 copies, and had 11 borrows through KU. I’m sure those numbers are modest compared to many other authors, but as it stands, I’m pretty happy with how my first week has gone.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. For that reason, I’m also actively looking for book bloggers interested in reviewing my book. I’m happy to provide a free copy, and only ask for an honest review in return.

If you (or someone you know) are interested, please contact me. You can either leave a comment in this post, or email me at satinrussell [at] hotmail [dot] com. I’ll probably only keep this offer open until I reach an arbitrary number of reviews posted, so don’t wait!

Secret Hunger is Now Available!

Secret Hunger Cover - OFFICIALAaahhh! Can you believe it? Secret Hunger went live late yesterday afternoon and is now available for sale on Amazon. Which means I’m officially a published author! Holy cow, that’s cool. I feel like shouting it from the rooftops.

In a way, it’s hard for me to believe the culmination of this two year journey has arrived. I was such a huge ball of stress yesterday as I was trying to get the final files uploaded. I’ll have to talk about some of my mishaps in a later post. But for now, let’s just bask in the fact that Secret Hunger is published!

It’s AVAILABLE HERE if you’re interested. (There’s also a pretty substantial sample for anyone perusing.)

This is what a published author looks like.

This is what a published author looks like.

 

ARC Contest Results

Just a quick post today. I recorded the drawing for my digital ARC contest. Take a look! Hopefully it’s not too cheesy…this was my first time ever recording myself and I was a little nervous.

Secret Hunger digital ARC Contest *Expanded*

Secret Hunger Cover - OFFICIALThank you to everybody who has shared with me their love and support this past year as I’ve worked on Secret Hunger. I’ve heard from people from every aspect and chapter of my life. I’m truly touched and humbled.

Of course, this means I want to give more!

Just a reminder, the contest to win an ARC copy ends on Wednesday 4/22 at noon. It will be an electronic copy of the book in .mobi format. (Able to be read on your kindle or through a kindle app.)

You can enter by signing up to my newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bgzjPj. So far, I’ve had ten additional people join which brings my count up to 51. So here’s a STRETCH GOAL – if I get 60 people signed up to my newsletter by the drawing on Wednesday, I’ll send out two ARC copies. (Don’t forget, if you RE-BLOG the original post, your name gets put into the hat a second time. Liking doesn’t count, so spread the word!)

Wondering what Secret Hunger is about? Here’s the blurb:

“Olivia, a café owner and cook, never regretted forsaking her dreams to finish raising her sisters after the death of their parents. Now grown, they’ve moved out of the house, leaving Olivia free to pick up where she left off – if she can find the courage to start over.

Mason is a Boston police detective, recuperating from a tragic incident that left his partner dead. All he wants is to heal and get back to the job of hunting the killer down. The last thing on his mind is romance.

Despite their mutual attraction, finding love wasn’t in either of their plans. But as their relationship heats up, events begin to happen that make Olivia realize she’s drawn a far more sinister kind of attention. Suddenly, she finds herself fighting not only for her dreams, but for her very life.”

Still not satisfied? Well, lucky you, here’s an excerpt:

Detective Mason Clark looked up from the file in his lap and watched the scenery pass by his window. Multi-family homes with peeling paint and sagging porches slumped alongside cracked sidewalks. Even the sky looked gray and dingy, as if it, too, suffered from the same socio-economic forces as the neighborhood it watched over.

Amidst the monochromatic backdrop, colored strands of lights were haphazardly draped in windows and interwoven between the slats in some of the fences. Mason turned to his partner of five years and grumbled, “It’s not even Halloween or Thanksgiving yet, and people already have their Christmas lights up. When did everybody start rushing through the holidays?”

Detective Ryan Miller shrugged and laughed at his best friend. “I don’t know, man. You’d think people would want to savor one holiday before rushing to the next. It’s not as if post-holiday winter holds some great prize. Late January and February are the worst, all the bad weather and none of the good stuff.”

He thought about that and nodded. “Speaking of which, you and Shauna getting along any better? She gonna let you see your kid for the holidays?”

Mason knew they’d been having some problems and had recently separated. He also knew Ryan was still hoping to work things out. He looked over at his friend, who now had a pained look on his face.

“Sort of, I get the day after Thanksgiving with her and will be stopping by for Christmas Eve. They’re heading over to Shauna’s parents’ house on Christmas Day.” Stopped at a traffic light, they stared out of the windshield as a wrinkled, drunk, old man stumbled past them on the crosswalk.

He chuckled, ruefully. “She told me she wants a MacBook.”

Ryan pulled the car to the curb. They paused a moment, taking in the details of the run-down, faded house sitting before them. At one point, Mason thought, it might have been blue, but the building had slowly become a faded gray over time. The color fled long ago, abandoning the inhabitants much like hope and prosperity had done before it.

Mason set the papers on the dash and removed his seatbelt. “So, this is where the bastard lives, huh? You want to take point on this, or should I?”

“I’ve got it. Something about this guy stinks. I think about scum like this stalking and hurting women and it makes me physically ill. All I can think is, what if someone like this got close to my Jenny? If he’s our guy, I’m hoping we can throw him away for good.”

“Alright, you get point, but don’t get overeager. Remember, we don’t have any solid evidence on him yet. They tried to get him for stalking over in Ohio, but couldn’t get anything to stick.”

Ryan sighed with exasperation. “It doesn’t help that stalking is so hard to prosecute. A woman practically has to be assaulted or kidnapped just to get any attention. By then, it’s usually too late.”

Mason agreed, “Well, hopefully, it’s not too late for this woman.”

They both swung out of the car and scanned their surroundings. The sun was just beginning to break through the clouds, but Mason could still see his breath coming out in little puffs. Gray patches of snow cowered in shadows, remnants of the last snowstorm.

Leading the way, Ryan walked up the steps in front of the door and rang the bell. “Mr. Mendez? Are you home? We need to ask you a few questions.”

Robert Mendez barely cracked the door open. He stood between it and the frame, his body blocking any view of the gloom behind him. He wasn’t very tall—only about 5’10” or so—but his shoulders were broad and it was obvious he kept himself in good shape. Mason noticed he was dressed completely in black: black cargo pants, combat boots and a black shirt buttoned all the way up to his neck.

“Officers,” Robert looked at the two men standing before him and scowled. “What do you want?”

In his most official tone, Ryan inquired, “Robert Mendez? We’re in the process of canvassing the area and have reason to believe you may know something about the disappearance of a young woman from this neighborhood. May we come in and ask you a few questions?”

Just then, they heard a thump, like something, or someone, falling and a soft, muffled cry from one of the back rooms. Mason watched Robert’s shoulders tense and his eyes give a quick flick before immediately smoothing his face back to an inscrutable expression.

“Sir, are you alone in the house? Who do you have back there with you?” Raising his voice, Ryan took a small step forward, lifting his hand to push the door further open…

Shock and surprise registered on Ryan’s face as his chest exploded in a sea of red. His expression seared itself into Mason’s memory just as a bullet slammed into his own body, slightly off-center since his partner shielded most of him.

The weight of the other detective stumbling back threw Mason off balance, sending both of them tumbling down the stoop. Mason struggled to see past the black spots beginning to form in his eyes and managed to whip his gun from its holster.

Desperately, he pulled the trigger, aiming towards the man now dashing out the front door towards them. The doorframe splintered as he took his only shot.

A second slug created a fiery trail of pain along his arm, grazing his shoulder. Gasping, he began to hear screams from across the street.

With adrenaline rushing through him, he attempted to get up, but his left arm didn’t seem to be working very well and he couldn’t get enough oxygen into his lungs. Each breath speared him with searing pain. For a moment, the entire world centered on his next inhalation.

With a feeling of detachment, almost as if he were watching a movie, Mason crumbled to the ground and lay there while the suspect bounded over him and Ryan, rushing towards his car. A woman with large, haunted eyes and a nest of stringy brown hair peered out from the shadows within the house.

Her mouth formed a hollow oval, reminding him of an Edward Munch painting. Her scream echoed throughout his soul, mirroring the one in his own head. As he succumbed to the blackness dragging him under, his last thought was of Ryan.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Secret Hunger Cover Reveal and Contest!

Secret Hunger Cover - OFFICIALI’m excited to unveil the cover for my debut novel, Secret Hunger! What do you think? Followers of my newsletter had a chance to weigh in a couple of weeks ago, and I’m happy to say that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

As most of you know, the release date for Secret Hunger is drawing nearer. Part of the process has been converting my files into something that can be read on a kindle. (Which I’ve been learning how to do today.)

I’ve put together my very first digital ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) and thought it would be neat to give it away to somebody who can’t wait to read it.

So, this is how it’s going to work.If you’d like to have a chance to read my book before it’s available anywhere else, be sure you’re signed up to my newsletter. If you share this post, your name will be added to the hat a second time. (Liking doesn’t count…only re-blogging!)

The drawing will be held on Wednesday, April 22nd, at noon. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. It’s that simple!

Here’s the link to the newsletter if you haven’t already joined. http://eepurl.com/bgzjPj (Don’t forget to share this post for a second chance at winning.) Be sure to use a valid e-mail address so I can send the .mobi file to the correct place.

Good luck!

Social Media and Marketing

Social Media MarketingLet me tell you a little story about when I was a stockbroker. The company I was working for at the time was making a big push to gain greater market share. This primarily involved an emphasis on sales and a focus on increasing “wallet share” of large account holders.

In order to make this transition, they had us all take personality tests to help us evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. The test asked us about two hundred questions and then gave us a score based on our answers. One of the fields it measured was our perception of salespeople and the act of selling. In essence, what was our “sales identity?” I scored a 4/100.

A FOUR!

I don’t like being sold to. I don’t like salespeople. I absolutely don’t want to BE a salesperson. However, I would like people to buy my books. And, if they’re so inclined, I would love for them to review my books.

How am I going to be able to reconcile the differences between my personality and my goals? This is the next challenge I’m facing as my release date draws nearer.

Then I read this article by Delilah S. Dawson: Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work. And all I could think was, “Oh my God, yes!” This woman is speaking my language. Here’s a quote:

Social media is PUSHING.
And today’s reader doesn’t buy things because the author pushed them.
As a reader, I want a book to pull me.

Now, I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that social media is pushing. I do think it’s accurate to say people who forget the “social” in media can be pushy. At the end of the day, social media is just a tool. In the same way a hammer is just a tool. You can use it to build a house, or bludgeon someone to death. Either way, it’s not the hammer’s fault how it was used.

But, there is such a huge difference in feeling pushed or feeling pulled into reading someone’s book, isn’t there? I never want to fall into the trap of being “that person.” I need to remember what my roots are and what got me started on this journey in the first place.

First and foremost, I’m a reader. A voracious reader. I buy books because I *want* to read them. Because something about the description, or the cover, or even the author compelled me to hit that little “Buy now with 1-Click” button.

Delilah goes on to say:

I don’t want to be the object that is acted upon. I want to be the subject that makes a conscious decision, that feels a twinge of curiosity and discovers something amazing. I want to be the person who acts, not the person who is acted upon. I don’t want to be badgered and nagged and wheedled and urged and threatened and cajoled and whined at.

Yes, now I’m also a writer. Would it make me insanely happy if someone decided to read my book? Of course! Would it throw me over the moon if they then decided to write a review? You bet! I’d be thrilled if they let me know what they thought about it – even if it’s less than glowing.

As a writer and a reader — as someone who loves books in general — I want to be a part of this vibrant, interesting community full of intelligent, interactive, and generous people. Who wouldn’t?

It’s not a hardship to get into interesting conversations with people across the country about the latest book they’ve read, or the struggles and triumphs they’ve encountered while writing. It’s not a difficulty to learn about a great new event in the area that features a lot of people whose work I admire.

This is not work, people! This should be a joy. If it truly is that difficult to connect with others who share a common interest, then why are you doing it? If the only reason you can come up with is for “marketing,” then I hate to say it, but you’re doing it wrong.

On the other hand, if you don’t communicate your wants and desires, you probably won’t ever get them. I know many authors have struggled to define (with varying degrees of success) what the fine line is between being a pushy salesperson and genuinely wanting to get the word out.

shagcocktailparty

I recently attended a talk on branding and marketing hosted by my Newburyport Writers group. There were two speakers, Michael Boezi and Connie Johnson Hambley and they both had a lot of good information. At one point, Michael made a comment that I thought was the perfect metaphor.

He said, in a lot of ways social media is like one big cocktail party. You wouldn’t want to get cornered by someone where all they did was talk about themselves and ask you for things. Why would anyone think it was okay to have their internet interactions be like that?

However, you also don’t want to be the wet rag who refuses to open up and tell people about yourself, or never has anything to contribute to the conversation. Both extremes make for an awkward dinner party.

I suspect I will continue to have moments of doubt about this. However, my plan going forward is to maintain a presence that keeps me accessible. Be receptive to meeting new people and fostering friendships. Be open to new experiences. Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. And to stay authentic and genuine and true to myself. Pretty much good advice for all of life, I think.

Oh yeah, and remember, at the end of the day, it’s all about the reader.

Taking the “Brutal” Out of Honesty

brutally-honestBrutal honesty. Now, there is a phrase that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. It’s the idea that one has to be ruthless when telling someone the truth as they see it. It’s not a practice that I agree with. In fact, I think it’s detrimental to the way our society communicates as a whole.

Nowadays, callousness is not only expected, but in some ways I think it’s lauded. The person offering the advice crows about how they really cut their subject down to size. How, “they were just telling the truth.” They’re the same people who say things like, “Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.” Or, “If you can’t handle the truth, don’t ask me to be honest.” As if the concept of kind honesty is an oxymoron.

This practice can be found in any number of reviews, whether it’s on Amazon, Goodreads, Yelp…or really anywhere that caters to people’s opinions. What’s worse is it’s become such an accepted practice that people who are looking for critique actively ask for it. “Please, be brutally honest…”

I would argue that not only is it unnecessary to shred a person’s work while being truthful, it’s actually counter-productive. This lesson—how to give and receive criticism constructively—is a valuable one for me to learn. Especially considering I’m close to publishing my book. Once again, it seems my life is preparing me for the next stage and has given me a number of examples to consider this past week.

It started with a lovely twitter conversation I had with Aniko Carmean (@anikocarmean) who tweeted out, “Telling the truth and “brutal honesty” relay the same information, but only one of them is compassionate.”

So often in this day and age our society feels the only way we can be seen as honest or unbiased is to be ruthless in our truth. Why is that? It’s just as easy to tell someone the truth while still taking into account the person receiving it. Haven’t we all been in a situation in our life where we were being evaluated?

She went on to say, “Tearing someone down to ‘tell the truth’ ruins trust.” (By the way, you should check out her BLOG!)

The problem with being brutal with our honesty is it puts the receiver on the defensive. When people are defensive their “flight or fight” mode kicks in and their ears close. They are no longer receptive to hearing whatever gem of wisdom is being bestowed upon them. So, in the end, the person who is sharp with their criticism winds up being counter-productive to their goals.

Of course, there is a right way to offering up criticism or advice and it starts with empathy and compassion.

I read another article this past week from Ericka Clay titled, “How Book Reviews Make You a Better Writer” where she discusses some reviews written about her book that had been less than glowing. However, instead of being hurt by the critiques and getting defensive about them, she saw them as learning opportunities.

She may not have been able to keep such a healthy perspective if they had been delivered with brutality. But, as it was, they were constructive and civil and opened the door for future improvement.

I thought this was a perfect example of how to give and receive criticism. It’s a lesson that is especially pertinent as I come up to this next stage in my writing…which is to actually expose it to a variety of opinions. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in for any creator who has put a lot of effort into their work.

Luckily, the experience I’ve had through this first phase has been positive. My beta readers got back to me this past weekend and overall their responses were good. They all felt it was written well and they enjoyed reading the book. Many of them mentioned being interested in the characters and wanting to hear more about their stories. Additionally, I got some positive responses regarding my settings, especially a bed and breakfast that I describe in one of the scenes.

However, each of them also had some constructive advice they felt would improve the book. Three readers said they felt the pace at the beginning of the book was a little slow and felt it could be tightened up a bit. One person pointed out that I was apt to use the same word, and then took the time to highlight five instances for me. Another mentioned some scenes that she felt were unnecessary to the overall plot since nothing came of them.

In each example, they were kind, but also made sure to point things out that weren’t working. It was exactly what I needed to be a better writer and the perfect example of how to offer critique.

Other than my beta readers, I also received an email from someone following my newsletter who offered up some wonderful advice regarding my prologue. Not only did I find her suggestions spot on, but I was impressed with the way she broached the subject to me.

First, she took a moment to acknowledge that sharing an excerpt can be nerve-wracking. She relayed that she was in a similar position with her own work. Then, she asked if I’d like to hear her suggestions. She even gave me a way to opt out by mentioning she understood I was close to publishing and it may be too late to make adjustments. Basically, she opened the door for me, but gave me the choice to walk through it or not. (Of course, I did. I’m learning as a writer and want to be as receptive to improving as possible!)

Granted, this situation is a little different because I actively sought input and was already prepared to receive criticism. However, once I publish this book, I will be opening the door to everybody’s judgment…and not everybody is going to be so empathetic when offering their opinions.

I realize that I’m going to need tough skin for this job. It comes with the territory. I also understand that some people just enjoy being trolls, and are not offering their criticism because they’re wanting anything positive to come of it.

For those who are genuinely wanting to be truthful and still offer advice, the best way to accomplish your goal is to remain empathetic and come from a place of compassion. And, for those who are receiving advice, take the ego out of the experience and listen for the lesson. It’s what I’m going to try and remember as I enter this next stage.

What do you think? Have you been “brutally” honest before? Have you been on the receiving end of that type of honesty? Have you had experiences where the advice or criticism left you feeling more empowered because of the way it was offered?