With 74 books published, Margaret Daley has won multiple awards for her work: the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year, the Holt Medallion, the Golden Quill, Winter Rose, and the Barclay Gold. Prior to retiring 2 years ago, she was a teacher of students with special needs for 27 years and volunteered with Special Olympics as a coach. She is serving as the ACFW Volunteer Officer and has taught numerous classes for online groups, ACFW and RWA chapters. She enjoys mentoring other authors.
Organizing My Writing
When I was considering what I wanted to write about for this blog, I started to write about setting goals, which I think is important, but then I began to wonder what would help writers make their goals. Organization came to mind immediately.
Now I know there are writers who are not organized and manage to write what they set out to accomplish, but over the thirty years I’ve been writing with twenty-three of those years working a full-time job as a teacher as well as raising a family, I have found that if I wasn’t organized I would never have been able to write over seventy books.
What do I mean by organization for a writer? Let’s start with your work area—whether it is a corner of a room, the dining room table or an office. When I let my office go—when I’m on a tight deadline—I begin to fill overwhelmed—like my office looks. I have a hard time finding items I need, which means I spend more time looking for them when I should be writing and meeting that goal.
Odds and ends having to do with the writing business (promoting, doing line edits and reading your galleys) need to be dealt with. Sometimes they seem to be all I do instead of writing. What I try to do is organize them in a list and rank them in importance. When I do that and start with the most important task and work my way down the list, I feel I’m accomplishing what I need to and I have a visual list where I can see my those completed jobs marked off. I particularly feel good when I reach the bottom of that “to do” list.
I have a file case where I keep folders for research, promotion, story ideas, books I’m working on, articles I’ve written, materials for classes I teach. If I keep things filed and not stacking up they are easier for me to put my hands on them when I need to. Time is precious and I hate wasting it searching for a paper I need.
Like my file case, I also like to keep my files on my computer in folders, detailed enough that it is easy to find what I want. Periodically I go through my bookmarks on my computer and delete the ones I don’t use anymore, put the ones I go to more often at the top. I also go through my saved emails every once and a while and make sure I only keep the ones I need.
But the most important thing I have to keep organized is my writing and the story I’m working on. I often use charts to keep track of my characters and plots in my stories. I have one chart that tracks the hero/heroine’s goals, motivations and conflicts scene by scene. It breaks down the conflict between internal and external. It also keeps track of the faith element, secondary characters, suspense/mystery storyline and love development between hero and heroine. I write romance and romantic suspense so I’ve adapted the charts to fit my needs as a writer. It isn’t hard to set up through Excel.
Another way I keep track of my story and its elements—major and minor ones—is I keep a notepad with the information about the story on it. There are so many details to keep straight—a description of a house, a person, minor characters who aren’t in the story much, pets, character tags–and I found this helps me.
I had a reader once write me to tell me I had changed the name of the heroine’s deceased husband’s first name in a series from book one to book three. He was only mentioned once or twice in the first book but was talked about quite a bit in the third one. I never caught the mistake until the reader wrote me.
So a writer needs to track what goes on in a series from book to book. Keeping a notebook about the series will help. If you are setting it in one town, you might want to draw a map of the town or the important places that pertain to your series. If this is all in one place, it is much easier to look up something you forgot from book one to book two or three. You don’t have to spend a lot of time digging through papers or rereading the book to find the answer you need.
It is important to set writing goals and trying to keep them, but in order to keep them, it might help to get organized—on your computer, in your office and in your writing.
Ten years ago Jordan Masterson left her hometown heartbroken–and pregnant. Now, yearning for a connection with her family, the single mother returns to Tallgrass, Oklahoma. But she’s shocked to find her son’s father–unaware he has a child–a vital part of the community. Zachary Rutgers owns the ranch that the local homeschoolers use for riding and recreation. Which means little Nicholas, Jordan and Zachary will be spending a lot of time together. Jordan must tell Zachary the truth about their son–and ask for answers herself. Hoping the heart of her cowboy will still be hers for the taking.
Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for Heart of a Cowboy.

What’s a Blog Tour? ~ Kathy Carlton Willis

Blog tours are like virtual book tours. We provide blog hosts with information we want them to post on their blogs for us, and then they drive traffic through social networking to those sites. Each blogger has a different realm of influence—a different readership. The combined effect of being on multiple blogs in the same week helps increase your search engine rankings and exposure. Some of the blog hosts will also write reviews of the book. Some just post what we provide them. They are accustomed to working with us, so it’s a happy partnership. For their effort, we send them a copy of the book they are promoting.

Lots of companies are using bloggers to help with marketing and free advertising, as well as consumer reviews. Ask Target who their biggest fans are, and they will say “mommy bloggers.”

So, it’s sort of like running the same commercial on a bunch of different stations at once so that you get multiple audiences. And it stimulates an appetite for the book by the very consumers we hope will purchase the title.

Marketing experts say that consumers often need 7 “touches” before they make a purchase, so we like to try to get the word out in a variety of ways to achieve this purpose: newspaper, social networking, radio, TV, internet, reviews, bloggers, book signings, speaking events, advertising, etc. We also try to do direct-to-consumer awareness and pitch-to-media promotion as well. So, blog tours provide one touch in a plan that includes several other elements as well.

How do blogging and/or blog tours fit into an author’s overall marketing plan?
Blogging by the author helps set them up as an expert on certain subjects-each blog should fit a niche. It develops a readership and a platform. It also allows the author to network with other bloggers and trade services such as blog tours.

Blog tours fit into the marketing plan because they develop a grassroots level exposure to the book, creating buzz thanks to the oldest PR method on the planet, “word of mouth.” Other bloggers will reach readers the author couldn’t reach any other way.

What method do you use to plan the blog tour? Normally we use an e-blast that has the press release of the book, including the author bio, the photo of the book cover, photo of the author, and a Q & A style interview with the author. We also like to add one other element to personalize the tour—sort of like lagniappe (a little something extra). And some of our authors also choose to provide a grand prize giveaway, so we coordinate the drawing of that winner.

Any other additional thoughts on blogging and blog tours?
I would highly recommend authors be willing to post blog tours for other authors on their sites, to develop a network so that when their own books are ready to go on tour, they already have a long list of blog tour hosts ready and willing to return the favor.

We have over 500 in our database for blog tours, and often run between 25-50 hosts who volunteer for any given tour. Some authors select the number they wish to limit their tour (if books are limited) or they tell us to run as many as possible.

What the blog tour service covers:

  • designing custom e-blast
  • sending e-blast to our database of blog tour hosts
  • making a mailing list of all volunteers
  • mailing complimentary books to all blog tour hosts signed up for this tour
  • following up with volunteers and answering any questions
  • posting blog tour on our professional blog and listing all blog links to drive traffic to all the blog tour hosts
  • following up with any stragglers who haven’t posted the blog tour before the tour wraps up
  • gathering names of finalists for giveaway from blog tour hosts
  • writing e-blast announcing prize winner and thanking all hosts for their participation

Here are some examples of blog tours:

Today’s article is by Kathy Carlton Willis, wife to Russ, mom to Jazzy the Boston Terrier, author, editor, publicist and a certified CLASSeminars speaker. Kathy Carlton Willis Communications encompasses her many passions. Learn more about how she reflects Christ as she shines the spotlight on others at: http://kcwcomm.blogspot.com/ or http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com/.


Why is “Speculative Fiction” Under-represented in Christian Bookstores?

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of being a Christian who reads speculative fiction (supernatural, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) is the lack of speculative titles available in Christian bookstores. It is routinely estimated that 75-80% of all Christian novels are some form of romance, which leaves the other quarter-of-a-percent to duke it out for the remaining space. But apart from the two big names — Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti — spec titles are a rarity in Christian bookstores.

While many groups have formed (independent presses, blog tours, message boards, crit groups, etc.) aimed at addressing this disparity, the bottom line remains: Christians who like speculative fiction are forced to find their “fix” outside the Christian market.

Why is this?

I privately queried one industry insider regarding the dearth of spec-fic in Christian bookstores and they wrote back with this answer:

“…it’s not just a CBA thing. Across all of publishing, sales of Spec fiction lag behind many other kinds of fiction. The spec/fantasy crowd (both writers and readers) are an extremely vocal minority. They are always out there screaming that there’s not enough spec fiction to suit them, but publishers have not seen profit in it. Believe me, if they did, everyone would be publishing a lot more spec.”

I’ll be honest: I have a hard time believing this. I mean, when Borders and Barnes and Noble contain aisles — not just a couple shelves — aisles of horror, science fiction, graphic novels, and fantasy, it is really difficult to believe that “publishers have not seen profit in it.” On top of that is the prominence of spec-fic in popular culture. For instance, of the 50 highest-grossing movies of all-time, more than half contain speculative themes (The Dark Knight, The Sixth Sense, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Spider Man, etc.). In literature, there’s Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight epic and Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which have sold gazillions of copies. Nevertheless, spec titles comprise a relatively minuscule portion of the religious fiction market.

So what gives? Is this industry insider (and their professional peers) deluded? Are they part of some grand CBA conspiracy to suppress the growth of speculative fiction? Is the spec/fantasy crowd simply “an extremely vocal minority”? Or are Christian readers really not that interested in speculative fiction?

I recently posted on this subject at my website (link HERE) and received a lot of great response (the comment thread is currently pushing 50). Nevertheless, the answers remain varied. Of the possible reasons why speculative fiction is under-represented in Christian bookstores, these seem to be the most common:

  • Demographics; the Christian market is primarily geared toward women, and women, by and large, don’t prefer spec titles
  • Christian publishers are behind the times, operating under an “old model,” unwilling (perhaps unable) to risk broadening their market
  • Speculative titles are “unsafe” and push the boundaries (thematically and theologically) of traditional Christian fare
  • Christian bookstores cater to conservative clientele; hardcore spec fans cannot go to Christian bookstores to find their “fix”


Anyway, these are the going theories.. While I have several of my own, definitive answers appear elusive. Either way, I guess I’m part of that “extremely vocal minority.” What about you? Why do you think Speculative Fiction is so under-represented in Christian bookstores?

Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Journey. He is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary. Look for Mike’s debut novel, “The Resurrection,” in stores Spring of 2011. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

WANTED

Wanted: Writers of suspense/crime/mystery/cozy mystery novels for entry in our contest. Identifying features: a plotting mind and observant eyes; possibly an avid reader; suspect has never published a novel through traditional venues. Must be turned in on or before July 10, 2010. For further details, enquire within.

Special Alert: Writers of other genres are also wanted. These suspects create fictional accounts of contemporary or speculative events for the purpose of entertaining men, women, and/or young adults, enticing them to willingly suspend their disbelief. May be armed with laptop.

Persons of interest, and those with information that might lead to the apprehension of any such suspect, should contact NovelJourneyContest@gmail.com. Please provide a completed entry form along with the following evidence: first chapter of the suspect’s fabrication and a short (one- to two-page) synopsis.

Reward: Each respondent will receive a personal email of thanks from the contest administrator. If printed out and framed, this can be used as a wall ornament or conversation piece, and will make you the envy of all your friends.
Furthermore, each monthly winner will receive Fifteen Minutes of Fame right here on Novel Journey. So don’t be shy; turn yourself in!