Contest Mavens–An Author’s Secret Weapon

We’ve all run into them. Readers who seem to enter every
free book contest on the internet, leaving short comments to secure an entry
and then dashing off, probably in search of the next contest. They do, in fact,
win books. Sometimes they win many.

We want people to enter our contests, of course, but what of
the serial contest participant—the contest mavens? The ones who enter, but
never buy? An author might be tempted to wonder if such readers ever actually
purchase any books. We might be tempted to wish them away.

But I want you to welcome them with open arms. They are an
author’s friend. Here’s why.

Even if they show up just in hopes of winning your book,
they’re still showing up. They leave a comment. Comments add up, even to search
engines. But there are other ways contest mavens do authors a favor:

1. They spread the
word about the contest
. There really ARE folks who will learn about a book
during a contest, get their interest piqued and go buy a copy. They’re not the contest
type—they don’t enter, don’t like giving away their email address, but enjoy
reading new books and are happy to discover them serendipitously—via a random
blog post, review, recommendation—or even a contest. So, although your contest
maven never buys your book, she may send readers your way. (It’s a good idea,
in fact, to ask them to.)

2. They are living
leads for garnering reviews
. This is possibly THE best fringe benefit a
contest maven offers.  These readers follow
lots of book review sites since they offer the most giveaways. So when they
leave a comment (at least on blogger/blogspot) you can click their little
profile icon and you’ll be taken to their profile page—with all the bookish
sites they follow.  This is the secret! They know where lots of book hot spots are! You’ll be surprised
at all the blogs you’ve never heard of but which readers congregate at.  Visit the sites, see if your book is a good
fit for the reviewer(s) and then query them to arrange a review.

When you query:

If they routinely do book giveaways, offer one
of yours for said purpose.  

Don’t query sites that haven’t already reviewed
books in your genre/age range

Be polite and assure reviewers that a review is
voluntary, even if they accept your book. This is industry standard, and most
of them will go on to review the book if they liked it.

Some have their own forms uploaded to the site
for queries. Use them if they’re available. This saves you the added step of
searching for the contact information yourself.

Be sure to offer the book in as many forms as
possible (Kindle; print; PDF, etc.). If they state their preference in their
profile or elsewhere, offer it in the preferred format.

Back to the mavens: Some of these folks are truly strapped
for cash and enter contests because it’s the only way they can build their
library. (Hats off to this set. We’re glad you enter our contests!)  And if your contest maven simply loves the
thrill of winning something for nothing? Well, there’s no law against that.
It’s okay. It IS fun to win an item.

Of course we run our giveaways in the hope of raising
interest for our book. We hope the contest will whet the appetites of some readers
who will go on and buy a copy. Writing is a business, after all. Much as we’d
like everyone interested in our books to get a free one, we simply can’t
provide them, and we need book buyers to stay in business. It’s okay to remind
contest mavens of this now and then, nicely, in a blog post or a comment of
your own.

And then thank them for entering your giveaway—even if it is
the third book they’ve won from you. Because by doing the above, you’ll garner more reviews, which, in turn, will garner more readers.  (If your book doesn’t need more reviews, then you are likely not running contests either and none of this will apply to you.) For those of us who diligently seek more honest reviews, remember the contest maven! 
Linore Rose Burkard wrote a trilogy of genuine regency romances
for the Christian market before there were any regencies for the
Christian market. Her books opened up the genre in the CBA. She also
writes YA Suspense/Apocalyptic fiction as L.R. Burkard.
Married with five children, she home-schools her youngest daughter,
preferably with coffee in one hand and iPad in the other. Her latest
book, PULSE, a tale of  apocalyptic suspense, takes readers into a “chilling possible future for America!” The sequel, RESILIENCE, is now available on Amazon for pre-orders.

Indie Author and Audiobook Narrator, Becky Doughty, & a Christmas E-Book Giveaway!

This interviewee is so close to my heart! Becky Doughty is not only my critique
partner, but my friend, my supporter, my sounding-board…and one of the few
who encouraged me that I COULD go indie and succeed. I thank God upon every
remembrance of her!
Today I wanted to chat with Becky, whose readers haven’t
ceased begging for more books with her Elderberry
protagonist, Willow Goodhope. Accordingly, Becky just released a
holiday sequel, Elderberry
Days: A Season of Joy
Honestly, Becky is quite simply one of the most productive
authors I know and a true Renaissance Woman. Not only does she have nine indie
novels and novellas out, she has also narrated nineteen audiobooks through
Audible (one of those is my God’s
). You can find her books here and BraveHeart audiobook samples
here. ~Heather Day Gilbert
Becky Doughty, Author
Becky Doughty is
the author of the best-selling
Croft series and the voice behind BraveHeart Audiobooks. 

Becky is married to her champion of more than 25 years,
Kevin. They have three children, two of whom are grown and starting families of
their own, and they all live within a few miles of each other in Southern
Author Website:
BraveHeart Audiobooks Website:
Twitter: @BeckySDoughty
Google Plus: +BeckyDoughty
Pinterest: BeckySDoughty

Interview with Becky

Indie Author & Audiobook Narrator

HG: Welcome, my
friend! Let’s go back in time…say, two years ago. What did your writing
career look like then? What led you to go indie?
BD: Heather, thank
you so much for inviting me here today! And thank you, Novel Rocket readers,
for having me!
Actually, my indie journey began about 4 years ago, although
I didn’t quite realize that’s what I was doing! Like so many authors I know,
I’ve been writing stories, primarily for fun (and therapy!) since I was old
enough to string sentences together. I’ve often considered “getting serious” about
my writing, but put marriage and family and my day jobs first…so my writing
was just a hobby, just “for me” projects. 
Well, one of the fun projects I took
on was writing a series of Bible study stories for our church’s women’s monthly
brunch. The series was well received, and the women requested I compile them
into a collection so they could have a copy, and gift copies to friends and
family. So I did a little research into the most efficient and cost-effective
means to printing this collection, and discovered it was cheaper for me to
publish it using a “print-on-demand” system than it would be for me to have a
local print shop do them for me…and I wouldn’t have to stock the books
So I learned how to format, how to create a cover with the help of a
friend who was proficient at PhotoShop, and how to set up my own publishing
house (BraveHearts Press), and distributed the book, Life
Letters: The Fruit of the Spirit
to the major online booksellers. It
truly was the simplest way to create the product this group of women asked for.
I had no real intention of doing more indie publishing, nor did I consider this
a major milestone in my career.
However, the positive response I received to my writing
encouraged me to pick up my pen more seriously, so over the next 18 months, I
wrote like a maniac and landed a wonderful agent with my fiction. It was during
this time that I met Heather, too!
As my books were being shopped around, I started paying close attention to what was going on in the
indie publishing world. I decided to proactively pursue BOTH indie publishing
and traditional publishing, and in January of 2013, I began self-publishing a
serial novel, Elderberry Croft, first through my website in monthly
episodes, then in volumes at the major online booksellers. I then compiled Elderberry
Croft: The Complete Collection
and published that in January 2014. Over
the last two years, the response to Elderberry Croft has grown in leaps
and bounds, and because of its success, I opted to indie publish some of my
other fiction. As a result of that decision, my agent and I parted ways
amicably, but I still consider traditional publishing as a viable option for me
and hope to pursue that again in the near future.
HG: Why did you
choose to publish your novel, Elderberry Croft,
as a serial novel on your blog? How
did you go about that? And what was the response to it?
BD: I started writing Elderberry Croft, a serial novel in
monthly episodes, as a way to give readers a taste of my story voice. I posted
it for free on my website the whole year of 2013, then pulled it in 2014 and
published the series as a complete collection. The series is by far my best
seller, and I think much of that is due to the steady production, the fact that
I wasn’t initially looking at this
project as a book to SELL, but as a book on which to build a readership
, (Click to Tweet!) and therefore, I basically gave it away for a full year. Volume 1, the first 3
episodes of the series, is still FREE. This has been a long term investment
project, and I’m beginning to see long term results.
Elderberry Croft: The Complete Collection on Amazon
The response has been very positive and many have asked for
more, so last month I published a holiday sequel novella, Elderberry Days:Season of Joy!
Elderberry Days: Season of Joy on Amazon
***And to say “Thank you” and “Merry Christmas” from me to
you, I’m giving away digital copies of both Elderberry Croft: The Complete
and Elderberry Days: Season of Joy to ALL WHO COMMENT
HERE from now until December 25th! (Click to Tweet!)
Please be sure to leave your email address and the format you prefer: pdf, mobi for Kindle, or epub.***
HG: Our critique
process is crucial for me and I don’t feel comfortable publishing a book
without your input. You tell me when a story is unworkable and heading the
wrong way, when I misspell words I was sure
I knew how to spell, or when characters aren’t coming across the right way.
What do you think is the key thing to look for in a critique partner? I would
recommend someone whose writing you respect; someone
whose judgment you trust; and someone who brings elements to the table that
balance your writing style.

BD: Oh goodness. I
always know I can count on you, Heather. Having a critique partner, someone you
can trust to read your story without trying to make it sound like their voice
is paramount to producing a quality product. And that IS what we’re doing.
We’re not just writing stories. As indie
publishers, we’re producing a product in its entirety
We want the story to
be sound and relevant, the cover to be professional, the editing to be quality,
the presentation as a whole to be stellar. This is not about comparing indie to
traditional, but about creating the best product possible, period. A critique
partner must be of the same mindset. I don’t want someone who will let things
slide because we’re buds. I want someone who will hold me to the highest
standard BECAUSE we’re buds and because she wants the best for me, just as I
want the best for her. That’s why I feel so confident in this partnership,
HG: Thank you and
I feel the same way! You have several novels out:
Elderberry Croft; Elderberry Days: Season of Joy; Waters Fall; and Juliette
and the Monday ManDates. I believe next on your publication agenda is Renata and the Fall from Grace (you know
I’m anxiously waiting to read that one!). Can you tell us a little about the
four sisters in
The Gustafson Girls series
and Renata in particular?

BD: Absolutely! The
Gustafson Girls
is a series about 4 sisters whose parents were killed
fifteen years earlier by a drunk driver. Although raised by loving
grandparents, it’s the G-FOURce—the Gustafson Four Sisters Club—that binds them
together when their differences would tear them apart. All grown up now,
Juliette has become the quintessential doormat, Renata, the self-appointed
matriarchal figure. Phoebe is, at least according to Renata, borderline
narcissistic, and Gia is on the verge of a major identity crisis.

Then there’s Angela Clinton, the senior class darling who drove her cherry
black 1970 el Camino into the side of their parents’ car on the night of
Juliette’s high school graduation. Angela’s prison sentence is winding down;
soon she’ll be eligible for parole and moving back to town. Will the G-FOURce
be strong enough to hold them together as they step into the eye of the storm
that’s been brewing for the last fifteen years? Will they finally be able to
let go of the past and embrace the future, no matter what it holds?

Cover Art for the Gustafson Girls Series
Juliette’s story is already available on Amazon (Juliette
and the Monday ManDates
), and will go to other online booksellers the
first of the year. Renata is the second sister, and the only one who is
married. She feels responsible for “keeping the other girls in line,” much to
everyone else’s chagrin. But Renata’s own life is about to spin out of her
tight-fisted control and no amount of careful planning, pride, or will power is
going to save her. Her faith in God, the bonds of her marriage, her role in the
G-FOURce, even her black and white ideas of right and wrong, will all be
Renata and the Fall from Grace is scheduled for
release in early Spring, around the first of February. Books 3 and 4, Phoebe
and the Rock of Ages
and Gia the Blast from the Past, will  also be released later in 2015.
HG: How did you
decide to go into audiobook narration? How laborious of a process was it to get
everything set up for that?

Becky in her audiobook studio
BD: This was
actually a huge part of my decision to venture fully into indie publishing last
year. I realized that if I was going to be a full time author/publisher, I’d
need to diversify and find other income streams within the industry. 
As much as
I enjoy editing, after a really difficult experience, I realized it was not a
service I could comfortably offer. Although I enjoy
creating my own covers, I knew I didn’t have the patience or know-how or
programs to do them for others. I’m not a consistent blogger, so turning my
blog into a source of income stream wasn’t a good fit, either. 
But I’ve spent
my whole life reading stories out loud – to my siblings, to the kids on the
school bus (usually my own serial novels before I knew they were called that!
I’d write a new chapter each night and read it on the way to school the next
day), then to my children, and hopefully, one day soon, to my grandchildren.
I’m also quite comfortable behind a microphone, being a member of a very
musical family (we have a family band, aptly named “The Rowdy Doughtys), and we
already had much of the equipment I’d need to narrate from my home.
So my husband and I converted a closet in my office into a
sound booth, purchased a few pieces of equipment and software as we could
afford it, and now, almost a year later, I just completed my 19th
audiobook. I’ve had some wonderfully patient authors who have ridden the
learning curve with me, and I’m really beginning to find my groove with the
audiobooks. It’s a fairly simple thing to get into, but it requires a lot of
work to make the business successful, and a willingness to constantly look for
ways to produce better sound, better working relationships, better standards,
better voices, better interpretations.
I’m also learning to be selective about
material I narrate, not just based on content rating (I’ve labeled myself as a
“Clean Reads” narrator, something that is remarkably subjective in this
industry), but also based on the story itself, whether or not it’s something I
enjoy reading personally. My husband works alongside me in this business, and
he can tell when my heart isn’t in a project. He’s a good filter for me.
As the proverbial shoemaker whose children go barefoot, I
have yet to narrate one of my own books, but that’s a project I’m looking
forward to at the beginning of the year, starting with Elderberry Croft
and Elderberry Days.
Thank you, again, Heather, and all the Novel Rocket gang, for
having me here today. I’ve learned so much from what others share on this
website. Don’t forget! I’m gifting e-book copies of Elderberry Croft and
Elderberry Days to all who comment here from now until December 25th! Be sure and leave your email address and the format you prefer: pdf, mobi for Kindle, or epub. Merry Christmas, friends!

HG: Thank you so
much, Becky, and your giveaway just shows your heart of giving to others. Thank
you for all the time and encouragement you’ve given to me! And be sure to comment with your email to receive your e-book copies of Becky’s books!

The Reality of an Author’s Legacy – What We Will Leave Behind

Ramona Richards

Pam Meyers here
with my monthly post. This month, I’m honored to have guest poster, Ramona
Richards, Senior Acquisitions Editor-Fiction at Abingdon Publishing, share a
behind-the-scenes look at a new release from Abingdon , Scarlett Says
by Julie L. Cannon.


The Reality of an Author’s Legacy – What 
We Will Leave
By Ramona Richards

Julie L. Cannon
Julie L. Cannon
cared, deeply, about many things. Her family. Her God. Her art. In fact, she
cared so much for God and the depth of her faith that she refused to take them
out of her art. This cost Julie far more than many people realized, as she
turned from releasing best-selling books with mainstream publishers to books
written from her heart for the Christian market.
For instance, long
before Nashville became a hit show, helping to turn the city into one of
America’s “it” places to be, there was Twang, Julie L. Cannon’s
delicious love song to the city. It’s a book I’m extremely proud to have
edited. I’m also honored to have played a small part in its creation—in 2011, I
squired Julie and her husband, Tom, around the city. I got her into the
Bluebird Café so she could describe it accurately, fed her and Tom barbecue,
and walked with them through some of the city’s landmarks. We toured the Opry
House, and I requested that she include the effects of Nashville’s May 2010
flood in the book.
We had a blast,
and I was astonished at how much energy she had, how far she and Tom could walk
in a single evening, exploring Nashville’s downtown streets. And I still have
the umbrella she left in my car when she and Tom headed back to Georgia.
Accuracy was
important to Julie, whether she was writing about the heart of a singer or a
young woman on the brink of changing her life. This was the topic of her second
book for Abingdon, Scarlett Says. We talked about the nature of a woman
trapped behind her computer screen and the steps it would take for her to
emerge, finding hope for love and new opportunities. Julie’s research into
social anxiety issues wound deep, and her heart broke at some of the anguish
she found. She wanted that on the page.
On August 31,
2012, she delivered the first draft of the book, just short of her September 1
deadline and ready for my review. I glanced through it, then sent it to an
editor for more thoughts and feedback. Julie ALWAYS “overwrote” the first
draft, knowing she’d revise it. The manuscript was 20,000 words too long and
revealed more about the main character, Joan, than needed to be on the page.
But we knew it would all work out.
Then, on October
9, 2012, I got a frantic e-mail from one of Julie’s friends with a horrid rumor
that turned out to be far too real. Julie was gone. The traumatic brain injury
she’d suffered years before had taken its toll, and she’d died from a seizure.
I cried, off and
on, for more than three days. She had been one of our authors, yes, but she was
also a friend. When the grief settled, however, I had a problem on my hands—a
manuscript that was too long to publish and would take more than editing. It needed
a complete revision.
The easiest
answer would have been to cancel the book, and that possibility was on the
table from the beginning. No one had Julie’s voice; she wasn’t around to coach
a coauthor. But I asked the editor, Jamie Chavez, not only to complete her task
but to be as tough as she could. Because SHE would have to be the coach,
detailing what worked and what didn’t. And she did an incredible job.
But now what?
After much debate, we decided that I would do the rewrite. It took time I
didn’t have, to be honest, but I knew exactly how much of Julie’s heart and
soul went into Scarlett Says. This would be her final book, her legacy
book, and I wanted it to shine. I carefully set aside my own writer’s voice and
did my best to step into hers as I trimmed away paragraphs, rerouted subplots,
and polished passages.
Sandra Bishop,
Julie’s agent and friend, approved the manuscript, and I sent it off to the
typesetter. Then my production editor, Susan Cornell, turned her eagle eyes on
it, and we sat in her office for hours, reading sections and double-checking
everything we could. SEVEN proofs later (we usually do a max of three), Scarlett
was off to the printer.
Losing Julie is
still a painful thorn in my soul, and I’ve had many folks ask me why we went
through this, when canceling the book would have been simpler. I only have one
It’s because of
who Julie was. A writer—who put her heart, mind, and soul into everything she
wrote. A Christian—who put aside worldly success to focus on faith and God. A
friend—who listened and cared and prayed.
No one knows how
well Scarlett Says will sell; there’s no author to interview, no
champion hitting the streets with media and the gatekeepers. And while
publishing is a business, it’s not always ABOUT business.
This time
publishing was about the legacy of a woman who loved deeply and changed more
lives than she realized. And I hope her last words live forever. 
Pam again: 
Ramona has graciously offered two copies of Scarlet Says to
give away. If you’d like to have your name dropped in the hat, make a comment
answering either of these two questions. Have you ever faced a writing
challenge like Ramona faced? Or… what would you like left behind as your

Leave a comment
with your answer by Friday,
April 25, 2014,
to win a copy of Scarlett Says!
Scarlett O’Hara has an answer for 
everything . . . right?
Gone with the
’s Scarlett O’Hara isn’t
perfect, but as far as 30-year-old literature lover Joan Meeler is concerned,
Scarlett’s outspoken passion, strength, and 17-inch waist make up for her other
shortcomings. In fact, Joan has grown quite fond of writing her advice blog in
Scarlett’s devil-may-care tone. It gives her a voice and confidence she
otherwise couldn’t muster. Never mind that her writing muse is a fictional

What would Scarlett
say, for example, about Charles, one of Joan’s first and most devoted blog
readers, who suddenly has Joan dreaming (and worrying) of a life—and
love—outside of make-believe? Joan digs into her heroine’s mind, searching for
something to calm her rising insecurities but discovers that Scarlett is
surprisingly mute on the topic. Abandoned by her sole source of security, can
Joan look elsewhere—even to God—to uncover the inner confidence she so
desperately needs?

native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban
Chicago, an hour’s drive away from her hometown which she visits often to dig
into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love
Will Find a Way
,  contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933
historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva,Wisconsin, released in
April, 2013. She is currently working on a new historical romance set in her beloved Lake Geneva area. She can often be found speaking at events around southeastern Wisconsin or
nosing in microfilms and historical records about Wisconsin and other Midwestern
spots for new story ideas.