Wednesday, December 12, 2012

#WWoW: My Two Cents About Self-Publishing

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So you've finally finished that manuscript you've been slaving away at for quite some time. It's as polished as you can get it, been through three or four rounds of brutal edits, and now you're ready to send it off to a publisher. Last week, fellow WWoW author Lacey Wolfe wrote about making sure you do your research before just sending off your "baby." Her post was filled with excellent advice and it made me want to take it a step further. Instead of sending it off to a publisher, why not do it yourself?

Relax. Stop hyperventilating for just a second and let me explain.

I've published my writing now in both the traditional and Indie routes and I have to say I LOVE both of them. They are different experiences and I've learned a great deal over the last year. I was lucky enough to send my very first erotic romance to a well-established publisher in the market. They encouraged the authors to interact with and learn from each other. As a "newbie" I really appreciated that sort of guidance. It was because of these fabulous authors, that I decided to take what they taught me and venture out on my own a bit by self-publishing my first book of poetry. 

One thing I learned a long time ago and a bit of advice that still holds true today is NEVER, EVER pay to have your book published. This does not mean not to pay to have someone design your cover art, or do professional editing. What it does mean is that you shouldn't have to give a "publisher" money up front in order for them to publish your book in print or ebook form. If you do sign a contract with these vanity presses as they are called, you could be in for a world of hurt. Not only have you paid them to put out your book, but you may see very little royalties from them at all. To top it off, some of the more unscrupulous types have you under contract for your future endeavors as well. 

Don't be so hell bent on getting your book published that you fall for this kind of trap. There are so many FREE alternatives out there. For me, I started out with Smashwords. This is an excellent way for you to get your ebook out to multiple markets at the same time. They distribute to Apple, Sony, Barnes and Noble, Amazon (although they've had some formatting issues that are still being worked out), libraries and various other outlets. 

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, put together a complete guide to formatting your manuscript so that it will be able to go through their system. The Smashwords Style Guide is a concise and straight forward manual. You can't publish to the site without following the precise guidelines, so go ahead and download your free copy today. It's even available on Amazon.  The guide was recently updated in June 2012, so make sure you get the latest version. I got mine from Smashwords.

As I mentioned previously, Smashwords and Amazon were having some issues with their systems not being compatible or something odd. So instead of waiting for them to work that out, I chose to opt out of Smashwords sending my book to Amazon so that I could upload my book there myself. Amazon requires the file to be in PDF format to upload to their site and they have a few other rules you'll want to follow. Here's the GUIDE for them...and yes it's free too. If you choose, you can opt into the KDP program (Kindle Direct Publishing Program) where you agree to keep your book exclusively on Amazon for at least 90 days. In exchange, you can offer your book for free at specific intervals. This could be a good marketing tool for you if you choose to do it. 

I liked that idea, but didn't want to keep my book just with Amazon. If you go with Smashwords as well, you can create coupon codes to be able to offer your book at a discounted price or even for free at different times. This option has worked great for me and for many others. Some of my other author friends have enjoyed the KDP program with Amazon. The choice is yours. Pick the program that fits YOU and your writing the best and run with it!

So now that you've got the ebook publishing under your belt, how about print? Well, Smashwords doesn't offer that service and Amazon KDP program is for the ebooks, so where do you go? Amazon to the rescue here! They have an affiliate called Createspace. Here you can upload your book, pick the size of the paperback you wish to put out, choose your cover from their prefabricated covers, or upload your own. Once you have things the way you want them, you can order a proof to be sent to you for final approval. This is the only cost to you at this point. For my poetry book it was less than three bucks. 

Once you approve that, within a few days (usually less than 24 hours), your book will be available for purchase through Createspace and Amazon. That distribution is free. If you wish to have your book sent to some other groups such as libraries and universities, you can opt into that distribution program for less than $30. For me, this has already been paid for ten times over through the sales of the print version of my book. 

So after you've done all your research and chosen a publisher, go ahead and submit your manuscript to them for consideration. While you wait for their answer, read up on how to publish through Smashwords and Amazon. Finish up that next manuscript and publish it yourself. You too can reap the benefits of working with a traditional publisher and going the Indie route. Trust me. You'll be glad you did!

Here's another article for your consideration when doing research on Indie publishing. Five Reasons to Publish Your Ebooks On Smashwords puts it out there in black and white why you should give Smashwords a try.

Please visit the other Writer's Words of Wisdom Authors participating this week. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

#WWoW! Keeping Links Short and Sweet by Using Tiny URLs

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Welcome to my weekly post for Writer's Words of Wisdom. For those of you who've stopped in for the very first time, let me explain a little bit about what this is all about. This is a group of writers who decided to get together and share all the little things we've learned in our journey to become published authors. Instead of just posting these to each other, we decided to share these words of wisdom every Wednesday on our blogs. Sometimes you will see multiple posts on the same topic and other times you will find out something brand spanking new. That's the whole point. We want to share what has worked or not worked for each of us so that  those coming after us can pick and choose what works best for them.

Enough of the introduction! On with my post for today. Have you ever wondered how to get those short and sweet clickable URLs that are automatically created for you on Twitter or on There are actually many different sites that help you create these space saving links. Some of them even allow you to track statistics such as visitor's countries of origin, return visits, etc.  Some folks love to track that sort of thing. Me? Not so much, but someday I might. LOL If you are interested in that sort of thing, click HERE to take you to a very informative article comparing several different tiny URL generators.

shorter URL's
If you're like me, you just want something short and sweet that doesn't necessarily have all the bells and whistles the others listed in the two articles above. Initially when I was looking for Tiny URLs, I clicked on one of the links done by another author for a promotional post done on Facebook. It took me to

This is also a free site and you can use their tracking features if you wish. What I liked about this one was that it saved my shortened URL's I generated so I could refer to them time and time again. In the section where they're saved, it tells me the number of clicks that were done on this particular link and if any of them were referred from elsewhere. So even without trying, I got some stats! LOL

The most popular one that I've heard folks use is  It's a free service that allows you to create smaller, easy to copy and paste into emails, blog posts and other social media. You can even install it in your browser tool bar and be able to create a tiny URL for any page you are browsing. Here's what the generator looks like

Enter a long URL to make tiny:

Here is another article comparing the various URL generators just to give you a bit more information about what is the most popular with the techies.

No matter what you're looking for, there is a URL generator just for you. So go on. Give a few of them a try and see which one you like the best.

Make sure you take a few moments and visit the other WWoW members participating this week.

If there is something you'd like to see discussed for future WWoW posts, let me know in the comments section below, or send me a private message. All topics related to publishing, writing, promoting, editing and overall keeping sane during the whole process are up for discussion. I'd love to hear from you!

Until then, brightest blessings to you all today and every day!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Coast Guard Members Serving Overseas Could Use Some Holiday Cheer

Hello everyone!

Each year I've taken on a special project and sent cards to active duty military serving away from home during the holidays. More often than not, you can find the addresses for every branch of service except one...the Coast Guard. When you ask around, quite a few people don't realize that the Coast Guard not only protects us here at home, they also are deployed overseas.

After some research, and the help of  Lt. Stephanie Young of Coast Guard Public Affairs, I now have an address to send cards. The Coast Guard Foundation is sending packages of cards and letters to service members serving overseas. If you would like to include cards of your own with their package, please send them to the address provided through the following link by December 7th.

Please help me make this holiday extra special for these wonderful men and women who will be away from home for the holidays. Send your cards to the Coast Guard Foundation ASAP.

Brightest Blessings to you all!

#WWoW Pen Names Revisited...The Ugly Side

The very first post I did for our Writer's Words of Wisdom group was about using a pen name or not. In that article, I pretty much said the decision to use a pen name is a personal one and is made for a variety of reasons. Writing in different genres/subgenres was the biggest reason for me, but for others it was to keep their private life separate from their author life. Unfortunately, for a few authors, having a pen name hasn't given them the protection they desired.

This week, one of my author friends had her job security threatened by her employer. Apparently the employer isn't too keen on my friend's choice to write erotic romance.  As a writer of erotica and erotic romance myself, I know first hand the prejudice we face so it's no surprise my friend decided to go with another name to do her writing.  The shocker to all of us was that it wasn't enough to protect her from possibly losing her job.

Thankfully, I have an employer who is supportive of my writing as long as I keep it separate and not promote on work time or post my covers on the wall over my desk. Do a few of my long term client's know about my books? Yes they do and they are happy for me too. Unfortunately for my friend, she doesn't have those people in her corner. 

How can she or any other author protect themselves from this happening to them?  That's a tough one. Writer's these days have to not only crank out the books, they have to promote themselves and their work. This entails using social media like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. It also means getting your own blog and website. I've talked about this before, but here's another twist. You have to do all of this using your pen name and DON'T promote any kind of link between it and your real name.

Yes, that's the exactly the opposite of what I'm doing right now, but I'm not surrounded by people in my "evil day job" who will complain to my bosses about what I do in my private life.  Other's are not so lucky in their work life or their family lives.

If you write subject matter that can be labeled offensive by your employer, fellow employees, church groups, school, family members, nosy neighbors, the PTA...well...keep your alter egos completely separate. Don't talk about what you write in front of these people. It's not worth the headache, getting kicked out of the social groups, or even losing your job.

There are a hell of a lot more people out there to introduce your alter ego to. So go ahead and create the social media accounts and blogs to promote and share your work. You will build a following and maybe even those folks who publicly ridicule you, will in fact be your biggest fans. That's where you get the last laugh!

Make sure you check out the other authors participating this week

A Smart & Savvy Group of Authors who write a weekly feature for their blog -Writer's Words of Wisdom- each Wednesday. The goal is to impart what we've learned about writing, editing, getting published, book promotion, and more along the way.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Turning Holiday Blues into Lasting Memories #NowandForever

Many people go through the blues this time of year due to the weather or the fear of being alone.  For many, the holidays are extremely sad and lonely time even when surrounded by friends and family.  For the last few decades I have suffered from severe depression from the beginning of November until February.  My friends and family have been there for me each time, but the depression still overwhelms me.  It’s not always about making sure you are not alone in a room, but about finding some way to not be lonely in your heart.

Watching my younger brothers and sisters get married first, become parents and basically have entire lives away from our family, made me feel like an outcast.  It wasn't easy hiding those feelings.  I didn't want to bring down anyone else.  Who wants to be known as the fifth wheel or the odd person at the table?  My family was always really supportive of me and I remember one Christmas when my Great Aunt Mary took me aside and said it would be okay if I brought “a friend” over for the family holiday parties.  I was always alone at these functions so my aunt assumed I was gay and not “out” yet.  Imagine her surprise when I said, “Thanks, Aunt Mary.  I’m not gay, just fat.”

Yep, I was that overweight, extremely shy, smart girl who buried herself in books and classes until I graduated with honors from veterinary school.  It was much easier to hide behind those books and my weight than to admit to someone I was interested, only to have them “let me down easy.”  I was good enough to be their friend, but never a lover or a wife.  My heart really took a dive when I fell for a family friend.  I tried to work up enough nerve to tell him one summer after I lost a hell of a lot of weight.  He was always over our house for parties or just hanging around.  After seeing my transformation, he told me he was proud of me for setting my mind to it.  He already thought I was beautiful, but not my inner light shined for everyone to see.  He was a smooth talker that one!  I was head over heels in love with him and still too shy to confess.

It was our annual July 4th pool party/barbecue.  Our house and yard was filled with family and friends all day.  I was in major flirt mode and it seemed to be working, but I was kidding myself.  The object of my affection was interested in my cousin, and I was soon forgotten.  I found out later that he knew about my crush, but adored me more as a sister.  That was a bitter pill to swallow for a bit, but his friendship came to mean a lot more to me over the next few years after that party,  More importantly, I came  to love him as a big brother too.

His name was Paul and I can still hear his bawdy laugh and see his devilish smile.  He was there when my Dad’s Marine reserve unit was activated for Desert Storm.  I was in veterinary school at that time and unable to get away, but Paul was there for my family seeing Dad off at the airport, promising to watch over all of us until Dad came home.
Paul was there when Dad took me back and forth to Michigan State my first year in veterinary school.  Both men wore their University of Michigan sweatshirts each time driving back to “enemy” territory, aka the Michigan State campus.  Sitting between the two of them for a couple of hours trying not to be embarrassed was a chore, but one I would gladly have back again.

In the wee hours of Thanksgiving 1992, a drunk driver speeding well over 100 mph took Paul away from us. I still cry thinking of that phone call from my Mom telling me he was gone.  At this point I was in my clinical rotations of my senior year in vet school and could not get home for the funeral.  I didn't get through the grief over losing him for a hell of a long time, and over the years the melancholy during the holidays was all the more raw without him.

I didn't think that pain could get any worse until we lost Dad on Thanksgiving Day 2005.  John McInerney was my step-dad in name, but Dad to me.  He was there for all of the growing pains, heartaches and joys.  He was there when I graduated from vet school and moved away to Detroit to work as an emergency vet.  He was there when I thought I had found the man I was going to marry and decided to give up everything in Michigan to move to the unknown…California.

He was there when that all fell apart and was ready to come out to help me move back home if I needed him.  Dad was there when I decided to make it a go all alone in California for just a little longer, and he didn't make me feel like I was a failure.  During that time, I met another man who I did marry.  Dad was honored to give up his right to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day in order to be the one to perform our ceremony.   He would joke to his coworkers that he was going to marry his daughter.  That got a few tongues wagging until he told them to get their minds out of the gutter!  He was performing the ceremony since the state of California allowed anyone to be an “officiant for the day” for a small fee of course!

Dad was the rock of our family, retired Marine Corps sergeant, and computer geek.  He hid his pain for a bit before he had to admit that the Non-Hodgkin s  Lymphoma was kicking his ass. Eighteen rounds of chemo and the cancer kept growing.  The doctors promised to get him to Thanksgiving and he held them to it.  Only ten months passed from the time he was diagnosed until he left us, and it’s still a bit raw.

I lost myself in all of this, buried myself in my work and refused to see what was going on around me.  My marriage was over before it even started but I didn't want to end it at first.  Dad married us and it seemed like it was disrespecting him to end it even though I was miserable and dying inside.  I had to remember what he always told us growing up.  “Do what you need to do to be happy.  Don’t do what you think other want you to do. That is not your path.  Follow your heart.  It will never steer you wrong.”

So I did.

Now I have found quite by accident, the one my heart has been searching for all of my life, and every lifetime.  He is my Muse, my life partner and the part of my heart and soul that was missing.  Now the holidays are a time of joy. I've rediscovered my Wiccan faith and the happiness fills my life once again.  The holidays are no longer a time where I am depressed and melancholy, but a time to remember those I've loved and lost and be thankful for the time we did have together and the lessons I've learned from them.  It was Paul who showed me that true friendship never dies.  They are always with you, encouraging you along the way.  It was my Dad who encouraged me to follow all of my dreams wherever they may lead.  Both men would've had the biggest kick out of the fact that I’m a published author of erotic romance.  They would have been my biggest fans.  Well, I know for a fact they are “up there” smoking a couple of Cuban cigars, sipping scotch, and smiling down on me.

Just like me, the main characters of the first two books of my Now and Forever series lost loved ones far too soon. They had to go through a lot of hell in order to believe they are worthy of love and they can be happy again. Those who've passed never leave us. They live on in our hearts and in everything we do. Even if we don't realize it, they made impressions on us that help shape how we live our own lives and ultimately lead us to our happily ever after. 

Chris Sharp /
This holiday season, take the time to remember those who have made lasting impressions on your lives whether they have left this world or are still with you.  Light a candle or two for them at sunrise and allow it to burn until sunset.  When you see that light burning bright, smile.  Your loved ones are there with you now and forever.

My Dad's favorite song was "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers. We played it at his wake as he requested. To this day, when I hear this song I smile through the tears. I miss him so much.

Semper fi, Dad! (and yeah, I can hear him reply...Ooorah!)

To find out more about my Now and Forever series, please click on the button below to take you to my Siren Bookstrand page.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#WWoW Don't Forgot "Me" Time!

Tomorrow is the release day for the second book in my Now and Forever series and while I am still doing the happy dance over it, I'm also visiting multiple stops for the blog tour, thinking of what to write about for this post, scheduling guests on my other blogs for this month and the next, getting ready to travel 14 hours north to visit my husband's family for Thanksgiving, working 40+ hours  at my evil day job as a veterinarian and finding precious time to write as myself and as my two other pen names.  All the while I keep thinking I'm forgetting something.

And I am.  Me. 

Through all of this I have forgotten to schedule the most important block of time..."me" time. Without it I'm liable to totally flip out and/or burn out and that will get me absolutely nowhere fast. Last week one of my fellow WWoW participants blogged about not over committing yourself. I'll take it one step further and say don't stretch yourself so thin that you lose yourself in the process.

How did things get so crazy busy so fast? Hell if I know. I didn't intend for all of this to happen at one time, but it is and honestly I'm having a blast with most of it. I do know me. If this continues at this pace, I will burn out and end up pushing the things I love the most aside. I've done it before. It took me two years to write For the Love of Quinn because I was burning the candle at both ends. I don't want to go that long between books again and there really isn't any reason for that to happen...unless I forget to take care of the most important element in the whole equation. Me.

Christmas 2011 (first with my then fiance and now hubby)
I'm more than just the author/poet, veterinarian, newlywed, military wife, smart-assed broad who visits with you all here each week. I love to read and listen to music. Cooking and baking are two of the biggest joys in my life and I love to share the fruits of those labors with others. But what really helps me find myself and become centered for another day are my crafts, specifically knitting and crochet. 

This time of year is a big one for me. I make all sorts of things with my stash of yarns. Not only do I get to make something for another person, I meditate with each and every stitch. My prayer shawls are filled with good vibes and prayers specific for each individual I make it for. The Christmas stockings I've made over the years are made with the happy thoughts of holidays gone by and the promise of more to come. With each motion of the knitting needles or the crochet hook, I move deeper into a trance that allows me to let my mind relax and let go of the chaos of the day.

Last year I made crochet bunnies that were a big hit. I used a pattern from online and tweaked it a bit to create a floppy bunny with a bit of a sleepy or dopey expression. This Winter Solstice and Christmas holidays are seeing an increase in the requests for my knit caps with ear flaps and of course the Christmas stockings.  At first I didn't think I would be able to get the requests done, but by taking that time to relax and enjoy the PROCESS instead of worrying about the deadlines I set for myself, I'm actually ahead of schedule. 

So the next time you start filling in your calender, make sure the very first thing you block off on each day is your "me" time. Don't skimp out on it either. Even if it's only fifteen minutes each day, you need this down time to help rejuvenate and recharge your batteries. Take a page out of the schedule of a cat. Each and every day they're plotting to take over the world and yet they find the time to "chill."  Make sure you do to!

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November 15th is Release Day!
The Island (Now and Forever 2) is coming out tomorrow from Siren Bookstrand. You can still get your pre-order copy today and at a 10% discount off the list price through November 22nd. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

EEEK! I've Been Tagged for the #NextBigThing

Well what do you know? I've been tagged to participate in the Next Big Thing blog hop. Thank you, Paloma Beck for the tag! If you don't mind, I'm going to "borrow" the graphic that Paloma used on her post about this hop, so it helps to connect us a bit. ;) Now for the rules of the hop:

1. Give credit to the one(s) who tagged you...Thank you, Paloma! 
2. Answer the following eight questions about your latest work in progress.
3. Tag five other authors and let them know you've tagged them.

Okay, so here we go! Since I have multiple WIPs, I think I'll concentrate on the third book in my Now and Forever series, The Surrender of Julia. It basically takes place at the same time at my new release The Island, but follows another set of characters only briefly mentioned in book two.

What is the title of your book?
The Surrender of Julia (Now and Forever 3)

Where did the idea come from for the book?
From my publisher. When I first submitted The Island for consideration, Siren felt there was too much story and suggested a revision, basically making it into two books. I was thrilled with that since I really wanted to delve into bad girl Julia's story more.  Julia Santos was just mentioned a few times in the first book of the series as part of the hero's past. Several readers wanted to know more about her, and so did I.

What genre does you book fall under?
It's an erotic contemporary romance with fantasy elements. It also is at it's heart F/F romance with some menage moments and I get to explore more of the BDSM world with Julia and her Mistress. Spanking, bondage, toys, nipple clamps, etc, etc. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie? 
Julia in my mind is played by Selma Hayek. Jacob Hartley is portrayed by Christian Kane and Quinn Hartley has always been Alyssa Milano. As for Julia's Mistress Carmen Hall...not sure. She sort of changes in my mind with each scene I write for her. Julia's nemesis Mario Carlos is also a jumble at this point. I'll have to get back to you with those answers when I know better myself.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
It's still a work in progress. Basically I've been working on it off and on for the last few months. I find that I can't stick to one WIP at a time. My mind goes to mush and I have to switch gears to keep things going. Sometimes I just have to put it all away and work on other things like promotion.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I wouldn't know where to start. This story is all my own, but I take a bit here and there from everything I encounter. I may like the way an author portrays a sex scene or a heart-wrenching betrayal scene and throw my characters in that similar situation. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what the readers think on this one.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This entire series was inspired by events going on in my own life. I worked through a lot of pain, depression, heartbreak and betrayal in the writing of these books and in the end found myself along the way. I tried to make sure my characters did the same. Julia started out looking like one evil bitch but once I peeled back the layers, I found a woman lost and looking for her soul mate. Everyone deserves that chance, so I gave it to her too.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? How about a teaser?
This is my first venture into F/F erotic romances. Julia basically loves sex with both men and women, but deep down she's searching for the one person who can make her truly happy. She appears to be the aggressor in many of her encounters but in actuality, she longs to be DOMINATED.  Her's a snippet of one scene where she is getting ready for her arrival of Carmen, her Mistress.

ADULT EXCERPT (Very explicit!)

She stepped out of the tub and reached for one of the large fluffy towels to dry off her now relaxed body. Her hair was piled on top of her head clamped in one of the banana clips she found in the vanity drawer. It was hand crafted using two pieces of jade and made Julia smile. It was the very first gift she had given to Carmen after their trip to Hawaii almost 13 years ago now. The color looked beautiful in her blonde hair and actually made several appearances in Julia’s paintings. She always respected Carmen’s wishes to not put her into any of her artwork, but seeing the jade hair clip always made both of them smile and reminisce. 

Looking back at her reflection in the mirror she saw the shy gray-eyed little girl who first came to LA hoping to make it big and prove everyone in her home town in Missouri wrong. She wasn’t a freak or trailer trash like her parents. She was somebody and it was time to reclaim her true self. Julia left the bathroom and walked naked toward the large walk-in closet. She went directly to the chest of drawers on the far corner and opened the top drawer. Inside she found the boxes of bell clamps Mistress had directed her to wear. After choosing one of the boxes, she then turned to peruse the rest of the closet. She didn’t have far to look for the boots. A shelf of several pairs was to her left. One pair in particular, spoke to her. Without hesitation, she chose the patent leathers with the five inch heels that laced from the top to toe. Of course there was a zipper on the inside of the boot to make it easier to get them on and off, but Julia never felt sexier than when she slowly laced herself up in those boots.

The clamps were coated with latex to help them grip to her flesh comfortably and yet hold on tight enough to not slip off during play sessions. The weight of the bells caused the clamps to tug on her nipples each time her breasts moved. There was nothing like that sensation for Julia and she felt the immediate rush of warmth between her thighs with each jiggle and jingle of her tits. To attach the last two clamps, she had to sit on the bed and spread her legs wide. Grasping first her right and then her left outer pussy fold between her thumb and forefinger, she fit the clamps into place.  There was a separate ring on each of the clamps where Mistress could attach a fine gold chain leash, tugging on it to keep Julia’s attention focused on the tasks at hand, and reminding her not to cum until given permission.

(all rights reserved. ©Tammy Dennings Maggy 2012)

Thank you for stopping in and allowing me to share one of my works in progress. Now for the authors I've decided to tag. It may take them at bit to get their posts up, so please be patient and check in on them often!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

#WWoW Promotional Swag

Here I am at the start of my virtual book tour to promote The Island (Now and Forever 2) and I've been coming up with some ideas on what to hand out to folks to get their interest in me and my novels. As a veterinarian, I've attended many conferences over the years and was always inundated with "stuff" from vendors, exhibitors and of course my conference notes for the lectures. Back in the day when you didn't have to worry so much about how many checked pieces of luggage you were allowed to have, I could easily come home with an entire suitcase full of the freebies I picked up. Many of the items I eventually tossed into the recycle bins. 

Now that I have to watch my promotional budget like a hawk, I didn't want to create items that would immediately end up in the ole' circular file. I could pass out business cards and flyers until I'm blue in the face, but if they are tossed aside without a glance, what good are they?  Talking to my author friends who've gone down this road before me, I've found out a few good tips.

Ink pens are always a hot item. I know this one from my veterinary conference days. You have a "clicker" pen, and you have folks stopping by to pick one up. Magnets and key chains are hot items as well as lip balms and mouse pads. Some people found little mints or other candies and put them in special boxes with their websites on them. Food is a good item, but not so much if you have to ship it somewhere. Who wants to open up a box with melted chocolate smeared over your contact information?

There are many places available to order your promotional items. The most popular appears to be Vistaprint. You can have all sorts of items printed up with pre-made designs, or using your own logos and photos. I created some key chains, pens, mouse pads, book bag/totes and  coffee mugs. All of these are kept in my portfolio. Those I ordered as well as those I wish to order in the future are kept there for me to do with as I see fit. The prices are pretty reasonable and you can find specials at times. One of my author friends found a fabulous Groupon offer for Vistaprint and was able to many items for a fraction of the cost she thought she was going to have to pay.

Here is the basic logo I designed using my own picture and some of their pre-made graphics

This wrapped around the pen nicely and on the other items. Take a look...

Something I won from another author's contest during a blog hop were trading cards. These were fantastic! They had the covers of all the books in her series with some fun facts on the back of some, and blurbs on others. In my search for where to get these, I came across Romance Trading Cards website. Here authors of multiple genres have created and uploaded cards to share and collect. They have a tutorial on how to create your own cards. 

In the videos, the instructor shows you step by step how to create the cards using the free program GIMP. It looked a bit daunting at first, but using the tutorial, I was able to get through it all in no time flat.  I've created cards for two of my books using the templates provided by RTC. These templates were in fact created from the downloadable templates provided by

One more item I used last year were printed post cards. I made those myself using my portable Canon Printer. I was able to print off my covers on 4 X 6 postcards. I handed them out to people before the first book's release, signing the back of them. People loved them and are asking me to do the same for this book. 

Might as well give them what they want! LOL

Take a look at what some of these sites have to offer. Plan a portion of your promotional budget for these items and above all, have fun with it!

WWoW is a smart & savvy group of authors who write a weekly feature for their blog -Writer's Words of Wisdom- each Wednesday. The goal is to impart what we've learned about writing, editing, getting published, book promotion, and more along the way.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

#WWoW Promotional Blog Tours on a Budget

I was at a loss as to what I wanted to blog about this week. I've been in the middle of planning for a virtual blog tour promoting my next book due out on November 15th and all I could see in my mind was the explosion of colored ink all over my calender. I have one color denoting my guest spots on other blogs and separate colors for the guests on the rest of my blogs. For example guests for this blog would be denoted with teal ink and those on Behind Closed Doors would be in blue. Sassy Vixen Publishing is in red and The House of Taboo is in purple. Yes, I'm that anal retentive that I use different colors of ink on my calender, so sue me. ;)

Staring at the rainbow all over November, I kept chanting, "What have I learned during this year that we haven't talked about yet?" Then the light bulb went off. Literally. The bulb in my desk lamp flickered and then died.  LOL!

My topic was right there in more than black and white. Do it yourself promotional blog tour!  Why not write about that? As a relatively new published author, I don't have the money to hire someone to take over the reigns of planning, scheduling and promoting a virtual book tour.  My promotional team consists of me, myself, and I. "We" had to do all the prep work alone. Last year with my first erotic romance release and also for that of my first book of poetry, I just winged it. I visited a few blogs, wrote a few articles for online papers and overall continued to blog about my experiences.

Now that I have a total of four of my own blogs and a fifth that I share with three other fabulous authors, I've had the chance to welcome many guests. I've learned quite a bit from all of them when it comes to tours, especially about media/promotional kits. Instead of sending all the information needed for their guest spot as a series of attachments to an email, many of these authors put together a single document with everything needed. I could pick and choose what I wanted for the post.

What are the absolute "must haves" for your media kit? Here's a list of what's in mine. Of course, you can tailor yours to suit your needs. 

1. Cover art
2. General information about the book: word count, publisher, heat level, genre/subgenre, category/imprint
3. Blurb
4. Story/PG excerpt 
5. Adult excerpt
6. Author photo
7. Author biography
8. Links for the book
9. Author links

I also started working on a variety of different kinds of blog posts from character interviews to straight up promos. I wanted to be prepared for any kind of post needed.  When I was ready to start setting up the tour, I sent our an inquiry to the authors who had been guests on my blogs and to the various yahoo groups and social media outlets.  I'm absolutely thrilled with the response! Not only will I be able to use the posts I've already prepared, many of my hosts sent me interviews to complete. 

I don't have to remember which blog only allows PG excerpts or anything goes. The host will be able to pick and choose what they want to use from my promotional media kit to go along with my post.

As for promoting the tour, I'm using my tried and true methods of social media (thank you Paloma Beck for introducing me to Triberr!), my own blogs, and yahoo loops. I've made two different banner ads using 

Here's the one for the tour  and the one for The Island's release.

So as you can see, if I can put together a virtual book tour on a shoestring budget, anyone can. One day when I have the budget for it, I will hire a promotional company to handle all the details for me. But until then, I'll keep wearing the many hats that come with being a new published author!

This week's participating authors

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A Smart & Savvy Group of Authors who write a weekly feature for their blog -Writer's Words of Wisdom- each Wednesday. The goal is to impart what we've learned about writing, editing, getting published, book promotion, and more along the way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

#WWoW Don't Quit Your Day Job!!!

Yes you read the title correctly. I'll repeat it again. Do not quit your "evil" day job in order to write full time UNTIL...

and this is a big one...

UNTIL you are in a place in your life where your writing can pay ALL of your bills.  As a writer just starting out and for probably many more years to come, you will not make the big bucks that many folks outside of our industry think we do. Sure we all have the dreams of hitting it big and becoming an "overnight" success, but the fact remains that ALL of us will be struggling for a long time before we see some sort of profit from our endeavors.  

That Evil Day Job may be taking up time in your day that you could be writing, but it's also giving you an income to pay those pesky bills, providing you with medical benefits, and the money you need to promote your work. Let's be realistic folks. The real world tends to frown on us when we don't pay our bills. We need electricity, the Internet, our laptops and PCs, and a roof over our heads in order to create our fantasy worlds. 

If you are lucky enough to have a partner/family there to help support you so you can explore your dream job as a full time writer, than by all means do it. Take that plunge if you are able, but don't do it if it means putting you and your family in the poor house.

A couple of my author friends are now in the position where their writing provides the bulk of the money that supports their family. Not only do they put out new novels, they write articles for newspapers and magazine, provide editorial services for other authors, create covers and video trailers for others as well as themselves, and still find time to promote themselves and their latest release. 

Juggling multiple jobs isn't something new. The majority of the authors I've met over the last year have found ways to juggle their many hats and make a name for themselves. These authors are my inspiration and have encouraged me to find ways to squeeze in my writing time every single day and to be realistic in my expectations. The economy has hit the veterinary profession hard and I may lose one of the days I work at the hospital. That's a scary thought, but thankfully we do have a plan in place.

If my books take off, great! If it takes five, six or ten more books to get my name noticed, then so be it. The fact is I'm still living my dream. I'm a published author with many more stories to tell. I'll let my Evil Day Job as a veterinarian help pay the bills while I keep writing. My husband is in the Coast Guard so we have a guaranteed income and additional medical benefits. If I have to work less days at the veterinary hospital, we will still be okay financially, still have full medical benefits, and I can still pursue my writing career.

Do you have a plan? Check out this fantastic blog post by John Scalzi "Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money." This can be a real eye-opener for many folks and fantastic advice.

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Writer's Words of Wisdom (#WWoW) is a Smart & Savvy Group of Authors who write a weekly feature for their blog -Writer's Words of Wisdom- each Wednesday. The goal is to impart what we've learned about writing, editing, getting published, book promotion, and more along the way.

This week's contributors

Wildfire Romance Series