Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pseudonyms - Male vs Female

It has been mentioned many times in a number of outlets that having a male pen name, regardless of your actual gender, can help make you more marketable as an author. For me there are very few occasions I would consider using a name other than my current pen name which is just my real first and middle names anyway. I have no fear of taking on most traditional genres with a  feminine name. I know that sci-fi and fantasy genres tend to be more male dominated so female authors will choose gender neutral or male specific names to write under.

J.K Rowlings may be one of the best known cases of a female author writing under a neutral name for acceptance. There are others that I know personally, some were done for marketing purposes while others simply were created as a joke or because the author liked it better. I have read more articles about the viability and desirability of male pseudonyms than I can count and while I can admit that there are some very good points made I still could not see ever using a name other than my own for any of my writing. Then I began working on my kid's series.

Many that read my blog know at least a little about me but for those that don't here are the relevant facts in regard to my children's books. I am a thirty-three year old female. I have been divorced twice and have no children of my own. One could say I am on the verge of becoming a crazy cat lady because I have four felines. I do have a long term boyfriend but we do not intend to have a family beyond our animals and he is also divorced and has no kids. The series was started however for a single father friend of mine that wanted to find something to read for his daughter. Everything he found was Mommy & Me so I created a book that highlighted the father as the more dominant parent for them. It took off with more friends asking for their own versions.

I entered into talks to have the series published but the editor and publicist were concerned about me as the author. With my marketing background I understood the problem immediately. It is difficult to take a childless female seriously as an expert for creating books for children and highlighting fathers instead of mothers. My name Renee is quite easily understood to be female so after a number of conversations it was decided that I would use my initials and my maiden name R. J. Fournier for a more neutral and marketable persona. Going forward I can see using that name but only for my children's series, whether it is the current series or if I write something else for kid's but no matter what I write as an adult I will use my name Renee Jean and find a way to make it work with my female name.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Excerpt - Voice In My Head

She had written numerous scenes in each of those locations. She smiled as she thought about a story she had written focusing on the owner of the hardware store who had unexpectedly found love while helping a single mom rebuild her home and her life in one of her earlier books called Building a Candy Heart. She wasn’t able to hold onto that memory for very long though. Without making the decision she felt herself being pulled on down the street. Up ahead of her was the coffee shop. She seemed to be heading directly toward it and tried to remember anything significant that had ever happened there.  No important events had taken place within those walls. The only thing she could think of was Scarlett.

She was one of the youngest characters in the series at just twenty years old. Chelsea would never say she had a favorite book or character but she would admit to being exceptionally proud of Scarlett. She was the daughter of another main character that had grown up in the series becoming a viable candidate for love in her own right. She worked part time at the coffee shop while dreaming of making it as a singer. She had a beautiful voice but because up to that point no one with any power to make things happen came to Armandburg it was just a pipe dream.  

Chelsea had intended to make it possible for her to have her dreams come true though she would give her the dilemma of having to choose between the life of a singer and someone she cared about. It was a standard plot line but she was sure Scarlett would find a way to spice it up. As she got closer she could actually see Scarlett wiping down tables in the shop. Chelsea couldn’t hear her but because she knew each of the characters inside and out she knew that Scarlett was humming. Nothing in particular she was sure, she was probably making it up as she went. She was always humming something or getting lost in her daydreams.

Chelsea looked around. For the first time she noticed that everyone walking around her was moving in slow motion. She was only progressing at a snail’s pace herself. She had no idea why it was happening but she got the feeling it was so she would have time to notice something. Even in a dream it felt wrong. Something didn’t fit but from what she had observed everything was in place other than the passage of time. She willed herself to stop so she could take a closer look and to she complete surprise she did in fact pause.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Marketing Tip - Dressing Marketably

Being marketable as an author can be looked at in a number of different ways. For me the first idea that pops into my head is about physical presentation. I attend live events as often as I am able to for the sake of promotions and selling my books. I network with other vendors, organizers and of course the attendees so it is vital that I look the part when I am in the public eye.

The most recent show I did was last Sunday. It was a craft festival held in the ballroom of one of our local casinos and so I was able to set up and work with and around vendors of all sorts. On one side of me was a weight loss product line, behind me a children's book promoter and on the other side was a new platform for talk radio that combines audio and visual to not only let you hear but see those that are on air. I was honored to be one of, and in fact the first, vendor they chose to interview about the show and my products, my books.

I was dressed the part with a conservative though eye catching tailored dress, heels and my glasses that people always make me look like a librarian or teacher. Being able to look the part gave me added confidence when I sat down in front of the camera and mic to discuss my novels. By looking professional it also makes the customers that walk up to my table listen and feel like they have encountered someone that takes what they do seriously. That is not to say that if I were to wear jeans and a t-shirt with my running shoes I couldn't sell my books but I always want people to know that this is important and something I put all of my effort into so they will feel comfortable about supporting me.

It is a good idea to keep the venue in mind when selecting attire as well. I happened to wear my leather boots with a mid-range heel to the last show and have used those for outdoor events as well but there are times when I do interviews or presentations and signings that I will wear pumps. A thin heel would sink immediately into soft ground outside and would be hell standing on a concrete floor for several hours on end but they make a very sleek appearance when discussing a book with a member of the media while partnered with dress slacks and a fitted blouse.

This topic is one I find extremely interesting and so am choosing to make it a series. In the next couple of weeks for the marketing tips I am going to look at online presenting, physical displays as well as one that crosses over to submissions and touches on earlier posts selling yourself to your future editors / agents / publishers so stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Profile - Working the Table

This book written by my friend Jeffrey Cook and his partner Lee French is definitely an industry book. Within months of my first book being released I held my first signing. It was a very small turn out but there were people there and nothing quite like the feeling of sitting at a table signing copies of my very own book. It was immensely rewarding.

Then later that same year as I was preparing for the release of my second book, the first in my charity series, I got on a plane and headed back to the mid-west to do a series of signings in Ohio and Michigan. It was the first place that I set up a booth at a show and the first timeI sold a copy to someone other than a friend or family member. That was a thrill I couldn't begin to explain. It was addictive and I wanted to set up more signings and shows as soon as possible.

As soon as possible turned out to be almost a year later when I held the signing and launch party for Survivor at the world renowned Venetian Hotel and Casino. A crazy little idea I had that kept picking up steam until it became a reality. I learned a number of things from each of these events especially the lack of reach I still have when getting word out about my events. Survivor's release was significantly smaller of a turnout than I had hoped but we did beat our fundraising goal and had some fun raising awareness about a subject near and dear to my heart.

Two days later I attended the Vegas Valley Book Festival and again was able to be successful enough to make back my booth fee plus a little and the networking opportunities I took advantage of were far more lucrative than the cost of a table. Up until the most recent show I had never had a time when I did not make back the money invested if not more. Then I attended a show a few weeks ago that was incredibly slow and I only made back 10% of my investment. I started looking for things I could do better.

That is when I found Working the Table - An Indie Author's Guide to Conventions. It is a book written by two authors that attend shows together and sell their books along with friends and are making a living doing so. I am about halfway through the book and have pages of notes I have taken for ideas that I wish to incorporate into my own shows and booths. There a several things I need to work on and practice time will have to be made but I am now looking forward to my next she to see if I can put what I have learned into practice and make a larger impact.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Submission Tips - Practice Makes Perfect

When you are first starting to think about submitting your novel to the big bad scary world of agents and publishers it is important to make sure you are well prepared. If being an author is truly a career path or at least more than just a hobby to see your name on a cover then you would never self publish without going through the steps, so it is fair to think you would want to follow the same protocol for submissions as well.  Indie authors go through rounds of edits, rewrites, beta reader feedback and of course a few nights of tears curled up on the office floor petting our cats, or whatever comfort animal you may have, before we ever consider publishing.

Agents are no different when it comes to a need for preparation. For me I had the idea that since I had researched the way to  right query letters and I knew my story I would be ready to just whip out a quick letter and drop it in the mail. That is exactly what I did. I sent out over thirty queries between snail mail and email and received over twenty rejections back in response. Some I simply did not hear back from. None of those first letter gave me the approval response I was looking for and I was lost as to why. Then one night after my fetal position, feline companion therapy had subsided I began to look over the letter I had sent out.

The first thing I noticed was that while there were no typos in the letter it was also missing some pertinent information. What I had previously considered a "hook" was actually nothing more than a run on sentence with the main characters names. The brief fleshing out was more of a full on synopsis and my personal bio was wordy to fill space since I was unpublished at the time. It was a mess. It didn't even state that the manuscript was completed or what genre it was written in. How could I have not known what I was doing to myself?

If I had taken the time to write out my letter, even before finding the list of agents, I would have been able to analyze it and find the problems ahead of time. For one of my current books that I am putting through the ringer with editing and rewrites I am already working on the letter for when the time comes. It too has gone through a number of drafts fixing parts here and there. As soon as I am satisfied with the book and have a letter I am proud of I will then send them out to find an agent. The reject responses are discouraging but I am determined to be strong enough to handle it. At least this time I will be more prepared and I can stand by the book and the letter more proudly knowing the work that went in to make them professional and acceptable.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Marketing Tips - Spamming Considerately

When I first started the incredible Indie Author journey I was so excited that if I saw a group with anything writing related in the name I would join immediately. Obviously some of them were larger than others and I had significantly more friend names in a few of them than I did in the rest. The larger the group or greater the personal connection I had to the group the more often I would see posts from them and therefore those became my go to groups for promotions when my book went live.

There are advantages to having a comfort zone because you trust the people in those groups to help offer advice and you interact with them so you can do trades of your work with them confidently. There are a number of concerns though that can arrive when hiding within your comfort zone for too long. The biggest is that you are never reaching a new audience. By continuously sending the same images to the same people you will very quickly grow stagnant and could easily cross the line into annoying. Not only will those trusted advice givers no longer care about the book your are so proudly posting but they may block all of your posts depriving you of answers when you are in need of assistance.

The lack of response can cause you to do exactly what I found I was doing, avoiding promoting all together. I wanted to get back to sharing my work but I realized I was hesitant to share the same images and links again even though a good deal of time had passed since the last marketing push I had made. That was when I thought about all of the groups I had joined back at the beginning. It is true that I had abstained from much interaction with many choosing to stay in my comfort zone but I was still a member of those groups and as I have grown I have become better at interacting with readers and writers of all levels and experience. So I decided to make a list of all the groups I was a part of to see where there may be more promotion opportunities. It didn't take long to see I had been missing a great amount of promotions.

I was a member of over two hundred groups. Thats right over two hundred. Now of course not all of them would be the right opportunity for me and my marketing but I needed to explore further to find out about each group to make the most of what I had. As it turned out I could promote in one hundred forty four of the two hundred twelve groups I was a part of. Some of them had scheduled days or limits on when and what you could post but all of them allowed some for of advertising at least once of twice a month, some of them every day if you desired. With that knowledge I made a spreadsheet (my OCD way of staying organized) that listed all of the groups, how often I could promote, whether they allowed posts about books, blogs and Facebook pages and of course any additional notes I cold find.

From everything I found I could promote my books, author page and my blog once per group per week and never drive people crazy with my over sharing. Plus now that I have three published books and a number of projects in the works I could mix them up so that I was promoting every day and still share new information with new people throughout almost the entire month. With my pretty color coded spreadsheet of groups I will be restarting my social media marketing press in the next month and tracking to see if my sales grow in response.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Book Profile - Fatal

I took some time off from my reading challenge but I am back at it now and have been enjoying the book Fatal by Michael Palmer. Initially I had intended to use this book as my book with a one word title and while it obviously does fill that requirement it is also five hundred nine pages and so it will be the book over five hundred pages for my challenge. It is captivating and I have been very excited to turn each page and progress to each chapter.

As with the trilogy I read by Madeleine Roux I believe that this medical thriller will just be the beginning of my reading for this author. He has an extremely descriptive style and sense of urgency to his writing that draws the reader into the action and refuses to let go.  I have not finished this book yet but I find myself sneaking a few pages in on breaks at work and falling sleep far later than I had intended just to finish one more chapter.

From Amazon -

In Chicago, a pregnant cafeteria worker suffering nothing more malevolent than flulike symptoms begins hemorrhaging from every part of her body. In Boston, a brilliant musician, her face disfigured by an unknown disease, rapidly descends into a lethal paranoia. In Belinda, West Virginia, a miner suddenly goes berserk, causing a cave-in that kills two of his co-workers. Finding the link between these events could prove FATAL.

Five years ago, internist and emergency specialist Matt Rutledge returned to his West Virginia home to marry his high-school sweetheart and open a practice. He also had a score to settle. His father died while working for the Belinda Coal and Coke Company, and Matt swore to expose the mine’s health and safety violations.  

When his beloved Ginny succumbed to an unusual cancer, his campaign became even more bitterly personal. Now Matt has identified two bizarre cases of what he has dubbed the Belinda Syndrome--caused, he is certain, by the mine’s careless disposal of toxic chemicals. All he needs is proof.

Meanwhile, two women, unknown to one another, are drawn inexorably to Belinda, into Matt’s life--and into mortal danger. Massachusetts coroner Nikki Solari comes to attend the funeral of her roommate, killed violently on a Boston street. Ellen Kroft, a retired schoolteacher from Maryland, seeks the remorseless killer who has threatened to destroy her and her family.Three strangers--Rutledge, Solari, and Kroft--each hold one piece of a puzzle they must solve, and solve quickly. If they don’t, it will be far more than just their own lives that are at risk.

Michael Palmer has crafted a novel of breathtaking speed and medical intricacy where nothing is as it seems and one false step could be FATAL.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Submission Tips - Know Your Genre

This may seem like simple advice. After all most authors, though eclectic readers, tend toward one or two comfortable genres in their writing. This can be both an advantage and disadvantage for submitting, especially if you are new to sending out your work. If you write exclusively in a category like fantasy or erotica then you may have a strong grasp of the the current offerings in your genre. It is important to know what else is out there for when you submit.

You need to be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the market that your book will be sold in as well show how you stand apart. What makes you different and gives you a fresh angle? How will you stand out on the shelf next to more established authors? Or even more difficult, how will you set your book apart in online locations like Amazon? These are questions that agents and publishers want to know. They not only want to know the answers but they expect to not even have to ask the questions. You are in sales mode and need to sell yourself as much as your work.

Ok you may be saying, I am new and fresh so they will be able to see that as long as they just read my book. My work speaks for itself. Well that may be but you still have to get them to read it to find out how different you are. Maybe you are thinking that your book cannot be defined by the rigid limits of just one genre and you are more of a hybrid. That is fine. Many authors take elements of different genres and combine them to tell a story. However those same agents and publishers are going to want to know what shelf you believe your book would occupy in a store and how you would promote it so there is still a main genre that it would be labeled under. Therefore you still must know what that one would be.

The main point is that you not only have to know the words you wrote or the flow of your story but from a business stand point you must be able to show agents and publishers why you are different and better than the next other to come along or the ones that came before. The ability to label your own work is not one that comes easily for most of us. Perhaps ask your beta readers how they would describe your story and what genre they feel it would be in then use that as a way to help narrow down how you want to classify it.In your description you can mention traits of other genres you incorporated but knowing the overall genre will be a huge help when it comes to finding an agent or publisher and presenting your work to them.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Character Profile - Projects for 2016

I have written about a number of characters I am hoping to finish books for this year but this is just a short preview of each of the books I am working on for 2016.

Andorra Simon - she is a 15 year old victim of human trafficking, she is a fighter but was sold into being a human slave at the tender age of 8, she spirit comes close to breaking and many times she finds herself too exhausted to fight on, it isn;t until she comes face to face with the chance to destroy the person that hurt her so many years ago and possibly save another from the life that her will is restored, the only question is could she be too late?

Lucasta Syntel - she is the eldest daughter of Persyphone Syntel, the matriarch of the original book Welcome to Syn. Lucasta has been wronged by someone she deeply trusted and loved but now she has sworn vengeance and along with her sisters and new discovered abilities she will bring the people that tortured her family to their knees begging forgiveness. The power threatens to overwhelm her and her sisters and she must find a balance between caring for her family and bringing the pain she feels her enemies so richly deserve. Will one side win out? Will she get her revenge or will she fall victim to the hatred now dwelling in her heart?

Ashley DeMichael -  she is one of my newest characters and was inspired by a conversation I had about bullying and how there are so many more aspects than just Bullying = Bad. Ashley is a badass teen bully. She runs her high school with an iron fist and commands the fear of everyone around her. She is beautiful but most believe she is so terrible of a person that they would never be associated with her if they could safely escape her grasp. She is also a victim of an abusive and neglectful father and an overzealous mother. She is passionately defensive of her sister keeping her from ever being beat and tortured by their father. She also does her best to guard her sister against the intense teaching of their mother who insists that they stand up for themselves in such an aggressive way that they never become victims. Because of the dual roel Ashley is a very sad and lonely girl. She identifies with her victims but she has been so programed to never appear weak that she has no idea how to stop. Can she find her true self and help people see who she really is and what is happening behind the scenes or if she destined to be labeled a bully and alienated for the rest of her life?

Amanda Perella - another daughter from a previous book, Amanda is the daughter of Chelsea Perella a best selling romance author driven mad from a homicidal character that had taken up residence in her mind. After doing her best to care for her mother and befriending Chelsea's neighbor and writing student Amanda begins to seriously consider taking the time to reinvest in her own writing. She had shared with her mother that she would be attending college and studying English hoping to someday do something with her own stories perhaps following in Chelsea's footsteps if she could reach the same level. But She decides she needs a new place to focus after she watches her mother break down and claim the character in her head was making her do and say things. No one, even Amanda believed her but when she finds a beautiful quiet country house and starts to notice a draw from an abandoned house and a voice that seems to be speaking to her from inside her own head she starts to wonder if she too is going crazy. Can she solve the mystery of who is talking to her and stop the madness before she has a breakdown of her own or will she fall to the same fate as her mother?

Jessica Wyland - she once had her life perfectly planned out. She was happily married and had plans for the perfect beautiful family but after tragedy struck Jessica found herself lost so she turned to her one true passion still remaining, baking and desserts. It may not sound like much but after attending a prestigious school in Paris and learning about making candy, baking and delicious desserts as a form or art she finally felt alive again. She moves back to a small town hoping to open her own store and start over. Just as things are taking hold though her old life delivers a divesting blow and she has only the kind friend she has made in her new home to lean on. The problem is even has feelings for him he has no idea what happened and what she did. She knows he will turn his back on her is she tells him yet he is pulling away because he can tell she is hiding something and that is making it hard to trust her. Can Jessica find a way to share what happened and make the man she cares about so deeply understand or will she be left with nothing once again?

Jasmine Byers - Jasmine has been a subject before and was the focus of the 2015 release Survivor. She is a deeply hurt survivor of an extremely abusive relationship. With the encouragement of her family and friends she seeks help through a local support group. It is small, only six people including the therapist but she feels stronger having people around that understand what she is going through. Like any group though, especially one dealing with such a deeply unstable issue as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder there are concerns with each participant in the group and as they get to know one another bonds form and break causing healing and an understanding of loss none of them could have ever fathomed. Jasmine survived her relationship but as the group struggles to heal again and again dealing with the life and journey of PTSD she wonders if she can make it through the healing process.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Never Waste Time

In a normal schedule for my blog yesterday would have been submission tips and today would be a profile for a book I am reading but I have been extremely distracted this entire week from the loss of a dear friend from work. He was only sixty three when he passed away and it was in fact his birthday the day he died. I have been beside myself since I found out and while it may seem extreme ti react that strongly to a man I knew from my place of employment he was also a strong reminder of my father that I lost just over eight years ago as well.

I was talking with my mom recently about her life since she retired. She travels to see my brother in Texas and comes out to Vegas to see me. She was thrilled to see me when I went home last autumn and is very active going on bus trips and vacations with friends. She will be heading to Florida next week and down to see my brother on a long road trip in May. The next time she comes out here I will be taking her to San Diego because she has never been there. She mentioned that she retired because she wanted to make sure she had time to enjoy life and not just work forever.

My father passed away on October 5th 2007. He was set to retire the following April but never made it. He had a passion for flying his Ultra Lite plane and had been planning to teach both of his children to fly once he had more time. He actually died with his plane nearby. While we all had the opportunity to tell him we loved him in the week before his death we never got the chance to experience his true love and passion with him. It is something I will always regret.

My boss that left us quietly this past Sunday was similar in the fact that he had been a dedicated and hard working casino supervisor for thirty nine years but lost his life before he had the chance to go out and spend time doing the things he was passionate about. He had a family and many friends who all miss him terribly. When it was posted that he had passed away there were a number of people that mentioned how often they had told him to retire but he would just smile and say he would get around to it. n top of the sorrow from never having been able to pursue anything outside of work it is also difficult to understand the suddenness of the loss.

He went in for surgery two weeks ago and was doing well but then four days before he died there were complications and he developed pneumonia. The fluid was drained from his lungs Sunday morning and agin he appeared to be doing ok but on Sunday night he took a dramatic turn for the worse and within a very short time he was gone. Life is so precious and never being guaranteed to get another day it is important to follow your heart every chance you get.

I have been debating for some time now the choice of going full time at my job or staying part time as I have been for nearly four years. The benefits are of course more days which would mean more money, a set schedule and medical benefits which are all desirable things. However I would have to return to swing shift which is a schedule working eight at night until four in the morning. I do not sleep well during the day and was ill quite often when I worked that shift before. It would also cut down significantly on my time for writing and spending with the people I care about. With the loss of my boss and the reminder of my father gone far too soon I have decided that the people and passion in my life will triumph over a particular schedule and I will do what is in my heart instead of following the traditional and solely financially focused path for my future.