Stories of the Reader-Author Relationship

covers of autographed books
South of Justice reader

Before becoming an author, I was a reader.

Of course, I still read as often as humanly possible, but before publishing my first book, I’d stand in long lines to get authors’ autographs and thank them for writing.

In Hawaii, I shared a cab with screenwriter Jeffrey Arch. Ben Bova helped me locate an artifact for Mars. Laura Lippman taught a week-long workshop that was worth the whole conference. Dave Barry embarrassed me in front of my mother, which made her day. I embarrassed Ridley Pearson when I pointed out his father was in line for an autograph after Pearson gave a keynote speech on humilty.

I had the priviledge of being on a panel discussion at a writer’s conference with Linda Fairstein, whose books inspired the Law & Order SVU series. James W. Hall gave me priceless advice on writing description. David Morrell swapped flying stories with me because, being the consumate researcher, he got his pilot’s license to write a book that featured a pilot.

Steve Berry shared his exhaustive writing process with writers at a conference in Florida. Kristin Higgins is as hilarious in person as the characters in her books.

Each signed book has a story about meeting the author. I have a bookcase of stories.

 

As an author, I strive to connect with readers on the page and in person.

At a book club in Highlands, North Carolina, I was asked to sign a book for Ann. When I opened the book, it was already signed to Ann. The lady gasped and said she bought the book used and didn’t notice it had already been signed. What were the odds of that?

Readers have shared photos of themselves reading  my books at the beach, on a boat, on a plane, at a hunting camp, and at home.

book club group shot

Readers in Japan surprise me. Haven’t done any marketing in Japan. Sales are steady there thanks to someone who spread the word.

Last week a reader from Waynesville, NC wrote to tell me that someone up there was hosting a game of Cow Bingo. She thought I had made up the game in a book. I confess, I stole the idea from living in a rural small town.

Last week a friend told me that she knew a lady who mailed a copy of my book to her niece in New Zealand. It cost her $40 to mail it. I’d have autographed it, if I’d known. Wowza.

Book clubs are the most fun because they ask great questions. Since research is the best part of the writing process, I love to share insider knowledge that didn’t make it into the book. I’m a pilot, so the scenes about flying in South of Justice come from experience.

To all the readers who buy books from newbie authors like me, God bless you! To all the readers who leave reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub, LibraryThing, and social media, you are golden. Thank you for sharing your love of reading with others and for recommending books by lesser-known authors.

You make this lonely process worthwhile!

 

Have you met your favorite author? 

West of Famous: The Cover Reveal

Thank you, readers, for your feedback. The votes are in and the cover for the upcoming West of Famous. We have a winner. This is the third book in the Compass Crimes Series and it is scheduled for release in February. It can be read as a standalone. For those unfamiliar with the series, it has overlapping characters. The prominent characters in one book are minor characters in another. All the stories feature strong women and a crime. This story features Martina Ramos, a young woman who secretly takes a part-time job during a break from Oxford University.

Why the Right Cover Matters

According to experts in marketing, books in a series work best with a signature look or brand. Carl Hiaasen, for example, has eye-catching colorful, simple covers that tell the reader to expect humor. And yes, readers do judge a book by its cover. Great cover art reveals the type of story inside. I’ll prove it. Let’s play pick the genre.

A woman homicide investigator holds a gun behind her back as dark butterflies flit around her.

Boomerang

Martini Afternoons by Beverly Fortenberry

Reunited by Danger

Which one is romance? Young adult? Humor? Science Fiction? Literary or Women’s Fiction? And this is why choosing the right cover art matters.

The Runners-Up

The runners-up, though beautiful, did not resonate with loyal readers enough to suit the storyline. If you want some background on the setting of West of Famous, check out the research stage of developing this story here: Call Me Trawler Trash. Many thanks to the brilliant and talented graphic artists at Damonza.com for their work on these cover choices. These are the three runners-up.

cover art candidate 1 for West of Famouscover art candidate 2 for West of Famouscover art candidate 3 for West of Famous

And The Winner Is…

West of Famous book cover

 

 

A young woman plays the role of her life when kidnappers mistake her for a celebrity.

Those who know where she is don’t value her life. Those who value her life, don’t know she’s missing.

Cover Art Chosen for North of the Killing Hand

Thank you, thank you. Your votes are in for the cover art for North of the Killing Hand, the second book in the Compass Crimes Series! This book will be released on October 16. Here it is:

cover art for book

The runner up was also beautiful, but would have required much more tweaking to get it aligned with the story of Nefi Jenkins. Somehow the short shorts and leather messenger bag didn’t suit the story. When you read it, you will understand. This story is a prequel to South of Justice.

To readers who are on Goodreads.com, there will be a giveaway of 50 signed paperback ARCs of North of the Killing Hand coming up soon. ARC means Advance Reader Copy. More info on that later.

If you are interested in reading deleted scenes from either book, leave a comment. Like other authors, I often have to write background scenes and extra scenes that help me discover more about my characters. These scenes, like deleted scenes in a movie, are not essential to the story.

I could front load the book with history like James A. Michener did in Hawaii, going back to the geologic formation of the islands, but modern readers have too many other things demanding their time. Like hundreds of channels of television to watch. Hobbies. Children. Spouses. You know, life. Michener wrote Hawaii before cable television and the internet, back when people had evenings to spend reading.

Modern readers fight for reading time because it is a luxury. I respect that. I treasure feedback and reviews from readers because writing is a fairly solitary venture. The research and critique-swapping stages involve other people. The majority of work on a book is done alone at a computer facing the blinking cursor.

Book signings, book club appearances, conferences with other writers–these delightful social events keep me going from book to book. Thank you for your votes on the cover art. Watch for the giveaway and the pre-buy links leading up to the October 16th book release.

Oh, and the winners of the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Award will be announced at the Florida Writers Conference in October! All prayers for finalist North of the Killing Hand to win are greatly appreciated. Please also pray for Mistletoe Justice to win in the Inspirational Fiction Category. (That’s my friend Carol J. Post’s book!)

Readers Rule

After years and years of writing, editing, rewriting, and so on, launching that first book into the world felt like watching my child cross the road for the first time alone. At night. Then, a Beatrix Potter theme postcard arrived from reader Lynn Dempsky. She had won a copy of South of Justice through a Goodreads Giveaway and so she thanked me for the book. A response from the void! A light in the darkness!

Readers began posting reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and Facebook. Some authors avoid reading reviews, lest they be discouraged or distracted by them. But look I did. There were 59 reviews, all four and five stars. This dear book–my paper offspring–is steadily climbing in its category. I want to hug every reviewer. Thank you Amazon Customer, and Luv2read, and all the other kind souls who took the time to post feedback.

Photos of readers holding the book started to show up on social media.

 Readers on sofas

 Readers Tyrette Tebbi and her mother Dr. Joyce Metzendorf reading South of Justice.

 And at the beach

 A reader takes South of Justice to the beach.

At a hunting camp

Denise Ortagus at a hunting camp.

And on a plane

Amy Devore reading on a plane.

And on the sea

Readers are the best, you see!

Thank you, thank you. Your responses fill my heart with joy. This debut author believes that readers rule! I cherish the thought that somewhere, someone enjoyed this story. That, after all, is the point of writing. Long after the royalty checks are cashed, the thrill of knowing my work entertained readers makes all the long days and nights of writing and editing worthwhile.

Now I carry a box of books in the back of my Highlander. You know, for those times like last Sunday when a lady at church asked if I had a copy to sell. She didn’t like to use the computer, and in my county, there is only one measly bookstore…so, yes, I happen to have a copy on hand. I’ll even autograph it.

And now, back to writing the next book!

Love an Author

 open book emitting lights

Authors feel loved when people buy and enjoy their books enough to post reviews. Being appreciated for one’s hard work makes all the years of hunching over a laptop and gathering research worthwhile. I have a book coming out in May, so over the weekend my beloved manuscript rode off by email to the formatter and the cover artist. Sure, I’m so excited I want to tell strangers, but other than enthusiasm, well, marketing is not my strength.

For lack of a fairy godmother to make marketing happen with a wave of her wand, I must slog on to gain knowledge about the process and the best practices of marketing in the publishing world. Okay, so more hunching over a laptop, lots of reading, and a willingness to fling one’s soul into the abyss of a rapidly changing industry will be my lot. And then there is the fear factor.

Sending one’s book into the world feels like watching a toddler run across an icy lake. In a snowstorm.

I feel out of my depth. Writers by nature can be introverts and marketing skills come more naturally to extroverts. Nonetheless, I forge ahead in baby steps. Part of the marketing process involves finding comparables–books similar to mine in style, content, subject matter, or genre. Style is the toughest to identify. If a newbie author claims to write like Lee Child, or John Grisham, the claim comes off as hubris. I know which authors I would LOVE to be compared to, but that’s for readers and reviewers to decide, right? Then I found a website that samples a person’s writing and identifies which famous author has a similar style. It seemed an objective, outside opinion based on linguistic analysis, so I gave it a shot.

From a two-chapter sample of my upcoming book South of Justice came this assessment:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!


Wait. What? WOW. Yeah, baby! 

Who am I to disagree with their fancy programming? I can live with that. My mother might even agree. For grins, I then submitted a three-chapter sample of my next book, North of the Killing Hand, and this is what the analyzer came up with:

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

I could boost my ego all day with that kind of thing. Another of my favorite authors! Vonnegut’s lean sarcastic prose and quirky characters kept me up many happy nights. As much as I would be thrilled to have my style compared to Vonnegut or King, will the similarities boost my sales into the stratosphere alongside Cat’s Cradle, or The Stand? Please, oh, please!

A blog is the only forum I feel comfortable sharing the computer analysis of my style. Back in the real world, perhaps I should stick to finding works similar in theme, content, and genre. A much easier task. The hearty Beta readers and critique partners who patiently endured drafts of South of Justice identified my works as suspense with elements of romance, crime/redemption theme, and a strong female protagonist.

So as I lurch through the process of preparing this paper-and-electronic offspring to face the big world, know that all prayers are greatly appreciated. In the long run, readers like you will decide the value of a book, because no matter what the reviewers from lofty, high-brow media report, readers rule the industry.

In all the marketing information I’ve read, the most powerful marketing engine is word of mouth. My prayer is that my writing moves hearts, souls, minds, and mouths in a positive direction. Readers rule!

If you would like to read the first chapters of my books, click on the BOOKS tab above and choose a title from the drop down menu. Please leave a comment too, to start that word of mouth rolling. Feel free to share on Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, and tweet away, because the next book in the series is on the way.

Bear with me as I await that first look at the cover art. This is kind of like giving birth and counting the newborn’s fingers and toes. Will it be amazing? Will the cover reflect all the beauty and potential inside?

If you would like to be notified when the next book is published, add your email to my newsletter form on the bottom of the page. Expect to be notified:

  • To ask for your help in choosing cover art from artist’s drafts
  • To announce when the pre-buy link for a book is available, because the bigger the volume of sales that first week, the higher the book will rank. (High rankings influence buyers to take a chance on new authors like me!),
  • To get notice when a pre-publication discount is available, and
  • To notify you when a book is published.

Spread the love, spread the word, and this newbie author will keep writing the rest of the 4-part series. I’d so much rather write than market, but I will market with the resources and skills I can muster. Wave if you see me wearing a sandwich board at a major intersection.