Friday, November 27, 2015

Getting Down to Writing

Writing distraction in my front yard
I live in a writer’s retreat. Really, I do. I rent a house located on a 200 acre farm with woods on two sides, a cow pasture in front and a little field and a pond out back. Every window has a pretty view. My writing desk faces a wall of windows overlooking the pasture and woodlands. Deer, fox, coyote, ground hogs, squirrels and an occasional raccoon parade through my front yard on a regular basis.

I should be a lot more prolific a writer than I am with a set up like this. I just finished reading Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own and have some satisfaction in reading I am not alone. She says it is not the exterior writing place that has to be just right, but the interior place. That is the truth. I lack of self-discipline and my mind is all over the place most of the time. I tried, and succeeded for about two weeks, to force myself to write 2,000 words a day. Then I went back and read those words and realized they were drivel.

When writing non-fiction I can outline and plan and I have never missed a deadline. Fiction is another story – it can take me years to finish a novel, even the ones for children. Pale as the Moon took about five years. Of course, I wasn’t writing those five years. I kept pushing it to the back burner while I took up other projects. I was running my own business, divorced and raising a grandchild, so writing was part time. That was my excuse to myself.

Now, I live alone, and quite happily. I have a part-time job that I love. A quiet, beautiful environment where my distractions are few, except for watching wild life in my front yard and the calves playing in the pasture. 

So, it is my interior that is cluttered and messy, not my exterior. I really have a hard time settling down to write, even though I love writing. It was the same way with horseback riding when I ran the stable. I loved riding, but just had a hard time breaking away from the distractions and getting ready to ride. 

Now I am sixty-nine and have this feeling of the sands of time running way too fast through the hour glass. I don’t know if I have time to take my time writing a novel. Nancy talked about dying before finishing a book means the characters die, too. That probably doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. But, still, I think about it.

That whole thing of time running out is why I am drawn to self-publishing. It seems a lot of time can be wasted on querying and waiting for rejections over and over in an attempt to finding a traditional publisher. My latest release, In the Garden with the Pruning Shears, is self-published for that reason. That, and not wanting to be held to a contract saying I have to write more cozy mysteries in a certain frame of time. I didn’t think I’d want to write a series, although after declaring that to my writers group I am about one third into a second Olivia and Gail caper.

Writing is how I’d like to make my living. So, far, it is a small supplement to my part-time job and my social security check. This year has been a good one. I sold and wrote the fourth in my series of equine books, The Book of Donkeys. It will be released in April. And I released my first cozy mystery, In the Garden with the Pruning Shears.
Now I am feeling the “what’s next” pressure. If I can pull some things off their back burners I’ll be fine. Soon as that deer is out of sight. I have to take time to watch the critters.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Non-Traditional Places to have a Book Event

I joined an on-line discussion on book signings recently. It reminded me that some of my most successful book events were held in venues other than book stores. I’ve read and signed in coffee shops, a restaurant, a university, tack shops (horse supplies and riding attire), feed stores, elementary schools, and art galleries.
My writing journey began in 1999 when my first children’s historical fiction novel was published by Coastal Carolina Press. CCP was great in that they set up several book events for me, some in book stores and others in less traditional places including a university, where I was part of a panel of authors speaking to a large group. It was so scary!

Schools are one of my favorite venues for signing my children’s historical fiction books. I visit schools and do programs about the history of North Carolina’s wild horses and colonial history as both are the inspiration for Pale as the Moon, Bear Song, and An Independent Spirit.

When my series of horse books with The Lyons Press came out one by one, I had book signings in tack shops and feed stores in addition to the usual bookstores. When promoting The Book of Mules the cover-girl-mule, Sadie Mae, joined me and even “signed” books with a rubber stamp of a horseshoe and her name.
My book launch for Puddin’ Tain, a children’s horse story, was held in a local restaurant. The owner didn’t charge a commission and guests bought their own food. All I had to do was show up with my books. It turned out to be a lot of fun and I sold books.

My latest book launch was for In the Garden with the Pruning Shears, my first cozy murder mystery. It was held at my county arts council’s art gallery. I teamed up with another writer and good friend. She was releasing a book of poems. We figured since the two of us were promoting very different kinds of books we’d draw more people and hopefully they’d buy both books. We served refreshments and gave away door prizes. It worked like a charm.
Think outside the box when planning a book signing. Depending on your book’s subject, there are all sorts of places to have a book event. Gift shops, coffee houses, cafes, schools, or community buildings can be excellent locations to hold a book event. Did you write a cookbook – then a grocery store might be the ideal place to kick it off. Maybe the murder weapon in your mystery was a hammer or you wrote a how-to book - have a signing in a hardware store.
Often the venue owner will not charge a commission on sold books. They are happy for the new traffic and PR your event creates. If they do charge a commission it is often less that the 40% usually required by bookstores. Get terms clarified before the event. The downside is you will have to bring your books. The Independent publisher/writer will usually have to bring their own books at bookstore signings, too. Some venues provide refreshments, but most of the time you will have to do that on your own. In the case of coffee shops or restaurants people buy their own food.
You will be responsible for your own PR. Send press releases to area news media, send out post cards, and email invitations and make good use of your social media outlets.

Make if fun. Do readings and have a drawing for door prizes. Folks love free stuff so give away some freebies like book marks, pens, and the like. When I did a signing of one of my children’s books at a mall gift shop the owner provided free colorful plastic horses to all who stopped by. Folks like free stuff. Be sure your bookmarks have all your contact info, website and Amazon link so even if someone doesn’t buy your book on the spot they can find it for purchase later. Print out coloring pages from one of your book’s illustrations for kids.

Provide some entertainment – if you sing or play an instrument do a short performance. If you are not musically inclined, then ask a friend to help you out. Having Sadie Mae along for my mule book signings added a fun element to those events. Sadie is the sweetest mule ever. She let folks pet her and little kids sit in the saddle, which she tolerated very patiently. If animals are involved be sure they are suited for the unexpected and are very good tempered. Have the owner supervising.

I find book events are not so much about selling a ton of books as they are a way to introduce yourself and your writing to the community and just celebrating the hard work that led to be published – whether traditionally or independently. But, I have been fortunate to have sold enough books at most of my unique book events to have made the day worthwhile.

Have you had a book signing in a unique venue? Or have you attended one? Share your experience with us in the comments section.