Bed-bound promo, website craziness, and Scrivener awe

Bed-bound promo, website craziness, and Scrivener awe

I’ve been bed-bound for over a week since a minor knee operation to repair a meniscus issue. I’m not going to whine about it! In fact, I’ve discovered that I’m the perfect candidate for this type of life.

On the bed beside me are:

  • my Mac Air;
  • my Levenger notebook (calendar etc.);
  • a Circa notebook fat with my To Do lists;
  • another notebook (a Semikolon Mucho Spiral Notebook for the stationery curious), where I’m thinking through The Next Novel;
  • a three-ring binder for scene sheets (@ Story Genius), which I’m really using as a support for my mouse pad and mouse);
  • my Kindle;
  • an iPad;
  • and a stack of magazines (The New Yorker, Real Simple, and Bookmarks).

Beside the bed is my walker (required for just a little longer!), a water bottle, clock, and iPhone. Moisturizer, lipstick, post-its, pencil, pen, pills. Snacks, tissue. Basic clutter.

Everything I need, in short, right where I can reach it. The only problem with this rat’s-nest life is that I can’t climb stairs (yet), can’t get up to my office.

But for now, I’m making great use of this time.

Website renovation

With every publication, a writer needs to update his/her website with information about the new book, a new media kit, author events, and a new author portrait throughout.

I didn’t have time to get an author portrait taken this year (I tried a selfie, with poor results), so I’ve used one James Brylowski took of me five years ago.

“Problem is, books are written slowly, and aging happens all of a sudden.” — from a wonderful article: The Agony and the Ecstasy of taking Author Photos.)

Having neglected my website for years, I discovered a number of problems. Fortunately, I was able to find a great website person through Fiverr.com who is helping me. We have quite a bit to do yet.

(Frankly, I don’t know how authors who publish a book a year manage.)

An important part of getting my website more reader-worthy was setting up my Media page. Following the directions of Tim Grahl (see below), I learned to code my Media page so that high-definition images would be automatically downloaded with just a click. I’m fairly stoked that I was able to do this.

Also, on Fiverr.com, I found someone to turn the book cover of The Game of Hope into a 3D image (see above). For $5!

Easy Outreach with Tim Grahl

When it comes to marketing, I’m a fan of Tim Grahl, He’s experienced, down-to-earth and realistic. I’ve taken a few of his online courses, and they’ve always been worthwhile. Right now I’m following a new one he’s testing out, “Easy Outreach.” Basically, it’s about how to get interviewed on podcasts, but the detailed system he outlines would apply to any outreach: to blogs, vlogs, or podcasts, etc.

An important part of the process is to identify suitable podcasts and to study them before making a pitch. (I’ve discovered a number of wonderful podcasts in the process.) I’m kind of excited about putting this into practice. I ordered a USB Yeti mike, and already have one podcast interview scheduled for the fall.

I’m ready! Who knows where this might lead?

Finally learning Scrivener

I’ve promised myself that I would write The Next Novel on Scrivener. I’ve taken stabs at learning it before, but I’ve always ended up confused and frustrated. It’s a complex programme! I was on the verge of giving up when I came upon a Udemy Scrivener 3 course for Mac. It had excellent reviews so I went for it. It’s been fantastic. I have questions almost every day, and the teacher responds to every one. I take it bit by bit, and immediately apply what I’ve learned, so hopefully, it will stick. I’m finally understanding why so many writers love it.

Additionally, I’ve been developing my next novel following the guidelines in Story Genius by Lisa Cron. Puzzling over how to get Cron’s scene card templates into my Scrivener project, I Googled “Story Genius Scrivener” and found a wonderful article by Gwen Hernandez on WriterUnboxed: Using Scrivener with Story Genius. Bingo! She even included a downloadable Scrivener template with scene card templates (and much more).

Watching movies, reading and listening to books and reading magazines …

And then, of course, there have been wonderful movies to watch: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Call Me by Your Name; and, last night, Lady Bird. All were simply great. Of the three, I found Call Me by Your Name the most enchanting, swooningly European.

And then, of course, books, books, books! In addition to books on writing, I’m reading The Burning Girl by Claire Messud and listening, on Audible, to an amazing performance of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

A hard life, eh?

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On giving an author reading (part 1): deciding what to wear and other matters of great import

In one month I’m to give a reading not far from where I live. It’s high time I started preparing. (Did you know that presenters of TED talks prepare for months? For fascinating links on this process: go here, and here.)

An author reading is not a reading: it’s a talk

The first thing to understand about preparing to give a reading is that it should not really be a “reading” at all — it’s best if it’s an engaging talk, with a mere sprinkling of readings thrown in.

Who is the audience?

Every author needs to be prepared for an audience of 1 or 100. For my event coming up, it’s likely to be a good-sized crowd. A number of those attending will be friends and family.

This raises the bar!

I have given a number of talks in my area over the decades. I want it to go over well, and I don’t want to repeat myself.

That bar just went up several more notches.

Review print-outs and videos of past author readings

I’ve begun preparing for the talk coming up by digging out my earlier speeches. In the process, I discovered a video of a talk I gave about seven years ago. I had just finished a US tour for Mistress of the Sun, and speaking before a crowd daily for weeks on end was great preparation. I also had the advantage of a friend/filmmaker to film this talk, so the recording is without the usual wiggles and jumps.

Sandra Gulland author reading

Decide what to wear

This is a surprisingly important question. At an author reading, people sit and look at you for an hour. I’ve learned not to wear jewelry that can jangle against a mike. Bright is good. Comfortable is great. Fashionable and hip would be nice. Presenting in costume is guaranteed to be a hit.

I often present in historical dress. It’s fun, and everyone enjoys it. However, for me, a question is: Should I wear the same costume I wore the last time I gave a reading at this festival? I think not. A number of people attending will have been at the last one.

A gown Sandra Gulland often wears for an author reading

I could wear my Josephine gown, which would be relevant to the novel I’m writing now … but not relevant to The Shadow Queen, my latest publication.

Alas, I’m afraid that I should go simply as myself. To tell the truth, I find this somewhat intimidating. It means that content of the talk itself is going to have to be excellent.

Next up: On writing and outlining an author talk. Visuals or not? Give-aways or not?

I’ll keep you posted.


Links of interest

Weekly I’ve started posting links to things I find of interest on the Net. I’m calling it a Sundae of Sundries (posted every Sunday, of course). Let me know if there are any articles or blogs you’d like to share.


The Facts of Life (& Other Mysteries)

I continue to work and rework the WIP, which I’m now calling The Facts of Life (& Other Mysteries). What do you think of that title?

Revision is such slow work. One must be patient and have faith in the process. The work invariably feels broken at this stage.

I was heartened to see this page of revision made by Orwell for 1984. My own pages look similar.

tn_msrpg

{The photo of me and my horse was taken by Barney McCaffrey.}

An author newsletter is key to effective book promotion

author newsletter book marketing

The importance of the author newsletter

In my decades as a published author, I’ve learned a few things about the author newsletter.

First: it is the single most important thing you can do to reach out to your readers. Experts on book marketing say that an author’s newsletter is more effective than any amount of social media (although social media certainly helps).

Fortunately, sending out a newsletter is also one of the easiest things an author can do.

Research by subscribing to author newsletters

Subscribe to author newsletters in order to learn about all the various styles. In this way you will see what engages interest — and what does not.

You can see my latest newsletter here. (Of course, I wouldn’t be professional if I didn’t point out that you can sign up for it here.)

Sign up for an email newsletter service

Decades ago, I started out with a simple email sent to family and friends. I quickly learned that there was a limit to how many emails my computer mail program was willing to handle.

That’s when I discovered the need for an email service. (I use GroovySoup, but many authors use MailChimp.) For a reasonable fee, an email service will provide you with a newsletter template, maintain your email database, and give you statistics (how many opened your newsletter, for example, and which links were the most popular).

You can have a standard template customized. I have the header of my newsletter reflect my website:

author newsletter email book marketing

Feed your email newsletter database

Most everything you do as a writer should be with an eye to gathering email addresses to add to your newsletter mailing database. If you give a reading: pass around a newsletter sign-up form. On your website and blog, be sure to have a sign-up link. This database is gold: these are your core followers.

Offer value

Some author newsletters are formal. Mine is more chatty. I like to imagine that I’m writing to my closest friends and family, so that the tone of my newsletter is close and familiar. Decide what tone is best for you.

I feel it’s important to give nuggets of news: the newsletter shouldn’t be too long, and it should be easy to skim. The headlines, too, should attract interest.

Write about a variety of things: your research, your work, your travels — your news — but also include things that will be of interest to your readers: books you’ve enjoyed reading or a writing tip, for example.

Give things away. With each of my newsletters, a subscriber wins a copy of one of my books.

I revise my newsletter several times over, and before I send it out I have a few people read it and make suggestions. Because it is hard to see one’s own mistakes, I have an editor look at it for errors. This is money well spent.

Use visuals

There should always be visuals in a newsletter. I use Google image search and my own photos. Be sure that the images you use are in the public domain. Wikipedia images are available for use, as a rule. Canva is a site for creating your own custom designs.

Give thought to the subject header

The subject header in your newsletter is very important. Imagine all the email people get. The subject header is what will make someone decide whether or not to open your newsletter. Make it interesting.

How often should you send out a newsletter?

Some authors send out a newsletter once a week, others once a month. I aim to have a newsletter out every three months. I think once a month is considered the most effective.


Do you send out an author newsletter? If so, please link to it in the comment section below. I’d love to see it. What has worked best for you?

Hola, hello, bonjour: my newsletter, a winner, and a shout-out to Leah Marie Brown, a long-time fan

2quill-pen-600x600

I sent a newsletter out this morning—read it here, if you haven’t yet—and I just had the pleasure of sending an email to the lucky winner of an autographed hardcover copy of The Shadow Queen. (If you get an email with the subject line You won a book (no, this is not spam!), don’t throw it out.)


Catching up on GoodReads, and saw a note from Leah Marie Brown announcing the trailer for her book Faking It (the first in an It-Girl series), which will be out May 12. I know that readers of this blog don’t expect to see a trailer for contemporary romantic comedy here, but 1) this trailer is funny, clever and smart (as I’m sure the novel is), and 2) Leah and I go back a long way.

A journalist with an addiction to travel (specifically France) and history (specifically French), Leah has been one of my most enthusiastic readers. She interviewed me on her blog On Life, Love & Accidental Adventures, writing:

[blackquote] Ten years ago, I read the first book in Sandra Gulland’s trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte and knew I wanted to write historical fiction.  Her sumptuous novel about one of the more fascinating women in history was so richly woven with setting details and evocative prose, it lit a fire inside my writer’s belly.

She interviewed me and other authors for an article in Writer’s Digest on travel research: “Have Plot, Will Travel.” Her book club read—and enjoyed—Mistress of the Sun. She bid on and won an autographed set of the Trilogy. She has followed this blog and is a friend on Facebook and GoodReads.

Over these many years, she has been writing, and publishing. I predict that her It-Girl series is going to be a hit.

Bravo, Leah!

How to approach a writer for a review or testimonial of your book

I often receive email pitches from publicists, asking for a testimonial—a “blurb”—or offering to send me a book to review or mention on this blog. (My little blog!)

Recently, there were two on the same day. One was a model of a successful pitch, and the other an example of what not to do.

I’ll begin with the NOT:

The letter begins: I’m are writing to you about …

Say no more!

The second publicist knew my work and had chosen to approach me for a reason. She included a short description of the book, several glowing blurb quotes, plus a Q&A with the author. It was enough to get me interested.

I only wish publicists would also include an attachment of the opening pages of the novel. That would be all I need to judge if a book might be one I’d like.

That said, I rarely accept. As for all writers, I have a frightening pile of books I am supposed to be reading. Plus, I’m slow: the last WIP I agreed to read for a very good friend took me over a month, even reading it every day.

It takes quite a bit of time to read a novel, so an indication of a book’s length is important, as well as the deadline, should a quote be needed before publication.

What to include

In summary, a pitch for a quote or review should include:

  • why the book might be of interest to me
  • the opening pages
  • the cover
  • the deadline (if applicable)
  • book length

Nice extras would be:

  • publication details (i.e. promotion plan, print run)
  • advance review quotes, if there are any
  • a Q&A with the author

Follow-up!

Later, as a courtesy, an autographed copy of the published book should be sent with thanks to those who have taken the time to read and craft a testimonial or review. An appreciative note from the author is always nice. It’s surprising how rarely this is done. I understand! It’s expensive, for one thing, but most of all, it’s time-consuming.

Shadow Queen high res front

Come to think of it, I’ve yet to finish sending out my own “thank you” copies of The Shadow Queen. (Reminder to self: do it today.)

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