Category Archives: ePub

#Bookish Instagram

img_1446I may be a late comer to this, but I had been under the impression that Instagram was all about pictures. I was wrong. It is a hub of communities and images are the common language.

In fact, there are rich communities passionate about reading and books and authors and anything even remotely related to words.

Head over to Instagram for a moment and search #bookish, #bookstagram or #booknerdigan. These are a few of the many hashtag communities thriving on book covers, artistic compositions of favorite titles, and rich word of mouth recommendations of what to read next.

A lot of authors are building their communities on Twitter and Facebook. But my Twitter feed seems to reach writers more than readers, and I’m too busy with social media for my day job to want to nurture a Facebook community larger than my immediate family. I wanted to connect with readers that love books the same way I do and have fun doing it. Because anything that is fun never feels like work.

bookblabpicI did the homework to find out how to launch on Instagram and build an audience quickly. It’s not gaming the system, it’s coming out of the gate with the foundational knowledge that minimizes the stumbles. I’m eight weeks in and @bookblab is still growing.

What I like about Instagram?

  • Once you know how to look, it’s easy to find like-minded book lovers to connect with.
  • You can post several images at a time and fill a whole day’s worth of content in a few minutes.
  • Visual content inspires written content.
  • The platform does not allow links in posts which discourages spammy content.

How To Grow Your Bookish Community

What’s in a name?
Start with a name for your account that says what you’re about. I knew I would be reposting a lot of content rather than creating original images to build a virtual library of beautiful books and titles readers recommend, so @Bookblab felt like a perfect fit from the start. Occasionally I post my own titles, but mainly I look for my favorites books and authors to promote. Whatever name you choose, you want it to be easy to remember.

instagramlogoGot the picture?

There are also image guidelines I follow. I look for content to reshare that is beautiful or unique, or a book cover that is exceptionally well done. If you browse similar accounts, you’ll see how lovingly some of these are composed. When you talk about a passion for reading, this is the community that builds the altar. Even if I like the book, if I don’t love the image, I don’t repost. Bookblab’s original images are usually tagged with my handle so if they are reshared, I get trackable credit to lead folks back to my account. This is easy to do using WordSwag from the app store.

Where are our manners?

As with all social sharing, etiquette is important. Reposts should be tagged as reposts with the creator credited. I also take it a step further and tag the creator’s account so they know I used their image. Often I get a follow back and some of my posts are reshared as the word of mouth variability of social media takes the content to new homes.

What’s the theme?

Make images relevant to your theme. I post only fiction titles, mainly mystery, suspense and Sci Fi/Fantasy. Staying within a theme helps people know what to expect and focuses your audience.
inst-bookblab-header

How & Where?

If you want to build a following quickly, you need to start off with a lot of posts, as many as 8-10 images a day for the first few weeks. This builds your content library quickly and makes your new account look not so new.

A few minutes of research will go a long way in finding your audience. Use Instagram’s search tool and type in keywords or hashtags for your theme. Pay attention to the hashtags others are using. Click to discover what type of content you’ll find with each. This reveals niches within the larger communities. If you post for family and fun, skip the hashtags. If you post for marketing or business you need these to get discovered.

Hanging Out

Like any social media platform, you need to hang out before venturing too far. Learn from the accounts that are successful in the same theme as you before diving into contests and challenges. Also, be honest with yourself and how much time you have to give to the platform. I find that when I’m on Instagram, I spend less time on Twitter. Is that good or bad? It’s a very different audience on both platforms, both equally important when maintaining a fan base. Once a foundation is built, you can spend time on one social network then another without overlapping or having to give something up.

I set a daily time limit for social media marketing, but I may be on a different platform from one day to the next to mix it up and keep it interesting. It appeals to my squirrel-like attention span.

I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and repost your beautiful #bookaholic images. Tag @Bookblab on your posts so it pops into my box and I’ll happily re-share. This is what Indie Authors do, we cross promote and share what we know so we can all get better at our craft and be successful.

If you have tips for Instagram or book marketing, please share in the comments below. Thanks for hanging out with me.

JPG

 

Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

DIY Book Marketing – Editorial Calendars

DIYBookMktg_ EditorialCalender_JudithGaines

Calendars have been around for thousands of years. We’ve used them since before kindergarten to track holidays and count birthdays, then graduated to day planners and mobile phones with pop-up reminders. We have no excuse for not knowing the day of the week and month and what we need to do. Calendars help us make order out of our busy lives.

This is what a Social Media Editorial Calendar can do for your DIY Book Marketing. It doesn’t have to be fancy or use special software – it just needs to be visual.

The visual nature of a calendar will help you see the bigger story build on each channel. It also takes the pressure off figuring out what to do next.

Slide1I’ve taken my editorial calendar a little further and added a few reference pages:

  • First, a quick reminder of what type of content works best on each channel, and image sizes and formats so I don’t have to keep looking them up.
  • And added some of the audience research so I’m always reminded of who I’m writing for and keep their interests in mind when planning topics. I’ve created Personas to help me put a face and personality to each Slide2audience segment. It’s easier to write to someone you know rather than a list of data.

Step One

Use your audience research to brainstorm topics and start a list. Free style it – no censoring – and let the craziest ideas have a place, because you never know which one will turn out to be brilliant. This is where I usually get excited and add something vague like “blue vs. yellow buttons” – I strongly recommend writing a few words so you know what it means six weeks later.

Once you have an idea of what you want to share, begin ranking them in a logical order. What would your reader need to know first for the next three topics to make sense? You see, as much as a single post is a story, the collection of posts become a larger story. Think episode, with each post building upon the next.

This example shows the weeks at the top and the channels to the side to give a weekly snapshot. A traditional calendar layout works well too.
This example shows the weeks at the top and the channels to the side to give a weekly snapshot. A traditional calendar layout works well too.

Step Two

Now you’re ready to add them to your calendar. Decide how frequently you want to post and on what channels and begin filling in a few weeks worth of content. Begin with the big stuff first – the articles and blog posts, putting them on the day you plan the content to publish.

Being able to see where you’re putting your content will help you spread out what you want to say and put it in the form that best fits a specific channel.

Should There Be a Post Every Day?

When you have a wonderful list of ideas, it’s easy to want to post a new topic every day. Slow down. You don’t need to talk to everyone on every channel everyday. As long as you post on a somewhat regular basis, readers will come, and you’ll have current blog followers stopping back in to see what’s new. Twitter is the only social channel that needs an every day feed, everything else gets its own schedule.

Tips

  • Avoid using the same content across all of your social media channels. Make variations that fit the audience and personality of each. The content should complement across channels, not be a copy. (1 topic = many short tweets or several Google+/Facebook updates)
  • Keep a consistent naming convention as you add content to your calendar so at a glance you know what’s coming up. For example: Blog-How to outline a short story; G+ meme on story plots. (Color coding works well too.)
  • Consider where you can use curated content so you’re not spending all of your writing time making social media content. Even Twitter, an admittedly a time-consuming channel, can be made manageable by using curated content tweets and a few pre-scheduled tweets to give you a 24-hour presence. Then when you are perusing your Twitter stream you can actually engage with friends and fans and not worry that the tweets promoting your blog posts and books are neglected.
  • Use themes to tie content together and help you generate ideas.

How Social Media Works

Have you ever been in the mall where you were constantly approached by someone with a sales pitch? How about that Sunday afternoon movie that was great until the 10-minute block of commercials? Not a good feeling. The reason the experience feels annoying is because you don’t have a relationship with the person pitching their products. Does this mean you build a social media relationship and then ask your new friends to buy your book?

Nope.

Building your audience on social media is about talking to people about common interests. Bring them something of value in exchange for their time. If they like your social posts, then they may click your profile and discover that you’re also a writer. If they like the type of books you write, then they may buy it.

Social Media doesn’t sell books directly. It’s getting to know people and creating opportunities for discoverability.

Last Word (I promise)

Editorial calendars can also be used to track your traditional book marketing.

  • Set a schedule of how many and how often you send queries to agents and publishers.
  • Schedule time for book signings and author events.
  • The best part — reward yourself with a day off just to write or attend a conference.

Your calendar is a visual of your writing life. Writing it down makes it easier to make it happen.

 

DIY Book Marketing

Why Authors Need to Know Marketing

Writing After DarkYears ago you would write your novel, print it on good stock paper and mail it off with a query. If it was good enough, an agent would sell it to a publisher who would give you copy edits, a professional cover and crank up their marketing machine to help sell it. I’m betting anyone reading this post has never had this experience. It’s rare these days. Margins are thin for publishers and there’s less risk-taking on unknown authors. The landscape is also full of disruptors – the people and technology that have innovated to change how we publish, buy and read books.

For these reasons and more, authors need to know how to market their work. This is part one of a series I’ve put together to give you ideas of how to do this effectively.

First a few pre-work assumptions:

  1. Your novel is complete
  2. You’ve invested in a professional copyedit
  3. You’ve invested in professional cover art
  4. You’ve formatted, published, and polished your novel

Part 1: The Press ReleaseGeared Up

Without jumping ahead too much, you need to have a few key words in your toolbox. Think about who you are trying to reach and how they are searching for what they want to read next. Key words should be aligned to your book’s subject and genre. If you write zombie vs. vampire alternate history fiction with a political twist, you’ll want to be sure to have those words in your press release. Keywords are picked up by search engines when you Bing or Google for books with some or all of these elements. SEO, Search Engine Optimization is nothing more than making sure the key words that would help a search find you are in your content.

By now you may have realized that press releases have evolved from the news feed days of print newspapers. A smart press release is optimized for online consumption while providing the key facts needed by an editorial desk at a traditional press.

There is a basic format for all press releases starting with the Headline. This is the perfect place to use key words. The headline should be attention grabbing and is every bit as important as choosing the title for your book. This is followed by the date and location, a brief introduction, book details, contact information and boilerplate.

Here’s an example:

Soaring Book Sales (Headline)

For Immediate Release

Strong Press Releases Sell More Books  (Subtitle: Add specifics to your topic)

(Date & Location) December 19, 2014 – Charlotte, NC (Introduction) The introduction is the classic Who, What, When, Where and How you learned in English class all those years ago. I worked nine years in a TV newsroom and over and over I saw  producers pull an entire story from a press release because it was written well enough to make their jobs easier. I’ve also seen press releases reprinted in trade publications almost verbatim. The introduction should have a journalistic feel to the writing. Proper grammar and punctuation count, so turn on your grammar checker and pull out your Strunk & White.

(Book Details) Next, add the book details that make readers want to buy your novel, such as an overview of topics for non-fiction or an abbreviated synopsis for fiction. It’s also a good place to add a quote from a respected source or early review. This adds credibility.

(Purchase Information) Now let readers know how and where to find your novel. List your distribution outlets by name. Do not put in a string of links. If you are doing author appearances, list locations and times.

(Contact) Closing out the main section is your contact information. This should be your email, a phone number if you prefer personal calls, and your website site. If you have a publisher, add their contact information as well.

(Boilerplate) The last component is the boilerplate. It sounds intimidating, but it’s simply an anachronism for stating your credentials. Let the reader know why you are qualified to write about your non-fiction topic or that you’re an award-winning fiction writer and this is your 10th novel. This section builds your credibility and lets the world know this is not your hobby, you are an author.

360 Advertisng Copy | eBook Edition | Available free at www.lulu.com.Optional:

Add an image of your book cover and links to your online distribution at the bottom of the page. The links should be a hyperlink within the retail store’s name like this: Amazon.com.

 

Distributing Your Press Release

At this point you have a carefully written and proofed press release that is SEO optimized. Think about your tribe of fans, the niche readers who love books just like yours and where they go for information: online searches, trade magazines, and sometime traditional media. Look for established communities where they network. Here are a few suggestions:

  • PR Log
  • PR Web
  • Writing Networks, Groups or Associations (SavvyAuthors.com, NC Writer’s Network)
  • College Alumni Associations (Many publish magazines with articles on graduate’s accomplishments)
  • LinkedIn (Get your profile in All-Star shape and add posts and news to reach your network)
  • Social Media (Share the link from PR Log or LinkedIn) & ask for RT’s
  • Your website (Consider a special promotion for your blog followers to reward their fandom)
  • Local news media (Many interview authors for Public Radio & local interest news)
  • Tap into niche online communities. Be sure to follow their guidelines for posting press releases and book promotions.

Networking in a digital age gives you a lot of control over how and where you promote your writing. The options above can all be done online for free. There are other PR distribution services that charge a fee, but I would recommend using the free tools you have on hand first. Everywhere your press release appears, whether it’s a link on social media, an online profile, or a handful of blogs, you have increased your discoverability by search engines and readers. For the same reason, it’s important you use multiple distribution paths.

Added Bonus:

Now that you have this tightly written and smart promotional copy, you can repurpose it over and over again. If you guest post or hop on a blog tour you can pull bits for your author bio, it’s the basis for a strong query letter, and it can be used in part on your product description for your online points of sale.

Links to Sample Press Releases
Upcoming Posts:
  • Finding Your Audience
  • Content Marketing on Social Media & Community Building
  • Curating Content
  • Engagement Marketing
  • Added Value
  • Storytelling
  • Designing a Marketing Plan & Experimentation

 

WiredWired by Judith Gaines by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

Sites & Squirrels: 10 Websites You Didn’t Know You Needed

No intro here, just a collection of helpful sites for writing, the writing business, and chasing squirrels (Up reference;) Enjoy.


Writing

  • Familypedia – A wiki of genealogy, including a comprehensive list of most common surnames and their country of origin.
  • Savvy Authors – Great resource for writing workshops, articles, and webinars.
  • 10 Rules for Writing Fiction – Advice from Elmore Leonard.

Hemingway AppApps

  • My Writing Spot provides a simple, uncluttered writing workspace online that syncs with mobile app for iPad ($2.99).
  • Hemingway App – Copy & paste your writing for tips on how to make it better. (Not your average grammar checker) You can either buy the full app for $6.99 or use the free online sampler for short text.

Marketing & The Business of Writing

  • Ask A Literary Agent – Advice from literary pro & author Noah Lukeman.
  • My Copy Blogger – Tips for writing marketing and promotional copy, SEO, and more. Membership is free.

Squirrels

  • Did You Knows – Odd facts about everything, such as “Did you know 8% of people have an extra rib?” and “Did you know March 14 is Save A Spider Day?”.
  • Life Hacker – We all need those, and these tips cover tons of topics like charging your cell phone on the road, and how to fold shirts faster. Warning: You may lose several hours on this site.
  • Think Geek – For our inner nerd.

 

Shameless self-promotion;)

Wired Judith Gaines

Wired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

 

 

 

An Appointment That Can’t Be Broken

Tea Leaves and Writing
Harney & Sons Paris tea, Scrivener, Enigma Chapter 6. Jade enters a hidden vault in her father’s art gallery.

Whenever I have doubts about my sanity, I turn to the voices in my head to set things right. You might think I need medication, but the voices are the medication.

Writers know exactly what I’m talking about. Those voices that are always in the background wanting your undivided attention to tell their story. These are our characters, the fascinatingly flawed people who shape our fiction and helps us release tension, stress, anger, and a multitude of other emotions. Letting them run around on the page looks like work to those watching us at our keyboards, but for a writer…this is play time.

And if this is play time, it begs the question, “why is it so hard to get started?” To be able to dive in at any time, you need a writing habit. Kinda like having “the knack”, but instead of intuitive engineering, you’re building worlds out of words with ease.

Now, everyone has a habit. It makes you do a certain thing at a certain time a certain way. For writers and artists, establishing habits can help you get into the flow of your craft easier and faster. Just like you have your bedtime routine that tells your brain it’s time to sleep, and so like magic you begin to yawn as you put the toothbrush away, you can train your brain to enter writing mode. Establish a habit, a location, or trigger to tell your brain to write.

Do you write to music? A particular kind of music? Do you need silence? Where do you sit? Do you have toys on your desk, or must your writing software layout be just so? How do you warm up?

Make an appointment with yourself that you keep. Set aside an hour that is your writing time. If sixty minutes is too intimidating, start with fifteen and work your way up. Having a time limit will kick in your sense of urgency which has amazing powers to override the inner critic that slows you down. By keeping this appointment, you’re investing in yourself and your craft. You become a better writer through practice. Best selling authors aren’t blessed with magical orbs that feed the words to their fingers. They invest the time to write and write often to learn better ways to tell a story. No magic bullets, just work. This writing time, this investment in craft, trains your brain to quickly access the grey matter where your creativity lives.

Waiting for the perfect quiet day to write won’t put words on the paper for you. You have to make the time, and keep it to form the writing habits you want in your life. I envy writers who are able to turn out novels fast, and although my publication rate is sporadic, I do make time to write regularly. It’s how I process my thoughts, work out solutions to a multitude of tasks, and plan goals.

Today is an unusually chilly day for August, it’s rainy, the house is still, and my cup of Paris tea is the perfect temperature. A perfect setting to write, but I would be writing anyway. I’ve made an appointment that can’t be broken.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

When you find a book you love, pass it along, tell a friend, tweet it, or share it on Facebook. This is how the great books are discovered.  Thanks.

Shameless self-promotion;)

Wired Judith Gaines

Wired by Judith Gaines

Amazon.com 4-Stars

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

Jade Weekes leaves Paris to track a priceless Van Gogh from St. Pete to Chicago. Her contacts are shady and she is beginning to think there is more to this job than a buyer wanting a gift for his wife. Otherwise, why would Simon Morrell, a rival thief, cross her path just as the FBI begins asking questions? 

Caught up in the six billion dollar international art theft industry, she enlists help from unlikely sources: film actor Alex Ford, and veteran FBI specialists Stewart Connor and John Young.

How to Find Great Books by Indie Authors

Red PencilThere’s a plethora of great books on the market by Indie Authors, but in the growing e-book flood waters there are quite a few that are less than satisfying, and far from the professional product you are expecting for your investment (time & money).

Here’s my method for finding great books and discovering emerging writers.

Can you trust reviews?

Yes and no. It’s well-known that some reviews are planted to increase initial sales to get a book on a list or two, and boost its visibility. That doesn’t mean you can’t trust reviews, but you should look at the spread of ratings. Most books will have a distribution with the majority of ratings falling within a small range. These are likely the most trustworthy. I like to read the bad ones first, and it’s usually easy to spot the bitter, “this was not for me” or “not what I expected” reviews. Then I move on to those that fall in the mid range, and usually I get a good idea if the novel is something I want to try out.

If there are only a few reviews, and they are all five stars with glowing praise, that doesn’t mean it’s planted, but be cautious. That’s where this next item comes in handy.

Sample

If you’re not 100% sure, sample the book before you buy.

For authors reading this, a generous sample is more likely to lead to a happy customer than a tiny excerpt. Once a reader has invested the time to read a quarter of a novel and is hooked, they’ll come back and complete the purchase.

For readers, this is test drive time. Get a cup of peach tea, glass of wine, or coffee and kick back. Either you’re going to love the story and the writing, OR you’ll delete the sample from your library and move on. You may be out a little time, but not the few dollars you would have spent on that particular title. If you love it, you’ll have another great author to follow, and you’ll know when you buy their other titles, you will have constancy in quality and content.

Indie Reads

Here are a few titles that made me stay up way past my bed time. The plots and characters are engaging, and the quality of the presentation (clean copyediting & professional cover) was spot on.

Cyberstorm by Matthew Mather

Cyberstorm MatherDescription from Amazon

Sometimes the worst storms aren’t from Mother Nature, and sometimes the worst nightmares aren’t the ones in our heads. Mike Mitchell, an average New Yorker already struggling to keep his family together, suddenly finds himself fighting just to keep them alive when an increasingly bizarre string of disasters start appearing on the world’s news networks. As the world and cyberworld come crashing down, bending perception and reality, a monster snowstorm cuts New York off from the world, turning it into a wintry tomb where nothing is what it seems…

Review: Believable characters, combined with strong writing, provides enough realism to make you think this could happen today. Just when you think this is another end of the world story, it takes an abrupt turn. Not for squeamish types;)

Timebound by Rysa Walker

Time Bound WalkerDescription from Amazon

When Kate Pierce-Keller’s grandmother gives her a strange blue medallion and speaks of time travel, sixteen-year-old Kate assumes the old woman is delusional. But it all becomes horrifyingly real when a murder in the past destroys the foundation of Kate’s present-day life. Suddenly, that medallion is the only thing protecting Kate from blinking out of existence.

Kate learns that the 1893 killing is part of something much more sinister, and her genetic ability to time travel makes Kate the only one who can fix the future. Risking everything, she travels back in time to the Chicago World’s Fair to try to prevent the murder and the chain of events that follows.

Changing the timeline comes with a personal cost—if Kate succeeds, the boy she loves will have no memory of her existence. And regardless of her motives, does Kate have the right to manipulate the fate of the entire world?

Review: Time travel stories are always fun to read. Time Bound is inventive and well written, with just enough tension to keep the pages turning. This story would appeal to ages mid teens and above, with lots of room to imagine joining the cause to stop the Cyrists.

Time’s Echo by Rysa Walker

Times Echo WalkerDescription from Amazon

A Kindle exclusive novella, set in the world of Rysa Walker’s Timebound. 

Kiernan Dunne abandoned his family ties to help Kate fight the Cyrists, and he’s never regretted that for one moment. But he doesn’t understand why Kate can’t remember that night in 1893 Chicago, when she turned back to face the killer chasing them through the smoky corridors of the World’s Fair Hotel. Kate placed the CHRONOS key around his neck and made his eight year old self promise to wear it always, and that’s a promise Kiernan has never broken. 

When Kate suddenly vanishes after a Cyrist-engineered time shift, that hidden medallion is Kiernan’s only hope for finding her. He returns to the Cyrist fold to look for clues, but his search will lead him back to the question that has haunted him for years–what really happened after he left Kate at the World’s Fair Hotel?

Review: A quick read, and also a great follow-up to Time Bound, this can be considered a supplemental story to the series. Book two in the Chronos Files series is due out later in 2014.

Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn

Poe JLFennDescription from Amazon

It’s Halloween, and life is grim for twenty-three-year-old Dimitri Petrov. It’s the one-year anniversary of his parents’ deaths, he’s stuck on page one thousand of his Rasputin zombie novel, and he makes his living writing obituaries.

But things turn from bleak to terrifying when Dimitri gets a last-minute assignment to cover a séance at the reputedly haunted Aspinwall Mansion.

There, Dimitri meets Lisa, a punk-rock drummer he falls hard for. But just as he’s about to ask her out, he unwittingly unleashes malevolent forces, throwing him into a deadly mystery. When Dimitri wakes up, he is in the morgue—icy cold and haunted by a cryptic warning given by a tantalizing female spirit.

As town residents begin to turn up gruesomely murdered, Dimitri must play detective in his own story and unravel the connections among his family, the Aspinwall Mansion, the female spirit, and the secrets held in a pair of crumbling antiquarian books. If he doesn’t, it’s quite possible Lisa will be the next victim.

Review: This is a good old-fashioned ghost story with some interesting twists, and a few chills. The descriptive scenes bring the story to life, as you get to see the story unfold through Dimitri’s eyes. Lighter than Stephen King, this blends humor with suspense in a unique way.

~~~~~~~~~~~

When you find a great book, pass it along, tell a friend, tweet it, or share it on Facebook. This is how the  great books are discovered.  Thanks.

Shameless self-promotion;)

Wired Judith GainesDescription from Amazon

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

Jade Weekes leaves Paris to track a priceless Van Gogh from St. Pete to Chicago. Her contacts are shady and she is beginning to think there is more to this job than a buyer wanting a gift for his wife. Otherwise, why would Simon Morrell, a rival thief, cross her path just as the FBI begins asking questions? 

Caught up in the six billion dollar international art theft industry, she enlists help from unlikely sources: film actor Alex Ford, and veteran FBI specialists Stewart Connor and John Young.

Wired for the Weekend

A Jade Weekes Art Mystery
A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

Wired went live on Smashwords in the early hours of March 15th, and is already flying off the virtual shelves. It’s available for Free through March 29th as I tweak the formatting, cover image, and promo copy. While there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate for the official launch, I’m excited to finally have it available, and look forward to feedback from readers.

Wired is the first installment of the Jade Weekes Art Mystery series, with the 2nd novel, Enigma, scheduled for release late 2013. Set in Paris, St. Pete, and Chicago, this mystery unravels an organized crime gang, solves a murder, and reveals the haunting past of main character, Jade Weekes.

Here’s the promo copy from Smashwords:

Short description
Read for FREE through March 29, 2013! Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past.

Extended description
Jade Weekes leaves Paris to track a priceless Van Gogh from St. Pete to Chicago. Her contacts are shady and she is beginning to think there is more to this job than a buyer wanting a gift for his wife. Otherwise, why would Simon Morrell, a rival thief, cross her path just as the FBI begins asking questions?

Caught up in the six billion dollar international art theft industry, she enlists help from unlikely sources: film actor Alex Ford, and veteran FBI specialists Stewart Connor and John Young.

No one is who they seem, most of all Jade Weekes.

You can download Wired for your e-reader here.

The Red PencilLook for me to return to blogging on a regular basis as I vet ideas for novel number 3 in the series (working title The Missing), and ramble on techniques for character development. Enjoy your weekend, and get outside to soak up the extra sunshine. 😉

Hey, Look Over Here!

There’s only so much jumping up and down and waving your hands you can do before people stop paying attention.

So how do you get noticed in the digital age? The simple answer is Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etcetera… etcetera…. all of the above. How’s your traffic? Tweeting and updating your social media is great, but what if a few tweaks could significantly increase your traffic? It’s not about getting attention, it’s about being found in a sea of tweets and email blasts.

Here are some tips:

Search Engine Optimization

  • Your blog or website is your public persona and billboard for branding, writing and winning over new fans. How do people find information on the web? Search engines. Is your blog Search Engine Optimized (SEO)? It’s not so scary or hard to tweak your site content to be search engine friendly. Begin with a list of words closely associated with your branding. Now look through your recent blog posts and see if these words appear. If not, you’re not giving a clear message to readers of who you are and what you’re about AND search engines, which send out crawlers, will not find you and deliver your site to new readers. Optimization should come after you’ve written your post and before you publish as part of the proofreading/revising stage. Key words should feel natural, not planted.

Appeal to Short Attention Spans

  • Bullet points allow readers to skim and read information they feel is relevant to their needs. If they like what they skim, they’ll take the time to read more.

 Infographics

  • Map your characters, plot, or anything that delivers a fun nugget of information to your readers.

 Use Cool Tools

  • Find innovative ways to use new media tools. Pinterest is the hot new social media trend, but how do you use it for gaining attention rather than pinning random pictures? Try creating a board that’s all about your writing genre, or the novels that most influenced your writing. How about organizing pix and links for your writing research? This lets your readers see into your creative process. I’m building a board titled The Art of Art Theft. I’m pinning famous work, giving the artist and date the piece was stolen. Some of these will be mentioned in my new art crime thriller, “WIRED” and the follow-up novel “Persistence of Time”.  

Branding… or how to find your keywords

  •  Branding is what you’re all about: your writing, your genre, your style, your theme. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer selling novels or a business promoting a new product, the words should represent what you want others to identify with you. Without thinking too deeply, jot down the words that come to the top of your mind. Now imagine a triangle. At the top is what you’re trying to accomplish, on the lower corners you have your list of key (branding) words and your novel/product. They should all work together to make a cohesive message. If you wanted to find you on the internet without using your name or the name of your novel/product, what words would you choose?  

At the top of my triangle I’ve written Build Audience. The lower left corner lists key words Thriller, Mystery and Art Crime. The last corner lists “Perfect Copy” and “WIRED”.

My Last Tip…

  • Check out LinkedIn groups related to social media, your interests, or writing platform.  The conversations shared will give you a fast track to new trends and tools to help you get noticed.

Twitter. LinkedIn. Facebook. Google+. Goodreads. Google Groups.

Every day I have more conversations around social media and the best ways to use it to sell brands, promote good public relations and engage loyal fans. It’s more than getting your book sold or noticed by readers, it’s who makes the best taco and where should you get your car serviced. I have a large client list with some businesses deep in the social media mindset and others who are still trying to figure out their smart phone. Does their media savvy effect their business efforts? Yes and no. I’m listening and learning and trying to gauge where to spend my social media time for the goals I have in mind for my writing.

The bottom line: you need to know your end-goal before you lay in a plan to get there. The goal and the plan determines the best tools and delivery methods. Sorry this is sounding like a marketing spiel, but indie authors have to be marketers and PR specialist. You have to cut out time vampires whether it’s a bad habit that keeps you from writing or a line of self-promotion that doesn’t deliver.

The best advice I’ve gotten on the subject is to find what you enjoy and make that your focus. Some writers love engaging in forums. Others thrive on Facebook. I’ve decided Twitter has the biggest return for my invested time, as well as blogging and taking part in blog tours.

What works for me on Twitter?
I use the search feature to find followers who may like what I write and are interested in the same subjects I’m researching. My follows bring them in as followers and soon I have a dialog.

Knowing where my followers live allows me to tweet on their time. No, I don’t look up street addresses, but knowing the country or time zone lets me tweet when they are looking. Carolyn McCray oft tells on the IBC Blogtalk radio show, “on Twitter everyone sees you and no one sees you.” It’s all in the timing.

I skim through my stream and retweet what I find interesting or fun and in turn they may feel inclined to share my tweets with their followers.

Striking up a conversation is fun and helps build a connection. I’ve met so many wonderful writers and avid readers on Twitter and they have been generous in supporting my work. Guys, I couldn’t do this without you:)

Why does blogging work?
You get to show off your personality. It also helps if you have something interesting to share. If you write with passion it will resonate. If you write well, your blog readers may become your novel readers.

Some weeks it’s tough to come up with a topic, and often I write something completely different than what I planned. This week I intended to write about symbolism in novels to help build the plot and characters using WIRED as an example. Then I had a meeting and the conversation came around to social media. Its a full time job in a growing number of companies. I’m also testing out a new 3rd party Twitter app, Timely.is which analyzes your followers and schedules your tweets for times when they may be on the stream. It’s only been two days and so far not much response. I’ll give it a week or two and see if it really gets more new followers and RTs than my own efforts. At times I think gut feeling is stronger than algorithms.

Share what works best for you and the smart tips that make you a rock star in the social media world.

Book Marketing Insight

What if you could be sure there was an audience ready to devour your next book? What are the hot key words you should use in your book description and marketing to get readers to notice you? Is the trending interest going up or down?

Since there isn’t a working crystal ball nearby, I resorted to more useful Google tools, Insights for Search and Google Trends.

Google Trends
This nifty tool allows you to compare the trending pattern of multiple search terms to compare where the greater interest is trending across Google web searches and news references. But there’s more! It also breaks out the data by geographic region and time.

In my own search for “book, art theft” the trend for both the web and news were high which bodes well for my next two novels. Since I set the region to World, I also know that the United States ranks third in interest behind Egypt and India. By clicking United States under the Region results, I get a sub-region breakout by state and then top cities. Now I’m digging down to where my fans may be and can target their time zones via Twitter. (You may have 2k+ followers, but if you miss their coffee break, they’ll never see your message.)

If I were to use this information to tweak my marketing messages, I would need to be sure to include key words related to my genre/content that trend well in web searches. (Think Ad Words)

Insights for Search
The difference between this and Trends is that Search is analyzing the data over search volume rather than directional trend. The graphs may look similar, but the data gleaned will be more detailed here.
Here’s an example for my search “stolen art”:

I’ve added News Headlines so I can verify I’m actually looking at data related to my subject and not a video game or music playlist. Over the past 12 months, New York, California and Texas have the highest search rate. If you are logged into your Google account, you’ll also see actual numbers.

Since I have a fair number of Twitter followers and blog fans in the UK and Canada, I added those two countries to my search and voila, I can clearly see where I have my work cut out for me.

Disclaimer: I do not work for or have any affiliation with Google. I just love how easy they make it to do research and fine tune my work.

Have fun playing and be sure to share any cool tools you’ve come across that helps you write and sell more books:).

***   For other Google tools go to Google.com and click” More” on the top menu and them click “Even More”.   ***

Left Brain Exercise: eBook Formatting

Digital Book World recently held a webinar roundtable about ebook formatting. The information shared was presented in a ready to implement manner, laying out what readers want and expect from ebooks and how to enhance their experience. (Remember, it’s all about the reader:) If you’re not familiar with this group, you should spend some time on their website. It’s crammed with industry trends and information for authors and publishers.

There are multiple approaches to formatting your novel for digital publishing, but its the reader you should keep in mind when laying out your cover, acknowledgments and the body of your novel. A straight translation from your print version to digital simply won’t make the cut. Formatting is a necessary, left-brained task.

A few weeks ago, Cameron Chapman wrote this great post on how to create the various ebook formats using Sigil and Calibre.

I’ve formatted by hand in MS Word, but I’m planning to give these programs a try with WIRED. I plan to add links to various Art Crime sites for readers interested in learning more, as well as giving some background on the artworks mentioned in the novel.

The Indie Book Collective offers monthly author webinars, including ebook formatting with live demonstrations. Learn more on their website, along with other useful tips on Indie publishing, or subscribe to their blog which updates often with insider tips and author advice.

If you know any links to other formatting tutorials or sites, send them this way. I’ll post and share.

Have a good week!

WIRED

I’m getting close to the final edits on WIRED and just can’t resist sharing a few chapters. You met Stewart Connor on Sample Sunday, now meet Simon Morrell and Jade Weekes: both are smart and resourceful, however, only one will survive an FBI sting and a crime syndicate turf war.

Chapter 1

Simon Morrell slipped a razor blade through the paper and peeled the image from the frame. He did this again and again until six master pieces lined a cardboard tube.

Less than two minutes later, he dropped the tube into a crate, latched it shut, and affixed a shipping label to the outside. He added a forged manifest to the clip board for the morning outgoing stock and opened the door. Alarms rang instantly.

He ran the half block to a Peugeot idling in the dark, dropped the knife to the floor boards and signaled his driver to move a moment too late. A car swerved, blocking the road, lights flashed and too quickly to be luck. Hands pulled him and Henri to the sidewalk.

“Monsieur,” he smiled, twisting his head to look at the office. It was not the Paris police, but the Gendarme. “What is this?”

They patted him down and hauled him to his feet. Henri was face down on the Peugeot’s hood with his hands cuffed.

“Do you want to explain what you were doing at the Musee de Moderne?”

Morrell continued to smile, “I’m sitting and waiting for a friend that is late. Why all this?” he motions to the cuffs and lights.

He was interrupted by a third Gendarme that pulled in behind them. This one was dressed in street clothes and had a day of stubble on his face. He searched Morrell’s car.

“Nothing’s here.” He slammed the car door and pointed a flashlight in Morrell’s face. “Simon Morrell,” he said.

Morrell recognized the voice and dark gray eyes and the wrinkled suit. He’d be out by morning, he thought.

The third officer nodded to the others and Morrell was helped into one of the cars, Henri into another. The officer climbed in with him and pulled the car into the road and toward police headquarters.

“Jarvinen sent you?” asked Morrell.

“Of course, someone had to haul your ass out. Is it done?”

“It will be finished soon enough. When I have the money, Jarvinen gets the paintings.”

Chapter Two

Jade Weekes tapped the speed dial on her phone and waited. “I have the item you want.” She half listened as a waiter planted a glass of pinot on the table along with a basket of hard bread. She smiled, the cafe owner stood in the doorway watching. She turned back to the conversation, the deep voice almost garbled on the mobile signal.

“When? I’ll meet you Wednesday. Noon at the Maison du Livre on Rue Saint-Honore.” Her French was good, but flat with an American intonation. She ended the conversation, scanning the faces passing by on the sidewalk, then the couple sitting at the far end of the patio. It was early for dinner, especially in the Paris tourist district. A few people lingered by the menu posted outside the cafe.

“American?” asked a voice from the table behind her. Jade turned and met the stare of a young man– barely a man, she corrected and smiled. She considered not answering, but decided to play.

“Yes, and you?” The side-ways game of dodging amorous Frenchman amused her, and he was rather cute. They all assumed Americans were rich and easy.

Her cell phone rang, saving her from further joisting, the number she recognized, Chicago. “Yes, Robert?”

“Can you talk?” he asked.

“More or less, can you?”

“I have an assignment.” She could sense his annoyance. “Are you interested?” Behind Robert’s voice, gunshots popped in succession.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“I’m with a buyer at a shooting range.”

“Is that wise?”

“In this case, yes. Are you in?” he asked.

“Where and what is it that you need?”

“It’s in the home of a collector in St. Pete. It’s been out of circulation for a while. How soon can you get there?” Out of circulation, that meant stolen or smuggled, Robert rarely cared which. His word choice lead her to surmise his phone was bugged as usual.

“How much is your client willing to pay to obtain this collector’s piece?” She took a sip of her wine and folded open the menu, pretending to read.

“Five hundred.” A half mill, that would be worth a plane ride but she was pissed he’d call her in front of a buyer and when his phone could possibly be tapped.

“I’ll think about it and get back to you. Can you send me a photo of what he wants?”
Robert agreed, ending the call abruptly. The young man behind her had left and the sky was darkening to a rose and steel blue twilight.

The last deal she’d helped Robert White pull off had nearly ended her life and blown her reputation. It took two years to repair the damage and reestablish her contacts. Half a million dollars. That would let her take time off and perhaps build her collection. Maybe I’ll open up an art house, she thought, then smiled. She’d have to actually buy the works and prove their provenance.

She laid cash on the table and headed toward the river. There was a man there she liked to talk with on occasion. He’d be there with his Rottweiler and bag of stale bread which he would throw into the water to watch the fish snatch up.

She pictured the bench in the evening shadows of Notre Dame and the barges lined up along the quay. He lived there part of the year; the rest of the time, Jade had no idea where he went. She needed him to fill in a few missing pieces to her story, the one he’d started telling her about a thief and the Musee de Moderne.

Chapter Three

Morrell scratched a hand over his head and stretched his jaw trying to get his face to relax. His muscles twitched and a cramp prevented him from turning his head to the right. Jarvinen waited.

He’d chosen to meet in the metro under Charles de Gaulle. Jarvinen blended in with the crowd and only the familiar faces of several men around him signaled the security he commanded. Morrell approached and Jarvinen offered a cigarette.

Morrell nodded and lit the fag before speaking. “The delivery came through as scheduled. It’s all there, Van Gogh, Degas and Chagall.

“Clever, Simon. The Musee mailed us their own art and then sent the police all over France looking for them. I admire innovative thinking.”

“Thank you.” Morrell nodded, proud of the simplicity of his plan. The Musee staff, unaware of the crate’s contents, shipped their own stolen works to an associate who’d arranged to have it moved to a warehouse in London. It was on its way to Saudi Arabia and into a private collection and a large sum was headed to Morrell’s bank account.

Commuters shoved their way past them and the ring of body guards closed in. Something hid behind Jarvinen’s expression: tension. He seemed to be focused on his thoughts and stared at Morrell intently.
“One more, Simon,” he said.

Morrell’s skin prickled, clammy sweat chilled his skin. “A last job?” he asked with a forced smile. “I plan to retire.”

Jarvinen ignored him, “St. Pete.” He laid a newspaper against Morrell’s chest. “Read this and get back to me with your ideas. Three days, Simon,” he warned.

An armed police team walked by, scanning the crowd. Jarvinen and his guards faded into the foot traffic along the platform, blending. It was a refined survivor tactic for Jarvinen.

Morrell looked at the paper he’d been handed. It was the St. Pete Times, folded to the business section with a photo of a young man and a middle aged woman staring back at him. Alex Ford, the caption read, generously donated six priceless Van Gogh’s to the Red Door Foundation for Fine Art. Behind the couple, leaning against a gold painted easel, was the unmistakable image of what Jarvinen really wanted.
He tucked the paper under his arm and headed up the escalator.

The Wind Beaten Tree went gone underground in 1972, so this was must be one of the study pieces.
He scanned the photo again and began drawing lines from Ford to Van Gogh to Jarvinen. The next course of action was clearly illustrated. It would take more than three days.

Chapter 4

Jade bobbed and weaved through a crowd of students following a red-jacketed guide. She caught snatches of his speech which caused her to glance up at the old church. The stone-work was medieval, but the glass newer, installed shortly after WWII when smashed by invading soldiers. The American students seemed to only half listen, pre-occupied snapping pictures or talking. How could they appreciate art that had taken a hundred years to build, one day to nearly destroy and a half century to repair? Paris carried the marks of history like battle scars, its museums holding artifacts that had been hidden from Nazi forces and repatriated in the years since. She knew these museums well.

She cut through an alley between a hotel and a row of shops and came to the quay. It was quieter here. Andre sat on his bench with Gustavo, his pure bred Rottweiler, resting in the straggled grass.

“Bonjour, Andre,” she said, sitting. He didn’t turn. His attention settled on the far bank where a group of workers worked, repairing a bridge abutment.

“I’m surprised to see you today,” he said in English, his accent light and refined. “I thought you would have moved on by now.”

“I have a job waiting, but first I wanted to see if you know of a man named Morrell.”
“Why?”

“I hear his name around.” She watched his expression for a reaction.

“You don’t want to know him. He has terrible luck and even worse breath.”

“Seriously, Andre, I’m heading to the states for awhile, can you keep an eye on him and let me know if he does… well, anything interesting?”

“The Musee de Moderne was burgled last night. The thief, or thieves, took six items, all of outstanding quality.”

Jade studied his profile trying to discern his intent. “I was occupied last night and nowhere near the Musee, or are suggesting it was Morrell,” she asked. “I have a delivery to make and then I’ll be out of France at least until the end of the month.”

“Are you working with Morrell?” Andre asked in turn.

“No, but I got a tip that he vouched for a buyer in London. I want to know how good his relations are with the group.” The group referred to a small network of crooks, con men and wise guys that specialized in cultural artifacts ferreted to the black market. She’d crossed paths with them before and worked very hard to stay out of their way.

“Morrell has been around awhile, don’t trust him to be honest, but you can trust him to be an excellent crook. I wouldn’t make any deals with him.” Andre reached into his jacket and produced a small yellow envelope and handed it to her. “Happy birthday.”

She took the envelope, but didn’t open it. “What’s this?”

“Information.” Finally he turned to look at her, his tone moving from playful to serious. “There are rumblings and sometimes I hear your name mentioned,” he paused, “there’s a mole in the Gendarme. He may or may not be helpful.”

“Why are you telling me this? Do you know something about the Musee job last night? You weren’t asking because you thought I did the job.”

Andre didn’t speak. She opened the envelope and removed a newspaper clipping. The story was about an American student that had disappeared in 1997. “Is this me?” she asked.

He shrugged. “It’s your memory that plays tricks. I try to fill in the landscape.”

“Before I leave,” she started, not know how to say it right. “I want you to know that I am grateful.”

“For giving you a job or for fishing you out of the river?” he asked.

Jade folded the paper and put it back in the envelope. “Both, but mostly for fishing me out of the river. I’m too good at stealing to have ever been anything else.”

“Steal? No, you are redistributing resources.”

“I know what I am, I just don’t know who I am.” Her near drowning in the river was where her life began.

Andre chuckled. “That is an old question for all of us.”

“It gives me all the comfort I need. Don’t you think a life worth returning to would also be worth remembering?”

On impulse, she leaned over and kissed his rough cheek. He smelled of musk and oak, the smells of his house boat that bobbed in the water nearby. “I have to go.”

“I know,” he said.

Jade walked away from the smell of brackish water and diesel fuel from a tug churning along the waterway. The scent never failed to dip her mind to the night Andre had pulled her from the oily river wash. The chaotic flashes of that evening remained more clear to her memory than the previous twenty-some years that had become a blank check. She owed Andre her life, and sometimes, she thought, perhaps more.