Spotlight: 7 easy places your readers can discover you

I interviewed my book club last night. All are women 50 years old or more, and very much part of my reader demographic. They all read at least a book a week. They rarely if ever read romance or science fiction, and read memoirs sparingly. They like literary fiction, biographies, historical fiction and classics.

As a writer, I want to reach them. So do so many of my writer-friends. What to do? So I asked!

I asked, “How do you find books to read?”

Their answers, in order of frequency, were a little bit of a surprise.
1. Recommendations from friends.
2. Visits to indie bookstores, where the covers are turned to face the room.
3. Staff picks at indie bookstores.
4. Amazon “people who bought this book also bought…”
5. NPR book reviews.
6. New York Times book reviews.
7. Oprah and New Yorker.

Hmmm… I was noticing a trend. Are we the only ones still haunting the bookstores? No, it turns out that indie bookstores have grown in the last year. And they influence our generation of reader. This could pose a problem, though, for indie-published authors with no reach into bookstores. But indie bookstores are far more open to hand-selling, or visits from a local author. Hope kindled!

Indie-published writers aren’t likely to get on NPR, NYT, or Oprah, but we can get on our local radio stations, get featured in our home-town papers, and give talks at our community libraries. It’s a matter of scale.

I asked, “Do you ever buy a book because you heard about it on Facebook or other social media?” The answers were again interesting, in part because I asked this as an open question.

1. No, but if I like an author will follow him/her on Facebook.
2. No, but if I see the cover on Pinterest I might look the book up. (That’s a “yes” to me, but I was interviewing, not arguing.)
3. No, but if I like a book I will read the other books, and tell my friends, sometimes on Facebook and maybe post the cover on Pinterest. (another covert yes.)

So, if you belong to a few groups on Facebook, and you’re talking about books, your Facebook friends are listening!

I asked what social media they were on. Again, the answers reflected my demographic. Studies show that women over 50 are all over Facebook! Our results:
1. Facebook. All but 1 member use Facebook, and most visited it at least once daily. Sure, we all started out using it to stalk our kids, but now that they’re grown, we use it for fun, family and entertainment.
2. Pinterest. Half of us enjoy Pinterest, mostly for fun.

I was the only one on Twitter, a couple of us were on Instagram but limited only to closest friends and family. 
So, that’s my book club for you. Maybe interesting… and maybe not.

Readers vary by genre, age, gender, location, and taste. Again, my book club readers may be different from yours. I’m sure there’s a scientist can say this better, but I want to point out that this is a small sampling, and the questions I asked were open ended, so maybe they use Goodreads and no one thought to mention it, maybe because we’re older we’re more likely to rely on brick-and-mortar indie bookstores, maybe the fact that there are no big bookstores in our community right now skews things…

So perhaps you can poll your own book clubs and see where they find their books and share this info here as a comment!

The Worst Violinist in the World

I have been following the release of Living By Ear by Mary Rowen, and thinking about music. She suggested we post videos of ourselves singing. Ahem.  You really don’t want to hear me sing! So I will entertain you musically with a short tale (it starts out sad but has a happy ending.)

I took up the #violin in January, 2010. Tragedy had struck our family when we lost my husband’s two wonderful brothers in 2009. The younger of the two, who had died very suddenly, had in his house, among many other truly bizarre treasures, a violin. My husband brought me the violin as a parting gift from his brother. At my request, he bought me 10 violin lessons at the local music school.

My teacher could not have been more patient. I could not have been more devoted to the task, in memory of a man stolen from life so young.

And frankly, I sucked. There is no other, nicer word for it.

Fast forward four years. I kept at it, but simply could not learn. My family averted their ears, my friends mounted a campaign. I used the howling sound as a weapon against the uncooperative downhill neighbor who lit fires in his fire-pit on spare-the-air days, and in the midst of the drought. I screeched it day and night. I never got past page 37 of the beginner book. But I did learn to play Ode to Joy. So I played it over and over and over. Ode Annoy, it became.

On my last visit to the music school I saw that they had devoted an entire wall to an adorable-looking instrument: a

Ukulele sideways!

Ukulele sideways!

#Ukulele. “Is that hard to learn?” I asked the ever-patient and rapidly-aging teacher. “No,” she said, “I learned it last week.” No, I didn’t clobber her with the now sorry-looking violin. “Can I learn?” She paused….”I don’t see why not.”

So I have now taken two lessons on the ukulele, and can successfully play Help Me Rhonda, Surfer Girl, and California Girls. I would video it and post it, but you might find out where I live and come with pitchforks and torches. But I think I sound pretty good for two weeks! The one thing that’s really hard, though: I can’t annoy the neighbors–the uke just isn’t as loud or piercing as the violin. I think I’m going to ask for an amplifier this year..

Just how published are you?

Very well published, thank you!

I spent Saturday at San Francisco’s Litquake #Digi.lit2014, and had the pleasure of meeting writers at all different spots in their careers. Like me, some had been New York published, as well as Small Press published. Some were pre-published, and many were very interested in the amazing array of self-publishing options out there. What stood out most was the confusion about what publishing options were indeed available. So I tried my hand at explaining.
I differentiate as follows:

Self Publishing is where the author pays a service provider to publish the book. There are ranges of services and costs available. The providers do not curate or select, beyond occasional basic libel, obscenity or plagiarism searches.
Small Press (sometimes called Independent or Indie Press– a greatly abused term ranging from self-published, assisted-published, to an imprint of Simon & Schuster!) is where the author does not pay the publisher and the publisher does not pay an advance, only royalties. It is a form of “traditional” press and where I would slot Booktrope, the publisher of The Duel for Consuelo.  Most Small Presses, including BT are curated, or selective.
New York or Big Five is, well, you know. They pay advances and have access to bookstores and reviewers. The book stays on a bookstore’s shelf, if the store accepts it, for about 6 weeks unless there’s a big demand. After that, they will order it if the customer requests. If the author doesn’t earn out the advance, the book will be remaindered and sold to warehouses. There, the books sold on, say, Amazon, through these warehouses (New and Used from $2.43!) do not count against the advance. E-books still do.
The difference between Booktrope and most other Small Presses is its compensation model. It doesn’t pay employee editors, book designers, etc. a salary and so those independent contractors only work on the projects they choose. (There are tax and benefit consequences of course.) NY publishers and most other small presses that provide these services employ their editors, designers and marketers. In self-publishing the author purchases the services.
So I will continue to say that I am “traditionally published” by one NY company (Josefina’s Sin, Simon & Schuster) and two Small Presses (The Duel for Consuelo, Booktrope; The Harlot’s Pen, Devine Destinies), and have one self-published book. And spend six paragraphs explaining!

The Enlightenment Creeps In

It’s true! I have a publication date for THE DUEL FOR CONSUELO. It comes out on June 15 with Booktrope, and I am beyond excited. CONSUELO is the story of a woman torn between love and duty, the old religion and new survival, two men, two worlds. It will take you back to 1711, in Colonial Mexico.

In 1711 the Inquisition’s reach and power was fading. The Spanish king, starved for cash after fighting wars on two fronts, no longer had the funds to chase “infidels.” The ripe pickings of the Jewish lands and fortunes had long ago been plundered, and the time and effort it took to search out false Christians brought too little return. The Inquisition, or the Holy Office, was a Church function, of course, but without the king’s support its power was severely diminished.

In the rest of Europe the tendrils of the Enlightenment were creeping in, and even Spain couldn’t hold off the light much longer. Far away, in Colonial Mexico, the effects of this change were somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, the distance had made it harder to keep the colonies in line, and mainstream thinking took on a regional flavor all its own. But on the other, the creollos oft-times wanted to be more Spanish than the Spanish, so they kept with their intrenched views while Europe progressed.

That’s the world Consuelo inhabits.  Join me soon for the whole story!