Sunday, May 30, 2010

Justice in June by Barbara Levenson


For those of you who are fans of Fatal February, the first in the Mary Magruder Katz mystery series, by Barbara Levenson, you'll be thrilled to know that Justice in June, another in the series, will officially launch on June 7, 2010.

I'm here to tell you: it won't disappoint. I just finished reading Justice in June -- I mean I finished it just minutes ago and I couldn't wait to tell you about it. Mary Magruder Katz is a lawyer in south Florida and her law practice takes on a life of its own in this engaging and intriguing novel.

All at once, Katz finds herself fighting for the life of Luis who is whisked away after authorities decide he is a terrorist, she takes on the justice system when Judge Liz Maxwell is investigated for wrongdoing in the Miami courts, and she must defend Carlos against lawsuits from potential owners of condos he is building.

I could easily say that this a page turner, but that would be an understatement. It not only had me turning pages, but I felt as if I lived the story with Levenson's characters. Obviously, I recommend this book.

I haven't read Fatal February. Believe me, I won't waste time between now and when I have my feet up and am savoring that book as well.

~~~
About Barbara Levenson: She has lived in Miami, Florida, for 32 years and worked as a prosecutor then ran her own law practice as well. So, it's easy to see why the flavor of Miami her portrayal of Mary Magruder Katz as a lawyer shine through so authentically. In addition, she and her husband bred and showed German shepherd dogs for twenty years.

For more information about books by Barbara Levenson go to www.oceanviewpub.com or www.barbaralevenson.com

After you read the book, let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twitter: Grab their interest and they will follow


Since I have a book out about Twitter, thought I should blog about it once in a while. One thing when getting started on Twitter is to learn about following and followers.

Before you start to follow others, set up a nice looking Twitter page and put out three or four interesting tweets. Then you will be ready to set out to find people to follow. You'll have to hope these people follow you back, because there is no button to push to choose the people you want to follow you. So your goal is to build a good group of people you follow and interest them in following you back.

1. Others will make the decision whether to follow you. Followers will come to you naturally if you offer something of interest to others.

2. Initially, find people to follow who interest you. Every time you follow someone on Twitter, they will have an opportunity to follow you back. They will receive a memo that you have followed them. They will have the choice to visit your Twitter site to see what you're all about. If they find something interesting, they will follow you back.

3. If you click on the Find People feature in the menu bar, you'll see three different ways to add people to follow. Try the ones that are of interest to you.

4. On #followFriday, the day people on Twitter suggest others to follow, you can see who those you follow are suggesting that you follow. Go to their Twitter pages and to their blogs or websites if you are interested and have fun learning about them.

5. You can search for people by topic on tweepsearch.com and follow them. This site searches their bios for words that you enter. For example, if you want to find people who are interested in scuba, enter the word scuba in tweepsearch. It will search the bios of others for people who have listed scuba as an interest.

6. Follow people of interest to you. Don't follow people just in hopes that they will follow you back. In order to have a lively twitter site, follow people you want to share share tweets with. As long as you are going spend some of your precious writing time on Twitter, you might as well be sharing information with people of like interests. Not only will you get more out of it, but your Twitter page will be more interesting for others to follow.

One key to keep followers or to interest others in following you is to write interesting and valuable tweets. Offer folks something that will make them want to come back for more.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creativity on Vacation


It hit me this morning that I've had to dig deep for writing material lately. I imagine it has happened to you: sometimes writing just flows and at other times it's a chore. I've come to realize that it's usually a chore if I spend too much time by myself and if I spend too much time inside.

I live in the perfect environment. Ahhhhhh ... Florida. Sandals all year long. It's a bit hot in the summer, but that passes and fall is such a relief. I am more creative when I get out into the fresh air and experience life instead of just writing about it. But, I forget to do that, and I'm currently overdue for my shot of outdoors.

Unfortunately, I came to this conclusion just as the lovebugs hit. Isn't it a cute name... "lovebug"... it brings to mind cute little ladybugs. The real lovebugs are not cute. They are little fly-like insects who hook together with each other, in unspeakable ways and fly around in pairs. They swarm, they die, and the rest of the time they live as larvae in the grass clearing out the extra thatch. Now, doesn't that inspire creativity?

Well, my creativity flew out the window when I realized the lovebugs were in town. They only last a few days. So, for a few days, I'll put that photo shoot on hold, stay in and read a good book -- maybe one you wrote.

Every now and then it's good to take a reading holiday. My feet are up and I'm going to escape to a world with no lovebugs.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Making the most of Amazon

I was thrilled when my first book was listed on Amazon way back in the day. That was before all the hoop-la over social media. This time around, I'm much more computer literate and I've come to realize how important Amazon Central is. I'm still in the process of setting up my Author Central page, but I thought I'd share some of the ways I've learned to optimize my experience on Amazon.

1. Profile picture. Choose a picture of yourself or a picture that you want to use to represent yourself to use as your profile picture. It's always good to be consistent and use the same picture on your blog, your website, your Twitter site, Facebook, etc. Eventually, as you create your presence on the Web, people will recognize your picture without having to read your name.

2. Bio. Write a good, interesting bio that tells the readers some interesting tidbits about you while telling them about your books and why you are an authority on the topic.

3. Blog. Amazon Central provides a space for each author to blog. This will not replace your blog on the Web if you have one. It will, however, add to your presence on line. If your book is non-fiction, make your blog posts about the topic of your book or a related topic. If you write fiction, write about the writing process or something of interest about your genre.

Keep your blog posts short (250 to 300 word). Make your titles clear with good key words in them so searches will pick them up. How great is it to have Google bring potential customers right to your Author Central page where they are just a click away from buying your book if they get the inclination.

4. Listmania. Start a list that includes your book. Create a list and put your book and other top books of your topic on it. This will just give readers another chance to see your book. For example, I have a list, My favorite books about Twitter. Of course my book is one of them and so are the other leading books. Don't be afraid of the competition.

5. Book Trailer. Amazon allows authors to post book trailers. You can make your own at animoto.com with just a couple of key phrases and good jpegs. I haven't put one up for my book yet, but many authors are posting them and gaining attention through them.

6. Book reviews. All authors should concentrate time and energy into finding reviewers for their books. If you read the books of others, post a review about them. Several things might happen if you do: (a) You'll gain the attention of other writers; (b) You'll gain the attention of their readers; and (c) You may find that the other author will review your book as well.

In addition, seek reviews of your book through the top 1000 reviewers on Amazon. Many of them are eager to read and write reviews for you. Be generous with free copies of your book. It will pay off in the end.

If you have other tips on how to get the most out of Amazon, please leave a comment. Even if you don't have tips, leave a comment anyway...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How self-publishing can help build your business.

Self-publishing is not just for writers any more. Instead, many small business owners are writing books to bring attention to their businesses.
Be sure the book you self-publish is about or related to a crucial part of your business. It can help to build your business in several ways. Here are a few:

1. A book launch is always good for bringing some attention to you and your business. Check with local bookstores and see if they are interested in a book signing/book launch. Most will jump at the chance to be the first. They know they'll sell extra copies if they are the first because that's the one your friends and family will attend.

2. Write a dynamite press release and send it out to the local newspapers and magazines to announce the launch of your book. If you put in interesting facts about why you wrote the book or the process of writing it, etc., they may write an article about it. At the least, they will probably note it in the "What's happening" section of the paper.

3. Be generous with free copies of your book. Send a free copy to your clients who may want to give copies to their customers.

4. Seminars: Gain attention for your book and your business by giving free workshops or seminars on related topics. Your book will help you bring people into the seminar or workshop. And don't forget to advertise your seminar using the book to your advantage, such as "John Doe, author of 'Your Book,' will present his secrets of success." That sounds more convincing than an ad saying, "John Doe will present his secrets of success."

Writing a book about your field instantly sets you apart as an expert. Make the most of it by putting time into marketing it and your business.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Progress Report on - Getting that book done.

Work?

I made a public commitment on April 26 to work full out on my book and complete the revision by the end of May. I may or may not make that deadline. I realized this morning that I have let time slip by again.

It's not that I'm not busy. I'm promoting my book Ready... Set... Tweet!, finding reviewers for it, etc., and keeping up with writing my blogs, but I haven't worked steadily on the book. I'm glad I caught myself at this point. I may still be able to make it. I'm on chapter 4 of 12. Maybe with an extra push I'll still make that deadline.

Why do we choose procrastination over perseverance... ?

(that's a real question... feel free to answer it)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Setting Social Media Marketing Goals


Social media marketing takes time. There are a vast number of places where you can concentrate your efforts. Before you start marketing, identify what you can do and what you want to accomplish.

It's good to set goals before you start. Here are some tips on how to go about setting goals that will guide you in your marketing.

1. Write concrete goals that are easy to quantify. For example, instead of making "I want to become famous" as your goal, define what fame means to you. If you're an author, fame might mean that you sell a certain number of books, or fame might mean that you have a certain number of fans, or fame might mean that you are invited to a certain number of book signings. Whatever your goal, have it something you can quantify.

2. Write goals that are attainable. You will avoid discouragement if you set realistic goals for your social media marketing. If you determine that you want to write a blog that immediately goes viral, you will be disappointed. Instead, if you set a goal that you will add 10 followers to your blog every month, you can quantify that and it is attainable. Success or the feeling of success is important to keep the juices flowing.

3. Once you attain a goal, write another. If you attained your goal of adding 10 followers to your blog or selling 10 books or acquiring 10 new clients per month, set another goal. Because goals guide your activities, it is important to set new ones when you attain the old ones.

4. Start each work day by reviewing your goals. This process will center your concentration on what is important to your business and to your social marketing. Let's say your goals are to write a blog post daily, make comments to ten other blogs daily, find three new blogs that relate to your topic daily, and summarize your progress daily. By reviewing these at the start of the day, you will not get sidetracked from these activities. After all, the computer can eat up a lot of time, so you want to use that time wisely.

Keep your social media marketing fresh by revising goals that aren't working for you and implementing new ones that follow the trends in marketing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fiction - Create the World of Your Dreams


Isn't being a writer wonderful? Declaring yourself a writer, gives you license to create the world of your dreams... or your nightmares (depending on your genre).

One of the first steps in developing your novel is to choose your setting and develop the details about it. When you write, you'll want those details to be consistent throughout the book.

The setting of your book will set the tone for your writing and will help convey the theme of your story, so choose it wisely. Here are some tips on how to develop your setting:

1.Start painting the picture of your setting with broad strokes from far away. For example, choose a country or continent where your story will take place and zoom in from there. Here's a way to look at it...
the World
North America
United States
Michigan
Jackson

2. Once you have chosen the setting or settings for your story, develop a description of the town(s) you have chosen. For example, Jackson is a small town in Michigan south of Lansing and west of Ann Arbor. It is a sleepy town revolving around neighborhoods. It is surrounded by lakes and many residents have cottages on the lakes for weekends and vacations.

3. Repeat step two for all the towns or cities or major settings of your story. You don't need to go into all the specifics. Instead, just create a feeling.

4. As you dream up your story, you'll need to create more details about settings for specific scenes. One way to do this is to draw a map of the town or neighborhood. Place the house on the map, then place all the surrounding houses and landmarks that will be important to your story.

5. Next, create a blueprint of the house and draw squares, triangles and circles to represent furniture and markings for windows and doors. Repeat this for all the scenes in your book, including stores, parks, other homes, picnic areas, etc.

6. The drawings need to be as detailed as you need to tell the story. They don't need to be good drawings however. Don't let me hear any of you say you can't write a novel because you can't draw the settings.

The point of this exercise is to help you keep the details of your settings and scenes straight when you're writing. We all want seamless writing where the readers are totally absorbed in the story. By taking the time to do this, your readers can look forward to living your story.

I'd love to hear what techniques you use to develop your settings.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Steps to building an interesting blog.


Your blog can be the most engaging and well-written blog out there, but if you don't put the word out that it's there, you may not have many readers. Here are the steps to follow in setting up a blog and finding others to follow it.

1. It's a given that you must write an interesting blog. Make the information you provide entertaining, valuable to your readers and intriguing to read. You want you readers to leave wanting to visit the next day to see what you've written.

2. Add an illustration or two to draw attention to it and to enhance the content. This isn't mandatory, but it does help catch the eye of those passing through.

3. Join Facebook and use the Networked Blogs application to highlight your blog. Every time you post to your blog, go over to your Facebook account and tell your followers that you've put up a new blog post.

4. Twitter is another important social media site to link to your blog. Be sure to list the URL of your blog on the Profile page. Your followers on Twitter will want to visit your blog to see what you're all about. As with Facebook, let your followers know each time you post to your blog. Don't be shy about asking your followers to retweet your announcement too.

In building interest in your blog, be sure to pay attention to those with whom you are communicating. Don't make your blog and your tweets and your announcements on Facebook only about yourself. And, don't make it about selling something too. That's okay about 10% of the time, but you'll find others will respond to you better if you show an interest in them.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. Please feel free to leave tips of your own in the comments section.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Writing content for your blog


Writing content for your blog is much different than writing fiction or non-fiction for any other reason. You must write succinctly and design the page to ensure the content is easy to read.

A page filled with long paragraphs will deter readers. Don't make the reading look like work. Rather use plenty of white space to ensure readers that it'll be a quick read.

When reading on the web, people do not read long pieces word for word. They scan the content of your blog to see if there is anything earth-shattering that they must read.

Suggestions for web content that will catch the attention of readers:

Make every word count.

Leave out as many adjectives as possible and all of the adverbs.

Keep to the words that convey the message.

Choose keywords for the article with care and use them frequently to ensure the search engines will find the topic within your blog content.

Blog content should consist of short paragraphs or, better yet, lists that are easy to read.

Use headings to draw attention to your content. Pay close attention to headings and sub-headings. They might be the only thing that catches the eye of readers and convinces them to read. (Yes, it's ironic that I used no headings or sub-headings in this post)

Use white space to your advantage. Make the piece easier for the reader by breaking up the reading with blank space.

Use lists and graphics to get your point across in a short-handed fashion while keeping the reader interested in your content.

Talk to the readers through your blog content. Use a conversational tone and always ask for comments.

That's it.... Before you go out there to write some great blog content, leave me any comments or additions you might have.

Choosing a topic for your blog


You know a topic is a good one when you feel a passion for it, you can't wait to write about it, and it accomplishes your goals. That seems like a lot to ask from a blog, but those are some of the ways to determine the topic for your blog. Here are a few guidelines on how to get going in thinking about your blog topic:

1. Make a list of what you want to accomplish through your blog. Do you want to sell something? Do you want to reach others of like interest? Do you want to gather people to give them information about an event or association and to increase interest in it? Until you determine what you want to accomplish with your blog, you may not be able to pin down the topic.

2. Go through the list of things you want to accomplish through your blog and determine what theme you see that keeps recurring. Does one topic come up over and over? From this analysis, make a list of possible topics. Write them in concrete terms. Don't say, I want to reach people interest in art. Instead narrow it down. Why do you want to reach them? Does it matter where they are? Does it matter if they are artists or art lovers? Keep asking yourself questions until you narrow down possible categories.

3. Search on the Internet for other blogs on the same topic. What approach have they taken to the topic? Does the search give you an idea of a unique way you could present the topic? If you're passionate about a topic, think in terms of the ideal blog you would want to discover on line. Write for yourself. Choose the topic that would cover the information you would like to find on line.

4. Once you have searched the Internet to see what's out there, make a list of sub-topics -- these would be titles of possible posts for your blogs. Is it hard or easy to come up with sub-topics about your blog topic? If easy, you may have a winner. If hard, you may want to re-think your topic.

Once you have settled on a topic for your blog, let it sit for a day or two. It may be right for you at the moment, but on further thought a better related topic might hit you. Do some careful thinking and planning about it and you'll settle on the best topic for you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Marketing -- Know your audience


We all have to spend time -- lots of time-- marketing our books. There's no way around it. You'll save some time and effort if you identify your audience before you start.

I was lucky with my most recent book. The audience asked for Ready...Set...Tweet! A Speedy Guide to Twitter. I asked my followers on my Brevard Art News blog to follow me on Twitter and found that Twitter is not easy for everyone. Many of them had difficulty with it. So, as a writer, I naturally thought I'd just dash off a few directions for them. Those directions grew into a book. When it came time to market it, I had my audience.

With other books it's not quite so easy to identify the audience. Here are some ways to go about it.

1. Make a list of categories that define your book. Start with a broad category, then list sub-categories under that. For example, maybe you have written a mystery. There are many sub-categories of mysteries, such as cosy mysteries, hard-boiled mysteries, police procedural mysteries, etc. Just get a general sense of the category that fits your book.

2. Next, research who reads those books. Look on the Web in general for blogs about your book category. Keep a list of the addresses to these blogs so you can visit them later.

3. Take a look on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites for pages about the category of your book and compile a list of them too.

4. Look on book sites, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, for the prevalence of books about your topic or genre. Read through some of the summaries of these books to find more identifying words to include in your searches.

By the time you compile these lists you will have identified your audience and have a start on how to get in touch with them through websites, blogs and social media sites.