Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Guest: Margo Bond Collins

My Guest this week has some extremely important advice for what to do when you have finished writing the novel. Now comes the hard bit. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Margo Bond Collins

Marketing Strategies for Authors: 
Holding Successful Online Release Parties

Back in the old, big-six-only publishing days, publishers would host extravagant parties for their authors, toasting them with champagne and serving caviar on little crackers while discussing the literary value of the books they produced. At least, that’s how I imagine it. For all I know, that’s still how it goes. (Okay. Actually, I’m pretty certain that never happened to the great majority of published authors. But it’s a nice little daydream.)

Amazon Link
Now, of course, even authors who publish with the traditional houses are expected to have a “platform,” a means of marketing their work to potential readers. And authors who either publish with indie presses or self-publish can’t survive without a marketing strategy that encompasses a wide variety of social media: Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and whatever else catches the public’s eye.

But it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of keeping up with the social media, easy to forget to do anything other than the online equivalent of shouting “buy my book!” into the (potential) void.  We’re told that we should “build relationships” with potential readers, but figuring out precisely how to do that remains a bit of a mystery to many of us, I think.

This issue was brought sharply to my attention just last week when a fellow author responded to my invitation to the online release party for my second novel, Fairy, Texas. She asked if I thought there was any real value to the kind of party I was having—one with giveaways and prizes—or if I thought people were there only to grab free stuff. She was considering cancelling the release party for her next book because she wasn’t certain that it would result in any sales.

I thought about her question for quite a while before I answered here. After all, even without a physical venue for the party, the prizes were going to cost me something. My indie publishers, while extremely supportive, aren’t able to provide all that much in the way of giveaways. I have three (and maybe four) books coming out in a twelve-month period—the result of sending all my completed manuscripts out at the same time—and holding release parties for all of them, then mailing out prizes, could add up significantly in terms of cash and time.

Amazon Link
But my answer was ultimately that yes, I think the release parties are a good investment. I don’t know yet if a release party will ever result in immediately increased sales—I don’t have enough data yet to make that kind of determination—but I’ve decided not to take those kinds of immediate sales into consideration when deciding to hold my online release parties. Instead, I am focusing on two specific elements that are crucial to a successful release party: building relationships and celebrating success.  And those two elements are built in to the basics of a successful online release party—if done right, an online release party gives readers a chance to connect with an author and join in celebrating the author’s success, something that helps create a relationship between the reader and author.

So I am including the Steps to a Successful Online Release Party below. These are a few of the things that I have done in my own release parties.

10 Steps to a Successful Online Release Party

1. Pick a Platform.  I use Facebook because it’s easy to set an event page and invite others to participate.

2. Choose a Time. So far, I’ve had 3-hour parties; this allows enough time to hold contests and have conversations, but doesn’t leave much lag time. I’ve seen all-day events, and my experience has been that there are often whole hours without any active conversation. I think it’s important to keep the party moving!

3. Arrange for Prizes. There are basically two kinds of prizes: the ones you (or your publisher) provide, and the kind that other people provide. For my first release party, I had lots of swag printed up to use as prizes, then mailed it all out. For the second party, I decided to spend the swag and postage money offering gift cards instead—less work for me, more perceived value to my guests. Although the first kind of prize was more fun for me, I think the second kind was more fun for the people who attended my party. 

Add Legally Undead to your
 Goodreads To-Read Bookshelf
4. Arrange for More Prizes. The second kind of prize consisted of e-book giveaways. I contacted all the indie authors I know and asked if they were willing to donate a copy of an e-book. To date, I have had more than 70 authors share their work with my readers. I love these kinds of prizes because they introduce my friends, fans, and readers to other authors!

5. Have a Grand Prize. I start the party by announcing the grand prize and then offer several ways to enter over the course of the party.

6. Create Contests.  For the ebook giveaways, I have party-goers “like” the author on Facebook or follow on Twitter or add on Goodreads. For the other prizes (whether gift cards or swag), I ask them to do things connected to my novel: find theme music for the novel, or suggest actors to play various characters, or pick out their favorite phrase in a short excerpt. These contests give the author a chance to interact with the party attendees in fun ways!

7. Create a Basic Script Before the Party.  I create a file with all of the major posts already written and arranged according to posting time. That way I can spend the bulk of my time at the party interacting with the people there rather than writing up posts and contests. Remember, the prizes and the posts should be a gateway to actually communicating with the guests!

8. Interact with the Guests. Comment on the guests’ posts, on the actors your guests choose, on the music that’s being suggested. Discuss other things, too—it doesn’t have to be all about the books!

9. Keep the Prizes Open for a Day (or so). This way anyone who wanted to attend but couldn’t will still be able to enter to win. I also add a “Release Week Giveaway” Rafflecopter at the very end of the party that runs for an additional week.

10. Have Fun! This is probably the most important element—as long as you’re having a good time, the rest of it will work out!

I would love to hear from other authors, readers, and publicists. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? How can these ideas be improved? What suggestions would you give someone who was planning an online release party?


Margo Bond Collins is the author of a number of novels, including 'Waking Up Dead', 'Fairy, Texas', and 'Legally Undead' (forthcoming in 2014). She lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, and several spoiled pets. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters.

Connect with Margo:

Amazon Author Page:
Goodreads Author Page:

Thank you for an interesting and informative article, Margo. Best wishes for 'Legally Undead'

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Guest: Charity Parkerson

My Guest this week is going to reveal a world hidden from the majority of us. Is it the world the reader imagines, or are there darker secrets? Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present...

Charity Parkerson

The secret life of 
an Erotic author

Follow just about any Erotica author online and you’ll be treated with pictures of delicious men, snarky jokes about spanking, and tons of other fun tidbits. No doubt, my online search of sexy topics—purely in the name of research, mind you—has landed me on more than one pervvy, government watch list. Opening my email has become a daily
Amazon Link
adventure. I never know what sort of fan mail I’ll find inside. I’ve seen things… horrible things… things I cannot unsee. The award for keeping a straight face while answering questions should arrive in my mailbox any day.

During a recent interview, I was asked to describe a day in the life of Charity Parkerson. 

This was the moment I realized two important things. Not only is my life vastly different than what people think, I also have not lost the awesome ability to horrify people speechless.  

For anyone interested in hearing about a day in the life of an erotica writer, here it is:

Amazon Link

After dragging myself out of the bed—kicking and screaming—I get my two boys ready for school, secretly praying they are going to spend the day with someone blessed with infinite patience. Eventually, I discover we are already ten minutes late. I then spend another ten minutes standing by the door screaming for everyone to get their d@#m shoes on, and praying someone with tons of patience is waiting to greet me at the school. Thirty minutes of travel time from one end of town to the other-- in order to drop them at two separate schools-- is spent listening to several arguments. The top one usually consists of my youngest accusing my oldest of being mean. The debate landing in second place is the one where I am accused of never seeing how annoying my youngest is being to my oldest. If you add in my fervent prayers for all the wonderful teachers out there
Coming Soon
to have strength, you have the first couple of hours of my day.  Once I have the house to myself, I drink a ton of coffee while catching up on tweets, Facebook messages, and emails. After obsessively checking my sales ranking and crying into my third cup of coffee, I stare blankly at the wall for 4 hours while dreaming of hot MMA fighters, police detectives, and demons. When I catch sight of the clock, I spend another thirty minutes wailing over how I’ve wasted the whole day, before going on Facebook to confer with my friends, only to realize they’re doing the same thing. This, of course, makes everything right with the world again. With that said, if it’s a month until my deadline, those four hours are spent alternating between clicking away at the computer keys and hyperventilating into a paper bag. If it’s the day after I’ve completed my manuscript, I’m patting myself on the back and lying about how I wasn’t worried in the least. Oh, and occasionally I spend my day dreaming about an organized computer where all my files are competently labeled making them easy to find. Then I remember I can’t afford minions and I’m over it.

Sorry to disappoint everyone who believed I spent my day swinging from the chandelier. Maybe one of these days hot cover models will feed me chocolate-covered strawberries. Unfortunately, it will—most likely-- only be because I’m in the nursing home and it’s their job. Until then, you could always read about the lives I live inside my mind. 


Charity Parkerson is an award winning and multi-published author with Ellora's Cave Publishing, Midnight Books, and Punk & Sissy Publications. Born with no filter from her brain to her mouth, she decided to take this odd quirk and insert it in her characters.

*2013 Readers' Favorite Award winner
*ARRA Finalist for Favorite Paranormal Romance
*Five-time winner of The Mistress of the Darkpath
*Named one of the top 10 best books by an Indie author in 2011- Paranormal Reads Reviews
*Best Paranormal Romance of 2012- Paranormal Reads Reviews

When Charity is not writing steamy novels (or swinging from the chandelier?) she can be found at:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Time for a Selfie... (for ASPIRING writers)

"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it."

- Groucho Marx, comedian and Genius (immortal)
Amazon Link

I often use the analogy of movies when talking about writing novels because they do have a number of things in common. This is yet another, although here there is a marked difference. Without a doubt this is possibly the most soul-destroying event any new writer will experience.

When making a movie, the Director will film many takes that will not end up in the final version of the film. These could be because the actors made a mistake, burst out laughing in the middle of filming, or simply because the Director just could not produce what he wanted. These days, this material is not lost on the Cutting-room floor when the Director and Film Editor put their heads together to create the final version of the movie, the one we will see in the theater. Usually these ‘outtakes’ appear as Extras on the DVD version of the movie, so at least the Director has the opportunity of placing more of their work before the viewing public.

Not so in the Writing world.

Once you have completed your First Draft, where, if you’ll recall, your sole objective is to transfer your story from your mind onto the page, the next step is polishing it. This is known as Hara Kiri Editing and there are several steps you should follow.

When you have literally, or mentally, typed ‘THE END’, a feeling of achievement, tempered with fear, will wash over you like a Tsunami. Yes, you can understand the achievement bit – it’s been a hard slog, but finally you are there – you have written a novel! 

No, sorry, you haven’t written a novel; you have written the first draft of a novel.

I said ‘fear’; why fear? Come on, search within and recognize that YOU KNOW you made compromises, especially as you neared the end; you know you CAN do better; you know there is room for improvement. Don’t be ashamed; we all do this, although many will not admit it.

As a creative writer, yes YOU, we now leave behind the pure abandon of fabricating something out of thin air and take a step to a hybrid situation where we will force ourselves to modify our creation while still trying to keep that freshness that abounded when we were pounding the keys. It’s a bit like Dr. Frankenstein deciding his monster would look better with blue eyes and less of a hooked nose…

Let’s take a look at the first part of the editing process, step by step.

The first step, as soon as you have finished you novel is:

You need a rest, a brief one, from what you have just written. I know the ‘just written’ bit refers to an extended period of time, months, maybe even years, but you have to distance yourself from your creation for a while and gain some perspective. It’s like a surgeon operating on a family member; unless you are objective, things are not going to go well!

But I’m finally a writer… I want to write, you say.

Fine, then write… something else. Try your hand at a short story, or an article, or a blog entry, or anything not related to your novel. It will still be there when you come back; don’t let impatience be your downfall after working so hard for so long.

After a couple of weeks you can pick up your story again and you may note your attitude towards it has subtly changed. It’s now easier for you to extract the scalpel and start cutting.

I know you have agonized over every word; battled the demons of randomness to memorize the Thesaurus and select the most suitable syllable to relay your ideas to your reader. But… you now have to make your book Lean and Mean!

Step two is a Selfie. No, I’m not suggesting you take a self-portrait for the back cover; I’m talking about a Self-Edit.

This is a multipart activity, as we will see.

First label the data file that is your novel ‘[title] FIRST DRAFT’ and make at least two copies of this, if you haven’t already done so, on pendrives and remove them from the vicinity of your computer. I’m a little Old-School too, so I always print out a full copy – What for? Read the chapter on Copyright and you’ll see. Then run the whole novel through your Word Processor’s Spell Checker. Okay, you’ve been doing this as you went along; fine, but do it again now. Make sure you have the right version of English selected (UK, US, whatever) and all the checking options switched on.

Done that? Document come back clean and approved?

Now read this:

I have a lovely spelling check
That came with my PC,
Witch plainly marks, four my revue,
Miss takes I can not sea.
I’ve run this poem threw the thing.
I’m sure your please too no.
It’s latter perfect in every weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

Many years ago, an anonymous writer produced the above and it’s as true today as it was when it was first parsed through the spell checker – it comes out clean – no errors!

These are Homonyms and they are the bane of any Spell Checker. A Homonym can be at the same time a  Homograph (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and a Homophone (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling). There are a few obvious ones that will now be lurking in your novel: there and their and they’re; we’re and wear; for, four and fore to name but a few (phew?), but the list is long, believe me – Google ‘Homonyms’ and the Internet will provide you with a huge list. You could type these into the ‘Find’ field in your Word processor and check each one, but there are easier solutions, as we’ll (wheel, well?) see (sea?).

Just a minute. Didn’t you (ewe) say we should read through our work and catch stuff like that?

Yes, but…

Now read this…

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

No, this is not a joke; it’s a real study done a few years ago at Cambridge University which basically concluded that if you retain the first and last letters of any word in their correct position, and all the others are present, our brains can correctly interpret the sense in short paragraphs of text. There's an old joke by comedian Eric Morecambe about playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order. It’s pattern recognition, which is how we read.

Okay, the spell-checker would catch all of those.

Then there’s this:
 Your memory will recognize the
the words and convince your
your brain it is reading what should
be on the page.

Nothing wrong with that, right? 

Look again. 

Still not spot it? Read it aloud.

So if we can’t trust the Word Processor or our own brains…

I’ve mentioned the existence of self-editing software before. This is not just a spell-checker on steroids, as so many are, offering little more than your Word spell check. It’s much more and a boon to writers of all levels. It’s easy to use and its job is twofold: 

a) enable you to do a Selfie far more diligently and effectively

b) improve how you write.

Check out Stylewriter (just click on the name to visit the site – there’s a FREE trial of the software too) as a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I thoroughly recommend it. Also the company that produces it not only have the editing software, but a really useful website to teach you, using videos, how to get the most out of it. There’s even a Writing Course. When using the software, remember to switch on all the options, especially things you may think are not necessary such as checking quoted text (dialogue) where you may deliberately break the rules.

This stage of the Selfie will take time; three or four FULL days at least for a full-length novel, as you examine everything reported (including Homonyms) and make changes as you go along. Save your document as ‘[title] FIRST DRAFT’ – yes, I know we already did that, but we are only just getting started. We won’t move on to the SECOND DRAFT until we finish the Selfie.

Don’t forget to update the security copies you made after every editing session, to!

Next, PRINT the whole thing out – single side, double-spaced with a wide (two inch, five centimeter, right-hand margin and an inch on the left) margin. Yes, I know you only want to produce an eBook… bear (bare?) with me.

Now the hard bit…


Hang on! Shouldn’t I be giving this to friends and family to read and check my novel for me?

Not yet.

Find a quiet room where maybe your furry foot-warmer can accompany you but where other family members, friends, visitors, Joe Public in general are banned!

Close the door, grab a pen or pencil, find a comfortable chair, turn to page one and…

read your novel ALOUD.

No, I don’t mean just move your lips… act it out!

Imagine you were reading it to an audience.

Read exactly what’s written, obeying all the punctuation marks (pausing for commas, semi and full colons, full stops/periods, ellipsis, etc; exclamation and interrogation marks should be treated accordingly too).

Dialogue should be read and infused with emotion – imagine your work is now a movie and you are hearing actors representing it on the screen.

Yes, you will find yourself saying “silly me; I’ve made a mistake there” (or shorter words conveying the same sentiment) and pausing to make use of the acreage in the margin – good, you’re getting the idea – don’t stop to rush to your computer to make the changes yet though. Work through the complete novel – it will take days, but it will give you a great sense of the rhythm and flow whilst drawing your attention to things you have forgotten to include (!) or stuff that needs cutting (!!) because it doesn’t add anything to the narrative. You may even change the order of events (!!!), even whole chapters (!!!!). You may decide to eliminate complete characters (!!!!!!).

I told you it was hard work, but comfort yourself with the knowledge that your novel will be all the better for this.

My very first draft of ‘2012’ (note use of lower case – I refer to the copy that was the input to the process described above) was 118,000 words in length; the published version was 88,000 words. Yes I did just say I chopped 30,000 words from that novel!

A trick I have for this stage of the Selfie is to use the right margin for making corrections (I always choose a contrasting ink color that’s easy to spot against the black ink on the page), underline the text where the correction needs to be applied, and then put a large X in the left-hand margin at the start of the line. I also fold down the top left-hand corner of any pages that have any corrections to make them easy to locate. You will probably find that most pages will end up like this; at this stage in ‘the CULL – Bloodstone’ only four pages out of the complete novel did not have bent corners, and one of those said ‘THE END’!

Finally, if you haven’t been carted off to a mental institution at the behest of worried family members after hearing you talk to yourself for days on end in a locked room, you are ready for the next bit of the Selfie.


Apply all the changes. When you finish each chapter, save it (backup copies as well) and go back and read it aloud again, this time not only checking you haven’t missed anything, but evaluating the PACE of what you’ve written. Try to be as objective as possible, and ensure you are judging ONLY the Pace. Try to isolate your assessment so it doesn’t take into account preceding or following chapters (you have an unfair advantage over your readers in that you know what’s coming, remember).  

When you have finished, run the whole beastie through the self-editing software again. Then, and only then, you can change the resultant document’s name to ‘[title] SECOND DRAFT’.

If you are doing this right, you are getting pretty bored with your book by now. That’s a GOOD sign. Soldier on; we’re getting there.

Now, if you wish, you can post your work on review sites or have friends, Romans and countrymen Beta read the creation.

Finished, right? Just need to see what the amigos think of your masterpiece. Only a question of waiting now…

Sorry. Now’s the time to get the Professionals involved...

The above was extracted from the chapter on Editing in 'How NOT to be an ASPIRING Writer' by yours truly. It's aimed at anyone who's new to this writing business and, using a witty, chatty style, I will walk you through the minefield that is the new publishing paradigm; from how to turn an idea into a story to using Social Media and all the interesting stuff in between.

If you want to lose that 'aspiring' word or simply become better at writing fiction (any genre) then this is for you.


NOW on Kindle COUNTDOWN (where applicable)

Starting at 0.99 from 6th Feb creeping up to 2.99 before returning to full price on 12th Feb.

Get your copy NOW while it's on SALE.

Your Amazon Link

Eric @