It’s bookstore season

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Monday musings on books

By Scott Bury

The staircase at Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal.

We’re well into the fall season now. Where I am, the bright yellow, orange and red leaves are already thick on the ground, illuminating the bicycle path where it’s covered by overarching branches with a golden light.

It also turns out that it’s a busy season for authors willing to set up a table and meet potential readers. The bookstores in my city (Ottawa, Ontario) have their schedules filled with writers who sit behind a table groaning under their books.

Usually.

Personally, I love book signings, sales and other events where I can talk with readers directly. I’ve done a number of the past couple of years. Some were terrific, with lots of traffic and interaction. Some were … not so much, where I sold one or two books. And there was one where I did not sell a single copy.

For example, last summer I set up a table at an event called Arts in the Park, which as you probably guessed is a place where local artists of all kinds show off their work and sell it. It’s a big draw every year, and I always meet a lot of readers. This year was my third time at that event. One man, John, had bought a copy of one of my books at the previous Arts in the Park. This year, he returned and bought copies of all my other books!

Selling books at Arts in the Park,

Another highlight was meeting French artist Marc Laisne and his friend, Angel Tiah. It was a hot and very sunny day, and I was so glad to be able to enjoy the shade from their umbrella over their stand beside mine.

Marc’s art helped draw more people toward my booth, especially when he started painting a picture from scratch on a canvas more than a metre wide. I’m sure it contributed to my book sales at the event.

Later last summer, I had a book signing event at a downtown bookstore, Prospero The Book Seller. That was a lot of fun, because I spoke with readers about the stories and background of my books, which led to other conversations.

I also had a great time talking with the manager, Sarah Power, about books, readers and the industry.

Last summer, I exhibited a number of times at the ByWard Market in Ottawa, alongside other authors as well as vendors of clothing, fruit and vegetables. During Frosh Week, freshmen students from Carleton University came by on a scavenger hunt and helped promote my latest book at the time, Wildfire.

What readers like you can do

Writing and reading are solitary acts. So the opportunity to actually interact with other people, to talk about books and stories, is a real treat for me.

What’s better is finding out what readers like to read, what they don’t, and what might make them pick up a book and open it.

So get out there, readers. Visit your favorite bookstore, and when you see someone proudly, or nervously showing off the books they wrote, come over and say hi. That doesn’t obligate you to buy a book. But sharing a conversation with a writer can bring more interested potential readers over to find out more, which could spur more sales.

And it’s a great way to find out about new books and writers you just might enjoy reading. You might find someone who would be thrilled to talk to your book club.

Marc Laisne and Angel Tiah set up a lifesaving umbrella right behind my table.

As I write this, on July 16, 2019, I am getting ready for my next event, a book signing at Prospero The Book Company on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. I’m hoping it goes well, but so far all the events I’ve attended at actual bookstores have gone well. I’ve never done a midweek event, though. The manager promises that mid-weekday is when this downtown location gets the most traffic, so we’ll see.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from my previous, successful events.

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Book publishing trends readers need to know

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Photo by Laëtitia Buscaylet on Unsplash

Publishing is evolving rapidly. There’s been a lot of chatter, real and virtual, about what the changes in technology and markets mean for authors and publishers. But in this space, we’re going to look at how some of them will affect readers.

Independently wealthy?

Last April, Amazon reported that over 1,000 independent authors made more than $100,000 in KDP royalties in 2017. That is, more and more authors are able to make respectable livings solely from their books.

What this means for readers is that more writers are able to give up their day jobs and concentrate on writing more. So you’ll have more to read from your favorite authors.

More diversity

A panel discussion at the Book Expo in New York last year pointed out that publishing is getting more diverse: more writers and publishers are realizing that their market is not just straight, white, relatively affluent women and men.

Readers can expect to see more cultures represented not only among authors, but also in the books their produce. In other words, it’s going to be easier to find books that reflect your reality.

Wider buying choices

There are also more platforms for e-book publishing. You would have thought there were enough with Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes and Noble. Newer entrants to the field include Draft2Digital, Findaway Voices, Book Baby, Booktango, Nu-book and more. Some are spin-offs or evolutions of vanity publishing firms like IUniverse, while others seem to be more closely related to book marketing services.

What it means for readers is more choice of where to get your books. Sure, Amazon is by far and away the leader, and will continue to be for a long time. But no one stays at number 1 forever. Not even the Zon.

More marketing


Photo by Josh Edgoose on Unsplash

While we’re on the topic Amazon, several publishing pundits have predicted that its advertising programs are going to get more important. Amazon made a number of changes last year that affected independent authors, such as cancelling the Kindle Worlds, and changing the book suggestions that appear under a title you’re looking at.

Authors, especially indies, are already using AMS ads more, and spending more money on it. Eventually, they’ll get better at managing their ads. Expect to see more of your favorite authors using them, and to get more ads that are better directed to your interests—whether you want that or no.

Competition drives quality

With more authors making a living and more choices for making and selling books, there are more books being produced more quickly than ever before. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better.

Written Word Media surveyed readers who subscribe to a number book promotional services. They found a common complaint about the numbers of typographical and grammatical errors in independently published books. Low quality can make some readers give up before finishing a book, and even if they persevere through to the end, they aren’t like to come back for the same author’s next book.

Hopefully, this will sink in among authors and drive up the quality.

More audio

Photo by Findaway Voices on Unsplash

Audio book sales grew strongly in 2017 and 2018, and most analysts are expecting that to continue. Harper Collins saw audiobook sales rise 55 percent in the third quarter of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017. Audiobook fans are going to have more to listen to, from both commercial publishers and independent authors.

More innovation

It’s impossible to predict with any certainty what is going to be the “biggest thing” this coming year. Doubtlessly, some author will come up with an innovation that will stun even the biggest players in the marketplace, and reinvent book writing or marketing.

Maybe some of you have already noticed it. Share the news with us!

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Six reasons why you should vlog like nobody’s watching

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Monday Musings

By Corinne O’Flynn

Let talk about video blogging—vlogging. I can hear you saying to yourself, “Vlogging? What do you mean, vlogging? I am not a YouTuber… I am a writer!”
Trust me, I totally get it. But I’m here to share with you six reasons why vlogging is something you should consider adding to your author platform—even if you don’t think anyone is watching.

Vlog to become a better speaker

Even if you’re already a decent public speaker, vlogging will improve your speaking skills because it forces you to address your audience directly. When you’re vlogging, you usually have to look at the camera. Even if you’re demonstrating something with your hands, there will be (and should be) a large portion of your video that features you facing the audience. This means that while you can have notes to assist you during your talk, the medium lends itself to more conversational and natural speaking.

Vlog to become a better storyteller

When you start vlogging, you start thinking about vlogging. And when you start thinking about vlogging, you start thinking about topics and how you’re going to share them. Vlogging is done in short intervals, which requires you to be concise and stay on topic. Being able to distill your message to make it interesting and engaging is a skill that develops as you vlog. Being able to shape your message into a story will engage your audience!

Vlog to connect with your audience

Video allows your audience to see you as a real human—to truly connect. While conventional blogging is alive and well, adding video to your repertoire will bring your audience closer to who you are as a person. They see your personality, your wit, and your humor. They see how you move, they hear your voice. They see you. The reason authors have a platform is so we can connect with our audience.

Vlog to diversify content and Your Audience

People consume content online via blogs, podcasts, images, audio, and video. The more ways you have to connect with people, the more people you’ll connect with! It’s that simple. Adding vlogging to your platform will help you broaden your reach. Video isn’t going anywhere—it’s only gaining popularity.

Learn a relevant skill

Video is the present and the future. Learning to vlog is a valuable skill that will help you maintain an interesting and diversified platform to reach your readers. It is so easy to start vlogging with only a cellphone! Whether you’re reading from your own writing, talking about your process, sharing a book review, or just talking about life, your audience wants to hear from you. Why not try doing a video next time, instead of blogging?

Vlogging is fun!

When most people start vlogging, there is a lot of stress over what to wear, where to sit, how you look… but I’m here to tell you that the message is what’s most important. I used to stress about lighting and what was in the background of my videos, and what my hair looked like. But the reality is that people tune in to my videos to hear what I’m going to say. They’ve seen me vlogging from my car, from my office, all dressed up after a night out, and on days when I haven’t left the house. They’ve even seen me lounging on my couch with my dogs in front of the Christmas tree. If nothing else, vlogging has made me much more at ease with how I connect with my followers, and it’s shown me that being real on camera has made that connection deeper.

Corinne O’Flynn

Married, raising four kids, she is the founder and executive director of a non-profit organization, and a professional napper. She also serves on the board for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW).

You can check out all of her books on her website or on Amazon.

Anyone interested in staying connected can sign up for her emailsWhether you’re a fan of mystery or fantasy stories, or a fellow busy human looking for ways to build your own productivity systems, Corinne O’Flynn invites you to join her as she shares what she learns on her adventures.

“I believe in doing things with intention, and making sure those intentions are good. :)”

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Writers’ pet peeves: Monday musings

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By Raine Thomas

writers pet peeves

Pixabay Creative Commons license

Pet peeves. Everyone has them. Yes, even readers and writers…perhaps even more than most people!

Exploring the pet peeves experienced by readers and writers can be a helpful way to clear the air and help us see each other’s points of views on some rather serious topics. In the hopes of engaging our readers in a spirited dialogue, we thought we’d explore some of these pet peeves over a couple of blog posts.

Last week we gave some of the most common pet peeves experienced by readers. Today, let’s delve into our biggest pet peeves as writers:

Poor editing

This was mentioned in the reading pet peeves list and it’s so important that we just had to note it here too. For those authors who invest time and money into producing clean, well-written books for our readers, it’s a major pet peeve to see so many books out there that are so poorly edited.

Poor editors

Along those lines, many authors express frustration over investing in an editor and then publishing a book believing that it’s error-free only to receive multiple reviews stating otherwise. There are people out there claiming to be editors who have no business doing so. Authors should take care and vet the people they hire to edit their books. Always, always, always get a free sample edit and have someone with a good eye look it over before you pay someone to edit your book.

Complaints about book pricing 

Okay, folks…let’s get real here. Imagine you worked on a project for many months, sometimes up to a year or more. While working on that project, you took time away from your family, stayed up late at night, skipped weekends and holidays, and spent hundreds to thousands of your hard-earned dollars making the project as perfect as it could be. Then you put your project up for sale for people to experience. What value would you place on that project for all of the time, effort, and money you invested? When we hear readers express that they don’t want to pay $2.99 or $4.99 for an e-book because it’s “only a couple of hours of entertainment,” it makes us want to cry. Even at that price point, many authors don’t even make their money back on their books.

Readers who return e-books after reading

This pet peeve is soul-crushing if the person doing it is only being cheap. It’s one thing to return an e-book if you accidentally purchase it or even if you start it and don’t like it, but to read it completely and then return it so you don’t have to pay the author is hitting us right where it hurts.

internet trolls are one of writers' pet peeves

Photo by Flickr user Babbletrish and reused here with Creative Commons license.

Trolls

No one really knows why trolls do what they do, but they live to create havoc in an author’s life. They enjoy going from author to author and book to book leaving distasteful reviews, comments about the author, and other inflammatory remarks. This type of behavior just shouldn’t be accepted in any forum.

Piracy: the biggest of writers’ pet peeves

Having pirate sites stealing our books and offering them for free or even for sale is one of the biggest (and most difficult to battle) issues in publishing today. Readers, we beg you … please don’t use pirating sites.

What writing pet peeves should we add to this list? Let us know in the comments here or on social media!

Raine Thomas

Bestselling author Raine Thomas has some writers' pet peevesThe multiple award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction, Raine is known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination. She has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen.

She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Where to find her

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Monday musing: Writing, like life, depends on which road you take

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This post originally appeared in Caleb and Linda Pirtle’s blog on February 22, 2017.

Writing is like life. You can take any road you want. Each has a different story.

Each choice has a consequence you have to live with for the rest of your life.

“WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?” I asked the old man sitting in the back chair at the back table of a writer’s conference.

He looked at me strangely, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Writing?” he asked.

“Writing a novel,” I said.

“Do you know anything about life?” he asked.

“Not a lot.”

He shrugged as though I was helpless, and he was probably right.

“Learn about life,” he said, sipping on a free cup of cold coffee. “Then you’ll know how to write a novel.”

He paused and watched a spider meander aimlessly across the ceiling.

The speaker droned on.

Hadn’t said anything yet.

Doubted if he would.

“It’s all about choices,” the old man said.

“Life?” I asked.

“Novels, too,” he said. “Stories are about the choices we make. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

“What kind of choices?” I wanted to know.

“When I was a young man,” he said, “I could go to work, or I could go to college. I had a choice to make.”

“What’d you do?”

“Went to work.” He shrugged again. “Couldn’t afford college.”

I forgot the speaker.

I gave the old man my full attention.

“If I hadn’t gone to work,” he said, “I would have never gone to Oklahoma City.”

He grinned.

“If I hadn’t gone to Oklahoma City,” he said, “I would have never gone into the Boots and Saddles bar.”

The old man leaned forward, his elbows on the table.

“If hadn’t gone in the bar,” he said, “I would have never met Mary Ann McClure.”

He was cleaning out the cellar of his memory now.

“If I had never met Mary Ann McClure,” he said, “I would have never quit my job and took the train to Omaha.”

“Why the train?” I asked.

“Didn’t have a car.”

“Why did you leave Oklahoma City?”

“Mary Ann McClure was a married woman.” He took another sip of his coffee. “I had a choice to make. I could stay, or I could run.”

“Was she worth fighting for?” I asked.

“She wasn’t worth dying for.”

“You think her husband would have killed you?” I wanted to know.

“He had a choice to make,” the old man said. “He could shoot me, or he could forget it, forgive Mary Ann, and let the whole sordid thing go.”

“He didn’t let it go, I guess.”

“Shot at me twice.”

“Did he hit you?”

“He wasn’t much of a lover, Mary Ann told me. He was an even worse shot.”

“What happened to Mary Ann?” I asked.

“She had a choice to make,” the old man said. “She could stay with him or leave.”

“Where would she go?”

“Certainly not with me.”

“How about divorce?”

“That was his choice.”

“What did he decide?”

“He and Mary Ann took a second honeymoon to Estes Park in the Rockies,” he said. “Love is a wonderful thing. So is forgiveness. They went hiking early one morning. She came back. He didn’t.”

“She kill him?”

“She said he fell.”

“Did they ever find the body?”

“The Ranger had a choice to make,” the old man said. “He could investigate a crime or spend the night with his primary suspect.”

“What’d he do?”

“Never found the body.”

“Anybody ever look for it?” I asked.

“No reason to.”

“Why not?”

“The missing man was never reported missing.”

The old man grinned.

The speaker was through.

And so was he.

I looked at him strangely, a puzzled expression on my face.

“Do you expect me to believe all of that?” I asked.

“Don’t care if you do,” he said. “Don’t care if you don’t.”

His grin grew wider.

He stood up and ambled toward the back of the room for another cup of coffee.

“That’s the choice you’ll have to make,” he said. “When you come to a crossroad, it’s all about choices.”

“How will I know which road to take?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “There is no wrong choice, but each choice has a consequence you have to live with for the rest of your life.”

Those were the last words I heard him say.

I waited for him.

There were other questions I wanted to ask.

But he was like the man on the mountain.

He didn’t come back.

In my Ambrose Lincoln series, Ambrose never knows which road he took until it’s too late.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including four noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of LiesNight Side of Dark and Place of Skulls. Secrets and Conspiracy are now audiobooks on audible.com. His most recent novel is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays for major networks. His narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk, is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield in Texas. From the Dark Side of the Rainbow is the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third-best selling art book of all time.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Get to know Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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Monday Musings: Readers and writers together

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Yesterday, I took part in an event called Art in the Park, a sort of market in the town next to the one I live in. I set up a table to display and sell some of my books, alongside painters, jewelry-makers, knitters, potters and a couple of other writers. In the middle was a covered area, where children were playing music. Across the aisle from me, the Ottawa Art Gallery set up a tent where small children could make crafts.

I did not have great expectations for the event, but am I ever glad I was wrong. For the first two hours, I barely had a break between people who asked me questions about my books. It was ego-boosting, fun and informative, as well. My favourite part was people saying “Wait—are you the author? Wow.”

As it turned out, I should have brought more books.

I sold several sets of the Eastern Front trilogy, and completely sold out of volume 1, Army of Worn Soles.

Scott Bury at his display at Art in the Park, Stittsville, ON, June 4, 2017

But more important than that was the opportunity to talk with readers. Many people stopped at my table, curious about the poster I put up: “A Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army in the Second World War.” That led to questions and conversations about history, their personal interests and preferences, and their stories.

A preponderance of people who bought the war-based trilogy had some kind of connection to a military, or experiences in conflict. More than one was a veteran of the Canadian or British armed forces.

And all but two were older than me. One lady told me she was an avid reader but never read war stories, because she had lived through the London Blitz and had had enough of war, directly. She also never read romances.

Another man was interested in the eastern-European angle of the story, because his mother was born in Germany, and his grandfather had disappeared after being captured by the Soviets.

Younger people were more interested in my first novel, the historical fantasy, The Bones of the Earth. But being young, they did not buy any copies. Still, it was fun to talk with them about fantasy, reading, writing and what subjects or ideas caught their interest.

Reader engagement

All the writing coaches and advisors tell us writers how important it is to “engage” with your audience, to exchange ideas and to learn why they read, or don’t. While it’s relatively easy for musicians and other performing artists to do, for writers, engaging directly with an audience is more of a challenge.

Social media is supposed to be a way to engage with readers, but there’s nothing like meeting face-to-face.

What about you, readers? What would you like to ask writers? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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