I got a surprise today, and it wasn't the ice storm that hit our area. I wasn't expecting a lot of sales for my third Yarn Genie Mystery novel, "Murder at Yarn Mansion," until the book's official launch June 2, but the book started rising up in the Amazon rankings almost immediately. Even more surprising is that when I checked the status of the first two novels, "Knitting Up a Murder," and "Hooked Into Murder," I saw their rankings rising correspondingly.
The take away from this: If you want your first novel in a series to be noticed and read, write another book and keep moving forward with your writing until you get to where you want to go.
To keep myself moving forward, I've already started novel number four.
-Celeste Bennett, author of Yarn Genie Mysteries
If you want to be a published author, you need to prove you are a serious writer by writing a great query. Think of a query as a sales pitch, because that is precisely what it is. A well-written query will let an agent or publisher know that you are serious about being published and that your book is just what they are looking for.
If you query is concise, compelling, and grammatically correct, the agent or publisher will naturally want to learn more about your book and request a sample.
If your query is sloppy or fraught with errors, what does that say about your writing? Or how you view yourself as a writer?
Queries can take many forms. Don't be deceived into thinking an email query can be slap-dashed together with run-on sentences, spelling errors, and poor grammar and then sent off to an agent or publisher with favorable results.
Always put your best foot forward when contacting a potential agent or publisher whether it be on the phone, on social media, email, or formal letter. Show the receiver of your communication that you are a professional, one that they'd be crazy not to want to work with and not the other way around.
Songs, sights, smells, and sounds of the season invoke memories of days gone by. We encourage everyone to write today's events and memories down for future generations to enjoy and understand how your life was "back then," however...
When you write your memoir keep in mind that:
You must tell the truth. You can tell the truth to a point, but keep in mind what you say must be factual. Don’t embellish or invent anything if you are calling your work non-fiction. If you create dialogue or swap out physical characteristics, then call your work fiction based on real-life events, the designation of “fiction” to keep you out of hot water may not work because…
Someone might be hurt by what you have written. Our lives are never easy, and something you think is an insignificant event or situation may have a different connotation to another person involved in the situation. Have the people you are writing about review and approve your work before you submit it for publication. If they are okay with what you’ve written, have them sign a document stating this just in case they change their mind when the book is put into print.
Writing dialogue for a memoir is tricky. If you have written transcripts, court documents, video or other firsthand materials then, by all means, use them for the dialogue. If you are writing dialogue from your memory alone be cautious because you may be subject to libel if what you write damages someone’s reputation and you have nothing to back up your facts but your memory.
Writing a memoir can be a liberating experience and is a great historical document to pass on to your descendants. If you do not feel up to the rigors of writing a memoir, then do a personal journal. Your family in the future will thank you for it.
You have written a book, and it is a darn good one, but it will just sit on the shelf or be buried online unless a reader knows about it. Here are a few low cost ways, that you as the author, can help the publisher get your book noticed.
1. Have people sign up to receive emails, a newsletter, or get a free download when they come to your author website. Having them take a survey or asking them to leave a comment will also work to make a connection. You can then provide regular updates and notify them of new releases.
2. Place your profile and picture on Amazon Central, BookBub.com, GoodReads, and NetGalley, or as many of these as is practical. If you can not do them all, concentrate on Amazon Central and GoodReads.
3. Schedule a book launch party with the understanding that you will spend more in venue and snacks than you will probably make at the launch. The exposure you get from a book launch will encourage future sales.
4. Do a webinar or a Facebook live video to interact with others and sell yourself. Don’t sell your book on your webinar or video. Instead, provide valuable content, and people will want to learn more about your book.
5. Add your book title to your email signature. Put it on your business card, if there’s room. Add it to your social media profiles. Do a thumbnail of your latest book at make that you social media picture for a while.
6. Sign up to speak at civic organizations who are looking for lunch or meeting speakers. Again, don't go there intending to do a sales pitch. Keep your talk interesting and have visuals if you can. You do want to have at least one book on display on a nice stand, with one or two next to it. You can bring others with you to sell and keep them out of sight in the event someone asks for a book.
7. Enter writing competitions or apply for book awards, but be careful of the cost and reputation. Not all of them are legitimate, and some are costly with very little chance of winning.
8. Get a booth at author or book events if the cost is not too high. Look at past attendees to see if you can anticipate a return on your investment or you can team up with another author to share costs.
9. Give a few free copies of your book to appropriate clubs or organizations that have a tie to your subject matter.
10. Add social media share buttons to your website and make sure your fans have a way of sharing your social media posts. It is usually best to have an author page separate from your personal social media account.
11. Contact your local paper and see if they are interested in doing a story on you, your book or whatever makes your story unique.
12. If you are an expert at something, HARO is a site where journalists seek out relevant experts to interview for stories.
13. Create some swag themed to go with your book to sell at shows, on your website, or to give away free with a book purchase. Here again look at the cost. Some swag can be very pricey.
14. Contact book clubs and offer to do a video chat or skype or personal visit to their group.
15. Team up with others whose work or business complements your book. Like doing a book signing at a yarn shop if your book is a cozy mystery about yarn crafting.
16. Offer a price reduction for those who buy your book directly from you.
17. Create a blog that covers things your readers might be interested in. Try to stay focused o that theme and update it regularly with fresh content.
18. Do not be afraid to ask others to spread the word if they enjoyed your book.
It is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. November is the month when participant writers go crazy trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's an entire novel by most standards. One year I was so close to the 50,000 word limit, that on November 30th at 11:30 pm I made all the contractions into two words and swapped out the character first names for their full legal names and just made the word count before the deadline. '
It's not to late in the month to start writing your 50,000 word novel. To learn more go to https://nanowrimo.org.
We all make judgements about people we first meet. It is a survival mechanism that is hardwired in our brain which picks up on subtle clues such as a handshake, eye contact, how a person walks or dresses, or their “body” language. If you want more believable characters, use this knowledge of judgement making to your advantage in your novels.
If your character is an extrovert, let your readers learn this through the characters unconscious behaviors of speech, dress, and mannerisms. When you dress your character in an outfit that exemplifies their extrovert tendencies the reader’s brain will identify the character as an extrovert without you having to type the word "extrovert" into the story physically.
In Knitting Up a Murder, Mandy’s character was displayed in the clothes she wore to the courtroom and the way she behaved. If I had dressed her in penny loafers, and had her shying away from the media cameras it would have given the reader a different opinion of her character. However, her clumsiness in those stilettos also said something about her character.
Everyone will be on his or her best behavior when he or she is interacting with “important” people. How a character treats people without power or status can be a good way to show the character’s true nature without spelling it out. In Hooked Into Murder what was your impression of the alley bum when Imogene’s dog ran up to him, and he gave the dog some of his food? What were your feelings toward Garrett when he kicked a homeless man?
In the show Frasier, Frasier, a known self aggrandizer, showed his true character when he missed the “Fraiser Day” celebration to talk to a trouble cab driver.
Is your character bored? Do tell the read this, show it by his pacing or picking link off his jacket.
As great as this writing technique is, be careful of having your character be too close to the ideal of their character trait. Having a character that is too predictable will be boring for the reader. You might even want to sometimes turn a character trait around as a point of conflict. Imogene showed up late for her interview in Hooked Into Murder, but it was not because she was lazy, rude or not interested in the job.
Remember that showing a character trait by dress, deportment, actions, and deeds is always better then telling. That could be why I love the show "Fraiser" so much.
Celeste Bennett, author of the Yarn Genie Mysteries
You’ve finished your book, it’s being published, and now you want to set up an author website so you can connect with your readers on a more personal level. That means you’ll need to turn to your writing skills to write your bio. There are some things to consider if you want to be taken seriously as an author.
1. Be professional, but personal. Readers who go to your website want to know you as a person. Let your writing style shine through when you do your author bio. If your writing style includes humor, feel free to be humorous here as well.
2. Most website bios are written in the third person even though you are the one writing the bio.
3. Be sure and mention something interesting about your writing. What inspired you to write, why you wrote a particular story or tell something interesting about your book. If you have something unique about your writing habits, like you write standing up, or you can’t write until all the pencils in the house have been sharpened, most people would find that interesting. Quirky, but interesting.
4. If you belong to any writer trade associations or any organization that relates to your writing briefly mention this. Mentioning it gives you some credibility as a writer.
5. If you have won book or writing awards briefly mention them to further your credibility as a writer. Notice I said briefly. Expounding on awards and prizes ad nauseam only gives you credibility as a bore.
6. Only mention your education or job history if it is relevant to your writing or your books. You don’t want to give irrelevant detail to your readers. They go to your website to learn about you as a writer, and if the information doesn’t relate to that, they will probably be bored and move on.
7. Some writers will mention their family, but this isn't a must and if you want to keep your private life private I recommend only mentioning you have a spouse and family or just not mentioning them at all.
Once you have the bio drafted, read through it and have a trusted friend do a read through to make sure what you have is relevant and doesn’t put the reader to sleep. The great thing about your author website is that you get to change it whenever you want so feel free to go back and freshen it up and mix things up every now and again.
When we write we want our readers to feel exactly what we feel - but sometimes words don't quite capture the whole picture. It can be difficult to nail down that perfect word that truly portrays the emotion we wish to convey. To avoid spending endless time searching the Thesaurus, there is a fancy chart called the "Wheel of Feelings". See below for help!
You've got a story bouncing around in your head, and you just have to put the pen to paper to get it out. But once you sit down to do so, it can be hard to get started. After all, many readers judge a book by its first few lines. The three main ways to start things off are:
The most important thing to remember when starting those crucial first lines is that you can always re-write them! Get something down, make some progress on the story, then go back and review these tips to see if improvements can be made.
As writers we like to evoke strong emotions, we want to convey the intensity of a situation. We want to show extremes. To accomplish this goal, we often get a little lazy in our vocabulary selection and overuse the word "very". To be honest, there are rare, if any, situations in which using the word "very" is appropriate.
Of course, if your purpose is to get your words on the page, you may end up using very to keep you flow of thought running, but be sure to go back with a thesaurus to improve your vocabulary choices.
It is always best to take a "very" phrase and turn it into one word. See below for a few common examples:
very good = excellent
very bad = unfortunate
very happy = jubilant
very sad = sorrowful
very tall = towering
very painful = excruciating
very quiet = hushed
very shy = timid
Other times, you may choose to simply replace the word "very". Here are some suggested replacements:
certainly decidedly deeply
exceedingly extremely greatly
highly incredibly noticeable
particularly profoundly remarkably
surprisingly terribly truly
unusually vastly considerably
dearly emphatically extensively
largely notably positively
Island City Publishing is here to help you! We have tips to encourage and inspire you - and to help you find ways to improve your writing.