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Does Book Promo Really Work?

November 19, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , , ,

Monica Stoner/Member at Large
We’ve all heard the quote “50% of advertising is effective, but no one knows which 50%.”  I’d say for books it’s more like 25% and we really don’t know which 75% is just spinning our wheels.  In an ideal world we would be able to write the best books ever created, and the world would beat a path to our door. Of course in that same ideal world I could have a bagel smothered in butter every morning and lose five pounds a week.
Yeah, that’s not happening either.
So we blog and Facebook, we Tweet and we join Triberr to help ourselves by helping others.  And we sigh in wonder at the success of other writers who don’t seem to be doing anything yet doggonit their Facebook page has 1258 followers.
Some people are a whiz at promotion. I hope you took advantage of Tara Lain when she was there earlier this month.  She’s amazing at promo. And the rest of us stagger along.
In an attempt to come a bit closer to mainstream I took advantage of a current blog hop/tag, The Next Big Thing blog, which turned out to be a lot of fun, since it’s about our WIP instead of the ones already in print, and aren’t we generally far more enthusiastic about what we’re writing than what we’ve written?
Even better, this hop/tag lets us help promote our fellow writers, so I was able to give a shout out to Lex Valentine, as well as several other exciting authors.  You can check it out here: Mona’s Next Big Thing
Yeah, I don’t use Monica when I write, funny story about that.  Then again my name has been a funny family story for most of my life and I ended up sharing that on the Black Opal Blog But Who Am I?
And of all things, Skhye Moncrieff invited me to blog about the inspiration for my first book, and it ended up publishing today.
So it looks like I’ve managed to be in four places at one time. Maybe one of these will be the tipping point for my fabulous success at promotion.  Just in case I’m going to keep on with my NaNo book.
Miss you all

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First Signing

April 18, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , , ,
Monica Stoner, Member at Large

Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America gives their authors roses for each sale. As a member many years ago, I dreamed of the day I’d stand up at the front to receive my rose, and my acceptance speech. Eventually I decided those would only be dreams. Until I saw an e-mail stating: “Black Opal Books is actively looking for new and special manuscripts.” What the heck, I thought. Might as well be rejected by a new press as an established press. I did a final polish, had a few critical friends beta read, and sent it off. There were dog shows in Phoenix, and I actively avoided looking for computer connections to check while we were gone.

Come Monday, I turned on the computer, connected to my e-mail, and began to scroll messages. And–what? A message from “editor” at “blackopalbooks.” Wow, this would be the fastest rejection I’d ever had. Oh well, might as well get it over with.

“We like your book, and would like to publish it.” I stared at the screen. Turned off the e-mail program. Started it again. “We like your book and would like to publish it.” Still the same words. So I printed it out, just in case it was a computer glitch. Yep, it said the same thing. So I called my husband into the room. He looked at the screen, looked at me, and said, “Cool.” Just to be sure, I sent the excerpt to my friends, whom I see once or twice a year, and stay in touch electronically. They concurred, and sent virtual high fives.

It took twenty four hours to decide if I would accept the offer. Actually it took ten seconds, but I pretended to need to think about it. Yeah, right. I was valiantly attempting to follow the advice given in so many lectures and on line discussions. In actual fact I intended to grab for the brass ring and enjoy the ride. Which I did.
The day “My Killer My Love”came out was the day my husband was admitted to the hospital and the next eight months were a challenge on all levels. He lost the battle with cancer and diabetes in January of the next year, and in the months since then I’ve learned to readjust and rebuild. Come April of this year, events combined to bring me to Southern California, including a Saluki specialty held in Tom’s honor, a gathering of our dog friends after the show, and another gathering for his family, non dog friends, and former students. This would help close many of the connections he had made throughout his life.

And, yes, it was the same weekend as the Orange County meeting. I could have my first book signing among the people who had the greatest effect on my life as a writer. What would be better? Too bad it was the same weekend as the RT Convention in Chicago, but so many of those I remembered from before were still in California.

The roses came home with me and are in a Mikasa vase one of the dogs won years ago. One rose for “My Killer My Love,” the book I signed in April. One for “Teach Me To Forget,” coming out in May, just a few weeks from now. Life does go on.

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Of Edits and Covers and other Minutiae

March 19, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , , , ,

Monica Stoner, Member at Large
I continue to be amazed to read “no one edits books anymore.” Mind you, I have read quite a few books that don’t seem to be edited at all. But it’s hard to say if the books were not edited or maybe they just were not edited well.  However that works, I do know some publishers do still edit submissions, and state so quite clearly in their websites.
I can only personally speak of my own publisher, Black Opal Books.  My books have received three edits: one for spelling and basic grammar, one for syntax and style, and a final review by the lead editor.  Each time the book comes back to me, I read it from beginning to end, considering the suggestions, made some of my own, and along the way found even more places where words could be replaced, eliminated, polished.  This after what I thought was an intensive rewrite.  There really is always room for improvement.
And how many times are we told: “The author has no control over the title, the cover, the blurb, or anything else to do with their book but the actual words?”  Lucky me, I have not experienced this situation.  The cover for My Killer My Love was collaboration between me and another Black Opal Books author.  I had the face I wanted to use (see image on the right) and I knew I wanted the face “haunting” an ancient forest.  

For my upcoming book, the edits made Teach Me To Forget more poignant than I had ever imagined it could be.  The blurb was a matter of a few messages between Lauri Wellington, editor extraordinaire, and me.  But I could NOT come up with any sort of cover.  Too many scenes crowded into my head: Bethany’s travesty of a wedding, her later success as a feature writer, her Irish setter, or Jonathan’s past life as a jet setter, his new life as a nature photographer.  Any of those would have been a decent cover, but none sang to me.  So I admitted defeat, and asked for help.  Within a day, I received this cover:
Okay, so Jonathan and Bethany never really got it on in the middle of the woods.  But for such a pretty cover, I think we can allow a little poetic license.
Teach Me To Forget will available in e-book format May, 2012 from Black Opal Books.  
Mona Karel’s blog talks about cooking and dieting and getting by.  
Come join the fun.
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Book Covers

November 19, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

By Member at Large Monica Stoner, w/a Mona Karel

Deep in the recesses of my overstuffed memory is a ditty that supposedly did the rounds at a SciFi Convention. To the tune of “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain”

“There’s a dragon on the cover of my book
There’s a dragon on the cover of my book
He is green and he is scale-y but he’s nowhere in my tale-y
There’s a dragon on the cover of my book.”

In the process of research of this ditty, I came across several other stanzas, including a bimbo on the cover, and a castle on the cover (for a book set in Seattle) and slightly different wording. The ending I remember referred to having a “wrong” cover is still better than finding one’s book in a remainder pile. By the way, if you Google that first line you can have a lot of fun missing out on your NaNo count while doing research.
Mind you this was a long time ago, before even Rocket Books (remember those?) had been created. Authors had no say in their covers, and were occasionally seen to wince when presented with the scantily clad heroine and the buff hero in excruciatingly tight trousers, open shirt, blond hair flying in the wind–never mind that he’s written as a brunette and he’s French. They were told the publisher knew what sold books much better than any writer.

Fast forward to now, and look at the changes in the publishing world. Digital books, print on demand, self publishing, author input on covers. And what do we see on many books? Bare chests, flowing hair, large breasts–and that’s the male. Seems even when the option exists to have input on our covers, authors are opting for the beef cake.

Do these covers really sell more books, even when they’re only displayed on the computer screen because we read electronically? Is there really more market for headless bare chested men with impossibly large breasts and muscles where no one has ever seen muscles?

I realize some books lend themselves to these covers, since they are written more erotically. But not all of them. A friend did a survey for the cover of her second space opera book, showing various covers, and the most popular was the one with a bare chested man, with planets and space ships in the background. So maybe those covers do serve a purpose.

I’m contemplating covers since Black Opal Books has offered to publish my second book. The working title is “Teach Me To Forget,” and it’s about a photographer and a writer. So should I have a well muscled nekkid chested guy on the cover, holding a camera? I feel fortunate with the cover on “My Killer My Love,” since it conveys the mystery man in the woods concept, but I wonder if I should have looked farther for a more revealing photo?

What do you think, as writers and readers? Would you be more likely to pick up a book by an unknown author if the cover could qualify for serious eye candy?

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Counting Down

May 19, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

by Monica Stoner, Member at Large

My book releases May 25. The original release date was planned for May 17, until my editor asked if it could be delayed a week. Since I wasn’t married to any particular date, I thought why not? It was only a few more days. Only a few. Well, okay, eight more days. I could handle an extra week.

Seems I forgot what it was like to sit through that last week of school before summer vacation. Actually, it’s more like the last week before a litter is due to whelp. The mama dog gets bigger and bigger, and you rush around setting up whelping boxes, sterilizing equipment, putting everyone on warning. Then you wait. And wait. Eventually the future hopefuls come squirming out and you can waste the next nine weeks cooing over them.

Doesn’t quite work that way with a book, of course. First there’s the contract to review, then the edits. You find out your deathless prose isn’t quite as perfect as you thought, and that a misplaced comma really can make a difference. Not to mention you’ve bounced point of view around so much your paragraphs have whiplash.

If you’re fortunate enough to have cover input, that’s one more detail to consider. Then there’s the blurb, the cover copy and don’t forget the dedication. These days you also have to have a web presence and be ready to go on a blog tour introducing yourself and your book to the literary world. All this while going about your mundane life of job, housework, family.

I haven’t had so much fun in years.

It helps to have an editor who listens when I explain why my people did what they did. The amazing support of other writers lights up the gloomiest of days. And then, of course, the reviews. I have to share my first reviews (click here) since they had me grinning like a loon for days.

In the midst of this whirlwind of fun, I’m working on a new story. Here’s where raising dogs and writing part ways. You whelp a litter, and you can spend the next year or so raising it out. You have a book published, you better be working on another one while you’re basking in the glow and doing the “fun stuff” or you might have a long time between glows. So I’m typing away, in between sneaking pictures at my cover.

Wow, I’m a writer.

Writing as Mona Karel, Monica’s first book, MY KILLER MY LOVE, will be released on May 25, 2011 from Black Opal Books.

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