Friday, July 25, 2014

Dry Spells: Downtime and the Creative Life by Christine Locke

It's a gorgeous summer, one that I planned to spend writing.  And I am writing, but not like I did last year or even the year before that.  In an unusually rainy southern summer, I'm in the middle of a dry spell.

I'm not the first to point out that creative people need downtime.  In fact, I've just read a couple of books in my "Creative Life" project that assert this as part of the book's premise.  It's fine when I plan the downtime.  But what about the writing nights that get co-opted by sickness or home repair?  What about when those things happen when I was REALLY planning to work that night?

I didn't finish my Camp NaNo project (that would be for March).  That's a first.  I wrote about this in my book review post.  What happened?  Life.  For someone who committed in January 2012 to take this writing thing seriously, and for the most part I've been successful, this was disastrous.

But, then, you can't really write when your water heater is spraying a waterfall into your back yard.  Ditto when your "other" (rental because we couldn't sell it) house needs thousands of dollars  worth of repair and the only way to reign it in is to do some of that yourself.  Add household bouts of conjunctivitis and a raging summer cold into the mix, and, yeah.  My writing took some down time while my life went double time.

There have been some pretty serious jolts in the last few months, most of them I don't really want to think about now that they're over and I'm safely back in my office during my appointed hour to "sit butt in chair and place hands on keyboard."  I don't want to review how I got to this state, but I'm sitll here.  It's so bad, I'm not sure I even remember where I was going with that project, despite the plot charts I made.  So, what to do?

I'm going back to the advice a friend once gave me, in 2012, when I decided to try self-publishing and was wondering which project to throw out there.  "I don't know," my friend said.  "Whichever one is closest to being finished?"


Over the next few weeks as I ease back in, I'm picking up where I left off on a couple of revision projects. One thing I had ALMOST finished was the latest (I've stopped saying last) revision of the third and probably final novel in The Legacy Series. It's long overdue.

Then, I might just get back to that story chart.  Maybe.

Update: I have finished Out of Place and sent it to a professional editor.  More on that soon...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What to Do/What Not To Do: The Bookblog Query, by Christine Locke

My beloved grandfather used to make a joke after his retirement.  He used to say that, having done it all now, he would be writing two books for the betterment of future generations:
What To Do
What Not To Do.
He was a funny guy, and the French accent he never lost added to the delivery.  I miss my grandfather. He was only kidding, but sometimes I wish he really had written those books.  So, in the spirit of Pepere's generosity,  I'm sharing my approach to querying book bloggers.


What To Do/What Not To Do: The Bookblog Query

What To Do:

Use a list of bookbloggers.
I'm amazed at how many writers--especially indie-published writers--don't know about bookblogger lists.  Here's the one I use, The Indie View.  Here you have, on one handy site, a list of bloggers looking for books, what kind of books they want, their preferred submission guidelines, and how to get in touch.  And here is an excellent post on by Kimberly Grabas on how to get reviews for your book; it contains links to EIGHT blogger lists, including The Indie View.  If you want reviews, you need to know about these lists and you need to familiarize yourself with them.

Query blogs reviewing what you write.
This seems like a no-brainer, but, hey, I understand the temptation.  I state on my blog header that I read mostly gothic and magic realism, but I get asked to review books from other genres all the time.  Serious book bloggers often have a very specific market in mind, although some just want to share the love for books and review everything--they might even have more than one reviewer posting to the blog.  So READ the genres the blog reviews.  The lists I've posted, above, clearly state the interests of the bloggers.  Be sure you only query the bloggers who review what you write.  And that leads me to....

Know what you write.
I know, I know.  Your story poured out of you, you wrote it during NaNoWriMo, it's edited, formatted, and so brilliant it does not fit neatly into any known category.  We've all felt this way, even those of us who don't want to admit it.  Then, if you're smart (and you've written a book, revised and proofread it, designed your own cover, etc, so you ARE), you'll make a decision about where your book fits BEST.  If you write fiction, here's some great advice on how to do this from Rock Your Fiction.  Rachelle Gardner also gives a few neat tricks for determining your genre here.

Have a form letter ready--and tailor it.
It's not wrong to use a form letter.  If you have experience querying agents, you may have already figured this out.  For the bookblog query, you're not going to send the exact same thing to every blogger.  The idea is to have a basic letter you can edit to fulfill each blogger's requirements.

Offer to guest post/donate for a giveaway/answer interview questions.
Bloggers need good content, so you can offer to help by writing a guest post (if you do this, give them original content).   Here's my post about guest-blogging.
It's SO easy to donate kindle copies of your book for a blogger's giveaway.  After the giveaway, the blogger will send you emails of winners.  You go to amazon and buy gift copies of your books to be sent to those email addresses.  Easy!  And a great investment, too.  I suspect I've gotten reviews from blog giveaway copies.
Some bloggers have a list of set questions for the authors they feature.  Offer to answer those, and do it on time.
These folks who blog about books have readers you want to reach.  If they put your book on their blog, readers will see it.  Offer them anything they need from you as long as it's legal and ethical--and do it politely.

Read the blog.
Self-explanatory, I hope.  But I will say this: what if you only see the blog on the blog list, go to the submission page and follow the requirements, and you don't read some of the reviews?  Well, it might not matter...then again, you might end up with your book on a blog you'd rather not publicize (insert your own political/moral/aesthetic reason here).  Read the blog.  Just do it.

Use every linky the blogger provides.
Follow this person everywhere they'd like to be followed.  Start by subscribing to the blog.  Don't you dare query a bookblogger and fail to follow her/his blog.  Don't.  Just don't.
And, once you've followed, you can give the blog some shouts.  For example, you might develop a twitter list of bookbloggers.  Your twitter friends who are also writers will appreciate this.

A few final suggestions:
On the blog,you will find submission instructions.  FOLLOW THEM.  To the last letter.
Have a polite response ready for rejections.  You can still make a professional connection out of a bookblogger who does not want to review your book.  Thank  them for considering and suggest you connect through social media anyway--after all, you share a love of literature!  You might just strike up a friendship this way, which, after all, was what this social media thing was supposed to be all about, right?
If your book is reviewed, PROMOTE the post.  Remember,  you promised to do this.  As long as the blogger lets you know about the post, you gotta follow through.  You don't even have to do this in a self-serving fashion.  You can take the opportunity to promote the book blog itself--or the blogger--instead of mentioning your own book by name.

Remember bloggers are people, and they often do this for free or for little more than free books.  Like your writing, the blog may be a labor of love, so remember that you have a lot in common and always be polite.

What Not to Do:

I do review books, though only what I would read anyway and pretty much on a whim.  Yet, the fact that I write reviews causes some folks to track me down and "query" me, to put it, um, politely.  So, yes, I DO have some idea of what NOT to do.  These items are self-explanatory, right?  Right?

Tweet at them with a link to your book.
DM them on twitter with a link to your book, or a free chapter of your book or a collection of short stories or....  Don't DM links.  Period.
Message them on goodreads with a link to your book.
Message them on goodreads with a query.
Query to their bookblog's facebook page.
Post your book on their facebook page.  (Really?  That does NOT make me want to read your book!)
Message their bookblog's facebook page with a demand that they like your writer page.
Insult them, as in "You liked that awful TFIOS and mine is WAY better!"
Ask them to review your book and then pretend not to know them when/if they respond.  Yes, it actually happened to me on one of the few occasions  I asked a querier for a review copy.  "Are you with a publisher?" she asked.  WTH?  Did you not check out my profile when you queried me?  I don't even publish my own books through a publisher!

If you blog about books at all, I bet you have a few tips you could add.  Feel free to share them in the comments....
As always, happy writing and happy reading!  They'll both make you happier while living.