Publishing Pitfalls: IWSG

It’s time for my August contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog.  The question my fellow writers have been asked to answer this month is: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Be sure to click on the #IWSG icon at the end of my post and check out the responses from dozens of interesting writers.


This month’s question specifically asks about the pitfalls faced on my publication journey, and not on my writing journey.  The two are vastly different. Writing is challenging, but it’s fun and exciting. Publishing is also challenging, but not so much fun.

I chose early on to self-publish.  I’d read horror stories about the vast amount of time spent writing query letters, chasing agents and publishers.  I understood the clear advantages of traditional publishing, but preferred to write at my own pace and select my own genres and subjects. Also, when I began writing, my focus was to spend my time writing and engaging other writers to learn from their experiences. Publishing was something far out on the horizon.  I’d worry about that later.

Here’s the pitfall.  When you elect to self-publish, you are chief cook and bottlewasher, and the toughest of the bottlewashing tasks is marketing.  I completely underestimated the time and expense required to market myself and my novels. I still fall short dedicating the necessary time and resources.

Self-publishing is equivalent to running a small business on your own. You create, package, market, and deliver the product. You can subcontract pieces of this process, but this comes at a price.  Unfortunately, there is little to no money coming in until you’re successful, and it costs time and money to be successful—a true chicken and egg dilemma.

The question is: How much money do you spend on marketing trying to be successful?  I’m still spending, both time and money, and have no answer to this question.   I’m hoping it’s all a numbers game, and when I reach a critical threshold on reviews, email subscribers, and Facebook followers, the dam will break loose and the sales will flow.  But this is probably just wishful thinking.

For my new novel, At the River’s Edge, I’m spending more time on marketing, and I’m even sending out a few query letters.  I enjoy running my small business, but I’ve reached a point where I need to be more successful selling what I spend so much time producing.  It’s a pitfall I must conquer.

Many thanks to Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery for hosting this month’s blog hop.  To follow nearly 200 writers participating in this week’s IWSG blog hop, click on the icon below.  You can also follow on twitter @TheIWSG  or #IWSG.

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Using Props in Fiction: AuthorToolBox

It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of writers share their writing experiences.  You can check out their thoughts by clicking on the icon at the end of my post.  This month I discuss the use of props in my soon-to-be-released murder mystery.

At the River's Edge Vehicles

What do a 1950 Ford pickup and a ragtop Jeep have to do with writing?

Just as movies and plays use props to provide dramatic interest and depth to characters and scenes, so do novels. A prop is anything movable or portable on a stage or set, distinct from the actors, scenery, and costumes. I use a Ford pickup and a Jeep as props in my upcoming murder mystery, At the River’s Edge.

James Wolsey is a 26-year-old college graduate who returns to his hometown of Sunset Peak, North Carolina to help his single mother run the family hardware business. After mysteriously killing off the historic town’s mayor in chapter one, I introduce James. Most of what you learn about the dark-haired, former high school quarterback is from dialogue and interaction with his mom, friends, and newfound love interest, Emily Edwards.

Readers discover James had planned a career in corporate America, but couldn’t turn down his mother’s request for assistance.  He’s trying to make the best of the situation when he meets Emily, the granddaughter of a moonshiner. The spirited, green-eyed blonde is haunted by rumors of moonshine money, allegedly buried by her late grandfather in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Misguided fortune hunters are obsessed with Emily and what she might know.

It’s at this point where James is revealed as the proud owner of his grandfather’s restored, jet black, 1950 Ford pickup, and I place Emily in a red ragtop Jeep. Why bother describing the vehicles James and Emily drive?

The vehicles allow readers to form their own opinions about the characters who own them. Without putting it into words, driving a vintage pickup strengthens James’ image as a rugged fisherman and outdoorsman.  It paints him as a man’s man not swayed by fancy cars.  You learn that James is proud of the craftsmanship and hard work his late grandfather put into the pickup. It’s his most prized possession, not because of its value, but because of the family history the truck represents.

Emily may be a petite, attractive blonde, but driving an open-air Jeep portrays her as unafraid to travel across rough terrain with the wind in her face. The vehicle fits her spunky, mountain girl demeanor and warns others that she can, and will, take care of herself.

Other props are used throughout the novel to help readers paint their own pictures of the characters and the scenes.  What better way to show and not tell.

To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.  Happy blog hopping!Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

You can learn more about AT THE RIVER’S EDGE by going HERE:

At the River's Edge Vehicles


Writing Goals: They Evolve #IWSG

It’s time for my contribution to July’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog.  The question my fellow  writers have been asked to answer this month is: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time? Be sure to click on the #IWSG icon at the end of my post and check out the responses from dozens of interesting writers.


When I began writing nearly ten years ago, I’m not sure I even had a goal.  If I did, it was to remain sane.  I’d taken early retirement, was recently widowed, and I lived alone with my dog in a mountain home that I purchased less than a year earlier.  Writing filled my days, and often my nights.  Looking back, it’s clear.  My goal was sanity.

I met Claudia shortly thereafter. A practicing paralegal and a former editor, she immediately took interest in my projects, polishing my writing and providing valuable feedback and encouragement. My writing improved. I hadn’t published anything by that time, nor had I considered doing so, but that changed.  My new aspiration was to finish a novel and publish it.

I completed the first draft of Corrupt Connection in late 2011.  It’s a crime/suspense novel about a Central American drug cartel attempting to steal biocomputer technology from a U.S. corporation.  The cartel targets the male and female protagonists with the intent to develop futuristic, mind-altering, and deadly drugs.

My latest novel is much better written, but to this day, I think Corrupt Connection is one of my better stories.  Even so, I was nervous about putting the book out there for others to read.  With Claudia’s help, I self-published the novel in June 2012, and my new goal became finding readers.

I’d spent years in marketing, but I was uncomfortable telling people I was an author.  My nervous laugh would typically follow mentioning my writing to friends and family. I realized that finding readers would have to wait.   I first needed to become comfortable and confident as a writer.  My new objective became learning and applying what I learned to my writing.

I focused on writing contests, author forums, and writers groups, both online and in person.  My writing improved.  I won a few short story competitions.  I’ve become more at ease around other writers, and more confident discussing my writing.

I still sell fewer books than I’d like, but I’m comfortable with what I’m doing.  While I have a long way to go to reach the goals I’ve set, I’m proud of what I produce. I’ve self-published five novels and two short story collections, and my objectives are much loftier today.  I’m very excited about my new murder mystery, At the River’s Edge, which I plan to publish in August.

For the coming months, I’m turning my attention to marketing my new novel, as well as my earlier books.  I’ve been spending time learning about social media (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and the role it plays in successfully marketing books.  My goal is to  sell thousands of copies, not hundreds.

For the past few years, I’ve been donating profits from my two short story collections to North Carolina animal shelters.  It’s not much.  In fact, I supplement the contributions to not disclose how slow my book sales really are.  My current goal is to develop a marketing plan that works.   I’d like to sell enough books that my contributions become meaningful to homeless pets and the good people who care for and adopt them.

I still write to stay sane, but sanity is no longer my only objective.

Many thanks to Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne for hosting this month’s blog hop.  To follow more than 200 writers participating in this week’s IWSG blog hop, click on the icon below.  You can also follow on twitter @TheIWSG  or #IWSG.

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