Monday, April 29, 2013

Photo Teasers, or How to Feed Your Stock Art Addiction

I have an addiction to art.

I spend hours on stock art sites looking for just the right pictures for covers.
At least that's my excuse... and I have some cool covers to show for it!

BUT NOW I have an even better use for all that stock art I've been storing up...

*credit to Chelsea Cameron for the idea

 "What's your life worth on the open market?"
Delirium (Debt Collector 1) by @susankayequinn

I'm hoping that these picture teasers will be fun enough for fans to share!
*pin to Pinterest*
*post to Facebook*

In the meantime, I'll be over at downloading more...

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA SF Mindjack series. Her new Debt Collector serial is her more grown-up SF that she likes to call future-noir. Her steampunk fantasy romance is temporarily on hold while she madly writes episodes to keep Lirium (the titular Debt Collector) happy. Plus she needs to leave time to play on Facebook. Susan has a lot of degrees in engineering, which come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mind powers, future dystopias, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. Mostly she sits around in her pajamas in awe that she gets make stuff up full-time. You can find her at

What's your life worth on the open market? A debt collector can tell you precisely. Delirium (Debt Collector 1) is now available on AmazonBarnes&NobleKobo, iTunesSmashwords. See the Debt Collector website to check all the latest episode releases and goings on in the Debt Collector world.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cooking Up A Bad Boy: A Damon Salvatore Recipe

As a reader, I love to devour bad boys. I can't get enough of them. I want to fix them and pet them and run my teeth down their jaws and throats and chests and...well, you get the picture. ;)

But what IS it that makes them so delicious? And what do I need to do, as a writer, to create one of my own?

In pursuit of an answer, I decided to break down one of my personal favorite Book Boyfriend Bad Boys, Damon Salvatore (Vampire Diaries), to see just what he's made of--and here's the recipe I put together from the ingredients I found.


Step One: Beat him down

Your bad boy has to be a little bit broken so make sure his back story is filled with bummers.

Daddy issues? Check!

Sibling rivalry? Check!

Girl problems? Double check! (pun intended)

Step Two: Make him pretty

There are a few key ingredients that make every bad boy appetizing. Without these, he's just a dude with minimal dialogue that will probably be killed off by chapter eighteen. So doll him up!

Step Three: Give him a kick

No bad boy is complete without a pinch of attitude and a dash of sarcasm. And of course, he needs enemies.

Youtube video by Catushka

Step Four: Heat him up

He might not be good at communication, or punctuality, or obeying the law...but he damn well better be good with his mouth. So light him up and let him burn.

Step Five: Feed him to your readers

Now that you've beaten down, prettied up, kicked and set fire to your bad boy, it's time to let your readers savor him. One morsel at a time...  ;) 

There you have it! Cooking up a bad boy. 
Who are YOUR favorite Book Boyfriend Bad Boys? And what do you think makes them so delicious?


Chelsea Fine is the author of SOPHIE & CARTER and the ARCHERS OF AVALON series, and she's obsessed with The Vampire Diaries. (In case you couldn't tell.) You should be her friend!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Seven Tips I've Learned from Non-fiction (and Why EVERY Fiction Author Should Use Them)

I've been a successful nonfiction author for nearly three years. In that time, I've released two niche books, and have two bigger books coming this year (The Girl Guide (May 2013) and Quiet Kids (Oct 2013) ). I've very proud of the work I've done in nonfiction, and even more pleased with the things I have learned along the way and how much those things impact me as a fiction author.

So, what were the things I learned? 

First, nothing replaces writing a good book! NOTHING. As new writers we spend a lot of time fretting about our platforms and marketing. Sometimes we allow this fretting to get in the way of writing – bad idea. This entire journey starts, and continues, with a good book.

That said, a good book isn’t enough to get it in the hands of readers these days. This means that we have to promote our work. Period. And that is where the lessons I learned in publishing my nonfiction books can really help all writers:

  1. Know Your Market.
Before you design a promotional campaign of any form, it is important to have a clear understanding of your primary and secondary markets. With nonfiction, most authors figured this out when they wrote the “marketing” section of their proposals. Fiction authors should go through this process too. Ask yourself who the book is for – teens, children, adults? Who is the secondary market for the book? With Emotional Intensity, the primary market is parents and educators. Psychologists and other personnel involved in gifted education for a secondary market.

  1. Know Your Comfort Zone.
As with all forms of social networking and marketing, it is important to know your own personal strengths and weaknesses. Are you comfortable speaking in person to a large group, or is Skyping or chatting more your thing? Do you like to cold call potential hosts for tours, or does the thought of that give you hives? Knowing your comfort zone is important. Don’t spent a lot of time doing things you hate  – you will only make yourself crazy. Instead, spend your time promoting in ways that you are comfortable with. In today’s market, you are really only limited in terms of promotion by your own comfort level. So, get to know what works best for you and your book. Then repeat it over and over again.

  1. Set Clear Goals for Promotion.
I have a background in marketing in sales (before my days as a psychologist), so the first thing I did was set clear monthly goals for promotion. I planned one major event – blog tour, book signing, speaking engagement – monthly. I’ve really tried to space out the events to keep the message from getting muddled and maintain a regularly presence. I have maintained these goals for both books

  1. Blog Tours and Book Tours.
These are both fabulous ways to connect with readers. The important thing to remember – planning. With blog tours, ask people in your particular niche to host a leg. If you are targeting teens, for example, try to have a blog that is frequented by teens host a leg of the tour. The same is true with book tours – market to both chain and independent booksellers. Do your homework; know which stores are well connected with your niche. A couple of other things to keep in mind:
·         Start early – proper planning of events is really a key.
·         Know the expectations of the host. Ask questions about how they envision your visit, or what they see as their role in the blog tour.
·         Stay organized – use spreadsheets and other organization tools to keep track of the places you pitched too, the hosts of your tour, and any giveaways.
·         Send reminders to participants. We are all busy and it is easy to forget things. Take on that burden and don’t be alarmed when things get forgotten. Just be prepared.
·         Remember to follow-up with a thank you. There is no substitution for good manners! Personal thank you notes go a long way to letting your hosts know how much you appreciated working with them

  1. Other Venues to Connect with Readers.
I love doing Author chats. In fact, my author chats are really the reason I have sold as well as I have. In addition to in-person events, I am involved in webinars and events on SecondLife. These are amazing ways to connect with readers and enable you to “go global”. I cannot tell you how excited I am to host a global bookchat in a few weeks.

Be willing to get creative and look for new ways to connect your message to your market. For my newest book, 101 Success Secrets, I have created all new reader-experiences to bring to my book chats. I can’t wait to see how they work out.

  1. Using Social Networking sites.
Promoting your message is about creating buzz. In this day and age, it is easier than ever to create buzz on a large scale. But, how do you separate yourself from all the noise out there? That’s easy. Be creative. Do something unique and different – and then make sure EVERYONE knows about it. For my niche, the message itself is unique to the market. So my job was getting it to the right people. Utilizing niche-specific social networking venues (#gtchat on twitter, participating in gifted groups on facebook), I have been able to bring awareness to my message, and my books, directly to those most likely to read it.

This same process applies to fiction – if you are a YA writer, for example, utilize creative sites that teens frequent, and find tie-ins for your specific project. Connect with your readers – that is the key.

  1. You Are Only As Good As Your Last Book.
Finally, people have short attention spans. This means the message you have is easily replaced by the next greatest thing out there. To keep your sales up and your message heard, it is important to keep writing. Produce new content – either on a blog, or in a newsletter. Respond in fresh ways to the questions readers have. And write new books. This is how you cultivate a writing career – fresh content of the highest quality.

In fiction, this really means KEEP WRITING. If you want a career as an author, it is important to continually hone your skills and continue writing.

Whether you are traditionally published, with a small press or going Indie, you will be doing some promotion for you book. Hopefully the little things I have learned with my nonfiction can help you in your endeavors!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bookfest! Expos! Trade Shows...And More to Explore

Just a few years ago I had my first book signing at a Book Expo. The African American Book Expo had tons of authors, and vendors selling their products. Since that was my first stop in a full year of book promotions, I added this to my experimental list of things to do.

I researched the trade shows I would attend by searching other authors that had similar work as I did. However, I did the African American Book Expo in MD simply because it was the first time they’d had one and I could share a table with another author, Maggie Mei Lewis, that I respected. I also signed up for the Capital Bookfest, because it was close to my hometown and I liked some of the other authors that were attending. The Baltimore Book Festival, I’m attending because it’s free to Maryland Writer’s Association members. They were local, I planned to network with other authors there and meet readers that were part of my audience.

The reason I go to these events (Book Expos) is truly not to sell books, it’s for networking. If you go to these events hoping to sell a ton a books – you will be disappointed.

When you are seeking out the promotional opportunities for your writing career (you can also do this when you are even unpublished) set your goals, research the venue and what other’s have gotten out of the endeavor and plan in opportunities that will get you the exposure you desire. I did this by doing a Google alert on authors that were new, and doing things that I wanted to do with my career. Then I fashioned the events that fit within my budget and goals for my own career.

Always reinvent yourself and your promotional goals. Some events I’ve participated in were the wrong venue, didn’t meet my ‘realistic’ expectations or were too costly compared to the benefits. So I revamped my plans for the next year to fit my budget, highlight the things that worked, and I always add something new for discovery of better ways to promote myself and my books.

Be realistic when pursuing promotion of your books. It takes 3 years for any business to confirm growth, so set a 3-year plan/investment in yourself and your promotional goals. Gage your growth each year with a chart and if you see improvement, pat yourself on the back and research ways to further improve.

by LM Preston,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Indie Life: How I keep from going crazy. Uh, crazier.

The Indelibles

I'm not gonna lie, the last six months of my life have sucked. 

My dad had a massive heart attack and an emergency quadruple bypass. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through a couple of surgeries and radiation. I'm getting divorced. I owe more taxes than I used to make in a year. My dog Chief, my last pet, is on the verge of dying.

Yeah, I qualify for country song status for sure.

So, why haven't I taken to my bed with a gallon of ice cream and all twenty-seven seasons of Grey's Anatomy?

Four reasons:

1. I have two kids - a six-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl. They need me to do my mom thing. They need me to feed them, and force them to bathe and brush their teeth. They require hugs and kisses, and dance parties, and for me to know what Minecraft and Dog with a Blog are. My kids keep me dependable.

2. My friends, both IRL and on the interwebs, and my family. They've watched my kids, taken me out to the movies, spent hours chatting about nothing on Facebook, helped me do yard work, and above all else, listened to me. My friends and family take my burdens away.

3. Exercise. Author Angela Carlie somehow managed to get me to sign up for a relay team even though I've never run a mile in my life. This summer, I'll run three, six mile legs in a race from Seattle to Whidbey Island. Another friend of mine talked me into joining her CrossFit gym last August just before my life imploded. I cannot tell you the value of lifting heavy things and doing burpees until your mind is blank. Exercise keeps me physically and mentally relaxed.

4. Work. Writing is therapy that I don't have to pay for. FOUND (Penny Black #1) distracted me with the intricacies of building a future world and creating a main character that is very different from myself. The two pen name short stories I wrote were pure fun - decadent writing just to write. CROSSING, the novel I'm working on now, has been an altogether deeper experience. It's semi-autobiographical and it is helping me repair my self-esteem. I've been able to cry and laugh and remember...and move on. Writing gives me whatever I need. 

My wish is that your life is a little less hectic, but if it's right up there with my vida loca, I hope you have some good ways of dealing too. If not, I highly recommend weight lifting and writing romance. :)


Stacey Wallace Benefiel is the author of the Zellie Wells trilogy, FOUND,  the Day of Sacrifice series, the Toilet Business - a collection of humorous essays, the upcoming CROSSING, and multiple short stories. She sometimes goes by S.W. Benefiel or Reina Stowe, but knows she's not foolin' anybody. Stacey lives in an orange house in Beaverton, OR with her kids and her dog and a lot of clean laundry that always needs to be folded and put away.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Coming Up With Writing Ideas

Recently I took a trip with my family to Universal Studios in California. The trip was quick, but a lot of fun.

One problem. I got ZERO sleep. The beds were supposed to be "sleep number." What they actually were? Blow up mattresses that had only half the air in them. Every time my husband moved, I was shot into the air. He felt like he was going to roll off the bed. It wasn't good. The end result left me sleepless.

BUT, one thing that did occur during my lack of sleep? I got a bunch of different writing ideas.

One came while our driver took us from the hotel to the theme park.

Another on the plane back home.

Both ideas are feasible. And I'm very excited about them. It's funny though... how seemingly great book ideas come at the weirdest times.

My Blood and Snow series came from watching a commercial for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." The commercial tooted the movie had been digitally remastered. How exciting.

AND it was. From that commercial came the idea of Snow White becoming a vampire, which equals #awesome.

What about you? Where do your ideas come from?

                                                                                                 *pictures courtesy of google

Monday, April 1, 2013

Defining Success

Defining Success

(Elle Strauss here. I recently posted this on Indie Elite, but I thought it was worth repeating.)

I've officially been an indie author since September 2011, so about a year and a half. When I put my first baby out into the world all by myself, my idea of success was simple. To sell enough books to pay for the cost of self-publishing.

I mean, I couldn't justify losing money on my venture, so if I could just break even... I'd be a success.

It's funny how my view of success has changed a million times in just a few months. Now with self-publishers hitting all kinds bestseller's lists and dominating Amazon's top 100, and doing it in record time, the definition of success, or at least our perception of what success is, can be all over the map.

-if I break even, I'll be a success
-if I make enough money to pay the heating...
-If I make enough money to pay the rent/mortgage...
-if I make enough money to quit my day job

At some point it moves from making money to survive to this:

-if I make the top 100 Amazon
-if I make NYT bestsellers list
-if agents start calling me
-if I get a publishing deal AND I get to keep my e-rights
-if I become a household name in the industry
-if I have a zillion fans
-if I get a movie deal

(Even Trad published authors get caught up in this. One well-known YA author actually tweeted about how HARD it was for her to keep getting asked when her book was going to be made into a movie. She felt like a barren woman who was always being asked when she was going to have kids. Yes, she REALLY said this!)

Let me tell you, this is a recipe for crazy making.

So, what is the definition of success?

I don't know. It's different for everyone. I actually have a hard time seeing myself as successful because I've placed a high bar in front of me that I haven't yet reached.

Sometimes you need to lower the bar.

I got this email recently. It made me smile. It helped me to lower my bar.

"... I've bought all of the clockwise series, Seaweed, Perception, and the Jars of Clay series, ... your writing is amazing, and I can only hope that one day I will be a success like you (:"

(emphasis mine)

Sometimes we don't see ourselves the way other people see us. I'd say, most of the time.

Are you a success? I bet you are. Just lower the bar and keep smiling.

Elle Strauss writes fun, lower YA fiction (time-travel and fantasy). She is fond of Lindt’s sea salt dark chocolate and hiking in good weather. Elle is married with four children and divides her time between British Columbia, Canada, and Dresden, Germany. She also writes upper YA (historical and science fiction) as LEE Strauss. To find out more about Elle and her books check out her facebook page, and follow her on twitter. To find out about new releases sign up for her newsletter at .