6 Things I’ve Learned By Attending Book Launches

This week, I managed to go to the book launch of “Struggling With Serendipity“, a memoir from a blogger I’ve been following for 3 years.

In the past, I’ve made it to book launches at conventions (The Perils of Prague and TV Gods) and I volunteered at the book launch of The Cursed Child (mostly because I missed the original Harry Potter launch parties and wanted to see what one might have looked like).

I’ve attended book signings — for authors AND web comic artists. And while lower key, these have some overlap.

Some were book signings with a reading first, some were book signings with actors and performances, some were open room parties with snacks and a credit card machine if you wanted to buy, and some were fun and games with the books off to the side, waiting for you to feel obliged to at least check out the reason for the event.

No two launch parties have been the same, but there are usually some overlaps.

1 – You Need To Advertise

If people don’t know it’s happening, they can’t come.

2 – Pick A Good Location

Pick a location that will appeal to your audience (and a good time of day)

  • If the story is based in your hometown, you’re going to have some local appeal there.
  • If your fanbase is full of people who love conventions, have your book launch at a convention.
  • If your book is for kids, have it at a kid-based festival, where they’re already going. Or at a school book fair.

3 – Be Prepared To Extrovert

If you can’t do it all yourself, bring backup. You want to be able to welcome people in, or call bypassers over (in a friendly, but not aggressive manner. Especially in a dealers’ room, you don’t want to tick off your neighbors).

You want to put out a warm and welcoming atmosphere that makes people comfortable asking the question, “so, what’s your book about?”

And?

You’ve got to be able to answer that, in one sentence or less, in such a way that more-people-than-not will want to know more.

4 – Do Something

You can’t just show up with a book, at a book launch, and expect to sell. Otherwise, you might as well just be a seller. What makes this a LAUNCH?

You can have free snacks or cake! You can have swag (magnets, bookmarks, etc).

You can have a raffle for a free copy!

You’re probably going to want to read an excerpt from your novel. Have a section — preferably near the beginning if it’s a novel — that requires minimal explanation. Best are scenes with dialogue, world building, and maybe even some action.

If you’re selling your book, be sure to offer to sign it! Maybe even personalize it. [If there’s a huge crowd, have paper for people to write their names on, so you can spell them right].

5 – Bring Your Friends and Family

Some of you might have the mistaken impression that your friends and family aren’t ‘real’ fans, they’re obligatory fans, and that you have to have strangers there to endorse you.

LIES!

People are busybodies and herd animals. If we hear someone else being excited about something, we’ll probably take a look.

I’ve seen book signings, down around the corner from the actual event, where fans had trouble finding them. If you’re sitting quietly at a table, people might not realize something’s going on.

If I had nightmares, I’d have them about book signings where no one shows up.

So? Bring your own party!

Either you have company while you’re stuck at a table. Or you have enthusiastic fans who can talk you up and run for drinks, pens, and your backup box of books.

Let your friends and family fete you! But if it’s open to the public, make sure you’re welcoming, without a cliquish vibe.

6 – Bring Your Own Supplies

Make sure you have everything you need!

  • A box of your own books (small or large, you should at least have some on you)
    • Even if your book launch is at a bookstore, sometimes the shipment doesn’t come in. Sometimes, they sell out. Having backup helps keep things less stressful for everyone.
  • Quick drying pens (or markers — whichever you prefer). With backup ones, in case one dies.
  • Business cards

Next? Things that can make a book launch go better

  • Swag – bookmarks, postcards, pens, magnets, whatever
  • A banner and/or table cloth
  • A candy bowl (for guests) — they usually feel obligated to at least HEAR your pitch if they snag a chocolate
  • Your own drink and snack — talking is thirsty work.

Plus, if you’re doing your own sales:

  • A decent amount of change for the standard ATM $20
  • A credit card reader
  • A spare battery pack for your phone

As you should know, I’ve never actually held my own book launch, I’ve just been taking notes from those I’ve made it out to.

I like to attend the book launches for people I know or read. I want to encourage them! And… I want some good karma saved up for when it’s my turn.


If you’ve attended — or HELD! — a book launch, let me know!

What do you like?

What do you hate at book launches?

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5 Ways To Track Your Writing Progress

I know some writers hate NaNoWriMo and others love it. And agents are understandably wary of any NaNo novel that’s queried within 3 months of pencils down. For those who are unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’, otherwise known as the pledge to write 50,000 words (or 200 pages of a novel) during the 30 days of November.

But me? I’m a fan.

I like setting goals where I can measure my incremental progress and watch myself get closer to my goal. When I was weight lifting, it was exciting watching my lifting weights go up every couple weeks. When I hit my body weight on my deadlift and squats… when I hit my ex’s body weight on my deadlift and squats… those were exciting numbers to see.

But that was a couple years ago. And a couple pounds ago.

These days, most of my incremental goals are with my writing.

NaNoWriMo is faster than my natural writing pace, and involves cutting a lot of things out of my life in November to make it happen. BUT! In the off season, there’s two sessions of ‘Camp NaNo’, one in April and one in June. Best of all? During Camp, you set your own goals.

This year, they’re working on improving the websites, but CampNaNo has expanded their tracker methods. For those of us who might be in an editing or revision phase? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I LOVE the new options.

Yes, these are listed on the Camp NaNo site, as options for tracking your current progress, but you can use them anytime, anywhere!

Writing Tracking Methods

  • Words – the traditional NaNo yardstick.
  • Lines – helpful for those writing poetry or other sorts of works.
  • Minutes – Useful for those of us, squeezing in our writing (or editing) time when we can.
  • Hours – Useful for those of us who are working on research or editing or workshopping or making index cards and plotting out. All those side tasks that don’t feel like ‘real writing’, but are, and are oh-so-necessary.
  • Pages – ME! All the pages I’m revising get counted in here. I’m loving being able to track this coherently through their system!

Speaking of, it’s time for me to stop stalling and get back to those pages. They aren’t gonna revise themselves, now are they?

What’s your favorite tracking method? How does that change up depending on which writing phase you’re in?

Author Spotlight: Michelle D. Sonnier

  • writer/mom/wife with a day job and a dream to be a successful speculative fiction author

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Michelle D. Sonnier.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Michelle Stengel is a writer/mom/wife with a day job and a dream to be a successful speculative fiction author. She battles her flaws of anxiety and iffy time management skills to make it happen, and while she’s not rocketing up the NYT Bestseller list like she does in her daydreams, she is making progress.

Michelle, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I am very much a cat person, so I’m pretty happy sharing my home with two lovely felines (Desi and Nyxie). But if making pets of wild creatures weren’t such a bad idea (for both the human and the animal), I’d want a cougar and a flock of crows. 

I’m allergic, but I still like cats. Interesting choices! Cougars are sleepy and dangerous, whereas a flock of crows invokes images of witchcraft and battlefields after the battle…

What do you write and how did you get started?

I primarily write dark urban fantasy, but my first novel that actually sold is classified as steampunk, although it edges toward gaslamp fantasy. A lot of genre boundaries are fuzzy and I feel like I’m in good company if I treat those boundaries flexibly. Some of my favorite authors genre bend on a whim.

I am especially drawn to using the Fae in my work. I also enjoy exploring the gray areas of human behaviors and I considered it a compliment of the highest order when reader said of my characters, “no one is pure.” Because isn’t that the way of life? No one is 100% good or bad and we all make mistakes. Flawed characters are so much more interesting than perfect ones.

As for how I got started, I think you can blame my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. MacNeilis. I adored her and when she complimented me on a poem I wrote about spring I suddenly wanted to write more poems to please her. Then, somewhere along the way, I discovered the joy of playing with words and started writing for myself. I abandoned poetry and moved to short stories by sixth grade because I wanted to tell stories and not just relay emotions. I was hooked and I’ve never looked back.

I love fae creatures and gas lamp fantasies. Let’s hear it for teachers who encourage us!

What do you like to read?

I tend to favor urban fantasy and alternate world fantasy, but I’ll read any genre as long as the characters are well written. I like to read about interesting characters facing extraordinary circumstances. I like it when a character is so well drawn that I can understand why they are doing what they are doing even if it’s an action I wouldn’t take myself. It’s probably easy to tell that I’m into character-driven narratives.

Right now I’m finishing N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy and I am in awe. The story is so intricate and layered, but at the same time it doesn’t feel forced, which can be a problem with complicated narratives. Each twist and turn is at once surprising and completely natural and reasonable. The main character does some terrible things, but you can understand her choices and even sympathize because you can see all the stressors and experiences that led her to where she is now. My other favorite authors include Charles de Lint and Margaret Atwood. 

I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy and alternate world fantasies as well. Jemisin’s trilogy is on my (massive) to read pile. And I stumbled across a Charles de Lint book last year… not realizing it was halfway through the series. Definitely someone I’d love to read more of.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write what you know.”

Really? You think I’ve actually met mermaids and fairies and talking crows? Perhaps I interviewed a goblin or two?

There’s so much speculative fiction that couldn’t be written if all writers obeyed this edict.

I think this advice can stunt the growth of a writer and keep them from expanding their curious imagination. It can also really go wrong when a writer just assumes they know what they are writing about based on limited information and common stereotypes.

I’ve seen some recent social media posts that hilariously skewer male writers for writing female characters as flat stereotypes and/or displaying a stunning lack of knowledge of basic female biology. So many of these flubs could have been avoided by talking to a woman, any woman.

I think a much better piece of advice would be to let your imagination run free and then research the heck out of things to make sure you’ve got a solid foundation. For example, my knowledge of the Victorian England base I used for my novel was pretty paltry before I started writing, so I spent a lot of time on research. Some of the things I found during my research became fun plot points. And some of the things I’d originally planned had to be altered or cut completely because they didn’t fit.

That’s my approach — dream big, but do your research.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

You can’t edit an empty page.

Whatever is going on, put your butt in the seat and write.

Of course, this is one that I break far more often than I care to admit. The advice is spot on – there’s no way to publish anything that still resides in your brain. You have to get it down on paper (or electrons) if you want to have any hope of someone else reading your work.

But then life gets in the way… There’s a kid who needs me, and so does my husband. My day job boss is not going to be happy if I miss deadlines for her in order to write a novel. The dishes don’t do themselves and the cats won’t clean their own litter (lazy furballs). So, I’m trying to be better about getting my butt in the seat and getting the words out of my head.

I haven’t figured out the answer yet; I seem to go in fits and starts. But I keep trying and I’m always going to keep trying. I’m a writer, and I can’t not write.

I know the call of the page, and the temptation to let it slip. We all have that struggle.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

The Clockwork Witch by [Sonnier, Michelle D.]

You can get my novel, The Clockwork Witch, here.

The seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Arabella is destined to disappoint, when she was expected to shine. Though she descends from a long line of gifted witches she has earned the moniker of a “brown bud” showing no sign of magical talent. 

When it truly seems her lot can grow no worse, she discovers an unnatural affinity for…of all things…technomancy. Not only are the mysteries of the mechanical world open to her, but her new-found ability allows her to manipulate them, making her the first ever clockwork witch and anathema to the nature of the witching world.

How will she come to grips with her new power when she must question if she will survive the judgement of her family and her peers? Or, more daunting yet…The Trials?


You can get my short story collection, Charmed City, in paper here.

Not all dreams are magical things filled with hope and light, some dreams are murkier and far more sinister. From the shared dreams of her famous sons John Waters and Edgar Allen Poe, Baltimore is known for her share of peculiar oddity, but beyond the bouffant hairdos of her trademark Hons and the quirky neighborhood bars is a world even darker and stranger.

Or in ebook form here.

Feel free to friend follow her on facebook!


The 5 Stages of Handling Feedback

Everyone has to handle feedback and goes through this. But writers? We bleed words onto the page. We agonize over them, revise them, and proofread a million times.

Then?

We have to let our writing out into the world to get feedback because we’re “too close” or something like that.

Like sending a child off to their first day of kindergarten, we impatiently wait for our baby to come home, to find out how it went.

When we read through the feedback, there’s lots of line changes and small tweaks that we nod along at. But then? There are our babies.

How dare they question those lines!

Sometimes, the feedback is just plain wrong for our story, but not always. That’s when we go through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial

What are they talking about? I don’t see anything wrong there? It definitely is a strong and evocative scene.

Anger

She’s WRONG! Clearly, she’s just doesn’t get my story! I tried that and it didn’t work. I wrote it this way ON PURPOSE!

Bargaining

If he finished reading, he’d see that I need this to set up a later scene! Maybe, if I just polish this up a bit, it’ll make it more clear.

Depression

Oh BLEEP. It still doesn’t work, does it? I’ll never get it right. Maybe I should just delete it. I need a break. Or I should just shelve this whole mess. Anybody got a match?

Acceptance

Hmmm, maybe they DO have a point. If I move this there, and add those details, I think it just might fix it.


Now remember! Just any form of grief, you can skip stages, the stages can come in any order, and you can revisit any stage at any point in the process.

Best of luck finding the gems in your critiques.


Tell me about some feedback that you hated — that really helped your work. How did you handle it?

Facebook For Characters!

Ch@ractR

Have you ever wished there was a facebook, but for fictional characters?

Today, I’m going to be talking about one of the less mainstream social media websites. It just got out of Beta but is growing fast:

Ch@ractR at charactrRealms.com

The website for writers, artists, and fans to post as or follow FICTIONAL CHARACTERS!

charApril1

As usual, you create an account, with whatever username you want. Brand consistency can be useful if you’re planning on adding stuff you want associated with your name. Otherwise, (I can’t believe I’m saying this), you can use a different username.

When you do post, it will always be under [CharacterName]+[a random number]. Once you’ve posted to a character’s page once, your number will remain consistent.

But what sort of characters qualify? CLEARLY, there are still some negotiations underway for licensed characters, but pended approval…

Types of characters:

  • Established worlds
    • Disney
    • Harry Potter
    • etc
  • Created worlds
    • a book you’re writing/wrote
    • characters in your head
    • your DND game
    • etc

But does everyone know everything you post? Not necessarily.

Privacy Options

  • Anonymous
    • You always post with the same number, but they are not tracked back to a profile, just a page that shows all of your posts for that character
  • Obscure – Custom
    • You DO link back to a profile page, but only for the selected characters. And you can set character sets to be invisible to each other.
      • For example, if you post cosplay pics of you as Disney character and you write dark memes about Marvel characters, you can self-define the groups. So, people following your Disney postings don’t see your Marvel postings on the profile page
    • You can share a custom profile with each set, linking external works, etc
  • Public
    • All posts and characters are shown on your profile page

Every character gets a new profile. And then you can add to their MYTH.

Types of MYTHS:

  • Selfies
    • Original fan art!
    • Cosplay pics
  • Diary Entries
    • Write as if you’re the character
  • Memes
    • You know what these are
  • Flash fiction
    • Add to their story

Then, the other people on the site vote.

Voting Options

  • ‘true-cannon’
    • This is for myth additions that ADD to the world the character is in
  • ‘true-multiverse’
    • This is for myth additions that don’t work in the original world but are AWESOME for the character, so could work in an alternate version.
  • ‘cute’
    • Basically ‘liking’, but not feeling that they add to the character
  • ‘vicious rumors’
    • Things that run counter to everything you believe to be true about this character. CLEARLY, made up by the character’s enemies.

For the VERY best posts? No matter the format, they go from the character’s MYTH page to their PROFILE page. And your post-name gets a star next to it, proving that you’ve permanently contributed to that character.

But how do they judge the BEST posts? Some characters have more of a following than others. They do it based on the percentage of active users following that character.

A couple of notes.

NOTE 1: If you are the author (or licensed owner) of the property, you have special privileges and your vote is weighted more than non-authors.

NOTE: There IS a review committee to try and validate the characters. Reports of ‘fake characters’ created to harass real-life people are taken VERY seriously.


Are you on Ch@ractr?

Who are your favorites? Are there any obscure ones you’re just waiting to go viral?

If you’re a public account? Share it and let me follow you!

Happy April 1st!