Anthology Publicity

Monica Valentinelli is an author who lurks in the dark. She has over a dozen short stories out in the wild, two novellas, and more on the way. Recent releases include “Don’t Ignore Your Dead,” which debuted in the anthology Don’t Read This Book and Redwing’s Gambit, a science fiction adventure novella.

There are a few ways to shape the promotional plan for an anthology.

1) Editor – No guts, no glory. Editor is in the spotlight for the antho and all PR is shaped around him/her. He/she decides who he/she wants to spotlight.

2) Joint – Make a plan, then ask the authors to volunteer to take part in whatever efforts they wish. Usually best responses come if you can stick to one initiative at a time rather than wow-ing them with PR-ness.

3) Select – Pick your “named” authors who have the biggest audiences and primarily work with them. Yes, people do promote this way and yes, it’s a fine line to walk. I’m of the mind that you never want to treat any author poorly — because they’ll remember you fondly the further they go in their career.

The Technical:

I cannot stress enough how important it is to use a calendar for book promotions. When you plot out when stuff will appear, you will be able to ensure you’re getting the right coverage. Either a) drop the bomb ll at once b) eke it out slowly over time or c) both.

Sample ideas:

* Blog Carnival – This is basically a fancy way of saying on “X” day all of the authors write about something specific (e.g. interview questions, design notes, etc.) on their websites and link to everyone else. So you get 13 (15 if you add Publisher plus Editor) articles that all go live on the same day. It’s content saturation and it has an effect on all boats.

* Interviews – Keep it small and you’ll get a better response. Answer me these questions three usually works really well. See Maggie Slater and what she did for me here: Three Questions: Monica Valentinelli

* Link Bait Contest – So the anthology has the potential to reach outside of the gaming industry because it’s about insomnia. Ask for people to share their experiences with insomnia to win a copy.

* Book Plates / Digital Signings – If you want to go crazy, create book plates for each author and send them twenty or twenty-five. If you want to go REALLY crazy, invite artists to design book plates based on their stories. Otherwise, offer a simple one for everyone that can be mailed around to get the authors’/editor’s/publisher’s signatures on them.

* Online Readings – Set up a Google+ Hangout where the authors read from their stories. They don’t have to read the hole thing and you can stretch this out over several episodes.

* Story of the Week – Feature and promote a different member of the anthology team (Yep, this is how *I* roll!) for fifteen weeks. Many readers appreciate that sort of thing because they view anthologies as “samples.”

So You Want to Start a Blog

Amy Sundberg is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and YA. Her short fiction has appeared in places such as Redstone Science Fiction and Daily Science Fiction. She blogs regularly at The Practical Free Spirit and is currently working on a book about social media strategy for fiction writers. She lives in California with her husband and a ridiculously cute little dog. You can follow her on twitter @amysundberg.

Maybe your agent (or editor, or writer’s group) has been pressuring you to start a blog, or maybe you’ve seen what other writers are doing with their blogs and become intrigued. Maybe you’re interested in building community or connecting with your readers in a closer way. Or maybe you already have a blog, but it collects dust most of the year or could use a reboot.

Here’s what you need to consider before getting started:

1. Commit. Decide up front on a period of time to really devote energy to getting your blog started. You won’t attract readers overnight, and if you’re revamping your blog, it takes time to feel comfortable with the change. It also can take time for you to find your own unique voice for the blog. I recommend committing to at least six months.

2. Assess your time and energy. Are you willing to devote the time and energy necessary to maintain a blog? Because if you absolutely hate the idea, you might be better off putting the majority of your online time into other social media platforms. Readers can tell if you’re dialing it in on a blog, at which point it might not be worth the time grudgingly invested.

3. Choose a platform. The two main blogging platforms right now are WordPress and Blogger. Many writers use because it can be incorporated directly into their author webpage. If you want to try blogging out and don’t already have a blog-enabled webpage, you can start out with and port all that content over to a future website that uses when and if you need something fancier. Blogger is a bit simpler to get started on, if you find the technical aspects of beginning a blog to be intimidating.

4. Decide on a schedule. How often are you going to post? It doesn’t have to be every day, but you need to think of an ideal posting schedule before you get started. Be ready to adapt that schedule if it doesn’t work with the rest of your life, but otherwise, make your best effort to stick with the plan. When starting a new blog, it is often better to post at least once per week; two to three times a week is fabulous. More than once a day can be a bit much for some readers. When you have an already established blog with a loyal audience, you can dial back the frequency.

5. Keep a balance between promotional content and the main focus of your blog. It’s fine if you want to use your blog to promote your work: letting people know about your published stories, upcoming novels, exciting reviews, guest posts elsewhere, and scheduled appearances. However, if you are only ever talking about you, you, you, and buy, buy, buy. that can be a real turn-off to prospective readers. So keep a careful eye on how much time you’re talking about promotion vs. how much time you’re running other content that will interest (and maybe even captivate) your readers.

6. Let people know about your blog. It is okay to promote your blog. Otherwise, how will people know to read it? Make sure you include an easy-to-locate place on your blog where people can sign up to receive your posts via email and via an RSS feed. Let your Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ followers know when you have a new post. You don’t want to be obnoxious about it and post the same link several times, but one time (or two times on Twitter–some people like to tweet their blog post once in the morning and once at night) is perfectly okay.

7. Decide on your content strategy. This is one of the most critical steps in blog creation. Think about who your desired audience is, and then figure out ways in which you can add value to their lives. If you already have an established fan base for your work, your strategy will be different than if you’re a new writer just starting out. You also want to think about how you can make your blog original, the blog that only you could possibly write. For example, many writer blogs out there have very similar and repetitive content about writing. It’s important to either find a niche for yourself within the writing blogs if your desired audience is other writers instead of readers (see Chuck Wendig‘s or Juliette Wade‘s blogs) or figure out what you can blog about that is not exclusively writing. (If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around this idea, here is a primer to get you started.) Finally you want to consider what you’re comfortable talking about, what you’d prefer to keep private, and what tone you’d like to set in terms of appropriate behavior in the comments section (or if you even want comments).

We’ve only just begun the conversation about blogging, and about content strategy in particular. Blogging does require a certain commitment of time, energy, and willingness to experiment. But at its best, it can be quite a fulfilling and impactful experience.

Success is Like Lightning

Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She has been published in several diverse publications, and her first short story collection will be released this fall. She is a member of the SFWA, the HWA, and is represented by Jason Yarn at Paradigm. Mercedes is the nonfiction editor of Shock Totem magazine. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter as @mercedesmy.



Success Is Like Lightning: Preparing Before It Strikes

The literary world is feast or famine.  Either you’re beating the bushes in order to drum up work, or you’re tied, screaming, to the front of a locomotive as it heads for a cliff.  I have seldom seen an author say, “Why, yes, I am absolutely comfortable with my satisfying, impeccably-balanced work load.”  When success strikes, it’s most likely going to hit fast.  You had better be prepared.

  •   Have your work ready to go.

It may seem fundamental, but you’d be surprised how many writers are still, and forever will be, in the process of writing.  I stumbled across my agent as a fluke, and had to pitch my novel on the spot.  He said, “This story is intriguing. Is it ready to submit?”  Not only was the novel polished and ready to go, but so were the query and synopsis.  It was in his inbox immediately after he requested it. Thank goodness I was prepared, because this gentleman is now my agent.

  • Have a marketing plan ready.

If somebody picks up your novel, you won’t have time to breathe, let alone plan a marketing campaign from scratch.  You’ll be hitting deadlines like a beast, so it would behoove you to already have your grunt work done.  Will you do book signings? Blog tours? Is travel a feasible option? Do you have any marketing contacts? This can all be roughly planned ahead of time so you can avoid your deer-in-the-headlights moment when life is at its busiest.

  • Collect ideas for your book launch.

When your editor shrieks out, “Go, kid, go!” you’re going to hit the ground running.  Having an idea of what you’d like to do for a book launch will save you time.  Not to mention that when you’re trying to make five million decisions in two days, you’re not going to be doing your best thinking.  Serving smelly fish sticks with paper mermaid tails at your launch probably isn’t your best idea, no matter how brilliant it seems at 2:00 am.

  •   Scout out other opportunities in advance.

Would you like to have your work considered for awards?  Are there grants or contests that you have in mind?  There are many small awards that have very specific criteria.  If you’re a Nebraskan writer of color coming out with a second book of poetry, for example, there may be a monetary award for you.  But will you have time to search this out when you’re coordinating your book launch?  No. This is the sort of thing that you find in advance and tuck away for later. Mark the application submission dates on your calendar so you can submit on time.  Even better, have your application mostly filled out in advance so you can just add the additional info. You’ll have enough on your plate during your feasting times, but it would be a shame to let these delightful opportunities pass you by. Work on them during your famine.

  • Remember you’re doing what you love.

When you’re down to the wire, the stress can get completely overwhelming.  It seems the things that normally mean the most to you and bring the most joy (your family, your book, and the things that you’re doing to get your work out there) become so heavy that they’re unbearable.  Don’t forget to take days off.  Don’t let the responsibility suck the beauty out of what is ultimately your moment.  Everything is a choice and you’re choosing to invest time in something you believe in, and something that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

The History of Writing Mystery: Advice from the Greats

Deborah Lacy likes to collect handbags inspired by books and frequents speakeasies. She blogs at Mystery Playground and Criminal Element.

Writing excellent fiction is hard. This is an obvious fact to anyone who has attempted it.  Never fear because help is on the way. Many of the best crime fiction storytellers have left you clues to assist and inspire, if you know where to look. Here are a suggestions from greats in the genre.

“If you have a story that seems worth telling, and you think you can tell it worthily, then the thing for you to do is to tell it, regardless of whether it has to do with sex, sailors or mounted policemen.” — Dashiell Hammett

The king of the hard-boiled school of fiction, Hammett is best known for The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man.  His Sam Spade character brought grit and the tough guy back into storytelling in a way that is still imitated today.  His stories didn’t shy away from tough subjects.

“There always has to be a lapse of time after the accomplishment of a piece of creative work before you can in any way evaluate it.” — Agatha Christie

Christie is not only known for her enduring characters, such as Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, but also for her intricate plots. Who can forget the precision of And Then There Were None where ten criminals are brought together on an island to be murdered one at a time matching a nursery rhyme? Or the serial killer in the A.B.C. Murders who sends a clue to Poirot before each killing?  If distance helped Christie hone this work, it could easily work for you.

More of Christie’s writing advice as well as details from her life can be found in her uncreatively titled autobiography, An Autobiography.

“Stories are nothing but mystery boxes” — J.J. Abrahms

A few years ago the king of the boffo premise, J.J. Abrahms — creator of Lost, Alias and the latest Star Trek movies — gave a great talk at the TED Conference where he compared storytelling to an unopened box (You can see the entire talk here). Abrahms talked about how once the box is open, the mystery ends and so does the suspense. He keeps an unopened box on his desk as a reminder. This is another way of saying – as you write, ask dramatic questions instead of answering them. Of course, in a traditional mystery readers will want to know the answers in the end.

“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.” — Lawrence Block

A Grand Master of Mystery Writes of American, Block is known for his two series: one featuring recovering alcoholic Matthew Scudder series and the other featuring gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. He’s won multiple Edgar, Anthony and Shamus awards and has published more than 50 novels and 100 short stories. He’s written five books for writers including Telling Lies for Fun & Profit. Block’s permission to let himself write badly gives way to him writing well and being prolific and has stopped writer’s block from stalling his writing career.

“A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled.” — Raymond Chandler

Chandler’s masterpiece character, Philip Marlowe was carefully developed in novelettes for the BLACK MASK pulp magazine until he was ready to write his first novel, The Big Sleep.  All of those stories helped Chandler learn how to refine and reduce his work in a way that is still admired today.

(Best selling author of the Lincoln Lawyer and Blood Work, Michael Connolly agrees with this advice on revising.)

Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe character was strongly influenced by Hammett’s Sam Spade, and both have been often imitated. Even the late great Robert B. Parker said he modeled his most popular character, Spenser, after Marlowe. But as Spenser may have sprung from Marlowe, he quickly became his own man as Marlowe was his own.  It’s important as we take lessons from the greats that we use these ideas as a starting point for something new, rather than just copying what has succeeded in the past.