Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kindle Scout Program

My book, Indiscretion, has been on Amazon’s Kindle Scout program for an entire week as of today. It’s been on and off the “Hot and Trending” list, which I guess is natural. This is measured by how many people read the sample and nominate my book during a thirty-day period. I’ve done some promotion, but there’s a fine line between promo and overkill. I try to be cognizant of where that line is. That said, self-promotion has never been an easy fit for me.

So what is Kindle Scout, you ask? This is from the Kindle Scout website:

“Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.”

Bloggers have debated the pros and cons of the program. From my point of view, the answer depends on where you are in the publishing world. I’ve self-published seven books with Amazon. The difference with Kindle Scout, besides the nice advance, unheard of for an indie writer, is the strength of Amazon’s marketing that I wouldn’t get otherwise.

No longer can writers just write. Due to the increased number of indie and hybrid writers and the plethora of free book promotions, we must now be creative to keep our books from falling into obscurity, in contrast to those days when I first started, way back in 2011. We now pay companies to advertise our free or specially priced promotions to their huge reader mailing lists, many times at high costs. The outlay is usually refunded by greater sales. We are social media experts, bloggers, promotional gurus, Pinterest pinners, LinkedIn joiners, Google+ members, and Twitter tweeters. We join groups to support each other and share writing tips and posts about the things we learn on our writing journey.

In order to submit to the program, Amazon Scout insists on a professional cover, editing, and formatting. If my book is chosen by reader nominations and the Amazon Scout Powers-That-Be, it will receive a complete edit.

I created the cover for Indiscretion, but after 25 years as an illustrator, and eight book covers under my belt (one for my alter ego), I have no problem immodestly calling my covers professionally designed. I would have to meet the same criteria if I decided to self-publish, so I’m used to the parameters established by Kindle Scout. From what I’ve tracked, most of the books chosen in the first few groups are doing well.

I tried something new with Indiscretion. I incorporated an actual crime, Boston’s 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, with a fictional story. SO, unwilling to miss an opportunity, here’s my pitch for Indiscretion in 500 characters or less:

“Separated from her controlling husband, romance author Zoe Swan meets a charismatic art history professor on the beach and begins a torrid affair. But who is he really? By the time Zoe finds out, she’s on the run with her husband, his jewel thief brother, and a priceless painting stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. With the FBI and the murderer in pursuit, the trio heads to Boston. The only way to prove their innocence is to make a deal with the very people who want them dead.”

There’s a sample on the site. If you like what you read and would like to read more (if my book is picked, everyone who nominated it receives an electronic copy), consider clicking “Nominate me.” Sorry for the blatant self-promotion.

Here’s the link.

Thank you kindly if you do.

Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her onFacebook and Twitter.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Kris Bock on Bios Made Easy

Kris Bock has lived in 10 states and one foreign country – Saudi Arabia, where she spent five idyllic years in an American camp as a child. She now lives in New Mexico with her husband and two ferrets. Kris enjoys hiking, rock climbing, good food, and of course books.

I discovered something while coordinating writing conferences: Even published authors often do not know how to write a good bio. This should be the easiest thing in the world – if we can write at all, surely we can write about ourselves. And yet, whether through modesty, carelessness or overwriting, many author bios fail. The bio above contains specific details, some of which may even be interesting, but it doesn’t do its job.

What is the job? To sell yourself and your books. Keep that focus in mind and the rest will follow.

Content: List your books. You’d be surprised at how many authors skip this part. This is your chance to advertise! If you have lots of books, stick to the three or four that are most popular and currently in print, or series titles/first books in a series. You can also consider which books are of most interest to that audience, or which you most want to promote. For example, I write fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. When targeting adult mystery or romance readers, I won't usually mention the children's books. For a children's book bio, I won't list the nonfiction titles, since I don't get royalties for those. However, if I were writing a bio for a workshop on children's nonfiction, I'd focus more on the nonfiction titles.

People are more likely to look for your book if they know it fits a genre they like. Titles aren’t always clear by themselves. Death in Russia could be a mystery, biography, history, historical fiction, or political analysis. Specify the genre.

List awards, but don’t get carried away. If each book has four or five minor awards mentioned, the reader bogs down in dull details. List the most prestigious, or combine them – “Ms. Inkslinger’s books have received 11 Readers’ Choice Awards from various states.”

Relevancy: In general, stick to writing-related information. If someone is considering buying your book or coming to hear you speak, they want to know your success as a writer or speaker. They’re probably not interested in the names of your pets. And since most children write or tell stories, the fact that you’ve been writing since age 7 isn’t terribly impressive.

If you do include personal data, put your professional information first. Don’t start with your hobbies or childhood, unless it directly relates to your book. (For example, you’re a nurse and you wrote a hospital drama.) This is also not the place to thank your parents or spouse for their support. Save that for your book dedications.

It's fine to include a few fun facts that make you seem like an interesting person. That might even be preferable in some cases. But if you're going to include personal info, try to think of unusual, fascinating, and/or funny items. The fact that you have a cat is not, in itself, particularly interesting. If you can make a funny comment about how your cat inspires or interferes with your writing, that gives you (and your pet) more personality. Best case scenario, tie the tidbit to your work. For example, if you write humorous cozy mysteries about cooking, a lighthearted comment about your cooking or eating habits is appropriate.

Style: Focus on the information. Humor and lively writing are fine, but don’t get so wrapped up in sounding “literary” that important facts get buried or forgotten. Think of the action you want the reader to take. What will convince them to do that?

If you’re releasing your own PR, you can be as zany as you feel fits your author persona. However, if you write dark thrillers, a humorous bio may not be best. If possible, try to catch a bit of the flavor of your writing style.

If your bio will be one of many in a conference brochure, the designer probably wants some consistency of style. A touch of formality may be appropriate, since you’re trying to portray yourself as a professional. Pretend you’re someone else writing about you. Write in the third person. “Bard Wordsmith is an award-winning author….”

You may need different bios for different uses – playful on a book flap; professional for a newspaper article; focused on your teaching experience for a conference catalog; praising your writing success for a book signing.

Length: Unless you’re asked for a certain length of bio, keep it short and to the point. An editor may shorten your writing to save space, so put the most important information in the first sentence. This may include the topic of your presentation and/or the name of one book (the most recent, the most popular, or the one you’ll be presenting).

If your bio will stand alone, on an individual brochure or press release, you might use 100-200 words. If your bio will appear along with others, 50-100 words is usually plenty. Any more and some people will skip ahead. (You’ll also annoy the person designing the material, who may make arbitrary cuts). Include your website for people who want more information.

To get started, make a list of the facts that you want to share – the items that are most impressive and relevant to your career, the things that will convince someone to take the action you want them to take. Then write a simple, straightforward paragraph that includes those facts. After that, you can play with style and perhaps add a few personal notes. But as in all good writing, communication comes first.

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. Read excerpts at or visit her Amazon page.

Kris writes for children as Chris Eboch. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Brief Look at The World of Promotion

Your book will soon  be out and ready to sell. Now, before the release date
is the time to start getting the word out.  Regardless of how it is
published, you will put in a lot of time in promotion.

This is the second stage of being an author and there are some bitter
lessons to be learned if  you are not careful.  Some might make you want to
quit writing. DON'T. Learning what pitfalls to avoid this time will serve
you well for all other books you write. The first mistakes we make are the
worst, but the best teachers.  We learn to investigate each step before
taking it.

One path to promotion is reviews and interviews. They do work to get your
name and title of your book out there.  An absolute must for the new author
is to check out anyone offering to review your book that you or your
publisher or agent or publicist did not contact. There are a lot of cheats
out there, wanting free print copies to resell or ebooks to post and sell on
crooked sites with out your publisher's permission. Ignore requests for a
print copy of your book for a country where English is not spoken. They'll
say the book is for children, but remember if they country speaks another
language, how would they read your book?

Interviews on blogs and radio shows are very good promotion tools. It helps
to get the public familiar with your name to hear it several times during a
short period.

Ads online will remain on site longer than a more expensive ad in a print
source such as a magazine or newspaper that is perused once and then set
aside. If you get offers to list your book in a catalog being sent to
booksellers, you should know most of those ads are one line placed with
perhaps hundreds of others. Booksellers rarely, if ever, go throughcatalogs

unless brought in a publisher's representative or from one of their standard
sources. And those catalogs don't solicit authors. For any ad you might
placing, consider your promotion budget first and ask other authors what
they think are the most successful in promoting a book.

To add to your name exposure, consider writing articles or short stories for
websites or perhaps your local newspaper. If you sign up with a website to
learn the rules of book reviewing, you can also raise the level of awareness
of your own work.

When soliciting reviews, ask your publisher or other authors you know.
These days, newspapers mostly don't review books but there are many sites
online that do and they have good readership.

Lastly, if you write for a certain genre or niche market, you should aim
your promotion efforts in that direction.

Happy promoting.

Anne K. Edwards has written several books in different genres, all published
by Twilight Times Books. She writes articles and short stories and has
several new projects underway. Anne is also an avid reader whose free time
is dictated by her cats. If they don't want anything for a few minutes, she
may read or write.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mystery Party 101… Or how to drive yourself crazy in three easy steps.

Not sure about the three part, but the crazy is dead-on.

To launch my first cozy mystery, Iced Chiffon, I though it would be fun to do something different. I’ll have a mystery party at my house, I decided! I have the house, I like parties. A match made in heaven.

Sixty is a nice number and I can just buy the party online. Piece of cake.

You can see where this is going, can’t you. Murphy’s Law on steroids.

First off there are no mystery parties online for sixty that has everyone involved all the time. That means I have to write the mystery. And if people are coming to my house I have to feed them and drink them.

Thirty years ago I decided I wanted kids and my husband went along with it. That gave me four waiters and barkeeps for my party. It took me a week to write the party with characters and clues.

A few things I discovered along the way. The most important is the more alcohol, the better the party. The second is that your friends are there for fun more than finding out who-done-it.

The theme was Roaring 20’s and Duffy’s Speakeasy. Lots of decorations online to buy and an easy theme to dress in costume for and did I mention the alcohol? I divided the guests into families...Manicotti family, Ravioli get the picture. I think I did this at night when hungry. Working in families made everyone pull their info and come up with the killer.

I’ve had three parties now and each time it gets better. If you’re a mystery author it’s a great it. If you’re a mystery reader get invited to one. If I do party four I’ll let you know. I’d love to have one at the Cincinnati conservatory with a Clue theme. You know, Miss Scarlett in the conservatory with the candlestick. That’s my dream. I’ll let you know when the invites go out.

So…what is the best party you’ve been to? What makes a party special? Got any suggestions if we go to the Conservatory? I’ll give away three Iced Chiffon totes from the answers.


Dr. Watson here with my staff, that would be Duffy Brown. I have her so wrapped around my little paw. All I do is look cute and she coughs up the treats. But life wasn’t always this great, I got dumped in a DQ parking lot. I  made pitiful kitten sounds and looked pathetic and Duffy came along and  gave me her cookie-dough ice cream cone. Talk about an easy touch. She named me Dr. Watson. Her license plate is Sherlock. Personally I think the girl needs therapy. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Niche Marketing

You’ve written a new book, published it, and people aren’t buying. Publishing is definitely not a case of “build it, and they will come.” It’s hard work to get the word out about a new book when tens of thousands are published every month.

There are two groups of people you should be marketing your new book to. The first of these consists of the people you know, and the second group is made up of people who like the type of book you’ve written.
Humans are social creatures. By identifying yourself as a member of a group, you’ve identified a niche market for your novel. Look at unique opportunities to market to that audience. Maybe it’s as easy as telling a group of fishing buddies that you’ve published a book, or perhaps the group is so far-reaching that you’ll need to consider advertising.  Each group is unique and will present distinctive ways of communicating that you’ll be able to tap into. For instance, college alumni groups typically have both nationally distributed magazines, and local meeting groups. Your high school alumni group will most likely have neither.

So what groups are you a member of? I’m going to start by listing some of the more common groups. I’m sure you’ll find that you belong to one or more. Then you can brainstorm for additional groups of which you’re a member. You’ll be amazed at how many groups you can come up with in a short period of time.

The first group that most of us belong to is the workforce. I’m not saying that we should define our audience as the entire workforce, but you certainly can slice up your job in a variety of different ways. First, what company do you work for? Most of your co-workers will be interested in hearing about a new book—particularly one written by someone they know. Make a point of telling the people in your office about your new endeavor. There will be some of you who will not be able to talk about your writing. Some bosses will think that your newfound fame as an author will spell the end of your job at work. You’ll have to make the call on that. Still, your workplace can be a source of sales.

Beyond the company you work for, you are part of a professional group as well. Currently, I teach middle school English. I belong to the National Education Association as well as the National Council of Teachers of English. Submit an announcement of your publication to your professional organization’s in-house magazine. Most publications have a column or feature announcing member news. You can tell all of the people in your profession about your book in this manner.

Now that you’ve covered your workplace, consider covering your former schools in a similar fashion.  Most of you went to high school and college, so you’ll have at least two avenues to pursue. Schools, colleges in particular, are ideal places to promote your work. While attending institutions of higher learning, you were in the process of becoming who you are today, which includes your writing. Now that you’ve accomplished something, they are a great place to tell people about it.

Most alumni organizations have local chapters and a nationally distributed magazine. All of them have a place where alumni can announce their promotions, weddings, and children. Tell the editor about your new book. Local groups usually put out a smaller newsletter for the graduates in the area. Obviously, if you went to school close to where you now live, you’ll probably have a bigger population of graduates to whom you can promote your book. With local groups, always try to get a mailing list of the members. Some groups will give or sell you their lists if you’re a member.

Your high school can be another place to sell your book. It’s a bit more difficult to get the word out because most high schools are not organized or financially secure enough to send mass-mailings to former students. And typically alumni events are only held every five years, so you could have a book published and out of print in less time than it takes to get around to the next reunion. Still, if an event is coming up that asks graduates what they’ve been up to, be sure to include your book title.

Having covered the basic organizations, there are numerous other organizations that you belong to, some you might not even be aware of! If you live in an apartment complex or a condominium, post signs about your signings on the public bulletin boards, and ask to have a notice about your book put in the complex’s meeting minutes. These minutes are often sent directly to residents.

The number of organizations that you belong to will surprise you. Even your choice of religion can provide you with new marketing opportunities. Your church has a newsletter that can announce your new book. If you fish or hunt or collect glass animals, most of these activities have national organizations that allow announcements as well. Many cozies these days contain a unique hobby or craft that interests the reader. These avocations can be used to market to the relevant craft people; perhaps you can even set up a signing at the local hobby and craft show.

Your family is another source for your work. If your wife works outside the home, she can promote your book to her co-workers. If your husband belongs to the Elks or the Masons, he can tell that group to buy your book. Boy Scouts, Brownies, soccer teams, bowling leagues, PTA, and others are all places where you can find a niche to promote your work

Jeffrey Marks is the long-time moderator of MurderMustAdvertise, an on-line discussion group dedicated to book marketing and public relations. He is the author of Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel, the only how-to book for promoting genre fiction.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Want to Get Published? It’s as Easy as 1, 2, 3

OK, no, it’s not. Publishing is hard. Really hard. But the 1, 2, 3 thing is true in one sense. You see, there are now three distinct paths to getting your work to readers.

That’s a pretty revolutionary change, though by now we often pass over the
Photo credit: Rob Fillion
fact of it, unremarked. But until recently, if you weren’t given a contract by a major house or one of a handful of smaller ones, your only publishing option was a vanity press that would take your money and usually your dignity and pride as an author as well.

Many bits and bytes have been devoted to how indie publishing has changed the reading and writing landscape, if not the world. Indie publishing has resurrected the midlist. Expanded the number of authors who are able to make a living off their work. Offered published authors another way to pursue their careers, and emerging writers a way to break in.

The issue has become polarized, which is unfortunate, since it isn’t even an accurate representation of what’s happening. Some authors pursue both indie and traditional publishing at the same time, if, say, they write more books than can be published in a year, or if their books straddle different genres.

But for whatever reason sometimes this is more of a debate than a conversation. There are moderate voices, of course, but also zealotry—the ardor of the convert—on the part of some indie authors. And from traditionally published authors? Well, I hear less. Their voices seem to be quieter, which has allowed myths to be perpetrated (editors don’t edit anymore) and arguable predictions to be put forth as fait accompli (traditional publishing is on its way out).

I don’t have an answer for why the discussion breaks down in this way, beyond noting the similarity to other, hotter conflicts, political and religious ones, which also seem to become polarized instead of explored with nuance.

So, in the interest of promoting nuance, I would like to list the pros and cons of each of the three main paths.

1.     Traditional publishing with a major house or established independent (e.g., Algonquin)

·       Pros: Up-front money; a whole team working to make your book the best it can be; close, personal relationships with team are possible; anywhere from a lot to some support with marketing; broad distribution; review attention from mainstream media; strong print presence; potential for sales to foreign publishers and other subsidiary rights

·       Cons: Takes a long time to find a publisher, if one is ever found; long delay between acquisition and release; need to make a big splash right away or possibility of future deals is diminished; desire to brand the author or have author publish in one niche

2.     Traditional publishing with a smaller independent or niche press (e.g., Oak Tree, Echelon, Entangled, Wild Rose, Belle Bridge)

·       Pros: Close, personal relationships with editor and publisher; press might be focused on and expert in a smaller slice of the fiction market corresponding to author’s work; less pressure to take off right away

·       Cons: Usually no upfront money; bookstore presence and review attention can be harder to come by; risk of newer presses dissolving

3.     Indie- or self-publishing

·       Pros: Control over entire process; independence from constraints of publishers; potential to proceed very quickly

·       Cons: Control over entire process; independence from constraints of publishers; potential to proceed very quickly

OK, that last is a little tongue-in-cheek, but it does seem that the advantages of indie publishing are its potential disadvantages as well. The wise indie author is able to turn them to his or her benefit and suffer none of the drawbacks.

In the above list, there’s a lot of room for nuance, no? There is much in the way of information and issues to consider if you choose to do so. What’s important is to open up a conversation. Because if someone tells you only one path is right, they’re probably wrong.

There’s just the one that’s right for you.

 All my best in finding it. 

Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New Jersey whose debut novel, Cover of Snow, will be published in January by Ballantine.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pumping Up

Jeff asked me to share my experience of working with a paid publicist to promote  A DARKLY HIDDEN TRUTH, book 2 in my Monastery Murders, so here goes.

My friend, noir writer Vincent Zandri ( told me about his great experience with Pump Up Your Book back in 2010 when we both returned to publishing after a 10-year hiatus, working for the same publisher and with the same agent. Vince rose to almost instant super stardom and credits a lot of his early success to the job pump up Your Book did helping him get the word out. He signed up for continuing tours with them. The fact that he writes amazing books, of course, has kept his meteor aloft.

I determined that when I could manage it I would do a Pump Up Your Books tour. It took me two years to get there, but in May I finally got to do so. Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book ( offers 4 levels of tours:

Bronze, 10 - 12 stops over a one month period for $299

Silver, 15 - 20 stops over a one month period for $399

Gold, 30+ stops over a two month period for $599

Platinum, 45+ stops over a 3 month period which includes professional book trailer, reader and blogger incentives, AuthorVid, Goodreads Chat, banner advertisement in sidebar, personalized press releases, pre-buzz on minimum of 10 blogs and websites before your tour even starts and much much more for $1399. (

I chose the Silver.  It took Dorothy about a month to set up my tour which included guest spots on 25 blogs— more than she had guaranteed and many of them syndicated (interviews, book reviews and articles from me evenly balanced) an article in an online newspaper, a podcast radio interview and an author video.  You can see the schedule on my homepage: (scroll down a bit)
Dorothy is an absolute delight to work with and her bloggers were enthusiastic about my book, although the review copies (which I mailed out) are sent with the understanding that they will receive an honest review. And many of those bloggers have hundreds of followers.

I received what may be my all-time favorite review from one of these bloggers. You can see it here as a good example of the exposure my book received.
Each day of the tour I went to my tour stop, left a comment, got the permalink for that post and added it to the schedule on my website, then tweeted, facebooked, etc. To help get the word out. I tried to resist driving my friends crazy, so I didn’t promote everything to every contact list every day. Near the end we were in California visiting family and I failed to get a couple of the permalinks added, although I did visit the blogs those days.

Bottom line: Rankings for print book were two times better, sales rank for ebook was 4 times better. (A month on the ranks have returned to their earlier positions.)Did this pay for the tour? I won’t know until I see my royalty statement— and then I may not be sure.
Would I do it again? Yes. I am. My Arthurian epic GLASTONBURY, A Novel of The Holy Grail has just come out in ebook and I’ve signed on for a tour in September. (Dorothy offers returning tourees $100 off.)

Whether or not the experience paid off in sales I was very satisfied with it in terms of exposure and career-building. It was fun.

Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 40 books, mostly novels dealing with British history.  The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work.  She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave  and A Darkly Hidden Truth, as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the romantic suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho.  They have 4 adult children and 11 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener. To read more about all of Donna’s books  and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: