Tuesday, February 13, 2018

BITTEN, PART 3: Infestation by Carole P. Roman - featured on Medium.com

By Carole P. Roman
Within a vortex of competition, how do you get people to read your book?

don’t care how many times you hit your Amazon page to stare at your book, or your name, or your ranking. We all do it. There is no greater joyexcept opening your Kindle and seeing your book as a reading suggestion.

Dreams do come true, and if you’re among the lucky ones to have your book magically attach to The Handmaid’s Tale, you get the bonus of watching the money flow in and your book staying in the top spot for a year.

You can wake up now.

That only happens in webinars and fairy tales. Take your pick. If you want your book to succeed, you have to push it up a steep incline, alone, with rocks in your pocket. There is so much to do, and if your private publicist, assistant, and chauffeur are busy, you better get cracking.

Anyone who says they published a book and it became an instant bestseller must be living in the world they created on paper. Millions of books are published yearly, a good portion of them by traditional publishing houses with teams of professionals promoting the author.

Don’t you love when people tell you all you need is to get on a morning show, where Anthony Mason or Gayle King can trade quips with you about your fascinating story? Do you have dreams of a cozy talk with Oprah?

Getting on one of these shows, as well as onto the New York Times Best Sellers list, is about as rare as the purple dragon you wrote about—and just as elusive.

If you want your book to be seen, you have to roll up your sleeves and live, eat, and breathe promotion. Most of the writers I speak to often groan, “I’m a writer. I don’t do marketing.” That’s like saying, “I want a baby, but I don’t do diaper changes.” It doesn’t work like that.
The bulk of the author population I’ve met have limited funds and access to promoting and marketing their book. This is where the smart part about not quitting your day job comes in. You have to use the resources available.

Press announcements, mass emails, and blog tours are great ways to get the ball rolling. Networking leads to mailing lists, which may result in reviews. There are a million ways to find people to read your book—and no, they don’t want to buy it, but you do need the reviews.
Reviews are the building blocks of sales. In fact, the more reviews you have, the better, even the bad ones. But it’s not as easy as reinventing a Tupperware party into a book review party and asking all your friends to write about your novel. Amazon can sniff out fake reviews, and they will delete them.

You have to join the community, immerse yourself in the culture, and learn the assorted tricks of the trade. If you plan to write your book and leave it to languish in the bottomless pit of triple- or quadruple-digit rankings on Amazon, fine. Be realistic. But if you want your book read, you have to tell people about it.

If you took the time to write it, then take the time to promote it. It’s part of the entire experience—almost a rite of passage, like the first dance at your wedding or dipping your Oreo in ice-cold milk. Sure, you can eat the Oreo alone, but dipping it in milk gives it so much more!
Promotion changed my life. Each lead gave way to new opportunities that taught me how to broadcast my products. Some cost money, and sometimes the investment was time and elbow grease.

Either way, you have to settle in and be prepared to worm your way into everyone’s computer. It’s not “if you write it they will buy it,” but rather “if they see it, they will have to have it.”

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Friday, February 9, 2018

BITTEN, PART 2: The Sting of Mistakes by Carole P. Roman - featured on Medium.com

The Sting of Mistakes

Pay close attention — self-publishing can be rewarding, but costly.

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Credit: torbakhopper via flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Istarted my writing career during a friendly family competition, never expecting to publish. My kids kept telling me to try it. They knew I loved to read and that I longed to write a book but didn’t know where or how to begin.
A few months before our contest, my oldest son decided to write a book. He told us about a new publishing platform that allowed writers to publish their work. I was leery. I insisted he change his name in case it didn’t work out. When he told me he wanted to write a self-help book, both my husband and I begged him to forget the idea. For every obstacle we named, he explained how the company made publishing seamless.
“What do you know about writing a book?” I asked him.
“Nothing,” he told me. “Anyone can do this. It’s called self-publishing. It’s like a smorgasbord: You pick and choose what you want, and sites like CreateSpace will make it happen.”
He refused to give in. We figured he’d publish one book, get it out of his system, and move on to the next up-and-coming idea.
My son self-published his book, and within a few months, it appeared on Amazon’s listings directly opposite one of the bestselling law-of-attraction books of all time. Not one to let grass grow under his feet, he dove into fiction, writing and publishing a series of paranormals, science fiction, and horror stories in rapid succession. He won tons of awards and soon landed a two-book publishing deal under his real name, along with a high-powered entertainment attorney, a literary agent, and a film agent. All this using widely available tools on the internet.
I had written a bodice ripper back in the ’70s, during the Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers revolution in romance novels. I sent it out to agents. H.N. Swanson, in Hollywood of all places, signed me.
Everyone rejected the book, and while the failure to publish was disappointing, it was a thrilling year. Eventually, I self-published the novel with a vanity press, made $100 in royalties, and put away my dreams of being a bestselling author.
While I always envisioned myself writing the Great American Novel, I never thought that if I did manage to get anything published, it would be a children’s book.
I never liked children’s books. I jettisoned kid’s lit when my boys were younger; they were as bored with it as I was. Instead, we read Shirley Jackson or Shakespeare. I had never heard of YA.
Then, one day, my adult children proposed a contest. Everybody had to bring in a story, or at least the beginning of one, on Monday morning. (We all work together in a family business during the week.)
As I have no patience — and back then, I had the attention span of a gnat — I dashed off a story about playtime with the grandkids. I didn’t take it seriously and was more excited about the next subject my son was going to explore: witches.
But a contest is a contest, and so I created a character. I dug deeply into my Sidney Shellaberger past, thought about Errol Flynn (and a little Burt Lancaster), and swashbuckled my way through a story. While my pirates hark from a few decades before Johnny Depp traipsed around the gangplank, my “Captain No Beard” struck a chord with my family of readers. I wrote a grand adventure with a little twist at the end and read it to them as we compared our stories.
Guess who won? Pirates: 1, Witches: 0!
My son called me over to the computer and pulled up his CreateSpace account. Within minutes, I had an ISBN. I had no idea I ever needed one. Illustrators were compared and styles evaluated; Bonnie Lemaire was chosen for her whimsical artwork. My kid tapped the buttons, and I was in business.
I had entered the world of self-publishing, a place I like to call “Indieworld.” Little did I know it would take over my life.

Self-Publishing 101

Six years ago, CreateSpace offered neat promotions for the uninitiated. I took every option they offered. I was given a set amount of illustrations, an editing package, and a press release kit.
It was a substantial amount of money, but I chose to purchase everything the company offered. I was working in the dark and felt the need to have the professionals at CreateSpace guide me. In other words, if I were going on a vacation, I’d be the one with 14 suitcases. Editing: check. Formatting: check. Editorial reviews: I’ll take two of those, please. List of any blog or newspaper that may be interested in your book: Count me in.
While I understand this is a luxury most authors don’t have, I had the benefit of having already built a successful business, which allowed me to invest in something that interested me. If I was attempting this venture, I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
I ascribe to the notion of when in doubt, know every option available. I am a hands-on learner. I don’t whine over mistakes or wrong turns, and I enjoy trying new things. I don’t see mistakes so much as an error but as an opportunity to never choose that option again. It’s how I learn and grow.
I was still in the hobby phase and felt insecure about proceeding. I had no idea that I was creating a strong platform that would eventually teach me the tools to feel confident enough to publish more than 50 books and genre-jump like a gazelle.
The editor was encouraging. She polished the manuscript in a way that made it clever, with subtle changes that enhanced the story. I was in heaven.
Next, I had to fill out a questionnaire describing the characters and the actions I wanted to see in the illustrations. I went through each line of dialogue, each scene, playing it out, explaining it to a person I’d never met. The illustrator was a stranger, and we spoke through email — not the best way to communicate something that was quickly taking over my heart and soul.
It was harder than I expected, and when the pencil drawings showed up in my account, I went into transports. They were stunning. I rushed through the pictures as I race through everything I do and accepted them while not carefully examining them. I was fine.

Once the drawings were inked, CreateSpace sent them back and said I should decide where the text should go.

“What! You want me to do what?! You’re the book people! You put it together!” I was aghast.

“No,” my account rep politely assured me. This was something I had to do.
We happened to be on vacation at the time. I sat with my laptop, pulling out my hair. The actions didn’t quite match the illustrations. I printed the pictures and played with the storyline.

“Well,” I wrote, “a few of the illustrations don’t work with the dialogue…What? I have to pay for changes? You don’t just fix ’em?”
Lesson number one: Everything costs money, especially mistakes. It’s only fair, I realized. Bonnie’s time was valuable. It was my fault for not paying attention to matching the actions to the text.

I wrestled with the story, tweaked, and twisted, finally hitting the publish button. One of the best days of my life.
I should have waited to get the proof, though. All those changes threw off my editing job, and the book was riddled with mistakes.

Lesson number two: Check, recheck, and check it again. I’ll never make that mistake again. Much.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

National Cancer Prevention Month

Cervical Cancer Survivor: ‘Don't let fear keep you from going to the doctor.’ 

Cervical cancer survivor Tonya Butler did not have health insurance or a primary care doctor in the fall of 2012. When she began feeling sick, she didn’t know what to do or where to go. Her symptoms included nausea and abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge. Butler, 46, hoped it might be related to the onset of menopause and would just go away on its own. But it was not menopause and it didn’t go away.
Over the next few weeks, Butler became weaker and weaker. She couldn’t keep down any food, or eventually, even water. Her cousin took her to see a gynecologist, who did tests including a Pap smear and a biopsy. The doctor told Butler she had what appeared to be a mass, and she thought it was cancer. She told Butler’s cousin to take her straight to the hospital, and warned her she’d likely be admitted. Butler had never stayed in a hospital before, and she was scared.
Doctors at the hospital ordered another biopsy, and confirmed Butler had cervical cancer. Further tests found it was stage 1B. She was also severely dehydrated and anemic. Treatment would include surgery followed by 6 sessions of chemotherapy.
While Butler was still in the hospital recovering from surgery, she had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” which is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain. For a short time, her left arm was numb and heavy, her mouth appeared crooked, and her speech was slurred. Her body resolved the blockage on its own, and no permanent damage occurred. However, chemotherapy left Butler with neuropathy, a painful numbness and tingling in her hands, along with muscle cramps and aches. 

A second cancer

In 2015, Butler and her doctor noticed a lump on the right side of her neck and had it checked out. It was early stage thyroid cancer, treated through surgery. She now takes thyroid hormone replacement medication. Since then, Butler has remained under the care of her doctors and gets checkups every few months. Currently she is cancer-free.

Dealing with sadness

Butler says she often dwells on everything she’s been through, and is still going through, related to her cancer diagnosis and treatment. She calls it “a really sad feeling” that sometimes evolves into depression. When she’s low, she tries to think about things that make her smile, she talks to her mother, aunt, or cousin, or she just prays.
For more on depression,  see Anxiety, Fear, and Depression, or call us at 1-800-227-2345.
Please go get yourself checked out, even if you have a mosquito bite that doesn't look right, go to the doctor. Don't let fear keep you from going to the doctor like I did, or it will only get worse. - Tonya Butler
Every September, she looks forward to Cancer Survivors Day activities held by The Carolinas’ Levine Cancer Institute, where she was treated and still has her follow-up visits. It’s a chance to meet others who have also faced a cancer diagnosis.
“I want to encourage others, inspire others, share my story with others,” says Butler. “Please go get yourself checked out, even if you have a mosquito bite that doesn't look right, go to the doctor. Don't let fear keep you from going to the doctor like I did, or it will only get worse.”
Butler dreams of having her own business one day. Before her diagnosis, she used to braid hair, but the neuropathy in her hands makes that impossible. She likes to make soaps and chocolate-covered treats including chocolate-covered Oreos and pretzels. On good days, she crochets.
In the meantime, she provides before-school and after-school care for one or two children. And she looks forward to visits from a cousin and her baby brother. “They have me smiling and laughing," says Butler. “They’re my therapy.”

Cancer Helpline: 800.227.2345

Below is the cancer.org website for more information and how you can get involved in the fight against cancer:

Friday, February 2, 2018

Guest Post written by my mom, Carole P. Roman

I have no background in marketing and promotion, but I realized as soon as we started our self-publishing enterprise I was going to have to learn fast.
As an author, I thought publishing was a snap. One wrote a book, loaded it on Createspace and snap, you were off and running. After all, that was my experience with my son's first book, Just Ask the Universe.
Michael wrote the book, against my better judgement and within weeks of publishing was linked with one of the most popular and best-selling books of all time. I don't know how it happened, but it took absolutely no work and virtually no investment.
Man, I thought this was going to be easy!
Between my son and I we published ten books in the next year. I purchased a press kit from Createspace, just in case we were going to need it. I published Captain No Beard and he published Brood X.
We waited for the reviews and sales to come pouring in. We waited, and waited, every day checking the falling rank with dismay. I started looking up other authors, looking at their websites and other social media to see what we were missing. I realized the successful ones had several things going for them, the first being a brand.
A brand is something that identifies the author with his body of work. Okay, that meant we worked overtime on pumping out multiple books.
What next? They had strong social presences. I didn't even know what Facebook was. I found an affordable social marketer, Julie Gerber and asked her to guide me in the shoals of marketing both myself and my kid.
That being said, I didn't just hand it all over to her, but took responsibility in learning all the different ways to promote our work, both with funds and without.
It is, I learned as easy as ABC.
A- Accept that you have to be constantly looking for ways to promote your books.
B- Be a blogger and look to be on as many blogs as you can.
C- Chat with other authors on discussion groups on Goodreads.
and D- Don't get discouraged.
There are 22 more letters to go though. Take your time and don't forget to have fun.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bitten by Carole P. Roman (featured on Medium.com)

So you want to self-publish? Take these first steps into the universe of writing as a business.

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It can be sitting and fermenting for years, or it can start with the spark of an idea. Maybe it was a sunrise, or your child’s giggle, or when you closed the fancy $20 kid’s book with a sigh and said, “I could write better than that.”

Whatever the catalyst, you’ve decided to write a book. Hey, it’s easy! Everybody’s doing it! Three million books are published yearly, and why can’t yours be one of them? You think about it, and your insides bubble with excitement.

After all, you have a great story — people will love it! It will break hearts or ignite the imagination. The unpronounceable names you pick with lots of Xes in the middle will become cultural bywords, like “Katniss” or “Orcs.”

Your dystopian society where elves read each other’s minds while they fly on broomsticks and fight vampires has never been done. You are going to rock this world.
Could your creation be the next new thing that has everybody talking? This is going to be a walk in the park, you think.

Think again, partner. It’s a bit more complicated than you realize. You are going to have to enter the world of self-publishing—a new dimension, a place where rules will be tested—and you will find yourself defining every boundary you ever set.

Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, take a minute and be honest with yourself: Why do you want to do this? Why dive into this strange place? This alternate universe?

For some, it’s a desperate need to make money while sitting at home in their pajamas. They are sick of the grind and want to sleep all day and drink high-test at night while they pound away on their epic adventure. After all, it’s sexy to say you are a writer.

Others have a story that’s been waiting to come out, ever since they read TwilightLordoftheRingsGamesofThronesDebbieDoesDestiny. You get the picture?
Characters and plots have been dancing in your skull for years. Are they original? Are you just continuing the saga of a book you read and never wanted to end?

Why do you want to write your book? Who is your audience?
My first book was a pirate story for children. Listen, everybody loves pirates! I calculated the male population of the United States. I hadn’t yet even considered the untapped markets of Amazon UK! If every boy in America bought my book, I’d be on easy street.

Wait! I’ll double my audience by including a strong female character. Good Morning America, here I come! Grandmother writes the great American novel for six-year-olds. Move over pigeons, piggies, and mice that want cookies; there’s a new kid in town!

They often say: If you write it, they will come. Well, that’s the first fairy tale of the self-publishing world. It doesn’t work like that. It’s complicated, and it’s hard work. Nothing comes easy. It is frustrating and can be expensive and disappointing.

If you are going to do this, put the same amount of thought you put into making any big decision in your life. Be realistic. In other words, don’t quit your day job. You have miles to go to see if this will work.

Start by looking at your genre. Really research it. Buy a bunch of books. Read what’s hot and what people love. Explore what sells. Look at the books with the lowest rankings on Amazon. That’s right, you heard me—this is a place where the lower the rank, the more the book is selling. Check out the genre you’re interested in; look at the top 100 books in that categories. Examine the covers; check out the authors with multiple books throughout that list and think about where your book might fit. I didn’t look at any of those things when I worked on my first book, but let me assure you, I looked at them very closely by my second and third. Looking at those bestsellers gave me an idea about what was selling, which covers attracted people, and which stories were popular.

You may adore your story. It’s personal. It’s a part of you. I understand. If your reason to write a book is to leave a lasting reminder that you were here or to record your thoughts for posterity, that’s fine. Write, edit, publish, market. Done.
If you are seeking fame and fortune, then be smart. Do your homework and research to see what is trending, what is selling.

Writing books is a business, and the biggest mistake an author can make is to forget that.
Be prepared to invest in yourself and your project. There is a cost involved—things you must do, from editing to cover art, if you want to compete with the big guys. If you decide you want to be an Uber driver and build an account base, do you think you’d be successful driving an old Chevy when everyone has brand-new vehicles?

Get ready to do things you didn’t expect to do—or even want to do. Don’t fool yourself that you can do it all by yourself. Join a good author’s thread on Goodreads and open your eyes and your mouth. Ask questions.
Walking is easier in the snow when you step in the footsteps of the fellow before you. Goodreads is filled with authors experimenting with writing and marketing their books. Don’t be shy. For the most part, they are warm and helpful. If they aren’t, find another thread. There are thousands of them. They are out there.

The first step in your journey is to explore the universe of self-publishing. Get familiar with other author’s problems; they may help you head off one of your own.

Be honest about why you want to publish, and then take a hard look at your work in progress and think: Will this sell? Is there an audience?

Start your adventure, and remember to have fun along the way.

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