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Thursday, September 28, 2017

PUSHING THE 'WRITE' BUTTONS


                                “My avocation was a spark ignited by sugar.”

            Remember Candy Dots? Sometimes called buttons, those little rows of rainbow sugar were easily peeled off long white strips of paper. (I always ate the cherry rows first.) Penny candy and nickel chocolate bars were sweet rewards in my childhood. Neighborhood Groceries or “Dimestores” displayed glass canisters of candy that could be scooped into little bags for little cravers deliberating over choices like Atomic Fireballs, Tootsie rolls, Root Beer Barrels, Sugar Babies, Blackjack Gum, and Taffy squares in four flavors. I was lucky to get my fix for a dime…at a little red brick store about half way (six blocks) between home and school. (Yes, I once walked a mile for a two cent box of candy cigarettes.)
            So, as my mouth is now under construction for implants with three dead molars needing replacement, I’m shamed into recall. Did the origin of my porcelain decline begin with a landmark splurge after winning my first writing contest at age ten? A Western Union Telegram (remember them?) notified me of my win. A five dollar prize  in the hands of a ten year old with a sweet tooth was dangerous. I blew it on Candy Buttons.
            The win propelled a normally shy little redhead to the front of her class for Show and Tell. I like to imagine classmates were more awed by telegram proof of my new literary status than the candy strips I distributed.  
            Decades later, as I prepare a power point presentation for Book Clubs and organizations interested in the novel journey of a writer with a crammed portfolio and sore gums, I am reminded of those Candy Buttons and what literary lessons I might salvage from that bittersweet childhood splurge:
            Everybody loves a winner! True. It is easier to get noticed when you can show you have some credible awards and great reviews. This requires losing enough humility to put yourself out there. I try to do a lot of 21st century Show and Tell now that I’m an award-winning author working on my fourth book. This includes speaking to groups in their venue...or at my teaparties featuring the sweet treats that hallmark my novels.
            Marketing means spending to receive! So true. Candy was once a sweet incentive to grow attention. Not so much today. Adult readers in a market with more supply than demand crave discounts, free books, gift certificates or even trendy gadgets to win their attention. Book parties--online and off--feature incentive give-a-ways to promote a book. However, the price of those give-a-ways and necessary ads, as well as review and promo services, can take a bittersweet bite out of royalties. New novelists are like minnows swallowed up by bigger fish with a publisher or a unique platform that attracts schools of followers. I think of “50 Shades of Gray”—and turn 50 shades of green over the 16,000  reviews it garnered and how the book saved a Publishing House. No candy or freebies  required?
            Creative people need to promote creatively! Right. When a promotion works well, writers are encouraged to repeat the success and always think outside the box. Candy Buttons inspired celebrity a half century ago. Are they still sold—like candy cigarettes and tootsie rolls? I check online and find Minnesota’s largest candy store (a 90 minute drive away) sells new and nostalgic candy. In a historic town closer to home, I find a chocolate shop that also sells Candy Buttons. Five packages for $6.00 inflates the childhood price by about 1000%. Still, it’s a small price to pay for renewed celebrity and more readers. When I present my “Novel Road” power point to Book Clubs and aspiring authors, I’ll have a sweet reminder to give away with bookmark swag. It feels right—a nostalgic treat to promote a taste for my nostalgic brand of fiction.

            “Sweet!” My eight-year-old granddaughter approves the idea with a high five and a toothy grin white as chicklets. She loves to read, but actually prefers veggies.

Book a FREE tea party with CJ at
Falorac@gmail.com or on FB message!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

STILL FLYING!! by Cj Fosdick


    Thirty years ago I attended my first Writer’s Conference in Rochester, MN. It was a weekend mecca for birds of a feather--hopeful writers flocking together to learn from two famous Minnesota authors.
     Frederick Manfred and Jon Hassler are both deceased now, but their writing was alive in 1986, and they actually read and evaluated the excerpts that were turned in. Mine was one of them. I had already won a short story contest and been published in a few magazines and anthologies, but I was a novel novice. I was also a novice coffee drinker, nervous and trembling enough to slosh over my agenda.
     Tall and formidable, the 6 ft. 9 in.Manfred pulled my excerpt first and read his comments in the margin. “Condense…use simple liquid words…polysyllabics diffuse meaning.” My wings were clipped.  Jon Hassler’s critique restored flight. The college professor/novelist announced one graphic piece reminded him of Giants in the Earth, an acclaimed novel by Minnesota’s most famous Norwegian immigrant, Ole Rolvaag. “Powerful stuff,” Hassler announced, “from C.J. Fosdick.” When I introduced myself to him later, he confirmed his view with that golden word, “publishable.”
     Sadly, that first novel was rejected, however, and its thin-skinned author banished it to a garage freezer. Iced for decades!  Life, meanwhile, continued with occasional freelance work sandwiched in time slots between four children and thirty animals, including 20 horses. Horse shows, training and rescuing animals filled the family agenda.
     In 2012, I visited a friend in Las Vegas and attended another Writer Conference while there. WC’s had drastically changed in 26 years, along with the Publishing Industry. Only 5% of published manuscripts were first novels in 1986. With the internet and eBooks, new novelists in 2012 were storming the castle gates of traditional publishing. Pitching a novel at Conferences was a new substitute for query letters that used to end up in slush piles. Like speed dating, a writer was given 5-10 minutes to convince an agent or publisher they were "traditionally publishable.” (Self-publishing was still Cinderella’s ugly stepsister five years ago.) Today, new self-published authors are flooding the market with a wide range of manuscripts—widely critiqued.
     I had to test the climate. I joined three National Writing Groups and in the last five years, attended 10 Writer Conferences all over the U.S. and one in London. Sometimes I pitched the freezer novel with positive results, though one agent suggested it was far too long and another suggested I write a novella first, then market the freezer saga.
     It was at a Kansas City Conference with Women Writing the West that I won a Laura award for a short story in 2013. The judge suggested it begged to become a novel. I didn’t pitch at that WC, but managed to dine beside the publisher of an acclaimed small press “Send me the ms. once it becomes a novel,” Rhonda Penders suggested. Motivated fingers flew over my laptop keyboard, and a year later my first published novel was released by The Wild Rose Press. 
     I’m still flying high. With an empty nest…and barn… I’m working on my third novel in the Accidental Series, with two more stories published and occasional freelance articles surfacing in our newspaper or a Woman’s magazine. The freezer novel Jon Hassler deemed “publishable” is still in the hanger, but my award-winning debut novel is still flying high, the eBook on sale in August for just .99 at the buy links below

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 Amazon      WildRose Press         B&N          iTunes      Kobo



















          Amazon      WildRose Press         B&N          iTunes      Kobo

Saturday, July 15, 2017

REVIEW RATINGS-- RISK or REWARD?


            Every writer knows that word of mouth and reviews can propel a new book into success. (At least six reviews are recommended for debut day.) So you enlist your best friends, beta readers, critique partners, and family members to review your baby. Pretty safe odds love rolls in for the “newborn!” LOW RISK only to biased honesty.
            No time to bask in the lovelight. You create a media kit, blog, tweet, guest post on social media, organize a street team, host a launch party, do book signings, readings, advertise… everything it takes to announce and promote that book in the frenetic search for READERS. Competition is always huge when supply exceeds demand for books. A supply created, in part, by a flood of eBooks and the rise of Indie authors in the last few years. Does Amazon really have millions of books in their online catalog? Add review magazines and online review sites to the mix, and REVIEWERS are also in demand. It’s a Catch 22 when good books need to be discovered but discovery…and sales…often depend on reviews.
            When the organic reviews are slow coming in, you DO have options to jumpstart. With no strings attached, paid reviewers will insure an honest review, but it’s a marketing expense that can burn a hole in your pocket. Kirkus and Chanticleer charge hundreds of dollars for a review—with no guarantee to even recommend the book. Still, you do have the option to post…or not if the review burns a hole in your heart. HIGH RISK for the expense.
            “Nagging” is another option. A kinder word is “trolling.” If I know someone who has purchased a copy from me, I might ask for a review weeks or months later. Posting on FB, Goodreads, in your newsletters and emails, even on business cards you can gently “nudge” with links directed to your book sites. In the stash of prints I keep on hand to sell, I insert a little card in each book with my site links, along with a friendly review request. Readers who know you will not want to comply if they didn’t like your book, but even readers who loved it may feel unqualified to post a review, or unable to understand the process if they don’t navigate social media. MODERATE RISK to pride/friendship.
            Networking with the brotherhood is another option. You’ve been inspired by other writers, followed their blogs, rubbed shoulders with other Indies or authors published in your Press. You share and commiserate with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “the only way to have a friend is to be one.” Can that be twisted into “the sure way to get a review is to write one?” Doesn’t every author swap reviews on occasion, particularly if they value an elevated review count that Amazon is sure to notice! If you swap with a writer in your genre, chances are good you already like their subject. And even if the book does not meet your rating standards, you can always find something nice to say after a short synopsis—minus any spoilers. Only another writer can appreciate the fact that writing a book is an accomplishment in itself. VARIABLE RISK to time consumed…and qualms about trading equal star ratings.
            Whoever said “Reward never comes without risk” had to be a writer...or a cliff diver. Same thing, sometimes. (Diving into my newsletter and books is no risk. Promise!)

http://eepurl.com/bxt3Kv  Newsletter
http://amazon.com/author/cjfosdick  Amazon
https://www.facebook.com/  FB

           


Saturday, March 25, 2017

From Minnesota With Love: Surviving My Ice Age

                                                       
      History was my favorite subject in school. Westerns were my favorite TV shows.  My favorite books ranged from mystery to historical romance. Every movie on my favorite list is a historical. So when I began my first novel, guess what?  It was a 19th century historical romance epic that took years of research, spanning several states I personally had to visit.
     Birthweight was more than a ream of paper. And when I was told by agents or publishers that it was too long, or “sorry, try again,” I wrapped it in cellophane and boxed it up in the garage freezer. For years. Thirty to be exact. Thin-skinned over rejection? Hubby eventually scanned all 700 pages into his computer and then onto a thumb drive that is now in our safe deposit box. But I still have that initial freezer baby—lingering now in a warm file cabinet—waiting to be edited into two, maybe three books.  
     Fast forward to present. I’ve attended a dozen writer conferences in the last four years, and even pitched the freezer book at a few of the early ones. Still too long. But the advice I was given paid off. Write a shorter book first, build a platform and presence. Then bring out the big one…or divide it into a series.  Meanwhile, I had been writing shorter stuff: stories and articles for the local paper, national anthologies and magazines. I entered contests…and placed or won. Good sign. Skin thickened. 
     When I received an award at a Women Writing the West Conference in Kansas City for a short story, Publisher Rhonda Penders was in the audience. We connected over dinner and she told me to contact her if I expanded the story to novel length as the judge had suggested. A year later, The Accidental Wife was in galley at Wild Rose Press. 
     My inspiration for the time-travel romance was Diana Gabaldon, whom I met at two of the HNS Writer Conferences. (The only author I know who can get away with creating thousand page books, though each one takes her three years to write.) The Accidental Wife was a Golden Quill finalist—ironically for best FIRST book.  The Accidental Stranger was released two months ago and I’m researching now for book three in my “Accidental Series.”

     So what about that real first book—put on ice?  It could be a good prequel to the present series. But living in Minnesota, I’ve grown accustomed to ice…and skating into opportunities when they arise. I’m on a roll now with thicker skin and a series agenda.  My ice age is history.

CJ Fosdick