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Happy Monday!

At least, I hope it is. It’s technically Sunday right now, but this topic came up and wouldn’t let me go. So here I sit, on a Sunday evening, writing a post for Monday. I hope I haven’t lost anyone yet. This is very important.

As authors, we need to create a public persona. The face of us as authors we put out in the world. Something that is how we see ourselves as authors, but isn’t completely us. An image of a person who isn’t the sum of who we are, that doesn’t include every aspect of our non-writing lives.

Why?

Because the moment you published your book or signed a contract, you became a public figure. And everything that goes along with it. Like stalkers.

This happened to an author friend I know. She posted a bit too much about her personal life on her author page. Someone went overboard. Sent her emails with images from Google Earth with her house on it. Gave her step by step directions of how they knew where she lived.

Scary, huh? It’s one reason I say I live in Seattle Suburbia and not exactly where. I have kids and a husband, but I don’t share names, ages, or schools.

My husband and I had a discussion one night, within a few weeks of me getting my first contract. On how much of our lives we wanted to present to the world via me being an author. On what we would discuss about our kids, our home, our private lives. Because those things are private. I understand wanting to know more about your favorite authors. I’ve been a reader a LOT longer than an author. But I always kept a respectful distance. I treated them as i would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.

It’s one thing to ask them questions. It’s another to refuse to take ‘it’s personal’ as an answer. Whether you classify yourself as a reader or a fan, you need to respect that your favorite authors have a life beyond the books they wrote.

As authors, we need to remember that not everyone out there will read our books and respect our privacy. Some will pry. Others will out and out invade our lives if we let them. Be vigilant. Plan ahead. Watch what you say on FB and Twitter.

Of course, there are some who will dig no matter how much you think you’ve covered your tracks. They’ll find an article from a local newspaper from your initial release. Or do search after search for your name to see if anything will help them locate where you live. Let’s be totally honest here. Some people are going to be mentally unstable. They will fixate on you, identify with your characters, in unhealthy ways. It’s part of being a public figure.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a short story I wrote years ago in response to a challenge from my old writing group. The topic for the week was meeting one of our characters in real life.

***

I stretched my neck. The hotel had a spa that offered massages. I just might have to splurge on one. I was on a pretty full schedule, though. It could end up waiting until we were back at O’Hare.

Sipping at my coffee, I checked the time on my cell phone for the third time since sitting down. My signing wasn’t for another hour, and then a panel after that. K2 still wasn’t sure why I wasn’t happy with the coffee available for free in the room. It would’ve made her job easier. Like many people knew who I was by sight. Sure, the book had taken off and I’d been invited to this event, but I still had a measure of anonymity. Todd was swinging by this afternoon, promising to take us out to lunch at the best pizza in town. It was going to be a welcome break before the party I *had* to attend.

I felt a chill as it crept down my spine. My senses, all of them, went on high alert. There was something Not Nice in the room. And it had me targeted.

Pray to every deity you want to that you never know the feeling of a blinking neon light saying “Blue Plate Special” directly over your head. It is NOT a nice feeling.

He sat two tables away, dark eyes locked on me. The attempt of a smile crossed his lips. It came across more like a tiger stalking its prey.

On the table, next to an untouched glass of water, sat a worn copy of “Daughter of Hauk”.

My spidey sense was screaming at me to get up and move. I grabbed my cell, twisting out of my chair and grasping my bag at the same time. He was within inches of me as I turned around.

His hand encircled my uppper arm in a vise-like grip. “Going somewhere, Arwenna?” I struggled to loosen his grip on me. “It’s just you and me now, Sister dear. No one here’s going to care if I take what’s mine!” His voice dripped sarcasm.

My eyes grew as it dawned on me. This psycho thought he was Bohrs, and I was Arwenna! I opened my mouth to scream.

The fist flew across his jaw first. He let go of my arm, turning to his assailant. A violent shove drove him into a table. A stiletto heeled boot pinned him to the ground before he could shake the stars from his vision.

All the bravado and swagger evaporated. His voice trembled as he looked up at the woman attached to the boot. “Who are you?” he stammered.

K2 glared at him. “I’m Y’Durkie, you son of a bitch.”

***

The point of the story is this: you never know who is going to read your books. You never know who is going to identify with the different characters. And you never know if one of those readers is going to take it too far. For your own safety, and that of those you care about, make a persona. Define what of your life your readers get a glimpse at and what’s private.

BB

I originally posted this to a closed group on FaceBook. Had a few people say I should share it here, so hope you agree!

I’ve heard from a couple of authors now, who have struggled with either marketing or presenting themselves out in the world. It’s interesting in that many authors are introverts at heart, but they have to put themselves out there on a daily basis even if they don’t want to. It’s something I had trouble with at first, too.

The biggest thing to realize is that your public face, you as an author, is a role you put on. Just like an actor or musician. It’s a persona that’s still part of you, but it’s not you as a whole.

The two best things I can tell you to do are these: if you can, take a beginning acting class at a local college. In this class, you’ll get the basics of how to create a persona, become the role you’ve been cast to play. It really can help.

The second, especially if you can’t or don’t want to take a class, is to write down how you see yourself as an author. Go into details about what you’re willing to let readers know about your personal life. Are you okay with them knowing the city you live in? Or do you want to classify it as an area (like my use of ‘Seattle Suburbia’)? Do you want them to know you’re married? Have kids? Should you include their names, or do you want to keep them sheltered from readers? Do you want to talk about your hobbies beyond writing? Or are some of them things you’d prefer to keep private? Go into great detail and build the foundation of your persona as much as possible. Get comfortable with the difference between Kate the person and KateMarie the author.

Once you begin to separate you as a person from you as a public figure, the promoting gets easier. Because it’s now a role you slip into and not you baring your soul to the world.

BB

Changing Gears

Hello!

It must be a time of change in my life. So many new and wonderful experiences! Ones I have only dreamed of or completely out of the blue.

For years, I was the fan girl. I was the one who would go all nuts over the idea of meeting my favorite authors. Respectful, yes, but still giddy with excitement and tongue tied should I ever cross their path. I knew I’d have butterflies in my stomach, and I’d relive our conversation over and over in my head.

As I got older, I tempered this reaction. A little. I’d be respectful still, but the excitement would be less superficial. I’d have a question or two in my head, ready for the asking. Things about the books I’d been wondering about for a long time.

Now, however, the shoe is on the other foot. I’m starting to get fan girls of my own.

It’s a shift in thinking, going from the admirer to the admiree. It gives me pause when I have someone giddy with excitement that I followed them on Twitter. That they would feel special because I took the time to follow them back, say welcome to them by name.

That someone whose writing they admired acknowledged they existed.

It does come down to that, the more I think on it. As authors, we hope to have legions of readers. Most of them will be nameless, faceless entities that we have no direct connection with. But they have a connection to us through the words we’ve chosen to put on paper. That we took time out from our day to say hello.

Social media is a game changer for authors. Finally, our readers can interact with us beyond a random letter in the mail sent to our publisher. They can follow our day to day postings, ask us how new books are coming along, find out where we’ll be and when.

And watch us fall flat on our faces.

Our readers, our fans, are watching us. As long as we stay true to the image they fell in love with, they’ll stay loyal. They’ll tell their friends, with a rush of excitement, that we followed them back or mentioned them by name. They’ll promote our books better than we ever could.

But if we betray that image, come across as spiteful/mean/ungrateful/whiny, they’ll turn on us. They’ll go from being ecstatic to questioning why we’d say that. And, if their friends come to them in awe about how we mentioned them as well, the one we turned off will tell them about our other side.

It’s a shift in mentality, really. To recognize you’ve gone to the other side. You’re now the one on the pedestal. How long you stay there is up to you.

BB

Happy Labor Day, everyone! I plan on working on ‘Wielder of Tiren’ later today. Just have to finish up one or two more things that, if I don’t work on them, will fester in my brain and interrupt the plot. The last thing I need to write is dialogue about unloading the dishwasher! LOL

This weekend was amazing, for a couple of reasons. One, two of my short stories released as single ebooks. “Permafrost” is on Amazon and B&N, whereas “The Rose Box” is a B&N exclusive. Both are part of the anthologies, yes. But “Permafrost” was only available via the print version (“Challenges Met”). And, the one that had “The Rose Box” was an Amazon exclusive. I really like that story, so wanted to share it with those who prefer a Nook.

New releases are exciting and all. Don’t get me wrong! But something happened yesterday, one of THOSE moments in time, that trumped it.

Our family took an impromptu trip to Portland. Among the stops we made was Powell’s Books. Now, if you’ve never been there, let me explain the experience. Powell’s is the world’s largest independent book store. The flagship store is huge! We’re talking multi-storied, taking up an entire city block, and their own parking garage. Anyone who loves to read will get lost for hours.

In their scifi/fantasy/horror section, there’s a support pillar. On this one amazing pillar, there are signatures of all the authors for these genres that have visited the store. Hundreds of names decorate it under protective plexiglass. Greats of the genres. 

Powell’s has been renovating the store, and the names were covered to protect them during construction. When we visited yesterday, it was uncovered at last. I chatted with an employee about my books (they’re available on the website, but not in store). Next thing I knew, he was handing a key to someone else and finding a good pen. I followed the associate over to the wall of Fame, watched with more than a little awe as he unlocked one side, and held it aloft. He told me to ‘Pick my spot’. With shaking hand, I added my name to the wall.

IMG_9709

My name, my name, is now among the amazing talent on that shrine. My name! It was the most amazing feeling. It’s like I suddenly went from a wanna be fantasy author to a legitimate name to be reckoned with. That, until that building is no more, I’m immortalized as someone whose work is worthy of notice, of being read.

That, my friends, is a moment worth remembering. Cherishing. And the feeling will keep me going when sales don’t back the honor of being part of the company on that pillar.

BB

Hello! Today, I’m happy to be hosting Matt Grawitch! Be sure to show him some love!

1. What’s the title of your latest release? Link?

The Box of Death, the 2nd Book in the Three Wizards Chronicles. 

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Three-Wizards-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B00JR9YPO2/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1408975814&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=the+box+of+death+by+matthew+grawitch

2. Why do you like writing in this genre?

Well, I’ve always been attracted to stories about magic, and when I was growing up, I was most enthralled with books in the Fantasy genre, like the Wheel of Time Series. Truthfully, though, this series grew out of a bunch of bedtime stories I used to tell my girls. After a while, it became a bit too complicated, and so I started writing the series. After about a year and a half, I wrote the entire series, which currently consists of seven books. Some of them need a bit of work to be ready for press, so we’ll see where we end up after the editing and reviewing process.

3. What do you like to read?

Growing up, I read a lot of fantasy novels – the Wheel of Time Series, Dungeons and Dragons, those sorts of books. I was always most interested in stories that stretched beyond one book. I was more likely to buy a series than a standalone title. I still enjoy Fantasy books. My oldest daughter and I read through the Ranger’s Apprentice series. And though this sounds like it might be coming out of left field, I have a deep appreciation for Ted Bell’s Alex Hawke character.

4. Favorite movie?

I don’t really have a favorite movie. The TV show 24 was hugely intriguing to me, probably because of the way the story progresses from one episode to another – though I had to wait for a season to end and watch it all at one time. I could not stand waiting from one week to the next.

5. What are your writing habits? Music or silence? Daily regimen or spurts of creativity?

I tend to write when it’s quiet. In Spring and Fall, I enjoy writing on my porch. When it comes to writing, I go through spurts. Right now, I’m spending most of my time reviewing and editing the Three Wizards series. I have another series I’m working on, called the Graymalkin Saga, but I’m only halfway through the second book.

6. What was the most surreal moment you’ve had as a author?

Honestly, it was probably seeing my book on Amazon the first time.

7. How can readers find you?

They can check out the Three Wizards website (http://three-wizards.com/). There, they can find links to the book, learn a bit more about the characters, download some free samples of the books. They can also find links to the Three Wizards blog and a way to connect with me personally.

8. What do you know now about being published that you wish you’d known before submitting?

I would say the issues involved in marketing your book. I’ve met so many people who have insights they are willing to share – from little tidbits of useful knowledge to vast experiences within the publishing and marketing industry. I try to learn a little bit from as many of them as I can. I wish I had been able to connect with some of these folks before I became published.

9. Favorite snack/drink while writing?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am seldom seen without some sort of Diet Soda – usually Diet Pepsi, Coke, or Dr. Pepper. I don’t usually snack when I write because it usually keeps me from getting into a rhythm. The crunching of chips breaks the silence…

10. Look at your writing area…what’s the item you keep to inspire you (piece of artwork, figurine)?

I would have to say that it’s my girls. My daughters inspired me to begin writing in the first place, and my significant other inspires me to get out there and make an impact.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Matt! Best of luck with the books!

BB

Good morning! I hope everyone has a great week.

Me? I struggled a little. Okay, more than a little. For a day, I gave into the hopeless insecurity that plagues every author. 

When sales are low, and you’ve done a push in promotion without any results, it’s hard. It becomes a real struggle to put words to paper on a work in progress. To chat with readers. Even to go on your favorite social media site and put up a status that doesn’t paint you as whiny or begging for sales. You begin to lose sight of why you started this process to begin with. You wonder, to yourself, what’s the point of writing when no one can be bothered to even read what you wrote.

You take the lack of sales personally. You see it as a reflection of who you are as not just an author, but a person. And you begin to wonder if you’re as bad as those voices who discouraged you for years have always said.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to shake the foul mood. I came up with something new to try this week as to promoting my work, I finished a chapter of ‘Wielder of Tiren’. I kept my positive public face. 

For other authors, they can’t work past this blackness. We’re an insecure bunch. We put our souls into our characters, strive towards presenting the best story we can create. All we ask is for someone to buy our work, see it worthy of a few dollars, and like it enough to take the time to review it. Months, sometimes years, go into crafting a book that readers will finish in a few hours (or days). To see sales plummet tests our resolve. It makes us question ourselves as storytellers. As people.

Every author I know has faced this point in their career. It can define us. We either give up because we can’t handle the bad months. Or we push through it, regain our hope, and keep trying. To quote Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day”.

May it be a better one than the one before.

BB

It’s a Sunday night, and I’m relaxing. About to go dive into Arwenna’s world and do some more work on book three, and final, book of The Raven Chronicles. We’re on vacation, you see. While the bulk of our traveling is now done, we’re taking all next week to do small things local to us. And for me to write.

Given that my alarm clock is beyond off (it’s actually unplugged), and tomorrow’s schedule’s pretty fluid, I chose to make my weekly post tonight just so I’d remember to do it and share the link like I normally do.

Today, I’m going to give you the secret. The one thing that will make you a successful author. Are you ready?

Promote your book.

It takes time to be a household name. No one is going to know KateMarie Collins from anyone else unless I promote. It’s not up to my publisher. It’s up to ME to make my name and books known to the world.

I’m going to be blunt right now, because it needs to be said. If you think any of this, you’ve got the wrong mindset:

1. My publisher will do all the promoting/marketing of my book

2. All I have to do is put it up for sale and I’ll sell thousands overnight

3. The hard part’s over once you get a contract. Everything else is their job, not yours.

4. There’s a magic trick to promoting that no one will share.

5. People wouldn’t lie to me and say they bought my book and not do it!

6. I’m going to make millions and retire to a cabin in the Rockies six months after it releases.

7. Other authors aren’t worth reading, or talking to, because they’re ‘stealing’ my sales.

8. Being rude, arrogant, demanding, a jackass, or screaming obscenities at my publisher is perfectly acceptable behavior. Just because I’m a new author doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to be a diva. My book’s going to make them rich, so they should learn to cowtow to my whims early on.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FORMULA! THE ONLY WAY TO SELL BOOKS IS TO PROMOTE THEM!!!

Even then, it TAKES TIME. I’ve been published now for just about 2 1/2 years. I’ve got 8 titles out. And I promote. During our travels, I leave business cards and personalized postcards for my books in hotel rooms. I spend time on FB and Twitter. I write this blog. I let people know what I do for a living. I’ve been known to slip in postcards into the folder at restaurants when we pay the bill! Or chat up a cashier someplace and give one to them. I’ve gotten good reviews. But I’m still averaging single digit sales each month. Why? Because people don’t recognize my name yet. They have no connection to KateMarie Collins as an author. They don’t know that ‘Daughter of Hauk’ is the first book of a trilogy. Or that ‘Fin’s Magic’ is both fantasy and romance. That ‘Mark of the Successor’ is the story of a girl who wanted nothing more than to escape one prison, only to find herself a pawn.

I don’t have the right to play diva yet. I am not my publisher’s best selling author. I am not going to be able to contribute substantially to the household bills in the next four months. Possibly even the next four years. 

So, I say this to you all. Either grow up, stop whining, and do the work to get what you want, or put the pen down. This is not a get rich quick business. It does not tolerate temper tantrums from people who are ‘certain’ their book is selling like mad two days after it releases. And it will chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t willing to pay your dues and put the work in.

BB

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