Category Archives: book review

Use the Muse to Write Your Business Plan

Are you overwhelmed with the “business” aspect of writing? Do you even have a business plan? I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what I was getting into when I began this journey seven or eight years ago. What I’ve learned since then should have equated to at least a Masters Degree in something! Yet, writing a business plan has remained on my to-do list for years. Why? Because every business plan model I’ve ever seen is filled with language I don’t understand or information that appears to have no bearing on the business of writing. Until NOW!

PJ Sharon here, visiting today with Amy Denim, who writes business books for writers and pens contemporary romances in her spare time. She loves hot heroes (like chefs and cowboys) and curvy intelligent heroines (like chefs and cowgirls.) She’s been a franchise sales coordinator, a lifeguard, a personal shopper, and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. But now she spends her days reading and writing at her local library or in her book cave.

Amy started out her writer’s life scared out of her wits because she didn’t have a business plan, hadn’t yet created an online platform, wasn’t on twitter, didn’t have a Facebook fan page, and had never even heard of Goodreads. Sound familiar? She just wrote books. So

AmyDenim-for-webshe spent a year becoming a publishing industry information fiend and now does consulting for creatives on how to take control of their writing careers. She started Coffee Break Social Media to help writers and artists learn to use SM (social media) platforms effectively (without the scare tactics) but still have time to create. She believes business plans and social media can be every writer’s friend, sometimes they just need an introduction.

Welcome to the Scribes Amy! I’ve been reading your book, THE COFFEE BREAK BUSINESS PLAN, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to get started on creating one for myself! Can you share with our readers how you’ve found a way to use your muse, activate both sides of your brain, and give us a peak into what they can expect in your book?

I’d be happy to, PJ. Thanks for having me today. I would like to start by asking the question, have you thought about putting together a business plan? “But, oh,” you say. “It’s such a long and complicated process.” Ugh. Why bother, when you could spend your valuable time writing.

But, wait, what’s this? A guide to help authors write a business plan on coffee breaks?

Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans copy

Okay, so I find when things get boring and staid that some humor and creativity makes it all so much more fun. And let’s admit that a traditional business plan is anything but fun. But having one can be an important part of taking control of your writing career.

Never fear, we’ll start with your creative side.

The first part of writing a business is often to put together a mission statement. Doesn’t that sound super, umm, boring? Yeah, I thought so too.

So I transformed this dull, no fun task into something I could relate to. I understand the muse. Well…when she’ll talk to me. Best way to get her feeling chatty is to strait up ask her for help. I asked her to help me write something to keep me inspired about my writing career.

Here’s what she told me.

Write one or two sentences that sum up you and your goals for a successful writing career. Think of this as your mantra, or the logline for your writing career. Your books have loglines, why shouldn’t you?

Whenever you’re stuck, feeling down about writing or getting published, or need a jump start to your day, get this sentence back out and see if it doesn’t get your imagination running again.

Try to give your muse value. That can mean financial value, but can also be personal values — like family or life philosophies. If being able to support your family financially is an important value to you, include that. If you need to write just to stay sane, include that. If it’s important that your friends and family are proud of you, say that. These are your core beliefs as they relate to your writing career. Include them in your muse statement so that it is valuable to you.

The name of the muse game is inspiration. If you think it, you believe it. If you believe it, you are it. If you use the present simple tense, i.e. I am instead of I want, I will be, or I can, then you’re one step closer to believing you are the writer of your dreams. Another part of inspiration is to use those big dream goals. If you want to be a best-selling author, include that in your muse statement. Whatever your true aspirations are, use them here.

Okay, put your thinking cap/top hat/beanie with the helicopter rotor /tiara on. It’s time to think about what you really want from your writing career.

Here’s an example:

I am a financially successful author who shares award-winning stories of love and adventure with readers around the world.

Be even more specific, and make your goals attainable and measurable. Now try your hand at writing your own. Your muse statement can go through lots of drafts and incarnations. If you add a new dimension to your business plan, you might need to update your statement.

You can have more than one mission statement, too. If you find creating a mission statement motivational, consider creating them for different parts of your life and career. You can have one for your writing career, your marketing efforts, your financial goals, your family life, spiritual life, your health, or anything else that is important to you.

The following questions are to get you started thinking about your goals, but don’t go crazy and spend hours making lists and/or daydreaming about your success as a writer.

I call this the Coffee Break Business Plan. This is all about basic goals, which you can expand on to create a full-blown business plan, so spend only a few minutes thinking about each of these questions. Write a couple of sentences to answer them, or make yourself a nice bullet-point list. If you’d like a template to print out to help you with this exercise, you can download one at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com/Books/Resources.

 Grab a cup of coffee and a pen

Write down the answers to these questions.

  • How many books do you plan to write? In what genre?
  • What’s your projected word count?
  • When will you finish each project? Or, how much time will you need to complete each project? (Don’t forget to build in time for critiques, beta readers, editing, and all those other activities… besides actually writing the book.)
  • How will you publish these books? Traditionally, self-published, a hybrid approach?
  • If you’re self-publishing, what services will you need and how much will you spend on those?
  • Who is your competition? Who else writes books like yours?
  • How will you sell and market your books?
  • How much money will it cost you to publish and market? What services might you pay for to help you do that?
  • How much money do you plan to make, and when will you see that revenue?
  • When do you plan to achieve these goals?

There you go. You just created a basic business plan. For real. Laminate that sucker and put it up big and pretty in front of your computer. Every time you sit down to write, take a look and focus on writing to achieve those goals. If the IRS comes knocking, you can wave it in their faces.

If you’d like help expanding your business plan, I can help with that too. Leave a comment on the blog today, ask questions about business plans, mission statements, or anything else you’d like, and one lucky commenter will win a copy my new book The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Authors: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. But, if you can’t wait to win it, it’s available now on Amazon.

Thanks, Amy! And here’s my review of this little gem:

Amy Denim takes the mystery and fear out of writing a business plan.

As a writer, my right creative brain is clearly dominant, making things like business plans and marketing strategies sound like foreign languages. Amy Denim’s step-by-step guide, which focuses on business plans specifically for writers, is set up to be done in small increments…literally on a coffee break. She makes the process simple and totally do-able. Her clear, concise, and entertaining style makes this a must-read for anyone considering writing as a business. Highly recommend!

Review of Katy Lee’s WARNING SIGNS

After the lovely Indian Summer day we had yesterday, this morning’s chill here in the Berkshires and the skeletal trees are a reminder that summer is long gone and winter is just around the corner. Time to stock up, settle in, and spend some time with a few good books.

My fellow Scribes pals, Susannah Hardy and J. Monkeys have been talking a lot about what they’ve been reading lately. Since I always appreciate book recommendations, I thought I would share one of my own. I recently finished WARNING SIGNS by our very own Katy Lee. Yes, I do try to read books written by my friends, but I only write reviews for books I truly enjoy.

Review of WARNING SIGNS by Katy Lee

Warning Signs CoverLee’s main character, Miriam, is first and foremost a formidable heroine. A deaf Principal in a hearing school, Miriam has her work cut out for her. But when it seems that the town has it in for her, she doubts the wisdom of returning to the little town of Stepping Stones where she visited her grandmother as a child. The town is hiding a secret and Miriam may be the key to unlocking it. Enter Owen, a handsome DEA agent sent to infiltrate a drug smuggling operation on the island, and Miriam is forced not only to prove her innocence, but to protect her heart as well. This fast paced romantic suspense had heartwarming moments, action-packed adventure, and a mystery that kept me guessing right through to the end. Great job, Ms. Lee!

If you’re looking for a suspenseful, sweet romance, with a strong heroine and a wounded but worthy hero, this book is for you! 

What about you? Do you have a good book recommendation? I’m currently reading Kristan Higgins’ recent release, THE PERFECT MATCH. If it’s like her other books, I’m sure I’ll be laughing, crying, and wishing it wouldn’t end.

Review of TL Costa’s PLAYING TYLER

Good day mates! PJ here, and I have an Australian accent in my head this morning. Does that happen to you? It’s pretty much the norm for your average writerly type. You see, we writers typically hear several voices in our heads every day. We’ve come to understand that ‘no, we aren’t crazy.’ We are creative. Writers hear multiple points of view, snippets of dialogue, crazy characters popping into our minds and saying the darnedest things. It can be maddening, but it can also be amazing. Translating those voices to words on a page is where magic happens and characters are brought to life. When an author does it just right, the reader is transported into the mind of the character and experiences the story alongside them.PlayingTyler-72dpi-1 Such was the sense that I had when I read PLAYING TYLER, by TL Costa. Here is my review:

Part thriller, part geek fest, and part sweet romance, PLAYING TYLER was the must read of the summer for me. The main characters, Tyler McCandless and Ani Bagdorian captured my heart from the start in this fast paced teen drama. Although on the surface, this book was about the slippery slope of Drone warfare and one boy’s journey to discovering who his real friends are, it was mostly about teens trying to find their place in the world. At seventeen, Tyler must face family relationships that are filled with tragedy and struggle, and the wonders/horrors of first love. TL Costa rocked the male teen voice and I was totally swept up in her stream-of-consciousness narrative style that put me squarely in Tyler’s ADHD brain. I found myself bouncing my knee right alongside him and anxious to see how he would negotiate the twists and turns that life tossed his way. Since the chapters were alternating points of view, I waited to see if any of Tyler’s dialogue would spill over into Ani, or vice versa, but each character was well-drawn and unique. A debut author to watch!

 Highly recommend for older teens, especially boys who aren’t typically readers. I think this one will grab them! Great job, TL!

TL Costa pic DSC_3372T.L. Costa graduated from Bryn Mawr College, got her Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University and taught high school for five years before becoming a full-time mom and writer.
She has lived in Texas, New York, New Jersey and Spain.  Currently, she lives in Connecticut.
T. L. can be found online at her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tlcostaauthor) and on Twitter (@TLCosta1).

Purchase PLAYING TYLER at the following outlets:

Amazon, B&N, and Indiebound

For more of PLAYING TYLER, check out sample chapters here!

Thanks for being here TL, and thanks for writing such a great book!

Updating Your Web Presence

As you read today’s post, I’m probably on a flight to Atlanta to attend the National RWA Conference this week. I know, I know…we’ve all been buzzing about it for the past several days, but the event is a big deal for writers. And this year should be especially fun since most of our Scribes will be in attendance.

Katy Lee, Vivienne Lynge, and Suzanna Hardy
Katy Lee, Vivienne Lynge, and Suzanna Hardy

PJ here, 30,000 feet up, and there’s something else I think is kind of a big deal.

Have you ever checked out an author’s website and found it terribly out of date? Most of us try to stay current, but with all of the responsibilities of today’s writers, keeping track of what needs updating can be pretty overwhelming. So I thought I would give you a list of sites that I go to periodically to make sure I do my updates, particularly after a new release or a big event (like a conference or a contest award). The links I’ve included below will take you to the site’s information page that will explain what you as an author can do to sell and promote yourself and your books on these venues (except for the ABOUT page, which is mine). If you keep the list handy, it’s really not so bad doing the occasional update. If you have to remember them all, it can be a bit of a nightmare, so definitely create a list of your own with links to your author pages or places you’ve posted a bio.

Website and Blogs-This is an obvious one.  Websites should be updated at least monthly. If you keep a calendar of events, make sure you have correct links and dates posted. And don’t forget to update your ABOUT page. You are constantly evolving as a writer and author, so be sure to share those changes with your readers.

Amazon Author Central-Although the benefits of even having an Author Central page are questionable, most of us who have books there are encouraged to create a page. It’s a place where you can list your books, book trailers, upcoming events, and connect your readers to your recent blogs and social media communications. If someone is checking out one of your books, they might want to know more about you. You can also use this as a landing page for your readers to direct them to all of your books available on Amazon, rather than the individual buy link pages.

Goodreads-Your Goodreads page is an important place for readers to connect with you. Here, you can do book giveaways, get onto listopias, and see your reviews. I’m still learning about Goodreads, but so far, I can see huge benefits in keeping current there so that readers can find and share your books with others. You can also join groups, be exposed to book clubs, and again, have your blogs, tweets, and other social media connections available all in one place.

BN (now NOOK Press) and Smashwords Author Pages-Don’t forget to update any other places you distribute your books. In addition to BN and Smashwords, you may want to create author pages for Kobo, Apple i-Tunes, Draft2Digital, or All Romance E-books (ARe). These are all sites where you can upload your self-pubbed titles and sell books! But just realize that for each distribution channel you choose, you’ll have more to manage. If you have a good system, it’s not so bad.

Pinterest, twitter, and FB profile pages-The main thing here is to change up your bio once in a while. Use the cover of your current or upcoming release as your profile picture, and if you have a “READ MY BOOKS” link on your FB page (check out “author app” for FB), make sure your books, descriptions, and prices are updated.

I realize this is a lot of housekeeping and busy work, and might be best left to a teenager in your house to do for a nominal fee, but it’s important to stay current so that readers can find you wherever you may be. Speaking of keeping you all updated, don’t forget to follow our tweets at RWA National by using hashtag #RWA13 or #RWA2013. You can connect with me on twitter @pjsharon or “like” me on Facebook at PJ Sharon Books for pictures and posts about what craziness is happening at the conference.

Have I missed any locations that you routinely find yourself updating? Any questions comments, or hair-pulling and screaming…now’s your chance!

STRESS

Why Don’t You Cooperate?

Hi, all. Suze here. Welcome!

A couple of weeks ago, I learned a new word! And I’m about to use it in a sentence.

If you want to succeed in the writing business, don’t be afraid of cooperatition.

What’s cooperatition, you ask? Well, clearly it’s an amalgam of cooperation and competition. I’m crossing the border into Jennifer Fusco/Market or Die territory, here. The theory is that if two individuals/businesses are providing the same or substantially similar services, if they work together both will benefit–even if they are in competition with each other for the same customers. Ever hear the expression A rising tide lifts all ships? Same principle. Need a movie reference to understand it better? How about Miracle on 34th Street, when Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbel send customers to each other’s store if their own doesn’t carry a requested item? Good will abounds and sales go through the roof. As Charlie Sheen might say: Winning!

Make no mistake: Writers are in competition with each other. But it’s much more subtle than, say, the rivalry between Pepsi and Coke or Microsoft and Apple. Writers compete with each other for spots on a publisher’s roster, for the attention of an agent, and for readers who have only so much time and so much money to spend on books.

But readers are the most wonderful kind of repeat consumers. They don’t buy/read just one book a year. And if readers see that an author promotes other authors and behaves professionally and enthusiastically toward them, they will think better of the writer for being a decent person who loves her craft. Theoretically, that translates into sales. As a consumer, I don’t buy products from jerks if I can possibly help it. And that goes for books and authors too!

Here are some ideas for practicing cooperatition with other authors with whom you share a readership (or potential readership):

  1. Partner with someone. Example: Kristan Higgins and Jill Shalvis and their Facebook Man Wars. If you’re not familiar with Man Wars, check out these two authors on Facebook–once a week or so they choose a theme (men in uniform, Australian guys), post pictures of the hottest possible guys, and write funny, sexy captions. And they’re usually zinging each other in a friendly way. This technique promotes their brand (romance and hot guys) and engages readers with new content all day long–with nary a sales promotion in sight.
  2. Promote other authors–especially those with products similar to yours.  Offer congratulations on Facebook and Twitter when a colleague hits a bestseller list or releases a new book. Leave positive reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you. Even if they don’t, you’ve still put a lot of Macy’s/Gimbel’s-style goodwill out into the universe–and the universe tends to notice things like that.
  3. Assemble a group of authors into a partnership that is about more than sales. Example: Jungle Red Writers bills itself as “The View. With bodies.” These mystery/crime fiction authors often talk about timely topics in a panel-type format. I think it’s brilliant! Yes, their books are mentioned, and links abound, but there is plenty of non-sales content as well. Another example: Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. These writers of culinary mysteries post new recipes every day–again, promoting their brand and providing new content for readers. And if readers like one author’s books, they’ll probably like–and buy–the others.

What do you think about cooperatition? Do you have any ideas to add to the list above? We’d love to hear about it!

A Reader’s Point of View on Praying Circles Around Your Children

Hello, Katy Lee here. Today’s post is the first of a review series I will be holding that are more than just reviews. It is my hope, through my reader’s insights, authors will come away with some tips for their own writing. Some little tidbit that will have them looking at their work with a keener perspective — a reader’s persective. I hope to hold the Reader’s POV series on a regular basis, so look for more in the future. But as for my first Reader’s POV, please welcome Sarah Audet. She’s not a writer, but she loves to read, and that is my only requirement to be part of this series.

Take it away, Sarah!

Praying Circles Around Your Children By Pastor Mark Batterson
 
 
sarahHello Blog Readers, I am Sarah Audet. I am a stay-at-home wife, and mother of four children ranging in age from nine to nineteen. I read Praying Circles Around Your Children by Pastor Mark Batterson over the course of about two weeks, and am here to tell you what I thought. This is just my opinion, I am not a professional, just a reader.
 
In this book Pastor Mark tells us of a Jewish man named Honi who’s village is in a drought. The people ask him to pray, so he draws a circle in the sand, stands inside it and says he’s not coming out until God brings the rain. It sprinkles, but he doesn’t leave the circle. He keeps praying with thanksgiving until it pours. Pastor Mark says we as parents should pray like Honi for our kids. He then goes on to list five circles to pray with them and for them.
 
The first thing I noticed about the book was that the author was very humble. I hate pickingpraying circles up a parenting book and finding an author who thinks they have all the answers. None of us do. And Pastor Mark did not act as though he was an expert on prayer or on raising children. In fact, he admits that there are no perfect parents. Praise Jesus, I am not fumbling alone surrounded  by my friends who have it all together. His solution to our imperfect parenting is to be a “praying parent,” I like that. I know I’m not perfect. My three teenagers keep pointing it out to me, but I can look to GOD who is made strong in my weakness. He is a perfect parent.
 
There was one thing that bothered me about the book, though. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, just a bit of a turn-off. The author continued referring to his previous book. It felt like an ad. At one point he quoted whole sections of it. If I wanted to read the first book I would. You don’t need to advertise it in this one. That being said, I was glad I read it.
 
There were other benefits of Praying Circles Around Your Children. I am a person who is more productive when I have a routine outlined for me, and this book gives a routine for praying for and with each of your children. If you are a person who wants to pray for your kids, but doesn’t know where to begin, there are plenty of ideas to get you started. And these concepts work from before your kids are born until forever. I will always pray for my kids, even after they’re grown. And being an example to your kids by modeling prayer is a wonderful legacy to leave them with. Even on a child’s lowest day, they know they have the fervent prayers of their mom and dad. What a gift.
 
All in all, this book was a quick easy read, and it helped teach and motivate me to be a better parent, comforted me that it’s ok to not be perfect, and got me praying for my kids in a new way. A worthy read for sure.
 
 
Thank you Sarah for your review and insight. As an author, I have learned the publishing world is fast, and it’s not about your last release, but more about what’s coming. People want to know what great things they can look forward to, so I can totally understand where you are coming from about the info dump in the book about the last release.
 
Authors, take that as advice to wow the reader with the book they are holding, and they will go looking for the previous books all on their own. Make them second guess their current purchase, and you may lose them. Great advice, Sarah!
 
And authors, I hope you were able to draw on Sarah’s review to help you with your work. I encourage you to share!