Don’t be the invisible writer.

The signing was great fun. I met some wonderful readers, networked with fellow authors, and learned a lot.

And I didn’t sell a single book.

This is unusual. Admittedly, my signing sales don’t usually compare to a sale on Amazon or Kobo, but I’ve never sold none. So, I started looking at why. What was different for me at this signing? And then it hit me.

My visibility this time was almost nill.

Most signings I attend have a significant Facebook presence. I make it a point to post in those groups multiple times. I put up funny memes and teasers, post book links, reply to other people’s posts and basically act as I might at a cocktail party with friends. I do this over a course of at least two weeks prior to the signing. I also post in my own reader group, reminding friends of the signing and encouraging them to attend if they are in the area.

If I have a new book coming out, I post about that. If I am not sure how many books to take with me, or how many readers will be in attendance, I post a preorder link. Not only does this give me a better idea of how many books to bring, but it also raises my visibility and increases reader appetite for my books.

I send reader SWAG ahead to be included in the VIP bags. I create SWAG to hand out to everyone I meet once I get there.

In other words, I do everything I can to raise my profile for those who will attend the signing. I’ve mentioned before that it generally takes seven touches to move a reader from their first encounter to purchase. This is true for all products, but it may be especially true for books.

So, why didn’t I do most of these things this time?

First off, I didn’t know I was going to be able to attend until quite late in the game. I usually register for a signing and put a deposit (at least) on my table up to a year in advance. This time, I only had about a month, and I didn’t realize I would have a table until about two weeks prior. (To be clear, this was my fault, not the organizer’s. I simply missed the memo.) My goal this time was to raise my editor visibility, rather than my author visibility.

So, my lesson for future events is: if readers will be there, prepare as if it is a signing, even if the hat you plan to wear says Editor. That way, you won’t end up invisible.

Book Signing Basics

August 1-4, 2019

Next weekend I will be privileged to attend Indie Book Fest. There will be parties, readers, events, a knowledge-packed industry day and — Ta Ta Daaah — a signing!

I am even more excited than usual about this signing because I didn’t think I was going to get to go. Scheduling conflicts and the demon money had conspired to keep me home that weekend, but somehow, the signing gods smiled upon me and I GET. TO. GO!

This has resulted in a flurry of last-minute preparation including swag creation and multiple boxes hitting the mail. What kind of preparation and why is it so important, you may ask.

Books: This seems like a no-brainer, but they do take time and money to order. In addition, how many to take with you is an important question. Many events have a reader group where you can place a pre-order list. Do it. Having people sign up to purchase a book guarantees them a copy, and it brings them to your table. Take the opportunity to get to know them a little — this is, after all, what they came for. There’s also the possibility that they will see another book they’d like to purchase while they are with you.

If you are an author who only does e-books, going to a signing should provide an incentive to create paperbacks. You could – and likely should – create cards with QR codes for those who prefer e-books, but I advise against making this the only option at your table.

Most readers come to signings specifically to get a signed book…

Most readers come to signings specifically to get a signed book in their hand. Disappointing them is not a good idea. IngramSpark, Amazon, Draft2Digital and a number of other resources such as Vellum, can help with providing print copies, but you need to give yourself plenty of time. (I used to use Createspace, but it has been subsumed by Amazon, and I have yet to check out their new service, so I can’t advise you here. I would love to hear about your experience with creating print books in the comments.)

SWAG: I always send swag ahead for readers. This time, because I get to facilitate a workshop on writing action scenes, and sit on an editing panel, I also sent swag for my author peeps. All of this took time and money to create.

Brand recognition is the name of the game.

Why do it?

Because name recognition is the name of the game. It has been said that it takes seven touches – seven times that the client sees your product or name in a favorable light – to move them from awareness to purchase. Useful SWAG keeps your name in front of them longer, and every time they see it or use it is a touch. Just make sure that every piece of SWAG has your contact info on it.

Signage: Banners will get you noticed by new readers while telling your devoted fans where to find you. Don’t leave home without yours. Small signs for the table are important too. Price lists and sale signs give the reader an excuse to linger while providing necessary information without them having to ask. Don’t hesitate to engage them in conversation while they read the signs! Meeting you and other authors is why they are there in the first place.

Cash box and card reader: You will have a lot harder time making sales without these. The more convenient you can make things for the reader, the better, and while many bring cash, others don’t. Being able to provide change and take credit cards can be make-or-break points for your sale.

The signing is a week away, but I’ve already started going down my checklist, making sure I have everything I need. I usually take the same things, so you would think packing would become routine after a while. However, it never fails but that I forget something, hence the checklist.

Making your table welcoming and engaging is key to signing success. There are a lot of ways to do it. But having the right materials in place is a key component.

So, when is your next signing and what are you taking?

The Write Place

One of the interesting challenges to being an author has to do with working at home.

On the one hand, YAY for no commute. And being able to work in one’s pajamas when the mood strikes is no small perk either.

On the other hand, your home is, well, your home. People tend to live there. This generally translates to frequent interruptions and a high level of frustration for the writer. And probably for the family members, but let’s be honest. This post isn’t about them. Or, ok, maybe it is, but only marginally.

The point is, most writers I know manage to create some sort of writing cave. Methods and locations vary, but the necessity of having a dedicated space to practice the craft is indisputable. Writers who don’t have a designated writing area tend not to write much, nor for very long.

For some, it’s the corner of their bedroom, tricked out with a small desk and a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Others utilize various partitioning devices such as a Japanese room divider or a tall bureau to cordon off space.

Still others commandeer the rare and elusive “spare-bedroom.” Of course, this requires a good bit of moxy and determination to hold on to. Spare rooms tend to double as guest rooms, subject to random and unavoidable occupation by person or persons unknown. Even when they aren’t occupied, these rooms are nearly always catch-alls for things no one can find a place for but are inexplicably reluctant to get rid of.

Ok, probably not this tiny, but you get the idea.

For the very lucky few, there is the home office. This too can be a room in your home, the difference being that it is a room specifically for your business. No bed. No dresser – unless said dresser holds crafting supplies for the creation of signing swag.

Of course, such an interior location is still easily accessible to other family members, thus providing opportunities for continual interruptions the likes of which are never seen in conventional (that is to say, not at home) offices. Therefore, the most important element of the designated room is the door. Equip it with a sturdy lock and a sign outside that reads, “If there isn’t blood before you knock, there may be after.” If that doesn’t do the trick, consider propping a lightly bloodied axe outside the door. That ought to get the message across.

Aw, come on. I’m just kidding.


Ahem. Even better, IMHO, is the detached office, colloquially known as the tiny house. It is more expensive than other options but provides a dedicated space with fewer distractions. At least, that is the goal. You may still need the sign.

And that is the point of my blog post. In a few short weeks, my new writer’s cottage will be a reality. I am, understandably, enchanted with this idea.

My hope is that it will give me a bit of separation between my business and personal lives, providing a hideaway where there is quiet, and enough peace to write for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch.

Right now it’s just a large pile of lumber, but this is what it is intended to look like when finished.

I did have my office set up in our Florida room. However, as summer marches on, the heat out there negated the benefits of the view and the occasional quiet. So, at the moment, my office is located in what is supposed to be our dining room. It doesn’t have a door, but it is air-conditioned. (A must in Florida, for obvious reasons.) Here is where the magic happens until such time as my writer’s cottage is complete. And I’m ok with that.

So, writer friend, where do you write? Tell me about it in the comments.

While you’re doing that, I’ll go look for my sign. I know I have it here somewhere…

And so it begins…

Show vs. Tell

“They don’t write ‘em like that anymore.” I don’t know who said that, but they are right. And they are wrong too, but not the way you might think.

Writers are constantly told, “show, don’t tell,” nowadays, but it wasn’t always that way. Some of the most popular books of previous eras were nearly all tell. Look at Pride and Prejudice (Austin) or Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus) by Shelley. Both stories are handily “told” and both are great stories, now considered classics. In fact, in that day and age, the structure of nearly all novels was that of a tale well told. The only place a reader was shown a story was on the stage. And people liked it that way.

However, I would venture to guess that, were they submitted to a publisher today, these classics might never make it to publication.  There is no doubt that time and tastes have changed. Modern readers tend to want to be dumped into the story en medias res as they say. We want instant gratification. Show us someone jumping out of a plane, THEN tell us why he’s doing it.

With that in mind, what are some ways to show the story rather than telling it?

  • Dialogue: Having once character mention/explain/inform another of something is showing what is happening, despite the fact that someone is getting told. Not only can dialogue move the plot along, it provides opportunities for character building, revealing motivation, foreshadowing, exposition and a host of other things. Consider using voice and action tags to convey emotion. For instance:
  • “You don’t have to tell me.” Sara blew a jet of air into her bangs, sending them floating.


  • “You don’t have to tell me.” Sara grinned at him and laid a possessive hand on his arm.

Setting: Location, time, weather, etc. are all important elements in a story. But how you use them can be vital to building mood and tone, as well as providing opportunities for world building.

  • It was noon on the fourth of July. The weather was hot and humid in the city park.


  • The clock in its tower chimed twelve times, heat rippling off the pale brick church-front in waves. Sara tugged the pink t-shirt away from her damp skin and swiped a hand along her hairline. It came away as wet as if she’d been standing in a downpour, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Action: Telling gets all the information out there quickly and succinctly, but showing action adds color and emotional dimension in ways that telling can’t. Especially when used with rich imagery, showing connects the reader to the character.

  • He walked toward the building, turning left along the concrete pathway. He felt irritated that he had to come here, but resigned. He snagged his pants on a rosebush. The fabric tore, making him even angrier.


  • He slouched along the concrete path that led to the building, muttering protestations under his breath. A tug on his pants leg turned his attention down. He’d caught the cuff on a rose brier. Swearing darkly, he jerked the material free, ripping it in the process.

Don’t get me wrong. Telling has its place. It provides a method of quickly giving information and sometimes, that’s just what’s needed. For deeper engagement and a breathtaking scene, an author’s best bet is show, however.

Both show and tell are tools in the author’s chest. The trick is deciding which is best for the needs of the scene.

Rejection Reaction

Any author who has seriously considered the traditional publishing route for their work has felt it. The skin-tightening anticipation of waiting for a response from an agent or publisher. It’s like the ‘they love me, they love me not,’ game but without the daisy.

So, way back when, I sent out my share of submissions, and like everyone, waited for a response. The first time I received a reply from an agent was quite the experience, but not for the reasons you might think.

I read the response just before heading for bed, having gotten it late in the evening. Because I am an imagination junkie and cannot help myself, I had given a lot of worried thought to how I would react when the responses came in. My fantasies were divided into two categories: yeahs and nays.

Depending on the agent’s response, the possibilities ranged from, “yes, well, I always knew success was inevitable,” (too-cool-for-success sunglasses flip and hair toss) to stoic “I’ll nail it next time” acceptance before galloping along to the gibbering, sobbing puddle of glee (or angst) that was by far the most likely outcome regardless of the agent’s verdict.

Or at least, that’s what I thought. But I was wrong, because none of that happened.

I shared the news with my husband, brushed my teeth and hair, and went to bed. No tears, no angst. Nothing, nada, zip. Ok, to be honest, yes, I was disappointed. The agent in question was my first choice and it would have been awesome had she been interested. But two phrases kept circling my brain like a warm fleece blanket in a snowstorm.

One: They will all reject you except the right one. A friend told me that when I was debating whether to even attempt the traditional publishing route and she had a point. No matter which method we choose (indie or trad), connecting with people who will support our art in the right ways is vital. One should never work with anyone on a project without shared vision and goals. Disinterest in your project is a good indicator that this agent/publisher/editor, whatever, isn’t the one for you.

Two: A rejection letter doesn’t mean your work sucks. What a refusal actually means is that it wasn’t the right piece for this particular agent/publisher/magazine, etc. for any number of reasons. It really, truly, honestly, isn’t personal.

Like so many of the things we are most passionate about, it is the work that is most important. We need to remember that. Success as the world defines it is far less important than success as we create it. So, whatever your definition, keep working towards success. And in the meantime, happy writing.

Three Ways to Fill the Well

We – meaning the family and I, but I’m sure the statement can be applied universally – have been busy lately.

We had visitors, and took a trip to Disney. Both great things and I enjoyed them very much, but neither was conducive to keeping up with a weekly blogging schedule. Add in doctor appointments and the regular everyday routine, and I’m sure you get the picture. 

The long and short is, not a lot of writing got done. As in, none. Zero. Which I could sit around feeling bad about, if I wanted. 

Don’t worry. I don’t want. 

Because the truth is, it’s good to step away once in a while. The mind and the soul need to rest on occasion, and it’s smart to pay attention to that.

A lot of writers talk about “filling the creative well,” and there are a couple of ways to do that.

Way #1:

Take a day trip to a new place, or revisit a favorite. One of my faves is Saint Augustine. This is the oldest continuously occupied city in the U.S. At various stages of its long history, it has belonged to no less than three different countries, including the United States,  and it teams with history, art and culture. Not to mention a number of ghosts. 

Way #2

Indulge in a different art form. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to say to create in order to refill your creativity, but it works. I love quilting. The fabrics, the colors, the myriad designs one can use to make something beautiful as well as functional – these elements appeal to me in a fundamental way. And working with my hands refreshes my mind. Whether you enjoy painting, photography, pottery or something that doesn’t start with a P, you will find that it does the same for you.

Way #3

Read. Your genre, or something else, but for pleasure. Reading resets the mind and nourishes the soul, enhancing creativity and adding inspiration. 

You can also take time with friends, in nature or enjoying some entertainment such as a movie or a concert. Anything that you enjoy which gives your mind and spirit a break. 

Whatever you choose, make it a priority. Your soul, and your writing, will benefit from it.

Avoiding the BPP

Did you ever have a less than enjoyable reading experience? One that left you just a bit disgruntled? Yeah. Me too, often as a result of my Biggest Pet Peeve. My BPP, literarily speaking at least, is a novel that reads like a rough draft.

You know the ones.

My BPP, literarily speaking...
My BPP, literarily speaking…

Those books that could have been mind-blowingly fantastic with the help of a few additional drafts and a good editor/critique partner, but instead fall into the dismal realm of the underwhelming? Novels that, well, to be frank, have one or more of the following foibles:

The over-tell. When I read a good novel, I literally see the story in my mind as if it were playing out on a movie screen. When the author peeks around the curtain and tells me what a character is doing/thinking/feeling or worse, why he’s doing/thinking/feeling it, I want to shush him. (The author, not the character.) Show me what is happening and then be quiet and let me watch the movie.

Poor voice. Every character should have a unique voice and manner. The reader should be able to tell the difference between a child and an alien by the way they talk. Nothing takes me out of a story quicker than a four-year-old talking like a physics instructor. Unless the child is an alien, which would explain everything. The same goes for the character’s actions. If a hero who has been stalwart and stoic through the first three chapters breaks out suddenly into an unprovoked temper fit, I’m not just going raise an eyebrow. I’m going to put down the book.

Mono-voice. This is a form of poor voice which occurs when all the characters in a novel sound and act alike. Unless you are writing about the Borg, everyone needs to be an individual, and that difference needs to go beyond their names and hair color.

White-Washout. I need the characters in a book to reflect the diversity I see in the world. Not everyone is a Straight, White Male with huge biceps and a Razor-Sharp Wit. I love seeing strong female leads, POCs, folks with disabilities, LGBTQ characters, and any combination of the above. I enjoy reading these characters because my real world experience is populated by people just like them. I know a few SWMs too, so they can stay, but let’s not be exclusive, ok? Oh, and any character with an RSW is fine by me. RDJ? Step into my parlor.

So much for the negative. What makes reading a novel my favorite form of entertainment? Writing that shows rather than tells, solid settings that ground me in place and time so I can relax and enjoy the story, empathetic characters (I don’t have to like them, but I need to be able to understand them), a plot where something important is at stake, and voices that I recognize as real.

If you want to write more diverse characters and aren't sure where to start...
If you want to write more diverse characters and aren’t sure where to start…

One other thing – If you want to write more diverse characters and aren’t sure where to start, there’s a mini-conference coming up June 22 – 23, 2019 at the Hilton, Orlando/Altamonte Springs. They have four presenters, including an advocate for persons with disabilities, professional authors and a literary agent. You can find more information, including prices and a registration link here.  I’m going and you should join me. It’s hosted by the FWA and is sure to be a dynamite event.

Please Refrain From Imploding

Every profession has its issues. For writers, one of the issues is distractions. Even necessary things like eating, interaction with family and research can, if allowed to reign unchecked, wreak havoc with a writer’s work ethic. Because let’s face it, distractions are fun, usually, while writing can be a large load of hard work. Most authors prefer not to implode, and therefore they write.

Most authors prefer not to implode, therefore, they write.

The option of chasing a distraction can be a welcome respite. If one can convince oneself that the distraction is actually a part of the writing, as in the case of research, well, that’s a bonus, isn’t it?

Still, in the interest of getting more words out of your head and down onto the page, it might be a good idea to structure your time.

Some possibilities for that structure?

Schedule your research time just like your writing time. This can be one day a week, one hour a day, in the evenings while schlumping in front of the TV, etc. Instead of chasing that research rabbit in the middle of a writing sessions, insert a placeholder such as: <research ancient cosmetics>

Stop looking at the adorable bunny and finish reading.

Later, after you’ve researched the issue at the proper time, you can search your manuscript with the search feature for “ancient cosmetics,” and place your information, all without unduly interrupting your writing time.

Social media and marketing can be handled in a similar fashion. Schedule an appropriate amount of time for routine jobs such as setting up ads and scheduling social media posts. Again, that evening schlump can be put to good use without straining your writing schedule.

The point is to schedule the time and handle the work then, rather than allowing it to intrude on the words you need to transfer from your head to the page, hence preventing author brain implosion.

Just for fun: Did you know that the ancient Egyptians used ground up carmine beetles to make lipstick? Kind of makes you want to rethink your beauty regimen, doesn’t it?

Rethinking the beauty regimen?

Avoiding the DNF Pile

I generally choose a book in the following manner:

  1. Does it have an intriguing title? Minor considerations such as author and genre have an effect, but it has always been the title that gets me to pull a book off the shelf.
  2. How cool is the cover? The title can be nothing short of interdimensionally mind blowing, but if the cover is blah, or worse, looks unprofessional, back the book goes to the shelf.
  3. Does the blurb on the back make me want to start reading right then and there? Items one and two are what catch my eye, item three makes me pull out my wallet. In the blurb I expect to be told what is at stake for whom, where, and who doesn’t want the protagonist to succeed. Hardcovers without dust jackets don’t even get picked up.

I realize that most people choose books the same way I do. Some even dispense with step one and move right to the cover shot. I don’t understand how that works, really, because most books are displayed on shelves with only the spine showing and no one without x-ray vision can get a good look at the cover from that angle. Still, enough people insist say that’s how they do it that it must be so.


My point is this – what happens when the outside looked like a five-star roller coaster and the inside reads like a rickety swing-set in an overgrown backyard? I’ve had this infuriating experience several times recently and it has moved me to write the following:

Don’t do it. Don’t promise something on the cover that you don’t deliver on the inside. There are a couple of authors that I will never read again because they lied to me. Worse yet, they sold me that lie under the guise of awesome entertainment.

This warning is especially apt for indie authors. Traditionally published authors usually have the reputation and backing to overcome one or two rickety swing-set books but an indie author has only her reputation. Ruin that and you are done. Word of mouth will pull out its samurai sword and hack you to bits before you can say, “get an editor.” Which brings me to my last point.

Use whatever means necessary to hone and polish your work to white dwarf brilliance BEFORE you dare to publish. Putting your name on a book equals putting your reputation on the line, and when it comes right down to it, as authors our reputation is the only thing standing between us and the DNF pile.

So, what’s your favorite white dwarf polishing cloth?

You may have noticed…

You may have noticed that I’ve made some changes to the site. Sometimes, even though it’s painful, change is necessary. I hope to create a space here for writing and publishing tips useful to the Indie Author.

Thank you for your patience while I get things figured out.