"Roundheads and Ramblings"
Welcome to Katzenhaus Books, where we tell - the stories behind the history.
RSS Follow Become a Fan

Delivered by FeedBurner

Recent Posts

Harbingers of Things To Come
Yankee Daughters -- Recipes
Yankee Daughters--An Excerpt
Yankee Daughters: Some Images
Yankee Daughters--Inspiration


A new contest
academic myopia
Almost Free
Applications and software
Arnulf of Lisieux
art of speaking
attracting readers
audio books
Author Central
Author Gifts
author's Plea
Battle of Port Royal
blind artists
blog chain
Book Club Guides
Book Design
Book Launch
book stores
book trailer
Boxed Set
bright ideas
Building a platform
Business plan
Career choices
cemetery research
children's books
choosing a publisher
Choosing a Title
Christmas Past
Civil War
Computer Hacks
constitutional amendments
Contract labor
Countdown Sale
Countdown to Launch
Cover Designs
Cover images
cutting and pasting
Cyber Monday
daily drama
daily events
Dead Mules
e-book pricing
elevator speech
elmore leonard
Elves and Holidays
English class
fact and fiction
fame and fortune
family affairs
Fear of Failure
flood waters
food delights
Fort Pulaski
free chapter
Free Days
Getting organized
ghost stories
good business
good news
grammar cops
gray horses
grocery shopping
guest blogs
Harriet Tubman
Historical background
Historical Fiction
historical puzzlers
historical thinking
history lessons
home office
hope and kindness
horse races
identifying your audience
indie authors
internet history
Kindle links
Kindle rankings
Kindle Serials
Ku Klux Klan
Lack of co-ordination
launch dates
Laura Towne
legal matters
lending library
Lessons learned
lessons unlearned
literary genres
local news
love story
making choices
Meet the Characters
Memorial Day
military matters
Monthly Musings
name recognition
Nellie Chase
New Blog
New Book
New England
New Research
New Year
odds and ends
opening lines
Penn Center
picture book
Pinterest and copyrights
planning ahead
point of view
polite society
powerful women
press release
Progress Report
pros and cons
publishing companies
publishing ploys
publishing rights
pure sentimentality
random thoughts
read an ebook
road trip
rough draft
Roundhead Reports
Scoop It
second edition
Second Mouse
Short Stories
small world
Smile of the Day
snow, living in the south
social media
software disasters
South Carolina
story arc
Taking a Break
Thank You
the difficulties of blogging
The Gideonites
Upcoming Events
using commas
vacation photos
weather trauma
word counts
Words of Warning
Writer Beware!
Writer's Block
Writing Advice
Writing as Career
writing process


July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010

powered by

"Roundheads and Ramblings"

January 2013

How To Get People Talking about You.

A lot of writers recently seem to be worrying about getting reviews and other kinds of publicity for their new books.  Since the revelations about paid reviews and Amazon’s over-the-top reaction of taking down reviews written by “competing” authors, not many writers I know are willing to pay a professional review-writing fee.  Others are similarly suspicious of  those sites that offer little revolving ads on Facebook, or Yahoo, or other frequently-visited pages.
So what’s a writer to do? We know that books don’t sell themselves.  Thousands of new books appear every day, and it’s all too easy to get lost in the thickets. A book that appears on Amazon does not automatically generate talk, book sales, and raving reviews.  The pundits tell us that “word-of-mouth” generates the most interest.  But how do we start people talking?  How do we help a new book  catch the attention of readers, if not with ads or reviews?
One solution?  Start locally and hope the ripples spread.  Ah, but starting at the local level is not as easy as it sounds, is it? Living in a small town might help. If you’re the only author in town, your neighbors may get excited about your new book.  But in a big city?  Not so much!  I’ve had no luck getting local signings or book talks in Memphis, outside of my own college campus.  There are just too many writers here.  After all, the city that was home to Shelby Foote just aren’t much interested in some unknown writing about the Civil War.
What to do? If I had the definitive answer to those questions, I’d be wealthy – and obviously I’m not.  But I have learned to value one small avenue to “getting the word out” without paying for a review or paying for advertising.  Find a small audience and let them do the word-of-mouth for you.  Start by offering to do a talk to an open-ended group of people  who have a reason to be interested in your book.  Check with the local library to see if they happen to be celebrating some holiday that can be tied to your book.  Do they have a writing group who might be interested in your route to publication? Do they provide meeting space for a book club to whom you could talk about how to review a book?
Then, it is reasonable – and valuable – to make sure that any venue where you are going to speak makes an effort to publicize your appearance – and the earlier the better. Here’s my most recent example.  Women’s History Month is coming up in March, and many libraries will be celebrating it.  Since I tend to write about unknown but extraordinary women, I arranged to be in Hilton Head, SC, for a week during March, and I let the local librarians know last fall that I would be available to talk about my most recent heroine, who just happened to be from their local area.  Within a couple of weeks I had scheduled a book talk on St. Helena Island, where Laura Towne lived and established her school for former slaves. And from there, I simply sat back and let their publicity people do the rest.
Yesterday I received a copy of the Beaufort County Library’s January Newsletter, and there, featured prominently, was this announcement:
Author Talk: “The Road to Frogmore”
St. Helena Branch
Professor Carolyn Schriber will speak on her recent novel, “The Road to Frogmore:
Turning Slaves into Citizens,” which tells the story of Laura Towne and the founding of Penn School.
Books will be available for purchase after the talk.
Tuesday, March 19 at 12:30 pm
Look at the advantages here.  The announcement lets people know that they will be able to buy the book, but it doesn’t shout “Buy Me!” The emphasis is on the talk – what people can gain by coming, not what it’s going to cost them. Further it targets a large and an ideal audience – everyone in Beaufort County who has a library card.  They are the readers in the area, and it’s a book about their own area. Notice that it’s an early announcement.  There will be two more newsletters coming out before my talk – one on February and another in March.  Repetition helps. And finally,  it comes from a third party, not from me.  That’s word-of-mouth in action.

e-Convergence: Scotland, a Mouse, NY Library, Sean Connery, and a Hot Dog

I’m finding that the internet is having a strange, although enjoyable, effect upon me.  Maybe I can call it “e-convergence.” What happens is that I spend an hour or so each morning wading through email messages, Facebook postings, the latest figures on how many people read yesterday’s blog and how many others bought one of my books, the online version of the New York Times, and a few of my favorite bloggers. And more and more often, the ideas from one item leap across the screen to make some sort of connection with another that is totally unrelated, or so it would seem. 
For example, we have a cat calendar hanging in the bathroom, and the first thing I noticed this morning was that I had missed “Burns Night,” a Scottish holiday, celebrated, according to my calendar on January 25, the birthday of poet Robert Burns. That brought a fleeting smile, a quick memory of his poem to a mouse, and then I moved on.
A Facebook post led me to an article about the damage the internet has done to our ability to concentrate.  It argued that we are all learning to think and write in short spurts – a pithy and obscure status post, a 140-word tweet, a link to an article rather than a reasoned response.  Yeah, I thought.  That might be so, but I had too many other posts to check.  Moving along.
On a blog, I ran across an article about whether or not a scholar attending an academic conference should, or should not, skip some scheduled talks to explore the city in which the meeting is being held. Briefly I thought about the number of such conferences I have attended without seeing anything except the inside of the hotel where the sessions are happening.  Too many, I’m afraid.  So I came down firmly on the side of the argument for getting out more, if only for a non-conference local meal.  Then I moved on.
In the New York Times, I paused to read an article about plans to remodel the iconic New York Public Library, and suddenly that e-convergence happened.  I was back in New York City 10 or 12 years ago, supposedly attending the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America. By that time I was close enough to retirement that I had quit worrying about making the “right contacts” or pitching a new book proposal to some bored publishing rep.  It was a beautiful day, and I couldn’t stand listening to one more graduate student stumbling through a presentation only to be savaged by the old salts in the back of the room. I literally moved on.
Outside I went and started walking. Within a few blocks I realized I was standing in front of that New York Public Library. What a wonderful morning I had! I climbed those steps eagerly, gaped in wonder at the Reading Room, plundered a few open shelves for strange books that had nothing to do with my career, and shivered with pride when I discovered my own book in the card catalog. Then again I moved on, feeling guilty and intending to return to the hotel in time for the scheduled chicken luncheon.

But outside on those same steps, I ran full tilt into a man dressed in a complete Scottish tartan. He laughed as he caught my elbow to keep me from falling, and acknowledged that it was hard to take one’s eyes off that old building. So I looked down and couldn’t see anything but his bare knees below his kilt. Again he chuckled and asked me if I was coming to the parade. 

A parade? Yes, it turned out to be a Scottish holiday, and he was eager to tell me about his bagpipe band.  “You must see our parade,” he said.  “We even have Sean Connery leading the way as our Grand Marshall.” That did it! I learned their route, and the starting time of the parade, and set off – in the opposite direction from the conference hotel – to find a good viewing spot.  I even bought a street cart hot dog that made a better lunch than that promised rubber chicken. It was a day I thought I would never forget, even if Sean Connery’s knees did turn out to be as knobby as the others I had seen. 
But I did move on afterward.  I hadn’t thought of that day until this morning, when casual but completely unrelated internet blurbs – those short spurts of ideas --  caused that e-convergence that brought all the memories together one more time.  Such is one value of our current fascination with the internet.  It has the power to give us links to other times, other places, other people – all coming together as one interconnected world.

There's a Right WayTo Do Everything

After talking about the kinds of advice writers hate to hear, it seems only fair to give equal time to the other side.  So here's a column that originally appeared HERE.  Jane Finnis is an English writer of Roman mysteries, and she is particularly clear-headed about giving advice. Here's what she has to say about "The Right Way To Write."

I’m not all that keen on laying down rules about writing. You know the sort of thing: “Ten golden rules every author must follow.” Hmmm…rules, as Lenin almost said, are like pie-crusts, made to be broken. When people ask me if I have any writing tips, I find it very flattering, but I must begin my reply with a warning. I haven’t (obviously!) found the secret of mega-success. I’d love to think I could simply follow a list of do’s and don’ts to produce sure-fire best-sellers, with film companies competing for my rights while I’m alive, and universities fighting over my manuscripts after I’m gone. Wouldn’t we all? But I do know the kind of books I want to write, a
and I’ve accumulated some guidelines – I’ll put it no stronger – that help me give my best shot. They may help others, so here goes:

1. Write about what interests you. Don’t be tempted by something that doesn’t, even though other people tell you it’s commercial, fashionable, “a sure winner.” With luck it may turn out to be any or all of the above, but only if you are interested and can make it interesting for your readers. Writing a novel is hard work and it can take years from creation to publication. If you’re bored at the start you’ll be brain-dead by the finish. Your prose will probably be dead too.

2. Once you begin on a novel, write regularly. I’m not saying every day; that would be nice, but may simply not be feasible because that pesky factor known as Real Life gets in the way. Work on it more than once a week. If you don’t keep up the momentum, you may lose interest, however fired-up you were when you started.

3. Have some kind of a plan, don’t just launch yourself into the wide blue yonder without any idea where the book is heading. How detailed the plan is depends on you; there isn’t a right way for everyone, you’ll find the method that’s best for you. Some authors prepare very full chapter-by-chapter plot outlines and stick to them; others (like me) just write a skeletal framework, a note or two about the beginning and the end and a few key items in between. Then as I write, the details emerge gradually and I go with the flow…but I do know where I‘m flowing to. I call this the Colin Dexter method, because he claims it’s how he wrote his Inspector Morse books: he says it’s like driving from London to Edinburgh without a road map. You know the general direction, and you’ll find the exact route as you go.

4.  Try and keep your writing fresh, with a newly-baked feeling about it; not stale or hackish. (My spell checker thinks I’ve invented a new word. But you know what I mean.)  Steer clear of obvious pitfalls: avoid clichés like the plague…OK, an old joke, but nonetheless true. Don’t slow down the action with pages of laborious description. Again I’ll use the B-word; if you read over yesterday’s creative output and it’s boring, don’t let it stand. We all have off-days, but we needn’t inflict them on our readers. Delete it and do better.

5. Don’t give up. However hard it is, however long it takes, if you have a book to write, persevere till it’s done. Whether it eventually gets published, whether it sells millions, that’s harder to predict. But if you’ve completed a first draft, you’ve achieved something important, and you can be proud to call yourself a writer. So stick at it. That’s the only truly unbreakable rule.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I seem to have touched a nerve when I asked about advice for writers that the writers themselves found irritating.  Perhaps we're all just better at giving advice than getting it.  Here are a few early suggestions, including the one I started with:

    ▪    "Show, don't tell." What's that supposed to mean? I can't just say that someone is tall? I have to show him hitting his head on a door frame? Yes, I agree that long descriptive passages can be deadly, but there are also times when nothing will do the job better than a simple adjective. And, for that matter, how do you "show" something with words? Isn't that just "telling" in another form? It's a silly phrase, one that makes the so-called adviser sound like an expert, perhaps, but so over-used by now that it deserves a compassionate burial. (Carolyn Schriber)

    ▪    The one that comes to mind is: "If you want to write you have to read--a lot." How can I write if I'm reading--a lot?! Besides, I have this paranoia about unwillingly plagiarizing someone. I'm working on a fantasy book and I refuse to read or watch Harry Potter. (Terry Gould)

    ▪     Oh, and while I'm at it--I see over and over again to never use adverbs and to never ever use the word 'that". Now that is purely and simply impossible. : ) (Terry Gould)

    ▪    I don't like to be told by friends: "You should never change anything that you get up in the middle of the night to write. That's when you're the most inspired." (Nancy Bullington Turnbo)

    ▪    I think a whole big old bunch of folks need to learn how to use the comparative and superlative forms. That isn't 'zactly what you're talking about, but it is one of my pets.  (Michael D. Mullins)

    ▪    "Write drunk; edit sober."— Ernest Hemingway.  It may have worked for him, but most drunks I know make no sense whatsoever! (Carolyn Schriber)

    ▪    I bet your list will be "awesome", a very overused word, in my opinion. (Linda Crim)

    ▪    “Never use a long word where a short one will do.” -- George Orwell.  Nope. I write historical fiction, and in the 19th century people adored using long words. (Carolyn Schriber)

What are your pet peeves? What advice makes you want to move to a cave in the desert?

Me? I Won't Be Caught Dead Using a Cliche!

A couple of years ago, Blogger Janice Harayda began compiling a list of terms that are overused by publishers, critics, and reviewers. I'm going to borrow some of my favorites from her list, while I'm compiling my own list of bits of publishing advice that I'm tired of reading. Here are some of Janice's terms, accompanied by what the writer really wanted to say

  • “brilliantly defies categorization”: even the author has no clue what he’s turned in
  • “continues in the proud tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien”: this book has a dwarf in it
  • “an eBook original”: still no proofreading and bad formatting
  • “epic”: very long
  • “erotic”: porn
  • “literary”: plotless
  • “long-awaited”: late
  • “the next Elmore Leonard”: This book has criminals or Detroit or maybe Florida in it
  • “novella”: short story with large font

Now I'm going to work on my own list of words and phrases that I would like to banish from all further use in treatises about "how to write."  I'm starting with this one:

"Show, don't tell." What's that supposed to mean?  I can't just say that someone is tall?  I have to show him hitting his head on a door frame? Yes, I agree that long descriptive passages can be deadly, but there are also times when nothing will do the job better than a simple adjective.  And, for that matter, how do you "show" something with words?  Isn't that just "telling" in another form?  It's a silly phrase, one that makes the so-called adviser sound like an expert, perhaps, but so over-used by now that it deserves a compassionate burial.

I'm particularly anxious to hear from other -book authors on this question. Do you have your own favorite?  The one piece of advice that makes you want to slap the person who offers it?  A meaningless phrase?  A faddish, but unhelpful, suggestion? Leave your suggestions in the comments below and we'll form our own list.