Monday, September 28, 2015

Build Your Brand By Teaching Others

photo by enterlinedesign via Dollar Photo Club

Two years ago I published a book not knowing anything about promotion, marketing, branding, or platform. Now I teach aspiring authors how to independently publish their own books. I let all of the knowledge I've gained over the last two years and more pour out of me, and provide them with the tools they need to get started on their own journeys. 

Establishing yourself as a writer can take many different avenues. My approach is two-pronged. Like most indie authors I have a consistent social media presence and a website and blog, all updated frequently. I'm active in online groups. I have an email list and a newsletter. But reaching out to readers and building a brand online is just one facet of my author life. Another is to build a reputation as an author within my own community. One way I do this is through teaching. This helps establish my credibility as an author, as someone who knows what she's doing, and as a leader. 

It all started when my local library invited me to teach a 90-minute seminar on self-publishing. I developed a presentation with Power Point called Adventures in Publishing: How to Independently Publish Your Own Book. Twelve people showed up. They asked lots of questions and stayed to the end. They wrote wonderful reviews. This gave me confidence to expand my program. 
I added additional content and graphics and beefed it up to two hours. I knew once I had a polished program I could present it to new audiences again and again and my time and efforts would pay off. Next I spoke to the people in the continuing education department at the community college where I work and asked them to add my class to their course catalog. They quickly agreed. I also hit up the employee education department and they too added me to their schedule, although this class was a watered down one-hour version. Most of these classes were well attended and well received, but a few had to be cancelled due to low enrollment. 

I continued to refine and improve my presentation, and sought new venues to present my program. I reached out to a private college thirty minutes from home and proposed the course to their continuing education department. Based on my experiences at the community college they readily agreed. I am now teaching several classes at each college per semester.

The program evolved once more after many attendees  wrote on their evaluation forms that the program was too short; they wanted more. I expanded the class to two two-hour sessions called Write Release Retail: How to Become an Indie Author. The first session is on writing a book and preparing it for publication; the second focuses on marketing and promotion. 

One of the perks of these presentations is the opportunity to sell books, not by the truckload, but one at a time, hand to hand. It's a soft sell but invariably someone asks to buy a book and others follow. They are always front and center in my display and serve as the textbook for my program. 

And I get paid for talking to aspiring authors about publishing their work. The community college gives me an hourly rate and I split the fees with the private college 50/50. I'm not getting rich, but it's one more example of my credibility. 

I love teaching. It's one way I build my reputation as an author on a local level. It gives me confidence to continue with this endeavor, even on those days when I wonder "Why am I doing this? Should I be doing this?" Self-publishing is the most difficult thing I've ever done, but my students inspire me and renew my faith in my own abilities. 

To see my current class schedule please visit this page. 

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Monday, September 21, 2015

My Next Adventure: Middletown Thrall Library's Local Authors & Illustrators Showcase

For the second year, I'm working with my public library to put on an exhibit of literary and artistic talent.  On Saturday, September 26th, 34 authors and illustrators from the Hudson Valley will be at Middletown Thrall Library for its second Local Authors and Illustrators Showcase.

The Hudson Valley is rich with talent, especially literary talent. This event is a great way to give these authors and artists exposure and to introduce them to readers who may be looking for something beyond the bestsellers. These authors and artists are publishing in adult fiction, non-fiction, and children's books. This free event promises to be a wonderful opportunity for readers to meet these creatives, to learn about the publishing process, and to view books they may not have seen before. 

“This is Thrall Library's signature event," says library executive director Matt Pfisterer. "We are pleased to provide an opportunity to connect a diverse group of really talented local authors and illustrators with people who regularly come to Middletown Thrall Library in search of great reads and unique literary perspectives.”

The featured authors and illustrators include Barry Adelman, Vince Begley, Michelle Birkenstock, Sandi Bischoff, Jeanne Bogino, Dawn Bonney, Bill Braine, Frances Brown, Christina Cameron, Kevin Christofora, Pari Forood, Marc Fried, Jason Gehlert, Natalie Gehlert, Tammy Gehlert, Amy Gopel and Keryl Pesce, Wes and Barbara Gottlock, Norma Halahan, Dr. Richard Hull, Dr. Charles Isaacs, Eleanor Kuhns, Alan Lewis, Liz Matis, Barbara Neiman, Renee Pearce and Kaylin Ruffino,  Diana Slater, ML Stainer, Justine Williams and Michael Martinez, Michael J. Worden, and myself. For more info please visit the library's webpage.

These authors and illustrators represent a variety of genres including children's and YA, general fiction, romance, paranormal, fantasy, thriller, horror, crime, and memoir.

The first session (11 AM - 1:00 PM) will feature children's and young adult authors and illustrators. The second session (1:30 PM - 4:30 PM) will feature authors writing for adults.

Refreshments will be served. Author-donated items, including books, will be raffled off to attendees throughout the event.

The library is located at 11-19 Depot Street, Middletown, New York. Directions are available on the library's website.

Monday, September 14, 2015

New Release Spotlight: Judy Nickles' "Lethal Legacy in Dreamland," The Dreamland Series

Book 1 of The Dreamland Series: Lethal Legacy in Dreamland

What’s the ghost of Al Capone doing in Dreamland, Arkansas? Trixie’s willing to live and let live, but he doesn’t seem to be so tolerant! 

Trixie Blake barely remembers her small hometown or the grandfather who left her  the Quimby Building on the antiquated town square. Newly-widowed and at loose ends, she treks to Dreamland to look for a fresh start. It takes less than twenty-four hours to discover she’s in the path of a shadowy development company’s plans to take over all of Dreamland’s historic downtown. That is, if they can persuade the three hold-outs to sell and move on. When Trixie decides to become hold-out number four, her already precarious situation deteriorates rapidly.

She finds an odd assortment of allies: the Drummond sisters, two feisty senior citizens  who run the Sunshine Style Shoppe on the first floor of Trixie’s building;  Rudy James, a former high school classmate (now the proprietor of the Twilight Bar and Grill); Glen Ellard, the long-time mayor who owns the town’s only hardware store; Hetty Green, a retired teacher who keeps her fingers on the pulse of the town; Danny Jefferson, who doesn’t let his Down Syndrome define him; Mitch Langley, whose connection  to the development company is too close for comfort; and Candace King, self-appointed head of the Dreamland Historic Association, who knows the town’s dark secrets.

On top of everything else, Trixie’s great-grandfather’s buddy Al Capone seems to be still in residence on the Quimby Building’s second floor. Does he also get out and about to vandalize Trixie’s hotel room, slash her tires, and make threatening phone calls? And why does Police Chief Doug Everton want Trixie out of town sooner than later?

Has Al met his match in Trixie Blake, or is he just a bystander in a seedier plot?

Find Lethal Legacy in Dreamland at Amazon.

Judy Nickles blogs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at
Follow her blog for writing tips, research links, book-related information,  and the occasional freebie offer.

Visit her website to learn about her other books including the popular
Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series
Not too sweet and not too spicy!

Connect on

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Subscribe here and receive a free PDF of my Kindle short story "Ino's Love."

Friday, September 11, 2015

No Cake & Ice Cream for This Book's Second Birthday. Blue Hydrangeas is Getting a New Cover!

Today is the second anniversary of the release of my novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story, in paperback. My dream of one day holding my printed book in my hands was one I thought would never come true.  I can't even begin to describe how much I've grown in these past 24 months. 

Like so many authors, I suffered through the painful and demoralizing cycle of querying agents, editors, and publishers and hearing ""No." "No!" "No!!" far too many times. Not one of these people actually read my book. This led me to believe that the system was flawed. 
So I decided to go the self-publishing route, not only because I wanted to see my book for sale in the Amazon store but because I believed Jack and Sara’s story was important, and it needed to be told. Let the readers decide, I thought. I published on Kindle in April 2013. And the readers decided they liked it. A 4.7 rating on Amazon and 85 five-star reviews (out of 121) is proof. 
Immediately after the Kindle version came out people starting asking how they could get it in paperback. This was not something I'd given much thought to, but five months later I published through Create Space and had a paperback.  
Paperbacks are hard to sell. Online, I sell very few each month. But in person I sell them by the dozen. It seems people like to buy a book from the author, personally inscribed. They also like to reach out to the author after they've read it to let her know what they thought about it. Priceless. 
Now that Blue Hydrangeas paper version has reached its second birthday, I thought I'd take what I've learned in the last two years to make some improvements. My cover is homemade. I know, a big no-no in indie publishing, but I was broke and didn't know better so I created my own cover. People say they like it. At least, people who have read the book say they like it. "It's beautiful," they say. Those who haven't read it? I don't think they like it so much. The book has gotten tons of exposure, yet sales are sluggish. Those who know about these things say the reason could be an uncompelling cover, a non-specific or boring book description, lousy editing, or negative reviews. I think I'm okay with the description, editing, and reviews, so perhaps it's the self-produced cover? 
After much consideration I've decided to invest some of my profits in a new cover. I'm working with graphic designer Perry Elisabeth. My new concept includes a photograph of a couple I found that are so Jack and Sara. The woman has Sara's long white hair. They're standing on a beach. He's cradling her in his arms with a pained expression on his face while she gazes off into the distance, seemingly detached from the moment. Perfect. I also hope to include the photo of the blue hydrangeas that currently appears on the cover. Maybe a picture of the house (Blue Hydrangeas is a bed and breakfast and almost a character in the story), if I can find one I like.  And new fonts, of course.
I believe this new cover will better represent what the book is about, and may motivate readers to check it out.
I have learned a lot in two years about self-publishing, marketing, and what readers want. I don't have all the answers, but one thing I do know is that a lot of what makes a book successful (besides a professionally produced cover, compelling description, excellent editing, and awesome reviews) is luck, chance, or good fortune. 
Another thing I know- in the end, the readers will decide. 


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Monday, September 7, 2015

Author Spotlight: Fantasy and Romance Novelist Tamara Grantham

Today's guest is fellow Clean Indie Reads author Tamara Grantham. She writes fantasy and romance stories including several titles in New York Times bestselling author William Bernhardt's Shine series. Here we talk about her latest release, what motivates her to write, and her book giveaway. Be sure to enter!  Welcome to Adventures in Publishing, Tamara! Please tell us your latest news.

Thanks for inviting me to speak to your readers, Marianne. My big news? Dreamthief, my first full-length novel, was just released last week! I am over-the-moon excited!

That is exciting! There's nothing like the thrill of releasing a new book.

Can you tell us a little about it?

Of course! Here's the blurb: Visiting Faythander is a nasty business. Forget the fairies and unicorns, most people come back with lost memories and mental problems. Olive Kennedy knows. She's the therapist who treats patients suffering from Faythander's side effects. Despite her empty bank account, she takes pride in her job as Houston's only Fairy World medical doctor. She's never failed to cure a client—until now. 
Traveling back to Faythander wasn't on Olive's to-do list. But she has no choice. The fate of both Earth and Fairy depends on her ability to stop an ancient being called the Dreamthief. To complicate matters, she may be losing her heart to someone who can't love her in return. Saving the world, she can handle. Falling in love—not so much.

As if battling the forces of evil wasn't difficult enough…   

I'm hooked! How did you come up with the title?

After watching the movie Inception, I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if someone could steal dreams? Thus, Dreamthief was born.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Writing has taught me that we all go through trials, and although some are better at hiding their emotions, I think it’s important for everyone to realize that we all struggle with trials. I think we would all be a bit more compassionate if we understood this. I also hope that I related that in Dreamthief

How much of the book is realistic? 
Since it’s a fantasy, not much.

Are the experiences in the story based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Yes. The first paragraph was written after I’d experienced what my main character, Olive, describes. The first paragraph in Dreamthief is… “I don’t believe in karma. Once, I gave twenty bucks to earthquake victims, thinking hey, maybe tomorrow my luck will change, maybe I can pay the utilities this month without sacrificing my grocery money. The next morning, my car broke down. Transmission. Nine hundred bucks. Don’t get me wrong, I still think we ought to help others, but not because we expect the universe to pay us back.” 

A few days before I wrote this scene, I had, in fact, donated $10 to earthquake victims, which was a lot of money to me at the time. I’d also had the same thought—hey, maybe if I give this money to something charitable, I’ll be able to budget the money without seeing red. The next day, our a/c broke, and cost us $400 to fix it. It was a stressful time, but at least I used it to my advantage, and it gave me the first line of my book… I don’t believe in karma. 

What's your writer story?
I started writing on September 1, 2010. I remember the date because it was a beautiful day. The leaves were beginning to change, the summer heat had cooled, and my son had started Kindergarten. I was at home with my two youngest, a 3 year old girl and 1 year old boy. I’d overcome the stresses of buying a new home in a new city, and my husband had started his 2nd year of residency. The past year had been pretty brutal. I was a small-town Texas girl transplanted to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’d never lived so far away from home, and my husband’s 80 hour work weeks were a killer. Luckily, I was blessed to make some friends who were true kindred spirits.

One of these kindred spirits loaned me a book called Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It was a fun, creative story, not unlike the stories I’d created in my own imagination. In her bio, the author wrote that she’d written the book while raising two young children and one on the way.

I stewed on this information for a few days. How did she do it? I couldn’t even find five minutes to check my email. How had she done it? And if I were to write a book, what would it be about? Would it have magic? Romance? What would my characters look like? Where would the setting be? 

I couldn’t leave all the information stuck in my head. I sat down and wrote a ten page outline about a girl named Ivy who lived on a Texas farm. I called it Forbidden. The story was a mix of Anne of Green Gables meets Tess of the d’Urbevilles, with a little magic and romance thrown into the plot. It never got published, but I still have my hopes up.

After I wrote my outline, I was hooked on writing.

I finished the first draft of Forbidden a month later on October 1, 2010.

Oddly enough, I published my first book on September 1, 2015, five years to the day that I started writing.

What books have influenced your life? 

I would be lying if I didn’t pay homage to my faith. As a Mormon, The Book of Mormon has probably influenced me the most, next to the Bible. But if we’re talking fun books, then I would say Changes by Jim Butcher, and The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. They were both books that I would read again and again. And make me teary-eyed, which is what a good book is supposed to do.

How about a little preview of Dreamthief?

My heart broke the instant I laid eyes on my godson. His pale face peeked from his Sponge Bob blankets. He didn’t smile. I guess I’d never seen him without a smile on his face.
Dark magic. I felt it the instant I saw him. Something evil was at work here, and it was my job to find out what.
I walked to the bed and sat beside him. His eyes cracked open an inch, but he didn’t acknowledge me.
“Hi Jer,” I said and took his hand. “It’s Olive.”
His eyes closed. The unsteady rhythm of his breathing filled the room, and his clammy fingers relaxed in my grip.
What could have caused this?
Mrs. Dickinson stood by the bed. “When did this happen?” I asked her.
“Three days ago,” she replied, her voice weak. “I took him for his checkup with Dr. Hill. We came home, and he collapsed. I called Dr. Hill as soon as it happened, and he told me to bring him back in.” Mrs. Dickinson sighed, staring at the ceiling as if she didn’t want me to see her tears. “Carl is out of town. I had to leave the rest of the kids with Nigel so I could take care of him.”
“Nigel Green—Mr. Green—the foster home director. But Sissy refused to leave Jeremiah’s side.” She looked at me, pleading. “He spent two days in the hospital. They ran every test under the sun. Finally, they diagnosed him with depression.” She barked a bitter laugh. “Depression.”
Pausing, she stared at me. “Can you do anything?”
I patted his shoulder, his nightshirt soft under my fingers. Propping my mirror on my knee, I clicked it open and prayed I could help him. The mirror was never intended for children. Visitors to Faythander didn’t struggle with repressed memories until later in life, and I doubted repressed memories were causing Jeremiah to be catatonic.
The fog of Faythander light curled around the mirror’s surface. It touched my skin, warm and full of energy. I spun it around to face Jeremiah. With his face in the mirror, I started the test. If he had traveled to Faythander, he would have been in contact with any number of species. This assessment would prove it.
I took his hand in mine, feeling the familiar, crescent-shaped scar on his wrist from where he’d been bitten by a dog a few years back. Seventeen stitches. He wouldn’t go near dogs anymore. It made me realize how much this little boy had already suffered in his short life.
“What are you doing?” Mrs. Dickinson asked.
“If Jeremiah visited Faythander, one of these figurines should trigger his memories.”
“Fairy world, sort of.”
“Olive, I know you’ve been doing this for some time, and I know Dr. Hill trusts you. But fairy world?”
“It’s a lot to swallow, I know. But if you think about it, we’ve known about the place for centuries. Dragons, elves, pixies—they surfaced in paintings and writings as soon as humans learned to form words. More people have been there than you realize.”
Mrs. Dickinson stared, unconvinced, but I didn’t expect anything else.
I placed Jeremiah’s hand on the first figure, the dragon. I’d painstakingly detailed the pewter piece and placed an actual dragon scale inside the metal. If Jeremiah had seen dragons, this piece would trigger it.
Jeremiah’s eyes remained closed, unchanged except for a slight twitching behind his eyelids. The dragon didn’t have any effect.
The elf came next. I gently moved Jeremiah’s fingers over it and glanced from his face to the mirror. If he found the right figure, I could usually see the memories come to life in the glass. But Jeremiah’s face remained unchanged, the mirror empty.
Moving his fingers, I tried the Wult next. Wults aren’t really a true Faythander species. They crossed over from Earth almost fourteen hundred years ago. In those days, they were called Vikings.
I pressed Jeremiah’s fingertips to the pewter helmet and animal-skin cloak. The Wult statue had the same results as the last two. Sighing, I wondered if I had lost my touch. Usually, I would have gotten somewhere by now.
I glanced at Mrs. Dickinson. She smiled, but I pegged her as a skeptic. I’m sure she pegged me as a lunatic.

About the Author
Tamara Grantham was born and raised in Southeast Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Lamar University. After marrying her husband David, she followed him through his training to become a burn surgeon. Tamara and David have five active, sweet, and almost always well-mannered children, ages zero to ten years. Their two pets, June and Chester help to keep the house lively (in addition to the children.)
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