A BIRTHDAY REVIEW

In checking the date of my last blog, I realize how long it’s been since my last one. With all that’s taken place in the last couple of years, the conclusion of 2017 and the arrival of 2018 inspired me to examine the process that brought me to my recent birthday.

What are your memorable birthday milestones?
Have you found that for most people, birthdays are either super important, or nothing at all?  I guess I fall into the latter category…with a few exceptions.  At age eight, my grandmother baked a cake with a beautiful doll embedded in the center.  At 21, I was treated to gourmet French cuisine by a young man on a limited budget. I was surprised on my fiftieth birthday with a party planned by friends, colleagues, and clients.   Continue reading A BIRTHDAY REVIEW

QUALITY BOOK PRODUCTION

The art of communication is as varied as its practitioners.  Success in your creative process usually rests on the degree of your inspiration.  For any professional, it also reflects perception of the desires of your target market. And, if you are an author, success also depends on the writing skills to which you have been introduced…and have mastered. There are many comprehensive sources of writers’ guidelines available online and in print. I will sometimes mention issues in the writing process, but in most of these blogs, I am attempting to share snippets of authoring strategies as they arise in my own wordsmithing. 

Many publishing houses restrict the amount of input an author may have in the printing process.  But as a writer, you should be able to express concerns you have about the production of a work that will carry your name.  As someone who has assisted in the process for other amateur and professional writers, and served as the art director on a collaborative effort, I am somewhat familiar with aspects of producing a high quality book.  

Now, as a debut author of fiction, I am entering a new phase of professional experience.  While the following areas of concern may not be presented in the sequencing of a publisher or art director, they represent my thought process while preparing for the publication of Prospect For Murder, the first book in the new Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mystery series.
branding program
Unified Appearance in a Series
Career longevity for a writer often rests on their successful book branding and advertising. These issues bring us to the appearance of one’s product; in this case, books.  There are many design dilemmas facing authors and the people who will introduce their work to the world.  Personally, I enjoy reading a classic hardbound book, so my contemplation of quality book printing rests on my perceptions of what constitutes a fine hardcover edition.

The Reader’s Experience
While the design elements of a print or on-line artistic project may vary in several ways (sometimes because of the genre), some issues are common.  In general, the test of a book’s initial appeal is its cover.  Does it draw the eye of the potential reader?  I say the reader, rather than the buyer, because with the constant rise in the cost of hardcopy books, library patrons represent a large segment of the public that may read your book.  Of course, to reach that readership, you will first have to appeal to the buyers of books that line library shelves.

Book jacket design is one of the most important elements that concerns marketers.  Therefore, I encourage you to seek an artist whose skills in fine and graphic art (as well as typography) will meet the needs of myriad projects.  Fortunately, I have found this breadth of talent in the work of Yasamine June.  

I do not claim to be a specialist in color theory, but generally, bold colors and print in product packaging are believed to help maximize sales.  In book publishing, successful cover design does not rest solely on these elements, or even on the overall quality of the artwork.  In publishing, the book’s genre is also vital.  Prospect for Murder is clearly a mystery.  In this genre, the coloration employed in book art often features dark colors, sometimes enhanced with the use of chiaroscuro [the effective contrasting of shadow and light]. 

To facilitate communication with my readers, my artistic vision embraces continuing historical and cultural features within the content and artistic accents that unify the appearance of the books.  Because my stories center on Hawai`i, I am using Island-themed framing based on Hawaiian heirloom jewelry for each book’s cover.  This repeating image, plus ones that are pertinent to each story, will serve to meet potential readers’ expectations by unifying my branding, thereby increasing the public’s recognition of each new addition to the series.

In classic format, I have included a cast of characters, chapter aphorisms, and a notes and acknowledgments section.  In addition, because of the inclusion of considerable foreign language and historical references, I offer a guide for pronouncing Hawaiian words and a glossary of non-English and specialized vocabulary.  For emphasis, the aphorisms are presented in italic fonts and a distinctive hibiscus-based image frames each page number.
formatting tips
Empowering Your Words Through Readable Text
The next concern I have is readability.  Given the length of my books [PFM is 92,000 words], concerns about the cost of printing could lead to printing decisions based on saving paper: Margin size can be reduced; spacing after periods can be decreased from two spaces to one, blank pages between chapters can be eliminated, and the weight of the paper reduced.  Such choices might reduce the overall size of a book and conserve paper; but they would not enhance the sensory experience of the people reading the book. 

Beyond these general considerations, my target market is older, well-educated women and men who are as interested in character relationships as they are intriguing plotlines.  Many readers within my target market may wear eye glasses or contact lenses.  Nevertheless, I am told that with the lack of certain vocabulary and situational elements, the inclusion of historical references and multiculturalism, my series may be appropriate to students in advanced placement courses in secondary school.  These students may not be as concerned with the layout preferences of older readers, but they too will benefit from easy-to-read text.

Regarding my recently published book, I have agreed to a layout that includes single spacing following the end of sentences, despite the continuing use of two spaces by many publishers both here and abroad.  To compensate for this, my publisher has used a larger font that enhances the readability of the text of the hardcopy.

Audio Books and Public Readings
With a trilogy of books already completed in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery series, I have already completed an audio edition of the first volume.  In general, I knew I had to employ a believable voice for each of the characters.  As the series is written in the first person, the most important voice is that of the protagonist, who is roughly my age.  For Natalie’s inner narrative, I use a measured and calm voice; for her interaction with other characters, I employ tones and rhythms appropriate to each scene.  Other characters are presented to showcase their unique profiles.

In preparation for reading portions of Prospect for Murder, I recorded descriptions and samples of each cast member. The text for each was printed in a distinctive color.  In addition, I utilized a 14 point font and 1.5 line spacing. I also used varying spacing and marks to indicate pauses and emphasis. 

For instance, I use: upward and downward arrows for changes in tone; ellipses for the trailing off of my voice; and long dashes for abrupt breaks.  For vocabulary or phrases about which I was concerned with correct pronunciation, I inserted underscoring and added hyphens between syllables.

In future blogs, I’ll report on the response to the decisions I have made in this phase of my practice of the art and science of writing!

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, design consultant, motivational speaker

Further discussion of art is available at the following blogs:
Authors Design Dilemmas 1, April 2015
Confronted by a Fantasia of Fonts, May 2015
Rainbows of Color, May 2015
Winning Logos & Slogans, October 2015
Quality Book Production, February 2016
Harmonizing Branding Elements, August 2016
Book Promotion and Evolving Art, January 2017
Balancing Text and Space, February 2018
Successful Cover Art, December 2018

To learn more about the Conversations with Auntie Carol, the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards], Island recipes and other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

FOLLOW ME:
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Apple Books
Audible
Authors Den
Barnes and Noble
Blogarama
Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited
Good Reads
Hometown Reads
Midpoint
Smashwords

AUTHOR APPEARANCES

Writers’ Guidelines
Regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you will need to consider elements of successful advertising and branding for authors.  The skills you have developed as a wordsmith will help you facilitate communication and networking with individuals and organizations that can help you increase your public visibility.

Author Appearances & Readings
You’ve completed a large project in fiction or non-fiction and it’s been published. You’ve made great progress toward achieving your goals as a writer.  And if you’ve written an award-winning book, you’ve reached a major milestone in successfully practicing the art and science of writing. 

Thinking the heavy work is over? You’re wrong.  Seriously wrong. You’ve simply turned the corner from building a product to marketing it in tandem with your publisher…That is, unless you’re entering the world of independent publishing.  In that case, you’ll be responsible for self-marketing, and need to maximize a branding program that relies on dynamic but cost-effective authoring strategies and advertising messages. 

Regardless of how your work is being published, you’ll need to make promotional appearances.  That process should include opportunities for your readers to hear your words, as well as to ask you impromptu questions about yourself and your work.  Even if you do not have a strong voice or dynamic style of presentation, the public will want to get to know the mind and personality that has generated the material in which they are interested.

Venues for Author Appearances
In preparation for your work to the public personally, you can refine your oral reading skills by practicing with a voice recording device in front of a mirror.  You can also hone your skills at a writers’ group, where you could work on timing selected readings.  If you find yourself uncomfortable reading aloud, appearances at a small book club meeting may be ideal for warming up for larger audiences.  

Once you’re ready for general audiences, you’ll find there are many venues at which you might share your writing.  Some are directly related to publishing, such as book fairs and literary and artistic festivals.  Depending on your reputation as a writer, your local radio or television station may have programming featuring local writers.  This is especially true of public broadcasting in radio and television. 

Since your goal is to sell books in every form you are publishedhard- or softcover print, Ebooks, audio books, or online websites and blog sites—libraries and bookstores [local and national chains]  are ideal for promoting current work and for attracting potential long-term followers.  Again, your personal reputation and the involvement of your publisher may determine the ease with which such appearances can be booked. 
Media Relations Dos and Don’ts
Expanding Media Relations
In previous blogs—and at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.comI’ve discussed the importance of connectivity with the media.  With each public performance opportunity, I suggest you prepare an advertising message that can be adapted to public service announcement [PSA] messages.  These can be utilized promoting the non-profit organizations (i.e. schools and libraries) at which you might appear.  For while you may have expectations of selling copies of the work you’re promoting,
your authoring events may be deemed worthy of mention in the calendar of non-profit community activities within your local media outlets and platforms, as well as virtual communities.  They may also be of interest to followers of social media and blogs featuring interviews.
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Cost-Effective Media Relations
As you expand your community relations and get to know your media, you may be surprised by the amount of free media coverage you can obtain.  It all depends on your practice of the art of communication, and I don’t simply mean effective wordsmithing.  Hopefully your writer’s inspiration will aid you in establishing strategic media relations.  Much of this will rely on pithy PSAs prepared as broadcast, print, and On-line media releases [you can find samples at my marketing website, Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.
You should also be prepared to attend business, social and community activities that will introduce you to members of the media, whose own work you may have been enjoying for years.
Empowering Your Words
Enhancing the Listener’s Experience in Your Public Performance
Let me again state that you have one opportunity to make a good first impression.  Remember that each time you appear in public, you’re making a statement about yourself and your work.  And although your written work may be inspired and employ a rich palette of words, you must now present it to people who will be judging you on their sensory experience!

Where you present your work should direct your preparation Will you be speaking in a large or small room?  Will you be standing or seated?  How much of your body will be visible to the audience?  Will you have a microphone?  Will you be introducing yourself?  Will someone be monitoring the time you’ve been allotted for speaking?  Are you the featured speaker at the event, or one of a group of presenters?  And how will you handle stage fright?  I encourage you to remember that stage fright is not a phenomena experienced solely by actors

~  The quality of your voice.  Once you know the size of the room and whether you will be utilizing a microphone, consider how well your vocal quality matches the venue.  Remember that unless you are providing your own Audio Visual equipment, there’s no way you can be assured that the equipment provided will work as desired.  Therefore, think about whether you have the vocal strength to project your voice throughout the designated space if you end up without a sound system. 

Although no one wants to give a reading on a day when they are not feeling well, you may not be able to cancel an appearance.  If you are unable to read your material, you may need to take a friend or colleague to actually present your work, but it would still be good for you to show up (as long as you’re not contagious).   When in doubt about your condition, check with your healthcare provider.  If you just have a tickle in your throat, you can always try drinking warm tea or munching your favorite fruit to produce a clearer sounding voice.  

~  Your appearance Many artists and writers feel there’s no need to be concerned about their appearance or their behavior.  But if you want to be taken seriously, I believe you should demonstrate respect for yourself, your work, and for the public who awaits you.  What you wear may be dictated by where you’ll be speaking.  If you’re standing on a raised platform, consider how your legs and shoes will look from the audience.  Women may want to wear a longer skirt length than they normally do, or even a pantsuit to ensure they aren’t sending the wrong message.  And don’t forget that use of makeup is not limited to women.  Men, (especially those who are bald), are just as susceptible to having a glowing face that detracts whether they are on stage or on video.  Also, the eyes are key to projecting a performer’s personality.  A touch of eye liner below the lower eye lashes gives your audience a sense of being closer to you.

As to style, the casualness of ragged denim, faded hoodies and unshaven portions of one’s anatomy may seem representative of the artistic world.  But ask yourself whether they best represent the work you are introducing.  If you’re beyond the first two decades of life, consider more sophisticated choices in attire and overall self-presentation. Personally, I usually top skirts and dresses I wear to public events with a vivid Asian style silk jacket.  Not only is this in keeping with my normal wardrobe, but since the Natalie Seachrist mysteries features references to Asian culture, this choice sets the stage for the stories that I will be addressing.

Introducing Yourself
You should have several empowering bios by the time you’re launching a book.  [You’ll find a summary for writing one on my website at https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html]  You should have brief versions in one or two paragraphs in both first and second person voices.  If you’re lucky, there’ll be an MC or other person to introduce you, and hopefully they’ll read your bio without inappropriate ad-libs.  However, regardless of your advance planning, there will be times when you must introduce yourself.  And while it is important to have a well-written bio, it is useful to be able to speak off-the-cuff without any notes. 

Your Performance
That’s right.  I said Performance.  That’s what an author’s appearance is.  You must present yourself so that you are memorable and believable as the author of the work you have produced.  And just as there are many styles of writing, there are many ways in which you can present your work.  In my opinion, the top rung of professionalism holds those rare authors who memorize portions of their work and perform it like a play…that is, sans script. 

One of the most likely venues in which you’ll see this type of performance is Cowboy Poetry.  One of my favorite entertainers in this genre is Bill Black, whose warm vocal tones are accented with more than a hint of North Carolina.  From the moment he steps onto a stage with his cowboy shirt, hat and bolo tie, the audience is wooed by both the stories he relates and his personage as their author.

At the next level are presenters who place text within a folder.  This is where I fall in terms of performance.  I try to avoid treating my audiences to the rustling and flopping of loose pages that can separate easily and cause the reader confusion.

A Single Performance Among Many
At some time, you may be charged with scheduling a group of authors to read.  At a recent gathering of writers, I found that despite instructions to “read for about five minutes,” there was great variety in the lengths of the readings.  Even when a presenter has timed their work in advance, the pressure of public performance can produce variations in the actual length of a reading.  I believe that setting a measurable standard (i.e. three to four pages, double spaced).  While some will read faster or slower, the overall time of the readings should even out.

Does an Event Warrant a Media Release?
Event organizers will normally generate media releases.  That’s wonderful, especially if they follow the details of a bio you submit.  But there’s nothing wrong with sending out your own media releases if you’re a featured participant.  You should include general information about the occasion, your role in it, and other newsworthy persons who are involved, so that your effort does not appear wholly self-serving.  In fact, the sponsors should welcome your boosting the likelihood of media coverage.  For information on this topic, see earlier blogs, as well as sample releases on my website at imaginingswordpower.com/media-release-samples.html.

 In addition, you can send our post cards, letters, fliers or other announcements.   Recipients should include people you expect to attend, as well as those who may not be able to participate but should be aware of your involvement.  If event is open to the general public, distribution of your promo information via mail, email, and social media may add to the number of attendees. 

No matter how well you think you have prepared for an event, something can happen to derail a public appearance.  Once it is over, hold your own private event autopsy, if the event organizers do not have one.  And don’t forget to send out a post-event media release.  Again, make a point of mentioning any noteworthy persons or historical context who are of general interest in your community.  Finally, upload a sample of the reading you gave at the event on your website or social media, even if you have to record it anew.

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, design consultant, motivational speaker

Suggestions for Dynamic Public Appearances are available at:
Author Appearances, December 2015
Promo Materials for Public Speaking, July 2018
All the World’s a Stage, August 2018
Final Preparations for Public Speaking, September 2018

To learn more about the Conversations with Auntie Carol, the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards], Island recipes and other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

FOLLOW ME:
Facebook
Amazon

Apple Books
Audible
Authors Den
Barnes and Noble
Blogarama
Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited
Good Reads
Hometown Reads
Midpoint
Smashwords

Sidestepping Writer’s Block

The following is a commandment I often recommended for serious writersThou shalt set and maintain a schedule for daily composition—or other work related to the art and science of wordsmithing

Unfortunately, regardless of whether you’re an amateur or professional, any author can face Writer’s Block.   The term often conjures the image of a twentieth century writer of the great novel—rumpled, frazzled, and hazy from exhaustion abetted by alcohol or other drugs.  Seldom do we picture an elegantly clad person poised before a blank computer screen in a well-appointed office.

Surprisingly, today’s writer is more often focused on commercial or academic composition than fiction Stymied by the inability to produce the required verbiage, the valiant wordsmith in this scenario may continue to drill down in a repeating exercise of seeming activity…with the hope that it will produce a new dynamism.  But an episode of slugging away at wordsmithing without inspiration often yields the same result:  N o t h i n g   o f   V a l u e.

Is there an easy solution to the dilemma of low motivation and poor productivity Sometimes the answer is no.  At least for the time being, leaving the project alone may be the best answer.  But what options are available as an alternative to abdicating your role as a writer and hitting your head with the hammer of guilt? 

In the Southwestern desert, simply drinking water can restore one’s ability to concentrate, if not one’s creativity.  Another option is exerciseGoing for a run or walking in a garden will remove you from an atmosphere of defeat and inhaling fresh air re-oxygenates your bloodstream and enhances your brain function.  Recent biochemical research has shown the benefit of eating brain-stimulating foods.  But if preparing a meal of nut-encrusted fish with broccoli and tomatoes is not doable, you could consider taking a power nap, perhaps serenaded by Mozart or Vivaldi.

Beyond tangible physical benefits, these strategies provide Attention Distraction.  Wait a moment, you say?  Attention distraction is usually associated with magicians misdirecting audiences…or mystery writers dropping false leads into their text to confuse readers about the true direction of their plotline.

Regarding the quandary of writer’s block, consider that scientists exploring attentional focus and problem solving have discovered that too much mental focus can reduce one’s creativity, as well as the ability to solve problems.  Therefore any strategy that redirects your energies is indeed useful for refreshing your body and your mind.

For me, the key to increasing my productivity is my frame of mind For even if I’m poised to bring form to a fully visualized project, extraneous noise like ringing phones, talk or even music can stall my work.  Sadly, I’ve found that food and water, or a change of scenery with heart stimulating activity, can only help to a limited degree.  

Attentional distraction via the dovetailing of the creative and editorial processes I mentioned in my first blog is my best method for sidestepping writer’s block.  If all else fails, cleaning house or playing a few games of solitaire allows me to return to productive writing for hours!  All of the techniques I’ve mentioned in this blog helped me through the myriad phases of writing, working with my publisher, and promoting Prospect For Murder, the first book in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery series.

Remember, the Universe will provide the answer…when you’re ready to receive it!

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, design consultant, motivational speaker

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

To learn more about the Conversations with Auntie Carol, the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards], Island recipes and other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

FOLLOW ME:
Facebook
Amazon

Apple Books
Audible
Authors Den
Barnes and Noble
Blogarama
Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited
Good Reads
Hometown Reads
Midpoint
Smashwords