Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sacred Ground & Holy Water: Twisted Vagabondage Tale From Petra Jordan

Recently I have been guest-blogging on Mexico-based author, Lyn Fuchs', blog. I write a column called Vagabondage: For Travelers Who Like It Rough.

In the column, I am serializing many of my different wild journeys around the world. My most recent column chronicles my trip to Petra, Jordan, where the climactic scenes of Indiana Jones were shot.

Sacred Ground & Holy Water: Twisted Vagabondage Tale From Petra Jordan: "To get to Jordan from Israel, we took a taxi from Eilat, an Israeli beach town on the northern tip of the Red Sea, inhabited by a tribe of ..."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Awesome Post About Self-Publishing

What's your opinion about the future of self-publishing? Read what thriller author Joe Konrath has to say about it in his wonderful blog post:

The Tsunami of Crap

Some people believe the ease of self-publishing means that millions of wannabe writers will flood the market with their crummy ebooks, and the good authors will get lost in the morass, and then family values will go unprotected and the economy will collapse and the world will crash into the sun and puppies and kittens by the truckload will die horrible, screaming deaths....

Read more here:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tips for Marketing Your Books

As you all know, writing your book is only half the battle. Whether you decide to traditionally publish or self-publish your work, you are still going to have to sell it.

But how? Set up a website. Blog. Tweet. We’ve all heard the tips. But what exactly are the nuts and bolts of book marketing? That’s where book coach Judy Cullins comes in.

Judy specializes in non-fiction book marketing. She calls non-fiction the books that fiction authors write to make money before they’ve made it. I recorded an excellent interview with Coach Cullins, which will be available on the Writers Radio Resource soon. But in the meantime, here is a synopsis of what we talked about.

How Does Your Book Benefit the Reader?

Judy says an important marketing technique is to let your audience know about how they will benefit from reading your book. In short, what will they learn? And, if this is a fictional work, what kind of experience will they receive? What kind of emotions will the reader feel when reading your work?

And for non-fiction writers... What need are you filling for your audience? It sounds simple enough, but people need to know what you book affords them before they buy it.

The Purpose of Blogging

Yes, we’ve all heard about the importance of blogging as a marketing technique. But, according to Judy, it’s not enough to just provide information about your books on your blog, or just to talk about yourself, as an author. According to Judy, your blog’s real purpose is to entertain and engage the audience. One way to do this is by asking questions. Write a post, then ask your audience to comment on the entry.

Or for fiction writers, provide a sample of your book where your main character is dealing with a particularly tough obstacle. Then ask the readers to comment about a time they have had to surmount their own obstacles.

HLAs, Huh?

HLA stands for High Level Activity. Judy told me that you must be performing three HLAs daily for you to successfully market your book. This means, each day, you must chose three marketing activities. It could be sending out an email promotion about one service, writing a blog entry, then tweeting about it. But regardless, Judy asks that we be specific. She said to write what HLAs you plan to do the night before— then do them! The more specific you are, the more apt you are to actually do what you say you’re going to do.

The Importance of LinkedIn

According to Judy, not all social media is considered equal. LinkedIn is actually one of the best social media outlets. This is because, on LinkedIn, your audience is very specific, tailored to exactly what you are selling. This is especially true when participating in all the groups on LinkedIn, which Judy said is important. In the groups, you can participate in different discussions, always adding in your URL to link people back to your site.

Your Website

Another thing Judy said is important, if you are selling a book, is to have a website. Create a website, then make it so that readers can buy your book there. If you expect readers to sift through all of the different books on the biggest ebook websites (aka Smashwords), good luck. On your website, Judy also recommends having a business that is related to your book, since you won’t really make as much money in book sales as you will through the business.

Of course, I am only scraping the surface here. We get much more in-depth in our radio interview, which I will post soon.

In the meantime, for more information about Judy Cullins, her informational blog and book-coaching services, please see her website:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Paying Readers to Read Your Book?

Yup, you heard it right. But this is just part of one writer's creative marketing plan.

You can see for yourself what Boyd Lemon, the author of Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages, has to say in his message to readers:

Many of you have expressed that you intend to read Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages this summer. In the spirit of some summer fun, I am offering A Blatant & Transparent Incentive for all of you who have not yet read the book – the winning Reader will receive a $200 gift certificate to a restaurant of YOUR choice.

Is there a catch? You bet there is! But it’s as easy as 1-2-3 to qualify!

1. Purchase your copy of my book (Kindle or print edition), DIGGING DEEP, either from Amazon, or directly from my website by Sunday, July 31, 2011.

2. Read the book.

3. Write a review (it doesn’t have to be long or erudite), post it on before August 14th, and send a copy of your review to me at; if you bought it from Amazon, be sure to include a copy of your purchase receipt or order confirmation as well.

That’s it! I will draw the name of the WINNER-READER on Monday August 15th.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Norm Spitzig -- Another Indie Author Making It Happen

Meet another indie writer, who is doing it all on his own, with great results. Norm Spitzig is the author of not just one but two books, Private Clubs in America and Around the World and Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury.

At one point, Private Clubs in America and Around the World climbed into Amazon's “top ten humor books.” Spitzig is also pleased to report that both books have been quite profitable.

Private Clubs is a comical look into the unique world of private clubs. Private clubs are inextricably woven into the very fabric of America’s history, traditions, and culture—and for that matter, the histories, traditions, and cultures of all free societies around the world. Members, employees, and guests alike will enjoy the Spitzig’s penetrating insights, off-beat humor, blatant irreverence, and sarcastic wit.

Murder and Mayhem at Old Bunbury, on the other hand, is a murder-mystery. Board of Directors President Clive and waitress-extraordinaire Esther team up to solve a gruesome murder at one of the world’s most private clubs–the Old Bunbury Golf Links & Reading Club.

Spitzig’s books are published through Dog Ear Publishing. I wanted to know why he chose that publishing company in particular.

"I chose Dog Ear over both the 'traditional-get-a-literary-agent' approach—I had several who expressed interest—and other self-publishing companies for a number of reasons: Dog Ear let me set the price of my book, Dog Ear's reputation for professional, extensive, and timely publishing services was impeccable, Dog Ear's three principals all previously worked in the traditional book publishing world and are very knowledgeable, and Dog Ear let me retain complete editorial control. In retrospect, the decision turned out to be a very good one. I will almost surely use them for my next book, a humorous memoir of 'life-lessons-learned.' "

Like other indie authors, choosing to self-publish left Spitzig with the job to do all of his own publicity. I asked Norm how he has gotten the word out about his book.

"I've been working in the private club industry for over three decades, first as a General Manager of several fine private clubs, and, for the past decade, as a Principal of Master Club Advisors—a leading worldwide executive placement and consulting firm for the private club industry. As you might expect, I have a lot of contacts in the industry and many of my friends and associates were kind enough to recommend and purchase my books, both to/for themselves as well as their bosses and employees. Both books have done quite well both here in the United States as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and England. Interestingly, they have recently caught on as holiday gifts for private club Boards of Directors as well as favors for Member-Guest Golf Tournaments."

Still, I wanted to know if Norm had employed a professional publicist to help him with the marketing of his book.

"While I've done the majority of marketing myself (primarily through e-mail, LinkedIn, and Twitter), I did use the excellent services of Todd Rutherford to also help 'get the word out.' Todd is a talented and hard-working writing, publishing and book marketing coach, and owner of both and He's unquestionably ethical, very well-connected, and a true gentleman."

I was also impressed with Norm’s website. I wanted to know who helped him.

"I chose the Dog Ear package that included their development and maintenance of my books' web site. A fair number of my book purchases come directly through this site, with purchase directly from me the second my popular source, and Amazon a distant third."

Purchase the books at

Watch Spitzig's two book trailers:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Toxic Feedback. We've All Received It. Joni Cole Tells Us What to Do About It

We’ve all experienced it. A brutal critique of our writing that has sent our little hearts a-fluttering and our self-esteem plummeting to the floor.

It is every writer's hope to find a supportive community in which to nurture our writing. Joni B. Cole, a writer, writing teacher, essayist and a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee, wants to help writers find this creative utopia by learning to give as well as get better feedback. She hopes to achieve this through her book, Toxic Feedback.

Why did you decide to write Toxic Feedback?

About twelve years ago, in one of the writing workshops I teach, I learned that several of the participants were either refugees from previous classes where they had experienced toxic feedback, or were closet writers terrified to go public.

At that first meeting, I did a timed writing exercise and then invited participants to share what they had written. As usual, the panic was palpable. I remember one fellow in particular whose hands and voice shook as he read his exercise aloud.

Where was this fear coming from? Years of doing my own workshop had taught me that feedback doesn’t have be something writers dread or endure. In fact, when the process is managed properly, feedback is nothing but positive, even when it’s critical.

Seeing that writer’s hands shake as he read his piece aloud, I didn’t exactly think in that moment—hey, I’m onto a good book idea here. But it did register that this issue was real and really mattered. Almost every writer in that room, including me, had experienced toxic feedback at some point. And that’s when it hit me. This isn’t right. I wanted to do something about it.

What kind of a resource do you hope Toxic Feedback can provide for writers?

The general goal of the book is to raise people’s consciousness about how we give and receive feedback in the writing realm, and the world in general. Put another way, my goal, lofty as it may sound, is to help writers write more, write better, and be happier.

When does feedback get toxic?

My definition of toxic feedback is anything that undermines the writer or the writing. Which is not to say that negative feedback (or constructive criticism, to put it more nicely) is inherently toxic. In fact, far from it. Writers actually want to hear what they are doing wrong in order to fix it. But constructive criticism can easily turn toxic if the feedback provider gets lazy, or forgets that the exchange is all about what the writer needs right then, to move her work forward.

For example, writers can handle specifics; it’s the generalities that bring them to their knees. Yet too many feedback providers toss off easy (and dismissive) responses: “I don’t get it…” “This is boring…” Another example: red-penciling a manuscript to death—even if your heart is in the right place—usually comes across as toxic. Remember, some writers can choke on a crumb, so don’t get carried away with your brilliant insights. If you deliver your feedback in measured quantities, and with appreciation for what the writer has already achieved on the page, then she is much more likely to actually hear your feedback, and process it more effectively.

What are your tenets for providing feedback?

Here is the most important one: spend as much time (if not more) on positive feedback. What specifically is working in the text? Where were you blown away in the story? What passages exemplify good writing? Obviously, this kind of positive feedback is lovely for the writer to hear, and for that reason alone it’s important. But more to the point, positive feedback is hugely instructive in helping the writer build her story from its strengths up with confidence and direction.


Joni B. Cole is the author of the forthcoming book, Another Bad-Dog Book: Tales of Life, Love, and Neurotic Human Behavior (PublishingWorks), Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and the anthology, Water Cooler Diaries: Women Across America Share Their Day at Work.