Monday, June 25, 2012

Blog Critique: Word by Word

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

I really enjoy doing blog critiques because I learn so much about so many new people and ideas. Our blog today comes from Stephanie Pace who provides wonderful insight on self-publishing and  Go check out her blog Word by Word and we'll talk.

Stephanie, you have the elements of a great blog - all the things I always harp on - which is great. Your name is in your header, your profile is up nice and high where we can see it. You have pages with essential information which provides depth. Readers can follow your blog easily. You have a search box (love that). It's clean and uncluttered. Really, your elements are pretty much all spot on.

Where I think you need some work is your aesthetics. Specifically:
  • It really bugs me that your header doesn't go across your whole blog. That empty space makes the whole blog uneven.
  • I feel the same way about the space after your pages. You could even that out by adding a contact page, which is a good idea anyway.
  • Your colors don't quite go together. I like that you are attempting to have a palette, but take a careful look at your colors. Try using to get your colors right. Pull some of those background colors to make your footer background, your title colors, and your header background.
  • I'd like to see some pictures in your posts. Pics really help make a blog more attractive and interesting to readers. 
With a few color tweaks, I think your blog can go from great to fantastic. I can't wait to see where you and your blog go next!

Readers, do you have any suggestions for Stephanie?

Friday, June 22, 2012

From Contract to Launch: Cover Reveal

I'm back from vacation! And I'm back big with an update on Kimberly Ann Miller. It's time for her cover reveal.

As is the case with most books, a lot of energy has been put into the cover reveal by Kimmy and Spencer Hill Press. This is a classic way to create buzz about a forthcoming book. I'm going to talk a little about the whole process rather than just the cover reveal since we are following Kim and her marketing strategies as she promotes her book.

Kim and her editor emailed bloggers to participate in the reveal. They asked to include the cover and the blurb about the book. This is also the place that her editor let bloggers know they could request an ARC. This is for reviewer blogs. The idea is to get people reviewing your book (hopefully with a thumbs up!) before the release so that readers are interested in reading. Below is the exact letter we received from Spencer Hill Press rather than just the blurb to show an example of how you ask bloggers to participate.

Hi folks,

Spencer Hill Press is lucky enough to work with Vic Caswell of Sketcher Girl Studios. Her latest cover design is for Triangles, Kimberly Ann Miller's amazing story of a girl who wakes up in alternate realities each day she spends in the Bermuda Triangle. It's sort of like a teen romance version of Groundhog Day, and it will make you both cry and laugh out loud. 

I'm writing to invite you to take part in the cover reveal. If you're interested, please post any time after 12:01am on Friday, June 22nd.


A cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong? 

In the Bermuda Triangle--a lot. 

Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life--her father's death years ago, her mother's medical problems, and the loser who's practically stalking her--seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears she's gone nuts for more than one reason: that loser's suddenly claiming they're a happy couple... a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying "Happy Anniversary"... and suddenly, she's full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ship's doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, she's warned that one of these "alternate realities" could become permanent. 

She just has to ask herself one question--how the hell is she going to get out of this mess?

Title: Triangles
Author: Kimberly Ann Miller
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press (
ISBN: 978-1-937053-36-9
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Formats: Paper, e-book

If you'd like to request an ARC, please use the reviewer form on our website. ARCs should ship in early 2013. 

Take care!

 - Kate

The only thing I would do additionally in this letter (and mind you, I am not experienced in book promotion as the people at Spencer Hill are, just in marketing itself) is include a Goodreads link so that people can go add this book directly to their to-be-read list the minute they see the cover. The cover reveal is so far before the actual release, after all, so it is good to help readers find a way to remember that they want to read it!

And now for the cover...isn't it beautiful?!

What do you think about cover reveals? Do they make you want to read a book?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vacation Rocks!

I really need a vacation from my family, but I'll take what I can get. We're off to sunny So Cal. I hope to have fabulous stories when I return late next week. Have fun and see you when I return!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Launch Lowdown: Alex J. Cavanaugh CassaFire

During A to Z, I introduced an occasional series spotlighting recaps of book launches. I am proud to bring this series back today with the Launch Lowdown from Alex J. Cavanaugh. I love having Alex on my blog. He's a fabulous guest. And he's got wonderful information to share having completed not one but two book launches. So let's jump right in:

We probably already know, but tell us who are you? What have you written?
I’m Alex J. Cavanaugh (also known as the Ninja Captain) and I’ve written two science fiction books, CassaStar and CassaFire.

Tell us about the book you launched.
My latest book is CassaFire, a sequel requested by my fans:

Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. Keeping a promise to his fallen mentor, he now serves on an exploration vessel. The detection of alien ruins sends them to the distant planet of Tgren. Are the ruins a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassans. To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers. Forced to train Athee and further develop her flying aptitude, Byron’s patience is strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Who published your book?
Dancing Lemur Press LLC

Did you have a marketing budget?
Most of my efforts were low or no cost and focused on a lot of blog appearances.
When did you launch?
February 28, 2012
What did you do pre-launch?
A whole lot! Oh wait, you want details, don’t you?

Once my publisher had sent me the cover art and book trailer, I posted those on my site. Around October I started contacting potential blog tour hosts and set dates. Not long after I announced the Catch Fire! Blog Party – those who signed up to post about my book on release day were entered to win free books. I also sent my publisher a few more reviewers and they created a prize package for my tour. Yeah, it was a lot!

Tell us a bit about the launch events.
The day CassaFire was released, I had a guest post at Edi’s Book Lighthouse and close to three hundred bloggers posting information about my book. It was wild! I’m glad I took the day off, because it took me eleven hours to visit all of those blogs.

What surprised you about the whole process?
I think what surprised me was the amount of people who posted about my book that day. It was both overwhelming and humbling.

What worked? What would you do differently?
I don’t think I’ll do another single day event like that again, as it was SO overwhelming. My first tour had nineteen stops, and I was glad I limited it to just ten this time. The prize package was a great idea, and since I was posting news and trivia every day on my blog (in addition to visiting a host) my blog comments never dropped. Both books have gone on to be Amazon Best Sellers, so something worked.

For my third and final book, I’m going to have to think of something Ninja epic!

Wait, final book? In this series or ever? You'll have to tell us more about that sometime...

What words of advice can you give us?
Plan ahead! Select good hosts and make sure you are both in agreement on the guest post/interview. Visit the host sites during your appearance and continue to check on them days later. And bring your Ninja Army!

Thanks again, Laura!

No, thank you, Alex! You got a Ninja Army because you built it. You're a wonderful example to us writers. Be proud! 

Alex's info:

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Known online as the Ninja Captain, he’s the founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blog Critique: Fresh as a Daisy

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

I postponed Monday's blog critique so I could announce winners yesterday, but no worries - we still have one this week. Since we're already a day late, let's jump right in. Go on over to Daisy Carter's blog Fresh as a Daisy and we'll discuss below.

Okay, are you back? Then let's discuss. 

Daisy, your blog is perfect. Seriously. It's beautiful. 
  • Your palette is divine. I love the colors and the way you use them. I could stare at your blog for a long time.
  • You have depth and relevant information on your pages.
  • You have a contact me page.
  • You don't have samples of your writing, but you're on submission which puts you in a different ballgame.
  • Your profile info is high on the sidebar.
  • You stick to your blogging schedule.
  • You use pictures in your posts which are very thoughtful and interesting to read.
  • What else can I say? You should include a picture of you somewhere. I don't have the percentages in front of me right now - they're sitting on my desk at one of my client offices - but faces attract people to read the information more than images without them. And we want to know what you look like.
  • I also personally prefer changing the "Link Within" option to 5 instead of 3 - it fills the page better.
The only other criticism, if you can call it that, is that I'm surprised you don't have more followers. You obviously engage with the readers you have - you have lots of entries in the contest you are currently running and you seem to have comments on each of your posts. But I think, if your heart is in it, you could improve those numbers. I've written various posts where I talked about this but I must not have labeled them well since I can't find any of them right now. Looks like I have some homework...That doesn't help you right now. Some obvious suggestions that are also time consuming:
    • Visit lots of blogs. Follow blogs. Make comments.
    • Stalk followers - find blogs you want to emulate, click on those followers and invite them to follow you. Or just comment on their blogs to attract them.
    • Join blogfests.
    • Hold contests (like you are now!) and encourage people to tweet/blog about you as part of their entry.
    • Be genuine.
You're probably doing all of those things already. This is just a confirmation that those are the right things to be doing. Good job! And good luck as you continue on your career!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Winners Announced!

We have winners! Lots! Twelve, in fact. I promised to introduce you to my wonderful WrAHM friends who stepped up to provide awesome prizes so let's begin with...

A.G. Howard
A.G. Howard, the debut author of the upcoming Splintered has provided some awesome swag. Splintered is a dark Alice in Wonderland spin-off slated for release in January 2013. A.G. is talented, so creative, and ultra beautiful. Seriously, that woman can take a good pic, can't she? Oh, and she's nice. Yeah, she's the whole package. Watch this one, guys. She's gonna go far.

And the winners of Splintered swag (see the picture to the left) are:
Splintered bookplate - Jenna Cooper
Alice in Wonderland gift tag - Hildred Billings
Splintered button - Brookea_2006
Splintered bookmarks - Amber Tuscan-Clites
Stacy Stanberg Jensen & G

YA writer Carrie Bastyr is the bomb. Even though I think she and I are in a huge battle over Adam Levine (yum). If you like giveaways, you need to be following Carrie's blog. She's a mega giveaway girl. And on top of that she's giving a copy of All These Lives by Sarah Wylie to...Susanne Drazic.  Thank you, Carrie!
YA writer Melissa Brady King is the next talented mama I'm introducing. Wow, can that girl write some good historical romance. I am really not a historical reader, but I had the privilege of CP'ing her fabulous book The Bootlegger's Daughter and now I'm converted. She's very talented. And very generous. She is giving away a copy of The Duff by Kody Keplinger to...Kathy Phillips. Congrats, Kathy! Middle Grade reviewer Robyn Lucas is my favorite cheerleader. I love this woman's enthusiasm. Her creative energy is infectious. In my next life I'm totally gonna figure out how to be that for people. Robyn is such a great critique partner which is why Daisy Carter is so lucky to be the winner of a pitch or query critique from Robyn. Celebration time, Daisy!

Agented MG writer Kathrine Ernst has my heart. She is such a kindred spirit. I had the amazing opportunity to beta read the book that earned her an agent and I'm telling you, she's TALENTED. And funny. And so smart. There are so many aspects of Katie's writing approach and outlook on life that make me stand up and say YES! She possesses sarcastic humor yet a very positive persona. Love her. Hildred Billings Coleen Patrick is the lucky winner of a query critique from Katherine. Ultra lucky, I'm telling you. (Hildred gave up her prize since she doesn't have a critique to query).

The final two prizes come from little old me. First, the winner of  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor is Jennifer Eaton.

And the grand prize winner of a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble is....Jennifer Pitts.

Congratulations to all of the winners and thank you to all who donated prizes. And thank you to all who read and follow and support me. It's been a crazy, happy, fun year and I'm glad to have shared it with you all!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blogoversary: The Great Eight

Here's a sad story - are sad stories bad karma during a celebratory week? I have been so SWAMPED with my real life that I haven't been dedicating as much time to this week as I would like. I apologize deeply. But let me try to rectify it a bit in this post that I really wanted to be up on June 8th. Ah, well. Life goes on.

In this last year, which has been incredible, I have met amazing people. At the risk of sounding dramatic, some of these people have changed my life. Others may not have changed it, but they've deeply sweetened it. So, to celebrate my anniversary of June 8th, I'd like to recognize 8 of these amazing folks (or groups of folks). In no particular order, here we go:
Kimmy Miller

1. Kimberly Ann Miller, my first critique partner. Kim is the only CP I've had that's been there since the beginning. She's an amazing cheerleader but also has a good eye for what works and what doesn't. The best thing about Kimmy is her upbeat personality. I love and admire how she never seems to get down. This year she got her own publishing contract with Spencer Hill Press. Expect a check-in with her and her marketing prep later this month.

2. Gennifer Albin. Gen's own life has completely turned around this last year with a huge deal with FSG MacMillan. Her soon-to-be-released debut, Crewel, will knock your socks off. But this post is about Gen's influence in my life. Besides being an awesomely cool, talented writer, she started the Write-at-home-mom's group I'm part of (WrAHMs) which has so completely become my home. Her insight and desire to create a haven for like-minded mommies has been life-changing for me. She's also got the best advice and inside information. Love her!

3. The WrAHMs. How can I not acknowledge every one of those inspiring, funny, creative, fabulous women? This writing group is, well, I kind of covered it above. Tomorrow I'll tell you a little bit more about a few of these women who are helping out with my Mega Giveaway when I announce the winners.

4. Robin Lucas, Bethany Taylor, Tristina Wright, Melissa Brady King, Jackie Felger, and Katherine Ernst. I could write a novel on each of these incredible chicks, but for the sake of brevity I'll just say that all these women have been awesome crit partners for me this past year. I am so very lucky to know you all. Your talent blows me away on a daily basis. Luck and love to each of you.

Laurie McLean
5. An unnamed editor for an awesome small press. I don't think it's kosher to name names of pubs you turn down, but this woman offered me an exceptional deal for my Middle Grade novel, sWitch. I still wonder if I did the right thing. Regardless. This editor and her team had faith in me and my book. I will forever respect her and wish her and her team nothing but success.

6. Agent Laurie McLean. I'm not gonna lie: I wish she were my agent. When I received the publisher's deal, Laurie who was (and still is) reviewing my book, she gave supportive and very helpful advice. I very much admire that time and energy she gave me when I'm not even her client.
Susanna Hill

7. Susanna Leonard Hill. Susanna is an author of picture books and she's just cool. She always goes out of her way to promote nothing but enthusiastic and informative blog posts. Her comments on my posts are dear and engaging. And she'll go out of her way to make sure that people who purchase her books feel valued. 
Matt McNish
8. Matt McNish and Alex J. Cavenaugh. Matt was one of my earliest blog critiques and, man, did he drive followers to my own blog. One of those followers I met through Matt was Alex. From both of them I learned about giving to the blogging world and what it means to truly earn followers and supporters. Come back Wednesday for a guest post from Alex. It's gonna rock.

Whew! I know that was a lot to read through. I hope you did, though, because each of these people/groups of people are incredible and I hope you take the time to meet them all. Thank you, magnificent 8! You've made this last year wonderful!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blogoversary Celebration Continues...My First Post

I didn't know many of you when I started this blog a year ago. So I thought I'd share with you my very first entry, originally posted Wednesday, June 8, 2011. It's crazy to read this now, though it's still essentially the same. And don't forget to enter the Mega Giveaway.  That's what this week is all about, after all!

I've been a writer since I could write. As a child, I loved nothing more than a pen and a new notebook. I had a fetish for notebooks, in fact. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Diaries, stories, songs. Tons of songs. And as I grew and discovered other things I loved, writing never went away, always a constant companion. Music and writing. Acting and writing. Life and writing. I had children, and began writing for them. Well, for me, but inspired by them. First one picture book. Then another. Then five. Finally after all the dabbling and the collecting of words, I began a pursuit that moves writing from the sidelines where I've been pushing it, to the spotlight where it (maybe) belongs: I wrote a novel. And I've decided to try to go professional with it. 

But this isn't about the novel I wrote. Or about how long it took me to write it initially (6 weeks) or how many drafts it's gone through (3 complete revisions and countless minor adjustments) or about the query process for getting an agent (maddening!) though all of these things may be mentioned along the way. Actually this is about my inability to self-promote.

 What does that have to do with writing? Apparently a whole freakin' lot. Today's writer's have to market themselves, create a following, promote their material. There may be publicists to help, but mostly, it's up to the writer. It's something I've never been good at, self-promotion. I've wanted to be good at it, but I'm always awkward at praise. Which is odd because I've been an actress and performer and often stood in front of people with my accomplishments. I just somehow cower at the precise moment that I should be standing straight and tall, soaking it in. And then I have a horrible time telling others about whatever it is I did or am doing or am going to do. So how am I supposed to be a successful author with this skill limitation?

Guess what. I don't know the answer. But I have been working in marketing for the last five years (I can promote other people just fine). And I'm almost done with my MBA in marketing. I think, with this experience, I just might be able to pull it off. Anyway, that's what this blog is. It's about whether or not I pull it off. And how. Ok, I don't have anything to promote yet, but marketing campaigns can take a long time. You can never start too early in your promotion strategy. Well, at least that's the way I'm playing it. So now that promotion strategy begins.

Step 1: Start a blog.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Year Blogoversary Giveaway!

I cannot believe I'm actually posting this but as of this Friday, June 8th, it will be my ONE YEAR BLOGOVERSARY! *Cue the celebration music*

Okay, I've been somewhat absent since A to Z. I wore myself out, I'll admit it. But isn't this a great time to really dive back in? It is. And let's do it in style with a mega giveaway. I have prizes, prizes, and more prizes - most donated by some of the awesome women in WrAHM - the Write at Home Mom's group I'm part of. Prizes include books, book swag, critiques, and the mega prize, a $25 gift cert to Barnes and Noble.

Be sure to come back later this week as I introduce these women to you as well as recap some of the awesomeness that has been this past year.

For now, though, get entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...