Thursday, January 29, 2009

Get Out Your Literary Shovel

Dig through your old stories and articles and read them. Did you find a few that weren’t published? What have you learned that could make them better? Apparently, there was something that made you want to write them in the first place. Can you see any obvious short comings?

If your answer is yes, begin revising. Most of your hard work has been done. Getting a story/article down on paper is often the most difficult part. In under an hour or two you may have a publishable piece.

If your answer is no, read the piece twice and set it aside. Try writing it from another point of view or rewrite it. You may create a better piece than before.

Do you have any novels or books that have been started, but stalled and died? Read them twice and set them aside. Try writing an outline. Can you plot the remainder? Follow the same tips as you did for your stories.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Janet Ann Collins Interview

Janet Ann Collins
Author, Teacher & Speaker

Janet Ann Collins is a retired teacher who used to write feature articles for a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area and has had many other things published in periodicals. Collins also worked in the dormitories at California School for the Deaf for many years. She and her husband have one grown daughter and raised three deaf foster sons with special needs. They also have one grandson.

The Peril of the Sinister Scientist
by Janet Ann Collins

Copyright: 2009 Janet Ann Collins

Ebook ISBN 13: 978-1-935137-80-1
Price: $7.95 US (hard copy)
Format ebook, paperback, CD
Genre/age group/type of publication: Tweener fiction for ages eight to 13

When Joshua’s mother tells him a scientist who tried to make a clone from the blood on the Shroud of Turin is after him, the boy’s active imagination takes over and he thinks he might be a clone of Jesus Christ, a king from the middle ages, or a criminal. Joshua must learn his true identity while trying to escape from the sinister scientist.

Aday: How do you create believable and lovable characters like Joshua?

Janet: Writing fiction is a lot like acting. You must know the characters you portray so well that you can easily tell how they would act in any situation. Although Joshua is a boy, his over-active imagination is a lot like mine.

Aday: How do you find that out?

Janet: You need to figure out what the character’s temperament is, their environment, what sort of experiences they’ve had, and how they would react to random things. It helps to be familiar with similar people. In the case of Joshua, I had been a substitute teacher in a middle school like the one he attends and seen lots of kids his age in various situations. I knew what it was like to grow up without a father because mine had died when I was young.

Aday: How have you tried to sell the book?

Janet: The book is available online at many places including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the publisher’s website, Local bookstores can order it through their distributors. I’ve also sold books at a local street market, booksignings, to friends and family, and some people who read about it on my blog or Facebook page have ordered copies. I have several speaking engagements scheduled and expect to sell copies there.

Aday: How do/did you get stores to stock the book?

Janet: I’ve approached local stores in person or by phone and asked them to carry it. Some agreed to keep it in stock while others say customers will need to request it.

Aday: What objections have you faced and how have you tried to overcome them?

Janet: Because of the current economic situation many bookstores I’ve approached or planned to approach have gone out of business or are for sale. There’s not much I can do about that but my book is available online and, because it’s with a small press, it should stay in print until the economy improves.

Aday: Is your book sold in stores other than book stores? How did you approach them?

Janet: So far it isn’t in other types of stores because I haven’t found any appropriate to the topic.

Aday: Have you had book signings and speaking engagements? If yes, how did you get them?

Janet: Guardian Angel Publishing recently had a booksigning at a Barnes and Noble in Oregon for a group of authors and illustrators they work with and I was involved in that. I was able to hold a signing at my church because one of my critique groups is a small group there. I also rented a booth at a street market to sell and sign some books and hand out publicity material. I’ve spoken at some conferences for years and was already scheduled to do those again. I also contacted the people in charge of some local organizations and pitched my speaking topics to them. Since the book hasn’t been out for long there will be many other opportunities to promote it.

Aday: What type of advertising or publicity have you had?

Janet: I haven’t paid for advertising, unless you count getting bookmarks made and buying copies to send to media, but before the book was published I became active in social networking and hundreds of people see my posts there.

Aday: Did local media cover the fair? You specifically?

Janet: The street market is held every week all Summer and gets a lot of publicity at the beginning of the season, but I had my booth at the end of August and didn’t get any specific publicity. However around a thousand people attend each evening and nearly all of them saw my booth, so that, in itself, was good publicity.

Aday: Have local papers or radio noted your publication success?

Janet: No, the ones I’ve approached so far have not been interested. I’ve attended workshops about marketing at writers’ conferences and they all say media will only do stories about books being published if there’s a way to tie that in with something more newsworthy. I’m hoping some events like that will happen in the next few months and, if they do, I’ll try again.

Aday: What is the most effective venue for book sales?

Janet: I’m not experienced enough to know that yet, but I’ve heard it’s word of mouth. If

people like a book they will tell others about it.

Aday: How did you become a speaker? How long have you been speaking at conferences? What type(s)?

Janet: I’ve been speaking at conferences for over ten years. I can’t remember exactly when I started. Another author I met at a conference suggested a convention for church workers that didn’t pay much but had been the first place to let her speak. Since I’d attended lots of conferences I knew what sort of things they need for workshop leaders so I pitched a couple of topics to them, they accepted me, and I’ve spoken there many times since. Having that experience made it easier to get accepted elsewhere. I’ve been speaking at a conference for beginning writers for many years because I used to write for a newspaper and have had work published in lots of periodicals. And I’ve spoken to parent groups, taught classes, and had quite a bit of other experience.

Robyn Opie's "Robyn Writes" Newsletter Interview

Newsletter: Robyn Writes

Publication Frequency: Sporadic - should be monthly

Distribution Method: subscribers only - and blog
Length of Existence: about a year

Subscription Method: There is a sign-up box at the bottom of most of my free writing articles on my website. People can type in their first name and email address then submit.

Number of Subscribers: approximately 800.

The newsletter showcases Robyn's new releases and writing tips for children's writers


Author of over 75 published children's books and counting.

Website Address:

Writing Courses, Writing Tips, Writing Links, Author Visits, Free Ebooks, & More

Blog Address:

Email Address:

J. Aday: How does your newsletter on children’s books differ from other general writer newsletters?

Robyn: I’m not a big reader of newsletters. I don’t have enough time to do all the reading I’d like to because I spend so much time writing my books and answering emails. I assume the big difference is me. What subscribers receive is one article – that’s all – of approximately 1,000 words based on my own writing knowledge and experiences. My newsletter doesn’t have a lot of adverts or promotions. Usually it has none. Nor does it feature other writers, at least at this stage. My article is always about some aspect of writing children’s books. I try to make the article motivating and inspiring because those types of articles seem to be the most popular, if the responses to Rob Parnell’s Easy Way to Write newsletter is anything to go by.

J. Aday: How did you decide the need to begin a newsletter?

Robyn: It was Rob Parnell’s idea. He’s been writing a newsletter for subscribers since 2002. He suggested I start a newsletter, as my website is popular with people seeking information about writing children’s books. My first response was about time and not having enough. However, Rob encouraged me and offered to help me. I decided to give it a go. That’s the only way to find out if you can do something. Do it and see what happens.

J. Aday: What difficulties have you faced in putting out the newsletter?

Robyn: Time is the most difficult element. I spend around 4 hours a day writing fiction. I am not happy if I don’t get my 4 hours of writing. It’s more precious than gold or diamonds. Then I have emails to answer, which often includes responding to students’ homework. This week, I’ve had 3 books to proof-read and an edit to check and approve. I’m a judge in the PM Moon Publishers’ Contest for New Writers, which means reading entries. Rob and I are working on two screenplays. There always seems to be plenty to do. Forget housework! So, time is the difficulty. I’m thinking of asking other writers, my friends, if they’d like to submit articles for my newsletter, then I could improve the publication frequency from sporadic to fortnightly. We’ll see…

J. Aday: Has the sporadic publication affected your subscribership?

Robyn: Yes, people forget that they signed up and double opted-in to receive my newsletter. Some people report my newsletter as SPAM.

J. Aday: What advice would you give someone about to begin a newsletter?

Robyn: To be committed. Yes, this is a double-meaning. Grab the straight-jacket! Seriously, I think you need to be committed and dedicated to begin a newsletter. You have to make time or work out a way of doing the job with the time you have. My sporadic way isn’t the best and I’m hoping to improve matters this year. Rob sets Friday aside for his newsletter every week. I think you need to be this dedicated and organized.

J. Aday: How do you attract subscribers?

Robyn: I don’t actively promote the newsletter. The only way I attract subscribers is via the sign-up boxes at the bottom of my free writing articles on my website. I’m sure I could increase the number of subscribers if I tried but I have a concern about spending too much time online, taking precious time away from my offline fiction. The Internet is meant to enhance my fiction writing but never, ever be a substitute. With everything you have to find a balance. I’m still working on that, after my 4 hours of fiction are completed of course.

Thanks for your input Robyn.