Book Expo America Went Well

All my fears and anxieties were unfounded. We had a great trip to NYC and it was a lot of fun to share our company message with all the attendees at BEA.

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If we do this again I will have a better idea of what kind of decoration to bring. My display looked a little dinky but it did what it needed to do.

 

 

There was a lot of positive response. A lot of people liked our concept of love stories with physically disabled main characters.

 

 

 

We were able to hand out a number of ARC copies of the new novel Crossing The Line.
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When Writing About Disabled Characters, Don’t Do This

When you’re writing a book with a character who has a disability that you don’t have yourself there’s a lot of care and research to put into making sure you represent the disability well and contribute positively to the fight for civil rights that people with disabilities are engaged in.

But today I’m going to talk about something else. I have found that in books with characters with disabilities it has become very popular to put in a single sentence about “creepy devotees” and how your character isn’t one.

A friend of mine shared a few examples (and the fact is you can take just about any book published in the last ten years with a disabled character and find sentences like these)…

He had heard all the rumored reasons for why he never had a date at office parties, ranging from some sort of self-imposed sexual exile out of a dislike of women with strange kinks to the ongoing question of how well his plumbing worked. The folks in the first camp would probably be disappointed to learn that there weren’t hundreds of women lined up outside hotel rooms across America with fetishes for men who couldn’t wiggle their toes. The one woman with such a kink who’d found Micah had been strange in bed. It was not an encounter he wanted to repeat.

Lohmann, Jennifer (2014-09-01). Winning Ruby Heart (Harlequin Superromance) (Kindle Locations 350-351). Harlequin. Kindle Edition.

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Sweet Jesus. Hopefully she wasn’t one of those stump fetish freaks who could only get off with amputees. He’d never been with a woman like that, but lots of guys he’d met at the VA talked about being approached by women—and men—with that bizarre fetish.

James, Lorelei (2009-08-15). Shoulda Been A Cowboy (Rough Riders) (Kindle Locations 1301-1303). Samhain Publishing, Ltd.. Kindle Edition.

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“I didn’t know it then, but there are people who have to take care of someone to feel important about themselves. And there are people attracted to people in chairs because they’re in chairs, like some people prefer blondes or breasts or whatever.”
“That’s creepy.”
“Tell me about it.
That’s one of the things I loved about you from the minute I met you. You don’t pity me or feel sorry for me for being in a chair.”

Richardson, Lesli (2009-03-27). Cross Country Chaos (BookStrand Publishing Romance) (Kindle Locations 4474-4479). Siren-Bookstrand, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

These quotes show a stunning lack of any kind of understanding of what devotees actually feel. The lack of compassion also floors me.

Why is it okay to talk about an entire group of people that way?

Here’s something people don’t seem to comprehend, being a devotee is a rough life. You tend to be extremely isolated, feeling alone and frightened of your own sexuality. When you do start trying to understand it and connect with people, every where you go you hear that you are a “freak, creep, monster, fetishist” and more. You never hear anyone talk about what you are without also calling you a creep. You try to escape to fiction and read books where the love stories match what makes sense to you in your core being and the reward you get is a slap in the face. You can’t escape the judgement even in books and movies.

It’s like this… Imagine you are a gay man. All around you are examples of heterosexual love. It surrounds you constantly and you long to see the kind of love you’re looking for rather than watch movies and read books about hetero relationships. So you find m/m romance and you dive happily in ready to take a break from the real world and enjoy one where a relationship like what you are built for is reflected. But now imagine that EVERY m/m book had the characters insisting that they weren’t actually gay. Yes, they were having gay sex but it was different. They aren’t like those scary, creepy, bizarre gay people. That’s what it’s like for devotees, the vast majority of whom have never done anything scary or creepy in their lives.

If you want to write about devotees even in a single sentence, I urge you to read (W)hole by Ruth Madison. It is a deeply personal and honest account of what many devotees experience as they grow up.

I will never publish a book that talks about devotees like in those examples. It is both lazy writing and cruel to a large portion of your target audience.

I think writers do this for a few reasons.

1) They feel like this is a thing that gets talked about and so they need to address it in some way

2) They think it makes them look cool and sophisticated that they know about it

3) They want to make sure no one thinks their characters are one of those people.

But you don’t have to comment. You don’t have to say anything about people you know nothing about. Just keep your mouth shut on the subject. Write your characters falling in love, caring about each other, finding a deep soul connection and leave it at that. There is no need to prove that you know what a devotee is or to prove that your character isn’t one. Whether they are or not, the point of these books is to see people fall in love and in that aspect it makes zero difference whether your character has any devotee tendencies or not.

 

Book Expo America: Need Advice

One of my goals for 2015 (post about my other goals soon!) is to have a booth at a book conference. And that goal is coming true in May of 2015. Dev Love Press will have a table at Book Expo America.

There are two aspects of BEA and we are only going to be at the trade portion this time, but hopefully in another year we’ll be able to also go to the book fair that’s open to all readers.

I’m super excited about this opportunity but I’m also not sure what to expect or how to prepare.

So, has anyone been to BEA before? Please comment and tell me what it’s like, what to bring, what you wish you had done, etc.

By the way, I’m really pleased with some of the projects I’m working on to make the table eye-catching. For example, the most interesting thing I’m doing is modifying Barbie and Ken dolls to turn them into characters from our books.

Here are the works in progress for Stewart, Jake, and Kassie

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Yes, Jake still needs clothes. Going to the store today to get him an outfit and to get a doll for Elizabeth!

Also, Kassie isn’t an alien. Those coffee stirers are to curl her hair!

I’m also going to make little copies of their books for them to hold.

Contest Winner!

I really enjoyed reading the submissions for the summer first sentence prompt contest. We had six entries all together and they all showed a lot of promise! It was tough to pick a winner. Very tough!

Judging was done by me alone. To make it unbiased I had my husband open the entries, remove the identifying information, and print them out. Once I selected a winner, I went back to see whose entry it was.

It’s fascinating to see all the different directions that people went with the same first sentence.

So the winner is…

 Elisabeth Benedict

Visit her at http://ahiruzone.com

(Note: Athira, could you get in touch again? When I tried to email you, the message bounced saying your inbox was full).

Here is the winning entry (all rights reserved by Elisabeth Benedict)

She turned the corner of the ramp and eyed the doorway in front of her, unsure that her wheelchair was going to fit through. “Shit, shit, shit,” Sasha swore out loud and then murmured under her breath, “There  goes my interview.” She presented her design online and has been in touch with the PR department for a few weeks. They have finally asked her to have a dinner with the boss – a kind of informal job interview.

She thought it a bit strange but accepted the invitation. And now she was stuck because she didn’t double check the restaurant’s accessibility. It said on their website they were accessible. She should have known better that what able-bodied people considered accessible and what really was accessible were two different things. So typical. Heavy garbage bins were partly blocking the door that itself looked rather narrow.

“My sentiments exactly,” replied a pleasant male voice behind her.

Sasha slowly turned her wheelchair and forgot all about the stupid door. She was staring into the most breathtaking emerald eyes. There were laugh lines around those captivating eyes. And then he actually smiled and those lines went to work. She’s never seen anything more sexy than those beautiful smiling eyes.

“Do you think we can move those bins and then we can make the manager feel really bad about it and perhaps we get a free dessert?”

She laughed at his suggestion. Not that it was a bad suggestion – she did get a few free things here and there after presenting the trouble she had to go through to access an “accessible” restaurant or a store. She laughed because it was always refreshing to meet somebody who was able to joke about their disability. And Mr. Emerald Eyes surely knew something about it. His wheelchair was like hers – sporty, no arm rests, a clean Z frame, knobby tires to handle the bad Boston weather.

But tonight was mild and dry and he was wearing a short-sleeved Polo shirt that matched his eyes perfectly. His black jeans ended above his knees. Or above where his knees would have been had he had any. She could make the outlines of his stumps. The muscles of what remained of his thighs were well defined. So was the rest of his body. Sasha was afraid she might start drooling soon…

She caught herself staring at him and quickly smiled. “I wish we could but apart from looking quite heavy, there really isn’t a place where we could push them unless we could get them the whole way into the alley and I don’t think the restaurant manager would appreciate it. No free dessert for us if the rubbish ends up in the alley.” She was starting to babble. And there was his smile again. Suddenly Sasha stopped feeling nervous. There was somebody who understood her predicament, didn’t judge her, and didn’t look at her like she was dumb. The latter happened to her plenty. Somehow when one was in a wheelchair, many people assumed that one’s intelligence was quite low. And they would start speaking to her slowly and in a loud voice.

“I’m Ben. Since it looks like we both will have to forgo eating at this place, may I invite you for dinner? There is a lovely and, I assure you, fully accessible Italian restaurant around the corner.”

Sasha extended her gloved hand and the tips of their fingers met before they shook hands. A little bit frustrated, she sighed: “Hi, I’m Sasha. I was supposed to meet somebody here but I don’t have his cell number, so I guess that’s it. I’ll get a message to him in the morning that I couldn’t make it. I guess I could ask somebody who is walking into this restaurant to give him a message but frankly, I would hate to see the pity in his eyes when he realises that I am in a wheelchair and thus can’t get in.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. My mother set me up on a blind date once. Let’s say the terror in the girl’s eyes and the pity of the people around us were enough that I didn’t want to meet any new people for a year. Please, say you’ll go to dinner with me.”

She laughed as he made puppy eyes at her. “Sure. But weren’t you meeting somebody?”

“I was but I guess I am in the same situation. No cell number and in no mood for pity.”

Sasha put her hands on the rims. “All right then. Let’s go. I am starving.”

They wheeled the half block to the restaurant in silence as the sidewalk wasn’t wide enough for them to wheel next to each other. Ben let her go first, enjoying the view of her shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She was wearing black sleeveless dress that stressed her well developed figure. She was gorgeous. Her arms were strong, breasts full, perfect hourglass figure. Just the way Ben liked his woman.

He liked to touch the softness of a woman’s body. The lifegiving softness. The breasts, the hips. He was thanking the stars for those rubbish bins. And he was glad that he chose to use his wheelchair instead of his prosthesis tonight. He wasn’t planning on it but after the long swim he had, he just didn’t feel like walking. Plus he liked to see a reaction of a potential employee to his amputations. It was always quite revealing. He was a very hands-on boss and if his employees didn’t feel comfortable around him, it influenced their creativity. He understood that the initial shock was normal and that most people forgot about his legs, or rather lack of them, within twenty minutes of talking to him. Ben put most people at ease. He was smart, good looking, and he was told his smile was his most charming feature. He smiled plenty. Life was pretty good to him. For the most part. He owned a successful advertising business, had a lovely apartment on the water, good friends, and a faithful service dog. At 34 he was very active, spending his summer sailing, mono-skiing in winter, and swimming all year long. Yet despite a few flings, the truth was that most women didn’t want to spent their life with a double above knee amputee. And those who thought they did either were curious about his
amputations but that curiosity wore off fast or they pitied him and wanted to take care of him. Ben didn’t need anybody to take care of him. He did just fine by himself since he came from rehab twelve years ago.

His gaze went to Sasha’s legs as she turned toward the restaurant’s entrance. Her dress ended right below her knees and he could see the atrophy on her calves. She had a tattoo above her left ankle, a rose. Ben took a deep breath, trying to dispel the thought of first kissing the rose and slowly making his way up, discovering how much and where she could feel his gentle and maybe not so gentle kisses.

“Yay, no steps.” Sasha pretended to squeal like a teenager who just found out that One Direction was coming to the town. Ben loved this woman’s laugh and her dark sense of humour. As he already loved her body, the moment of truth would soon come, the possible deal breaker. Was Sasha as smart and witty as she was beautiful? Ben wasn’t the typical male who liked his woman beautiful but preferably a bit dumb. He loved a smart woman who would intellectually challenge him, who would argue with him about politics and philosophy, yet would be open-minded. Such woman was a rarity.

As he opened the door for Sasha, she gently nodded her head in thanks and locked her eyes with his for a couple of seconds. She was glad for the few moments when she was wheeling in front of him because she couldn’t ogle him. Her bad habit of staring at interesting and good looking people got her into a trouble a few times. It was hard to explain to people that she loved beauty to the point of doing something socially unacceptable, like staring at them. She would stop if she saw something that interested her. It used to be easier before her accident six years ago. But now when her ootprint was larger, people got impatient with her. She was blocking their precious sidewalk when she would stop and stare at the intricate pattern of the old brick wall or the lone flower on the side of the pavement. Sasha had a degree in design but her love was photography and her mind would take a photo of the intricate pattern or the flower when she didn’t have her camera with her. Which she usually had, right under her wheelchair seat. Except for tonight, so she was bound to stare at her companion because she wanted to remember every detail of his beautiful eyes, the smile lines, the black curly hair, the long, slightly crooked nose, the lips that begged to be kissed.

“Would you like a booth?” the hostess interrupted their companionable silence. Sasha and Ben just gave each other look and started laughing very hard. “No, thank you,” Ben replied once he had control of  himself.

“And we’ll keep our wheelchairs too, so please remove the chairs,” Sasha quickly added.

Ben grinned at his beautiful companion. “This hostess is new here, so let’s hope she will learn not to ask us about the booth again. Though one never knows. Just curious, how often do you get the booth question?”

Sasha made a very serious pondering look. “About once a year, I would say. And about twice a year the question if I am going to keep my chair.”

Once the couple was seated, the wine started flowing and the food was abundant. The thoughts about their butts sitting in a wheelchair were forgotten. They talked about their love of Boston and their favorite places there, they criticised politics and were very pleased that each other’s dinner company tended to think similarly on political issues, they argued a little bit about religion, and over their tiramisu and cannoli that they shared they started talking about art.

“So, Sasha, as a New Yorker, what is your favorite museum there?” Ben was hoping she wouldn’t say MOMA. As much as he loved modern art and learned a lot in MOMA about design, advertisement, and what moves a modern man, Ben was fond of the Old Masters. They were the ones who moved his soul. He would spend hours sitting in front of El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer or Caravaggio. He would study the play of light and shadow, he would let himself be absorbed by the expressions on the faces and when overwhelmed, he would go to the impressionist section and let be surrounded by colour. By dots of colour.

“Definitely the Met and I am not apologetic about it.” The fire and passion in Sasha’s eyes were clear. “Until I moved to Boston two years ago, I went to Met at least once a week. Thank God for their suggested donation. Ever since I was a girl, I would go there, give them a dollar or two and say with the thickest accent I could muster: ‘Vun teecket, pleaze.’ I don’t think I ever paid the suggested donation.”

“Vun teecket, pleaze?” Ben was imitating her while laughing. “I should try it one day. I love the Metropolitan Museum. I go to New York every three months or so to see what’s new in modern art and design but I go to Met to recharge.”

Sasha looked at him and understood. After her accident and the stay in rehab, she felt so empty. She craved beauty more than ever. Sitting again, this time in her own chair, in front of the Masters brought her to tears. Tears that beauty is here to stay. That despite the shit that happens to us we can forget about our difficulties and look at a painting and feel bodyless, weightless, absorbed in eternal beauty.

After a few moments of just being quietly with the other person while feeling the deep connection, Sasha finally spoke: “I was supposed to meet my prospective employer tonight but even if I don’t get my design job because I didn’t show up, spending time with you was so much better. Thank you for the most amazing evening.”

Ben pondered her words for a moment. Design, job, employer. His face lit up: “Are you by any chance Ms. Alexandra Petrova?”

Sasha lightly nodded, surprised.

“Well,” Ben continued, “then, Ms. Petrova, I hope I will see you every weekday from Monday on at your new job. I was very pleased with your designs. And I am hoping that I will be able to steal some of your evenings and weekends as well.”

Being an Entrepreneur (Starting a Small Press Publisher)

I’ve always been the artsy type. From a young age I was focused on creating art through writing and I had little interest in anything else. I never considered any career other than novelist. To me business majors and people getting MBAs were slick, untrustworthy, and living in a completely different world from me (forgive me my prejudice and stereotyping!)

Imagine my surprise when I turned into a business person, founding and running my own company!

Even more unexpected, I discovered that I really like the business side of creative writing. Sometimes we think we know ourselves but a surprise is waiting around the corner.

I’ve been devouring books, magazines, and blogs about business statements, marketing, profit and loss, return on investment, personal branding, and all things for the entrepreneur. And I love it! It’s so interesting. I enjoy testing out techniques to reach a wider audience and the more I learn the better work I can do for my authors (myself included!)

I think I really just love anything connected to books.

In my last job I worked mostly with spreadsheets and I hated it. But now I love my spreadsheets. I enjoy seeing how each book is doing, crunching the sales numbers, planning launch strategies. The difference is that my spreadsheets now are for projects that I care about. My spreadsheets at my old job were for projects that I had no personal connection to and they were just numbers without any context.

You may think that you’re only interested in being an artiste and all this crass business stuff is for other people, but I’d recommend giving it a chance and see what happens. You may surprise yourself just as I did!

I’ve given myself permission to expand beyond the limited label I gave myself and now when I hear about an opportunity to learn some aspect of business I’m not shrugging it off; I’m saying yes, that is for me. I am the owner of a company and I can keep learning and growing and expanding who I am and what my interests are.

Book Launch and Marketing for a Small Press Publisher

Once you’ve got the manuscript to the best shape it can be and you’ve formatted and prepared the book, then you have to make sure people know about it. The marketing of books is really about connecting people with a reading experience they will love.

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You’ve got to convince people to give your book a chance and you’ve got to hope that you’ve targeted your message to the right people who are the ones who will most love your book. No book is right for everyone!

Some of these are things that I am already doing for our books and some are new things that I’m going to try on future books.

There are some promotional techniques that never go out of style in book publishing; things like sending out review copies and trying to get the media interested in author interviews and mentions of the book. Then there are new techniques that are growing around the new world of ebook publishing. Those methods and ideas change rapidly and the landscape is always shifting. I find it fun and interesting to keep up with developments.

To learn traditional promotion and marketing techniques I read books about book selling (so meta!) and to learn new ideas I read a lot of author blogs and writer forums.

As I read, I add notes to my master promotional spreadsheet (each individual book gets its own document listing all the promotional ideas I have for that particular title). The beauty with ebook marketing is, of course, that they don’t lose their shelf space so I can always try new things out with them. So this following list is ever evolving and growing…

6 to 9 months from publication date

–> sell to book clubs, reading groups, and catalogs

4 to 6 months from pub date

–> send out print ARCs (Advanced Reader/Review Copies) to  reviewers

* Library Journal
* Book List
* Publisher’s Weekly
* Foreward Magazine
* Midwest Book Review
* The Romantic Times
* New York Book Review
* Rowse Reviews

–> Upload to NetGalley for reviews

–> Mail copies to people you’d like to get blurb/endorsements from

–> Visit local bookstores or call indie bookstores to pitch the book, maybe arrange a book signing

–> Get in touch with the buyers for chain bookstores and other retail stores that sell books (consider hiring a sales rep to include your books in their catalog)

2 to 3 months from pub date

–> Prepare a press release and research where to send it to try to get media attention

–> Contact magazines about publishing excerpts (include a suggested excerpt)

–> Book Sense endorsement???

–> Check into requirements for local newspapers and magazine’s book review sections

–> Mail fliers or postcards to libraries and bookstores

–> Hire a blog book tour company to set up a blog tour

1 Month from pub date

–> Get set up to take pre-orders (it looks like Amazon might be allowing this now, will have to look into)

–> Send out press release

–> Make arrangements for a launch party

–> Email newsletter

–> Offer review copies to book bloggers not on the tour (at least fifty)

Launch

–> Have the launch party

–> Announce book availability on Facebook, Twitter, Message Boards, LinkedIn, Pinterest (make sure you post in message boards where author promotion is allowed and make sure that your forum signature has a teaser and a link for your book).

–> Spread around info about the blog tour

–> Add book to relevant lists on Goodreads

–> Do a giveaway of one paper copy on Goodreads

–> Send book to relevant contests

–> Think about what organizations, charities, or news stories might be relevant to the plot in the book and try to arrange to promote with them

–> Submit to Facebook groups for both readers and themes of the book

–> Tweet good sentences from the book with #novelines

–> Update website’s press kit with all buy links, reviews, media, images, etc. Include an excerpt of the first chapter so people can see if they like the writing.

–> Create a video for Youtube, either a trailer or an author interview or something else creative

–> Share new reviews and blog posts that review the book

–> Create a page for the book at third party sites like Squidoo or Hubpages

 

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Other Ideas…

* Some people gather a “launch team” and offer special incentives for people who buy in the first week or for people who are willing to promote the book to their friends and networks

* We’ve experimented with some ebook giveaways. It can be great for visibility to discount or make your book free and advertise the sale. I don’t like to do that too often, though!

* If you are the author or you know the author is willing, there’s lots of additional things that authors can do, such as blogging about their craft, having their own twitter, doing Q&As, speaking at panels at conventions, do guest posts on book blogs.

* Research places to advertise that are relevant to the book and consider classified sections

Some great people to follow for ideas on indie book promotion:

Since the landscape is changing so quickly it’s great to read about the things other people are trying and the results they’re getting. You don’t have to try to get all the data and do all the experimenting yourself!

And in the end, publish the next book. Promote the next thing and don’t get too hung up on pushing the hec out of one single title. Each title in your catalog will help promote the others. Readers who enjoy what you offer will come back again and again. Give them something new as often as you can!

 

The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend on Sale

Today (August 25th, 2014). Annabelle Costa’s The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend is on sale for 99 cents and it will be going up a little each day until it’s back to its usual price of $4.99.

This is a fun chick-lit style book but at the same time it’s surprisingly moving. There’s an element of time travel, but it’s mostly a love story. It’s like The Time Traveler’s Wife if it were written by Sophie Kinsella!

US link here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I8T02BW

All other links here: https://devlovepress.com/press-kit-the-time-travelers-boyfriend/

The sale is featured at FK Books and Tips along with other Kindle deals: http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/2014/08/25/free-discounted-kindle-book-offers-312/