Me and My Email Inbox Need Help

stuffed-email

I’m making a true confession here today. I love email. I get a certain thrill when I open my inbox and find lots of missives for me. However, so many of them are not worth my time. But I don’t know that until I open it. Therein lies my problem. Too many open emails.publication4

I was patting myself on the back a few weeks ago, I reduced my email from over a thousand to under 300.  I created a few new email folders to hold some of those remaining emails. My Word Weavers and writing business emails have their own folder. At the start of a new year I’m battling email glut again.

I need that

I realize I have this bad habit of saying WOW! What cool information. I’d better hang on to that email. Sometimes I turned the email into a word document and put it in my writing tips file in Word, or I print it off to peruse and underline later. The goal: to delete the original. Most of the time I leave the open, barely read emails hanging out in my inbox. They get shoved further and further down my ever-growing line of daily emails.

screen-shot-of-inbox

Lots of writing blogs

I subscribe to almost a dozen writing blogs. I don’t need to keep those emails. Each of these blogs has an archive. So, that awesome information is saved in cyberspace on their blog. I can mark those blogs as favorites on my server page and access the blog’s archives when I want to reread it. But alas I don’t.

Hitting the thousand-mark got laughter from my hubby who seldom remembers to delete old emails. And I’m always giving him grief about it.

open-email

Notice the file icons to the left. You can create your own files for various work or personal needs and title them. Just click and drag the email into the file area.

Got to organize

I use Gmail. It has ways for me to organize my email into files and refer back to it whenever I want. Most emails apps have ways to create files and mark your messages by importance. You can also type in the name of the sender, rather than trawl through all those old emails. Then all those sender’s emails appear, making it easier to find a special email I may need. My only excuse is procrastination

After cleaning out my email, I’d say I eliminated about 95 percent. Either advertising upgrades for programs I have, old news about contests, publications etc., that are no longer relevant and quick emails from friends about things that are long past were all tossed into the trash. The previous referred to blog archives played heavily in my deleting decision. And any messages I just couldn’t bear to part with also were placed in a file marked important.

 

Prepare ahead

My revelation for the need for a daily organization always comes at times when I’m desperately looking for that one email from my agent or an editor. It would be so much easier if I would immediately delete junk and prioritize those I don’t have time to look at right away.

Saying that brought DiAnn Mills to mind. She has a spreadsheet for everything. Perhaps if I made a spreadsheet with the reference to the blog post I can’t live without. Great idea! I could have a column for the topic, the specific blog, and the date it posted. I could click on the blog address and then search by date. Tah Dah! I’ll have to think on that a bit. I’m not the spreadsheet officinato DiAnn and my husband are. Unfortunately, I tend to make a spreadsheet and forget I did. *sigh*

silly-email

Delete unneeded email immediately.

 Be more efficient and declutter

Keeping your email box cleaned out and filed saves hours of time, confusion, and frustration. What a welcome relief that would be.

During the time I took to empty my email, I had this needling feeling I deleted something I shouldn’t have. But it’s too late now. Another reason I should do this once a week. Who remembers what’s in months-old emails?

Next, I emptied the trash file after I was done deleting. It is gone forever. I lack the skills of the computer nerd who knows how to retrieve emails from those dark places of no return. So, I must determine to have no regrets.

Avoid rereading

I also realized I feel a deep need to open every email. This same need compels me to reread every single email before I delete it. That was a key problem that started the whole mess in the first place.

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Temptation, temptation, temptation

Then there is the temptation to read all those emails when I’m not in the mood to write just yet. Hours later I no longer have time to write. Another reason to keep it clean every day. There is no monetary gain unless a contract is buried somewhere in those old missives.  I want to get paid for my writing so I need to spend more time putting words on paper and sending out queries than weeding through mountains of forgotten emails.

Starting today while 2017 is still fresh. I’m going to try to do a better job. I’m not holding my breath, though. There is way too much interesting information coming into my inbox.

How are you with your email management?

Please tell me how you manage your emails. I’d love to learn from my readers.

Why Professional Headshots

cindy huff 2016If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve noticed I’ve changed my profile picture. I also posted two photos for my friends to help me choose which will go on the back of my novel. Headshots are essential if you take your writing seriously. It identifies you to future readers. So, it needs to be excellent quality. Whether you are traditionally or self-published, you need a professional headshot. Even if you haven’t gotten one item in print yet. Why would I need a photo if no one knows I write? To ask is to answer.

Business cards

You need it for your business cards so publishers, editors, agents and fellow writers can more easily connect. We all remember faces before we remember names. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, you will need business cards for conferences. But don’t wait until the last minute to get them. That might mean no photo which is not a good idea.cindy 2016

Publication pics

You need headshots for publications who want the photos of their authors with the article. Even e-zines request headshots. Selfies are tacky and scream amateur. It is better to send no photo than a selfie.  The photo embeds in people’s brains. They may be attracted to your book because your photo looks familiar. Torry Martin has funny photos. Comedians can get away with a bit of silliness. If comedy is your brand of writing, by all means, have a silly photo. Even that needs a professional hand to make it shine.

Poses

Your professional pose will appear on all your social media. Make sure it’s your best. Skip the “model” poses. You know what I mean. My six-year-old granddaughter strikes those poses the minute grandpa gets out his camera.

I once receive a business card from an up and coming writer with an odd photo. She was leaning sideways and her hair drooping in that direction. Her head at an awkward angle. Someone else noticed the photo while I was flipping through the business cards I’d received at the conference. They asked if the person was mentally challenged. So sad. Her latest photo is top-notch and speaks confident writer.

Update your photo

Over the course of my writing career, I have had five photos. The first one appeared in a column I wrote for the newspaper. I couldn’t find a copy to post here. That was back in the 90s before we had digital cameras.  It was face forward from the neck upward. Not very flattering if I recall. But face forward for a thumbnail picture is probably the best pose. The paper’s photographer took the picture and the paper chose the pose. Probably why I didn’t care for it.

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First photo taken by Hubby

 

Years later I needed a photo for an article. Here is the one my hubby took. He takes great landscapes and tries to make sure the lighting is good when he photographs family members. This was taken with a simple digital camera. Not bad and I could crop it as a headshot pretty easily. It appeared on my Facebook page when I first got an account. Not professional but at least I’m dressed up an smiling.

 

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Second semi-pro photo

The second picture was taken by a young lady just getting into photography. Like the first—no touch ups and easy to crop. This replaced my FB picture and was the first pose on my blog. (If anyone knows how to delete old profile pictures permanently so they don’t reappear when I post my blog or Goodreads reviews on social media, message me.)

Small head shot of Cindy Huff

Cropped professional shot

 

My third headshot was done by a pro. He canceled his day of appointments and forgot to tell me. So, when I called and said I was waiting at his studio, he came and took them anyway. The happy ending is he gave all the proofs to me for free for the inconvenience he caused. There was no touch up here either.

My most recent headshots are below. These are my two favorites from my professional photo shoot. These have been touched up.

Copyrights

I have all the rights. This is important. I can make a zillion copies, place them on anything I want. They are mine and not the photographers. These photos will be used for whatever advertising my marketing people will deem prudent.  Retail store photographer or those studios who focus on graduations, family photos come with watermarks. Legally I can’t make copies. Have you ever tried printing copies of your kid’s senior picture and found it less than satisfactory? Walmart and the like won’t reprint photos that are watermarked. Legal issues again.

Watermarks

These photographers want you to come back to them for copies. Copy sales are part of the meat and potatoes of their business. And there is nothing wrong with that. But for my purposes, the cost of purchasing additional pictures or working with their copyright license doesn’t work for me.

All Rights

I paid for my photo shoot, two photos, and touch-up from a very reputable photographer. He was so fun to work with. He tried a variety of poses and took several snaps to be sure he got the best picture possible. (Side note: Be sure to check references before taking the time and paying for the photo shoot.  And get quotes from more than one photographer.) He made sure the pixelation was suitable for any enlarging or reducing.  I can crop it to any size I want. I want to keep clear of violating any copyright issues, even by accident.

My photos span about 12 years, and I imagine I will be doing a few more updates before my career is over.

Headshot part of brand

DiAnn Mills mentioned in a conference class on social media that our headshot is part of our brand. She’s always wearing a turtleneck in her poses. I am not sure what my brand is. Notice in each photo I am wearing a different color. But, all of them are flattering. Flattering is always good. Some authors create a persona for their headshot. If they write westerns—a cowboy hat.  And as I mentioned silly poses for comedians. Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes Highland fiction so her back cover pose reflects that. Until I can wrap my head around the nuances of branding, I’ll probably stick with a professional pose with (hopefully) a confident smile.

 

DiAnn Mills shrunk (1)

DiAnn Mills

 

JenniferHTaylor-Celtic-Smal(1)

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor

 

Do you have any tips about headshots or a fun story about your photo? Share it in the comments. I am confident there are things I have yet to learn about it.

 

 

Secondary Characters, Sequels, and Fans

I’ve started on my third novel while waiting for my first to debut in March and my second to catch the eye of a publisher.  This tale will acquaint readers with some secondary characters from Secrets and Charades that seem to have captured the hearts of my prereaders. Writing a sequel reminds me of when I meet someone outside my workplace. I wear scrubs as a receptionist for Heartland Blood Center. Faithful donors see me often. On occasion, I bump into them in stores or another public place. They don’t know me in my civvies but they have that look. I know you from somewhere but what if I’m wrong.  Sometimes I greet them. One older gentlemen left the store and then came back in to track me down. He had to know where he knew me from. That’s the feeling readers get when they open a character-driven sequel.

Mary Connealy’s The Kincaid Brides focuses on Three Brothers and how they come to meet and marry their wives. Once I followed the first brother I was hooked for the series.

Secondary Characters

Secondary characters who are given their own story already have a fan base. The reader will remember them and how they aided in the enjoyment of the previous story. They’ll be curious to get to know them better.

Aaron Gansky’s Hand of Adonia Series left his characters hanging at the end of Book One. So now I have to see where the teens end up in the next installment.

Who did your readers want to know more about?

Before I started this project I presented my editor with two possible directions for a sequel. The other idea introduced a new character in the lead. I was undecided as to which one to start. Both ideas had merit. Yet, filling out the story on a character my readers will come to love in Secrets and Charades gave me a shoe in. As I said, a fan-base should already be there if sales go well from my first novel.

The novels  which comprise DiAnn Mills FBI Houston series are excellent as stand-alones. She writes so well that reading only one FBI Houston book is not an option.

Write a stand-alone

What if the sales don’t go well? What if my debut does ok but not enough to warrant a sequel? I’ll write this story so it could stand alone. If someone never read Secrets and Charades, they could still embrace this story without wondering what was happening.

Hoping for a stellar sequel

I’ve read reviews of sequels that bemoaned how they lacked the spark of the first one. We’ve all seen movie sequels which left us saying… Why?  So, I want my sequel to have a definite theme and a plot that is compelling. I find as I set words to paper and the characters spend more time with me I’m surprised at their reactions to things. So fun.

Family, Setting, and Neighborhood

Sequels can follow a family through generations. Such as Karen Kingsbury’s Newman Family or Gilbert Morris Winslow family. Both of these series filled several books. A typical series is three or four books. The main characters might be siblings, best friends or various neighbors in the same community. (Think Amish).  Settings can be the basis of a sequel. The characters from the previous novel only have a cameo appearance or none at all. The town, mountain or river, for example, may be the connecting element.

What are your characters saying to you?

If you’ve written your first novel see if any other character would like to get better acquainted with you. Maybe he or she is begging for you to tell their tale. Maybe the setting has many possibilities for the same characters from your first novel to have another adventure. Or a new lead to explore a different area of your setting.

What’s your thought about sequels? Leave a comment.

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Creating Back Cover Copy

The cover design is more than the front cover. In my last post, I shared the steps an author needs to take to help the art department create an awesome design and showed you lots of wonderful front book covers. Now let’s look at the second part of the cover design. It goes beyond the picture representing your story. A prospective reader who finds your cover fascinating will flip over to the back. This content will determine if the reader opens the book and takes it to the checkout counter.

The form I received from my publisher for cover design included sections for the back cover. My book’s back cover will have a blurb about the story, my bio, and a head shot.

Blurb

Here is my present draft. It will probably get tweaked before the final draft. This same blurb will appear on Amazon and my publisher’s website. Short, concise and intriguing are the keys to a good blurb.

Jake Marcum’s busy ranch leaves him no time for courting, and his wounded heart has no place for love. Battlefield nightmares add to his burden, but his tomboy niece, Juliet, needs taming, and a mail-order bride seems the logical solution. When an inheritance threatens to reveal a long-buried secret, Dr. Evangeline Olson abandons her medical practice and travels west to become Jake’s mail-order bride.

Jake soon realizes Evangeline is more than he bargained for, especially when her arrival causes a stir in the community. As the two try to find their way in a marriage of convenience, they are faced with cattle rustling and kidnapping. Will they be able to put aside their differences and work together to save the ranch and their fragile relationship?

 

Biography

My biography will only be a few sentences. I’m meeting a potential reader, not a boss. I pulled a few books from my to-be-read pile and studied their bios. Each part of the biography encourages the reader that the author may be worth checking out.

Bio components

  • Taglines are something that defines what you write.

Cynthia Ruchti-tells stories hemmed in hope.

DiAnn Mills- expect an adventure.

Brandilyn Collins- Seatbelt Suspense

  • Awards

Awards this manuscript has won

Awards past books have won

Awards the Author has won related to the subject matter of the book

Awards for personal accomplishments in a field other than writing

  • Past and present accomplishments

Former job

Present position

Degrees

  • Family
  • Pets
  • Fun vacation spots or any other fun comment 

 

Study the bios of your favorite authors or read the back cover of library books to get ideas. Those in your own genre may be slightly different from those in another genre. If you have no awards, don’t worry. Readers want to know you, and the last few items on a list can make your bio friendly and fun.

Endorsements

There may be an endorsement or two on the back as well. Endorsements are short words of praise about your book from other authors or people in the field you are writing about.

Color Design

The colors on the back cover will match or be identical to the front.

Professional Photo

And the finishing touch is a professional headshot. An up-to-date photo is key in maintaining a professional image. Professional photographers touch up flaws. Hey, who doesn’t want a flawless picture? My professional headshot is a few years old so I am getting a new one.Small head shot of Cindy Huff

Right now I’m interviewing photographers. I want all the photo rights to be mine to do with as I please. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Next post

I’ve asked my awesome editor Andrea Merrill to share a guest post. She’ll be writing about the relationship between author and editor. Stop by Thursday to read her wonderful insights. You don’t want to miss it.

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Three Free Marketing Platforms For Novels

social-icons

graphic from iconion.com

Again today I want to share a few tidbits from the writer’s conference I attended last week. No matter how often I attend a conference I always something to learn. Last week was my tenth consecutive conference. The industry is constantly changing. Besides writing skills, workshops including marketing skills. The internet has ushered in new ways and creativity in marketing.

More and more marketing is done by the writer, not their agent or publisher. So, we need to learn it, use it and find ways to do it cheaply. The biggest marketing tool you can use—and it’s free—is social media. I took a continued class on the subject taught by best-selling suspense author DiAnn Mills.

Wow! So much to learn.

The number one social media tool is Facebook. Twitter following a close second. And if you write YA, Instagram is the go-to media. YA readers apparently think Facebook is for their parents.

All of these are free to use. You can grow your following and get readers excited about your books.

The key is not to talk a lot about your book.

I saw that. Your eyes popped for a moment while you scratch your head. Why use social media to market your book if you’re not going to talk about it.

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graphic from softicon.com

Facebook

The formula is 1 to 5. For every five posts only one should be about the sale of your book. The other four should be about your reader. Memes of fun things. (A meme is a cartoon or photo with a quote on it.) Comments about your life.

Author of The Final Ride, Linda Yezak posts silly things about her coffee addiction. And Shelley Arnold, author of The Spindle Chair, shares her cooking fiascos. Others post word-for-word humorous dialog that took place with family members or co-workers. Sharing sales of other authors’ books or favorite books is another option. You don’t need an author’s page to do this. Although if your goal is over 5000 followers, you will need one. (Or if you want to separate your author life from posts only for family and friends on a closed group page.)

Twitter

graphic from softicons.com

Twitter

Same formula applies. However, Twitter gives you an opportunity to reach all your followers with the same sorts of things in 140 characters or less. Twitter unlike Facebook, has no algorithm that selects which of your followers get your posts at any given time. So, Twitter is a better promotional tool for announcing book signings and speaking engagements. Don’t understand Twitter? Google has lots of how-to info. And You-Tube has step by step instructions.

instagram

graphic from iconarchive.com

Instagram

All I know about it comes from watching the young people in my life share photos. I don’t write YA so I’m not adding that to my marketing arsenal. I want to focus on the best tools for my genre. Women’s Fiction and Romance readers are found on Facebook and Twitter.

This is only a small portion of what I learned about using social media for marketing. I’m still digesting all the information. Later I’ll post some other insights as I perfect them myself. (Maybe not perfect. Rather, figure out. J )

How is marketing through social media working for you? Which of the social medium platfrorm do you enjoy using? Share in the comments.

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Ten years in the Making: A Book Contract

contract

 

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw my recent announcement. I received my first book contract. It only took 10 years to get there. Oh, let’s not forget 20 rejections, many rewrites and several edits. Years of improving my writing skills through online writing courses and writing books.  Ten years of attending conferences. Submitting to magazines and websites with both success and failure. I’ve made the acquaintance of many writers, both newbies and seasoned pros. During my ten year journey I have added agents and publishers to that list of acquaintances.

Help others on the journey

I’ve written over a hundred book reviews and supported my fellow-writers anyway I can. I enjoy helping promote their books and sharing words of affirmation when they were discouraged. I have purposed to invest in others while I worked toward the illusive contract.

Keep learning

Actions such as joining critique groups, following writing blogs and reading a lot propelled me toward the goal of publication. This has been ten years of perseverance and determination. I’d confess “I am a writer” when I wanted to keep that proclamation to myself. Established writers encouraged me to learn how to use social media.  Then I started this blog, Writer’s Patchwork, where all these writerly parts are sown together into the bigger quilt of gaining a contract. (Clever play on words.)

Cindy's Editor's Choice Award-2

My award. I am so blessed.

Never give up

Anyway, the point I’m trying to press home is don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and keep helping others in the industry. Keep focusing on your goal and over time you’ll get that book contract.

Come follow me

It will probably be a year before my novel will be available for sale. During that time, I will be posting the next stretch of my journey. Even though I have a contract, a mountain-load of work remains to be done before I see my book in print. I’ll share my experiences in hopes of inspiring all of you to keep going. And give you a glimpse into the process of contract to book shelf.

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A Lesson in Plot Twists from Supergirl

Supergirl-2

A different twist. That’s what I see every week as I watch Supergirl. The original trailer didn’t appeal to me but my husband was intrigued. Week after week it draws me in. Supergirl is not Superman. Both are from Krypton and she is his cousin. But beyond that the similarities stop. She has a group around her who know she is Supergirl. She is learning how to use her super powers and find her identity. She was sent to earth at the same time as Superman to be his protector when she was 13. However, her spacecraft was trapped in a time warp for 25 years. When she finally arrived on earth Superman is an adult and places her with a human family where she has a sister. No loner here. She knew her Kryptonian heritage and has a whole load of aliens to fight. Supergirl is not always in control of her emotions. She gets jealous, flustered and fights with her sister. Her alter ego Kyra Danvers works for a Media Company that is in direct competition with the Daily planet. She is not a reporter but the executive assistant to CatCo Media’s owner and CEO. Her tough female boss isn’t fooled by her glasses disguise. (Don’t you just love it.)

Melissa Benoist filming "Supergirl"

Cousart/JFXimages/WENN.com

All these differences create a new Super world. One audiences are captivated by. The ssame applies to getting your novel out to the masses. Deadlock-DiAnn-Mills-134x210Take a common storyline and mix it up. DiAnn Mills has lots of strong female characters who are FBI, CIA and Secret Services agents and lots of other typical manly roles. The adventures speed along like Die Hard movies and crash to a dramatic conclusion.

 

A different twist in your novel

My debut historical novel has a rancher who sends for a mail order bride. There are many books with the mail order bride theme. My bride however is a doctor hiding form her past. The rancher is raising an orphan niece and there are characters who aren’t who they claim to be. The mail-order idea has been converted to a more modern setting by several authors with cyber dating, and marriage arrangements for material gain.

Every mystery has a problem to solve but the problem and the course of action have limitless possibilities. Some writers like Barndilyn Collins are heavy on research so lots of details educate as well as entertain the reader. Doulbe Blind

While others are sprinkled with humor and dorky characters. Check out Linda W.Yezak’s The Cat Lady’s Secret.Cat Lady's Secret-2

 

Crime novels can be written from any viewpoint even the family pet. We know romance novels always end with a couple finding true love. The journey to happily ever after has to have challenges that lend themselves to lots of “what if” moments. Otherwise its just—boring.

What novel have you read lately that surprised you with its delightful twists?