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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

OBSCURITY: NOT AN OPTION

by
Cindy MacDonald

So you’ve written a manuscript. You had it professionally edited. You’ve got a great cover design. You’ve had it published in paperback and eBook forms, and it’s been uploaded to Amazon. Great! Now what? Sit back, relax, perhaps twiddle your thumbs a bit, and wait for those royalties to come pouring in, right?

Mmmm, I’m afraid not.

No good deed shall go unpunished!
Amazon.com
Amazon.UK
The fact is that no one is going to come looking for your book, no matter how well written, how engaging, or how action-packed it is unless you, the author, makes it happen!

Hey let’s face it, obscurity is not an option when you’ve published a book. The competition is fierce—and the competition is using all the resources that perhaps you are not. There is no doubt that marketing is an indie’s biggest hurdle, but you can’t afford to be shy or stuck in the nineteenth century. I’m not saying that marketing one’s book is insurmountable, but it can be hard to get started. Book stores are not usually very willing to arrange a signing for indie writers because they are relatively unknown—they’d rather have James Patterson, go figure. However, some local libraries may be willing to host an event for you. That’s nice, but that doesn’t tend to spread the word to a large mass of people. And that’s exactly what your need.

So what’s an author to do?

Brace yourself, because I’m about to say the S word: Social Networking. Yikes! You may consider it a dirty word, but I’m afraid it's truly the reality of our time. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pininterest, it’s enough to make an author’s head spin! After all, it has been widely rumored that authors are quite a recluse lot. The trick is to not allow it to overwhelm or intimidate you—no matter what your age.  The bottom line is it's your responsibility as an author to get the word out about your book—not your publisheryou.

Actually, I’ve seen quite a few traditionally published and even best selling authors on the networks pushing their books as well. So it’s my guess that their publishers feel the same way—get the word out, baby!

So stiff upper lip, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and do what you need to do to make that book of yours a success. Because you can.

If you don’t have a website—get one. You need it! There are plenty of website options out there and some are free. List your books—with covers, a synopsis, provide an excerpt, and yes do a book trailer, to boot! You can make one right there on your computer—it’s easy and it’s actually a lot of fun.

Don’t forget to provide links to your book’s Amazon sales site on your website.

Okay, now that you have a website, you need a…wait for it…Facebook page! I have two FB pages: one in my name where I talk about my life—nothing too personal—and one for my books. On both pages I will announce reviews and provide links to those reviews or my books, and sometimes I will post pictures of my horses just for fun. There are also FB pages that are provided for authors to promote their books. On all these FB pages I will also list blogs that I am featured at—like today—another excellent way to get the word out about your book—I also plug the blog site to draw in readers.

And then there are VirtualBook Tours—virtual book tours help you to promote not only your book but you—the author— without having to leave the comfort of your sofa. You have control as to how long the tour is: two weeks, one month, or the max—three months. 

How they work is that for approximately three times a week you will visit a blog for an author spotlight, a review, interview, or a guest post on a variety of subjects. The guest post will spotlight how well you write beyond the pages of your book. That’s important. It also provides potential readers an insight as to who you are and what you think or believe. While this service is not free, you can decide how much you want to spend by the length of the tour.

LinkedIn is a great place to post a blurb about your book on a daily basis. I usually write something like: Whoa! Those online romances can be real murder!  And then I list the link to where my potential audience can purchase DEADLY.COM I went from selling hardly any of this particular book to making it my best selling novel at this time—especially in the UK.

Then there’s Twitter *wince*. I thought I would never get the hang of that nightmare social networking demon. I thought it was stupid. Then I thought: but there are sooo many authors using it. Hey, there’s got to be something to it.  So I started following people—mainly authors—they would retweet my book blurbs—I would retweet back---this would result in book sales. Hmmm. I followed more—retweeted more—additional book sales. Who knew? I am now tweeting approximately three to four times per day. It only takes about ten minutes, and the payoff has been well worth it. 

Pssst…I’ve even got my publishing manger tweeting more than she ever did before. To tell you the truth, she probably hates me for it, but she has realized how invaluable it is for her and her cozy mysteries. She too has experienced a sharp rise in sales. Go baby go!
It’s true, I spend a lot of time per day promoting my books on the social networks—it’s a commitment. But hey, didn’t you make a commitment to the book when you wrote it? You love your characters. You love your stories, so help send them get to the masses.

There’s the light at the end of the very long indie tunnel—it can and will work!

Since I’ve been using Twitter on a daily basis, following as many people with an interest in books, tweeting and retweeting other authors, using hashtags, and writing something about my books on my FB pages and LinkedIn, my book sales have truly improved!

C’mon, don’t be shy. Get out of that “I am NOT going anywhere near social networking sites” demeanor. You CAN do this. Only you have the power. You’ve worked hard. So step up to the plate and take a swing at making your book into everything you wanted it to be—a success!
See more of Cindy's posts on WWBB: 



Against the Ropes
The Unbridled Series

When the West's good-hearted farm manager, Punch McMinn, stumbles upon Eugene Strom, a down-on-his-luck fighter threatening to jump from an old bridge, Punch takes him under his wing and convinces the patriarch of Westwood Thoroughbred Farm, Eric West, to give him a job.

No good deed shall go unpunished!
Amazon.com
Amazon.UK
But when the gun-toting mob shows up at Westwood, it's quite obvious that good ol' Eugene is hiding a secret--a big one. Punch finds himself questioning his good intentions when the ex-fighter puts the people he loves against the ropes-and at the edge of disaster.


Cindy McDonald
About Cindy McDonald: For the past twenty years Cindy has helped her husband raise, train, and race Thoroughbreds at their forty-five acre farm known as Fly-By-Night Stables near Pittsburgh.
During those years Cindy has paid close attention to the characters that hang-out at the back-side of the track.  She found the situations and life style most intriguing. In 2005 she sat down at her computer and began a journey into writing about this life that few understand.

Cindy has recently retired from making her living as a professional choreographer. She owned and operated Cindy McDonald’s School of Dance since 1985.  She studied at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and with the Pittsburgh Dance Alloy at Carnegie Mellon University to name a few.  She has choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards.



Click for an exciting excerpt from AGAINST THE ROPES

A snippet from 
Against the Ropes


Gravel spit from the tires of Punch McMinn’s red Dodge Ram pickup truck, as it rambled along the desolate dusty road. A dirty haze levitated on the horizon in the intense August heat and the leaves on the maple trees turned upward to the heavens begging for a drink. The sky was crystal clear not showing any prayer for storm clouds to rumble through. It had been a damned dry summer.

Glancing at the rear view mirror, Punch could see the pallet of blocks in the bed of his truck. He had gone into Rosemount early this morning to pickup the blocks for the wall that was being re-built in the old brood mare shed on the far side of Westwood Thoroughbred Farm where he’d been the farm manager for many years. He promised Eric West that he would get the wall re-built before the leaves started to turn shades of gold and amber and the autumn chill would set forth a welcome relief. When you made a promise to the patriarch of the West family, you kept it. Disappointing that man was never an option. Eric had practically raised Punch. When his father left his mother with no warning and children to feed, it was Eric that took Punch under his wing. He gave him jobs at the farm to earn a paycheck, and he saw to it that Punch continued playing high school football with his eldest son, Mike. He grew up at Westwood with the West kids Mike, Kate, and Shane. They cleaned stalls side-by-side, lugged heavy water buckets, and groomed the Thoroughbreds to a laser sheen before they entered the paddock for a race. A game of hide-n-seek or a pickup football game always filled their spare time—what little of that they could scrounge. And Sunday or Monday night football with the Steelers on the TV in the West’s study was a favorite back then, and still remained a weekly ritual to this day. The Wests were his second family and his loyalty to Eric and the clan ran as deep as Reardon’s Run. They always had each others back—because that’s what families are made of.

Trying to beat the heat, he went to Miller Block and Brick early. The brickyard was located smack-dab in the middle of downtown Rosemount. The chain-link fence surrounding the huge yard was rather out of place, as where the piles and piles of cement blocks and bricks that lined the perimeter. Miller Block and Brick had set up business in the small dusty town of Rosemount in 1917 before it had become a bustling busy city with tall buildings, fast-food restaurants, theaters, and a four lane running through the center of downtown. The brickyard was a staple as was the Miller family.

Harris Miller was the fourth generation to operate the business and his daughter, Zoe, would take over the reins when Harris retired. Well into his seventies, Harris was not even beginning to entertain the thought of sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair. The very notion made him queasy, so he showed up to open the business every morning by six a.m.

Yep, Punch was trying to beat the heat, and if the truth were being told, he was also trying to avoid Zoe Miller with his early morning errand. He was unsuccessful at both tasks. The sun came up with a golden fury to scorch the morning as it had done the day before, and when he walked through the door of the brickyard sales office, there stood Zoe, waiting for him at the counter with a grin that stretched all the way through the blush of her cheeks to her bright sapphire eyes.

Suspicion ripped through him. If he didn’t know better, he would’ve sworn that one of his loyal “family” members called to alert her of his impending arrival. That’s another thing family does—meddle. He couldn’t decide which West would be that spry so early in the morning, Shane? Hmmm, it certainly fit his MO, but Punch seriously doubted it. Shane had trouble rolling out of bed in the morning. I won’t bust his balls…yet.

Maybe Kate was the culprit. He loved the slender blonde-haired blue-eyed woman of Westwood. She knew what was best for her West men—and Punch. Last week she sat him down on a bale of straw and had a little “talk” with him about the virtues of one, Miss Zoe Miller. Kate could be quite convincing and when necessary, quite conniving. Except he was having his doubts about the shrewd little matchmaker, for the past several months she’d been very preoccupied with Dr. Holden Reese. Kate had been dating the newest and very handsome veterinarian at Keystone Downs. Naw…not Kate, not this time, anyway.

But Mike…oh yeah, he was a morning person. Always bright and alert and ready to roll, he was good at playing the innocent one—steering clear of other people’s business. Yeah, he’s as innocent as a fox in a chicken coop. Punch was having no trouble picturing him dialing his cell phone with an ornery grin on his lips the minute he pulled out of the driveway. Payback’s gonna be a bitch, buddy.

Twinkling coaxing eyes greeted him, as Zoe looped her arm through his to escort him through the brickyard, where her father was starting up the forklift. She was an attractive woman, with full lips, pretty blue eyes, and dark blonde hair that drifted over her shoulders. She was a full-figured gal, an armful, and if he let her drag him into the relationship that she obviously desired, he was most certain that she would be a handful. Truth be told, Punch felt a tug of attraction to Zoe, but even though he was thirty-three, he wasn’t ready for that heavy relationship stuff…nosiree.

It took some finagling, and some smooth talking, but he managed to escape the brickyard without a lifetime commitment, or bruising Zoe’s feelings. Punch was a huge black man, broad shoulders, expansive chest, and arms that bulked out of the sleeves of his T-shirt. His sheer size was daunting, but he was nothing more than a tender-hearted, softy. And hurting Zoe’s feelings was not Punch McMinn’s style. It just wasn’t in him— okay, especially with Zoe.

Sweat dribbled down his temples. Removing his Steelers ball cap, he swiped the sweat from his brow with his forearm, and then plopped the cap back on his head—crooked. The right side of his mouth sucked in with frustration, as he tapped the button for the air conditioning unit, but warm air poured from the vents. Damn, he meant to have that fixed last spring, but time got away from him, and now the blazing heat of summer was punishing him for his procrastination. B.O.B. was rapping on the radio that he could use a wish right now, and Punch was wishing that some damned cool air would miraculously blow through those freaking vents. Not happening.

The truck bumped and rattled over the old abandoned railroad tracks. No trains had traveled the tracks in over twenty years, but they remained as an annoying hump in the road that everyone forgot to slow down for until they found themselves bouncing on their seats, with their brain clattering inside their skull, while swearing at their car’s suspension system. The tracks disappeared into the tall weeds and then over a rusted-out, boarded-up bridge that spanned the wide white water section of Reardon’s Run.

Except the bumping and bouncing in the cab of his truck, and the slight rock of the heavy pallet piled with cement blocks was not his focus at the moment. The dysfunctional air conditioning unit, and Zoe Miller was all but forgotten when his gaze fell upon an older Honda Civic smashed against a tree. Ashen steam billowed out from under the hood that was curled almost to the cracked windshield, and the driver’s side door hung open. Eyes narrowed and his brows pinched together, Punch slowed the truck to a stop and slid from the seat, measuring the wreck with caution.

As he slowly approached the vehicle, his eyes scanned the area. The dirt road wound into the hazy distance. The locust and maple trees spread their branches overhead, and the sun beat down on the brittle and singed tall grasses alongside the road. The air was tight and still in the cloying heat. The only sound was that of the car hissing, as the steam slithered like a phantom serpent into the air.

Punch peered into the car. The airbag slumped from the steering wheel. The interior was pristine, without any personal belongings lying on the seats or on the floor. He straightened with his hands on his hips, pushing his ball cap above his forehead.

“Hey!” Punch called out. Surely whoever wrecked the vehicle couldn’t be very far. And then his gaze fell upon the tall bristly weeds across the roadway. They fell away as if someone had just tromped through toward the old bridge. Taking a braced breath, he followed the newly beaten trail. He could see the bridge in the short distance, and could hear the water running fast; slapping over the rocks in Reardon’s Run.

Emerging from the brush he came to a dead stop, as if someone had splashed him in the face with a bucket of ice water. Narrowing his eyes, he slowly inched his way to the broken and rotted boards that blocked the entrance to the abandoned dilapidated bridge, where a hulk of a man stood on the other side of the rusted railing, with his eyes fixated on the rushing water far below. His huge wide hands clenched the rickety railing, sweat rippled down his reddened face. He seemed frozen, almost in shock, but he didn’t look injured. Punch had to assume that he belonged to the wrecked Honda. He looked fraught and flushed and filled with angst.

Tentatively Punch climbed over the boards and quietly made his way toward the man desperately clinging to the railing on the very edge of the bridge.

Punch wrinkled his nose and then he said, “Whatcha gonna do?”

Startled, the man’s head jerked toward him. His eyes were as big as dinner plates, and the skin on his knuckles was so stretched that it looked like they could burst through at any second. Dripping sweat, his brows pinched in sudden irritation.

“What’s it look like?” He growled at the uninvited black man.

Pursing his lips, Punch raised his eyebrows at the man, and then he peered over the railing at the rushing white water, and the jagged rocks in the fast creek bed. Cocking his head, he expelled a long downward whistle. “It’s a long way down there,” he began. The man dared a glance at the water, and then thought better of it, rotating his eyes back toward Punch. “Ya know if you hit those rocks…it’s gonna hurt like hell…while you’re drowning, dude.”

The man’s mouth dropped open a bit, and then his brows formed a disparaging V between his eyes, “Good thing you’re not a counselor, cuz you suck at this.”

“At what?”

“At talking someone out of suicide.” The man said.

“Ooh, you want me to talk you out of it?” Punch lifted a beefy shoulder, “I dunno, seems like you’ve got you’re mind made up, right?” He said, as he leaned against a rusted flaking bracket, folding his arms over his wide chest.

The man took in a deep disgusted breath. He managed another peek at the water thrashing over the rocks. He groaned. “Why don’t you leave me be?” He expelled a hopeless sigh, “I can’t do anything right. I thought if I slammed my car hard enough into that tree—“

“Damned air bags.” Punch interjected.

“Yeah…I tried to shoot myself yesterday, but I flinched.” He turned his head so Punch could view a burned graze across his temple. Punch winced. The man sighed at his miserable failure. “So I figured I’d jump, and as you pointed out, either the rocks will kill me or I’ll drown.”

“Well, it sounds like a plan.” Punch said, slapping the man on the shoulder, the man flinched, grasping the railing more tightly. Punch took several steps, and then hesitated, turning back toward him. “Is there anybody you’d like me to call? Family? Friends?” He asked.

The man sighed again, sadly shaking his head. “No…there’s nobody.”

Punch stepped toward him to extend his hand out to him, “My name’s Punch McMinn. And you are?” The man looked at Punch as if his nose had just grown ten inches out of his face, and then he looked at his big hand. Punch shrugged, “I mean, I gotta know. So I can tell the police whose floating in the creek.”

Apprehensively he let got of the railing, and extended his hand to him, “Eugene…Eugene Strom.”

Punch half-smiled, “Nice knowing ya, Eugene.” And with that Punch grabbed the large man’s hand and yanked him toward the inside of the railing. But Eugene wasn’t having it. He was big and he was strong. Wrestling against Punch’s grip, he pulled him closer to the edge. The old railing groaned in distress, and the bolts that still barely held it in place jerked. Punch managed to wrap his arms around Eugene’s waist and heave him over the railing. The two enormous men crashed onto the floor of the bridge, but the boards that Punch fell against gave way and he fell through the rotted splintering wood.




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