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Welcome to the SEASONS Blog Tour @ErnestineRose25 #4WillsPub #RRBC

Today on The Indie Spot I am pleased to host Ernestine Rose, author of Seasons: My Journey through Grief. Please join me in welcoming her to my blog by leaving a comment.

Take it away, Ernestine. . .

Struggles of an Indie Writer

You have no idea how many people tell me that they want to write a book and they don’t know where to start. Some say they have a story to tell, but they are not confident about their writing skill; they were never good in English. Still others see themselves as authors, but really don’t have any idea how to organize and write a book. Neither of these is a challenge to me.

As a retired English teacher, my command of spelling, grammar and usage is immaculate. In college I’d spend weeks researching my topics, then stay up one night or two, actually writing the paper. Other than correcting a few typos, I did very little revising. I was just that good. And this was before word processors and computers. I had a manual type writer so corrections were hard and often messy. Still, I earned A’s in most of my English classes and carried this skill on to grad school.

The challenge in writing, for me, was never getting the paper started; it was bringing it to a close. I could ramble on for pages and often wound up cutting half my writing to meet the ten-page assignment I’d been given. I’m both fluid and fluent, so I thought becoming an author after I retired from teaching would be perfect for me.

Now that I’m working on my fifth book, I can tell any prospective writer that the real challenge isn’t writing the book; it’s selling it. With the technology we have now, almost anyone with a creative mind and ability to persuade can turn out a decent book. Your grammar and spelling challenges can be met with the latest correctional tools. The formatting issues can be simplified by Amazon or outsourced to someone who is better at it. In my case, I just went on to the next book when I hit a wall in formatting. When I finally got it right, I published three books within one week: 7 Tips for a Successful Marriage, Raising the Roses, and Tales from the Family Tree.

While I didn’t expect to make thousands with these first books, I had no idea how difficult it would be to sell them. At first, I followed the Kindle program that claimed I’d make a name for myself if I gave my first books away for free, and in the long run, I’d profit more from this huge shared campaign they had for their books on loan program. What I learned (the hard way), was that the people who’d buy my books were not part of the paid loan program, so I was just giving my books away for nothing. I made a few dollars every month, but most of the people I knew already had my books, so here was the question. After your friends and family buy your books, what’s next?

I read (a lot) about marketing and selling books. I bought DVD’s, watched webinars and took copious notes. I conducted sales on Kindle Direct Publishing campaigns as well as Book Goodies and joined an online book promotion group, Rave Reviews Book Club. I joined over two hundred Facebook groups, from African-American and urban fiction readers, to Christian non-fiction and romance. (My fourth book was Monday Morning Blues, because I always enjoyed a good love story.) I’d post to different groups, hoping to reach a different audience of readers. I carried my list of groups, updated daily, in my agenda, and recorded notes by each name of when and what I could post there. Some of them would actually get angry and maybe drop me if I promoted my book on the wrong day. I even invested in Mass Planner, one of many available auto-posters, so I could just schedule my posts ahead of time and choose the groups I wanted to target. When my computer wouldn’t cooperate, I learned to do this on my cell phone, and lo and behold, the groups were already there! It was just a matter of me selecting a group and going through four or five steps to post my ad, then repeating the process with another group. I had to remember which groups I’d posted to that day, because if I posted more than once, they’d really get mad. But eventually, whether using Mass Planner or my phone, I started getting temporary bans from Facebook because I was posting too much. That meant I couldn’t post any promos for four or five days, ruining my scheduled sale, then it was back to the grind again.

This time, as I’m preparing my fifth book, I want things to be different. I’ve revamped my website and I’m working on rebuilding my brand. I’m looking at the advantages and disadvantages of working with a publisher versus continuing to self-publish, or at least investing in some of the tasks, like formatting and book covers, that are not my strong suit. This time, I want to increase my distribution beyond Amazon, and reach a wider audience. I want to add audiobooks, and gain access to more creative marketing. I’d like to build my reputation as a speaker as well, about my books and about my journey. I want to help those people who lack the confidence or organizational skill to get started.

So for those of you that have wanted to write for a while, know that the journey is not easy. My last two book conferences confirmed the trend that high-dollar advances from the Big Five publishers are no longer happening unless you’re a celebrity or an author with a well-proven track record. Other publishers will do what you need for a wide range of fees. Still, if the desire is in you to write, by all means follow it. Follow your heart and your dreams, and be the writer that you know you can be.

 

Author Bio:  Ernestine Rose grew up on the west side of Chicago during the turbulent 50’s and 60’s. Adopted by an older couple, she spent a great deal of time as a child reading and participating in dance and drama club activities in school. Bradley University and the University of Dallas prepared her for a successful career as a teacher of English, speech and theater in Peoria and Fort Worth, where she earned numerous educator awards.

As a retired public school teacher and mother of four sons, she made her debut as an author with the publication of three books: 7 Tips for A Successful Marriage, Raising the Roses, and Tales from the Family Tree, all in 2012.  She later produced a romance novel, Monday Morning Blues. Her most recent work reflects her experience as a caretaker and widow, Seasons: My Journey through Grief. Inspired by Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, her focus in both writing and theater is on the power of language, love, and family. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

 

BONUS!!! The Author is also hosting a giveaway during each day of her blog tour. Simply comment on each stop to be entered. You can win a copy of one of her e-books or even a $10 Amazon Gift Card!! (There will be a total of 13 giveaways!!)

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

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Connecting With Readers

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As writers, most of us are thrilled to read reviews of our work posted on sites like Amazon and Koobug. Unsolicited, these words can spur sales of our books. They can also let us know where we lack in this craft we’ve chosen.

Then there are those messages that are of the personal nature, not intended for anybody but the author. I receive these every so often in the message box of my Goodreads account. These come from readers who were touched by something I’ve written or were reminded of some lost memory stirred back into their conscience by one of my short stories.

“Thanks for the message in your story,” they may write. “It brought back an event from my younger days—an event I’d long forgotten.” We never truly forget, though. It may slip from our thoughts but it’s always there, tucked away until the moment it’s challenged to reappear.

The thing is, I don’t set out to weave messages or lessons into my work. I write to entertain. But even so, messages appear. I believe these are out of our hands. Our egos tell us we are just creating. But there is somebody somewhere who has experienced what we’ve written.

I recently wrote a short story called Remaining Ruth, in which a teenaged girl cuts herself with a razor blade, in the privacy of her bathroom, just to have that one thing her parents can’t take away from her.

The messages were almost immediate: “I, too, was a cutter.” “I knew a girl just like Ruth.” “I didn’t cut myself but I did develop an eating disorder.”  “My sister did this for years.” This particular story touched a nerve with so many readers, though that wasn’t my intention.

My novel, Jazz Baby, has prompted many such comments as well. Talk centers around the race relations within the story; Emily’s sexuality; the struggles Emily faced to achieve her dreams; women’s rights issues. I was asked by one reader why I chose to not use the N-word in the story—after all, it is set in 1925 Mississippi and New Orleans. The truth of the matter is: that wasn’t a conscious decision. I hadn’t even really thought of it until the reader brought it up. I suppose there may have been a desire to avoid the stereotypical racist clichés. The very real racism of the deep south of early twentieth-century America is indeed present within the story; I just found more creative ways to express it without resorting to what’s been written a million times in a million other stories.

And somebody found a message in that unintentional deletion.

Not every message need be heavy, either. After I wrote an essay about a childhood incident entitled Bigfoot Was My Father, I received many wonderful stories from readers wanting to share some silly moment their own fathers provided. I am honored and humbled that so many people consider me worthy of their memories.

As authors, we create worlds and characters that wouldn’t exist without us. It’s what we do. We convince ourselves of a story’s originality, of its uniqueness. But there will always be somebody somewhere who will be reminded of a long lost moment in time. It may not be spelled out in exact detail, but it’s there. It may be the metaphor you used to describe the loss of a loved one or the silly joke your main character’s love interest tells while trying to woo the girl. It will remind somebody of something. And that’s a blessing. It means you’ve written a piece in which others find a connection. It means your story matters to another human being.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says: There is nothing new under the sun; that which has been will happen again.

I believe that. We just tell it in our own personal way.

The Chicken or the Egg? A Writer’s Dilemma.

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What comes first: the title or the story? Until recently I figured this to be a silly question. You know, a rhetorical thing meant to mock the foolish. Of course the story comes first, Goofus! Nobody writes a story based on a title.

Or do they?

I discovered recently that there are authors who do indeed come up with a title first, adding the story afterward. I happened to be snooping around in a writers’ chat room the other day; you know, one of those internet sites where people group together to discuss whatever may be the topic. Anyway, the question was asked: When do you come up with the title, before or after the story is written?

Okay, so call me old fashioned. I’ve always written the story before deciding on a title. It just makes sense to me. I write a story, get the rewrites out of the way, develop a feel for the content, and decide on what to call the work. I’ve never considered starting with a title and crafting a tale according to it. That very idea seems so foreign to my way of thinking.

But here’s the kicker: nearly half of those commenting on that thread claim to start with a title first. How does this work? I mean, do these authors sit around dreaming up titles to turn into stories? I can see this as a practical means in the case of a low-budget film.

“Hey Bob,” Danny said, speaking over the drone of silliness filling the room. “I have a great idea for a movie called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” The title is self-explanatory. There’s little need to plot out something so ridiculous. Just write the script and surely somebody in Hollywood will green light the project.

Books and short stories are different, though. Novels take time in plotting, outlining, and writing. Certainly the title wouldn’t reveal itself until everything is in place, right?

The title for my debut novel Jazz Baby didn’t come about until the week I sent the manuscript to the publisher. Even then it came down to a pair of titles—the loser being the moniker In the Time of Jazz.

The way I see it, until the story is written, nobody, not even the author, fully realizes the personality of the work. Once the story is finished, the plot and all those characters—the story’s personality—shines through, giving the author a clear understanding of what the story is truly about. This is why so many people get nicknames in life. Personality traits that weren’t recognizable at birth take time to show up.

But the thing is, starting with the title apparently works for some authors. So who am I to disparage another writer’s means to an end? Just write. That’s what we authors do, isn’t it? It’s the end result that counts.

And just for the record, the title of my work-in-progress, The Secret Collector, came about at the fifth chapter. Certainly not the beginning, sure, but not the end either.

Just write. A productive writer is a happy writer.