Write What You Fear

By Jordan Dane

Everyone has heard the line – Write What You Know. When I first heard the line, the first thing that hit me was a question. What the hell did I know that would interest anybody, except my mother who is easy to please? Obviously I didn’t listen to that advice. My debut book was about a woman cop, a far cry from my accountant/commodity energy trader occupation.


Lee Child wrote on an email loop I belonged to in 2008 (of debut thriller authors he mentored as part of the International Thriller Authors debut program) that he thought it should be – Write What You Fear – because books are about emotion. Raw emotions resonate with people. We can all relate to what makes us scared or what we can hate or love. That’s not as intimidating as “write what you know” and hope someone buys it. It doesn’t take special knowledge to write about emotions you feel. It only takes an ability to dig deep, write honestly and find words to express those feelings.


Lee’s words have stayed with me.


Lately I find myself thinking about death. It’s not a subject I know a lot about, but I sure know how it makes me feel. My book ON A DARK WING (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) stirred these thoughts in me when I had to envision what a conversation with the Grim Reaper might entail and imagine an afterlife and a role for the Angel of Death. A young girl deals with the grief and guilt she feels after the tragic death of her mother in the book. And this week, a blogger (who will be on a tour stop for the promo of my book) asked for an interview with Death. I’ll be the voice of Death on the day of the blog post when I comment, so followers can ask their own questions. Do I have any idea what I will write? Absolutely not, but I think it’s important to keep challenging myself as an author to delve into areas of my imagination, especially when it’s most difficult.


But there’s a reason I wanted to share why writing about Death and imagining an afterlife has been particularly challenging for me. In my own life, my brother-in-law Michael (my husband’s only brother) is losing his battle with cancer. He’s in hospice now and he’s been in my thoughts and prayers for months. I can’t even imagine what that finality is like for him or his sweet wife and their family.


Sometimes the fiction we write becomes all too real…or too personal.


My post won’t be long today, but I would like to hear from those willing to share. Whether you had a personal tie-in or not, what has been the most difficult scene you’ve written or read in a book? What challenges did you face in writing it? Or why did the scene you read stick with you? Readers and/or writers can respond to this. There are scenes in books that I’ve read long ago, that I can still imagine in my head because they touched something in me that has stayed.


Please share those scenes and books that have stayed with you.

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Virtual Book Tours – YA Style

By Jordan Dane

On a Dark Wing – When 16-year old Abbey Chandler cheats Death and lives past her expiration date, her lucky break comes at a heartbreaking price. And Death has never forgotten.

For my adult debut “No One” series for HarperCollins, a gracious group of aspiring authors offered to conduct a virtual tour for me. It would be their first and they wanted to learn how to do one. Being a new author, I jumped at the chance. I learned a lot from that experience. It brought traffic to my website and exposed me to new readers, but it was also a lot of work to come up with fresh material at each tour stop. It exhilarated and drained me at the same time, if that makes sense. By the end, I had nothing to really gauge my effectiveness, except that I had made new author friends, which I’m always grateful for.


Flash forward to the present—and my, oh my—how things have changed.


After reading my Young Adult (YA) debut book – IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS – YA fantasy author Trisha Wolfe of YA Bound loved my book and contacted me. We kept in touch. She’s a talented author with her debut book – DESTINY’S FIRE – coming out in early 2012. When she heard I had book #2 being released soon—ON A DARK WING (Jan 2012, Harlequin Teen)—she asked if she could host a virtual book tour for me. I’m learning so much from her. She’s a very generous soul. With more and more readers following each other’s review sites and getting book suggestions from this growing resource, it intuitively made sense to me that I should tap into this trend, but how? I had little idea how to get “Discoverability” as Clare Langely-Hawthorne described in a great TKZ post on Monday.


Here’s what we’ve done to date and I’ll share what’s ahead.


COVER REVEAL – I held off on revealing my cover until YA Bound was ready to launch the sign up for bloggers wanting to be tour stops. This took coordination with my house so they wouldn’t make my cover available to public forums like Amazon or Goodreads.


TOUR HOSTS – From my Twitter & Goodreads activity, I had the pleasure of meeting Trish of YA Bound online, but I’ve learned since then that hosts sometimes charge for their services to host a tour. Another site I’ve heard about is THE {TEEN} BOOK SCENE. Coordinator Kari has a great reputation and conducts her services for free, but asks for donations. If you query “Virtual Book Tours” online, you will find many links on the subject, including host sites who may specialize in your type of genre.


TOUR SIGN UP – On Oct 3rd, when I posted a reveal of my cover, I announced that YA Bound would host my online tour and sign ups would start on Oct 4th. On the first day, Trish told me we had a record number of blogs join the tour and more were coming. The sign up period ends Oct 31. The last time I checked, we had 45 blogs on that list. The next step will be to evaluate who will get selected. Participants will be notified soon with the tour to commence as soon as YA Bound determines a schedule.


TOUR REQUIREMENTS – What do bloggers do on the tour? Look at YA Bound’s tour requirements HERE. Trish’s experience as tour host shows in this detailed list of requirements. The more that is spelled out in advance, the smoother things will run, but an experienced tour host is vital to make the tour look effortless.


DISTRIBUTING ARCs – Harlequin Teen uses Netgalley to get advance reader copies into the hands of tour members as well as other online reviewers who are approved by them. My book is HERE on Netgalley. To read Harlequin Teen’s reviewer criteria, click HERE.


BANNERS & COUNTDOWN WIDGETS – Trish created a tour banner using my cover and the logo of my publisher. These graphic designs can cost money, but Trish did mine for free using WidgetBox. She did an amazing job. Click HERE to see the tour banner and the countdown widget she created for free too. These banners and countdown widgets can be cross posted by bloggers and sites signed up for the tour to help spread the word. But anyone can grab the code, even if they aren’t participating in the tour.


TOUR STOP VARIETY – In my very first virtual tour, most of the tour stop formats were Q&A interviews where the host (who had read the book) would ask interview questions that ranged from book inspirations to craft advice. By the time you schedule 20 tour stops, however, this format can lose steam when the questions seem redundant. With the new tours, the host will work with each tour stop to come up with different kinds of features. I’ve seen longer lists of ideas to make each stop unique, but here are only a few (some of my favorites): Vlog Interviews (video interviews with the author posted online), When I’m not writing (highlights of hobbies, family or pets), Author Book Picks, Cover Interview, Author with Editor Interview, Character Tweets (I’m planning one with Death), Character Interviews, or a Top Ten List that can be related to the author or the book. There’s more, but this will give you an idea of how creative these tour stops have gotten.


GIVEAWAYS – My publisher has contributed books to giveaway on the tour, but my character, Abbey Chandler, will have a special gift for readers who win a book. She’s says it’s a secret. [Insert eye roll here. She can be a real drama queen.] And at the conclusion of the tour—on a live chat hosted by YA Bound—a Grand Prize will be given away. It’s really cool, but I’m not saying what it is yet. Shhh!


GRAND PRIZE – A grand prize will be given to tour participants who make every stop & comment or participate. As you might imagine, the grand prize is aptly named for its GRANDEUR, incentive for blogger to FLIP OUT!


SOCIAL MEDIA TANGO – With every tour stop, it will be key to promo on Twitter or other social media sites. My tour host will help with this and so will my publisher & other bloggers who are part of the tour. This could be significant & retweeting (RT) by others can add fire to the buzz. I’m a big lover of Twitter. Most morning, I check in to see what’s happening. I RT messages or post a link to TKZ to promo our post using appropriate hashtags (ie #writing, #amwriting, #publishing) if the posts relate to craft or industry. Hashtags allow my Twitter messages to reach beyond my followers and tap into a bigger universe on Twitterville, folks who follow writing or publishing news.


TWITTER CONTESTS – I recently saw an author run a series of quick contests on Twitter for a limited period of time. She had simple rules stated in advance, but her main reason for conducting the giveaways was to get her ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) into the hands of readers AND to gain followers. Her ARC freebies earned her hundreds of followers in 2 days. ANOTHER CONTEST TIP – If you’re running book giveaways on Twitter or via a link you are tweeting, use the hashtag #BOOKGIVEAWAY to call attention to your post and reach beyond your own followers.


GAUGING RESULTS – A daily posting group blog like TKZ can lighten the load of posting to a blog and is very helpful for name recognition. Plus, if you blog or have a website, you can use stats to gauge traffic to your site. Recently, James Scott Bell noticed that TKZ had risen to #37 in literature blogs and brought that to our attention. Joe Moore pointed out that we see 1500+ page hits a day on average. On these Blogger stats you can see where traffic comes from and Twitter is a big resource to drive people to your site. If you’re not using Twitter to its fullest potential, you’re missing out on a freebie.


Since many of you who follow TKZ are considering self-publishing or have already taken the plunge, I wanted to share what I’ve learned on advance promo that can create buzz about your book. You can find opportunities to promote your work that are cost effective or spend a little money on giveaways or find the right host to showcase your novel.


Please share your thoughts on what has worked for you or ask questions about virtual book tours. TKZ is about sharing ideas and supporting authors.


Reckoning for the Dead (Adult thriller, Sweet Justice Book #4) – HarperCollins, Sept 2011 Now Available.


On a Dark Wing (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) – Virtual Book Tour Sign-up at YA Bound – Deadline Oct 31st.

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Marketing in a Digital World – Maximizing FREE

By Jordan Dane

After Joe Moore’s interesting post yesterday – More Signs of the Times – about ebooks, online book pirates, & marketing, I thought I’d share what I’ve been focused on with my upcoming Young Adult book – On A Dark Wing (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) and the advance marketing we’re targeting for this release.

You might assume that targeting younger readers would automatically include a more savvy online promo approach, but more and more adult readers are turning to online resources to discover authors. With the growth in smart phones, having an aggressive online marketing strategy is important to create buzz for your books.
Below are some things I’m doing. I’ve also added promo ideas that I’ve heard lately and hope you’ll find some have merit.
1.)    GROUP Blogs – The Kill Zone is a fine example of how a group blog can draw online traffic, provide a service to its followers and share the workload. I’ve just started a group blog – TEENSHIVER – for Texas authors who write dark young adult books that make a reader shiver. TeenShiver will have an outreach to area schools, libraries & retail stores, as well as to readers of YA in our state, yet with an online presence that is global. Since publishers tend to spend money regionally, rather than on more costly national campaigns (unless you’re James Patterson), this concept has been well received by our publishers since we are optimizing our traffic while featuring our books too. We are offering our publishers a better place to justify spending budget dollars. Our followers will benefit too. Texas has amazing book conferences and the TX book review/blogging community is vital, thriving, and supports homegrown authors.
2.)    Virtual Book Tours – Many of you might be familiar with virtual tours, but I wanted to share a link that I think might help you figure out who to include on your tour stops. Quantcast (www.Quantcast.com) is a site where you can query a domain to see how much traffic they get and their demographics. Many blogs may request a spot on the tour, but since we are all tight on time or on deadline, writing a post or answering questions for an interview take time we may not have unless the site is active. Virtual tours today have hosts, generous bloggers willing to take on the host duties of pulling their community together for an effective tour, plus an author’s publisher can add a budget for a grand prize to generate buzz and participation. There is so much more to say about how these are run today, but not enough space here. Physical book tours are hit or miss as far as foot traffic & how successful they can be, but with virtual tours you never leave home and the blog traffic keeps coming long after you’ve posted.
3.)    Twitter – I’ve found twitter to be a wonderful community to get to know and if you post your blog link or website or stir up a virtual tour, you can actually track the stats on your blog. This is quantifiable data. Social media spots like Facebook don’t have stats on traffic because they are not set up to conduct business well. Twitter is free and can be used effectively to enhance the draw to your blog or other objectives. Cultivate the book blogging & review community. They are truly amazing & avidly into books. We use twitter here at TKZ. If you’re a TKZ fan, follow us at this LINK.
4.)    Blogging – Whether you do a group blog or fly solo with your own, blogging is free and has stats for traffic analysis. If you have an active blog with commenting followers and an even more active lurker community (reflected in stats for your site hits), blogging is a resource that can be especially useful to the self-published author, the aspiring author trying to get their name out, and the pubbed author with “out of the box” promo objectives. Used in conjunction with twitter, this can be an effective way to post interesting articles to the blogosphere without costing you the money that a website domain would.
5.)    Street Teams – This is a concept that may be more prevalent with young adult readers, but there are adults volunteering their time for this too. Street teams started with the music community for people wanting to support their bands. Authors have taken this concept a step further and created clever ways to tie this promo function into their books. You can post a sign up on your website (like a yahoo group) where avid readers can send contact info to participate in a buzz campaign for your next release or an ongoing support group. You set up the criteria they need to be approved (ie must have a blog or post to X number of blogs for an advance review, etc. Publishers’ qualifications are posted on http://www.netgalley.com/ and gives guidelines on what these pre-qualifiers might be.) These avid fans (with special team names you create) are promised special insider information about your upcoming release, sent advance teaser quotes from your book, given swag like bookmarks or other token gifts or signed book covers, sent bookmarks/postcards to hand out—in exchange for help to spread the word about your next book, both online and word of mouth. Again, this is a huge topic without room to expand here.
Bottom line—take advantage of what is free on the internet. Get to know the growing technology that readers are using and come up with fun new ways to get your name or brand out there. Even if you are an aspiring author or thinking about self-publishing, having an online presence is important to develop a solid foundation of marketing your work and exposing your name to the publishing industry and readers who might be looking for you.

If you’re a reader, I’d love to hear how your search for books has changed in this more digital world as newspaper review sections have declined and other resources have dried up? Where do you go online for book recommendations?

And if you’re an author, I’d love to hear any other ideas for online promo that you think might be worth consideration. What has worked for you?

Reckoning for the Dead (HarperCollins, Sept 27, 2011. Book #4 – Sweet Justice adult thriller series)
“Jordan Dane crafts nail-biting thrillers with fully-realized but very damaged characters, and plots that twist and turn and double-back to bite the unwary. Her novels are 21st Noir with guts and heart and a wicked sense of humor.”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times Bestseller
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