Saturday, July 28, 2012

What the Experts Say: Deanna Lynn Sletten, Women's Fiction

Please welcome Deanna Lynn Sletten, a novelist who writes women's fiction and has also written one middle-grade fiction action/adventure novel. Her novels include MEMORIES; WIDOW, VIRGIN, WHORE; and OUTLAW HEROES. She started her writing career as a freelance writer for parenting publications in the early 1990s and transitioned to writing for blogs and websites until she made the jump to novelist.  Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the trails around her northern Minnesota home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd.  

(1) You have written two romance novels and a children’s middle grade novel. I notice that one of the novels is set following the Vietnam War, the children’s novel is about Butch Cassidy, and the third novel involves AIDs. What inspired these topics? What kind of research did you do for appropriate background? Who are your target readers?

These three novels transpired over a period of ten years. MEMORIES, a romance, was the very first novel I wrote. The main male character in that novel is a Vietnam Veteran who, when he first meets the female character, is still struggling with returning from the war. The Vietnam War ended when I was a teenager, so it was common to know at least a few men who fought in that war. As I grew older, I became very interested in learning more about the Vietnam War and began reading autobiographies by soldiers of their experiences. Their stories hit a cord with me, and I began creating MEMORIES. Even though MEMORIES is a romance at heart and is targeted toward women, I wanted to make sure my facts and characterization of the war veteran in the story were as accurate as possible, so I did a lot of research before writing this novel.

WIDOW, VIRGIN, WHORE started out as a novel about the relationship between sisters and best friends and morphed into a story about struggling with AIDS. I never intended for AIDS to be the focus of the novel, but as I continued writing it, that is what happened. The more research I did on AIDS and the people who suffered from it, the angrier I became over the fact that no one really talks about it. And of course, no publisher wanted this novel – it was too controversial. However, deep down, this is still a story about best friends and sisters, and is therefore targeted toward women.

OUTLAW HEROES is just plain fun! I have always been interested in the old west and outlaws, and the characters of Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and Etta Place intrigued me most because no one knows for certain what became of them. So, I have read practically every book ever written on these characters. One day when I was watching my kids play cowboys, the idea of placing a 12-year-old boy in with the outlaws came to me. I enjoyed every minute of writing Outlaw Heroes and I think that shows in the novel.

(2) How do you create your characters? Are they based on real people? What do you do to make then engaging and compelling?

Except for OUTLAW HEROES, which is based on real-life people, my other two novels are characters I've created from a montage of people I've known, met or read about. I am a people watcher – always have been. I notice details and characteristics in people that other people miss. In my mind, I'm always analyzing why people do the things that they do, what drives them to be the way that they are. Another strange thing is that people are drawn to me and tell me all about themselves. I can be standing in line at the grocery store and a stranger will start telling me their life story. This has happened since I was a child. So, the catalog in my head of people and their unique characteristics is quite large.

When writing a novel, I draw from that catalog to create my characters. I try to give them interesting backgrounds that readers can relate to, flaws, strengths and weaknesses. When creating a character, I want the reader to be able to say, "I know that person" or "I understand what that person is going through".

(3) You have had a successful career as a contributing writer to a variety of newspapers and blogs. How did you transition to become a writer of novels? Were you able to leverage your business writing experience for your novels?

Actually, I was writing novels before I began writing articles for newspapers, magazines and websites. I started writing for regional magazines and local newspapers to earn money doing something I enjoyed. Since I love to research, this worked out well for me. Eventually, I started writing for blogs and websites. I've sold hundreds of articles on the internet and had a nice career doing so. But my first love has always been novel writing, so last year I took the plunge and self-published my novels. What I brought with me from my earlier writing experience is the ability to promote myself across the internet. Without promotion, the best novel in the world will not sell. Luckily, I enjoy doing this aspect of the business too.

(4) Why did you decide to self-publish? What self-publishing tips would you offer other authors?

In all honesty, I decided to self-publish after receiving hundreds of rejection letters from book agents and publishers. Many of the rejection letters were personal and encouraging, but that didn't get me any closer to a publishing contract. I haven't regretted one second of self-publishing though. The ability to self-publish has opened a door to me that wasn't previously open and has given me the opportunity to share my novels with the public. And the readers have been so kind and encouraging, I couldn't ask for anything better.

My tip to other authors who are thinking of self-publishing is to not rush getting your novel out there, but to take the time to proofread and edit your novel. Readers catch everything, so make sure it's as perfect as possible before publishing.

(5) I noticed that you wrote your novels while simultaneously rearing two children. What do you recommend to busy moms who want to become authors?

I was lucky in that I only worked part-time outside of the home and was home with my children the rest of the time. Some days I would drive the kids to school, go home and write for 3-4 hours and then run to get the kids. I also spent many late nights writing when the kids were asleep. And of course, I carried my writing with me everywhere (in those days I hand-wrote my books in notebooks and then transferred them to the computer when I was home). I wrote in the mini-van and I wrote while sitting at baseball practices.

My tip to busy moms: You can write a lot in 15 minutes – so take every moment you have and make the most of it.

(6) Are you working on another novel?  Can you share the topic?

I am currently working on a Women's Fiction/Romance novel. At this point, trying to explain it will only confuse people, so I'll just say that this one may not make you cry, but you might get a few goosebumps when you read it. I am hoping to have it published in paperback and ebook in December 2012.

Deanna Lynn Sletten's Favorites

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Buchan, Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, Alle Wells and Ann Swann                                                                                    
The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre                                                                          
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, Beaches, The Way We Were,  Casablanca, The African Queen, The Help                                                   
Fun activity
Katharine Hepburn                                                                                         

Deanna Lynn Sletten LINKS


Sunday, July 22, 2012

What the Experts Say: Top Ten Things That Should Be On Your Author Website by Aileen Stewart

Aileen Stewart resides in lovely Shelby, Ohio with her beautiful daughter, her wonderful husband, and their cat named Max who acts more like a dog and chews everything in site. She is the author of the children’s book Fern Valley-A Collection of Short Stories, a blogger, and a public speaker. She holds a degree in Business Administration and a certificate in Sales/Marketing from North Central State College which she has put to good use since becoming published. Besides writing, she loves to cook, quilt, craft, take pictures, garden, travel, bird-watch, and volunteer at her daughter’s school. She also volunteers at her local library where she is in charge of the children’s display case. Aileen is a firm believer that “Kids Who Can Read Can Do Anything” a motto which she created from lessons learned from her late father.

From time to time I like to share with fellow authors, especially new authors, the things that I have learned on my publishing journey. One of the things I have learned is the importance of having a website. A website is important for many reasons, one of them being that having a home base with all your pertinent information in one place is helpful for fans, potential customers, and media. So with that in mind, here are the top ten things that should be found on your author website.
Home Page- Every author website should begin with a home page. This is the landing page for everyone who stops by and it is also the page where you make your first and hopefully best impression. Be sure to include your name, the name of your site, and your branding message. In other words, what do you stand for as a writer, what do you promote, what can people expect from you. My branding message is "Kids Who Read Can Do Anything". This not only lets my readers know that I promote children's literacy, but it also lets them know how important I think good reading skills are for children's future success.

Bio- Every author website should have an interesting biography because lets face it, people are a curious lot. Readers want to know about the authors whose books they find intriguing. They want to know where you live, what other hobbies you have, and what makes you tick. This helps them to connect to you on a personal level and when people feel connected they are more likely to care and share!

Book List & Synopsis- Readers need to know what books you have available and what each book is about. A brief synopsis of your book or books gives them a taste of your writing style, allows them to see what genres you write in, and if well written, will wet their appetites. This is also the place to add the covers of your book or books because we all know a picture is worth a thousand words.

Easy To Find Contact Info- Contact information is a key ingredient. Fans want you to be accessible and the media don't want to have to dig for information if they are interested in you and your product. I usually make my mailing address available for those readers wishing to send me letters or pictures; each which  fills me with delight when it arrives.

Reviews and Interviews- Reviews and Interviews are an authors credibility builders. They show possible customers that there is an established audience for the work. People are leery to read books by authors of whom they have never heard and generally wish to see recommendations before making a decision of their own. Make note that links to reviews and interviews should always be made to appear in a separate window so that potential fans remain on your site until they choose to leave.

Availability- Today's customers like everything they come across to be user friendly and nothing turns them off as quickly as a site that doesn't allow them to effortlessly find what they are looking for. Links to the various places that your book/books are available should be assembled in one easy to find place. And similar to review and interview links, they should be made to appear in separate windows.

Events Page- Now that you are a published author, you want to connect with the public and this is the page that allows you to do just that. This is the page where you share your projects such as an upcoming book, a book launch, a contest or promotion, book signings, and any speaking engagements. People want to know what you are doing and where can meet you in person, so be sure to keep this page up to date.

Current Picture- As stated earlier, people are a curious lot. Not only do they want to feel that they know all about you, they also want to know what you look like. The more people recognize you from your picture, the more people will remember you; the more people remember you, the more likely they are to share with others about you and your work. This another great way to build credibility.

Added Value Content- Added value content are pages that draw the reader back over and over again, pages that show the reader that you are not totally self absorbed, pages that offer the reader something of value.Value content can be almost anything you think your target audience would be interested in. My audience consists primarily of mothers of children from six to twelve; I, therefore, offer pages introducing other great children's books that I recommend, craft sites, recipes, safe sites for kids, etc...

A Call To Action- And last but not least, you need a call to action. A call to action is exactly what you want your visitors to do before leaving your site. As an author, I have two things I want my visitors to do before they leave. I want them to comment on what they think about my site, and I want them to buy my book. On my home page I state that I would like people to look around, find something useful, and then leave me a comment about the site. Underneath this statement I have placed a comment box for them to do this. I have also placed, on several pages, small "buy now" buttons that are linked to my book's Amazon page.These buttons make it easy for people to go right to the point of sale.

And there my friends you have a list of what content should be in an authors website. Signing off for now with wishes for a bright and beautiful day!

Reprinted with permission by Aileen Stewart from Aileen's Thoughts 

For more on Aileen, please check out her website or LIKE her Fan Page

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What the Experts Say: Top 10 Tips to Connect Companies to the Community - by Jillian Hillcrest

Jillian Hillcrest is the fictional PR Executive who solves mysteries written by Joyce T. Strand. She has had more than ten years of experience working with the media and the community at Silicon Valley high-tech and biotech companies. In the newest book in the series --OPEN MEETINGS-- scheduled to be launched shortly, she becomes actively involved in the community as part of her responsibilities.

As the head of corporate communications for Harmonia Therapeutics, I frequently work with local organizations and non-profits to support their efforts to entice companies to become more involved – both financially and socially.

It is not intuitively obvious why for-profit companies should become involved with non-profit organizations. If you are a non-profit organization looking to involve corporations in your activities, you might suggest the following Top 10 Reasons to companies as to why they should be involved in the community, or non-profit associations. 
1.     Word-of-mouth publicity – communities are groups of people from a wide range of different types of work, social and activity groups. When they hear about a company, they talk about it to their colleagues and friends—spreading information about a company and its products. 
2.     Media coverage – local reporters from newspapers and blogs cover local events. Participating in community activities can help generate articles about the business. Regional and national media often pick up stories from local media.
3.     Employee engagement—employees like to see their companies involved in the community where they live. Many also like to participate to support local organizations. They are more likely to stay engaged at a company they respect and see involved.
4.     Individual investors – local citizens can also be investors.  The more they understand about a company and its potential, the more likely to invest.
5.     Influence with city and county governments—although not a guaranteed result, a relationship with local city and county governments can offer an opportunity to present viewpoints. 
6.     Accessible event venues—relationships with community organizations and businesses can often open the door to the use of venues for customer, investor, employee and partner events.
7.     Special deals for employees at local stores and restaurants—again, employees enjoy being known as members of a community. Companies can often organize events that will treat employees when they visit.
8.     Local government support and attendance at company events—community involvement in company events can support customer, partner or international partnering and also increase relationships with employees.
9.     Solicitation of company perspective on local development projects—development projects by city and county governments can have an impact on traffic and parking patterns, at a minimum. Officials are more likely to solicit input from companies with whom they sustain a relationship.
10.  Potential candidates for clinical trials or as focus groups for new products.  
What I recommend to my non-profit friends is that you print the above list and send it to those companies whose involvement you want. You can strengthen your case by adding specific examples that support any of these tips.  Of course, you should also include your pertinent request. Good luck!