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Thursday, December 18, 2014

A2R Marketing: The Gift of Words from Readers

If you're like me, the holidays make time pass in a blur. If we're not careful, the moments that make the holidays special will be forgotten in a swirl of tissue paper, twinkly lights and finger foods. As a wife, mother, friend, (etc!), I get busy doing for others and end up at the bottom of my list. Pausing long enough to absorb and savor can feel like a luxury. So, when I received some emails from readers who loved my book, I sat, stunned and humbled, and remembered to take a breath and appreciate their gift of words.

For my readers who have taken the time to email, tweet, post, like, and review, THANK YOU! Below are a few messages I've received recently (with identifiers taken out).

"Absolutely fantastic, Connie! If I am not ready for Christmas, it is your fault.
I love the book. I detect a horse-loving childhood for you.??
Good Luck and many congrats. What an accomplishment."
-New Hampshire

"I have wanted to email you since I finished your wonderful, amazing book – and this is the first chance I have had! ... I just wanted to let you know that I LOVED your book. And I am a bibliophile. I read ALL of the time that I’m not working with horses and Reiki! Which is a lot. You were so sweet offering to skype with us and all. And while I don’t need to take your time with that – I did want you to know how very much I enjoyed your book. And how much I am looking forward to the next one! I’ll try to find you on facebook so I can be notified when it’s out! Can’t wait."

"I just wanted you to know that I just finished "The Charity"! I bought it at the Equine Affaire last fall and it had been sitting on my bedside tale staring at me. Working full time and raising three teenagers keeps me very busy so to commit to reading a book is a daunting task for me. I finally started it last week and couldn't put it down until I finished it. ironically I finished the last few chapters at my daughter's horse show. all of the parents kept asking me what was keeping my attention and I told them about the book. I highly recommended it to everyone."
-Rhode Island
"I rarely have time to read but when I do, I like books like "the girl with the dragon tattoo" trilogy, the "hunger games" trilogy, as well as Gillian Flynn books .The Charity was as suspenseful and riveting as those, if not more! Being a horse-lover made me connect with your book even more. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your book, and await your next one!
Regards and thanks for such a great read!"
-New York

"A copy of your book came my way from a friend. It was on my stack of books to tackle and once I finally got to it, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. ... My daughter also has a copy and I am encouraging her to pick this up. I notice that the ending left a lot of opportunity for a sequel? Looking forward to that if you are planning on it!
Best of luck to you with your writing. You are very good at it!!"

"OMG! I loved the Charity... I can't wait to start the next book. Is it at the bookstores yet? I usually read books on the best sellers list, and you are right up there with the best."

"I wanted to touch base with you Connie and tell you that I just finished The Charity. It has kept me glued to the chair, tense and turning pages until the end. It is quite the book and full of suspense and a true thriller! I enjoyed every page until the last....I am so glad to see there is a sequel coming out because I was left sitting there going, 'but what happens to them now?' So thank you for writing more of the story....why this has not been picked up for a movie I have no idea! I can imagine certain people in the roles and see the horses and countryside, etc. The story would make a great movie!
... I have been an avid horsewoman for many, many years. So I have enjoyed your book immensely and look forward to The Troubles....I think I'll take a breather for a few weeks and read some Nicholas Sparks to settle down tho'. 
Blessings to you and yours and may 2015 find you all in good health and spirits!"

More on A2R (Author to Reader) Marketing can be found here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A2R Marketing: The Care and Feeding of Your Favorite Author

Come on, 'fess up. You have a crush on an author and are happy with the one-sided affair.

You read his or her work with books you own, got from a library, or borrowed from a friend. You fell in love with a story or a character because something touched you in a way you never thought possible. Somehow, the author reached into your heart and expressed something you knew was there, but didn't know how to articulate. Then, you read the quick bio in the back of the book and were even more intrigued with the person behind the words. Shyly, with no one looking, you googled her and found blogs or recent interviews. You liked what you read, or viewed, or heard. You were hooked.

We authors are a complicated sort. We spend hours alone, crafting sentences we hope will do exactly that - to beguile and hook you. You've bitten our sweet apple and thought you were safe in your curlers and fuzzy slippers, with a mug of tea in one hand and a thick tome in the other. You thought you were safe from need.

You were wrong. For each sated moment you enjoyed, a hunger grew. Maybe you talked about your new love with anyone who would listen (thank you!). Perhaps you suggested our book to your book club (wonderful!). The more adventurous of you "liked" a Facebook page (yes!), followed us on Twitter (yippee!), or left a comment on a blog (way to go!). Maybe you've even been so bold as to attend a reading (incredible!). Thank you for carrying us in the crook of your arm as you commute (cover out, please, so all can see), or got sand in our pages at the beach (aahhh!). Lip prints on your e-reader are perfectly acceptable as you kiss a favorite passage. If you've done one or all of these things, you may have smiled to yourself thinking you've cared for your beloved author.

Everything mentioned above is fantastic and greatly appreciated, but there's more you can do. Remember, we authors are lovers of words. Not just our own words, but yours, dear Reader. Yes. Your words. Post a review. Gulp! We ask you to declare your love of us publicly. We ask you to stand on the rooftop of the great House of Barnes & Noble, or atop Mount Amazon, or on the shores of Goodreads, and shout, loudly and proudly, that you've read our words and want more.

Because, in those digital wilds, more of you lurk. We authors know this to be true. There are readers out there who want to know what you've read and what you thought. In the process of caring for us, you get to care for your own. How perfect can that be?

So, as you care for us, feed us with your words and reap the reward knowing you're providing sustenance for others, just like you.

Here is a check list for ensuring proper care:

  • Tell your friends and suggest it to your book club. Many authors are happy to join your group for an evening and others can do appearances via Skype.
  • Ask your local library to buy a copy. Better yet, but one and donate it after you've read it!
  • If the author has a Facebook page, please "like" it;
  • Ditto for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.;
  • If you see them on a blog, comment.
  • On Amazon, post a review AND add the author as a 'favorite' by visiting their author page and clicking the "Add Favorite" star button below their image;
  • Add the book to your Goodreads list and review it there.
  • Authors are happy to hear from you. Reach out. 

More on A2R (Author to Reader) Marketing can be found here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

New England Mobile Book Fair Mystery Night - December 4, 2014

New England Mobile Book Fair, 82-84 Needham Street, Newton Highlands, MA
Thursday, December 4, 2014 6:00 pm

Okay folks, listen up. This is the THIRD ANNUAL mystery night featuring authors from in and around New England. Tom Lyons (pictured above in his native habitat) continued the mystery night tradition started by the iconic (but now closed) Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over forty authors will be there (that is in number, not of a certain age) from best selling authors, to local faves, to hot indies. (Go ahead, think what you want!) Many members from Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime will be there, too.  It's a terrific night and not one to miss.


Please join me for another fun author meet and greet. I'll be signing copies of The Charity and will talk about its upcoming sequel, The Troubles.

If you've never been to New England Mobile Book Fair, you need to get off your arse and go! For over 52 years, NEMBF has provided New Englanders with the best book selection and prices. They hold frequent events for readers to meet authors and are sure to have your sought after book in stock or will get it for you ASAP.

See you there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November Events

True confession. When it comes to keeping up with my blog posts, I'm not the best. When I sit down to write, my brain focuses immediately on my book. Other writing, like keeping up to date with my blog, takes a lower priority.

I just attended the Sister's in Crime New England Crimebake. Amazing. Wonderful. Insightful. Fun. Put it on your MUST GO list. If you are a writer, there is no excuse not to go. If you are a reader, you will completely enjoy yourself and meet your favorite authors. This year's guest of honor was Craig Johnson, author of the books the Longmire TV series is based on. This set the theme for the gathering. Denim and cowboy boots were everywhere. I have inside knowledge that Craig and I (pictured above) were the only people there wearing cowboy boots that had actually been on a horse. I had a blast at Crimebake and fear I may get a reputation for liking men in fringe, but that's another story.

Supporting my local indie bookstores and libraries is something I believe deeply in. I'll be at the Topsfield Public Library on Thursday, November 13 at 7:00 pm on a panel of other local authors. Stop by!

Next up is the Equine Affaire. This is one of the nation's largest horse conferences and expositions. Multiple equestrian disciplines will be featured and all conceivable horse-related items will be sold there. I attended last year and planned to stay for three days. I sold out of books in two days and met some wonderful and passionate horse-loving readers. Just my kind of people! I've already been in contact with a few via Twitter, so I know I'll be seeing some familiar faces. Find me on Twitter: @conniehambley. I'll be tweeting during the Expo, so connect!

Monday, October 6, 2014

October Events - Boston Book Festival and More

Writing can be a solitary adventure, so when the opportunity comes to get out and meet folks, I always jump at the chance.

On Saturday, October 25, you will find me at the Sisters in Crime booth at the Boston Book Festival from 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. I'm excited about this event for a couple of reasons. First, Sisters in Crime is an incredible organization that supports mystery, crime, thriller and suspense writers. Contrary to what the name suggests, men are included as long as they are fully in touch with their inner woman. Just kidding about the inner woman part. Writers like Ray Daniel, Dale T. Phillips and Craig Johnson are very involved with SinC. I belong to both the national SinC and Sisters in Crime, New England chapter and am a member of their speakers bureau. I strongly encourage you to check them out. Secondly, Boston Book Festival is a FREE event promoting and celebrating a culture of reading. What better way to spend a Saturday than to meet authors, listen to fascinating speakers and check out the new releases!


Ah, yes, and if you're a Jungle Red Writers blog reader, I know you'll be happy with this inside information.

But, I've gotten ahead of myself. Before then, I'll be at the New England Library Association Conference in Boxborough, Massachusetts. Again, you'll find me with the Sisters in Crime folks on Monday, October 20 from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. I'm excited to be with Deborah Doucette, author of acclaimed The Forgotten Roses and Kate Flora, author of Finding Amy, an Edgar award nominee, and the just released Death Dealer. Kate and I share the "former-lawyer-but-still-a-nice-person-turned-writer" turf, so our conversation should be pretty lively. Hope you join us!

By the way, if you think librarians are a stodgy bunch, think again. NELA's programs bring librarians together to brain storm and share best practices of community support and outreach. Local libraries are more than just a place to check out books. Many offer children and after school programs, internet access and classes for seniors, speaker series, yoga classes and much more. They 'talk the talk' and 'walk the walk' of ways to enrich our lives and should be something you're very familiar with. My husband was a library trustee in our little town and I encourage your involvement! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Signing at Barrister's Book Shop, Vermont

Hey all! I just wanted to give a quick heads-up that I'll be at Barrister's Book Shop in South Royalton, Vermont for a signing/meet and greet  on September 26 from 4:00 to 5:00 pm. I hope to see you there! I will confess to be looking forward to walking the hallways of my alma mater, Vermont Law School. I'm sure the dean and my classmates didn't think I'd be returning as a writer of thrillers instead of a distinguished attorney. Ah, well, surprise!

This week has been a fun and frantic one. Lots of fans popping up and introducing themselves via a guest post on Jungle Red Writers blog. My interview with award winning, best selling and all around wonderful person and author Hallie Ephron is here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Next Up! Jungle Red Writers Blog Guest September 24!

Mark your calendars! I'm super excited to be a guest of Hallie Ephron's this week on her Jungle Red Writers Blog. Hallie is one of seven women mystery and thriller writers who have joined together to share writing tips, dish on life adventures and insights, profile other authors and even a give recipe or two. The other writers are Hank Phillippi Ryan, Rhys Bowen, Julia Spencer Flemming, Lucy Burdette, Deborah Crombie and Susan Elia MacNeal and each is incredible in her own right.

I met Hallie at Ray Daniel's launch of Terminated at the New England Mobile Book Fair. To be right up front about it, I was a little bit tongue-tied. Earlier this year, I had been invited to be a guest on a Boston book interview show, The Literati Scene. (Interview here.) To prepare, I researched past guests and Hallie's name stood out. Nothing like trying to follow a three time Mary Higgins Clark award finalist, best selling author and a collector of rave reviews. Gulp.

So, I extended my hand and blubbered something about needing to up my game to follow in her footsteps. I hoped I didn't blush crimson and sound like a complete fawning idiot. Even if I did, Hallie was warm, gracious and funny. She mentioned her trip to Ireland and the conversation was off and running. Then she asked if I'd be interested in being a guest on her blog. Would I!?! Oh, yeah!

So, Hallie, I hope I do you proud. On Wednesday, September 24, I will be sitting at my computer, fingers poised over the keys, waiting to write some pithy and insightful responses to any comments I receive. Fingers crossed I get some.

(By the way, if you haven't read Hank's intro to Ray on the JRW blog, you should. Hank interviewed Ray as part of his launch, and it was one of the best interviews I have ever heard. She did her homework and asked the right questions to let Ray shine on his big night. Really incredible. The post gives a hint at how good the evening's conversation was.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Signing: Newton, Massachusetts

With the event only a few days away, I wanted to remind you to stop by for a visit! 

Please join me on Saturday, September 20 from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST  for an author meet and greet. I'll be signing copies of The Charity and will talk about its upcoming sequel, The Troubles.

If you've never been to New England Mobile Book Fair, you need to get off your arse and go! For over 52 years, NEMBF has provided New Englanders with the best book selection and prices. They hold frequent events for readers to meet authors and are sure to have your sought after book in stock or will get it for you ASAP. They are located at 82-84 Needham Street in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.

See you there!

(If you're in the Vermont area on Friday, September 26, I will be at the Barrister's Book Store at Vermont Law School from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm)

P.S. - You can wish me a Happy Birthday, too!

(The event was super fun! View some pictures here.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's Nice to be Rewarded for Being Yourself

If you've followed me a little bit, you'll know I'm a horse lover without a horse. I grew up riding and training six of my own, and life's zigs haven't zagged back to a place where I can have another...yet. But my love and passion haven't diminished. They've simply taken another form. Certainly my books revolve around the horse world, but in my real life, I get my horse fix by volunteering at a therapeutic riding stable as a horse handler.

There is a special connection between horses and humans that many writers (and riders) have tried to explain. I won't bore you with my reasoning, but the act of caring for and riding a horse can have a profound impact on a person's physical and emotional health. For someone who may be physically challenged or wheelchair bound, the action of riding a horse closely approximates the movement of able-bodied walking thereby strengthening core muscles and improving posture, mobility and comfort. I've worked with women with Down's Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy and have seen them challenged and grow through their connection to a horse. I've watched as women recovering from the ravages of human trafficking rediscover and reclaim their personal power and worth as they command a huge and powerful animal. I've been privileged to witness the dignity bestowed on someone who can, for a few moments inside a riding ring, be independent and autonomous astride a gentle giant.

My role in all of this is very small. I get the horses ready for the clients and either lead or closely monitor the horses while the clients work very hard on a spectrum of skills and challenges. There is a team of trained instructors, sidewalkers, occupational and physical therapists and more orchestrating the training. I take a back seat to the heavy lifting and get to brush, tack and schmooze with the horses to my heart's content. I love it, and the folks at Windrush Farm have done an amazing job of creating a loving, supportive and fun atmosphere for horse, rider and helpers. I know I'm echoing a sentiment of many of Windrush's volunteers when I say that my hours there are the highlight of my week.

Long before I knew of Windrush, I created a character in The Charity with special needs. It really wasn't that big of a stretch to want to donate proceeds of the sale of my book at certain events to them. On a few afternoons this summer, I attended horse trials, Grand Prix events and other shows, set up my table and sold books to benefit scholarship and other programs at Windrush. This was not combat duty. I sat ringside and saw some of the nation's top riders compete and watched some of the most heartfelt homegrown moments unfold. I was in heaven. Horses and books? Just fine by me.

So it was with great surprise that I learned that Windrush tipped their hat to me with the acknowledgement noted above. I was just doing what I love doing. I'm tickled someone noticed, but a little embarrassed, too.

But I guess the motivation to volunteer is a lot like the spark to write. It's not what others give to you that is the reward. It's the act itself that is reward enough.

If you buy a signed copy of my book through the link on blog, mention Windrush and I'll make another donation to them.

Groton Horse Trial signing courtesy of the Equestrian Shop

The Equestrian Shop held a signing for me at Silver Oaks in Halifax

Vermont Summer Fest ringside signing was one highlight of my summer.
Massachusetts Hunter Jumper Finals saw some up and coming talent.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September SinC-Up with Sisters in Crime Bloghop

Blogging is an odd beast. A writer sits alone at a keyboard and writes for no one in particular and everyone at the same time. After enjoying a career in Business Development and Marketing (meaning I connected with lots of folks on a daily basis to impart a targeted message), the solitary aspect of fiction writing and blogging has had its surreal moments. I no longer find it strange to talk out loud to myself, and the hand gestures and facial expressions are part of my new normal. Although, my husband may beg to differ.

So, when the Sisters in Crime suggested a September SinC-Up for its blogging members, I jumped at the chance. All that is required of me is to impart some words of wisdom and introduce you to another author or two. Perfect!

SinC Q: If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business? 
CJH: I had to start with the most important question first. It's key that the question asked for a mentor position rather than "one piece of advice" for a new writer. I may have had another professional life, but as a writer I'm the new girl in town. Writing is hard on several levels. It's hard be disciplined to write every day. It's hard to break through writer's block. It's hard to stay true to your voice and be fresh. It's hard to take criticism and grow from it, and not let it squelch you. Then, once a book is out, your work is just beginning. Today's industry requires you to initiate reader contact by putting yourself out there in any number of ways. Being successful is not a sprint, but a well-paced marathon. Where one piece of advice would be to be relentless and not give up on any front, a mentoring position requires identifying the key essence of a new writer's brand and personal goals for writing. Then the fun becomes figuring out the steps to get there, both strategically and efficiently. Blog. Say "yes" to every opportunity and create your own to talk about your work. Network. Listen. Write. Tweet. Speak. Like. Pin. But don't lurk. That's too creepy.

SinC Q: Which authors have inspired you?
CJH: To be a good writer, you have to be a voracious reader. Stieg Larsson, Gillian Flynn, Tom Wolfe, John Grisham and Stephen King are among my favorites. They each carve interesting characters with a unique voice and are masters of their craft. Jodi Piccoult weaves compelling stories. 

SinC Q: If someone said, "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?
CJH: I'd hand them an armload of Dublin Murder Squad books by Tana French and tell them to get lost.

SinC Q: What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
I LOVE creating characters and worlds. I love figuring out their motivations and quirks, and breeding in fatal flaws. Writing a good thriller is like playing a game of chess with my characters. I love writing to a very smart reader to see if I can be true to them while keeping them guessing and enthralled. The most challenging piece is finding fresh ways to find readers and engage their interest. 

SinC Q: What books are on your nightstand now?

The fun part about a blog hop is to introduce you to other authors. First is Laurie Bain Wilson. Laurie's writing has taken her to the ends of the earth and back as the travel editor for Bridal Magazine and blogger and travel writer for CNN and the Boston Globe. Her blog on The Big Apple is here and Travel Flavors blog is here.

Next up is Dale T. Phillips. Dale is a fellow Sisters in Crime member (yes, even guys can be Sisters). He writes novels and poetry, and his short stories have appeared in Level Best Books Crime Story anthologies. He has a website, and his blog is worthy of a frequent perusal as he is very active with author and book events.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A2R Marketing: Author Events-What Kind and What to Expect

It's never a bad time when you are out and about meeting readers and other writers. Different events allow for different types of interactions. If you're new to the Book Push thing, take a look below to see what you might expect.

Public Library Author Events:

Many public libraries have thriving patron outreach and community event programs. As part of their social contract with their communities, the acceptance of tax dollars for support means they will provide free events in return. Sometimes it's a structured event where the authors give a brief talk on a specific topic or their current work to a seated audience. Other times the authors have tables set up where the readers are encouraged to peruse books and have one-on-one time with each author. The public is welcome to stop by, chat and purchase a book or two. Both types of programs are terrific for readers and writers to meet one another and share stories. These events draw a larger crowd since the libraries provide some promotion and advertising, and each invited author will help with the promotion through their own marketing efforts. 

Public libraries are often welcoming to the individual author who would like to have a solo reading event. This is a great idea for someone looking to launch a book and need to get their feet wet with some experience before pushing out into a bigger venue like book stores and expos.

Book Stores:

Book stores, especially independent ones, are often quite happy to host an author event. Many are a thriving center of their community's cultural scene and are a hub for information and promotion. These can be a win/win situation. The author gets exposure to readers and the store enjoys an increase in traffic. For the stores, more people means more chances for sales. 

Like libraries, the event can be a formal night with a reading and talk by the author or it can be as simple as setting up a table with a stack of books on a Saturday afternoon. The store may have a preference when hosting a new author as to what night they will schedule. An author with a known following with several books out will most likely get a Thursday or Friday night, bigger crowd drawing dates. A newer or less experienced author will get a day earlier in the week to help draw shoppers out on less trafficked days, like a Monday or Tuesday. Saturdays are a gamble, but the store will know their market and any potentially competing events that could draw shoppers away. 

Also, the store may host panels where they feature a specific genre, like a mystery night, and have several authors speak. These usually draw bigger crowds for the store and they are great for an author looking to increase their visibility. Smaller stores will take copies of your book on consignment and will pay a standard percentage when they sell. 

I LOVE my local Jabberwocky Books and have a secret crush on the New England Mobile Book Fair, where I'll have a Saturday meet-n-greet in September.

Larger stores are more stringent with their events. I know of one regional chain that requests a fee upfront in order to get shelf space and an author night. Larger chains just want to make sure they can purchase your books through their regular channels for inventory control and may not have a procedure for consignment. Having a title that is considered "returnable" is appealing as they know that if the books do not sell, they are not out any money.

Author and Book Expositions and Festivals:

These are becoming increasingly popular. They can be sponsored by promoters of a specific genre, like Connecticut's Horror Fest, or can be regional, like the New England Author's Exposition. They can also be HUGE, like Book Expo America. At these events, authors may purchase a booth or table for the length of the conference, anywhere from one to three days. Costs can vary widely, so decide if you are going as a money making venture to sell cases of books or as a promotional gesture to increase awareness of your name.

If you are doing a festival or a local event, make sure your display generates excitement. Take some time and put effort into your visual presentation. The picture above tells a visual story even before I've started to speak.

Affinity Event Marketing:

I'm a big fan of these. Affinity marketing is finding a group of people who may be interested in your book for a different reason. Maybe it's your alma mater's homecoming weekend eager to showcase what several of its alumni are up to, or maybe its a NASCAR race where one of the vendors is happy to provide a table for your mystery book that features dirt track racing. I find these events to be really worthwhile because you are not competing with other books or authors and are tapping into another love of your reader aside from, well, reading. I spent the weekend by the grandstands at the Silver Oak Grand Prix. I sold a ton of books and met a lot of fans!

Private Book Clubs:

I always offer to attend book clubs. The miracle of Skype has helped me attend clubs as far away as Alaska. That's pretty good considering I'm in Boston. Readers are thrilled to host an author, and a shared event with friends is a memorable event for all. I will meet in their homes if they are local, otherwise, a restaurant, town hall, library or Council on Aging works well, too. Always bring a few copies of your books. Even if they've read your book via the library exchange, most readers love a chance to have a signed book in their collection.

Below are some pictures from a recent event at the Haverhill Public Library. Take a look, I'm sure you'll see someone you know - or should know! My picture from that day is above. Take a look at the displays to see what type of visual statement you feel comfortable making.

Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, The Art of Floating, and Holly Robinson, Beach Plum Island, both Penguin authors, holding copies of their new work.

Myfanwy Collins, Echolocation and I am Holding Your Hand collection of short stories, Engine Books. Keep your eyes out for her upcoming, Book of Laney.

Dale T. Phillips has over twelve titles to his name. He's pictured here with Chris Obert of Pear Tree Publishing.

Barbara Kent Lawrence, author of An Island of Time


 Ursula Wong, author of Purple Trees

Rory O'Brien, author of Gallows Hill

Paul Janson, author of Mal Practice


Rich Feitelberg, Aure the Topaz

Susan LaFortune, Talking in My Sleep

Group shot!

More on A2R (Author to Reader) Marketing can be found here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Writer's Block? Start by looking out a window.

Sometimes the scourge of writer's block can be banished just by looking out a window.

I was lucky enough to travel to Beijing on business trip and took some time to walk the Great Wall of China. I snapped the picture above and remember wondering how cool would it be if that was the view outside my office window.

Like most writers, my office is in my home. My commute is comprised of shuffling into the kitchen for coffee, seeing the remnants of the feeding frenzy my teens went on after I went to bed, and plunking down at my desk. A whopping fifty foot journey. Then I stare out my window until the caffeine kicks in.

This view is much more pedestrian than the Great Wall. It's of a big oak tree that was mammoth-sized even before we bought the house. From this tree hangs my children's rope swing and a birdfeeder, allegedly of the squirrel proof variety. Both the swing and the birdfeeder are empty.

As I marvel at the blink of time the swing was in full use, I'm struck that the views out both windows are deceptively simple. It's just a wall or it's just a swing, but there are stories and truths worth exploring.

In Anne Lamott's book of writing, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life, she talks about finding inspiration in the everyday and building the muscles of writing by starting small. By looking through a small frame, describe first what is there and then ask questions about why it is there or how it came to be.

My fingers stilled not from the terror of the blank screen, but from the flood of memories and musings about the roads not taken.

I'll take the view outside my office window - and all of its joys and pains - over the Great Wall's view any day.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Author to Reader (A2R): Stories of Real Life - Interviews

My favorite way to engage with readers is face-to-face at the variety of events I do. That way, I can answer their questions directly and provide them with the context and information they're looking for. The picture above shows fellow Sisters in Crime authors Edith Maxwell and Tempa Pagel at a recent New England Author's Expo put on by Pear Tree Publishing. In lieu of that, I really enjoy interviews in all their various forms. 

I've been pleased to have been invited to do interviews on different blogs and pod casts. I'd like to share them with you.

Dale T. Phillips is a New England based novelist, poet and mystery and crime writer. I really admire his ability to find time to write and to be an excellent promoter of not only his own works, but the works of other authors. He really understands the concept of "pay it forward" and creates a very loyal following of trusting fans. Dale and I are members of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. We met at an author event at the Chelmsford Public Library and he asked me to do a blog interview. I loved the questions he asked as they were not the same old, well worn variety. His questions made me think and I've had readers say they learned a lot from the insights he pulled forth. 

Penny de Byl is a new voice in the blog tour interview world, but has a thriving career and a wonderful blog you should all check out. It's not every day that you get to be somebody's "First," but that's exactly what I was to Penny. She launched a new feature on her blog, Five Minute Profiles, and asked me to be her first featured author. You can read the interview here.

Author First Radio did a terrific pod cast interview. I really enjoyed this host and felt he brought out a lot of interesting points that readers and writers enjoyed.

Reader outreach can take on a lot of different forms. There is no magic bullet, no one "right" way of doing things. Find what works for you and your readers and do it!

More on A2R (Author to Reader) Marketing can be found here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

New England Mobile Book Fair Author Event

Please join me on Saturday, September 20 from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST  for an author meet and greet. I'll be signing copies of The Charity and will talk about its upcoming sequel, The Troubles.

If you've never been to New England Mobile Book Fair, you need to get off your arse and go! For over 52 years, NEMBF has provided New Englanders with the best book selection and prices. They hold frequent events for readers to meet authors and are sure to have your sought after book in stock or will get it for you ASAP. They are located at 82-84 Needham Street in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.

See you there!

P.S. - You can wish me a Happy Birthday, too!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A2R Marketing: The Push and Pull of Getting the Word Out

Doctor Dolittle's mythical beast of the pushmi-pullyu (push-me-pull-you) learned how not to work against itself. Learning the push and pull of effective author-to-reader (A2R) marketing has the same core lessons.

To get your book in front of readers, either you have lots of PR dollars to spend or are bootstrapping your way into bookstores and events. Being efficient with time and money counts for a lot. The concepts of push and pull aren't new. Pulling is frequently conceived as a figure hauling a massive or insurmountable task, via a little rope slung over her shoulder, up a very steep incline. Pushing is seen as getting behind something and using the person's strengths to move it forward, inch by inch. The two forces are usually understood as working separately and independently from one another. If used together, the forces cancel each other out and nothing happens, leaving the decision to be choosing one technique or another. This is exactly what won't work with book marketing.

(For you smart-alec types out there, I'm referring to the effort of a single source or person, not a team of pullers and pushers of the sort that helped build the pyramids. Read on.)

Lee Oden, CEO of @Toprank Online Marketing, talks about push and pull in terms of pushing your news out to end consumers, then being pulled along as others pick up your news and give it to their end consumers. The two forces compliment one another and is much more in line with how I suggest you focus your efforts. His blog, linked to above, is well worth a read.

For an author, I speak of push and pull in terms of energy and effort expended in order to reap the maximum amount of reward from that effort. It's all about building momentum and excitement. The more of those you have (think "buzz"), the more likely readers will talk about your book to new readers. Imagine the hard slog uphill on a bike followed by the wind whipping your hair and drying your sweat on the other side. You pushed against gravity only to use it to pull and speed your way along. 

The Key is this: To have an easier time making up the next hill, use momentum to gain speed. Don't just sit there like a lump. Push those pedals like the dickens while you have the pull working with you.

Here are examples for book marketing:

  • sending out a press release on the publication of your book,
  • cold calling bookstores and libraries and telling them about your book and trying to get in front of their patrons,
  • contacting local newspapers and magazines with a 'hook' into your book and/or personal story to tickle them into writing an article on you.
  • being invited to be a speaker or hold a signing (or do a blog tour) because someone heard about you or saw you at one of the events you pushed for,
  • having an excited reader tell their friends they met you and that they should read your book,
  • having a great review pop up.
The Push-and-Pull:
  • sending out a press release (or lighting up social media) that you were invited to appear and the date,
  • offering to attend a book club in the home of the excited reader (or do a Skype chat), 
  • putting the review out where people can see it via social media, marketing collateral or the good old grape vine.

In essence, push and pull simply means not letting each success of getting the word out about your book lie fallow. Use it as seed for the next step and the next push. You work against yourself by letting all of the reward gleaned from a good push go unused. Without effectively using your pull, you are constantly falling back to the starting line.

Face it, the reason we all dream of being "Best Selling Authors" is so we can enjoy the pull of momentum our past works generated to liberate us up from pushing. With all that free time, we want to work on our next book. After all, our first love is writing.

More on A2R (Author to Reader) Marketing can be found here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New England Authors Expo - July 30th

It's all in a day's work.

As an author today, it makes little difference if you are with a big publishing house or whether you're an indie. The name of the game is to meet readers and engage them. On July 30 at the Danversport Yacht Club, I'll be doing just that. The New England Authors Expo is a terrific event for readers of all genres to come and meet authors and share ideas. Doors open at 4:00 pm and I'll be there to meet readers, talk about my work, sign a few books and maybe give a sneak peek or two to the upcoming sequel.

It's all about pressing the flesh, looking people in the eye, and (hopefully) making a good impression. I enjoy talking with my readers. I learn a great deal about what they like to read, what's next up on their bedside table, and what makes them put a book down. They help me become a better writer.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Author's Show Podcast Interview - June 30

Please tune in on June 30 to listen to my podcast interview on The Author's Show. Simply click on the link and the interview will stream in.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

New Cover Promotion: Kindle Countdown

There have been a LOT of changes going on in the world of The Charity. The new cover is getting a lot of  great attention, my new website is up and rolling, and the launch of the next installment of The Jessica Trilogy will be unveiled soon. 

Since The Charity is the first in a series about a young woman caught in the mechanisms of terrorism, I want to give readers the opportunity of learning why it's earning consistently stellar reviews at a "gotta get it now" price!

The promotion will be for a limited time only. Starting Monday, June 16 and ending at midnight, June 19, the discounted price will be as follows:

If you haven't done so already, make sure to follow me on Twitter - @conniehambley - and like my Facebook page. As the summer reading approaches, there will be more updates and offerings for Jessica and her fans!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How is Writing a Thriller Like Practicing Law?

Long ago, my cover was blown that I'm a lawyer by training if not by temperament. The connection between my current writing and my past career crystallized on a recent walk with a lawyer friend of mine.

She was in the mad crush of work to complete an appellate brief. The case had been to trial and decision rendered. One of the parties didn't like the outcome. As happens very frequently, the party appealed the ruling, hoping a higher court would see things differently. When a decision is appealed, the world for that appeal is set in the record of the trial. No new facts can be entered on appeal. She was pulling out her hair over the Statement of Facts section of her brief, trying to craft a foundation upon which her whole case would rest on the existing record. She couldn't move on to the Argument section until the foundation was right. One faulty shaping of fact or omission, and her whole case could come crumbling down.

She felt caught in quicksand. The more she tried to craft the facts to best bolster her case, the deeper she sank into the muck. "Lean and mean," she told herself. But she kept getting stuck knowing that any overreaching or mischaracterization would be like giving clover to the opposition. No attorney wants to make picking apart finely honed arguments easy. She stopped midstride and commented how much her writing briefs was similar to me writing books.

In a recent interview on ArtistFirst radio (a CBS affiliate) the host asked me where I learned to write. My answer was law school. Writing a well paced and cogent thriller is very much like writing a well articulated and succinct brief.

1. You have to know where you are going with each word.
From the very beginning of the brief or your book, you need to know where you want to take the reader. Each word is chosen for a purpose. Each sentence is crafted to persuade and manipulate the reader and coerce them into your world.

2. Opposing counsel is your discerning reader.
I value the intelligence of my readers and I construct my plots so everything hangs together in a logical progression. If there is something not quite right, I expect them to find the chink and pry the whole darned plot wide open. A good opposing counsel is just waiting for that one forgotten fact or that one logical extension of an argument that cuts everything off at the knees. Everything is written for a reason and there cannot be any holes or loose threads that, if pulled, unravel the whole work. I write for readers who plow through plots with a fine tooth comb.
3. A well constructed thriller is like a well constructed brief.
A brief starts with a Statement of Facts. It sets the stage and defines the capsule in which the Argument resides. A good thriller starts with setting the stage and world of reader expectations. A writer has to know when to quit and not overload the front end.
A brief continues with the Argument. This section takes the facts and fleshes them out with other cases and perspectives, always with an end in mind. A thriller continues by expanding the initial statement of the plot and weaves in other information, pulling the reader along with a clear purpose in mind.
The final section of the brief is the Summation. All the facts and law are woven into a final and ironclad presentation of the case, leaving no room for doubt that the client's perspective will prevail. The thriller takes all of the facts and threads seeded throughout the book and weaves them together in a believable and airtight climax.  
4. Always keep your audience and direction in mind.
In both a brief and a thriller, always keep what you are writing and who you are writing for in the forefront of your mind. Make sure you keep where you are heading clearly in your vision. Use your reader's world view to shape how you craft a sentence. Are you writing to a criminal lawyer or to a family attorney in divorce court? Very different approaches are used here. Are you writing to a young adult audience or to lovers of erotica? That first kiss will look a lot different depending upon who you think will be reading it.
Law school was my writing boot camp. There, I inhaled information and exhaled legal arguments. I learned to write in a very direct fashion and further honed my skills in writing articles. I learned to stay out of the quicksand.

It's good to know that a strong foundation never lets you down.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chelmsford Library Author Event: May 31, 2:00-4:00 pm

I am very pleased to have been invited by the Chelmsford Public Library to participate in their annual author's event. Authors of different genre will be there discussing their writing process and recent works. Enjoy some light refreshments, buy a signed book and support your local library!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Look. Same Heart.

Today marks the launch of the new cover to The Charity and a new look to my site! I'm excited about these changes and want you to know why I went through the trouble.

Making a decision to redesign a cover is not an easy one. A book cover is about capturing potential readers' attention, making them intrigued enough to pick up the book to learn more about it (thereby making back covers very important!) and giving the reader a mental image that will both make them remember your book and give them clues about your book's story. Since most viewing by potential readers is online, a front cover image is extremely important.

My first cover did some jobs incredibly well. It was a striking image and conjured a lot of emotion and comments. At readings and events, it received many compliments and it did what a cover should do - once seen, it was easily remembered and not confused with any other book. It told a lot about the story and about me as an author. Neither the main character nor I play it safe. As one reviewer commented, "It is a compliment to the writer's courage not to take the easy way out..." The Charity also hit number one on Amazon for both Legal Thrillers and Terrorism Thrillers. A significant portion of that success can be attributed to the powerful image of its first cover.
As I got to know my readers, I realized the cover often did not speak to the fervent fans of the story. A recent review on Youtube articulated the seeming disconnect between the two. Many times I had to explain the connection between the first cover and the story. I'll say it here for the last time: Things aren't always what they appear to be and often the worst evil can hide in broad daylight. Check out the hand in the image. It's a real hand!

It's impossible to have firm data on this, but that little 'Spidey-sense' telegraphed that the mark was not a hit. For as many readers who were drawn to the story because of the cover, there may have been those who were turned off. This much I do know and is the hardest to admit: Readers who loved the story said they would not have picked up this book because of the cover. They read it on the strong recommendations of other readers and ended up loving the story and loving Jessica, the main character, but the first cover would have been a deal breaker. Seriously, what author or publisher wants to hear that all of their toil and effort has the opposite effect? The cover actually inhibited potential fans from reading it! It was back to the drawing board, literally!

The new cover is getting great reviews. The link between the story and the image is very clear. There is a barn fire in the book and the figure standing calmly watching it all happen is unsettling. Barn fires are kinda important in my personal story, too. If you read the comments on the review linked to above, the reviewer loves the new look and it addresses all of her concerns. I know she's not alone. 

One last point about the new cover. I want you, the reader, to question what you think you know about terrorism. I want you to question what it is and why it exists. I want you to question how big an act of terrorism has to be in order to be effective. The most unsettling answer is that sometimes it is the smaller acts that have the biggest influence. Hero or terrorist? Sometimes it all depends which side of the match you're on.

Redesigning the site will be an ongoing process as the sequel moves toward publication. Think of this first step as cleansing your palate. The Cliffs of Moher were beautiful and spoke to the Irish themes in the story, but it was time to move on.

So, Jessica Wyeth, Owen Shea, Michael Conant, Gapman and everyone else is moving on, too. They may have a new look, but their hearts and minds are still the same.

I am very interested to hear your thoughts about the risks and rewards of redesigning a cover. Please leave a comment below.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Youtube Review of "The Charity"

I wanted to share a link for a recent review of The Charity posted on youtube.

I'm very excited to have been reviewed by Getbookish and certainly am pleased that the story was very well received. I think cosmic forces are at work because one point made was that the cover didn't seem to connect with the content! I couldn't agree more, Getbookish! In a recent blogpost I talked about some points to consider when designing or redesigning your cover and am in the process of creating one.

Stay tuned! Updates and cover reveal soon!