How Amazon Gets My Panties in a Twist

This time around I was going to do it right.

I started planning for the launch of my new book, Practicing Normal, six months ago. I was going to do things differently this time. No more promote by the seat of your pants. No, this would be strategic.

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First, I researched the idea of street teams, trading emails with several highly successful writers about how they utilized their teams. I brainstormed ways to make my team fun and rewarding for team members. I named them Cara’s Cronies. Then I planned my appeal and carried it out through several rounds of newsletters, finally landing 12 fabulous women from all over the country who agreed to help me promote my book, but also to be my sounding board and support. I’m excited and humbled to have their help.

I began reading a gazillion different book blogging sites, looking for ones that had plenty of engagement and the type of subscribers who might like my book. I read posts, commented, got to know the bloggers. Then I made my list and waited for the advance ecopies to be ready on Net Galley. When they were, I began querying bloggers and asking nicely for their reviews. Twenty bloggers agreed to read and review my book and post their reviews near the launch date of June 6.

Then I got serious about my newsletter, promoting it with giveaways and special reveals and spending countless hours editing it and adding pictures and recipes and news of my works-in-progress. I invited people to subscribe online, at events, and through emails. I tried (and failed) to master Rafflecopter. I even marked up a special calendar to hold myself accountable in preparation and distribution. (If you’d like to subscribe CLICK HERE. You might win something!)

When the advance paperback copies arrived two weeks ago, I swooned over the gorgeous copies and then sent them to a few big bloggers and book stores who will probably never consider reviewing or promoting my book, including Modern Mrs. Darcy, one of my favorite blogs and Nora Roberts’ book store, Turn the Page, in Maryland. My publisher sent copies to my Cronies, and I instructed them to read the book and prepare a review but to wait to post it until I gave them the go-ahead so that they could be timed with the book’s launch in June.

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I spoke with the proprietor of my favorite York establishment to see if I could hold a public launch party there on the night before my book came out. He loved the idea and even offered the first beers on the house.

I came up with a clever marketing plan to get readers to post pictures of themselves ‘practicing normal’ and holding my book on twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I would introduce the plan in my last newsletter before the book came out and offer prizes! Clever, clever me! This was gonna be fun!

Everything was set and the ball began rolling earlier this week. My Cronies received their copies and started reading, and the first book blogger posted her review. Six weeks until the book comes out everything was right on schedule.

And then….. Continue reading “How Amazon Gets My Panties in a Twist”

Baby, You Can Drive My Car (or not)

Now that two of my children have acquired driver’s licenses, I find myself scrambling for a car on many occasions. Yes, the cars belong to my husband and I, but I’ve fully embraced my retirement from taxi service and I handover the keys willingly.

Still, last summer’s daily negotiation over who would get the cars and who would beg for rides, firmed my resolve to buy a car this year. My car.

The last car I owned was a racy, little Geo Storm in electric blue. It handled like a sports car and had an awesome stereo and whenever I drove it, I felt cool. That was twenty years ago. Before kids.

Ever since I set off on my quest to become a published novelist, I’ve had the goal of making enough money to 1) buy my own car and 2) hire a cleaning person. I’m well aware that very few people make big money at writing these days, but I didn’t feel my dreams were unreasonable.

And so I have saved my pennies – from teaching creative writing and healthy cooking, honorariums I’ve received for speaking gigs, payment for articles, and of course, my royalties for my books.

Finally, I felt I had a sum that could afford me a vehicle. Not a new one, but a nice one. So I began my search.

I didn’t want a practical car that got good gas mileage and had plenty of room for a Costco run. And I was not looking for a four-wheel drive vehicle that could handle our hilly driveway, as more and more I don’t mind being snowed in. I knew I would buy a manual transmission; I grew up driving stick and when I got my first automatic car, it felt less like driving and more like simply steering. The added bonus of having a manual transmission would be that none of my kids know how to drive stick so no one would be asking to borrow my car! Bottom line: I wanted a car that was cool, or at least made me feel cool.

The more I thought about what I wanted, the more my heart became set on a convertible.

Why not? I’m fifty years old. If not now, when?

I’m finally beyond worrying about what other people will think. I’m old enough to stop making excuses, and it’s become less and less necessary to explain myself. I’m not having a mid-life crisis, I’m having a mid-life claiming. I’m claiming this time—I’m going after what I want. Life is too damn short.

So I combed the internet. I set up a very specific search and the moment my car appeared, I knew. It was a merlot colored BMW Z4 convertible. Powerful. Perfect. Exactly the car of my dreams.

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My husband made me go drive another more practical convertible (a cute little navy blue Miata which “has great ‘resale value,’ gets better gas mileage, and is less expensive to have serviced”). He thought I shouldn’t just buy the first car I saw. I should have some basis for comparison. But really, I knew which car I was buying, even as I nodded and agreed to the handful on our list as we set out on a beautiful, sunny, convertible-driving kind of day.

We called ahead to be sure my car hadn’t been purchased right out from under me while I was busy driving the more practical cars. But it was there, waiting.

Although it is thirteen years old, it only has 11,000 miles on it. It is in perfect condition, having never spent a night outside in its life. Leather interior, a kick-ass stereo, and most importantly – manual transmission. Perfect. Mine. I took it for a spin, a grin splitting my face, while Nick fiddled with the stereo and laughed at my excitement.

When we got back to the dealership, we sat down with the salesman (and his treeing walker coonhound – talk about a sign!). We agreed on a price, and I wrote the check that would zero out my checking account before I happily zipped home with the top down.

It’s not practical, my car; it’s presumptuous and auspicious and it makes a bold statement. It is the coolest car I’ve ever driven. And the most powerful. This baby can go. I’ve never driven anything that handled and shifted and purred like this car. I am completely, utterly in love with my car.

When I took my youngest son for a ride, he said he could never drive a car like mine. I asked him why. He said it’s too fancy, too rich.

“Maybe,” I told him, “But someday I hope you think you deserve a car like this.”

It took me fifty years, but I do think I deserve this. Think whatever you like. I earned it.

And here’s my words of wisdom to the rest of you –

You deserve the desires of your heart, but the ones that come too easy are nowhere near as satisfying as the ones you work for.

Go for it, friends. Life is too short.

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Writing Doldrums

I’m in the doldrums.

I’ve polished my manuscript until parts seemed to be wearing through and it began to feel like I was rearranging furniture. Now it’s safely languishing in my agent’s TBR pile. Even as it’s tempting to go back in there and fiddle, I’m staying out of that world. Jem and Liz and Jake and Fish and Coach are safe from my meddling fingers.

My other novel-in-progress is marinating. Marinating is what I call the time between edits. It’s very hard to be objective and see your story clearly unless you leave it lie for at least a few weeks between edits. Otherwise, it’s like trying find anything on a map on your phone—you’re too close to see anything in perspective. Which means I have to leave Kat and Dylan and Pilgrim and Gwen alone to work their problems out, at least for a little while.

So, no fiction. Which isn’t easy for me.

Instead, I’m working on guest blog posts for my upcoming blog tour for Practicing Normal (which comes out June 6!!) and mostly coming up blank. Plus, I’m putting way too much time into blog posts for my dog blog. And still my writing energies are stopped up.

I’ve become so desperate I’m thinking of trying my hand at a short story (again). I’ve never written a decent short story.  Every short story I’ve ever attempted either turned into a novel or landed in my ‘crap I wrote’ folder to languish for all eternity. But you never know, maybe this time I’ll figure out the genre. Either that, or I’ll have a good start on my next novel.

Writing is not a job for the unmotivated. There is no boss telling me what to do, although, true confession, I kinda wish I had a boss telling me what to do. If I had a boss and a specific job description, then I’d know when I was finished a job (plus I might have benefits and overtime and paid vacation). Instead, writing work is endless, spiraling into the land of all-the-ways-to-waste-productive-time-productively. Blogging, for instance. Writing this post is not required of me. And yet, here I am, musing on nothing much. Wasting time, really, but productively because if nothing else I’m honing my craft.

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And that’s just it. If you’re gonna be a writer, ya gotta write.

Every day.

Even if it’s just a journal entry or an email to a friend. Slap those words down, one after the other. Do that long enough and eventually you hit on a few good combinations.

That said, I’m gonna head out to the wilds and do some short story wrangling. (Can you tell my short story will involve horses? And maybe cowboys. Hmmm….) I’m toying with pasting the beginnings of that story right here on the blog, if for no other reason than to hold myself accountable. So watch for installment number one next week.

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What are you writing? Anything good? Well, I hope at least your writing is humming.

Have a great Thursday and thanks for reading!

If you’d like to know more about my stories and blogs, please visit CaraWrites.com. If you’d like to catch up on all my adventures, subscribe to my (occasional) newsletter.